America’s Next Top Model Whitney Thompson is the New Face of Panache Plus-Lingerie

When Whitney Thompson won America’s Next Top Model, the plus-size model scored a contract to become Torrid’s main girl, and popped up as occasional model for brands like Converse, Forever21, and Diana Warner Jewelry. Thompson starred in a CoverGirl commercial with Rihanna, and even founded The Big and the Beautiful, a dating site aimed at plus-size people, and lovers thereof. And then we sort of stopped hearing about her.

But Thompson has resurfaced as the face of Panache Lingerie’s Sculptresse Line, the U.K.-based company’s new collection of “flattering and supportive styles for the fuller figure.” The line includes full-cup, balconette, and t-shirt bras in sexy lace, tartan, and floral patterns, all with the boy shorts to match, offering a total paradox to the boring, solid black and whites with which plus-size women are normally stuck. The designs are all about color, style, sex appeal and even comfort — four crucial musts of lingerie. The bras are available in D to J cups, and 36-46 inches, while the undies range from L to 6XL.

Panache’s new line is beautiful, but its immediate success may have a lot to do with the times. This year has brought the spread of several plus-size undergarment brands, which don't appear to be losing momentum. Designers are finally realizing that plus-size women want to feel sexy in their intimates, too.

The surfacing of good-looking plus panties may be helped by two things: plus-size fashion blogging and Gok Wan. Plus-size fashion blogging is at an all-time high (just check out fatkinis and fat-cropping). And, on Valentine’s Day this year, Gabi Gregg of Gabifresh, one of the most influential plus-bloggers, collaborated with Hips&Curves, a brand that's been around since 2000. Gregg looked classy; she looked sexy; she showed off her body; she proved that fat girls can look striking in garters. And the response was overwhelmingly positive from Gregg's thousands of followers.

Then there’s Gok Wan, the fashion expert and television presenter who has always been into beauty at every size. Through his series, How to Look Good Naked, he reached out to plus-size women everywhere, proving that the key to looking good is feeling good. This year, he probably noticed the trend toward plus-blogging and fat pride, and took the chance to launch his own plus-size lingerie line for SimplyBe. He combined classic shapewear with vintage patterns and designs, sexy laces, exquisite mesh, and see-through fabrics, giving plus-size women copious options for making statements with their underwear.

Although several plus-size lingerie brands have been around a while, the long-existing ones have really stepped up their game in the face of plus-size pride, while newer lines have made a name for themselves. Previously forced into the back racks of JCP or Walmart to find a pair of panties that fit, plus-size women finally have the chance to feel sexier in their intimates than ever before. E-commerce sites like Hips&Curves and ModCloth are showcasing amazing lingerie by body-positive designers like Rago, while stores like SimplyBe and Torrid are continuing to make bigger and better lingerie in a wider array of sizes.

There is no doubt that fat pride is hitting the world with force and passion, and that people are responding — be they fashion designers, television directors, record labels, or model scouts. There’s a long way to go before high-end brands start making anything bigger than a 12, or before musicians like Beth Ditto are as famous as Lady Gaga. But as with any movement, it’s all about the baby steps, and luckily, the advancements in plus-size lingerie may count towards the effort.

Photos: Panache/Facebook; Gabifresh.com; SimplyBe/Facebook