Do American Women Hate Lingerie? | The Lingerie Addict
Tla Logo

Inclusivity matters in lingerie too!
Enter your email below to discover our Top 20 Lingerie Brands (and get a free chapter of my book!):

We promise to never send you spam. Unsubscribe at any time.

Looking for the Perfect Lingerie Guide? Signed Copies of In Intimate Detail are Now Available!

Order Your Copy Today!

Signed Copies of In Intimate Detail: How to Choose, Wear, and Love Lingerie are available now! Click here!

Do American Women Hate Lingerie?

Two years ago, I backpacked for a few months across Western Europe. One of the things I noticed right away was how much European women enjoyed lingerie. Not only did they wear things like hosiery on a daily basis, there were lingerie boutiques on literally every corner. Being a lingerie addict, I felt like I'd died and gone to heaven. As a matter of fact, I bought so much that on my return trip I had trouble convincing customs I wasn't a shopowner trying to sneak by!

Fast forward to today and the United States is still very different from Europe when it comes to lingerie. Whether you look at brands, boutiques, or styles... there's simply more going on "across the pond." Just last week, while attending CurveNY (a lingerie tradeshow), I noticed some pretty profound differences between US- and EU-based designers. American designers focused on practicality, comfort, and "the basics." European designers were all about art, innovation, and experimentation.

I asked for your opinion on the reasons behind these differences and received some great responses. Here's what a few of you had to say about American women and lingerie on my blog, Facebook, and Twitter.* Didn't get a chance to contribute to the discussion? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

I think that American women don't enjoy lingerie as much as European women it has its origins in America's puritanical founders. Some girls think sexy is wearing a matching set, and that garters and stockings are for strippers and prostitutes. Women I know also tend to think that anything other than a bra and panty is too expensive and too complicated. It doesn't help that it's impossible to find anything special in regular stores. It does get kind of annoying to have to order things online any time I want stockings or fancy lingerie.

The reason, imho, is that Americans are focused on simple, efficient styles--t-shirt and jeans--which aren't really conducive to glamour. Corsets and garters aren't really efficient or modern by American standards. Lingerie requires time, thought, and a little money.

Here [in America], feminism was more of a battleground issue in the 60's and 70's and remains so today than in Europe. Perhaps in the quest for "equality" the reflex for really overt displays of femininity was lost or weakened here.

Stacy had it right. Americans are more puritanical. You mentioned Kriss Line bras going to K cups, while Bra Smith is using crazy sizing like 345D because heaven forbid any woman be larger than a D. It's also why 85% of women in the U.S. are still wearing the wrong sized bra. Here lingerie means sex, and sex is for bad girls.

I think the mind set of Americans in buying lingerie has yet to be changed, the culture teaches that Valentine's Day is the only special time of the year to "splurge" in lingerie. Also I find American women to like loungewear and uncomplicated basics styles more due to the lifestyle which is more in a faster pace than for Europeans. I think American women has yet to become more feminine which it will lead them to appreciate beautiful lingerie much more.

Americans are too uptight and closed minded when it comes to lingerie, they automatically equate sex to lingerie and in the mind of some it's dirty. You don't have to be headed to the bedroom to wear nice, sexy lingerie.

I think Europeans relax and enjoy life a lot more, and lingerie and loungewear are definitely for those moments. American women are very work or activity oriented, and the lifestyle dictates the wardrobe so the basics are in high demand, which leaves less room for the fashion, frills, and fun of "european" lingerie.

*Some comments edited for length, grammar, or spelling.

Photo Credit: Faire Frou Frou

Cora Harrington

Founder and Editor in Chief of The Lingerie Addict. Author of In Intimate Detail: How to Choose, Wear, and Love Lingerie. I believe lingerie is fashion too, and that everyone who wants it deserves gorgeous lingerie.

19 Comments on this post

  1. michelle says:

    Not all Europe is the same, Italy, France and Russia (and some other Eastern European countries like Latvia, Poland, etc) have a strong lingerie culture, in terms of lacy frilly stuff, but other places, like Scandinavia, UK, Germany are more “practical”. Out of all Americans, there are more people with German heritage than anything else, and that country’s concentration on practicality (especially over fashion) influences the US more than we realize.

    Also there is a dark side to “beautiful European lingerie” as well, France and Italy are countries where gender roles are extremely defined, and where if you do not have a man you are basically an outcast of society. Women have to stay beautiful in order to “seduce” the men in their lives.

