The 10 Most Influential Lingerie Icons of All Time

From Bettie Page to Dita von Teese…these 10 women are the icons who inspire our lingerie style.

Bettie Page

If ever a woman deserved the top spot on a list of lingerie icons, it’s Bettie Page. Rightly called the ‘Queen of Pin-up,’ she’s had more influence on how the public sees lingerie than any other woman who came before her…or after her. With her trademark bangs, girl-next-door attitude, and saucy smile, Bettie Page has a look thousands (if not millions) of women still aspire to today. The Bettie Page aesthetic will never go out of style.

 

 

Elizabeth Taylor

Wonder why vintage slips never seem to go out of fashion? Take a look at the photo of Liz Taylor from Butterfield 8 to the right and you’ll know why.  Famous for her dark hair, violet eyes, and insane jewelry collection (which recently sold for over 100 million dollars), Elizabeth Taylor’s movie star style was out of reach for all but the wealthiest women. But every woman, no matter her income, connections, or lack thereof can own a gorgeous, lace-trimmed slip, and feel like a goddess because of it.

 

Josephine Baker

The more I learn about Josephine Baker, the more I wish I’d had the opportunity to see her in person. Not only was she a stunning beauty, she was a woman of color who refused to limited by the narrow opportunities available to her at the time. And is there anyone who hasn’t seen that famous banana skirt? Josephine Baker was one of the first to prove to the mainstream that women of color could be just as sexy, desirable, and beautiful as their white counterparts, and that’s a message that can still use some sharing today.

 

 

 

Marilyn Monroe

The hair, the curves, the face, the voice..the legacy of Marilyn Monroe lives on nearly a half century since this lingerie icon’s death. Even the very term ‘sex symbol’ was invented in her honor. Though she died far too young, her sex goddess style lives on, especially in classic (and classy!) lingerie that clings to a woman’s curves.

 

 

 

 

Sophia Loren

Oh, Sophia Loren…what can I say about her without sounding like a gushing fangirl? Infamous for her striptease scene in Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow, and famous for revealing a black corset, lingerie, and stockings beneath her dress in The Millionaress, Sophia Loren’s sensual yet casual approach to lingerie is one I personally try to emulate today. You could always tell she was perfectly confident in her skin, and confidence is oh so sexy.

 

Jean Harlow

The original platinum blonde bombshell, Jean Harlow’s life was cut tragically short just as she was reaching the peak of her popularity, but her silver screen iren style remains. From slinky bias cut gowns to ostrich feather robes to fine lace teddies, elements of the Jean Harlow aesthetic can still be seen in modern day luxury lingerie (Carine Gilson, in particular, springs to mind).

 

 

Brigitte Bardot

One of the most popular sex symbols of the 1960′s, Brigitte Bardot is famous for her fabulously French sense of style. With her penchant for bikinis, perfectly tousled hair, and heavily lined eyes, Bardot managed to make whatever she was wearing look effortless and glamourous all at the same time. And really, isn’t effortless glamour the best kind there is?

 

 

 

 

Raquel Welch

Raquel’s famous fur bikini in 1 Million Years B.C. is more than enough to earn her a spot on this list, but the fact that her pin-ups are still circulating the internet is what really makes her a lingerie icon. And have you seen those recent pictures of her? The lady has still got it.

 

 

 

 

 

Jane Fonda

I know a lot of people associate the ‘swinging sixties’ with Twiggy, Mary Quant, and Penelope Tree but for me, it’s all about Jane Fonda in Barbarella. The ambassador from the year 40,00 embodies everything extravagant, over the top, and outright crazy about lingerie. And while we’re on the subject of Ms. Fonda, can I just say she looks as stunning at age 75 as she did in 1965?

 

 

Dita von Teese

Dita, Dita, Dita. How could I possibly write a list of lingerie icons without including the inimitable Dita von Teese, the woman who’s made burlesque a household name all over again. Known for her vintage aesthetic, sparkly routines, and breathtaking lingerie wardrobe, Dita has inspired a whole new generation of women to become interested in garter belts, girdles, stockings, and those other trappings of retro lingerie. And I have a feeling we haven’t even seen everything she can do yet.

