Disclaimer before we start: Americans, when I say "pants" here, I mean "panties". I still cannot bring myself to say "panties". For Brits, and I know I'm not alone in this, it's just a horrible word-at best hilarious, at worst containing a faint whiff of the sex offender. Now read on.
If you're anything like me, you're very partial to the joy that comes with a nice set of undies, but also constantly bemoaning the lack of said under garment options. In the USA, the only well-known underwear shops seem to be Victoria's Secret, where bras come cheap, machine made, and with all but a few inserted with that thick wad of polyester mix "padding" like some horrible boob sanitary towel, or stale Department Stores with lingerie sections run by an army of stern and shelf-bosomed middle-aged ladies who haven't been kissed in several decades.
Brits have it better off. I'm constantly stocking up at John Lewis and good old Marks and Spencer's when I'm home. But even there, every time I try and shop for new lingerie I'm always amazed by the stunning lack of any kind of middle ground styles between teeny bopper/nun and full blown prostitute. Give me a bit of lace with my bra but not a weeny string up my tush. Or a simple sexy black t-shirt bra but not the accompanying matching old lady pant with giant bum coverage. Where are the everyday but lovely bra and knickers sets we need?
After approx 12 glorious years of having boobs, here are 10 things that I have learned about lingerie.
1) Any undies I wear must be comfortable enough for my daily life, which in my case can mean anything from chasing politicians down corridors with a heavy camera to jumping over stiles in the British countryside to instigating impromptu dance offs to R Kelly in the office. I don't want to feel corseted and constrained in any way, but I also do want to feel supported by my undergarments, as if I were receiving a particularly warm and loving squeeze. Like R Kelly, who in many ways I resemble in my talent for melodrama and appreciation of the rhyming couplet, I want to bounce bounce bounce, but not actually bounce bounce bounce. You know what I mean.
2) Any bra I purchase must be able to survive a washing machine every now and then because I try and hand wash, I do, but lord knows who has the time for that. Sadly I have had many an Agent Provocateur beauty accidentally mutilated by an enthusiastic laundress. Though in an ideal world I would strictly wear handmade artisan lace that can only handle a light hand scrub in filtered Evian, I ultimately need a hardy creature of a bra that can sally forth even when accidentally placed in a hot wash.
4) Any lingerie must be a neutral color- black, grey, nude, white (there's something actually really sexy about white, I think). Pink is for 14-year-olds. Red feels like something a middle aged lady wears on a "dirty weekend." Do not even get me started on yellow, green, purple. Throw them out, grown ass ladies, throw them out.
5) Balcony bras look great from the front but horrible from the side, and as such, should be avoided at all costs.
6) Each to their own here, but I feel strongly that if you are a C cup of above, you certainly don't need any extra oomph. It drives me utterly mad how it's so impossible in so many lingerie shops to find a NON-PADDED BRA. I have frequently marvelled at the sight of 34GGG over the shoulder boulder holders that somehow come with extra padding. Good lord, who buys these? Let's not cause an impromptu eclipse, now. Also who needs padding anyway? Little boobies are as lovely as big ones, say I. If I had AA cups I wouldn't wear a bra at all, and instead spend the whole day in a delicate broderie anglaise camisole, bouncing braless on a trampoline while laughing wickedly at all my cumbersomely boobed compatriots.
7) Unless you are in full fledged maternity mode or going for a run, straps should be thin. There is nothing less sexy than a thick bra strap, and something so delicous about a naughty glimpse of a thin one.
8) I have never ever found a pair of high waisted knickers that looks attractive on me. Every time I have bought them, and I have wanted to like them so badly, I have looked either like a reluctant sausage, sadly forced into its casing, or strangely round tummied like a bumble bee. They basically suit no one and I personally think that if you have a little belly, or a lovely big soft one, it's much sexier to actually see it and let it be free than constrain it into those weird retro pants. They are retro for a reason, and like black and white TVs and cigarette ads should only be available on Ebay/exhibited in The Smithsonian.
9) It's a myth that you always need underwires, even when you are larger of chest. Particularly in the summer, on days that are brutally sticky, I find wired bras can feel incredibly hot and uncomfortable. Though it's easy for the mini-titted (hahahah sorry I'm so enjoying all these boob describers and basically can't stop) to pretty much go bra-less in the summer, if you definitely need to always wear a bra, there are so many great wire-free options. The key is to go for a style that has adjustable straps so that you can adjust the amount of support.
10) Other things I do not understand/actively loathe- frills, clear bra straps, "racer back" straps, any sort of logo anywhere, words like JUICY or PRINCESS written shoutily across one's bottom.
With all these points in mind, I was thrilled to discover that there are a tonne of really exciting independent lingerie brands that are absolutely making the kind of undies that I think most women want to wear. Though you probably really want to hand wash these guys, thus flouting rule number 2 most heartily, Lonely make some of the sexiest sets I've seen in a long time- I love this and this, and they also have a beautiful campaign featuring real everyday sexy girls flaunting their wares. I've also had amazing experiences with True & Co, who even offer an at home try-on service, which I have used, and it's great. I love this and this (and I'm currently rocking this guy as we speak ). For those real everyday put em' in the machine type undies I love a few of the styles at Brook There, who are based out of Portland, Maine, and American Apparel has some good basics- FYI this bra can withstand the washing machine and is also strangely sexy in its simplicity.
And that is that. Go forth my sisters, and get the bras that you need. They are out there, you just have to search a little to find them.
I'm curious, do you agree with my analysis of the mediocre lingerie options on offer? Any more independent lingerie shop recommendations ? I'd love to hear.