Why a Woman's Lingerie is Not Just Underwear
It’s been said that you can tell a lot about a woman by her choice of intimate apparel; presuming, that is, that she shops for these herself and that the black satin Wonderbra or skimpy red Victoria Secret thong she’s wearing under her office wear is not a gift from her significant other, or lover.
While many women won’t settle for anything less than the luxurious feel of an expensive lace caressing their hidden skin, there are those who prefer the clean, clinical innocence of pure white 100% cotton or the comforting, girlish cuteness of cartoon-festooned knickers and colorful vests. There are those, too, who opt for sensible, neutral bras and panties in fuss-free tones of flesh that never ever reveal their existence even beneath the sheerest of chiffon shirts and skirts.
As there is a somewhat indefinable line that divides the girl from the “real” woman (it has nothing to do with age), there is also a point where underwear and lingerie seem to lose their common ground.
Lingerie, Lan-zhe-ray. Not just an exotic sounding word, it also has a certain intrinsic power, able to convey a multitude of seductive imagery, associations and feelings in both the men who admire (or shy from) it and the women who wear it – or would never - of all ages, castes and nationalities.
Since time immemorial the naked, natural female form has instilled both awe and fear in its beholders, who have concurrently worshipped its voluptuous curves and slender valleys while also denouncing them as the cause of all the world’s evils. Take for example, a woman’s bosom, while being revered by men for its “fruit-like” bountifulness and respected for its maternal functioning, it has also been hidden, bound and even denied its god given beauty.
Pity the Victorian English women who fainted with boring regularity under the severity of aristocratic conventions, corseted to the point of breathlessness, constrained behind painful laces and stiffly starched, unforgiving layers.
Throughout the greater part of the 20th century, women still had to contend with a certain shamefulness associated with their under things. Brassieres and knickers, always well-concealed beneath ultra-feminine, flouncy dresses, were unattractively bulky, clumsy and chafing.
The 2 World Wars brought inevitable liberation, with ladies sassily belted in hardy workers’ trousers as they toiled on the production lines of war factories. But it was those dirty-minded French who caused all the trouble, what with their seemingly loose morals and fondness for free flowing garments. It was then, in that foreign but eternally romantic capital, that the word “lingerie” came into being. Rather than believing the female form to be better off when “out of sight, out of mind”, the French, rather, pledged themselves to framing its loveliness – like a priceless work of art - in the most beautiful of laces and ribbons, satins and velvets.
Although the true inventors of fiddly, frilly women’s intimate apparel – the kind we know and, indeed, women love today – were the French; in the latter part of the last century, they had to contend with the entrepreneurship of their newly-awakened European and New World counterparts like Frederick’s of Hollywood in 1946 famous for the ‘Rising Star’, the world's first push-up bra and La Perla, the Italian underwear and swimwear house founded by Ada Masotti in 1954. Almost 50 years on, European women still associate the La Perla label with an almost noble glamour, frequently bankrupting themselves for the sake of experiencing the cool extravagance of a La Perla bra or chemise.
In the US, Victoria’s Secret is undisputedly the best selling lingerie brand and boasts a huge, immensely popular, online shopping presence. The creator of bras with intriguing names like the “Miracle Bra” the only bra that apparently adjusts to let you create three levels of cleavage at the click of a button and the “Seamless Natural Miracle Bra”, seamless, liquid-filled cups create curves that look and feel like your own; the brand is also revered for its bevy of shapely models who grace the glossy pages of its catalogues.
In England, things have certainly changed, too. Roam the high streets of the capital city and chances are you’ll come across London’s legendary lingerie company, the delightfully named Agent Provocateur, a brand now synonymous with seduction, pleasure and the provocation of the senses. Founded in 1994 by Joseph Corre and Serena Rees, the brand offers trendy ladies a combination of serious eroticism and naughty exhibitionism in its ultra-glamorous, custom-made items. Indeed, its wicked array of kinky knickers, hosiery and strappy boudoir sandals have been snapped up with relish by the fashion editors of high street mags like Vogue, Elle and many more.
Another hip British label, Gossard, the creators of the incredible Wonderbra once caused near-riots on the streets with its no-holds-barred, £1-million poster advertising campaign flaunting the bold pay-off line, “Find Your G Spot”. Calling it the most exciting bra advertising concept ever, Gossard targeted the modern, liberated woman with a wicked sense of humor, actively encouraging the fairer sex to take control in the sack (so to speak) and implying that their ultra sexy lingerie leads to sensational results.
Maybe, they wanted to imply that Lingerie is the ultimate in female empowerment, inviting women to make use of their imagination and slip into an achievable fantasy. All of which reiterates the much-researched fact that women wear sexy lingerie for themselves and not just for mankind – men need be afraid, be very afraid!
And perhaps, while Underwear is, well, just plain underwear; sexless sounding and full of practical, good-common-sense connotation; Lingerie, on the other hand, is a word that lingers, full of pregnant possibility, on the lips, bringing a hot blush to the cheek and, often, a sparkle to the eye, as its soft-spoken syllables are pronounced.
Move aside, Naomi Campbell, Heidi Klum and Laetitia Casta - it's time for all other gals to also have some fun!