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What’s with my aversion to nice lingerie?

IMAGE VIA BITS

WORDS BY GENEVIEVE PHELAN

And why traditional marketing has a lot to answer for.

I’ve grown to really care about where I consume fashion from in recent years thanks to a groundswell of local, artfully-crafted small slow fashion labels. But ask me where my undies were purchased and it’s almost definitely going to be either Cotton On or Target. (Not that there is anything inherently wrong with that). 

But why do I care so little about my undergarments and so much about what everyone else can see? While I’d like to think I dress for myself as opposed to the male gaze, shouldn’t I be investing in beautiful and well-fitting lingerie to complement my ethically-made clothing?


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For me, underwear shopping is a chore-like, arduous process filled with little joy. I have no bust, so maybe it’s down to a lack-of-confidence thing, or an irrational fear of being fitted by a stranger for a bra in a department store. Or maybe it’s just laziness? It’s likely down to a mix of all the above, but then exacerbated by the lack of cool, ethical, do-good lingerie labels in Australia that aren’t hyper-sexualised and intimidating. 

While a lot of it probably comes down to money and accessibility, there’s also something to be said about the over-erotic marketing of mainstream underbits. I worked opposite a Honey Birdette in my late teens, and despite years of contemplation about the quality and beauty of its undergarments, I never stepped foot in that store despite having a girlfriend working there.

That’s how uncomfortable it made 18-year-old me feel. The facade was all gaudy and gold, with sheeny, silky bodices fitted to metal, cage-like scaffoldings of the female form. Inside it looked creepily low-lit and off-puttingly sensual. I remember thinking that I would be judged for leaving the store with a branded bag in tow. What would people think?

I commend the women who feel empowered to shop for loud, sexy lingerie in plain sight. But I would prefer something a little more understated and a little less clandestine in its overall aura. I want to see bodies that are similar to mine, rather than a homogenised reel of unreal idylls.

Truth be told, it’s not all perky boobs and concrete waists and fresh spray tans when you strip down after a long day at work. When Bits an Australian-only curation of well-made, inclusive intimates labels – recently launched, I felt excited (maybe for the first time ever) about scrolling through a website for some bras and undies. And I think a lot of women will feel this way, too.

Bits hosts cute mesh-work and matching fashion sets, but also the likes of Vee’s moisture-wicking bamboo knickers that not only look good but do good for your nether regions. I’m a serial contractor of UTIs, so local labels with the gusto to acknowledge taboo female health issues and try to tackle them is the sexiest thing ever to me. 

We wanted to make shopping for intimates an enjoyable and relevant experience (rather than a dreaded one) that everyone wanted to be a part of, and we wanted to make it easier to find the right fit,” says Bits co-founder Sophie Hopkins.

“We needed to create a one-stop-shop that caters to everyone – all bits, all boobs, all bodies, all demographics, all stages of life. Like a trusted go-to for everyone’s intimate needs. It was also important to look at what we didn’t want. We took away the ‘sexy’ through a male gaze [and the] speciality store shopping that anyone with a larger bust needed to go to, [and in the process we’ve taken away] the confusion of where to find a new bra when boobs have grown big, been milked dry, or undergone a major change.

“Bits feels like a super approachable way of talking about the parts of your body (and your wardrobe) that are intimate, and the parts that never get the chance to see sunlight, but should be celebrated for the wearer,” she explains.

I love the idea of a matching set in theory, but what if I’m mostly always no-bra’ing it, needing a strapless bra or going for my old faithful, rarely-washed black bra from 500 years ago. Maybe the fusion of focusing on female-made, small intimates labels, on a platform that celebrates the female form (in every iteration) can change this. 

Over some backyard G&Ts the other week, my girlfriends and I were dissecting the art of the ‘undies swap’ – a skilful manoeuvre in which you stash a pair of ‘hot’ undies in your evening bag of choice to deploy when/if you hook up with someone later that night.

These JIC (just in case) knickers are typically frilly and skimpy, versus the high-waisted, stretchy favourites you are wearing at the time. It frustrates me that the underwear I wear for myself and for comfort pales in comparison to those that my bedfellows find attractive, but I’m hoping a search through the locally-made brands on Bits will help me find a hybrid solution and shift this male-gaze mentality.

I’d like to start wearing a more ‘me’ version of the frilly JIC undies, just because, instead of just in case. And I’d like to feel great in them as I catch myself halfway-dressed in the mirror. It’s something on my list of things to shake up this year, and Dora Larsen lingerie is sitting at the absolute top of the wish list. You see technicolour marvels fitted immaculately to women of all curves, colours and construction, free from retouching or hyper-sexualisation.

 

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A post shared by Dora Larsen (@doralarsenlingerie)

You see nipples, and it’s normal. And what a relief that is. There’s tummies and skinfolds and hair and tattoos peeking from bikini lines. The textures and tones are truly overwhelmingly beautiful and have made me reconsider everything I find confronting about underthings. 

When my girlfriends and I compare areolas, or one smuggles a bottle of tequila into a bar in her bust, or we compare our cleavage at the dumplings table with a chopstick in lieu of a pencil circa Angus Thongs and Perfect Snogging’s test, it all feels natural. We’re always open and willing to embrace discussion around our hidden parts and take the piss out of their differences.

With the rise of communities like Bits and the authenticity of labels like Dora Larsen, I’m hoping we can all start divulging our bra hauls, shopping small-scale local lingerie brands, and saying “Fuck it, I’m buying the bougie matching set for me and me alone”.

Check out Bits’ collection of labels here.

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