underneath your clothes

It’s Too Damn Hard to Find Good Lingerie If You’re Curvy

Photo: Courtesy of the Retailer

I love lingerie, but my relationship with it hasn’t always been easy. I’m right on the border between straight and curve sizes — I wear between a 12 and a 16 in jeans, and a 38D to a 38F in bras, depending upon the brand. Finding things that aren’t just perfunctory, but beautiful, well-made, and relatively affordable, has been a challenge.

“The more expensive stuff, the more elegant, they don’t cut it into big sizes,” said Iris Clarke, the owner of Brooklyn boutique Iris Lingerie, summing up the sad state of affairs.

Lingerie writer and consultant Quinne Myers added: “It’s difficult [for brands] to have core sizes and plus sizes and have them all be made well and fit. It seems like it should be easy, but it’s not easy — or affordable.” Construction and materials make it harder to size up a pattern in lingerie than, say, a shirt. But of course, unlike a button-down, which can be cute oversize, lingerie demands a proper fit.

My own lingerie obsession started the first time I went bra-shopping with my mother. Wearing lingerie felt like an initiation ritual into womanhood — one of the few I would get to share with her before she passed away. The simple white bras we bought thrilled me, but by high school, I was stuck in heinous, matronly beige bras with four rows of hooks, and the thrill was gone.

It wasn’t until I had a breast reduction in college to prevent back problems that I once again glimpsed what lingerie could mean to me. I tried on silk camisoles while my wounds were still fresh. One, in dusty rose, felt slinky — easy on my stitches, but more than that, sexy.

I wore that camisole to sleep and under halfway-buttoned cardigans. It was my first taste of lingerie that wasn’t perfunctory, and I was hooked. Those of us with bigger chests are always on the hunt for bras for practical purposes, but camisoles, slips, rompers, and bodysuits are purely for pleasure.

In recent years, lingerie companies have slowly woken up to the idea that a woman who wears a 38 band or larger, and a D cup or larger, might not want to be confined by a granny bra. Cora Harrington, the founder of The Lingerie Addict, points out that blogs and social media helped shift the industry: “Customers could talk directly to and with brands in a way that wasn’t happening before.”

But too often, when I walk into a store looking for a chemise, bodysuit, or cami and short set — anything but a bra — I leave with … more bras, along with a feeling of frustration. Where is all the good lingerie? Harrington assures me that what I’m looking for exists. “Brands have historically not been good about explaining sizes to consumers or conveying new options,” she explains. “There are a lot of options out there. I think the issue is that most customers aren’t aware of them.”

In that spirit, I went on a quest for sexy, well-made lingerie that fits curvy women, both those at the top of straight sizes and those who wear plus sizes. Here are my 18 favorites.

A Teddy for Peacocking

The metallic lace on this Rihanna’s Savage x Fenty teddy looks a touch ’80s in the best way, and the bright purple is a welcome change from basic black. I like how the horizontal seam across the front creates a nice, close-to-the-body fit. If you’re wearing this under skinny jeans, just be sure not to catch the lace in the zipper.
Available in sizes 1X–3X.

An End-of-the-Night Corset

This bold blue corset with matching underwear is a showstopper. The metallic lace might be bit too scratchy to wear all day, but you can throw it on at the end of the night for a partner — and then challenge them to undo the 12 hook-and-eye closures up the back.
Available in sizes 1X–3X.

The Most Comfortable Thong Bodysuit

Wearing this bodysuit under a pair of jeans feels exactly as lingerie should — like you’re walking around with a really good, hot secret. There’s a nice stretch in the torso, and the lack of underwire means you can slip a well-fitting bra under it for more support.
Available in sizes L–3X.

The Most Comfortable Non-Thong Bodysuit

I’ve lusted after New Zealand–based lingerie company Lonely’s items since I first caught a glimpse of their colorful, unlined bras. This spring, the company introduced new and larger bra sizes going up to 38 band and a G cup. While this body suit taps out at an XL, it has a surprising amount of give and stretch to it in the most comfortable mesh I’ve come across. Fit note: The cups are a touch shallow.
Available in sizes XS–XL.

