During lockdown, some women gave in to the joy of going braless. Others were buying seductive underwear.
When lockdown began a few months ago, as some women adopted sweatpants and worn-in tees as a virtual uniform, others were buying apparel that’s considerably more alluring: lacy push-up bras, slinky thongs and other undergarments that are more characteristically reserved for P.P.E.-free, socially undistanced activities.
On La Perla’s website, for example, sales of the Ambra collection, an assortment of pieces that includes delicate balconette bras and high-cut panties adorned with French Leavers lace, increased 200 percent in the period between April 1 and mid-May compared with the six weeks that preceded it.
Figleaves, the British online lingerie retailer, reports that United States sales of its Pulse collection, which includes ornately detailed low-cut bras and sheer-back Brazilian panties, more than doubled between March and April, and nearly doubled again between April and May.
Between March and the end of May, thong sales on Le Mystère’s website more than doubled compared to the same period last year. (It’s worth nothing that in the lingerie business, sales are usually slow in the weeks after Valentine’s Day.)
More risqué styles proved popular, too. At Journelle, a lingerie merchant that, until recently, had been selling solely online after its boutiques closed on March 17, purchases of its Natalia Ouvert style, a skimpy bikini with a large open section that leaves little of the wearer’s derrière to the imagination, were up nearly 50 percent in April and May over the two preceding months. The terms “ouvert” and “crotchless” are now among the Top 10 search terms on its website.
On the Kiki de Montparnasse website, sales from March 22 to May 27 of several options of panties and bras with exposed areas topped the sales of those styles for all of last year, according to a representative for the brand. Fleur du Mal, which designs and sells lingerie that’s both luxurious and suggestive, quickly sold out of four styles of its crotchless panties online after its New York City boutique closed on March 15.
“Anything that’s on that racier, sexier side — our strappy bondage styles, our open bra styles, garter belts — is moving,” said Jennifer Zuccarini, the Fleur du Mal founder.
Guido Campello, the co-chief executive of Journelle, offered an explanation, suggesting that for some couples, confinement may be encouraging intimacy that is outside of typical comfort zones. “They’ve gotten to know each other and gotten a lot closer, and they’ve gotten more creative,” he said.
Jenni Burt, who heads Figleaves, likes to think of lingerie as the new “occasion-wear.” The emotional boost it provides, she said, is different from what comes with picking up a T-shirt bra or multipack of utilitarian briefs.
“It’s all about making you feel great from the inside out,” Ms. Burt said.
Or as Pascal Perrier, the chief executive of La Perla, put it: “What else can you do from home actually? Do you buy a Gucci handbag? No, because you have plenty already, and you don’t go out. You buy food — OK, that box is ticked. ‘How about myself? What can I buy for myself that I’m going to enjoy?’”
That enjoyment can come at a steep price: Many of La Perla’s bras are around $400, and Fleur du Mal’s “cheeky” lace underpants, with an especially high-cut back, are just under $100. But then, alluring lingerie is available at many price points, including at mass retailers like Walmart and Target.
Overall, sales of lace bras increased 37 percent between the first half of April and the second, according to NPD Group, the market research company.
“What I think is really happening is that sexy lingerie is self-care,” said Todd Mick, NPD’s innerwear analyst. And, Mr. Mick noted, shopping online is conducive to the sale of racier pieces.
“You can purchase sexy stuff in the privacy of your home,” he said. That, he said, is also driving sales.
For those who are social distancing alone, buying seductive lingerie is more of an empowering indulgence than an amorous accessory. Take, for instance, Tracy Henry, 46, a health care executive who has been alone in her Weehawken, N.J., apartment since mid-March, working remotely. She recently bought several ultrafeminine items from the Journelle website, including a sheer mesh and lace underwire bodysuit that she wears during Zoom calls, tucked discreetly underneath a blazer and jeans.
“The thing of it is, irrespective of our circumstances and the quarantine situation, I think it’s really so important to celebrate you,” Ms. Henry said.
“A part of that celebration is wearing that,” she added, referring to enticing underwear. “It makes me happy.”