  2. Jekku says:

    I don’t “hate” lingerie, but to me, it seems that too much emphasis is put on it. We’re not ALL 21 year old fashion models showing off for others, ya know. As an older plus sized woman, I passed the line of “beauty before comfort” loooong ago. Not only that, but as a plus sized woman, I want comfortable lingerie that holds me in where I need it, and smooths over the lumpy areas. I don’t want lacy bumps or bows sticking out, and on those rare occasions when I wear one, I sure as hell don’t want people to know I’m wearing a thong! (conversely, I don’t want to know when anyone else is either!) So I’m very boring: the majority of my lingerie is either black or beige/ivory, lots of cotton, lots of stretch, lots of support, lots of comfort. I relegate my “fun-dies” to wearing under jeans or sweaters or items with texture. I don’t want to go through the day being distracted by uncomfortable lingerie!

  3. Natalia says:

    I moved to the US 2 years ago and only recently realized that there’s absolutely no good lingerie in the US :-( It is either grandma’s type (comfortable but ugly) or sexy but very uncomfortable (bad design and very poor quality, cheap textiles, etc.). Victoria Secret is very popular and is presented as a “beautiful lingerie” but it is of such a poor quality! OMG! Before I only saw pictures of VS underwear and it looked OK but when I actually touched it for the first time I was shocked! Very disappointing. I’ve been searching and searching and just recently gave up – went home to Europe for vacation and bought everything I needed.

    • Cora says:

      It’s been awhile since I visited Europe, but you’re right that the lingerie culture is totally different here vs. there. And for Victoria’s Secret in particular, their quality has gone down even in the few years since I wrote this post. I think a lot of is that American culture encourages women to think of lingerie only in terms of practicality (as opposed to prettiness), and even then, people’s perception of what represents a “good value” or “reasonable price” is skewed. I’m hoping to get to London later on this year, and I’m looking forward to trying a few brands that are harder to find stateside.

  4. Lindsey says:

    Hi, I know I’m very late to comment but I’m a new fan of this blog.
    I’m English and have been brought up with the lingerie is for sex thing too. My undies were boring white/nude for the first 21 years of my life. I purchased black plain stuff and my mom thought I was after a man!
    Fast forward a few years and I’m now 33, married with a kid and finally confident enough to invest in classy, beautiful lingerie that is not solely for seduction purposes. So I don’t think a generalized approach to our national differences can be applied. I know plenty of women like me, who for whatever reason, don’t venture beyond the boring but functional undies sold cheaply in supermarkets because undies are just there to hold your bits in and pretty stuff is for getting lucky that’s that.

  5. TurboKitteh says:

    What a great post and interesting responses!
    I made a response earlier today in response to an older post by TLA. I’ll quote part of it here I think it’s kind of pertinent to the subject :

    “I work for an independently owned automotive repair/performance shop 5 days a week & detail cars in my spare time. Despite the looks of my 8-6 job I LOVE to look nice and wear high heels every chance I get (yes even to the grocery store!). So while I am at work nothing makes me smile (& feeling like a woman) more than knowing I’ve got on a gorgeous Chantall Thomass/Pleasure State/Mimi Holiday/etc set underneath the grease/grime, jeans & T shirts of my every day.”

    That said, my mother has always commented that my personal sense of style (outside of work) has always been very “European”. She grew up an Pennsylvania farm girl that later enlisted in the military. I love we tailored dresses & skirts, vintage, suspender belts with hold up stockings/backseam stockings, lingerie in every form, high heels, the list goes on. And she loves every bit of what I wear and everything I take into consideration when I get dressed. She even loves my custom cut corsets! I should also add that most of the women on my mom’s side are amazing seamstresses & my family has always encouraged me to go after those things that make me tick. We were talking about it not too long ago and we traced this back the stunning Ziegfeld Follies paper dolls my mother bought me when I was 4 lol
    Now my boyfriend and his family on the other hand don’t understand it a single bit. They seem to think that I’m looking for attention or that I want to be seen as an object. “Why can’t i just be comfortable in jeans & tee-shirt like everyone else?” “Why can’t I just be simple?” Well I’m not “everyone else” (I HATE pigeon-holing people). I love what I love because I believe I was positively influenced, and NOT because “I want attention” or that I want to be seen as an “object”.

