Founded on The Principles of Garments

Shot by Jeanloup Sieff via Vogue Italia, 1972

By Roxana Enache for All Hollow Magazine

via ELLE France

via V Magazine

Photo by Natalia Outeda

Photo via Vogue

Shot by Gemma Booth for ELLE France, April 2012
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by Leandra Medine
November 8, 2013
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Are you caging your Flapping Annies for yourself or for your partner?

Wearing a black muscle tee, I haphazardly revealed the slightest bit of a ripped, black cotton sports-but-not-quite bra from the dropped side of the shirt. This was only to come face to mouth with a question my friend has been pondering out loud for as long as we’ve known each other: does he seriously not care? What she meant by “not care” is that I am almost always in functional-over-beautiful undergarments as opposed to those that are lacy, racy, sexualized and highly uncomfortable.

Though the foundation garment has not changed since the anterior friend and I have known each other, the “he” in question has. First there was the English guy, then there was the sociopath, then an almost husband who became an actual husband. And now with a year and a half of commitment to lifelong, exclusive companionship under my belt, my friend should know that the answer to her question is a hard “No. Of course not.”

More interesting than her actual question is what it inferred — that our foundation garments aren’t for us. And her instinctive inquiring about whether he cared about my holed bra before wondering whether I did brings up another important question: when considering lingerie, do we wear it for ourselves, or do we wear it for our partners?

An interlude for historical context on the provenance of lingerie: the nightclothes were developed as a marginal vessel for liberty in the late nineteenth century by one Lady Duff-Gordon as an antidote to the restrictive and therefore imprisoning nature of corsets. During the throes of World War I, many women were forced to assume the occupational positions of their male counterparts. This, of course, called for new wardrobe elements, which meant those devoid of any physically prohibitive underpinnings.

The modern supposition is that seductive-looking undergarments are supposed to make us feel intrinsically sexy. This certainly denotes a sense of liberty, and I won’t disagree that the undergarments don’t. It seems like nothing is as self-indulgent as decadently nurturing your private parts with beautiful lingerie to make looking in the mirror, for no one but you, while half naked just a little more dynamic.

And according to the satin bows and charmeuse polka dots and on the rare occasion, fur accents of Victoria’s Secret, we are putatively investing in the power of selfish-in-the-right-way sexy. The thing is, my measure of personal sexiness is calculated not in an artificially plump chest, complimented by long, tousled locks, but in comfort. In that which I want to see myself wearing because I know it’s characteristically me. I’d prefer a pair of white cotton knickers that I don’t have to think about to navy blue silk “panties” (that the anterior superstore calls underwear “panties” brings up another issue) that are constantly riding up my ass and forcing me to pick my vedgie (vagina wedgie) any day of the week.

This is the most salient indicator that if I were to wear lingerie, it would not be for me.

But there are women who have mastered the real art of personal power. These women are those who even under the most extensive dry spells (elective or not) continue to dress up their insides — below their sweaters, above their hearts, and perfectly positioned at the intersection of confidence and self-respect — just to make their outsides feel a little more beautiful. It’s the kind of attention to detail that differentiates she who wants power and she who has it. Are you one of these women?

Or are you me?*

*Being me would indicate that your bra choice is wholly dependent on what will make your boobs look least abrasive in the sweater or blouse or t-shirt you’re wearing. As for the underwear, I defer back to the antecedent vedgie.

REPLIES
  • shelley

    I used to only wearing perfect matching sets, I was almost obsessive about it! matching it whatever outfit I was wearing and then matching the perfume I would wear to all of it. Now I just don’t give a fuck…not sure what changed :)

    • shelley

      wear*

  • Luarnaiz

    Once I was shopping with my younger sister and we went together in the fitting room, we were trying on some pants. When I took off my jeans the biggest, pinkest, cottonest knickers showed. My sister almost cried “Poor S* how can you do that to him, he doesn’t deserve it”
    We’ve been together 5 years.

    So, yeah, I’m a little bit like you.

