Think nobody pays attention to underwear? Think again.
The busy, creative, controversial and rapidly evolving world of lingerie and intimate fashions made a lot of headlines in 2011.
Here’s our look back at some of the year’s news highlights, lowlights and just plain unforgettable moments.
Way back in January, Courtney Love almost single-handedly killed the underwear-as-outerwear trend by appearing at the Cannes festival in this silk playsuit. For her sake, we hope the airline lost her luggage.
In a trend that had been building for a few seasons, lingerie styles were everywhere on fashion runways in 2011. In fact, it was hard to find a couture womenswear brand that didn’t incorporate corseted silhouettes, sheer panels, nude colorways and lacey negilgee cuts into their latest collections.
A highlight was Dolce & Gabbana‘s fall Paris show, with its glittering parade of models in bejeweled bodysuits — that’s the main photo at the top of this article. Close behind was Sarah Burton’s magnificent piece, above, from the latest Alexander McQueen collection. Want further proof? Here’s a handful of other runway images showing the world’s leading couture houses looking to the boudoir for inspiration.
By now, everyone should know Nancy Upton. She’s the Texas student who posed for a hilarious lingerie photoshoot last summer for American Apparel‘s poorly conceived “Next Big Thing” contest to find a plus-size model. Nancy won the fan vote but was denied the prize by the supremely PO’d garment maker. She was, however, invited to spend a couple of days in L.A. to tour the AA factories and basically try to patch things up with the red-faced marketing team. You can read about her surreal trip (hint: cream puffs and all-night drinking with the AA girls!) here, and see her original photoshoot here.
You don’t need us to explain why Lady Gaga was the fashion (and lingerie) world’s woman of the year. In addition to her fruitful association with Mugler, she helped elevate fashion-forward intimates designers like Obey My Demand, corsetry label Maya Hansen and couture latex creators like Kudo and HMS. But Gaga’s most vital style moment might have been her appearance on Good Morning America, dressed in a condom-inspired latex suit to draw attention to the plight of women infected by HIV around the world.
Human question mark Andrej Pejic confused more people this year than Rick Genest, Bjork and Rick Perry combined. The boyish 20-year-old male model walked in Gaultier’s womenswear show in Paris, had a magazine cover banned (because it showed his bare chest) and was named to FHM’s list of the 100 sexiest women in the world (not really a compliment, since they also called him the next big “thing”.) But he took gender-bending to a new level this fall when he modeled a push-up bra for Dutch label Hema. Crass provocation or savvy marketing? Depends on how broad your comfort zone is. Andrej thought all the fuss was a bit much. “It’s kind of insane,” he tweeted. “The world is at the brink of depression, military conflict and ecological collapse and me in a bra is global news.”
The weirdest collab of the year was the limited edition cranberry-and-chocolate lingerie ensemble created by Marlies Dekkers to promote a new flavor from Magnum ice cream. Seriously, what the hell was that? A sexy lingerie brand teaming up with the world’s most fattening dessert product? Hmmm, maybe MD is working on a new plus-size line …
How’s this for inflation? A pair of bloomers worn by Queen Victoria fetched £9,375 at an auction in London in November. That’s more than twice the amount paid in 2008 for another set of Vicky knickers. The 2011 sale piece dates from the 1860s, has a 35-inch waist and is embroidered with the royal insignia.
Vogue Italia made headlines in June for featuring three plus-size models on its cover (eating spaghetti!) and more inside, all shot by Steven Meisel. It also launched a mini-site, Vogue Curvy, that recently named Adele its woman of the year. One day, this sort of thing won’t be considered news.
It was a big year for Rihanna, to say the least. She not only snatched the job as Armani cover girl away from Megan Fox, but the resulting print and video campaign was chosen the year’s sexiest ad in a poll by Advertising Age.
2011 was also a big year for Josephine Baker, the late singer, dancer, actress, civil rights activist and wartime double agent. Not only did she have a background cameo in Midnight In Paris (did you spot her?), but two UK lingerie labels referenced Josephine in 2011 collections inspired by female WWII spies. (That’s Kiss Me Deadly on the left and Artemis South on the right.) It’s hardly a coincidence: Josephine has inspired a number of fashion and lingerie pieces over the years and one label — Princesse Tam Tam — is named after one of her films. Now that’s a legacy.
Retail giant H&M was left a little red-faced this year when it was revealed they used CGI and Photoshop to create identical torsos for models used in their lingerie catalog shoots. Wait a minute … does this mean all women don’t have the same belly button?
