What I Wish I Could Tell My Teenage Self About Lingerie
"Ugh... I have to wear that?" was my knee-jerk reaction to being told it was time to go shopping for my first bra. At 13 years old, I was a late bloomer compared to my friends and not at all in a hurry to grow up. But puberty waits for no one, and in an attempt to retain my childhood for as long as possible, I begrudgingly settled for a cropped undershirt covered in tiny bears and picot elastic. A "training bra" they called it, as if I was gearing up for the bra marathon that lay ahead of me for the rest of my adult life.
However, it really only took about two years before I matured and was officially hooked on my newfound passion for fashion and the mystical world of undergarments. I found myself intrigued by all these clasps, hooks, and hardware that I didn't even have a need for with my small frame. I marveled at lace and mesh that covered the body yet still showed hints of the skin that lay underneath. I was curious about the functions of corsets, garter belts, and push up bras as I simultaneously navigated the intricacies of teenager-hood in my own awkward and clumsy way.
It didn't take long before I became a fashion rebel and began experimenting with these risqué pieces in my everyday outfits. I layered them over my school clothes, offsetting their sex appeal with quirky, innocent pairings that got me a lot of attention --- but still kept me covered enough to not get expelled from school! It was a lot of fun to push the boundaries of fashion and lingerie as a naive teenager but I had no idea of the depth, history, or meaning behind these taboo pieces, and still had a lot to learn when I got to fashion school a couple years later.
Once I began majoring in lingerie design and living in New York City, I realized there was more to fashion than the mall, St. Marks Place, and thrift shops. Quality was a word I only ever associated with bedding and electronics --- I never thought about the quality of my clothing before. But soon enough the door was opened, and I was exposed to the art of garment making. I learned about luxury fabrics and expert craftsmanship, and I discovered luxury designers and what made them so special. Who knew fun and sexy lingerie could look so great, hold up so well, and last so long? That’s when I realized what I had been missing all these years and I quickly picked up additional pieces of lingerie wisdom my teenaged self would’ve been shocked to learn. Here are a few tidbits I wish I could’ve told her.
“Quality over quantity.”
As I had mentioned, quality soon became my hot-button word as a new obsession was born in me to strive for the best of the best in my shopping and my designs. As I learned about couture and the history of undergarments, my standards raised and so did my appreciation of lingerie. Instead of just serving as sexy packaging for a woman's body, I started to see these new designs as works of art enhancing the wearer’s natural beauty. Instead of functional foundations to contain the female form, I saw innovative solutions that were able to successfully meld fashion and function. The importance of good quality really can make a difference, and today it has become something that I am no longer willing to compromise on.
“Broaden your horizons.”
Around the same time, I finally learned that there was more to lingerie shopping than Victoria's Secret. Living in one of the biggest shopping meccas of the world, my options were now bountiful! I discovered lingerie boutiques and high-end department stores, which I frequented, looking for deals on my new favorite lingerie labels... and soon enough VS became a distant memory. I also began to travel more and got to experience the thrill of cheeky knickers in London and the excitement of unrivaled luxury in Paris. These stores inspired me and gave me a reason to keep shopping and experimenting with my designs. I credit them with the reason my lingerie collection grew exponentially as I broke free from that one-style-fits-most mentality and let the lingerie obsession really take ahold of me.
“Handle with care.”
Which brings me to another lesson that I learned rather quickly: it pays to take care of your lingerie. They are called delicates for a reason and require extra special treatment. Gone were the days of casually throwing my bras in the washing machine and stuffing them into my dresser drawer! Once I started investing in quality lingerie and viewing them as pieces of art, I wanted to make sure they withstood the test of time. I found that hand washing is a necessity, and using a special gentle detergent will dramatically improve the lifespan of many pieces. I always hang dry my delicates, store them in their original shape, and avoid bleaching or ironing at all costs. Now that my collection includes an abundance of investment pieces, I plan to keep them around for a long time and hope to pass them down to future generations!
“The power is in your hands.”
Another important thing I came to realize is that lingerie is empowering. While it serves as an integral part of many peoples’ wardrobes, keeping us hygienic, warm, and supported, it also can make a difference in the wearer’s outlook. Yes, comfort is a big factor for daily wear, but it's those special pieces of lingerie that have the ability to shift one's mood (hopefully) for the better.
In the past, I thought lingerie was designed more for your significant other and that it was mainly purchased as a gift for them more than the wearer. But nowadays that's no longer the case. I see women every day investing in lingerie for themselves because it makes them feel good --- despite whether or not they have someone to share it with. The wearer is the only person who decides who sees this intimate part of their wardrobe --- and that in itself is power. It is the power of choice and of controlling one's own sexuality. And knowing that they are clad in beautiful lingerie under their clothing can often be a source of confidence and control for many people, myself included. When you think about it, lingerie can be used as both a weapon and a shield, and I think that is pretty cool!
When did you first discover the power of lingerie? Do you have other insights you would offer lingerie novices?