LINGERING OVER LINGERIE: Who Do We Wear Lingerie For?

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It was a windy evening in San Francisco’s Union Square; I was standing in front of the Victoria’s Secret store. Lingerie from the latest runway collection including the VS angels’ wings were on display. “Wow, this one was worn by Kendall Jenner,” said a young woman. Her friends nodded and they both entered the store.

You tell me then, why on that day, my feet stood still and then walked away from the entrance? I am used to spending a few dreamy hours buying enough bras and hanky-panky panties of every shape and color. So why not then?

Because I was single.

For whom was all that decadent sexiness? No one would see me wearing the boudoir outfit anyway. Then I started to think: Lingerie, was it a gift to myself, or was it a gift for some lover?

Many women like myself wear lingerie for men. Some women only wear the naughty nighty on special occasions, which usually match with the presence of new boyfriends.  Women strive for comfort, especially when we assume that we are not going to be seen.

“To sleep, I prefer comfort over anything,” shared Adriana Oliveria, a 24-year-old fashion styling student at Academy of Art University. Many women agree with Oliveria; we tend to wear oversized t-shirts with shorts or cozy flannel pajamas to bed. “I only wear special underwear when my boyfriend and I are doing something special,” she continued.

Marlen Hernandez, 27, a Mexican full-time student and a part-time retailer at Banana Republic added, “One thing I do have more in common with Californian girls, or really most girls regarding sleepwear, is that the bra is off!“ Amen to the free the nipple campaign. Christ Fei, a 25-year-old teacher concluded the previous tip, “Loose your bras, put on a top, and good night!”

We feel like agreeing that women put extra effort into their appearance for our partners; will that last forever?

“I hardly spend anything on lingerie because I have been married for a long, long time,” said Cindy Mesaros, 47, Vice President Marketing of Lundin Calling. “I’m not one of those women who wear sexy lingerie all the time. I prefer cotton underwear and comfortable bras. I also think that men like white cotton underwear on women too!”

Nikita Dancel, 29, one of the women who wears lingerie daily responded, “I believe in everyday glamor. When I look at lingerie, I don’t see it as a sexual thing. For me, wearing lingerie is the same like wearing other clothes.  I don’t go out wearing nice undergarment just preparing for an encounter.“

We’ve heard from the women; however, what do guys actually think about women’s lingerie? As a matter of fact, we know that the average guys won’t be able to tell the difference between La Perla and La Senza.

“Lingerie helps create fantasies and provides opportunities for couples to get out of a routine, and explore new things,” said Alex Silver, the 37-year-old Actuary, referring to a way to keep the spark alive. Some, like 3D Modeler Hayden Steinbock, saw lingerie as non-trivial, “I like lingerie but it doesn’t matter if the girl doesn’t have sexy underwear.  If I like the girl enough to be in bed with her then superficial things like that aren’t important.”

Reid Walker, 42, a sales director, bluntly agreed to disagree, “Lingerie is just a detail. A hot woman can wear granny panties and be hot. An unattractive woman in hot lingerie is still unattractive.” Ouch! Yes, the truth hurts. “But a hot woman in sexy undies is extra good! I like the effort; it shows pre-planning. Women don’t wear hot undies so they won’t be seen.”

Is that really accurate? Do women use lingerie “merely” to grab men’s attention?

“Women wear it to please men and also dress up for themselves, to feel more powerful,” said artist Tony Salza. He also mentioned the fact that lingerie is often worn underneath the daily clothing, private and unseen. Also, don’t forget one thing, “A lot of women dress to impress other women, to be a trendsetter,” added Mwansa Comba, a 25-year-old female doctor in training.

Using lingerie is clearly not just because women love men’s attention. Deanna Rae Motley, a 21-year-old undergraduate from Atlanta, simplified everything with her comment, “Sometimes people just want to feel sexy and lingerie gets the job done, period.”

Looking back to the history, during the early 20th century, lingerie was worn for three main reasons: to alter the outer shape, for hygienic reason, or for modesty. Instead of the original role as body supports, why do we often correlate lingerie with eroticism? The hypersexualizing counter  effect of the underwear today predominantly caused by the lingerie advertising that caters to man’s fantasy.

The idea of sexual femininity intriguingly characterized by lacy dainty things, leopard prints, thongs, and suspenders. “Sex never goes out of style” is the motto of Frederick’s of Hollywood, the pioneer of lingerie’s retailer in the United States, founded in 1947. Victoria’s Secret arrived on the scene in the 1980s, overtaking the market of lingerie business with its sexy ambassador angels.

Quoted recently from the New York Times, “Agent Provocateur, which opened its first boutique in London in 1996: ‘Selling whips and pasties alongside bras and panties, the label helped to spark a trend for high-end, overtly erotic lingerie that continues today.’”

So what happens with women who don’t feel sexually attracted to men, does this idea of lingerie also apply in the lesbian community? “No, it’s not the same, at least for me it’s not. I couldn’t care less what my partner wears to bed, I prefer she wears nothing though,” said Hershey Bautista, 28, who also prefers to sleep in her birthday suit. Let’s just assume that the image of two hot girls playing with each other in corsets, garter belts, and stilettos only exists in porn; again to cater men’s fantasy toward women.

Now hold on there a minute. “How about trans? Don’t forget that. Also some guys like wearing lingerie themselves, or gay guys who love using it for a role-play, as well as drag queens,” said Mareldo Prabowo, 23, my gay best friend. Today, people can wear whatever they want across the gender continuum. “Unless they are being forced by their partner or others, then it won’t be a pleasant experience.” Our society is shifting from ‘dressing for men’ towards 'dressing to fit in the subcultures of the city.’

“I would consider myself old-school. I wear lingerie just for myself,” said Julie Shi, 25, a music production graduate student who vows to save her virginity until her marriage. “Even when you wear lingerie to please your partners, it will make them happy and then it will also make you happy. So, why not? In the end, you still dress up for yourself.”

We are human beings with sex drives, and wanting to be attractive is natural. It’s just a way to package ourselves up and if it makes you feel good, then more power to you.


Story by Marisa Tania, collage by Anthony Rogers — Read more editor’s corners and get comfy! Also, subscribe to our newsletter because you know you love it.

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