Bikinis, hipsters, and thongs may be the top-selling underwear styles, but granny panties are having a moment. Fashionista unearthed the latest figures from market research authority NPD, the sale of high-cut briefs doubled in two years from $79 million in 2010 to $197 million in 2012. Over the past decade colorful lace thongs and patterned bikinis have dominated retail shelves, while basic full-coverage underwear has had the same depressing stigma as mom jeans. As Fashionista points out, "market researchers have been predicting the “end” of the thong since the mid-aughts." But a sudden interest in retro, vintage styles with higher waistlines have contributed to the return of comfy undies.
Once reserved for laundry days and outfits that don't reveal panty lines, the new styles of high-waisted briefs are now designed for showing off. Trendsetters like Rihanna, Miley Cyrus, and Beyoncé are all wearing them onstage as outerwear, often paired with cropped tops and boots. Celebs like Fergie, Katy Perry, and Krysten Ritter are letting them peek out from sheer dresses on the red carpet. And actresses like Amanda Seyfried, Sofia Vergara, and Kerry Washington have all worn high-waisted hot pants on recent magazine covers. And let's not forget about Taylor Swift's fondness for the retro, high-waisted bikinis she's been rocking all summer long.
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Hanro, an underwear brand that sells color pairs for about $38, confirms the trend. "We've definitely noticed an increase in fuller coverage briefs and boy-leg styles," Jan Snodgrass, US president of Hanro of Switzerland told Yahoo! Shine. "There has been a measurable increase starting in 2011. Customers are making a point to seek out these styles. Our cotton seamless full brief has been Hanro's top-selling style for a long time."
Meanwhile, online retailers are stocking their inventory to meet the demand. The popular lingerie site Figleaves offers 59 pairs of sexy full-coverage briefs. Hanky Panky, "Home of the World's Most Comfortable Thong," has an entire section devoted to high-rise briefs.
Angelica Melendez, DK & DKNY Intimates' creative director, feels the return of full-coverage underwear was inevitable. "The high-waisted trend is back because of a cross-generational appeal. They provide a retro credibility to the younger generation that's ready to wear crop tops, high-waisted shorts and skirts, while also appealing to a more mature audience for its elongation, extra coverage, and slimming effects," Melendez told Yahoo! Shine. Despite the "granny panties" label, Snodgrass feels the full-coverage look is fresh, young, and modern. "It also goes hand in hand with the more ladylike, demure, ready-to-wear trend we've been seeing on runways," she said.
The popularity of Spanx (and other slimming undergarments our grandma's once referred to as "girdles") might factor into the equation. "Wearing high-waisted underwear is almost like wearing shapewear, but without the commitment of full on shaping pieces," Isabel Baert, INTIMACY Head of Buying, told Yahoo! Shine. According to Javitch, the cut is designed to flatter the torso area. "They come in at your waist," she said. "Even if you have a tummy or if you're a little bit rectangular, they extenuate your silhouette."
Chantelle, the leading French lingerie outfitter worldwide, has turned the style into a science. The brand unveiled three high-waisted styles for their fall/winter 2013 collection. "Each high-waisted bottom is made with various materials to sculpt each area of the body — to round the backside and smooth where the thigh meets the hip," Kristin Palermo, publicist for Chantelle lingerie, told Yahoo! Shine. "The bottoms are fit-tested extensively to ensure they don't shift or ride while wearing." The shimmery Galuchat panty gives the illusion of shark skin, while their So Light model is crafted with sheer tulle. (Their underpants range from $25 to $50.)
One of biggest reasons for the return of granny panties is also the most obvious: They're really comfortable. "[Granny panties] are often the most comfortable option available in bottoms—there's no cutting or awkward lines—it's a very smooth look," said Baert.
Looks like grandma had it all figured out. No surprise there.
*Additional reporting by Erika Ostroff
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