Lingerie vs underwear: It’s not just about sex

The word lingerie is a loaded one. It doesn’t just mean underwear, it means women’s underwear. Specifically women’s underwear designed in an overtly feminine style and, more often than not, women’s underwear that is designed to be ‘sexy’. I set up a Google alert for news articles about lingerie a while back and realised straight away that it was going to be far from useful for things like product launches and other industry news – trade journals are a much better source of information in that regard – as the vast majority of stories it dredged up seemed to be about celebs ‘stripping down’ to their lingerie in ‘sexy’ or ‘steamy’ photoshoots. Models ‘sizzle’ in lingerie, reality tv stars ‘flaunt their curves’ in ‘racy’ photoshoots and don’t even get me started on the Lingerie Football League (now, thankfully, renamed Legends Football League) or the Lingerie Fighting Championships.

Underwear by Neon MoonWhen I look at underwear, I see garments. Something to cover, smoothe, support, restrict or enclose parts of the body, protecting them from the clothing that others will see (which may look nice but not feel so good on intimate parts) and also protecting that clothing from the body (after all, it’s easier to wash briefs every day than it is to wash jeans every day!). I view underwear as a very personal type of garment because most people, other than the wearer and their partner(s), will never see it, but just because you wear it next to your skin doesn’t mean it’s inherently sexy. Whether you choose based on comfort, colour or style, it’s highly likely that the vast majority of underwear that you own will be practical and loved only by you. So why is so much underwear sold using highly sexualised images? Even the Victoria’s Secret basic t-shirt bra is photographed on models with tousled bed hair and sultry pouts, which is bizarre when you consider that this is a garment whose raison d’être is pretty much to be invisible. Why does a t-shirt bra need to be sexy?

It’s because what is widely labelled as lingerie are garments that are supposed to be ‘sexy’, and that’s what Victoria’s Secret sells… lingerie. Underwear, on the other hand, is comfy cotton full briefs that cover your big belly or a slip to stop your skirt sticking to your legs. It’s boxers, a sports bra, Spanx, trunks, a binder, thermals, a vest or a gaff. Underwear is the foundations of your clothed identity and encompasses so much more than just sexy pants. I’ve decided that, by writing about underwear on this blog rather than lingerie, I can feature garments for all genders and occasions which will be far more interesting than creating monthly Lust Lists that are just filled with lacy underwired bras. If the most important features of my own underwear are comfort, fit and machine washability, why should I review based purely on style? I’m not saying that underwear can’t be sexy, just that it isn’t always sexy. Everyday pants need celebrating too.

Images via Neon Moon.

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