My Life In Lingerie (or An Ill-Fitted Romance)

Different female mannequin torso with sexy lingerie surrounded by numerous bra

Oh, lingerie. You are so very beautiful. You evoke in my mind images of classic pinup beauties, impossibly elegant women who lounge in boudoirs, and expert flirts who flash their garters with flair. Flipping through the Victoria’s Secret catalogue is high on my list of simple pleasures. And I delight in watching my burlesque sisters rock the stage in a gorgeous custom made corset.

I love most every everything about lingerie…except wearing it.

Over the years I’ve tried teddies and nighties and uber-lacy bras with frilly peek-a-boo adornment. Yet every time I slip into a slinky, silky something it’s like being in someone else’s skin and I can’t quite find the sexy confidence I’m seeking.

Growing up, I thought lingerie was the sexiest category of clothing.  If you wanted to be guaranteed-or-your-money-back desirable, you could put your body into something with lace and see-through bits and bam! Instant hotness. I also assumed that if one looked “hot” one felt hot. When I began exploring partnered sex and my own seductive abilities, I turned to lingerie believing it was my best bet at transforming myself into a temptress.

And it did work…to a certain degree. Back in university, I remember spending a healthy portion of my meager student income on some nighties, fancy bra sets, and a pair of thigh-high stockings.   Despite feeling awkward about elastic in unfamiliar places and the strange smooth feeling of satin, enticing my partners had never been easier. But somehow the sex itself was rarely as mind-blowing as I’d hoped it would be. My intention was to spice things up, but I found the fun of sex was somewhat diminished by the odd sensation of industrial strength underwire.

I never felt so much pressure around lingerie as I did as my wedding night approached. By the time we got married, my partner and I had been together for four years. We lived together and we’d had lots and lots of sex.  Still, I got it in my head that our wedding night was supposed to be this big deal production with flower petals and me dressed in a white, marabou-trimmed something. In retrospect, it’s telling that I chose my wedding day dress in an afternoon but hunted for my wedding night clothes for weeks! Eventually I chose something out of sheer exhaustion, but it had the same problem as all of its predecessors. It was beautiful…but I didn’t feel desirable. I felt weird and self-conscious, like I was pretending to be someone else.

For many, role-playing and/or adopting a sexual persona can be great fun and very healthy.  For some, playing at being someone else can be an arousing, perhaps kinky enhancement. Sex can also leave us feeling very vulnerable and playing with character may provide some psychological shielding as we explore and maybe veer out of our sexual comfort zones. Dressing up can be part of that process. I worked as an actor for years and costume was always an important part of inhabiting my character.

Given all of that, you would think that dressing in special clothes and playing a part would have been a successful strategy for me sexually. Instead it was the opposite. On stage I felt safe, secure, and rarely got nervous. Unless my parents were watching. An audience of strangers didn’t phase me. Strangers didn’t know me, so they could easily accept that I was an ethereal fairy or street-wise prisoner or nurturing, wartime nurse. But my parents knew exactly who I was. Performing for them made me so nervous because I had to make them forget their daughter and accept me as someone else, which made me feel terribly self-conscious, which made staying in character harder, which made me even more nervous, which oh my god! Infinite causal loop of mobius anxiety!

I feel similarly awkward putting on personas for my sexual partners. So far, they’ve all been people with whom I’ve shared an intimate connection. I feel uncomfortable doing that with someone who knows me so well.  I tried lingerie because I assumed that was what a sexy woman was supposed to wear. Now, I understand that I can be seductive in way that feels natural for me.  Lingerie can be a beautiful, powerful declaration of sexuality. That’s just not what it does for me.  In retrospect, something comfy and made of cotton would have made me much happier on my wedding night. It’s what I wore the night before I got married. And it’s what I’ve worn every night since.

In my mind lingerie is beautiful, elegant and graceful. I still love to look it at. I admire the women who can wear it . And while I still love thumbing through the intimates section of my favourite catalogue, I’ve finally accepted that for me and my sexy style, lingerie just isn’t the right fit.

Are you a lingerie-lover? What type of clothing makes you feel super-sexy? Does wearing something racy and lacy make you feel like a power player or do you turn to other types of clothing when you’re in a seductive mood.

photo via Pond5

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Already Pretty contributor Nadine Thornhill is a sex educator and blogger at Adorkable Undies. She is a new resident of the San Francisco Bay Area, having recently moved from Ottawa, Ontario to pursue a PhD in Human Sexuality. Her writing tends toward subjects such as clitorises, feminism, vibrators, body image, gender politics and non-monogamy. She is a passionately committed Scrabble player and lifelong klutz, having sustained 16 concussions to date.