  • Caroline Y

    There is a middle ground between comfy, cottony, unsexy underwear and lacy, super-delicate, uncomfortable pieces. The underwear and ‘outerwear’ need to work well together. So I choose well-constructed and fairly comfortable undergarments that make my body look best in the clothes that I am wearing but which is also attractive-looking ‘on its own’. Super-sexy, lacy, minimal underwear only looks nice on model bodies and even then does not look nice underneath a tight t-shirt or dress.

  • Nikki

    I gave up on wearing a bra when I was 20. For the cost of a few bras one can buy a lovely pair of shoes instead. Best decision I ever made! I do like a nice pair of underpants, which I buy at discounted prices at Winners. They always screw up the pricing, La Perla underpants for $7.99. Yep, thanks!

  • http://madamecouture.blogspot.com/ Emma Hager

    I really like minimally invasive undergarments. I prefer bras without wires and bows and what have you, for not only comfort reasons but also because I sorta like the boyishness of it. I am very flat chested, but none of my undergarments indicate that I wish to be anything else –no padding, no nothing.
    And to comment on the whole power play thing, every girl should just do her own thang! Of course she should dress for herself, but if dressing up/feeling sexy as denoted by someone else floats her boat, no one should try to sink it. In life one way or another we ask/want approval from others. Some do it in undergarments, some do it in pie eating contests, some do it on Instagram.

  • Imaan

    It would have been nice if the photos you chose above depicted real women in lingerie. While these shots are beautiful in there own right. The point I took way from this article was that lingerie is a way to empower women. And that includes all women of shapes, sizes, and ethnicity. I love this blog, but I get upset when I continue to see homogenous images of models and stick thin women accompanied by an article that is supposedly to give confidence and empowerment to women.

    • Guest

      While I totally see where you are coming from with this comment, I wish you wouldn’t use the term ‘real woman’ in a way that makes it seem that the skinny girls in these photos are not. It something that annoys me so much, as being skinny myself, I don’t see me being any less ‘real’ than any other woman.

      • https://www.etsy.com/shop/amatoriaclothing Amatoria Clothing

        As a fellow skinny girl, I feel your pain. We can be mutant ninja turtles together.

      • Guest

        Thank you. I’m rather tired of that line “real women.” Putting
        someone down to feel good is really not the way to do it. And it’s
        becoming horribly common as waist lines grow. I’m not really butthurt
        as the kids say, but I just like pointing out the absurdity and
        nastiness of this. Even some of my more round friends agree the “real
        women” phrase should be put to death.

        Amatoria Clothing, yeah, I
        guess we’re ninja turtles now. I suppose that isn’t so bad. How about
        unicorns? Or mermaids? Yeah, the really nasty mermaids that drown
        people. Heh, I guess I’ll deal with being a fantasy creature.

        I’ll
        be more honest. I’m tired of pleas for less homogeneity. I’d like to
        see less in many places, too, because various types of people like to
        shop. However, like it or not, there are good reasons why the fashion
        industry chooses white stick figures and it has little to do with
        hurting anyone and sometimes little to do with beauty ideals. When
        people post images of these people, today, we have to think carefully on
        getting a balanced, PC set of models every time. No matter what our
        personal taste. Having to think about selecting a range of bodies and
        skin colors, ect. every time may take ones’ mind off the original task.
        And even if one tried, I wonder if someone will still complain? I’ve
        watched companies struggle to please women on FB. Soap companies even
        get it for not having variation in height and people with bad skin. So
        you can’t relate to the models? I can’t always, but it’s not the person
        I’m looking at, but what they are selling. Sometimes, with lingerie I
        understand wanting to see how something fits, but even plus size models
        have to be usually smooth to sell much.

