Everyone knows big is beautiful.
Now it's sexy and seductive, too.
In the last two years, lingerie companies and makers of apparel size 14 and up have been slipping into something more comfortable -- and sexy. Two weeks ago, August Max, a national chain of retailers specializing in large-size clothing, launched its Whispers and Secrets line of lingerie in sizes 14 to 24.
"Sales already indicate that we've found another niche," says Joanne Chute, divisional merchandise manager for specialty retailing. "The consumer has friends who she shops with. She's in other stores, and she sees her friend, who may be a size 6, buy lingerie and loungewear, and she wants the same thing. That's exactly what we do."
What they do is sell intimate apparel in satiny and silky fabrics with sexy detailing, such as lace borders, plunging necklines, exposed backs, slits and other touches that make going to bed worthwhile.
Sears catalog for full-figured women shows the Undercurrents line of lingerie. To order the catalog, call (800) 366-3000. It features lace bras, strapless longlines (which are similar to bustiers), T-back bras, French-cut panties, camisoles, lace-yoke slips and even a control-shape slip with tummy panels.
The Olga Co. is using a silky-feeling, nylon-Lycra and spandex blend in its figure-flattering boudoir coat over a flowing gown.
Other intimate apparel manufacturers, such as Va Bien, Gia, Vanity Fair, True Form, Gaviota and Henson Kickernick also are producing sexy lingerie in larger sizes. Styles include sleek merry widows, baby dolls and chemise slips with peek-a-boo detailing, lace trims and dramatic draping effects.
But not all companies are making big beautiful. Some are just making big, big, says Sue Gordon, who two years ago opened Suite Suzanne, a lingerie shop carrying sizes 2 to 16 (with some larger sizes) next to her bridal shop in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. Ms. Gordon recently sent a line back because the fashion wasn't up to her standards.
"It was gigantic," Ms. Gordon said. "The fabrics were beautiful, but it looked like a big tent."
Now Ms. Gordon looks for larger-size lingerie that's stylish and comfortable. She likes the soft-cotton line from Priamo and the washable silks with Cluny lace and ribbon ties from Katherine Harestad for White Rose. She also is pleased with the RogersWear line, in stores in early fall for the holiday season, featuring silk and some beadwork in sizes up to 3X.
Ms. Gordon says her customers appreciate gowns with non-binding bust lines and softly draping fabrics falling from the yoke, They also look for billowy dolman sleeves and double layers of chiffon.
"I knew that we were on to something," Ms. Gordon said of the store's lingerie for full-figured women. "Since we've been open, we haven't had one return. Not one. That's unheard of."