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Intimate wear is defined as the objects you wear under your clothes. These consist of bras, briefs, shapewear, sleepwear, thermals, loungewear, socks, and stockings.

The intimate apparel industry has gone from being viewed as a necessity referred to as “foundation garments” and “unmentionables” in hushed tones, to being a developing segment of the fashion world and a pillar on runways. Unlike the average apparel industry, intimate items are growing, due in large to the adaptability of intimate apparel manufacturers whose younger, mobile-savvy customers have adopted eCommerce, and social commerce as part of the purchase process.

Rise of the intimate apparel industry

The Rise of The Intimate Apparel Industry

The truth is, back in 2019 more than 9,000 stores had plans to shut their doors, and half of them had made the declaration and commenced closing shops in the first quarter of 2020. The media called this mass closure event the Retail Apocalypse. And the culprit? A change in buying behaviours as a result of the upward shove of e-commerce, cell commerce, and social commerce.

What was referred to as a retail apocalypse was just the ultimate leg of shops having to make the shift from physical structures and in-person sales to web page traffic. But that’s one element intimate clothing manufacturers have carried out very well, and here's why.

Intimate Apparel Market Statistics

When it comes to intimate’s market trends, our research has found that the industry is booming, and we have the figures to prove it.

  • In 2017 the world intimate wear market was at $143 billion
  • In 2018, the world lingerie market was valued at approximately $29.84 billion
  • Europe and North America account for two-thirds of the world lingerie market
  • Bras are the most popular with 55.5 percent of the market share
  • In the US, the market reached $9 billion in 2018
  • The market is anticipated to reach $217.7 billion by 2022

The Rise of Body Positivity

Now, let’s discuss a topic that intimate clothing manufacturers and retailers have foolishly tried to overlook – actual women.

The body positivity movement has put pressure on the intimate wear industry, forcing them to rethink their product offering and the marketing strategy for apparel brands.

Curvy women now make up 68 percent of retail shoppers. One in three teens wears sizes that are considered plus-size. According to our research, the average British woman is now a UK size 16, with 30% stating that they view anything higher than a size 18 as plus size.

According to the CDC, the common American woman weighs 170 pounds and has a waist circumference of 38.7 inches. And yeah… depending on where you live, that common will go up or down.

In a 2017 press release titled “Curvy is the New Full Figured: Body Positive Millennials Drive Change in Intimate Apparel” HanesBrands released information indicating women are getting into the curvy market more now than ever before:

  • 35 percent of girls are plus size by the age of 25
  • 44 percent of girls are plus size by the age of 33.

The NPD Group’s 2015 Women’s Special Sizes Study mentioned that the variety of teens shopping for plus-sized apparel doubled between 2010 and 2015. In response, HanesBrands rolled out Maidenform and Playtex products in step with the body's positive movement. This movement has been particularly beneficial due to the fact that 81% of women in the UK believe that their body shape is not being considered when it comes to clothing.

Maidenform’s improved line released undergarments for women sizes 16 to 30, in all stores. Playtex Love My Curves was increased to consist of bra cup sizes up to G, along with matching panties, which the company did for the first time. This form of inclusive marketing has won over consumers worldwide.

How the intimate apparel industry has changed

How the Intimate Apparel Industry has Changed

Victoria’s Secret is recognised for being outlandishly sexy. Since the 90s, it’s hosted the most impressive fashion shows with beautiful, spell-binding lady models.

Unfortunately, the iconic Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show was discontinued in 2019. With the fashion world doing restructuring and intimate apparel manufacturers jointly going through a rebranding to attain a disenfranchised end consumer, the manufacturer is making a cross to focus on digital marketing.

To be fair, Victoria’s Secret didn’t just count numbers on its fashion indicates to generate buzz. Their presence on Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram is impressive. Plus, Victoria’s Secret angels are themselves, fashion influencers.

We’re used to intimate apparel brands using sexual appeal to attract their audience. But Tommy John (originally a men’s undergarment label) decided to do something a little different. He decided to make his target audience laugh.

One way the company pulled this off was through a Valentine’s Day poll, which printed funny statistics about men. For example, 33 percent of men whose moms purchase their undies adjust themselves almost ten times a day. You’ll find some stats a bit over-the-top, however, it’s the humour that counts.

Our Top 10 Tips for When it Comes to Marketing Intimate Apparel

  1. Create an interactive homepage to attract potential customers
  2. Build a solid referral system
  3. Cater for all body types and make it relatable
  4. Provide insight to help women and men select the correct size and choose garments accordingly
  5. Be consistent in your messaging and approach, be authentic
  6. Look at the bigger, practical side of underwear shopping if you will
  7. People are looking for a “real” brand, focused more on real people and not body specific
  8. Social media is your greatest asset, use it wisely
  9. Address the unique needs of the demographic, for example, Cotton On has created a range of period panties that are a comfortable, sustainable approach to the mensies,
  10. Be daring, but not offensive

The Future of Intimate Apparel Marketing

As evidenced by this article, this industry is growing. So much so that the Global Intimate Apparel market size is expected to hit

Global Intimate Apparel market size is projected to reach approximately USD 90 billion by 2026. This is impressive when you consider almost USD 77 billion from 2020. The key to success if this market is simple, they adapt to the changing needs of the consumer. This is something that many other markets are yet to discover.



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