Since Covid, Lingerie Sales Have Soared

... and one type of lingerie has become especially popular.

Posted Jul 01, 2020

People buy lingerie year-round, but the best time for sales is the few weeks before Valentine’s Day. After February 14, sales customarily fall sharply through mid-May.  But not this year. Post-Valentine’s sales doldrums abruptly turned around in late March as most state governments issued shelter-in-place orders. Since April, many lingerie manufacturers and retailers have reported sales more than doubling. On reflection, this isn’t surprising. At a time when people can’t dress up and go out, evidently many have decided to “undress up” while staying in:

  • Most couples sheltering in place have been spending considerably more time together. Some have discovered that lingerie play adds spice to their lovemaking. 
  • Some couples separated by travel restrictions have found that lingerie adds zing to Zoom or FaceTime sex
  • And some singles bored with T-shirts and sweat pants have decided that lingerie enhances self-sexing. 

Todd Mick, an analyst with NPD Group, a market research firm in Port Washington, New York, told the New York Times that as COVID-related life disruptions continue, lingerie somehow feels comforting. 

Why Is Crotchless Trending?

The COVID-fueled uptick in lingerie sales includes all lacy, sexy garb. But people in the $8 billion a year industry say they’ve been surprised by a particular spike in sales of the raciest undergarments, particularly crotchless (open, overt) items. Evidently, with so much of the economy closed down, many people’s erotic fantasies have turned to greater openness.

The recent trend toward crotchless lingerie may also reflect the trend away from natural pubic hair toward pubic hair removal or “grooming”—trimming, partial shaving, and going bald (Barbie doll).

In previous centuries, some people groomed their pubic hair, usually to prevent and treat lice. But grooming as a fashion statement dates from the late twentieth century. Brazilian waxing, or the commercial removal of some or all pubic hair, was introduced by a New York spa in 1987. America’s major men’s magazines (Playboy, Penthouse) did not show centerfolds below the hips until around 1970. From then, until around 2000, most had full pubic hair or modest trims. But as the millennium approached, bushes shrank. After 2000, most men’s magazine nudes showed little or no pubic hair. The same timeline is true for much pornography.

For a study published in 2016, researchers at the University of California’s San Francisco Medical Center asked a nationally representative sample of 3,316 women, age 18 and older, if they groomed, and 84 percent reported that they did. For groomers, crotchless lingerie offers a way to show off their handiwork.

Words of Caution

Gentlemen, while the virus has spurred sales of crotchless undergarments, that doesn’t necessarily mean that your partner is interested in letting it all hang out. The best research suggests that only around 2 percent of women are exhibitionists. There are approximately 150 million adult women in the U.S, so the exhibitionistic 2 percent number around 3 million, more than enough to account for the recent uptick in crotchless lingerie sales. And if 2 percent of women love showing off, it means that the other 98 percent of women may still very well recoil from undergarments that display their vulvas, and perhaps from lingerie in general.

Most women feel self-conscious about their bodies. As the years pass, this typically increases. If women buy crotchless lingerie for themselves, fine. But if you buy your partner racy gifts, go with items she’s likely to actually enjoy wearing. Some suggestions:

• Forget bras. Forget panties, thongs, and G-strings—full coverage or crotchless. To look good, these garments must fit like gloves, which means knowing her size. Do you? Probably not. So you peek into her underwear drawer. But unlike the sensible sizing of men’s clothing—small, medium, and large—women’s sizes are a minefield of labels: Misses, Petites, Juniors, and Woman’s, each with a raft of sizes nowhere near standardized.

For male shoppers, bras are particularly tricky. Professional corset fitters often chide women for buying bras that don’t fit, so even if her own bras say one size, there’s no guarantee that lingerie in that size will look flattering. 

In addition, if you buy a bra that’s too large, she may believe you think she’s a whale. But if you select one that’s too small, she might believe you want her to lose weight. My advice: For gift giving, avoid bras and panties altogether. 

• It’s not about how much gets revealed. It’s all about how she feels. Most men get turned on visually. They love looking at scantily-clad women. But most women respond more to touch—for example, the luxurious feel of silk. If what you buy her feels sensuous, she’s likely to radiate sexiness.         

Another problem with skimpy lingerie: It often leaves women cold, that is, shivering, even if you crank up the thermostat. Silk is insulating. It keeps her warm, which helps her feel hot.

• Go with loose-fitting, full-coverage outfits. If you give gifts of lingerie, shop for baby dolls, negligées, and robes. Baby dolls are short nightgowns, usually thigh-high and sleeveless. Negligées are longer, calf- or ankle-length and may include sleeves. Lingerie robes resemble bathrobes, but they’re lighter weight, and usually semi-sheer. Some baby dolls and negligées include lace, ruffles, spaghetti straps, and slits up the sides. 

• She retains control. The beauty of fuller-coverage lingerie is that the woman controls what she reveals. You may adore her boobs, but she may have mixed feelings about them. If she sashays around the house in a negligée, she can show off what she considers her charms without baring the bits that make her feel self-conscious. “Many women choose lingerie based on how well it disguises what they consider flaws,” says Joan Price, author of Naked At Our Age, a sex guide for older lovers. “Men can’t go wrong giving a silk nightie or robe.”

• Shop together. Visit lingerie sites together and discuss what you see. If she’s into crotchless undies, fine, buy them. If not, buy what she likes. When women feel happy wearing lingerie, they usually feel happier about taking it off.

Buy a few baby dolls, negligées, and/or robes. Then imagine all the fun you both can have at your own intimate fashion show. Decide together which one(s) she’ll keep. Return the rest. Most lingerie retailers prohibit returns of panties, thongs, and G-strings, but allow returns of baby dolls, negligées, and robes. 

Open may be trending, but if you pressure your partner to venture beyond her comfort zone, you’re more likely to get eye-rolling than rolls in the hay.

References

Felder, R. “Provocative Purchases: Sales of Lingerie Have Been Thriving During Lockdown,” New York Times, June 25, 2020

Rowen, T.S. et al. “Pubic Hair Grooming Prevalence and Motivation Among Women in the United States,” JAMA Dermatology (2016) 152:1106.