A life of wearing the wrong underwear had Sophie White's knickers in a twist. She reports on the unexpected satisfaction that came with finally getting the underwear drawer in order.
My biggest achievement is finally, after decades of searching, finding my perfect underwear.
Maybe you’ve had a similar life-long quest and are now reading with intense interest to glean just how you too, can move on from the dread-wear that has plagued your body for decades. Have you too got approximately 257 bras but only one ancient, skanky one that’s actually comfortable? I’m aware that I sound like I’m practising for my new job as an underwear life-coach, but seriously I think there might be a gap in the market for this.
I thought I was the only ridiculous person who had never in three decades of underwear-wearing managed to nail the things. But, no. I was not alone.
I WhatsApped the Bitch Herd as I affectionately (and yes, I know, problematically) call my female friends:
“I finally found them. The perfect underwear… AND it’s a SET. I binned every item in the underwear wardrobe and restocked with 16 pairs of this set in four different colours.”
The responses were nothing short of ecstatic. I am apparently not alone in this. Prior to my underwear epiphany, I’d been beaten down by repeated failure. Different phases of my life could easily be defined by my underwear wardrobe of the time. This is not because I have any particular interest in underwear. Quite the opposite – the phases are measured in an increasing disinterest, until now of course.
My teenage underwear collection was informed by a strong sense of denial. My knickers were too small for my flabulous bottom and the bras were optimistically large for the glorified nipples I had in place of breasts. The too-large, stiffly padded, and completely unfilled-by-any-mammary ‘balcony’ bras I wore to increase the boobage created a curious impression in my tops, a sort of gutter-like shelf where occasionally stray food would come to rest after meals.
By my 20s, I’d acquired a jaded realism as a result of navigating adolescence while bearing a more-than-passing resemblance to Philip Seymour Hoffman (I had a really harsh awkward stage). I did away with the bra altogether, finally realising that I was fooling no one.
This was a reasonably happy stage in my underwear life, as crucially there was no underwear. Also, wearing a bra without any boobs to fill it is actually quite uncomfortable. The key anatomical element is absent, leaving the bra without anchor and liable to roam.
Sadly, the braless thing couldn’t go on indefinitely, for one, the Bitch Herd found the unfettered nipple-breasts unnerving. Also, I was about to acquire some mega boobs by way of a pregnancy.
As a compromise, I embraced the sports bra, which eliminated that ‘being watched’ sensation my friends complained of.
During the various bra/no bra phases, the knickers steadily went up in size, though my bum has, in fact, mostly stayed the same. I just got a real taste for giant knickers. They are aggressively unflattering, resembling, as they do, a loincloth and they don’t sit well under trousers as, with so much extra material, bunching is a factor. I persisted with them because finally here was a pair of pants that wasn’t hideously uncomfortable. The penchant for giant knickers peaked during pregnancy when I purchased what I like to call the all-encompassers, knickers in a size 18 (I am usually a size 12) that can pretty much be tucked up into my sports bra.
When I continued to wear the all-encompassers well after pregnancy I was forced to acknowledge the aesthetic drawbacks, namely, my other half looked stricken when I paraded around in them. The overall vibe essentially said Sad Sporty Diaper Woman. The ensemble started to make me feel that at 32, I’d thrown in the towel on life, my underwear drawer was shrouded in despair.
I realised that tackling the underwear problem would take a significant time commitment. I set aside a full day and dedicated myself to the cause. I tried every single permutation and combination of underwear and finally found what my underwear spirit animal is. It is, to my surprise, a bralet and thong duo. I then purchased a full wardrobe of this set.
Finally purchasing appropriate underwear that fits obviously doesn’t seem like a major life achievement but it’s actually incredible what removing a longstanding niggle like that can do for your quality of life. All those years grappling with knicker-bunching and roaming bras was like being plagued by a tiny annoying fly, a fly that I have, at last, swatted.
This article was originally published in May 2021.