  • Heather

    I used to buy sexy nighties and such.. but then I realized my husband preferred me in his shirts instead.

  • LinB

    I, on the other hand, always thought that lacy, frilly lingerie was more laughable than alluring! (I prefer a sleek line in my outerwear, too.) A vivacity of spirit is the best aphrodisiac. The young often have that naturally, bless their dear little hearts. It can be cultivated (in oneself) by older persons.
    When the attraction is to the body, then by all means indulge fantasy with sexy costuming. When the attraction is to the person inside the body, it doesn’t much matter what the person looks like or what the person is wearing.

  • Ry

    I love this post. :) I have found through trial and error that I feel sexiest in a t shirt and panties. While I still break out the lingerie on special occasions (my boyfriend has no qualms with this!) it’s definitely not my go-to, even though I love the way it looks…it just makes me feel stiff and ridiculous.

  • http://urbanosprey.wordpress.com Osprey

    Great post Nadine! Lingerie gives me a lot of anxiety and overwhelming pressure to “perform.” Unless I’ve mentally prepared for it and take a whole lot of deep breaths throughout, I just shut down sexually.
    I feel sexiest in grey t-shirts and denim cutoffs. Common wisdom says that if I’m feeling so darned sexy, it should translate to oozing sex appeal and pheromones, so that my partner begins to drool over my goddess-ness. But this seems not to be the case. *sigh*
    What’s a girl to do?

  • Stacie

    Really great post! I’m with the above comments. Lingerie is just not for me. I fall in the “it makes me feel ridiculous” category. LOL!! A white cotton tank and some cotton panties are my go-to go-get-’em-girl clothing of choice.

  • Molly

    I love lingerie. Since it doesn’t come out every day, the look on my partners’ faces when they see me dressed up is a great way to temporarily banish my body hangups. Of course, I make sure I don’t wear anything with tight elastic in places that shouldn’t have it. I’ve started collecting vintage silk slips from thrift stores to wear to bed when it’s hot out, and I wish I’d started doing it years ago. Silk is the best. If I had more money for clothes, I’d be spending it all on silk underwear.

  • http://www.fashionistastyle1.blogspot.com Londyn

    I’m with Molly – I really love lingerie. It makes me feel like I have a special secret when I’m wearing it. That said – it has to be something that is still comfortable and feels like “me”. If it’s not something that makes me feel beautiful and good in my own skin, then it is not going to come across as sexy or a good experience for anyone!

    Great post :)

  • http://dustwindbun.blogspot.com dustwindbun

    I’m with you on lingerie. It was an odd but comforting experience when I realized that somehow I was consistently picking out partners who are completely indifferent to it. The closest I get these days are silk or satin bias-cut nightgowns, and the fact that if I have to wear stockings, they’re always thigh-highs or gartered, because I hate pantyhose (the proportions are always off and it hurts around my waist, among other things).

    Though it was more of an example than the topic of the post, I was really taken with your description of not being able to act on stage in front of your loved ones. I’ve never met anyone who captured the way I feel about that! The few times I did theater in school, my parents would always want to help me by having me practice my audition piece in front of them, and I would just freeze up completely. But I’d do fine at the audition. I definitely don’t have a fear of public speaking – just a fear of rehearsing in front of people I know! So thank you – I feel less weird now that I know someone else has this too.

  • Annabeth

    I *used* to love lingerie — it wasn’t something I wanted to wear all the time, but it was a lot of fun for the occasional evening. (And while I hear you about the sense of “being on stage” – there are times when inviting someone into a certain sort of playacting and sharing that part of your imagination is, in itself, deeply intimate … but that’s getting off-topic.)

    However, that was when I was a younger woman, and still a C-cup. Now I’m a little older and a G-cup — and it’s almost impossible to find flattering lingerie. I need a little more mystique and a LOT more support, and it’s the support, in particular, that is almost impossible to come by in lingerie. So very little of it is truly flattering any longer, alas.

  • K

    As long as I’m not in one of my rare periods of not feeling happy in my skin, that’s all I buy and all I wear. At some point I realized that I was in complete control of my wardrobe, what I’m wearing is a choice, and I can choose to wear beautiful things every day. I suppose it might feel like playacting if I selected leopard print corsets–my drawer is filled with matching sets, underwire, light lining or unlined, boyshort or bikini and typically lace. Go to brands are eberjey, cosabella, and stella mccartney. Anthropolgie has a great buyer. Friends swear by hanky panky, but I hate the bright colors, lack of underwire, and everything is just too stretchy.

