Bras, Panties, and Shapewear for Lemmings

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18 Jan

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By Adam Welsch
Naomi & Nicole®

What is it that inspires you, the consumer, to make a purchase of intimate apparel?  Econ 101 says that you rationally take a bra or panty’s price and quality into consideration when shopping for one to address one of your needs.  It’s a straightforward process when you’re buying something you’ve bought before; you know how well the piece of lingerie is made and how well it functions, and you’re able to judge whether or not the utility it’ll bring you is worth the price being asked for it.  But what happens when you want to buy a particular bra, pair of panties, or piece of shapewear for the first time?  How do you know whether the item’s price is justified by its quality since you have no personal experience with its performance?  The answer is that, to a certain extent anyway, you become a lemming.  And while this has always been the case for consumers since the inception of capitalism, the rise of the internet and its rapidly evolving social structure has made it easier, and more rewarding, than ever before to act like one of those mystical little creatures.

Contrary to popular misconception, acting like a lemming does not mean following a group, without question, to one’s ultimate harm.  Though popular myth has it that lemmings are furry little animals that blindly follow their cohorts in mass, suicidal leaps into the sea, reality is much less dire.  Lemmings often exist in large populations and periodically migrate together to find food and new places to live.  Since they can swim, these large groups sometimes leap into bodies of water in their journey to find greener pastures (of course, they’re not always successful).  Other times, they simply travel over land together in large groups.  Regardless of the path taken, lemmings rationally follow the herd to try to improve their lot in life.

When considering an intimates purchase, acting like a lemming – or following the crowd – is often the best way to make a decision in the absence of personal knowledge about a garment’s quality.   Since it’s not possible to know how comfortable a bra will be over time, how well a piece of shapewear will transform a figure, or how well a pair of panties will prevent wedgies, today’s savvy lingerie consumer turns to the internet, rather than her next-door neighbor, for purchasing recommendations.  Why?  The internet, and its ever-evolving social nature and interactive functionality (Web 2.0 in geek speak), gives every consumer access to an unprecedented volume of demographically-specific product assessments.  Why rely on just a handful of neighbors, friends, and co-workers when the opinions of a vast population of like-minded bra, panty, and shapewear seekers are just a few keystrokes and mouse clicks away?

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Digital, word-of-mouth product recommendations can be found in many different forms all over the internet.  One of the most popular and convenient forms is the consumer product review.  Usually found on the product detail pages of lingerie retailing websites, these reviews provide numerical ratings of garment comfort, quality, function, and value, as well as brief, but descriptive, commentary.  Adding to their value can be demographic information about the reviewer (e.g., age, profession, location) and ratings of the accuracy of the reviews by those who have followed the reviewer’s recommendations.  Consumer product reviews can be great tools to evaluate, for example, whether a panty maker’s claims of VPL erasure should be trusted.

Consumer reviews are also widely available in group format on the internet.  Forums, chat rooms, and social media sites, some with memberships that rival very large countries, host interest groups that regularly debate the pros and cons of different products as part of their routine give-and-take discussions.  The power of such sites lies in their ability to gather large numbers of people, belonging to specific demographic groups, together in one place.  So, for example, if you’re a large-busted woman in search of a comfortable bra that will provide great support and present a smooth look under your clothes, you can probably find a group of similarly-sized, similarly-frustrated consumers discussing this problem online, some of whom have found the answer you’re looking for.

Of course, consumers aren’t the only ones creating online product reviews.  Many publications, with both paper and digital origins, regularly review and recommend products on their websites.  Magazines, geared specifically to women that focus on matters of family, fashion, and the home, are great sources of such advice.  Fashion editors and their staffs will often “test-drive” products themselves before issuing product recommendations.  Their extensive exposure to, and knowledge of, a wide range of garments, make them well-placed to make comparative judgments.  But there is one cause for caution that you should keep in mind.  Make sure to take note whenever your favorite publication issues a favorable product review and also accepts advertising from that product’s manufacturer.  Though a publication’s editorial and sales staffs may work independently and not influence one another, the exchange of a favorable review for some advertising spending is always a possibility.  A quick check of a periodical’s editorial policy can allay any such fears.

The advantages of shopping for bras, panties, and shapewear online are extraordinary.  Not only can you purchase lingerie from the comfort and convenience of your home at any time of the day or night, you have access to an enormous amount of third-party information about how well the undies generally perform.  When venturing into the unknown and shopping for intimate apparel you haven’t worn before, it’s never been a better time to be a lemming.

CC Image courtesy Leo-setä on flickr http://www.flickr.com/photos/uncle-leo// CC BY 2.0
CC Image courtesy Flashpacking on flickr http://www.flickr.com/photos/flashpackinglife// CC BY 2.0

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