Today’s post has been brewing for a little while. Last September I wrote an article asking “What makes someone a lingerie expert?” While all the comments on the original post were unfortunately lost during the move to WordPress, I received a lot of pushback from the mainstream lingerie industry which insisted, among other things, that “expertise” was something limited to people who had experience working for a brand or boutique.
As I said then, and still believe now, there’s more than one way to learn about lingerie. And even if someone who works in a lingerie boutique is an expert in all the brands they carried or even, more generally, an expert in all the types of lingerie they carry (which is usually bras, panties, and nightwear), I believe reducing lingerie expertise to just those three categories is much too small and much too narrow.
Though it’s not often discussed, lingerie is a huge world. It’s so much more than knickers and brassieres. Lingerie also includes corsetry, retro, pinup & burlesque styles, stockings, tights, vintage lingerie, antique lingerie, loungewear, and lingerie made from non-traditional materials like latex and leather. These are just the categories I can think of off the top of my head, and every single one of them has multiple subcategories. And all of these groups as just as real and just as relevant as the big two – bras and panties.
Yet, when a conversation about lingerie happens, especially in mainstream society, it’s almost always about just one thing – the bra.
Now, I understand that bras are important. Bra fit, bra sizing, and bra advice is crucial not just for lingerie, but also for one’s wardrobe in general. Yet, for many women, bras aren’t the sum total of their lingerie lives. And when other kinds of lingerie (and their respective experts) are pushed out to the margins as “not really lingerie” or “not really knowledgeable,” I can’t help but think that does a disservice to women everywhere (especially when bra experts go outside their subject matter and give advice on things like corsets).
Here’s how this applies to my own life. When I want to know about vintage lingerie, I go to Slip of a Girl. When I want to know about corsets, I go to Lucy’s Corsetry. When I want to know about hosiery, I go to The Pantyhose Drawer. None of these people would be considered “lingerie experts” in the traditional sense of the word (among other things, they’re all bloggers) yet I’m always getting information from them that’s useful and relevant to my life…which, to me, is the whole point of a lingerie expert.
Let me be clear, this isn’t a knock on brands, boutiques, and their respective lingerie experts. But I am starting to wonder if there really is such a thing as a singular “lingerie expert.” I think it’d be impossible for any one person to know everything about the categories I listed above, yet I also think the way we define lingerie in mainstream society (and therefore what ‘counts’ as lingerie expertise) is incredibly narrow.
What do you think? Is the way we define lingerie expert too small or is knowing about bras and panties enough? Should a lingerie expert be able to speak about the entire world of undergarments? Should bras and panties be treated as their own unique category, in the same way that corsets, stockings, and pinup style lingerie are right now? I don’t know the answers, but I’m interested in hearing your thoughts.