In our last article, we looked at the growing phenomenon of lingerie brands that are turning to older fashion models to promote their products to an aging customer base.
Below we offer a look at 10 different labels and how they are using plus-age models today.
Is this really a progressive new direction for the lingerie industry, or a passing marketing trend? Who knows? But as these examples demonstrate, your age, like your bra size, really is just a number.
Brand: Agent Provocateur
Model: Penelope Cruz, 39
What does an erotic brand favored by husband-hunting office girls do when its core market grows up? It shows them what the future holds. In AP’s case, that means hiring one of the most universally appealing sexpots on the planet, Penelope Cruz. And what a casting coup this was. The fiery Spanish Oscar-winner is smart, accomplished, exceptionally well-married, and approaching 40 with her sizzling personality undimmed. Along with sister Monica, Penelope just launched L’Agent, a lower-priced diffusion line for AP, and directed its provocative promo video. And the best news? They’ve signed on for five years.
Brand: Calvin Klein
Model: Christy Turlington, 44
The most astonishing thing about the return of Christy Turlington to lingerie modeling this year is how little she has changed since she first became the face/body of Calvin Klein lingerie 25 years ago (above, in 1988). Christy was one of the original super-skinny 90s supermodels, but she’s been out of the spotlight in recent years, raising kids just like other moms. She remains among the most genetically blessed women on the planet, however, and her 2013 CK campaign reminds us that Calvin isn’t really selling underwear — he’s selling the Fountain of Youth.
Model: Melanie Sykes, 43
How brave do you have to be to pose for your first lingerie campaign in your 40s, after raising two kids? It helps that Melanie, a British TV personality, posed naked in Esquire just two years ago. But as the new face and body of Ultimo’s Adore Moi lingerie range, she was likely inspired by the example of Ultimo boss Michelle Mone. Two years ago, on the brink of 40 and recovering from an ugly divorce, the Scottish entrepreneur showed the world (and her ex) what she’s made of by famously posing for her own label. And there’s a lot riding on this inspired new direction: Ultimo has been bleeding red ink this year, so it’ll be fascinating (and instructive) to see if two 40-something hotties can turn it around.
Model: Helena Christensen, 44
No one on this list has carried the flag for older underwear models better than the Danish supermodel. Helena partnered with legacy brand Triumph in 2011 to create her own collection of sexy-but-age-appropriate lingerie, she models each new season, and she has emerged as the brand’s global ambassador. And she has shown her commitment in other ways, too, acting as the celebrity judge for Triumph’s international student designer competition and modeling the contestants’ work.
Brand: By Caprice
Model: Caprice Bourret, 41
The multi-tasking Californian made a name for herself in the UK as a model, reality TV star and all-round celebrity. But it was her 2000 deal to create a lingerie line for the Debenhams department store that turned Caprice into a one-woman empire. Today, her brand has expanded into other lifestyle and apparel products and is widely available in retail chains around the world. One thing hasn’t changed, though: Caprice still models her own collections each season.
Brand: Von Follies
Model: Dita Von Teese, 40
The definition of a self-made star, Dita has built an extraordinary international brand from her unlikely Midwestern-girl-turned-stripper roots. She continues to model her own faux vintage lingerie label, Von Follies, which has spread rapidly around the globe since its launch less than two years ago. The burlesque queen even turned up at Lingerie Fashion Week in New York this month, though only by way of a “video greeting” to support her stockings line for Secrets In Lace. A word of advice to any label looking for a can’t-miss formula: hire Dita, and get pictures.
Model: Claudia Schiffer, 43 on Aug. 25
The German supermodel helped make the American denim label a household name more than 20 years ago … or was it the other way around? To mark its 30th year in business, Guess last year went back to Claudia to model clothing and underwear pieces from its latest collection. Ellen von Unwerth shot this memorable campaign which undoubtedly inspired Calvin Klein (see above) to do the same thing this year.
Brand: Atelier Versace
Model: Naomi Campbell, 43
One of the original supermodels, Naomi doesn’t walk many runways any more — but when she does, it has a massive international media impact. She opened Paris Haute Couture Fashion Week in June, modeling glamorous lingerie and clothing pieces from Atelier Versace. Is there anyone who wouldn’t love to see more of Naomi?
Brand: Elizabeth Hurley Beach
Model: Elizabeth Hurley, 48
Liz is approaching that age when celebrities usually stop modeling their own collections (cf. Elle Macpherson, below), but with genes like this would you quit? The Austin Powers actress still models selections from each new collection of her sexy beach and loungewear label; she even posts candid shots of herself, in EH beach gear, on Facebook.
Model: Sofia Vergara, 41
The Modern Family bombshell will make a lot of money from her licensing deal with K-Mart, and even more if she sues the butcher who photoshopped the promo images for her new shapewear collection. We have to ask: what’s the point of hiring a unique, distinctive and universally adored Latina icon if you’re just going to make her look like any other skinny young white girl? This is exactly how brands shouldn’t treat older models, and on this matter of principle alone we strongly encourage readers to boycott the Sofia for K-Mart line until they figure out how to portray her honestly.
Brand: Elle Macpherson Intimates
Model: Elle Macpherson, 49
Finally, an exception to everything above. Elle Mac may run one of the world’s favorite designer lingerie brands, but her days as an underwear model are behind her — not that she wouldn’t represent her brand well if she chose to. Elle did, however, make an exception last year when, at age 48, she posed in a bikini as part of People magazine’s “Best Beach Bodies” feature. No matter what your age, it always pays to advertise.
[ED. NOTE: These aren’t the only lingerie brands using plus-age models today. If you are inspired by a particularly creative and inspirational use of older models that we haven’t mentioned, please let us know and we’ll update our list!]