    I think men appreciate the effort, some probably more than others, but my experience has always been that you really don’t have to do a damn thing. They think you’re attractive and desirable even in old stained cotton…with allergies acting up…and stinky from working out but not showering. Strange creatures, men.

  • Robin

    I have mixed feelings on lingerie, mostly because I’ve always resented the idea that I have to wear a costume in order to be sexy. I’ve made peace with the chip on my shoulder by finding lingerie that feels like “me”: Lots of black, stretchy, mesh, clean lines, no uncomfortable and unnecessary underwires or padding (I’m an A-cup), no lace/bows/flowers. And oh, how I lust after pricey underwear with cutouts and straps.

    In the end, where all the cutsey stuff felt costumey and undermining, adding more “me” to my body turns out to make me feel more powerful.

    BTW, I think the word you’re looking for up there is “faze.”

  • Cris

    It’s funny how the idea of lingerie can be so much more alluring than the reality of it. I’ve been so frustrated with that divide lately, and with the clash between what gets sold as sexy and what I actually feel good in. So much lingerie seems to be about what looks good for a viewer instead of what feels good for the wearer.

  • GingerR

    My partner likes lingerie and while my everyday undies are pretty mundane I have a collection of special silky things I wear for sexy time.
    Given that I’ve had breast cancer and have some fake body parts I like clothing that embellishes my body a bit. I look for cuts and designs that flatter me. I’m partial to reviewing sale racks, but if I see something that’s just right I’ve been known to go full price.

  • Maureen

    I grew up when undies were comfy, no thong/string pants for us! Lace was stiff and scratchy stuff to be avoided. My daughter encouraged me to try the thong – nearly drove me mad trying to pull it out, only lasted a few minutes. I’ve never been drawn to the expensive ‘slippery’ stuff because it is, well, slippery.

    It is lovely to look at though.

  • ValerieW

    Dear Nadine and ladies,

    I just want to share my bra journey. I used to wear a 34B size but I now I wear my true size, a 28E. It may seem ridiculous, but bra bands are now made with stretchier material and should be about the same measurement as your ribcage. For example, I have a 28″ ribcage and a 34″ bust. I subtract the two, and I get 6″, which resolves to an E cup.

    The thing is, there’s no such thing as I wear a “C cup” that only means that you have a 3″ difference between your bust measurement and your ribcage measurement. A 34C has one larger cupsize than a 32C, cup size is not static! So, to illustrate this, a 34C = 32D in cup volume, but just has a smaller band size. I wear a 28E, which is equal to a 30DD = 32D = 34C = 36B in cup volume. I wear the 28 band for better support and my bands are no longer riding up my back.

    The thing about this, once women begin finding their true size, many women have 28 inch or 30 inch ribcages and don’t fit into “the standard size” sold everywhere. Why are those sizes being sold everywhere if they aren’t womens true size then you might ask? That is because when bras were made back with different fabrics that didn’t stretch, so people would measure their underbust and add 4″ to it to accomodate for comfortability. Victorias secret has only began recently adding in a few 30 band size bras due to the growing number of women finding out their true size.

    Please visit reddit.com/r/abrathatfits if you’re interested in learning more! It definitely helped me after I found it.

    • http://cuvikingadventures.blogspot.ca/ Jenny- Adventures Along the Way

      I second this! I found out my own size on that site and now have a couple of bras that fit. (I am a 30- band size that is hard to find in most stores.) But….I am so glad to know and feel confident in my bras that actually fit. I know realize that the 34 bands I was wearing were just so loose that they weren’t doing much for me.

    • http://www.adorkableundies.com/ Nadine

      Sorry, I got all busy with school stuff and forgot to monitor the comment string here. But I wanted to say, thanks for mentioning this.

      I go for professional bra fittings in a specialty store and if it’s something that’s in your budget, I also highly recommend it! You don’t have to go all lacy, fancy if that’s not your speed, but even a basic bra that’s properly fitted can make a world of difference in how your upper body feels.

  • http://fashionparfait.com Fashion Parfait

    Great post! I use to wear lingerie, but now feel most comfortable sleeping in a fitted tee shirt and short cotton shirts.

    http://fashionparfait.com

  • http://www.befabulousdaily.us Cynthia

    Anything that’s over the top girlie, especially sexy-girlie, just makes me feel like I’m in drag. Natural is good.