Cheeky, Retro Bottoms

As with Lonely’s bodysuit, the material on these high-waisted briefs is exceptionally comfortable. They’re cut flatteringly high in the back, but not so high that they’ll ride up.
Available in sizes XS–XL.

A Very Sexy Bra Set

If you’re looking for a treat for your date or yourself, this is it. The balconette bra is cut below your nipple (!) and brings everything to the front. And the hip slip, which comes with removable garter straps, highlights an hourglass figure. The pieces are sold separately, making it easier to find the exact right fit.
Sizes available: up to 46 for band size, and DDD for cup size.

Available in sizes 0/2–26/28.

A Cute Little Dotted Number

This cami from Ashley Graham is covered enough to work well under a jacket at a party, but silky enough to sleep in. Adjustable straps and a slight flare toward the bottom give it a flattering fit. It’s sold as separates, so you can wear it with matching shorts for sleep or this thong if you’re all about patterns.
Available in sizes X–4X.

A Slightly BDSM Bra

The layering and lace in this bra makes it feel sexy, but it’s still supportive enough to wear all day long if you won’t be running around too much. The gold hardware adds a luxe touch. Add these for a complete look.
Available in sizes 34DDD–44G.

A Fishnet That Doesn’t Feel Corny

With its mesh lining and fishnet overlay, this bra is made for showing off, and the low cut is perfect for a deep scoop neck top. It’s sold with this garter/panty (the garter straps are removable) but it will work just as well with your favorite black underwear.
Sizes available: up to 46 for band size, and H for cup size.

Actually Sexy Shapewear

Like many women, I have a love-hate relationship with shapewear, but there are occasions that demand it. This piece, which comes in pink and black, manages to hold you in while still offering some sex appeal. The straps can be criss-crossed in back if you need. Unfortunately, there’s no snaps down below, so easy on the cocktails.
Available in sizes XS–2X.

A Babydoll With Support

This babydoll is sold by cup, not dress size, and comes with a built-in bra. Pair it with the retro full brief, which offers a bit of control top without being uncomfortable.
Available in sizes 36E–44F.

A Truly Glam Bodysuit

More than any item I tried on, this turquoise bodysuit from Figleaves embodies what I want the items in my personal collection to look like: It has lace and satin-esque finishes and a luxe jewel tone (more so in person than the photograph), and it’s sexy AF. Just note that it’s sold by cup size, which for full-body pieces are a mixed bag. If a brighter blue is more your style, try the pulse bodysuit instead.
Available in sizes 32DD–38G.

If You Can’t Get Enough Neon

This neon teddy from Cosabella x ELOQUII is sexy while still offering a fair amount of coverage and shape, courtesy of a waistband and vertical seams up the torso. The color is more yellow than slime-green in person, but also comes in hot pink, and the fabric’s so comfortable you could easily spend Sunday morning lounging in this number. Fit note: There’s a lot of room in the butt, so if you’ve got a bigger booty, this is an excellent option.
Available in sizes XL–5X.

If You Want to Spend Less Than $35

This thing will make you look like walking sex: Plunging neckline, high cut legs, and a lace-up back. The material isn’t the same quality as the Gooseberry or Lonely black bodysuit, but at $32, this is a solid deal.
Available in sizes 14–28.

A Set to Wear All Day

I didn’t want to take this off! The bra is supportive and exceptionally comfortable with a featherweight feel. And it’s well-lined, so that lace won’t irritate your skin. If purple isn’t your color, check out the slew of other options — and their matching panties, which run from a size 8 to 20.
Available in sizes 30D–40J.

Jewel-Toned Hotpants Boy Shorts

Like the turquoise bodysuit above, I knew I loved these the second I opened the bag. The wine color is rich, the peacock lace elegant and not scratchy on your skin. And, if you’re into garters, there’s a matching one.
Available in sizes XL–5X.

If You Like a High Waist

With cutouts and lace, this thong covers just the right amount. Fit note: This is better for taller women; on my 5’ 2’’ frame, it came up way too high.
Available in sizes 12–28.

A Cute Frilly Set

The most exciting element of this black sheer set is the frills on the briefs. They add a fun surprise to an everyday set, without looking strange under jeans.
Available in sizes 28E–38J.

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It’s Too Damn Hard to Find Good Lingerie If You’re Curvy