7 Ways Lingerie Can Help You Love Your Body

by Mariah Carrillo

Although lingerie can get a bad rap in sexist advertising campaigns and magazine articles about "slimming" foundation-wear, there are many ways in which lingerie can be body positive. As an often private form of fashion, intimates can be a safe place to begin experimenting with looks and styles you're not comfortable sharing with the larger world yet. If you're forced to wear a uniform for work or school, fun undergarments also provide a way to stay true to your own style, no matter what you have to wear on top. And, if you have a hard time loving certain parts of your body, dressing up those pieces of yourself with beautiful designs might even bring you one step closer to appreciating your own unique physicality.

I haven't always loved lingerie. When I was a teenager, fancy bras and lacy intimates seemed like an inconvenient, stereotypically feminine style choice. All the lingerie I saw was very focused on appearing heteronormatively "sexy," and I didn't realize that there were other reasons someone might choose to wear lingerie.

As I've gotten older and discovered other voices and perspectives, however, from brands creating feminist underwear, to bloggers who celebrate lingerie diversity, I've come to realize that lingerie can be anything I want it to be, from a rebellion against fashion norms, to a form of self-care. If you've been considering adding some unique intimates to your own wardrobe, check out these seven ways lingerie can help you show yourself some love.

1. Celebrate What Makes You Unique

No matter your shape or size, you deserve to celebrate your body in styles that make you feel good. For me, having grown up in a very sexually conservative culture, this means enjoying items that play up the parts of myself that I was taught to be ashamed of.

I've always been busty, and was taught from an early age to cover my chest up as much as humanly possible. Now, I revel in lacy, colorful bras that accentuate my breasts instead of hiding them. In this way, lingerie provides me with a way to celebrate and reclaim my own body in the face of a society that stigmatizes feminine sexual agency.

If you have been made to feel inferior or ashamed of your body in the past, wearing lingerie you love can be one way to practice acceptance for and take pleasure in the things about yourself that may have once been used against you.

2. Break The Rules

Although diet culture and the fashion industry profit from enforcing arbitrary beauty standards, there's no reason you can't break the rules and wear whatever styles make you happy. In fact, intentionally rebelling against body prejudice can be a great way to retrain yourself to see your body as beautiful.

One body positive trend I'm loving lately is the growing reclamation of bralettes by plus size and full busted women who had previously been told that these carefree styles weren't for them. Alysse Dalessandro's recent bralette article rocked my world, and encouraged me to go out and try on some lingerie designs I would otherwise never have thought to wear.

Changing the focus of fashion (and lingerie) from one of "looking good" for others, to feeling good in your own skin, can be a truly revolutionary shift of perspective.

3. Transform Your Look

There's often a perception around undergarments that they exist to help subtly alter your figure to better fit a prescribed mould, but I'm much more interested in lingerie's power to completely transform the body according the the wearer's individual preferences. This can take many different forms, from binders that fight gender dysphoria and offer peace of mind to trans individuals, to retro corsets that help provide a stylized, vintage pinup silhouette for glamorous femmes.

Remember, you aren't limited to society's ideal of "flattering," and fitting in is much less fun than standing out on your own terms.

4. Show It Off

If, like me, you were taught to view your sexuality with a sense of shame, showing off your body can be incredibly liberating. There is still a ridiculous amount of stigma in U.S. culture around feminine nudity, especially when the bodies in question don't perfectly fit current ideals for beauty or gender.

Taking back ownership over your right to self-presentation is one way to fight the damaging rhetoric that treats women's bodies as inherently and dangerously sexual. It can also be a way to increase the visibility of non-normative bodies in our society; personally, there's nothing more inspiring to me than seeing someone flaunt their gorgeousness, despite what others might say.

5. Treat Yourself

For fat people, differently-abled individuals, people of color, trans individuals, and other groups that are marginalized in Euro-centric cultures, self-care can be an essential practice for surviving and thriving in a discriminatory environment.

As a plus size woman, I'm surrounded by messages that I should only buy nice clothing for myself as a reward for weight loss. The idea of "wasting" money on garments for a supposedly less-than-ideal body seems scandalous in the face of all the pressure to change my appearance. Just look at how many plus size fashion bloggers and models have to constantly deal with concern trolls who argue that large bodies in fashionable clothing "promote obesity."

In light of this rampant prejudice, adorning and treasuring my body with beautiful, sexy, or luxurious lingerie is a defiant gesture that reaffirms and reminds me of my innate worthiness.

6. Go Undercover

Like many individuals, I work a traditional nine-to-five, and that means dressing within a certain set of standards during work hours. While I might love see-through mesh, edgy bodysuits, and leather leggings in my personal life, sadly, they can't come with me to the office.

Luckily, with lingerie, I can express my individual sense of style for my own enjoyment, no matter where I'm going. I can throw on a frilly, lacy bra under a suit, or wear a barely-there mesh teddy under a classic wrap dress. While my dream is to eventually have a job that allows me to wear whatever I want on a daily basis, until that day comes, sexy undergarments help me feel like myself, even when I have to toe the company line.

7. Define Your Style

Although much lingerie is marketed as a tool for seduction — something intrinsically focused on attracting others — I enjoy it much more when I think of my lingerie collection as an extension of my own personal style and fashion wardrobe.

If you love minimalist basics and clean lines, don't feel pressured to go out and buy a bunch of lacy chemises and floral underwear. There are great brands like Neon Moon and Origami Customs that make sexy undergarments without the fluff.

Alternatively, if you love frothy femme frills or sophisticated, bold designs, there are plenty of lingerie companies making gorgeous pieces to help you feel your best (I might mention Impish Lee, Lonely Lingerie, Harlow and Fox, and Toru & Naoko, to name just a few). No matter what look you prefer, remember that there really are no rules when it comes to style. Just wear what makes you happy, and twirl on the haters.

Lingerie can be a very intimate and personal form of self expression, as well as a unique opportunity for body love and self care. Try out these body positive tips for ways to wear lingerie that might have you seriously feeling yourself.

Image: Courtesy ceceolisa/Instagram (1)