As I grew through my childhood and teenage years, I believed that undergarments were an awkward, necessary part of life that I should talk or think about sparingly. In my observations, “good girls” never spoke about underwear. The only people I ever overheard discussing underwear were the overly flirtatious girls I knew who bounced from one relationship to the next. I would see store advertisements—you know the ones—that showed hypersexualized models in just a bra and panties, and I thought that if I ever bought beautiful underwear, I would be buying into their culture of exploitation and degradation.
Still, I had to wear something under my clothes. So routinely, I would enter that dreaded “intimates” section of the store. I would walk past brightly colored and lace-filled racks yet snatch plain-looking “value packs” to replenish my supply. Occasionally, if I was feeling rebellious, I would think about beautiful underwear—but just as quickly as the thought came, I would banish it. Underwear was something that I wore for utility. I believed that beautiful lingerie had no place in my thoughts. After all, I did not want to be like the inappropriate girls I knew.
In all of my misgivings about underwear, I did know that someday, beautiful lingerie would be appropriate for me. If and when I married, I knew that lingerie would be acceptable. My husband and I would delight in my sexuality and the ways nice underwear enhanced that. Until then, plain undergarments would fill my needs.
Award-winning author Jamie Cat Callan discusses Americans’ approach toward lingerie in her book, Ooh La La! French Women’s Secrets to Feeling Beautiful Every Day. Callan observes that two opposing views toward lingerie often collide in America. For many women, lingerie is “. . . either very utilitarian—cotton panties in three-packs bought at the supermarket at a discount or some sexed-up itsy-bitsy bikinis in wild patterns along with big padded bras and laced-up bustiers that are really just for show.”
Callan’s observation rings true to my experience. I did not think that I—without a spouse—could benefit from beautiful undergarments. Subconsciously, a strange belief had sneaked into my mind: an idea that beauty did not matter unless another person benefited from it. Callan discusses this very problem in her book, as she writes: “. . . it seems to me that when we are wearing undergarments for ourselves, our choice is to be utilitarian, but without beauty. And when we are wearing undergarments for our man, we can have beauty, but these beautiful little nothings are kind of useless in terms of our own everyday life.”
When I went to college, I met many women who changed my beliefs. Really, these wonderful women influenced me on many topics, but I was struck by the fact that they liked wearing beautiful underwear and would occasionally discuss it if no men were present. Yet these women were far from the stereotypical, lingerie-obsessed “bad girl” that I had met years before. These women were confident, self-aware, and responsible. They were fun-loving, joyful, and respectful. These women knew that beauty is good and that surrounding oneself with beauty is admirable—even if no one else sees it.
One of my friends even remarked that attractive underwear helped her mood. She explained to me that wearing pretty underwear caused her to feel more “put-together” underneath, and this in turn affected her entire attitude.
Surrounded by such a positive outlook, the realization began to dawn on me that “good girls” could talk and think about lingerie; that it is not only acceptable but also appropriate. It was a small, simple way to adorn my body and bring more beauty into my life. Slowly, on my college-student budget, I began to add attractive undergarments to my supply. At the same time, I gradually discarded the plain, old, worn-out underwear of years gone by.
As my drawer underwent this process, I began to notice a change in my life. The extra beauty that I would see while dressing each morning brought a smile to my face. Even on days that I would fling a baggy sweatshirt over my head, I would feel feminine and beautiful because of what I was wearing underneath. Despite the fact that no one else saw what undergarments adorned my body, I felt better dressed and, like my good friend, more “put-together.”
Moreover, this change in attitude positively affected my confidence. I realized that I could fearlessly march into the lingerie section of the store and select pretty items for myself. This confidence helped me realize that I, as a woman, am not ashamed of my body—imperfections and all—and that it is not plain or only for men’s pleasure. I am beautiful, and my body deserves respect.
It’s easy to say that “all women are beautiful” and leave this statement hanging. But many women individually struggle with recognizing their beauty in the face of issues of weight, skin, or general dissatisfaction about their appearances. Attractive undergarments are a good, simple way to affirm one’s beauty and self-worth. No matter what a woman is wearing on the outside, attractive underwear is a physical, constant, feminine reminder of her beauty. Callan describes this importance in her book when she mentions a conversation with the owner of a lingerie store in Paris. The owner muses that “French girls wear a pretty bra. It’s not to be sexy. It’s to be pretty for themselves.”
Instead of shunning attractive lingerie as something exclusive to marriage or the exploitation of women, let us instead approach undergarments with a more balanced approach. All women—no matter what their marital status may be—are beautiful and deserve lovely undergarments. “Good girls” can wear beautiful underwear. So, for any women out there who are stuck in the mentality that used to plague me, I encourage you to buy yourself an attractive undergarment and add more beauty to your day.
Photo Credit: Tina Sosna