By Beatrice Tridimas
Underwear is like water, or sleep. It’s something we pretty much need every day (there are always exceptions) and something you can feel a bit more vulnerable without. And, sometimes, we forget how good it makes us feel.
And underwear should make us feel good – comfortable, sexy, free, proud of our bodies. But often, we do not acknowledge the restricting ideals about our bodies and our sexuality that we subconsciously accept when buying underwear or putting it on. How it tells us that sexy is a certain way. That gender is a certain way. That we can be comfy or sexy, but we can rarely be both. It tells us that we can adapt to sexy, but sexy won’t adapt to us.
Once we navigate all of the ideals, toe the line between making our breasts look bigger and ensuring they aren’t ‘unacceptable,’ the space that sexy leaves is quite small, relatively uncomfortable and virtually unattainable.
So, instead of squeezing into that space – why not make the space bigger? Or, better yet, why not get rid of the space completely?
Here is a selection of four designers who are creating truly liberating underwear – underwear that breaks down everything we’ve been told our bodies should be and celebrates every body as it is.
Oh Lydia Intimates
‘The divide between “sexy” underwear and “comfortable” is huge,’ Lydia Graham, founder of Oh Lydia Intimates says over email. Her signature matching vest and undies sets are immediately and undeniably sexy with their pop of colour and flattering cut, yet utterly unconventional.
‘Since I can remember all lingerie/underwear advertisements have been of good looking, slim/skinny heterosexual men and women…It gives off the vibe that underwear is only for the purpose of sex rather than basic need,’ says Lydia.
The Oh Lydia camisole is as sexy as you want it to be. You can expose as much flesh as you like, support your breasts with something underneath or leave them be. And for folk without breasts its equally as comfy, supportive and versatile. ‘It’s more about how they make the person who’s wearing them feel which alludes sexiness and confidence.’
This summer she also released the Bonbon boxer-style shorts. A relaxed fit in bright ginghams, these shorts can be worn by any and every one. Traditionally based on male boxer shorts, Lydia played on how we’re more willing to accept women in men’s clothing than vice versa.
‘I love the idea that the Bonbon shorts are unisex. Taking an item of clothing that’s mainly aimed at women but making it fun and accessible for men too.’
Nubian Skin was founded on Ade Hassan’s determination to create underwear that catered for all skin-tones. ‘Despite the reality that women of colour have the same needs as all women when it comes to lingerie and hosiery, the industry simply doesn’t cater to us,’ Hassan writes on the Nubian Skin website.
Honoured by the Queen for her services to fashion, Hassan has done more than create sophisticated, beautifully-designed underwear in a range of skin-tones. She’s redefined what we think of as ‘nude’ and, in doing so, combats a sense of erasure felt by those who don’t see themselves represented on racks of ‘nude’ underwear.
In redefining the very concept of ‘nude’ that has long been embedded within us, Hassan offers a feeling of empowerment, a space to belong and an opportunity to be proud of your skin.
TomboyX founders, Fran and Naomi started the totally new, playful and boundary-breaking underwear brand when they couldn’t find the clothing they wanted – ‘quality fabric and fun details’ – made accessible to women.
Deciding to launch their own brand with Kickstarter, the pair found themselves and their idea championed by people ‘who had never been seen in the fashion industry,’ Fran tells me over email. ‘They were ignored because the industry didn’t have the imagination to serve them. We felt a responsibility to provide exceptional products for this community, our community.’
TomboyX’s bras and pants come in a range of bright colours and playful patterns and vary from a bikini-style pant, to a long boxer short. They’re comfy, cute and supportive without prescribing that you conform to a specific gender, ability or size. ‘A lot of brands seem to have this notion of “if you wear our products, you will be sexy,’ Fran writes.
‘TomboyX is all about meeting people where they are. We aren’t trying to change people. We’re here to celebrate you, just as you are, unapologetically, and make you feel comfortable in a way that defies gender, size, and identity.’
Amongst the plethora of innovative and sustainable menstrual products which have emerged over the past year are Thinx, the period pant brand who have something to say about underwear too.
Switching ‘period pant’ from the designated holey, stained and old ‘granny’ pants to something comfy, cute and fun, Thinx changes the way we think about having periods.
Placing comfort first, Thinx allow us to feel both physically and mentally secure. There are no more itchy or sweaty bits of plastic going in places plastic shouldn’t really go and they empower us to bleed freely without shame or worry, diminishing our anxiety about leaking or about the visibility of our pads.
Thinx come in a great range of styles, cuts and colours, from a more ‘cheeky’ cut to the full out ‘boy short’ and make sure no one who has a period feels left out. Thinx are the period pants ready to make anyone who has a period feel proud.
Whatever it is that makes you feel good, liberated or proud, don’t let underwear get in the way of celebrating you. Take ownership of how your body is defined, one pair of pants at a time!
To let us know what underwear makes you feel best, leave a note in the comment section below.