It’s been nearly two years since we first heard talk of a Madonna-designed lingerie collection in the works for Macy’s, but alas, nothing has materialized … yet. Madge and daughter Lourdes launched their glam-rock streetwear line Material Girl in 2010, and it includes a few undergarments like the one seen on Kelly Osbourne above. But the wait for a couture collection may be nearing an end. Madonna’s Truth or Dare fragrance will debut in March, with lingerie and jewelry expected to follow under the same brand. Watch her Superbowl performance for style cues!
In May, the Japanese arm of Triumph unveiled this unusual bustier-skirt combo imprinted with real messages of support from around the world that the company received following the devastating earthquake and tsunami in April. The style wasn’t for sale.
Innumerable lingerie brands jumped on the eco-bandwagon this year, but none so thoroughly as Marks and Spencer. The UK retailer unveiled the world’s first carbon-neutral lingerie line, called Autograph Leaves, after an exhaustive process to make its Sri Lankan manufacturing facilities environmentally friendly. The company’s initiatives affected every step in the supply chain and included local economic development programs. M&S also bought carbon offset credits to reach the carbon-neutral designation, which was certified by the Carbon Trust.
The most adorable accessory of the year award goes to French label Etam, which had its models carry spring lambs during its Paris spring runway show. Awwwwww ….
In September, the K-girls unveiled their self-promo du jour, a lingerie collection for Sears. Three months later, Sears announced it was closing 120 stores nationwide after seeing a 5% sales drop. We’re not saying the two events are related, but hey, you connect the dots.
Aline Skaf unwittingly became the world’s most famous lingerie model — briefly — in October. The wife of Muammar Gaddafi’s son Hannibal was featured in several provocative photos that Libyan rebels found on a laptop that was recovered after the notorious couple fled the country before the fall of Tripoli. The images of Aline and Hannibal came to symbolize the extravagant lifestyle and hedonism that helped incite the public uprising against the dictator. As for Aline, she reportedly gave birth to a baby in September in Algeria.
Corset and underwear pioneer Triumph celebrated 125 years in business this fall by releasing a limited edition vintage collection that referenced some of its past designs.
The gigantic pop beehive known as AKB48 has had an impact on Japanese music, fashion and culture that is almost impossible to calculate. Imagine a teen star like Selena Gomez cloned — 100 times! — and you start to get a sense of its scale. The too-cute supergroup (whose numbers range from about 60 to more than 90, and which sells more records than Justin Bieber) is also a phenomenal marketing powerhouse. This year, the “band” endorsed a signature “Heart Bra” for lingerie retail chain Peach John, and it sold out in hours. So be warned: this kind of all-encompassing teen marketing juggernaut will eventually reach our shores one day soon. You can bet Victoria’s Secret has already enrolled its Angels in singing lessons.
It’s called the Chinese Boob Clamp, and it was a viral hit on YouTube last spring. It’s really just a front-lacing corset, but clever engineering creates enough compression to really amp up the cleavage. You absolutely know this will be copied everywhere this year.
Were you excited about the new lingerie label Tantrum Intimates? Well, forget about it — the brand doesn’t exist. This ad featuring Karen Elson (wearing Agent Provocateur) was one of 9 fake ads sprinkled throughout W magazine’s November issue in a clever concept from photographer Steven Meisel. The shot of Ru Paul in glittering undies hawking a fake fragrance was even funnier.
Rotterdam illustrator Bodil Jane created this ornate, experimental paper bra using a lasercutter provided by the public art facility FabLab in Amsterdam. The design was inspired by paper flower hats from Chanel, and the artist created versions in felt, fake leather and different types of paper.
Think your fine intimates boutique is special? Well, there wasn’t a lingerie shop in the world that had a better year than the Angela Knight Lingerie boutique in tiny Hungerford, England. AKL guarded the industry’s biggest secret last spring by outfitting the Middleton girls before a certain royal wedding — and not blabbing about it until the newlyweds were safely away on their honeymoon. At the end of the year, the 2-year-old shop was named the UK’s Best Lingerie Shop by Underlines magazine, which created the new award specifically to acknowledge Angela Knight’s banner year.
We’ve lost track of how many models were named “the new face of Ultimo” in 2011, but one thing’s for sure: Ultimo chief Michelle Mone is a genius when it comes to stunt casting. This year’s newcomers included Amy Childs, The Only Way Is Essex star who is a kind of ironic poster child for unnecessary breast augmentation; billionaire heiress and self-promoter Tamara Ecclestone; and Argentinian beauty Luisana Lopilato, the new bride of Canadian crooner Michael Buble. And Ultimo’s celebrity squad seems to be earning its way: the company reported record earnings in 2011. That’s Tamara above, in the year’s strangest photoshoot, surrounded by £1-million of her own money. The shoot was meant to promote her new reality show, Billion $$$ Girl.