        • imaan

          I completely understand why the term ‘real women’ might be the wrong thing to say. But, I have to disagree with you that less homogenous representation has no correlation to the product itself. Advertising is a tool used to create identity about the product the company is selling. The original task is for a company is to sell a product, no? And companies use advertising and marketing to create a product identity for a certain demographic. And the assumption here is that this demographic has it’s own characteristics and it’s identity. This is where the issue of homogeneity becomes an issue. While there is an all encompassing demography, there are parts of it. There are always parts to a whole. There’s diversity within this group that the company is selling a product to. And by representing one identity related to the product’s identity, homogeneity glosses over the diversity related to the selling demographic, and gives power to the representative identity. If my identity is systematically under represented, what does that say? Does that say my identity isn’t important enough to give acknowledgement?

      • belulopezchamba

        And what about the curvy girls? We are not represented in the slideshow above, but you don’t see me complaining. Just Sayin’.

  • Chloe

    Neither; form + function = my cup of tea.

    Example: bralette with cotton lining against your skin and lace on the cup (the loveliness of smooth cotton and the beauty of lace without the itch that just-lace would bring).

  • http://mafaldadotzero.blogspot.fr/ Mafalda

    I love those pictures! And my husband is just like yours, doesn’t care at all, he likes what’s underneath better ;)

    Mafalda ❤
    http://www.mafaldadotzero.blogspot.fr

  • marinacasapu

    when I buy my lingerie I imagine that i will have to undress somewhere in public:) so I’m always prepared for that :)
    http://www.live-love-fashion.com

  • legohead

    I strip down and put on lacy vintage slips or tap pants when I get home from work. I definitely prefer lacy bras, though it’s harder for me as I am size 32G. I love the feeling of decadence lingerie gives me. Once I discovered corset/longline bras it changed my life. I could finally go strapless or one shouldered without my bra becoming a belt. It’s mostly for me given the fact I have never owned a garter belt, even though my husband once expressed a liking for them. While I love to keep it fancy I still keep comfort and my preferences in mind.

  • http://alcessa.wordpress.com/ alcessa

    Most days, I am simply you (hmmmm … should one put “simply” and “you” that close to each other? .-)) but some days … we cook. As in: food. It lasts at least half a day, we cook small things, eat them, drink a “juice” or two …, do the dishes, cook something else … and that is when I do my Beyonce thing. Lingerie, a mini dress, net tights, zebra flats by H&M, make up, wild hair … since it’s at home, I feel free to. It all works so well together, after all, it’s private party time, so lingerie just feels natural and a good choice. But on “you” days the only thing that feels natural and “so me” is organic cotton underwear. A natural born snob moose … :-)

  • http://www.fancyalterego.wordpress.com/ Heather P.

    I’m far more like you.

    My husband doesn’t care that I wear ugly, functional bras – he knows that they’re ugly, but they keep my DD boobs in check, and most importantly my back and shoulders more comfortable.

    He’d rather see me happy in a granny bra than fidgety and sore in a pretty one. And that, for us larger-breasted women who don’t fit into anything Victoria has to offer, is a great thing.

    That’s not to say I don’t own ANY sexy lingerie. I just find it uncomfortable for daytime, and prefer only to bust it out on occasions where I’m feeling like it, or I know I won’t be wearing it long…if you know what I mean (I’m pretty sure you do). ;-)

  • http://marciayl.tumblr.com/ Marcia Lee

    if you asked me, right now, what underwear I’m sporting I’d have to think really hard to remember. The only time pretty undies give me a confidence boost is when I can see them……

  • Maral

    I completely agree with you, underwear is for you only. It is ridiculous that women are almost expected to wear “nice” underwear in order to please their partners. The first time my partner saw my pants, they were a high-waited black pair, much like those worn by Bridgett Jones. We have been together for 3 years and have a child. Less is always more. Less lace and less frumpiness = a hell of a lot more sexy

    http://northerlybreeze.blogspot.co.uk/

  • mva

    a little bit of both. seeing as i havent had a sexual partner in a while deff for me, but still if i think something may happen i so try to wear nice underwear. however, when i had a bf i just wore whatever a wanted!!! and sometimes i dressed to treat him.

