- Emma Louise Alvarez
Liberalising Lace: Lingerie for Men
© Illustration by INJECTION - Mia Hatch
Anyone should be able to feel sexy wearing lacy or exciting lingerie - and if this makes you uncomfortable, then maybe you should question why.
While gender fluidity is slowly becoming absorbed into dominant ideologies, with influencers and politicians alike advocating for gender-inclusive language, where exactly are we in the movement of challenging heteronormative ideals?
Harry Styles posing in a skirt for Vogue went viral, with icons such as Billy Porter and Vin Diesel wearing skirts long before Styles’s Vogue debut; the move towards genderless fashion does not seem far from reach.
But if fashion is genderless, can’t lingerie be too?
The term "lingerie" was first used in 1922 and originates from the French word linge meaning ‘linen’, and references the original material from which underwear was traditionally made. It was Lady Duff Gordon who revolutionized how underwear was worn: she advocated for dressing women “from the inside out,” and created lingerie items that were both physically and sexually freeing. Lady Duff Gordon was also known by the name Lucile, which has since inspired a luxury lingerie brand based in the U.K. by the same name.
“Lady Duff Gordon was a pioneer of fashion [...] Her lingerie was sheer, with layers of sumptuous lace and lavish chiffon, nude tones and decorated with signature hand-made flowers and ribbons. She is celebrated as a talented artist of design, cut and colour. Her creations changed the way women dressed, challenged traditional clothing and began a new era of fashion.” - Lucile
Lingerie became increasingly more popular after the Victorian era, and was emblematic of freedom, as women emerged as increasingly independent individuals. But at some point, agency through lingerie became a highly capitalized industry. The history of sex in advertisements dates back a 100 years before ‘under-wear’ was revolutionized, and it was only a matter of time before lingerie was assimilated into (damaging) dominant ideologies surrounding beauty and agency.
Even today, the duality within lingerie remains complex. The lines between ‘sexy’ and ‘sexualised’ become blurry when sexual freedom is confused with self-objectification. While postfeminist discourse advocates for women to embrace agency and choice in self-representation, industries and advertising have labeled the (female) body as a site that necessitates constant improvement and revaluation of beauty standards.
Shelley Budgeon, an honorary senior lecturer in gender and feminist theory at the University of Birmingham, comments that there are ways through which we can ‘negotiate’ with mass media and its standards that challenge notions around femininity, self-representation and autonomy. She goes on to explain that:
“Bodies then can be thought not as objects, upon which culture writes meanings, but as events that are continually in the process of becoming – as multiplicities that are never just found but are made and remade.”
If lingerie then represents a negotiation in which the relationship between body and identity is re-examined, then the wearer, in choosing to clothe oneself in lingerie, actively (and continuously) re-defines their own self-representation.
A New Era of Fashion
Lady Duff Gordon’s creations of chiffon and silk challenged traditional clothing conventions, where this material world challenges us to re-examine our relationship between our body and identity: lingerie is then a powerful tool of self-discovery and agency and should be accessible to all.
Moot Lingerie is a brand that designs and creates products for male body shapes, allowing lingerie to be more accessible to all genders. For example, instead of bras, they create basques with an open chest.
© Image by Moot; The Josephine Bodysuit
Jules Parker, the founder of Moot Lingerie, comments that “lingerie is a way of decorating the body,” where he wanted to offer lingerie items that “celebrate the male body.”
Male lingerie is becoming increasingly popular, where the often expensive price tag implies that it is not just an ‘impulse buy’ - it is about viewing underwear as an indulgence, not just a necessity.
Clothing and lingerie should be able to exist outside the gender binary: lace, chiffon, and silk underwear should be able to be worn by anyone.
“Lingerie is lingerie. It’s a beautiful garment that is an injection of confidence for anyone who wears it.” - Alex Fassam, fashion writer
“Lingerie is one of the most beautiful weapons against the war of self-confidence. It’s the only clothes we wear, and no one sees. [Lace allows us] to decorate our vulnerability. Nothing is more powerful.”
- Ilya Lobacheva, Instagram influencer