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It takes a delicate blend of technical skill and artistic sensibility to pull off a great lingerie photoshoot. Clichés are hard to avoid, critics will accuse you of shilling for fashion brands, and you’re always straddling the line between erotica and pornography.

Such challenges make the work of the world’s leading fashion photographers all the more impressive. And 2012 brought us some remarkably creative and courageous work from magazines, fotogs and models who collaborated to find new ways to celebrate the female form in various stages of undress.

We looked at hundreds of magazine editorials from 2012 that focused on lingerie fashions and chose the images below as a representative sample of this evolving artform. You’ll see some familiar names: the incomparable Ellen von Unwerth, Mert & Marcus, Greg Kadel; leading models like Karlie, Miranda, Constance (no surnames necessary!) and more; and some very exciting work from the pages of V Magazine, I-D, Schon, W, Numero as well as all the big books.

As for the lingerie, there’s a whole world of it in here; we’ll leave it to you to spot your favorite brands.

We’ve included a few items of commercial work not used in consumer magazines, but our list does not cover marketing campaigns by the brands themselves. Where possible, we’ve included both the model’s and photographer’s names.

Finally, if they gave out prizes for such things, the year’s crowning achievement for lingerie fashion editorials would have to go to the image above: Victoria Beckham in Elle mag, shot by Karl Lagerfeld on the mirrored staircase of Coco Chanel‘s Paris mansion. A once-in-a-lifetime moment and an instantly iconic image in a year filled with them.

Chanel Iman by David Roemer in DELUXE
Stefania Ivanescu by Tibi Clenci for FASHION GONE ROGUE
Nurgul Yesilcay in GQ TURKEY
Candice Swanepoel by Mert & Marcus for Brian Atwood footwear
(the campaign banned from New York billboards for being too racy)
Cihan Alpgiray for ELLE TURKEY
Ashley Smith by Ellen von Unwerth for GALORE
Constance Jablonski by Greg Kadel in VOGUE ITALIA
Karlie Kloss in NUMERO
Ginta Lapina by Greg Kadel in NUMERO
Martyna Frankow in GIOIA
‘Heart Breaker’ by Ellen von Unwerth in LOVECAT
Emily Jean Bester in RUSSH
Swanny by Klaas Jan Kliphuis in SCHON
Miranda Kerr in ESQUIRE UK
Julia Nobis in W KOREA
Victoria by Jesse Laitinen in ACNE
Saskia De Brauw in H&M MAGAZINE
Rachael Taylor by Michael Flores in TWELV
Paz De La Huerta in S MODA
Valerie Van Der Graaf by Pierre Dal Corso in LOVECAT
Evan Rachel Wood in FLAUNT
Megan Collison in VOGUE RUSSIA
Malina Corpadean for FASHION
Clara Alonso (wearing The Lake and Stars) in ELLE VIETNAM
Codie Young in BLACK
Kate Upton by Matt Jones in COSMOPOLITAN
Victoria Beckham in NUMERO TOKYO
Wedding lingerie feature in VOGUE BRAZIL
Zosia Nowak in ELLE GREECE
Anthony Vacarrello in V
Alyona Subbotina in GRAVURA
Caitlin Lomax in ZOO
Camille Rowe by Ellen von Unwerth in GREY
Editorial feature in FASHION QUARTERLY NZ
Iris Van Berne in NYLON
Natalia Vodianova by Mert & Marcus in W
Madison Headrick in VISION CHINA
Iris P in ELLE NETHERLANDS
Codie Young in SCHON (inspired by the film ‘Secretary’)
Rosie Huntington-Whitely in HARPERS BAZAAR UK
Karen Nuernberg in GQ ITALIA
Laragh McCann in ELLE FRANCE
Claudia Schiffer by Ellen von Unwerth for GUESS 30th Anniversary campaign

There was a time when the surest way for a young celebrity to boost her media profile was to do a nude photospread in Playboy, regardless of what the parents and vicar might think. But these days, with print-based porn all but gone, what’s an aspiring starlet to do to keep her name — and figure — on the wagging tongues of media consumers?

The answer is the lingerie fashion photoshoot, an increasingly common way for young celebs to promote their latest projects and stay on the public radar.

Stripping down to your skivvies for a major magazine has become a bizarre rite of passage for today’s new generation of attention-seekers. And it’s one more sign that you’ve made it: as any publicity agent will tell you, exposure is everything in this game.

Overexposed and underdressed celebrities were everywhere in 2012, from the obvious (LiLo gunning for another comeback) to the unexpected (Kristen Stewart in Elle) to the surprisingly sweet (Rachel McAdams).

Here’s a gallery featuring 25 of the most memorable celebrity peelers of 2012, chosen from among hundreds out there. See if you can spot which ones are having fun, and which ones look like they’re hoping their parents won’t see this.

Some noteworthy items in our gallery: Esquire (and Photoshop) somehow turned Rihanna into a Caucasian bottle-blonde without inciting riots in Barbados (which might have been justified); country crooner Kellie Pickler claimed her Maxim shoot was done to support the troops (umm, okay); and identical twins Eva Longoria and Freida Pinto stripped down for competing mags.

Our favorite? We see a tie between the chameleon-like Nicole Kidman, who does another career rebound in a Deborah Marquit neon underwear set shot by Mario Testino for V magazine; and Sofia Vergara, who radiates so much joy you would adore her whatever she looked like. Lucky for us she’s also muy caliente.

To get us started, that’s Kim Kardashian above, in an utterly redundant — but gorgeous — new spread from Factice magazine.

AMBER HEARD, private shoot
ANNE HATHAWAY, Glamour
NICKI MINAJ, Allure
LEA MICHELE, Marie Claire
JESSICA CHASTAIN, GQ
FREIDA PINTO, Esquire
LINDSAY LOHAN, Maxim Australia
EMMA WATSON, Glamour
RIHANNA, Esquire
RASHIDA JONES, Flaunt
NICOLE KIDMAN, V79
KATHARINE McPHEE, GQ
KELLIE PICKLER, Maxim
TAYLOR MOMSEN, FHM
KRISTEN STEWART, Elle
RACHEL McADAMS, Glamour
BERENICE MARLOHE, FHM
CHLOE SEVIGNY, Interview
EVA LONGORIA, GQ Mexico
JENNIFER LOVE HEWITT, Maxim
HAYDEN PANETTIERE, Esquire
KALEY CUOCO, Esquire Mexico
ASHLEY GREENE, Esquire
SOFIA VERGARA, Esquire