Bodysuits Are the New Business Casual
“How lingerie can double up as the wardrobe accessory of the season – and how retailers can take advantage of it.”
by Marrissa Hastings
This post was originally published on the author Marissa Hastings’ website, YourBreastSelf.com, which provides style and body-love advice for small-breasted women. Your Breast Self empowers women who suffer from body image insecurities through inspirational and educational content that helps women change how they view themselves.
I recently went to an event in New York City where I met Lily Chen, the co-founder of the up-and-coming lingerie brand Thistle & Spire. As I watched her speak on a panel with fellow fashion industry experts, I remember thinking, “now that’s a fabulous dress she’s wearing.” Her look was reminiscent of the style of Thistle & Spire’s artistic lingerie, which pairs luxe fabrics with strong architectural details.
After the event, I introduced myself to Lily (pictured above) and commented on how much I liked her dress. It turns out she was actually wearing a Thistle & Spire creation, but with a twist – she had paired a T&S lingerie bodysuit with one of her own pencil skirts! Wow. Never would have suspected this was a bodysuit doubling as a dress! It looked so classy and chic – not at all like the trashy bodysuit ensembles that I had seen the Kardashians donning. Who knew bodysuits could become part of your business casual wardrobe?? Genius!
An Evolving Trend
Kim Kardashian started to popularize the use of bodysuits under jeans and skirts a few years ago, and recently the trend has really taken off. Glamour magazine even coined the bodysuit the must-have “piece of the year” for 2016.
Although bodysuits have only recently become on-trend again, the concept of lingerie doubling as a fashion accessory is nothing new. We saw the beginning of this trend with the emergence of bralettes and bandeaus that were designed to intentionally peek out from under tanks. Suddenly it became not only acceptable, but fashionable to show off your bra.
The trend has also infiltrated activewear. With the explosion of the athleisure market in the last few years, sports bra sales as a percentage of total bra sales has grown over 400% since 2002. Today’s sports bras are designed with look-at-me colors and flirty straps that are supposed to show under your tank top. Confession: I actually bought a new swing-style tank specifically so that I could show off the back of my strappy, hot pink Victoria’s Secret sports bra.
Rather than buying a bra to fit the shirt, we’re now buying shirts to fit our bras.
Gone are the days when it was tacky to show off your undergarments. Now it’s all about flashing that peek of lace, or flaunting those straps.
You can take advantage of this consumer trend when merchandising your own products, both with in-store displays and images online. Here are my tips on how to style bodysuits with ready to wear items to inspire your customers. Remember, if your customer realizes that she can repurpose her lingerie for multiple uses then she may justify spending more on a pricey piece.
How to Sell It
Make it Dressy
To inspire your customers to think about how they can incorporate bodysuits into their formal wear wardrobes, you have to start with a really great bodysuit. I love this one from Thistle & Spire.
Next, pick a classy bottom to style with the bodysuit. I emphasize classy because you want to balance the sexiness of the upper half. A high-waisted pencil skirt is a great option, as is a mid-length full skirt. I recommend keeping the skirt on the longer side (knee-length is great). Stay away from shorts and mini-skirts.
For a more streamlined and sophisticated look, opt for a skirt in the same color as the bodysuit. It doesn’t necessarily need to be the same fabric. Lily actually wore a pencil skirt of a more textured fabric, and the contrast worked really well. A leather pencil skirt with a knit bodysuit looks great too.
The end result should look like a one-piece dress from afar. Keeping it seamless and streamlined helps the look feel chic, instead of cheap. Remember your customer doesn’t want to look like she’s wearing lingerie and forgot to put on her top. This is supposed to be her little secret 😉
Make It Casual
For a more casual look, you can also style a lace bodysuit with boyfriend jeans and a chunky sweater. My friend Robyn actually pulled this off with a bodysuit from Target (a Target in Paris, mind you 😉 ). I had no idea she was even wearing the bodysuit until she lifted her arms and I saw a glimpse of it peeking out from underneath her sweater.
Such a great trick! It was her little secret, and it gave her that extra little boost – the kind that makes you think, I don’t know what it is, but that girl’s got it going on.
What made her outfit so great was the contrast. Robyn paired a very sexy lingerie bodysuit with casual, baggy boyfriend jeans and a chunky knit sweater. The contrasting textures and the juxtaposition of the tomboy aesthetic with the feminine lingerie created the perfect combination.
It’s easy to inspire this look in your store or on your site. Simply dress a mannequin with this outfit and make a point of pinning up the shirt or drawing attention to what is underneath. You can also replicate this with your online models, or use an app like StyleBook to create collections that show the bodysuit with other items like jeans, a sweater, and heels. You can upload photos with your phone to the app and StyleBook will remove the image background so that the clothing items show up as thumbnails with white backgrounds.
Make It a Unique Advantage for Small-Busted Customers
Bodysuits can be a great thing to mention to your small-breasted clientele (just make sure you’re sensitive when recommending, so as not to offend small-breasted ladies). Small-breasted women can easily wear lingerie bodysuits out in public without worrying about being too over-the-top or falling out. Yet many small-breasted women forget about this because they are so focused on criticizing their size. If you can suggest the bodysuit and a few wardrobe recommendations to pair with it, you may be able to convince your small-breasted customers to try lingerie they may not have considered previously, while also making them feel good about their unique advantages!
Another thing to consider is that many women worry about being too exposed on top. If that’s the case, you can offer your customer pasties or bra pads (like the removable cookies) that she can attach with double-sided tape to the inside of the bodysuit.
If you want some more inspiration for how to style and merchandise bodysuits in your store, here are some good ideas from other retailers:
Trendy: Forever21 – Deep Vneck Ribbed Bodysuit – $12.90 (similar one from H&M here)
This option is great for targeting the younger female shopper. A deep V bodysuit styled looks great styled with a lariat necklace and on-trend distressed denim.
Lace: ASOS – Thistle & Spire Mixed Lace Bodysuit
Love the look of this with jeans and a leather jacket for a casual, edgy look.
Bohemian: For Love & Lemons – Kate Bodysuit
An elegant long-sleeved option. It has a retro, bohemian vibe that looks great styled with flared jeans.
I’d love to hear if you’ve tried this trend in your store or have clients who have tried it for themselves. Let me know in the comments below!