Did #MeToo Kill the Push-Up Bra?

Adriana Lima walks the runway during the 2017 Victoria's Secret Fashion Show - Getty-H 2017
Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images

Sales of triangle bras are surging.

As far as the lingerie business is concerned, the push-up bra has recently been kind of a let down. 

According to a new report from retail analytics company The EDITED, sales of the sexy style made famous by French siren Brigitte Bardot and so many others declined 45 percent in the second half of 2017 compared to the same period last year, as women turned towards bralettes and triangle bras as more relaxed alternatives. 

Following on the heels of the decline in sales of stilettos by 12 percent last year, one has to wonder if the #MeToo movement is to blame (or praise, depending on your take) for the fall of the push-up bra, which rose to prominence in the 1990s with the brand Wonderbra. Perhaps not entirely, but with women redefining what's "sexy" outside the bounds of the male gaze, and feminism driving the fashion conversation, it's likely played a role. 

The poster child for capital “S” sexy lingerie, Victoria’s Secret is one of the most visible victims of the shift in consumer behavior and attitudes. Sales at the retail behemoth best-known for its over-the-top (and sometimes the sides) padded extravaganzas declined every single month of 2017.

Though the retailer did introduce its own, unstructured bralette in 2016 in an effort to play into the trend, shoppers have been leaving the throwback, boudoir-like Victoria’s Secret lairs — which, in 2018, feel out of touch with the current positivity and inclusion movements — for plentiful new options. According to EDITED, there were 400 percent more triangle bras than push-up bras in the U.S. market at the end of 2017.


A post shared by CALVIN KLEIN (@calvinklein) on

Everyone from Madewell to Urban Outfitters is offering simpler, sportier bra styles, so you don't have to go to a special lingerie store, and Calvin Klein, too, is capitalizing on its classic briefs and sports bras. And when compared to the heftier price tags of a well, heftier bra, these alternatives hit a price tag sweet spot; best-sellers range between $20 and $40, according to EDITED.

Meanwhile, direct-to-consumer startups like Everlane and ThirdLove have emphasized superior fit and comfort rather than sex-appeal, a message that has resonated both for its feminist connotations as well as its no-nonsense simplicity. Rather than an overwhelming deluge of styles and colors and padding options, these brands have honed their pitch to something that can be contained within a single Instagram post. 


A post shared by Everlane (@everlane) on

"There’s a real disruption going on in the underwear market today," said The EDITED's retail analysis and insights director Katie Smith. She adds that traditional brands are suffering when pitted against competitors offering "assortments focused on comfort and strong online communities centered around body positivity."

"That has pushed retailers to move away from traditionally over-sexualized messaging,” she continues. American Eagle's Aerie is one such traditional brand that has been able to navigate the shifting tides, thanks in part to its inclusive, message-driven campaigns. The retailer has seen success with its "role models," which include gymnast/ activist Aly Raisman, actress/activist Yara Shahidi and body positivity champion Iskra Lawrence. These women stand in contrast to the infamous (more inaccessible) Victoria's Secret Angels, who rarely seem to make headlines these days — except for when they're also taking the industry to task for unhealthy body expectations.


A post shared by aerie (@aerie) on

The shift towards the less overtly sexy designs is one we've witnessed on the runways, too, where hemlines are longer, silhouettes are boxier and turtlenecks reign. Sales of comfy footwear, specifically sneakers, have surged, too. In the third quarter of 2017, lifestyle running shoe sales grew 40 percent.

Not that the new feminist movement has erased a woman's desire to be sexy--or, certainly her right. Sex appeal never left — it just looks different in 2018.