A glimpse of one's bra used to be considered risque, but not anymore.
An increasing number of women, such as Ms Ellena Young, are buying lacy bras and bralettes - wireless bras without moulded cups - to show them off under sheer or crop tops.
The 21-year-old Singaporean business student, who is single, says that undergarments are a fashion accessory and they lend a "feminine detail" to her look with lace, intricate straps, embroidery and a pop of colour.
Ms Young, who often lets the lace band of her bralette peek out from under her crop top, says: "I just think it makes my outfit look nicer and makes me feel more confident."
The Ngee Ann Polytechnic student, who has eight bras that she uses as fashion accessories, from brands such as Cotton On Body and home-grown label Naked and Unbound, adds: "I've received stares from strangers when I go out, but I don't really care."
More women in Singapore are lapping up pretty lingerie.
According to data from market research company Euromonitor, despite the current slump in the retail industry, the value of the underwear market here has risen from $245.5 million in 2011 to $287.2 million last year - a jump of 17 per cent.
In that same period, the apparel industry as a whole grew just 4 per cent.
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Growth in the underwear market has meant more lingerie variety for shoppers here.
There are at least four new brands here, including Naked and Unbound, which was started in late 2015.
Other brands are expanding or increasing their lingerie range.
American brand Victoria's Secret - which used to sell only a limited selection of panties, perfumes and body products here -opened a flagship store at Mandarin Gallery in November.
The new boutique sells a wide selection of lacy bodysuits and bralettes with strappy neckline details that can be worn to spruce up an outfit.
Sales at the store, which also sells other accessories such as bags and purses, have been 30 per cent higher than expected.
British brand Agent Provocateur, known for its exquisite lingerie, opened at The Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands in August last year.
And Hong Kong-based multilabel lingerie e-commerce site Avec Amour expanded into Singapore in November after its founder, Ms Tara Lin, saw a gap in the market.
The 36-year-old says: "Seeing how well received Avec Amour was in Hong Kong, I strongly believed there was a need for gorgeous lingerie in Singapore too."
Avec Amour carries a range of more than 20 international designer lingerie brands, such as Heidi Klum Intimates and Stella McCartney Lingerie.
These labels boast bras pretty enough to be worn under a sheer top.
Home-grown label Perk by Kate, which opened in 2012 and sells bralettes from its in-house label as well as those from brands such as Ukrainian luxury label Zhilyova Lingerie, saw a threefold increase in sales last year.
Department stores OG and Takashimaya have also noticed more women buying lacy and bold coloured lingerie.
An OG spokesman says the store has noticed the trend among women aged 25 to 35.
Accessorising with lingerie comes on the back of the look appearing on fashion runways, such as the Spring 2017 shows of luxury fashion brands Kenzo, Prada and Alexander McQueen.
Lingerie-loving celebrities have also helped to push the look into mainstream fashion.
American model Kendall Jenner, 21, for instance,whofronts advertising campaigns for Italian lingerie brand La Perla, is known for her off-duty style of wearing lacy bralettes under jackets; sheer bodysuits; and see-through lace skirts with high-waisted briefs.
All this has turned underwear into a fashion statement rather than something women wear to protect their modesty, says Ms Regina Yeo, adjunct senior lecturer of marketing at the National University of Singapore's business school.
She adds: "Another possible reason is that younger female shoppers and millennials want to look for more fashionable and sexier alternatives compared with the more traditional brands that they identify with their mothers' or grandmothers' eras, which they may perceive as staid-looking and unfashionable."
And unlike the push-up Wonderbra, which had advertisements skewed heavily towards the male gaze during the 1990s, women are now putting their preferences first when it comes to choosing lingerie.
Never mind if the men do not get it.
Ms Karen Goh, 43, who has 70 bras, most of them lacy ones, says: "I deliberately let the eyelash lace of my bralette peek out from underneath a top, but my husband commented that it looks like chest hair."
The housewife, who is married to a commercial pilot and has two children, adds: "The lingerie is for myself. I wear it every day and it's for me to feel good."
This article was first published on March 2, 2017.
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