Chapter Four: Power Red - Part Two

Because red is so evocative of romance, passion, and eroticism, red lingerie will likely always carry those connotations. Yet in recent years, lingerie creators and consumers have questioned lingerie’s associations with heteronormative sexuality, instead reframing it as a tool for self-empowerment and self-exploration.

Cora Harrington, founder of The Lingerie Addict website, wrote in her 2018 book, In Intimate Detail, that “Lingerie is about self-expression, identity, art, and joy.” In the book’s foreword, burlesque performer and lingerie designer Dita Von Teese explained:

“I like to say that lingerie allows for the seduction of the self … [you might] be the only one in on the secret under that black dress, concealing a ravishing crimson camisole you selected even if no one would ever be the wiser.”

'Java Dancer' Beaded Silk Bra & Harness Thong Knickers By La Perla Black Label, 2014, Italy. The Underpinnings Museum. Photography by Tigz Rice.

'Java Dancer' Beaded Silk Bra & Harness Thong Knickers By La Perla Black Label

Date: Spring/Summer 2014

Origin: Italy

Fabric: Silk and embroidered tulle

Brand: La Perla Black Label


Italian luxury lingerie brand La Perla introduced its Black Label line in 2003, as a venue for more risqué styles. Then-CEO Gianluca Flore told Women’s Wear Daily, “It’s very erotic-looking lingerie, something for the woman who definitely wants something different.” In 2004 the brand’s fashion coordinator, Anna Masotti, explained that the Black Label launch was a direct response to market demand for eroticism that is both refined and playful.

Produced ten years later, this 2014 red “Java Dancer” lingerie set by La Perla Black Label embodies eroticism, as its revealing cut and decadent materials are uniquely suited for the boudoir. A prominent feature of the bra is the beaded trompe l’oeil nipple designs encircled by sequins. This concentric motif is also reflected at the front of the thong. Though the “Java Dancer” set was also sold in beige and black, it is particularly inflammatory in red.

'Vixen' Velvet Ribbon Corset By Pop Antique

Date: 2017

Origin: San Francisco CA, United States

Fabric: Cerise pink silk duchess, cerise pink antique silk velvet ribbon

Brand: Pop Antique

Designer: Marianne Faulkner


When Karolina Laskowska purchased a length of antique cerise silk velvet ribbon from Portobello market in London, she immediately envisioned it taking the form of a corset.

Laskowska commissioned this piece from designer and educator Marianne Faulkner, in a style inspired by the ribbon corsets fashionable at the turn of the twentieth century.

In order to create the corset, Faulkner needed to adapt a special pattern adjusted to the specific width of the antique red ribbon. Due to the nature of velvet, the bright red corset also gives flashes of hot pink, matched by fuchsia laces at the back.

'Vixen' velvet ribbon corset by Pop Antique. The Underpinnings Museum. Photography by Tigz Rice
'Sappho' Cupped Corset By Sian Hoffman, c. 2015, UK. The Underpinnings Museum. Photography by Tigz Rice

'Sappho' Cupped Corset By Sian Hoffman

Date: c. 2015

Origin: UK

Fabric: Nylon crin, French lace, duchesse satin

Brand: Sian Hoffman

Rubies In Gold Cincher By Sparklewren, c. 2015, United Kingdom. The Underpinnings Museum. Photograpy by Tigz Rice

'Rubies In Gold' Cincher By Sparklewren

Date: c. 2015

Origin: United Kingdom

Fabric: Silk

Brand: Sparklewren

From ruber, the Latin word for red, rubies are considered one of the world’s most precious gemstones. Their rich red colour is steeped in symbolism, like vivacity, passion, and divine power.

Rubies have long been referenced in women’s undergarments: from “ruby-red” corsets and petticoats promoted by Vogue magazine in 1898, to Victoria’s Secret Angel Gisele Bündchen modelling a diamond-and-ruby-encrusted “Fantasy Bra” worth fifteen million dollars in the year 2000.

The “Sappho” Cupped Corset by British corsetière Sian Hoffman shares its name with the Archaic Greek poet symbolic of lesbianism. A main feature of the red-and-champagne-coloured corset is French leavers lace which has been dyed in “sultry ruby red.”

Visions of red rubies are also conjured by the gold-coloured waist cincher created by Jenni Hampshire for the Sparklewren “Falling Blossoms” collection. Glowing golden duchesse satin forms the body of the cincher, which is appliquéd with highly textural French and English leavers lace. The embellishments resemble an intricate garden of precious ruby and gold flowers.

Sweetheart Bra & Knicker Set By Playful Promises, c. 2011, made in China, designed in the UK. The Underpinnings Museum. Photography by Tigz Rice

'Sweetheart' Bra & Knicker Set By Playful Promises

Date: c. 2011

Origin: Made in China, designed in the United Kingdom

Fabric: Polyester

Brand: Playful Promises

'Her Sexcellency' Red Lace & Satin Overwire Bra By Dita Von Teese, c. 2014, made in China, designed in the USA. The Underpinnings Museum. Photography by Tigz Rice.

'Her Sexcellency' Red Lace & Satin Overwire Bra By Dita Von Teese

Date: c. 2014

Origin: Made in China, designed in the USA

Fabric: Polyester satin & lace

Brand: Dita Von Teese

Valentine’s Day is an annual celebration of love and romance observed on February fourteenth. It is also a major gift-giving holiday, with popular gifts being candy, flowers, jewellery, and lingerie. In 1955, Women’s Wear Daily reported that “Lingerie for Valentine’s Day [is] better than candy.”

A 1992 Cosmopolitan article about Valentine’s Day preparations suggested wearing “racy, lacy lingerie — in pink or red” to put everybody “in the mood.” Indeed, pink and red are the colours most associated with Valentine’s Day, and hearts and bows are common motifs. London-based lingerie brand Playful Promises prominently featured all of these in their “Sweetheart” bra-and-panty set.

This red overwire bra is from Dita Von Teese’s “Her Sexcellency” collection, named for 1930s burlesque star Sally Rand’s tagline. The collection was released for Valentine’s Day 2014, along with a message that all women deserve beautiful lingerie for the holiday regardless of their relationship status.

Commenting on this launch, The Daily Mail quoted Von Teese as saying, “I love contrasting satin and lace, and I really wanted an elegant, smooth bra that also creates voluptuous cleavage. The wide-set straps leave the front of the chest very bare, which is very, very sexy.” This example was photographed without its removable shoulder straps.