  • oyoy

    whoever invented the bra should be killed. well he/she/it is probably dead already. but still, what an unnatural device. working all day to lift up my boobs from their natural gravity induced position at my knees to somewhere acceptably above my belly button

  • Lisa Thomson

    I’ve always loved silk next to the skin. I love nothing more than buying new undies and bras. Plus, I could use all the help I can get. Pretty post, Leandra!

  • MsDenbi

    I love lace underwear and bras. There’s something pretty and dainty about them that I like, and they are currently for no one else but myself. But I don’t buy into victoria secret bras because I find them to be the most uncomfortable thing a woman could put on! I always found myself pulling them up. Bralettes is where it’s at!

    Great post, thoroughly enjoy it.

  • Jessica Moroz

    I believe I am more like you, add in the powerful woman answer choice and I’m a winner. If I would like to get fancy and I mean wear lacy booty shorts, it all depends on what mood I’m in. Sometimes I wake up feeling frisky and sexy and other days I just have no time to think about amything other than running out the door in five. I do wear langerie, mostly black because I would never be able to keep that colorful set together, but I actually quite enjoy it. Knowing I have something super sexy on underneath my everyday clothes in a way gets me aroused. I actually think langerie is both for you and you’re partner. Stopping by your boyfriend’s house after work dressed in langerie almost always ends in some sexual endeavor. If you don’t wear langerie or sexy undies, I say you start and see how your outlook on yourself and sexuality changes. There’s nothing sexier than a half naked (i’d prefer naked) sexy, confident woman standing in front of a man (or even another woman).

  • Ashley
  • Anna

    I found the perfect middle ground between comfort and sexiness. I’m not into those lacy things from Kiki de Montparnasse that seem to fall apart any minute. However, a good knicker (panties, what a weir word! I’m English btw) with some lacy details and a supportive bra with a small bow gets me through the day without losing my sense of “woman”

  • http://www.stylefile.in/ Dayle Pereira

    My boy shorts are the most comfy with a cotton bra but every now and then an underwired pink baby with a tiny bow is a great pink me up :D

    http://www.stylefile.in

  • Amelie J
  • Mone

    Definitely on your side! Long live the cotton hipster panties! Not riding up my ass and keeping it warm in winter. Oh, and they also have profed to be less embarassing in terms of SERIOUS wardrobe malfunction…(don’t wanna talk about it)

  • http://b-tg.tumblr.com/ Colleen Garrity

    I gotta say, the “sexy” cup-less bras (so just the underwire) are super super suuuuper comfortable for me. I’m a 32A/B, so it’s just the right amount of errthang.

  • Hereshoping Themayanswereright

    In the very beginning – sexy stuff, then later after we’re a couple, switch to total comfort mode.

  • Avery

    I don’t know, I walk with a little extra spring in my step with my polka dot Victoria Secret undies.

    http://wellbygeorge.blogspot.com

  • moldub

    i personally prefer the term fredgie – front wedgie. commando underwear are the WORST for this!

  • electrelane

    I only wear a bra maybe 25% of the time, and then it’s bra-lettes. For panties I almost exclusively wear Calvin Klein “cheeky’s” (somewhere between a bikini and a thong). Now, I do like fancy lingerie and bras for those more intimate moments and date nights, and I’ve mastered how to get my man to buy them for me; I send a selfie from the dressing room and when he is swooning with desire, and after I’ve told him that yes i really like it but there there is no way I’m spending $178 for an underwire bra that looks more like an architectural piece, he’s already calling said store and purchasing said piece pour moi. and ladies….that’s how it’s done.

  • lola

    you really need to separate the functional underwear that supposed to work well with the outerwear from the sexy lingerie that have a purpose of being worn by itself for adult consenting fun in the bedroom or other rooms för that matter. I don’t underestand how your boyfriend or husband can suffer if you wear comfortable and “unsexy” underwear to work? I think most husbands perfer their ladies to go easy on sexy lingrie wearing days at work or on a shopping spree.

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