In praise of the secret knickers at the back of the drawer
Be honest: of all the pants you own, which pair gives you the most pleasure – real, sensual, skin-soothing pleasure – to wear? Is it the lacy partners of a push-up bra you bought when newly in love to make yourself look like as much like Rosie Huntington-Whiteley as (im)possible? Or is it the greying, fraying briefs your mum got you for Christmas 10 years ago and that you’ve held on to for dear life ever since? If it’s the latter, you’re in good company.
When it comes to underwear, most of us have a divided drawer. First there are the knickers for the person we want to be. Matching sets covered in delicate lace, maybe with a trim of broderie anglaise or a discreet velvet bow. They so flattered the model on the poster in the shop as she gazed through gauzy curtains at a bright spring day outside, her peachy bottom gently hugged by their soft-focus elastic. (Shame they didn’t look quite the same back home as you dashed around your shared flat the next morning, trying to find a clean top while hooking them out of your bum every 30 seconds.)
They so flattered the model on the poster in the shop as she gazed through gauzy curtains at a bright spring day outside, her peachy bottom gently hugged by their soft-focus elastic.
Then there are the knickers for the person we actually are. Ancient, seamfree not-quite-blue-not-quite-grey shreds of lycra balled up into corners of your knicker drawer like an abandoned party of burst balloons. Gussets constellated with holes like tiny crotch-Orions in a knickery night sky. Boy shorts whose legs frilled and unravelled years ago, stuck in an endless karmic cycle between the top of the laundry basket and the bottom of the pant drawer.
Of the two categories, it’s the Rosie H‑Ws and not the Bridget Joneses who lie untouched. “But those are my best knickers!” you might say. “They’re the ones I save for special occasions.” To which I say: “Really? Really?” Because in my experience the day you put on your new jumpsuit and biggest earrings in preparation for a friend’s wedding is the day you absolutely do not reach for a swanky new pair of knickers and matching bra. What you want is the pair whose semi-perished waistband you know you’ll be able whip down and up with one hand later, leaving room in the other hand for a glass of something from the free bar.
And it’s not just special occasions when the secret knickers shine; it’s pretty much any occasion. You can yank them on under yoga leggings, safe in the knowledge they won’t turn your Downward Dog into Upturned Plumber. They won’t suddenly get too tight a week before your period and put you off your pizza. They won’t guilt trip you when you forget to buy more pantyliners and end up leaking into them, stuffing a makeshift wad of toilet roll into the crotch in the office loos.
You can yank them on under yoga leggings, safe in the knowledge they won’t turn your Downward Dog into Upturned Plumber.
These pants are nothing new. They’ve been with you since school, or uni, or your first job. Maybe they’ve had your back(side) since childbirth when you bought two sizes up to make room for maternity pads and then never quite weaned yourself off them as your baby turned into a toddler. And they’ll never be replaced, not until they literally crumble off your thighs and self-combust, because that’s impossible.
You can’t go into a shop, no matter how expensive or how enthusiastically recommended by your friends, and just buy another pair of secret pants. You will never know for sure whether this new pair is truly “VPL-free” as its packet so confidently declares. How many times have we bought a three-pack of basic knickers that promised so much, only to leave them languishing in the shadows for the next seven years because they’re just not quite as comfy as the old pair?
And let’s be clear on one thing: it doesn’t matter if they’re ugly, because they’re not meant for seduction. They’re not supposed to be the penultimate feature in a striptease and nobody said they were just the thing to arrange in a #hygge flatlay on top of your new linen bedding next to a designer book and a mug of cocoa. They’re not meant for anyone else. They’re just, purely and truly and utterly without fanfare, in service of you.
So thank you, secret knickers. May your shredded fibres and fraying elastane hold together just long enough to see us through another day.