Digitally native, vertically integrated brands and established brands alike are noting and capitalizing on a gap in the online lingerie market. Internet Retailer dives into why the undergarment subcategory is booming online.

Women’s lingerie is undergoing a renaissance.

Online sales for the 12 retailers in the lingerie subcategory increased by 20.8% in 2018, making it one of the fastest-growing apparel subcategories in Internet Retailer’s Top 1000.

Behind the online growth is the emergence of several newcomers to the subcategory that are shaking things up by moving away from the Victoria’s Secret strategy of focusing on lingerie’s sex appeal. These new lingerie brands have a different point of view about what women’s undergarments should be: comfortable and designed for any woman.

That’s not to say women have abandoned L Brands Inc.’s Victoria’s Secret (L Brands is No. 39  Internet Retailer 2019 Top 500). Indeed, remains the leading web retailer of women’s lingerie, and it is the only retail chain among the 12 retailers in the lingerie subcategory within the Top 1000.


Victoria’s Secret’s marketing strategy has relied on supermodels to showcase its product with highly sexualized images of women wearing its products paired with catalogs and runway shows. However, the average woman doesn’t look like a supermodel. And this image of women may not be resonating as it once was. Comparable sales—both stores and direct sales—decreased 2% in 2018 and 8% in 2017 for Victoria’s Secret, and it has closed dozens of stores over the past few years.

AdoreMe Inc. (No. 376) is one of the larger and fastest growing of the lingerie upstarts. AdoreMe positions itself as a playful lingerie brand. It encourages a woman to feel sexy at all times in her life, whether a consumer is 21 years old and single, married and pregnant, on a date night with her boyfriend or a new mom, says Iris Voltaire, AdoreMe’s brand and business developer.

“The discourse has changed with what lingerie should be,” Voltaire says. “The main players before these start-up brands had this hyper-sexualized approach targeted toward men, with two cups and pushups. It was a dated approach to lingerie and what women wanted.”

When AdoreMe launched roughly seven years ago, there weren’t as many major direct-to-consumer lingerie brands, Voltaire says. But within the past few years, several others have launched.


“They all have this brand position that is very different from Victoria’s Secret, which has been the major player before these players,” Voltaire says. “We’ve seen a lot of newcomers, and I think it’s good. It’s still a very big market and for us there is space for all of us.”

A few of the newcomers that are making a splash are digitally native, vertically integrated brands, or DNVBs as they’re sometimes called. Of the 13 apparel brands that got their start selling online, four—or 31%—are sleepwear/lingerie merchants. Three of these four were among the fastest-growing apparel retailers in 2018: Thinx Inc. and Third Love, which both grew sales 50.0% in 2018, and MeUndies Inc., which increased sales 63.0%. That made MeUndies No. 1 in growth in the lingerie subcategory, and the seventh fastest grower in the apparel category.

This article is based on a section of the Internet Retailer Online Apparel report. The 75-page report includes more than 20 charts and tables and dives into the current state of online apparel merchants, including opening stores, closing stores, investment funding rounds, the current trend of rental apparel, why there is a surge in undergarment retailers, and what retailers are doing to combat the heavy volume of returns that plague online apparel sellers. You can learn how to obtain the 2019 Internet Retailer Online Apparel Report here.