The global lingerie market in 2003 was estimated at $29 billion.
Bras accounted for 56 per cent while briefs represented 29 per cent of the lingerie market in 2005.
The world's largest lingerie manufacturer, Victoria's Secret, operates almost exclusively in North America.
Victoria’s Secret Gallery
The concept of lingerie as a visually appealing undergarment was developed during the late nineteenth century. Lady Duff-Gordon of Lucile was a pioneer in developing lingerie that freed women from more restrictive corsets. Through the first half of the 20th century, women wore underwear for three primary reasons: to alter their outward shape (first with corsets and later with girdles or bras), for hygienic reasons, or for modesty.
Before the invention of crinoline, women's underwear was often very large and bulky. During the late 19th century, corsets became smaller, less bulky and constricting, and were gradually supplanted by the brassiere, first patented in the 20th century by Mary Phelps Jacob. When the First World War broke out, women found themselves filling in men's work roles, creating a demand for more practical undergarments. Manufacturers began to use lighter and more breathable fabrics.
Victoria's Secret is the largest American retailer of lingerie, whose 2012 sales were $6.12 billion.
The company sells lingerie, womenswear, and beauty products through its catalogs (sending out 375 million a year), website, and its U.S. stores.
In 1983, Leslie Wexner revamped Victoria's Secret. He discarded the money-losing model of selling lingerie to male customers and replaced it with one that focused on women.
Victoria's Secret transformed from "more burlesque than Main Street" to a mainstay that sold broadly accepted underwear. The "new colors, patterns and styles that promised sexiness packaged in a tasteful, glamorous way and with the snob appeal of European luxury" were supposed to appeal to and appease female buyers.
To further this image, the Victoria's Secret catalog continued the practice that Raymond began: listing the company's headquarters on catalogs at a fake London address, with the real headquarters in Columbus, Ohio.
The stores were redesigned to evoke 19th century England.
As the 20th century progressed, underwear became smaller and more form fitting. In the 1960s, lingerie manufacturers such as Frederick's of Hollywood begin to glamorize lingerie. The lingerie industry expanded in the 21st century with designs that doubled as outerwear. The French refer to this as 'dessous-dessus' which basically means innerwear as outerwear.
Video: Victoria’s Secret
In March 2013, the company mounted a marketing campaign for sexy underwear titled "Bright Young Things" directed at teen and pre-teen girls that drew considerable negative attention. The underwear contained wording including "call me", "feeling lucky", and "wild".
The company was accused of "sexualising" teenage girls. When the ad campaign was launched, Victoria's Secret chief financial officer Stuart Burgdoerfer said that the line of underwear allowed "15 or 16 years old... to be older, and they want to be cool like the girl in college". After the criticism increased, Victoria's Secret removed the items from the company's website and said that the ad campaign was meant for college-age women.