 

Who’s your fave lingerie icon? Let’s talk about in the comments!

13 Comments

  1. 13/01/12 at 12:14

    Great list! I knew Dita would be up there. I wonder who will emerge as the lingerie icon of the next generation.

    • 13/01/12 at 15:47

      Me too. Bernie Dexter is pretty influential today…maybe her?

      • 13/01/12 at 17:43

        I don’t know who that is! Excited to look her up though; always love finding new influences and sources of inspiration.

  2. sierra
    13/01/12 at 12:52

    Joesephine Baker !! Yes Yes Yes! I love her in the banana and peacock outfits! I also wanna nominate fetish model Masuimi Max and Amanda Fucking Palmer of Dresdon Doll fame for her great use of corsets garters stockings and stripey socks as outerwear.I also adore Anna May Wong and Marlene Dietrich for pure glamor dont know if they count as lingerie icons

    • 13/01/12 at 15:45

      Great suggestions for modern day lingerie idols! And I adore Anna May Wong & Marlene Dietrich too. If I’d been able to find a lingerie photo or two them, they may have made the list. ;-)

  3. Colonel Mustard
    13/01/12 at 15:40

    You’ve left off Rita Hayworth… This was THE pin-up picture of WW2… http://www.doctormacro.com/Images/Hayworth,%20Rita/Annex/Annex%20-%20Hayworth,%20Rita_07.jpg

    • 13/01/12 at 15:45

      Oooh…great photo! Come to think of it, Betty Grable isn’t on here either. Those million dollars legs definitely have a place in pin-up history.

  4. subbie_333
    13/01/12 at 17:59

    Pinups and dancers wearing costumes is not the same thing as lingerie!

    What about Jane Russell? Not only did she get attention for having a billionaire (male) aviator and engineer design a bra specifically for her, she made TV bra ads commonplace with her Playtex Cross-Your-Heart bra commercials in the 1970s.

    • 13/01/12 at 18:07

      Thanks for commenting! I think there’s a lot of overlap between the worlds of pinup, burlesque, and lingerie, especially when you think about how lingerie photos of many of the women above still circulate and are very popular today.

      Here’s a fun fact: Jane Russell never actually wore the bra that was designed for her. When asked why, she replied that she didn’t need it!

  5. 14/01/12 at 3:28

    I was going to add Rita Hayworth, but the Colonel caught it first, and I forgotten Betty Grable myself.

    I remember seeing some documentary about Josephine Baker on, I think, PBS when I was a kid. I never understood the appeal – no pun intended – of that banana skirt. I would have loved lace instead, but I can see how it was novel and unique in its time. Though, if ever there was proof of my theory that the woman makes the lingerie, not the other way around, that would have to be it.

    • 14/01/12 at 16:23

      I think part of the appeal of Josephine Baker’s banana skirt, at least to me, is that she was playing with and subverting a stereotype at the same time. There was so much overt racism surrounding Black people at the time, that it was incredibly brave of her to take one aspect of that and make it a central part of her act.

  6. Elizabeth
    15/01/12 at 9:44

    Shortly before Christmas I started thinking about the changes I wanted to make in my life and one of the fun ones was to get a bit more glamor in my life, specifically in the lingerie department. Shortly after that I discovered your blog. It is wonderful.

    I have a fairly curvy body and the glam gals of the 50′s and 60′s are my inspiration. Thank you so much for this post/article.

  7. 17/01/12 at 8:10

    I love Josephine baker too! I went dressed as her one Halloween and discovered a close friend of mine had a phobia of bananas! Unfortunately for him, they were all over the place by the end of the night as everyone kept pinching them, I do recommend the banana skirt as a tool for seduction ;)

    In any case, I find all the 20s and 30s sirens particularly inspiring for short-haired women who want to look sexy and feminine as nowadays we’re all supposed to want to look like adriana Lima, Miranda Kerr et al. And that needs to change.

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