Diversity in Lingerie: Body Shape and Airbrushing in the Media

Do you think there is enough diversity in lingerie?  I suppose your response to my question may depend upon your understanding of the word ‘diversity’, so here’s a dictionary definition:


  [dih-vur-si-tee, dahy-]

noun, plural di·ver·si·ties.


the state or fact of being diversedifference; unlikeness:diversity of opinion.


variety; multiformity.


a point of difference.

Courtesy of Dictionary.com

So, are we talking about the diversity of the lingerie itself, the models used to showcase the lingerie, the brands, or what?
I recently read this article on the Lingerie Addict and so was interested when I heard last week that Braless in Brasil is starting a campaign “…to encourage companies to include more diversity (in terms of race, body size, age, disabilities, etc) in their ad campaigns in lingerie.”  Seeing as the Lingerie Addict has already covered the disability side of things, I am going to focus on body shape.

Typically, we are used to seeing slim, fairly small-breasted women in lingerie advertising.

Image courtesy of Nordstrom

This model is gorgeous but she does not have a size or shape with which I can identify.  Her long, slim torso is completely different to mine and her delicate figure fits perfectly into her petite lingerie.  The whole look is lovely…but if this set was available in my size and I tried it on it would look unrecognisable.

However, for many years lingerie brands have used models such as this to showcase their ranges, making many of us with differences such as bigger boobs/shorter torsos/larger hips/chunkier thighs feel rather alienated and left wondering why the promo photos were not able to give us a more realistic idea of what the lingerie might look like on us.

In recent years, fuller busted brands such as Freya, Curvy Kate and Elomi have made great strides in improving the lingerie choices for curvier women, and increasingly they are using models with proportions similar to their target markets to help increase sales.

Image courtesy of Freya

Image courtesy of Curvy Kate

Image courtesy of Elomi

Curvy Kate do a particularly great job with their ‘Star In A Bra’ competition.  All Curvy Kate’s lingerie models are normal girls who were not models in the first place but instead earned their places on the CK files by entering the competition.  It’s an incredible way for the brand to reach out to their customers, and they get such a wide range of women of all shapes and sizes entering.


Images courtesy of Curvy Kate

And it’s not just about models with fuller busts.  It’s about using women with a range of different looks, and those of different heights, proportions and body types and shapes.

For me, there is only one brand who does this to perfection: Ewa Michalak.

Click the image for a bigger version of any of the photos on my blog

Ewa Michalak has never hesitated to use an incredibly diverse range of women to model her lingerie, increasing her bevvy of beauties even further in recent years to include a wider age range of models, too.  Every one of these women shows off the lingerie to best advantage and by using different body types potential customers are able to get a better idea of what the items might look like on them.

The lingerie industry, just like the fashion industry, generally believes that lingerie looks better on slimmer models.  Personally, I beg to differ and in fact believe that lingerie looks best on a whole range of models, as long as they are wearing properly fitted bras.  Most women do not relate to the oh-so-often ridiculously airbrushed images as seen on the majority of lingerie brands’ websites.

UK high street department store Debenhams recently made an announcement that they would no longer be permitting airbrushing in their own brand lingerie photos.  This image shows how many changes would have been made to what seems to me to be a perfectly acceptable original photo:

Image courtesy of Debenhams

It’s quite shocking.  Debenhams have taken this decision in light of a study that showed young girls’ confidence and self-esteem was being significantly shot down by being inundated by photos in the media and online of ‘perfect’ celebrities and models.  This is a great step and we can only hope that other retailers and brands will soon follow suit.  After all, there are very few women in the world who don’t have either cellulite, loose skin, fat rolls, wrinkles, freckles, and so on – just some of us have it in greater proportion than others…so why on earth should these features be deleted from promotional photos?

Yes, I get it.  Brands believe that items showcased on a ‘perfect’ model portray a life of happiness, healthiness and well-being and therefore they will make more sales.  I am sure there is a lot of truth to that.  But increasingly women want to see clothes and lingerie displayed on a figure that is realistic and perhaps even similar to their own.  We don’t want the twee ‘fairytale’ any more; we want reality.

And that is one of the many, many reasons why I will always love Ewa Michalak.  Not an airbrush in sight – thank goodness!

