5 Lingerie Terms You Want To Know If You’re Gender Nonconforming

Your guide to finding the right wedding undergarments for you

A few weeks ago, we went over some of the options for undergarments for your wedding day (you can read all about finding the perfect wedding lingerie for your dress here). But what we didn’t discuss in that post is what to do when traditional wedding underwear isn’t right for you. Gender nonconforming wedding undergarments can feel like just one more thing to figure out with your outfit in a fashion landscape that isn’t set up to serve you. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

Ideally, your wedding day underwear should enable you to feel like the best and most confident version of yourself. You shouldn’t feel like you’re wearing a costume or forcing yourself to be someone you’re not. It’s your day, after all, and you deserve to be fully present and fully yourself, which includes wearing undergarments that help you feel that way.

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If you’ve already shopped brick and mortar boutiques, you’ve probably figured out that they often don’t represent the range of undergarment options available for non-cisgendered folks. Which can make it seem like the options simply don’t exist. But the good news is, there is a breadth of alternative undergarments online. The bad news? You’ll need to shop online (see this post for some tips shopping for lingerie online versus in a store). And that makes it even more important to be aware of the appropriate terminology and of your options. Below are a few pieces that might be good to know about for your wedding day. I’ve divided this article into options for those feminine-of-center and masculine-of-center. Feel free to pick and choose what feels right for you.

Feminine-of-Center Wedding Lingerie Options

Bras: A feminine-of-center wedding day ensemble will likely involve a bust-supporting garment like bra, corset, or bustier of some kind. When it comes to shopping for bras, keep in mind that you can never be sure how something works for you until you try it on. As early as possible, start looking for your perfect bra. Bralettes, especially those made from materials like stretch lace or stretch satin, are good size-flexible options that still feel “dressy” enough for the wedding day (especially if you have reason to believe your bust size may change between now and then). However, bralettes offer little in the way of support and structure. Therefore, if you’d prefer a silhouette with a stronger shape, consider an underwired style. Contour cup and push-up bras can help give shape and uniformity to the bust and also make it easier to add a cup size or two (whether with padding, cookies, or breast forms) if you’d prefer a fuller look.

a gender nonconforming person wearing a skin-tone corset from Dark Garden with skin-tone bralette and knickers

Corsets: For the most dramatic curves, consider a corset. Corsets are boned undergarments that work by applying specifically directed pressure to the torso, resulting in a narrower waist. Corsets are wonderful for achieving an hourglass figure. However, there are some things to keep in mind so you can corset safely. While traditional corsets are made with nonstretch fabrics, some modern day corsets incorporate stretchy materials like powermesh, especially if the goal is to have a smooth silhouette. However, a corset is not the same as a latex waist cincher or faja! I wouldn’t recommend wearing the latter on your wedding day as you could possibly overheat or end the day with skin irritations. Corsets are sized using your waist measurement. You’ll want to a purchase a corset that’s 4 to 6 inches smaller than your natural waist (so, for example, someone with a 30-inch waist would purchase a 26-inch corset). For assigned male at birth bodies (AMAB), you may find you get a better or more comfortable fit by flipping your corset upside down so that what is traditionally the bottom becomes the top to better accommodate your back and shoulders.

Knickers: If you have external genitalia, and want to minimize your silhouette, consider buying underwear with a built-in gaff. A gaff helps give a clean line by supporting a tuck. If gaffs aren’t an option, you can also look at knickers made with more coverage and wider sides to help both give support and blur your shape. Styles like hiphuggers, boyshorts, and high-waisted briefs are all good. Some people also prefer to wear shaping panties (also known as girdles), though it’s extra important to purchase the correct size as buying shapewear that’s too small can not only be uncomfortable, it can lead to nerve damage and skin issues.

Masculine-of-Center Wedding Undergarment Options

four people with different skin tones and gender identifications with their backs to you wearing skin-tone color binders

Binders: Binders work by flattening or compressing the breasts to the chest, minimizing their silhouette, and, ideally, giving the impression of a smoother or more masculine torso. While some people use minimizer bras or sports bras, binders help to give smooth, even compression. It’s important to buy a proper binder if you can, and not resort to ace bandages, duct tape, or similar at-home methods, which can be uncomfortable and irritating to skin at best, and result in broken ribs and diminished lung capacity at worst. Even proper binders shouldn’t be worn for more than eight to twelve hours at a time (and even then, if you feel uncomfortable or like you need a break during the day, you should take one!). Finally, avoid doubling up on binders, wearing a binder that’s too small, or pairing your binder with one of the aforementioned items like ace bandages or duct tape. And since binders can be sweaty, don’t forget a liberal sprinkle of baby powder or cornstarch before pulling yours on!

Packing Briefs: While my area of expertise isn’t buying the actual packer, if you would like to wear a packer on your wedding day, you may want to invest in a pair of specialty packing underwear for comfort and peace of mind. This will help hold your packer in place and ensure it doesn’t slip around or, even worse, fall out onto the floor. If buying packing underwear isn’t an option, look for snug fit boxers or briefs; many styles nowadays are made explicitly to frame or “show off” the package of cis men, and those may work well for your packer as well.

For all of the items listed here, reading reviews from people who share your body type, gender presentation, and/or fashion concerns is one of the most important things you can do. While nothing can replace the trying-on process, reading what other people have experienced is the next best thing. And for all of these items, but especially those which rely on heavy-duty stretch fabrics to work (like gaffs and binders), remember to handwash and avoid machine drying, as heat can ruin the garments you’ve invested in.

What problems are you facing in your search for wedding undergarments? What resources have you found helpful or useful? 

APW is excited to share the second in a three-part guest series from lingerie expert Cora Harrington. You can read the first part on wedding lingerie here and the third part on honeymoon lingerie here. For more information on all types of lingerie, check out Cora’s beautifully illustrated new book In Intimate Detail.

The cover of the book In Intimate Detail by Cora Harrington with a watercolor illustration of a black lace longline bra and coordinating high-waist brief on a pink background

In Intimate Detail: A comprehensive and accessible illustrated guide to lingerie from intimates expert Cora Harrington, founder of The Lingerie Addict, the internet’s top intimate apparel blog.

While many love the idea of wearing special underthings, lingerie can be intimidating. How is it supposed to fit? How do you take care of it all? Is lingerie really for me? In this beautiful and empowering guide, lingerie expert Cora Harrington demystifies intimate apparel, making it accessible to all sizes, ages, and budgets. Covering everything from basic bras and panties to special occasion wear, shapewear, hosiery, corsets, and more, this no-nonsense handbook empowers you to confidently buy, wear, and care for the underpinnings of your dreams.

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