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.