MY LINGERIE DAWER HAS A DEEP DIVIDE

There are two sides to the coin: the wear-oftens are a sea of cotton in a sensible color palette (think white beige, grey and black). These clothes shout, in women’s magazines parlance “no nonsense” and the wear-almost nevers are neatly stacked rows of delicate mesh and intricately laced in melon, acid yellow, and dusty. Although I bought these items for myself, I only have a few in my regular rotation. If I was asked, the rest are reserved for special occasions that I would not be able to. What makes certain bras or underwear unsuitable for everyday wear, regardless of how comfortable? Now that I think about it, one of those almost-never-worn bras costs the same as three of the more worn-often bras. It turns out that I still have much to learn about lingerie. I don’t know what it means, which I was wrongly taught. Cora Harrington is a lingerie expert and founder of The Lingerie Addict. She gave me a comprehensive reeducation about how to wear lingerie. This site takes an inclusive and informative approach to a market that often uses neither “lingerie” nor “lingerie”. Here are the things I learned.

LINGERIE IS A CAFTAN. A CAFTAN IS LINGERIE.

Could you repeat after me? This is the most recent discovery that I have made. It has brought me more joy than anything. My love for the caftan runs deep, just like Mrs. Roper’s and Liz Taylor’s. It was a surprise when Harrington explained that my vintage Moroccan-style J. Peterman Caftan was also considered lingerie. She explains that many people think lingerie is sheer, sexy, flimsy. But lingerie includes pajamas, caftans, slips, robes, stockings, corsets, and robes.

LINGERIE DOES NOT HAVE TO BE SEXY

Although lingerie can be very sexual, it doesn’t necessarily have to be. Harrington is clear about this point. She says that lingerie should have a primary purpose. “Lingerie should help you to connect with yourself and your body and provide a source for pleasure, not make you an object for someone else.” The idea that lingerie is just for sex or that its primary purpose is to make you feel sexy is limiting. It can also cause discomfort for many people.

KNOW WHAT LINGERIE MEANS

Harrington attempts to change the perception that lingerie’s purpose is to make you look sexy. The American consumer expects to choose from a wide range of lingerie options, even though they are not being taught much by the industry. They don’t know what is available and possible, which is partly why so many conversations about lingerie revolve around looking thinner. It’s boring to hear that the main purpose of wearing intimate apparel is to make your body socially acceptable or thin.

UNDERSTAND THE FINANCIAL IMPACT OF LINGERIE

I thought that most of the cost difference was due to fabric. Harrington explained that while there are many different types of lace, hook and eye closures, and stitching, the real cost is for labor. She explains that a bra with at least 20 pieces of lace or mesh (pricier ones may have 60), must be sewn by someone who can use a sewing machine to assemble them in a way that supports your bust, looks good and lasts more than one wash. It can be very helpful to learn how to read bras to avoid sticker shock. A moulded bra, rather than cut-and-sew, will be more expensive because it requires less labor. The final cost of lingerie can be affected by whether it is made in an ethical factory, where workers are paid fairly, or by a European brand (custom fees and duties are not a joke).

LINGERIE DESIGN IS AN ART & A SCIENCE

Harrington says, “I believe we have a tendency make people who design or make clothing invisible because they very rarely meet us.” Lingerie design is a complex field. A degree in it is one-half fashion and one-half engineering. She adds, “Somebody must sit down and figure how to take this mesh and lace and make it into bras with a particular aesthetic that will be suitable for an entire size range.”

OUR LINGERIES SHOULD NOT BE THE SAME SIZE AS WE ARE.

Harrington adds, “We don’t want bra sizes that are standardized because our bodies haven’t been standardized.” We need more sizes, especially in the U.S. She says that in a country such as the U.K., there has been a lot of focus in the past couple of decades on helping women find bras in larger sizes. There are also more options. “In the U.S. we don’t go beyond D so it’s DDD, DDD and so forth which I think causes a lot confusion for people.”

LINGERIE SHOPPING CAN BE A PROCESS OF TRIAL OR ERROR

Before you go on a shopping trip for lingerie, Harrington suggests some helpful tips. If you are shopping in person, make sure to find a store that offers a variety of silhouettes and shapes. And, most importantly, staff members know what they are talking about. Harrington says that aside from the flaws in their marketing and size range, Victoria’s Secret staff are often not there long enough to become fitness experts. “A smaller boutique might have a direct contact with the person who purchases the products, so it will be a very different experience in the knowledge and investment in providing you a positive experience.” Keep this in mind and bring a friend to be your lingerie cheerleader. Harrington says that this is especially true for gender transitioning or feel unsure about what options are available. Finally, you should be open-minded. You might not be as big as you think.

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