    So in a sense what I am saying here is that I certainly agree with those remnants of puritanical thought that are still being perpetuated for whatever reasons based on how peoples reactions to me as a person.

  6. Fluffmonger says:

    This young, American girl, upon confessing to an older friend that she wanted to buy some lingerie, was promptly told that “lingerie is only for people who are sexually active”. A comment from a person who I know likes short shorts and bikini tops and things that would qualify as club-wear, even if she can’t wear it. She immediately assumed I wanted to buy just to wear something nice for my boyfriend in bed, which is /not ok/ by her standards, because sex without marriage isn’t ok to her. I only got a somewhat pass when I said I wanted cute fun things, not sexy things.

    I think given that, it might be the difference in attitude towards sex and sexuality Americans and Europeans have. Europeans are very open with their bodies, and sexuality. Americans not so much. And the view toward lingerie reflects this. Europeans see the lingerie as something to enhance the body, make one feel good about oneself. Americans see it more s a prelude to sex.
    That’s all generalisation and supposition though, I’m nowhere near an expert.

  7. bleeb says:

    For the longest time I have had trouble finding the right bra in the Netherlands, until my sixteenth I was lead to believe there is no such thing as a smaller band than 30. Even now I have trouble with the 28 bands, with them being too big.
    So in stead of the bra’s with knickers my friends could by at your equivalent of Wallmart, I was always forced to buy ridiculous expensive bra’s, with knickers so expensive you wouldn’t dare to dream of buying them.
    Being forced to wear ugly lingerie during my teen years has lead me to a rather unhealthy obsession with lingerie, especially when it comes to knickers matching bra’s.
    Even when I am slowly finding cheaper brands, and even brand’s that are willing to make a 26 or 24 band (

    My European friends (not just the Dutch, my 2 best friends (one half German, half Dutch – one half English, half Dutch) have declared me insane several times for my obsession with wearing matching lingerie. And even the garters and stockings you talk about… The few friends I know that are daring enough to wear that kind of stuff, will only do it on occasions.

    My boyfriend doesn’t like that stuff but otherwise I would have definitely owned a pair, or two… But only to wear it at least 6 times a year…

  8. dcsurfergirl says:

    I know I'm late to the discussion but this post got me started! :)

    I am an American living in the Washington, DC area. Some days I think I have seen and heard everything related to clothing and personal style. I have seen women dressed perfectly with figure-flattering undergarments. I have also seen women in t-shirts and sweatpants wearing bras too small because they can't bear the thought of not being able to fit Victoria's Secret bras and having to wear ugly larger-cup bras in white, black or nude.

    I am not sure American women truly hate lingerie but they are not encouraged to like it. The emphasis on dieting doesn't make many women feel sexy. Leftover Puritan attitudes (lingerie=sex=EVIL) don't help either. T-shirts, jeans, sweats, Uggs and Crocs need underwear that doesn't show. To top it off, if your size is not found in Victoria's Secret, it is probably hard to find in other stores.

    Somehow, I love lingerie. Why? REBELLION. The A-cup and B-cup women in my family could not believe it when I found out I fit DD cup bras! Puritanism and weight issues kicked in when I brought home two 38DD bras from a lingerie shop and two more from Victoria's Secret. Suddenly I was certainly going to end up in all sorts of trouble. (You don't want the details of those discussions.) As a result, I bought more.

    I am plus-sized but I make sure my bras fit and are attractive. So many plus-sized clothes are ugly so I live in dark colors and jeans. The lingerie helps my clothes look better and some days, they are the only things I am wearing that I actually like!

    Life's too short for ugly bras!

  9. paul says:

    As a male in the USA, married with 1.5 kids, I agree that most lingerie in the US is B_O_R_I_N_G. I've asked my wife about it and she states that comfort and quality over fashion is her priority.

  10. VickyBelle says:

    Being Mexican, I visited San Diego last May and, much to my surprise, I found out that lingerie offerings at various stores are quite too conventional. Although a good variety could be found regarding panties and bras, garter belts were almost inexistant and/or restricted to the flimsy bedroom types. Contrastingly, a fantastic assortment of superb quality, vintage six-strap garter belts is offered by British manufacturers for full-day comfort. Examples of this can be readily found in brands such as Nylon Dreams or Stocking HQ, for instance, whose garments I wear daily to my full enjoyment. Stocking HQ carries beautiful Spanish brands, as well. Hence, I fully agree with the concept in that Europeans are much better suited to lingerie than the US brands and consumers.