Images courtesy of Ewa Michalak

Each one of these images makes me smile at how happy the women look…and then my smile is very quickly replaced with a look of lust for the gorgeous lingerie!  The fact is, as long as the model is wearing the right size bra she can look terrific regardless of her size and shape.  And if she looks terrific…then surely other women will see that too and brands will make just as many sales as before and possibly even more.

Ewa Michalak’s lingerie promo photos prove that she has embraced diversity in lingerie, and particularly in body shapes and types, and I hope many more lingerie brands will follow her lead in the future.

In what other ways do you think we need diversity in lingerie?  If you want to join in with the campaign, all you need to do is take a photo of yourself (it doesn’t necessarily have to be in lingerie or even include your face if you don’t want; you can be fully clothed, in your undies, whatever you like…just as long as you feel comfortable) and include the hashtag #diversityinlingerie.  Then post it on as much social media as you can and make sure you type the hashtag in the text accompanying your post.  You can also email it to June at Braless in Brasil to put on her blog or feel free to add it to my Facebook page or send it to me via a message on there if you’d rather remain anonymous.

Let’s get the message across to the brands that we want to see more diversity in lingerie, in all its forms.  Who knows: we might even make a difference.



  1. Anonymous
    21 August 2013 / 00:52

    What a fantastic blog piece! I love it and agree we need more diversity in lingerie x

  2. Laura (DT)
    21 August 2013 / 02:35

    I thought about writing about how Ewa uses a great variety of models, but you took care of that for me! 🙂 Great post!

  3. Bizzy
    21 August 2013 / 14:21

    That Debenhams photo is shocking. Seeing the before and after together her arms look weird and sickly in the after photo. Also that photoshopped cleavage isn't fooling anyone. If that bra really created that push up cleavage she would have some major quad boob. I understand why they do it but to me photoshopping in a poor fit makes me pass on a bra. The lingerie looks much better on her real body than her photoshopped one. Photoshopping is what makes bratabase so popular with the larger breasted community. I usually never buy a bra without consulting bratabase first. The bras rarely look the same on me as on the model.

  4. Sophisticated Pair
    21 August 2013 / 21:23

    Your addition was very thought-provoking, and like you, I would love to see some curvier figures represented, especially by brands that are catering to a fuller-bust. It's tough to see if that bra which is supposed to span D-K is going to look as good on the DD/E cup model as it will on the H+ cup customers. I know paying for models can be pricey, but it seems like brands could utilize fans or amateur models (a la Curvy Kate) to still express a variety types but stay within budget. Oh, and you look gorgeous, per usual, in your pic!

  5. Paula Christiansen
    22 August 2013 / 08:41

    AMAZING blog post. We definintely need more plus size models in lingerie out there so we can get a better idea of fit etc. Ewa Michalak sets the precedent, as you say. How can we know what a bra is going to look like on our big boobs (and I don't mean a DD cup) when the lingerie industry almost only ever shows them on a C cup or so. And also the bands. Most lingerie models must be around a 28 back – I can't relate to that at all as I am a 38 or 40 band. I hope the lingerie industry sits up and takes notice of this #diversityinlingerie campaign.

  6. Anonymous
    22 August 2013 / 14:36

    I can't get over the photo you included of the Debenhams model. It goes to show how the media and brands try to trick us!! I don't care if models are fat or thin, as long as the clothing or lingerie or whatever fits them I think it will show it off to best advantage. Your blog is a great advocate for plus size clothing and lingerie so I reckon the brands should have a meeting with you for some good advice on how to work with larger ladies. Imogen x

  7. Jan
    26 August 2013 / 00:27

    That Debenhams photoshop picture makes me want to cry. She's so beautiful as she is, how could anyone think she needed "improving"?Photos with the standard model look are like wallpaper to me; they're everywhere, they're pretty enough but they're irrelevant in terms of how I'm going to spend my money. If I see underwear modelled by a woman who is closer to me in shape it makes me do a double take and note the name of the brand. I know I'm not alone in that and why it has taken companies so long to catch on when data on it must have been available for years I don't know. Maybe they were just totally sold on the idea of aspiration being what makes money.Of course ideally we'd have a similar change take place with other clothes too. I absolutely love those pictures of 3 or 4 differently-shaped women wearing the same sets; if ones like that were available for everything my first 10 years of wearing adult clothes (I blossomed at age 12) would have been a hell of a lot easier and less expensive! One step at a time though…

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