Pretty Little Layers: Decoding the Indian Intimate Wear and Lingerie Culture

The Indian lingerie market has a long way to go

Lingerie–a fancy French word is mostly associated with lacy and netted underclothing for women. This type of inner wear is often in demand among females only with an intent to please their partners in India.

“The pressure to please your partner between the sheets is somehow connected to lingerie, that’s the usual thinking. In India, usually the sale of lingerie and intimate wear increases during a marriage or when a couple plans their honeymoon. Most of the time, women prefer to buy basic mid-range wear,” says Apoorva Goel, Business Head, North Region, India Intimate Fashion Week.

In order to get an idea about what females feel about lingerie, I asked them a simple question:

“Why do you wear sexy lingerie or intimate wear?” and they had to select between these options:

1. For myself
2. For my partner
3. Just to cover my private parts
4. I don’t buy these expensive products


Out of 58 people, 24 people responded with ‘I wear lingerie for my partner’. The answer didn’t surprise me at all, most of the women do think that way. Six people said they wear it for themselves, 18 stated that they don’t buy these expensive inner wear, while the rest said they wear it just to cover themselves.

Pretty lingerie makes everything better. But in India, buying intimate wear has never been a pleasant experience. Until a decade ago, asking for underwear was incredibly awkward. Your essential wear was packed in a way that no one could see it. A woman had to whisper the words, “34 B”. You had plain cotton lingerie in the market; satin, lace & glitter were not part of your closet. Not much much has changed since then.

India only has some 4 percent penetration in the intimate and lingerie wear industry. Most of the products are exported from other countries to India. Yes, you have brands like La Senza, Marks & Spencer, Bwitch, Enamor in India and they have created a new buzz in the intimate wear market. However, these high-end brands are heavy on the pocket. Even though you have a new range of intimate wear in the Indian market, the real question is how many of us are ready to shell out 1200 on lacy underwear and 2500 on a sexy bra?


The price is not the only issue; it is also our limited knowledge. Our understanding about intimate clothing is so limited that we don’t know our own body size. “How many women really know their perfect bra size? Did you know a majority of Indian female wear 32B size?” says Niraj Jaswanjal, Founder and Chief Ideator of India Intimate Fashion Week.

“There are very few designers in India who actually design intimate wear. Beneath all those designer wear you have two things that are very essential and you need India to manufacture it. All the international brands manufacture intimate wear according to UK and US standards. From design to body everything is made as per their choice and are just sent to India. What you wear beneath is not made as per your body type. Hence, it was essential to bring in Indian designers who understand what Indian women need,” adds Niraj.

What do Indian women lack in their intimate wear choices?

1. Class
2. The right cup
3. Customised size fittings
4. Shapewear, teddy, babydoll and so on

“When it comes to our essential wear, we don’t have many options. Most women either pick up a bra or underwear because of design or colour, fit is not even given importance. The market of lingerie wear is divided city wise. Females in metro cities have started investing in their lingerie collection but females in small cities just use it for covering their private parts. They don’t really understand the side effects of wearing the wrong fit. The brands have not even reached those cities yet. There are different kinds of push-ups that people are not even aware of,” explains Apoorva Goel.

Basic things Indian women are unaware of when it comes to their intimate wear:

1. What is the shelf life of a bra?
2. When should you wear a thong?
3. Types of padded bras
4. What is a seamless underwear or bra?
5. Do you know every bra type has different comfort level?

Love yourself first, & a bodysuit second. #AngelCard Ambassador @damselindior is flawless in black lace. #regram

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The problem with the Indian market is, you either have the top brands or very low-level brands, there is no brand that caters to the middle-class people yet. The void can be filled if intimate wear is manufactured in India. Another problem is people in India are ashamed to ask for their size which creates more issues.

“The common mentality in India is that for daily wear one will have lingerie worth Rs 350-500 but for private and special moments they will make an investment of 2500-3000. It’s time to break the stereotype and make lingerie a fashion trend,” expresses Apoorva Goel.

In order to change this mindset, now for the first time in India, we have a fashion week that focuses entirely on intimate wear. India Intimate Fashion Week (IIFW) will be held on the 18th of March and it aims to break the taboo behind this type of clothing.

The designers that have collaborated with IIFW are coming up with various designs and themes that are still not present in the Indian market. You will get to see leather lingerie, floral designs and designers will be launching their own baby doll design.


“See, the problem is buying intimate wear is taboo in India. Women love to buy these sexy garments but we feel embarrassed to talk about it. Buying intimate wear for yourself is an intimate and emotional experience. It makes you feel confident about yourself. I feel lingerie is more than a fabric–it can be an alter ego. Wearing good lingerie makes you feel good about yourself. It celebrates sexuality in a way, no matter what your body size is,” says Shefali Jaiswal, lead designer of an upcoming lingerie brand who used to previously work with Zimave.