Essentially, what I love about lingerie is how it can express a part of you that has nothing to do with what everyone else sees. True, your choice of undergarment affects the look of the clothes on top of it (imagine a bullet bra vs. your classic Victoria's Secret push-up) but within the most basic guidelines, you do have the potential for a lot of freedom.
(Both Treacle from The Lingerie Addict and Dani Read as part of Lorna Lorentino‘s The Lingerie Project have talked about this before, and articulated a lot of their views on lingerie — you should definitely read what they said if you haven't.)
Your outerwear does work as a way to express yourself, but it is so often circumscribed by the formality of the occasion, your profession, the weather or what you want other people to think of you, while lingerie is a secret, decided entirely by you.
Lingerie can be a fantasy and the fact that you usually only share it with your partner (or partners) means that it can be a special part of you, a secret self that totally under your control about when and where you reveal it. They're called "intimates" for a reason, but I think that if you're the sort of person whose lingerie means something to them, when you show off your lingerie you're sharing a little bit of who you are as well as your body.
Of course, comfort is also essential when it comes to lingerie– as the layer closest to your skin, discomfort can ruin you day. Wearing lingerie that fits (especially bras!) is essential for taking care of yourself, so stop worrying about whether your size is "too big" or "too small." Uncomfortable underwear can ruin your day — don't let it.
Also, as a gay woman, I am aware that my version of femininity can be deliberate and transgressive. I'm already outside of the mainstream, so in some ways the pressure to follow the "rules" of gender expression are lessened– including the assumption that women ought to be feminine. So then why do I choose to be and why use lingerie to that end?
The answer is complicated — Sometimes I have my "femme doubts" — I wonder whether I'm doing what I want or I'm caving to the pressure of society. I feel like so often femininity is tied up is "how you should look to attract a man" or "how to have a pleasing appearance so that society will think you look ‘right'" and sometimes I struggle and question my own intentionality. Am I just being femme because it's a "safe" choice?
That's where lingerie comes in. Now, I don't think lingerie should entirely be in the "femme" domain– there is plenty that someone who feels more androgenous or even masculine might embrace. But when I look at my lingerie and my choices, I see the frills and the pinks and the lace and the scalloping that is so very femme and is so very me. And then I know the lingerie marketing bullshit about just wearing lingerie to please your man is just plain wrong and even laughable. When I see my beautiful, precious lingerie collection I know that it can't just be for "men" or "society," because this is something they will never see — it's for me. (And sometimes my girlfriend).
This is not to say that you have to be queer to have lingerie or femininity be a key part of your identity or that lingerie is essential to true femininity — just that, for me, it helps remind me of my independence of what people say and what people think. And all my beautiful, frilly, colorful panties and bras are part of a collection that tells me who I am and what makes me feel enteirely like myself.
So, I basically really love lingerie. A lot.
This piece originally appeared on The Lingerie Lesbian. Republished with permission. Follow The Lingerie Lesbian on Twitter!
Main image Wallenrock/Shutterstock; additional image via Bordelle.