  • Roxane

    I love lingerie for sex and play, but I don’t wear it on a daily basis or sleep in it.

  • Monica H

    I really like lingerie. But, I have a complicated relationship with it. I am a bra size 36AA, which limits greatly the items I have to choose from. Even items without defined cups I have to purchase in a large size to fit my ribs, but then I’m swimming in the boob part.

    My solution has been to skip the bustiers and full slips and matching sets. I won’t say I don’t let it get to me at times and consider if I should get implants.

    Thankfully, the bottom half of my body seems to be easy to fit, and I love to wear cute undies. I don’t do uncomfortable except for special occasions, but I do search hard for styles that are comfy and a bit sassy. My husband loves these. :) Ditto the stockings. I’m only slightly disappointed that unlike some other men I have loved, he doesn’t go crazy for shoes, but he lets me keep buying them anyway so it’s OK.

  • Chris

    I’ve always felt that since I don’t have a body like a Victoria’s Secret model, then I don’t “deserve” to wear fancy lingerie. Besides I do look ridiculous in such feminine finery. Wearing anything lacy or pink makes me feel like the hippopotamus toe dancers in Disney’s Fantasia!

    Now real silk is another matter. It feels like nothing else. It takes on the temperature of the body. Wearing it myself or feeling someone else’s body through silk is extremely sensual. The garment doesn’t have to be underwear. I have a long sleeve, button up 100% silk shirt that makes me feel fabulous. A male friend, not partner, could not stop rubbing my silk sleeved arms. It wasn’t that he was particularly interested in me. He just enjoyed the smooth almost skin like feel of the fabric.

    A simple, slightly loose silk slip looks good on just about any figure, and Oh how it feels! My partner has some silk boxers that we both enjoy him wearing them for special times. I’m in the same camp as the silk fans, above.

  • Tracie

    I’m kind of like Roxane; I love lingerie for sexy playtime, but I can’t sleep in it or wear it all day. Over the years I’ve developed a collection of retro teddies, nightgowns, hosiery and heels that fit my plushier breasts and hips. My partners have always enjoyed the clothing and it does make me feel sexy in a 1940s pin-up sort of way.

  • Thursday

    Personally, I have a lingerie obsession – one that started as simply as wanting to add a few items to my underwear drawer that were a little more interesting than the basic cotton knickers I’d worn every day for as long as I could remember. This interest did coincide with becoming more and more sexually active, but it really never was about my partner. It was about acknowledging my changing tastes and accepting that I could wear lovely things just for me. Six or so years later, I have a chest full of lacy knickers, suspender belts and am awaiting the delivery of my second custom made corset. The wearing of stockings arose partly out of necessity – on my body, pantyhose are a special kind of torture, whilst the right pair of stockings are comfortable and sensual. Wearing lingerie that others might save for boudoir situations every day is not only a mood booster for me, but also dispels any precepts of “performance” that might accompany these items. My partner appreciates my tastes, but has always understood that my lingerie choices are not about him (although there is a cheeky satisfaction to surprising him with something new). It certainly is usfeul to have someone on hand who can straighten a back seam and lace you in, though…

    I think the key is finding what you really like, not what popular culture deems to be sexy. Some of my favourite pieces are aggressively vintage in styling and completely at odds with popular ideas of “sexy” lingerie, but make me feel fabulous. There is just so much exciting and different lingerie out there that to limit yourself to the kind of dull sexy peddled by the mainstream is such a shame.

    For anyone interested in learning more and discovering new and independent labels, I highly recommend ttp://www.thelingerieaddict.com/. Cora is a great writer and lives and breathes the kind of body positivity that we all need.

    • LinB

      ” .. finding what you really like, not what popular culture deems to be sexy.” Oh, you have expressed this so well!

      For a community Christmas concert in a small town in the Midwest, years and years ago, I was assigned to sing — and strip to — “Santa Baby.” From a demure outfit of turtleneck sweater over denim skirt over tights and flat shoes, I “stripped” to a very covered-up outfit of Victorian-style long pantaloons/bloomers and corset cover (and tights and flat shoes). The audience was more shocked by my outfit than by the woman who came onstage wearing a frilly apron over a swimsuit, in another number. Who could have guessed that full, ruffled bloomers and to-the-neck corset covers could still inflame the male libido?

      • http://www.adorkableundies.com/ Nadine

        Oh, MAN! That is excellent – I wish I had been there to see it.