The rise in comfy undies is a feminist act

As someone who has been compared to Bridget Jones many a time when talking of my love life (I would like to thank my friends right here for their infinite tagging of me in Bridget/wine mom memes), I have an obscene collection of underwear in my possession, which is rarely seen by anyone other than myself and the occasional unsuspecting pedestrian walking past my window. An art that French art historian Gilles Neret claims enhances “the feminine allure”, I carry out simply as a self-celebratory act, perhaps to tell myself I am, in fact, a bloody goddess, on days when I want to wear nothing but oversized, soft clothes and never look in a mirror ever again.

But I am not alone (thank god) — the fact that we are wearing pretty lingerie that may not often, if ever, be seen by a love interest informs us that connections to our bodies and sexualities is changing. The rise in comfy undies in recent years goes hand in hand with the discourse around body image, expression of sexuality and self-love coming to the forefront of millennial discussion in particular.

It is too simple to state that it is a matter of fashion history that the foundation-wear that was once “necessary” for females is now hardly seen on our high streets, and has been transformed to occasion- or fetish-wear. The advancement in feminism and the progression, albeit slow and challenging, of views of women’s bodies, their lifestyles and aspirations are largely responsible for the constantly evolving state of fashion overall.

So this means that the trend in comfy undies, boasted in underwear selfies all over Instagram on a daily basis (and I am only responsible for like, half of these), is saying something. But what?

I first started to think about this Underwire Uprising several years ago when I spotted the launch of Neon Moon, a feminist underwear brand priding themselves on their aim to “make body shaming, history”. Neon Moon creates comfortable but flattering underwear for varying body shapes, and refuses to digitally retouch images, which is refreshing in a world where many of us can’t tell how our clothing will actually look on us from retailers’ photographs that are stretched, squished and pulled around to ‘correct’ any flaws. Neon Moon wants to create a safe space for women online, and you can even apply to be an ambassador for the brand here.

 

This rebellion against the altered female form is hardly revolutionary, you could say. The 1950s saw corsetry, cinched waists and nylon stockings as the essentials for a womanly figure, but by the ’70s, new fabrics and fashion trends meant underwear became more sensible, easy-going and even stretchy. Corsetry and structured foundation wear was pushed aside and reserved for occasions, a lover’s eye or to make a statement about one’s sexuality or gender. So will this revival of cotton, mesh and elasticated fabrics last? I wanna say yes. We are no longer required to hold in our stomachs, shape our torsos or lift our chests to fit into the latest trends. In fact, a rise in androgynous styles for women perhaps is one of the underlying causes of this. Women have lived throughout history being sexualised for their very existence. Taking control of what we wear beneath our clothes is something women haven’t always had the privilege to do — how we present ourselves, sexually or otherwise, has been analysed for hundreds of years. Writer and professor Elizabeth Wilson stated the painful truth that “women are [still] caricatured as either frigid or whores”. This acceptance of our bodies, and clothing them comfortably in perhaps pretty basic underwear is now a silent rebellion against these stereotypes. Taking it one step further and posting a photograph online in said underwear, if you want, is shouting about it, and it’s becoming almost the norm.

And we can thank ourselves as a collective for it becoming more and more okay to appreciate your own skin, body, stretch marks, folds, or the fact your left boob is slightly bigger than your right boob.

 

More comfy undies brands to treat yourself to:

  • Miss Crofton is a London-based lingerie brand which juxtaposes girlish sensuality with sophisticated design. Their comfortable sets range from ruffled chiffon, glittery mesh to broderie cotton, and put comfort and quality first. Also their latest lookbook, shot by Lula Hyers, is total eye candy.
  • Lonely Lingerie is a label “for women who wear lingerie as a love letter to themselves”. A New Zealand design house, Lonely aims to promote body positivity and expression with its Lonely Girls project, which documents and celebrates how women wear their lingerie all over the world.  What began as a limited collection of lingerie, now designs and produces maternity underwear, soft swimwear and relaxed clothing. (And I want all of it.)
  • Base Range “is a line of modern basics with an emphasis on clean lines and easy silhouettes”. Not only that, but the brand also tries to incorporate natural fibres or recycled materials wherever it can by working with textile innovators.

 

Featured image: Lena Dunham and Jemima Kirke for Lonely Lingerie campaign.

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