The tassled bustier worn by Madonna during her 1987 Who’s That Girl? world tour fetched $72,000 in an auction of celebrity memorabilia in October. The iconic outfit was custom-made by L.A.’s Trashy Lingerie.
If you haven’t yet seen Chicago’s almost indescribably tacky 26-foot-high fiberglass Marilyn Monroe statue, better book your plane tickets — it’s coming down in the spring. The Michigan Avenue sculpture by Seward Johnson recreates the famous updraft scene from The Seven-Year Itch (complete with visible undies), although one critic cleverly called the monument The Seven-Year Kitsch. No word on what will happen to this monstrosity, although the city is apparently looking for a 27-foot-deep sinkhole.
A truce was finally reached in the long-running “Dutch bra war” in October when the owners of Sapph Lingerie quit the battlefield and ceded the victory to Marlies Dekkers. The two brands had been in court since 2008 over Dekkers’ claim that Sapph infringed on their copyright by selling almost identical (but cheaper) bra styles. (That’s MD on the left, Sapph on the right above).
A judge ruled in favor of Dekkers’ claim in May, and this fall Sapph abandoned its appeal. At issue was whether Dekkers could rightly claim ownership of her signature multi-strap style and, more importantly, whether she was entitled to damages from a competitor selling similar products. Her victory adds a substantial legal precedent in the field of fashion copyright … but the long, costly court battle will be discouraging to other designers who feel similarly abused.
Canadian lingerie boutique The Boobie Trap found a chilling way to encourage women to get a bra fitting. The Newfoundland shop created a series of posters and videos resembling horror movie ads, with names like “The Sagging” and “The Quadraboob” and a memorable slogan, “We can stop the horror.” The two videos for the campaign have been viewed more than 370,000 times on YouTube since their launch two months ago.
We filed this item under the Didn’t-See-This-Coming category. The question of whether maternity lingerie could be too sexy was raised this summer, sparked by a New York Times article that looked at the growing number of new maternity labels such as Cake (above), You!, HOTMilk and others. The debate gained steam on Jezebel and parenting blogs, with some asking if it was desirable — or even possible — to combine sex appeal with the more functional aspects of nursing. Various brands responded by talking about the importance of boosting women’s self-confidence during and after pregnancy, yet one blogger argued that “sexy nursing bras [are] just another thing to make me feel inadequate.” An interesting discussion on the blogosphere shed some light on women’s love/hate relationship with their post-pregnancy bodies.
One of the year’s most problematic marketing efforts came, not surprisingly, from Calvin Klein. The CK One campaign last spring was one of the most ambitious and expensive of the year. It not only featured Lara Stone and other hotties disrobing and cavorting with their pals in a box-sized studio, but CK also set up photo booths in major cities encouraging average folk to do the same — after which CK One would post the amateur strip shows on line. In a year dominated by exhibitionism in underwear advertising, CK One went one step further by promoting a new social ethic in which goofing off in your undies was a cool way to fit in with the crowd. What’s next? A new unisex underwear label called Calvin Klein Homies?
The baby parade at Victoria’s Secret continues. Brazilian model Alessandra Ambrosio is expecting her second child with BF Jamie Mazur in 2012, while newlywed Lily Aldridge and husband Caleb Followill are also expecting. They follow much-publicized recent deliveries from VS Angels Doutzen Kroes, Miranda Kerr and Adriana Lima. That’s Ale above with 3-year-old Anja.
A Catholic high school in Ottawa got more than it bargained for when it told students they could be sent home for wearing yoga pants to school. The ubiquitous form-fitting pants — known as “lulus” after the brand Lululemon — were permissible on female students only if they wore a sweater or long top that covered up their butt, the school said. Yeah, that’ll stop teens from thinking about sex….
There wasn’t much good that came out of this year’s ugly John Galliano trial. Except maybe this: Galliano’s label surprised everyone by simply surviving the debacle, and this fall released a very bold new lingerie collection and this ballet-themed photoshoot featuring Erin Heatherton.
Brazilian supermodel Gisele Bundchen had a killer year that included her own signature brand with Hope Lingerie. Our favorite image of the world’s highest paid model, though, was this fabulous cover from Elle which mimics a classic (and much-imitated) Bardot pose.
No point in dredging up that ridiculous controversy over the fall photoshoot by New York label The Lake & Stars again, except to have one more look at this wonderful painting by Dutch artist Nop Briex. He based this piece on the original mother-daughter photo by Tom Hines, which sparked one of the biggest and strangest fashion controversies of the year.
And finally, this is our favorite photo of the year. It’s a candid shot taken during a launch party in August at the SOL Lingerie boutique in Denver. When we are that age, hopefully we’ll look as snappy as this dude — and still be shopping for lingerie!