  11. badside says:

    I think European women tend to celebrate they're femininity more than Americans. In Europe it's more acceptable for women to be soft where as the media here in the US tries to make women and men equals in every way and almost makes women feel guilty for having a soft, nurturing or feminine side. I have no problem with treating people of either sex with equality and respect, but there are wonderful differences between the sexes that are being ignored here in the US (for various reasons, mentioned in other comments).

    I think both sexes should celebrate their respective differences and not be afraid to accentuate or show them off. This includes not just the physical, but the innate and intrinsic characteristics that make us feminine or masculine.

    I have heard many times that American women like the masculine way non American men act, and that they wouldn't necessarily allow an American man to even treat them the same way they allow and enjoy a non American to treat them. We're slowly becoming an androgynous society and losing what makes us men and women!

  12. Goddess says:

    I am American & I don't hate lingerie on the rare occasion I can actually purchase what fits at an affordable price whether it be for everyday, working out or dressing up.

    What I hate are:

    crazy incoherent sizing across 8 WITHIN brands from year to year

    lack of much beyond overpriced &/or designed for implant lingerie for small band large busted figures

    lack of same regarding genuine child bearing hips w/o bubble arse sizes

    most anything practical being dog ugly – come on practical can be more than black, white & pick a flavor of nude.

    and most of all – over the top prices in just about every category.

  13. Foxy says:

    The focus in America seems to be on having the perfect body, and lingerie takes a back seat to the gym.
    I'm 50 and this is how I remember it. In the 1970's the perfect body was skinny and didn't need a bra under a halter or tube top. It got a little easier on curvy girls in the 1980s, but not much.
    Magazines are still full of diets and fitness advice. Young women are more likely to want breast augmentation surgery than a flattering bra. Lingerie doesn't seem to be suggested as a way to improve ones figure, beyond spanx, here.
    Yet lingerie is considered risque. Wearing garters and stockings, shape wear, the perfect bra, and slips have made me a dinosaur or tramp, depending on the perspective.
    I've done a lot of hunting for the lingerie I wanted, over the years. Women today are fortunate at what can be bought. It just keeps getting better for those of us who want lingerie.
    Compared to what I've seen in Europe, Americans are less fashionable in general. People wear pajama bottoms for pants in public!

  14. Tess says:

    Might be true that American women don't enjoy underwear as much, but being european i ENVY you and your access to Victorias Secret. I don't know how many times a day i go to their website to just drool over their underwear and shoes!

  15. Hera says:

    Don't over-idealise the European women either. :)

    75 % of the Dutch women wear the wrong bra size, and I don't think that they're all out there running around in wrong sized La Perla either. In the UK, Marks & Spencers caters for 25 % of all bras/knickers/etc sold nationwide. That's mostly the same black/white/nude cotton/seamless stuff that's mentioned as 'the American choice' here.

    And in my experience, those nice little lingerie corner shops that you mention: most of them stock the same run of the mill, China made, synthetic stuff in a very limited range of sizes as your average Victoria's Secret does in the USA.

    I haven't been to the USA, so I might be wrong in not seeing too much of a difference. Just wanted to say, it's not too perfect over here either.

  16. Kelly says:

    This debate brings the following post to mind:

    In it, she says that American women are obsessed with not letting their lingerie actually show. American women want nude & smooth bra cups, no VPL, and basically want it as invisible as it can get. I admit I fall prey to that mindset pretty often, at least in the summer when I'm wearing thin layers – mostly because if I have pantylines or seamed cups under a fitted top, it's SUCH a contrast against all the women who are wearing "nearly-invisible" lingerie. So maybe American women feel like they *have* to stock up on boring lingerie, and then it's a "use it or lose it" sort of thing. If you're used to wearing ugly underthings every day, maybe you slowly start losing the desire to ever have anything fun.

    Although I'd guess this is a chicken-or-the-egg sort of thing. It could just as easily be that American women don't like lingerie much, so then they want it to be invisible since they don't like it much anyway! It's hard for me to say because I am American, so I haven't lived in any other "lingerie culture."

  17. Jeremy Bracey says:

    I think it has more to do with culture than anything. European women like lingerie more than American women. You can point to a lot of factors that contribute to the actual reason: Economics, social factors, hell you can point to weight and diet. I just think that European women like lingerie more than American women.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *