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Valentine’s Day Lingerie Is Still a Thing, According to the Experts

Valentine’s Day might be feeling the love this year.

Spending on the Feb. 14 holiday is expected to reach $25.9 billion this year, up by about $2 billion in 2022, according to the National Retail Federation (NRF) and Prosper Insights & Analytics. And more than half of consumers (52 percent) plan to celebrate, spending an average of $192.80, up from $175.41 in 2022, marking the second-highest figure since the NRF and Prosper started tracking Valentine’s Day spending in 2004.

Even among those who don’t plan to do anything really special to commemorate Valentine’s Day, 28 percent will still mark the occasion in some way, seeking non-Valentine’s gifts, treating themselves to something special, planning a get-together or evening out with single friends and family members, NRF found.

“Valentine’s Day is a special occasion to shop for the people we care most about,” NRF president and CEO Matthew Shay said. “This year, as consumers embrace spending on friends and loved ones, retailers are ready to help customers celebrate Valentine’s Day with memorable gifts at affordable prices.”

The top gifts include candy (57 percent), greeting cards (40 percent), flowers (37 percent), an evening out (32 percent), jewelry (21 percent), gift cards (20 percent) and clothing (19 percent). U.S. consumers plan to spend more than $5.5 billion on jewelry and nearly $4.4 billion on a special evening out. About one-third (32 percent) plan to give a gift of experience, up from 26 percent last year and the highest since NRF and Prosper started asking this question in 2017. 

Those aged 35 to 44 plan to outspend other age groups, allocating $335.71 on average for gifts and other Valentine’s Day items, approximately $142.91 more than the average consumer celebrating the holiday, NRF found. Similar to recent years, the top shopping destination to purchase V-Day gifts is online (35 percent), closely followed by department stores (34 percent), discount stores (31 percent) and specialty stores (18 percent).

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“Men, in particular, are more likely to give a gift of experience compared with last year,” Prosper executive vice president of strategy Phil Rist said. “Another notable finding is more than half of consumers say they will take advantage of sales and promotions as they celebrate Valentine’s Day this year.”

Popular gifts like lingerie are actually cheaper in February, according to comparison shopping site DealNews, as major retailers discount these items to get customers in stores.

And the lingerie market is growing rapidly.

The global lingerie market, worth approximately $43.2 billion in 2020, is expected to grow above a CAGR of 8.25 percent to reach over $84 billion by 2028 as millennials and rising female spending power boost the worldwide market for women’s undergarments, market research organization Facts and Figures found.

Skims, for one, exemplifies strong demand for lingerie. Its Valentine’s Shop amassed a waitlist of 37,000, with several styles and sizes selling out on launch day, a spokesperson for the company said.

What some people want, or buy, for the commercial holiday hews toward the familiar, according to one industry intelligence platform.

“A peak trading period for the underwear market, stalwart trends synonymous with Valentine’s Day such as red lingerie, strappy sets and thongs remain in demand,” Katharine Carter, research and analysis manager at Edited, a retail intelligence company, said. “The popularity of black lingerie garments has risen in the build-up to Valentine’s Day this year, with black styles accounting for 28 percent of lingerie that has first sold out over the past three months versus 20 percent in 2022. Corsets are a key silhouette and have seen more uptake from lingerie retailers for 2023, with 106 percent more styles currently retailing compared to this time last year.”

Parade’s Main Event Corset and Heavy Metal Thong in the “Bite” colorway.

Inclusive underwear brand Parade leaned into this emerging trend, releasing its first-ever corset for the holiday.

The Gen-Z fan-favorite brand launched three collections around Valentine’s Day—a cactus leather collaboration with designer Zana Bayne, a collection with female- and family-owned candy company Smarties, and a Valentine’s Day collection of its luxe satin sleep sets.

The collaboration with the post-fetish leather designer is nearly sold out, vice president of brand and impact Kerry Steib said, particularly the Main Event Corset and Heavy Metal Thong, which features adjustable waist chains and removable side chains. As a company that champions color and self-expression, Parade is seeing those two perspectives continue to resonate with its customer base. Bright pinks, reds and fun prints (the latest being “Clueless,” an homage to the iconic movie) are boding well throughout February.

While Parade could not comment on whether Valentine’s Day is under or over-performing in recent years, Steib did say there’s a seismic shift, particularly among Gen Z, on what’s considered “sexy.”

Parade was started to counter the idea that there was one idea of what ‘sexiness’ looked and felt like,” Steib said. “We know from our community that you feel sexiest when you feel powerful, expressive, comfortable and like your truest self. Sexy could be a lace-up satin thong or it could be boxer briefs in a sustainable alternative to cotton.”

But what’s always going to be sexy in the eyes of Parade is sustainability. All its products are made from certified recycled or renewable materials, and the brand is actively working to reduce its CO2 emissions per product with a plan to be climate positive by 2025. It also launched Second Life by Parade, an underwear recycling program that accepts all underwear brands and turns them into new, recycled materials.  

Courtesy of Mindd

Sustainability is built into Mindd’s core values. The intimates startup that caters to women whose cup sizes run D and larger believes it has created one of the most sustainable bras on the planet—one free of wiring— and works with its Italian manufacturing partners to eliminate textile waste in the production of its products.

The four-year-old company’s usual offerings are in neutral tones, but it debuted its fan-favorite Mid-V Lined Bra in the shade red velvet in honor of Valentine’s Day for its partnership with Victoria’s Secret.  

“There’s just something iconic about [wearing] red on Valentine’s Day,” Helena Kaylin, founder and CEO of Mindd, said. “What we’ve heard from our customers is that our bras, they’re not those super-sexy like Teddy’s or contraptions but [the customers] are just like, ‘I feel super sexy on my own terms,’ and having a pop of color is what they gravitate toward.”

That sentiment bodes well with Mindd’s mantra of empowering customers to define sexiness on their own terms without catering to the male gaze or basing one’s worth according to another’s conditions.

This harkens back to Mindd’s target demographic—women with larger chests. Unfortunately, that’s the type of person who’s typically overly sexualized or even harassed. Reclaiming what sexiness means—whether it’s a lacey black balconette or a beige T-shirt bra—is powerful and perhaps renders the idea that sexy and comfortable can’tt go hand in hand as baseless.

“You know when you put on a T-shirt or a pair of sweats and you’re feeling yourself? Like, [the] ‘I look kind of sexy in this’ [feeling]? I think those two things can come together,” Kaylin said, referring to the prevailing notion that something is either sexy or comfortable but can’t be both. “That’s where the attitude, the feeling that someone projects, can make someone sexy. It’s not necessarily about the clothes you put on.”

Going a step further, this idea stops bras from being single-use items or reserving certain intimates for special occasions, like Valentine’s Day, and not wearing them until the next “good reason” comes up. After all, good sustainability accounts for rewearability, something the direct-to-consumer brand keeps top of mind.

“When it comes to bras, I don’t want to create something that’s like, just a one occasion bra, like this is the Valentine’s Day [bra] and you’re only going to wear it tonight,” Kaylin said. “It’s like, okay, how can we create something that’s going to be a staple in your wardrobe? Yes, it’s a specific colorway for the holiday, but at the same time, I want her to keep wearing it and not just be for an occasion.”

2023’s most significant TikTok-fueled subcultures have helped retailers sell Valentine’s Day collections while also offering a chance to revitalize them beyond the traditional selling window, Carter said. Driven by the Barbiecore craze, pink products have had a 14 percent uplift in sellouts over the past three months compared to a year ago. Femme and balletcore narratives have bolstered the appeal of romantic details in the run-up to Valentine’s Day, such as ribbonslace and ruching

ThirdLove’s Deco Lace Bra in the shade “Toffee.”

Digitally native intimates brand ThirdLove leaned into the lace trend, launching its Deco Lace collection featuring unlined bras, matching underwear and full-lace bodysuits.  

“It’s the perfect combination of beautiful and comfortable with a flattering fit in our full size range,” Ra’el Cohen, co-founder and chief creative officer of ThirdLove, said. “You can style these pieces in so many ways, whether you’re having a night our with your girls or staying in with your partner, the Deco Lace collection will make you look and feel your best.”

Lacy pieces, including the Deco Lace collection, are selling quickly. But it’s not just the traditional red and pinks doing well this year, Cohen said, as bold and romantic jewel tones and warm earth tones are also performing well.

“Consumers are definitely looking for comfortable and sexy pieces, like unlined bras that let your natural shape be the star,” Cohen said. “They aren’t willing to compromise on things that matter, and know ThirdLove will provide products that are comfortable, will hold up over time, and be offered in their size—even in limited-edition styles.”