Call ‘em gitch, skivvies, knickers, panties or unmentionables – whatever the vernacular, they’re the ultimate accoutrement.
If you’ve ever been faced with the barren underwear drawer scenario after a forgotten laundry day and have been forced to choose between an orphaned bathing suit bottom or a waistless cotton travesty, you’re familiar with the reality that these seemingly small decisions can affect your mood, much like a bad hair day. Part function and part feeling, the bra and underwear combo act as a primer over which we add personalized brushstrokes of colour, texture and character. Whether you prefer g-strings or boy-cut shorts, neutrals or neons, it defines an intimate style less talked about. It’s not just about getting dressed, it’s about setting the scene for a material masterpiece.
Deciding how to cover one’s lady bits is part of a morning ritual of sorts, it’s an act of stylistic genesis which gives us the foreground to build our style. Originally designed for warmth and to keep our clothes from getting soiled, underclothes were more about social and physical repression than personal style. As a curator of costume and textiles at the Philadelphia Museum of Art explains, undergarments have historically left imprints our bodies even when not being worn. Knicker styles from yesteryears have covered, lifted, shaped, squeezed and padded; always trying to modify the natural curvature of women’s individual frames. But, in the words of Mr. Dylan, the times they are a-changin’. As images of femininity and beauty shifted, underwear increasingly became more lady-centered and women like Madonna, in her iconic Gaultier corset, showed us that you can engender origination and deconstruct historical folly.
Under-fashions have undergone a generational transformation that parallels that of any other fashion accessory. Today we are able to find a variety of styles in textiles ranging from lycra to latex, but can we denounce the past, adorn our bodies and say that natural isn’t negative? The typical shopping experience is most definitely restraining our creativity and stores devoid of novelty perpetuate the status quo by preaching the all too common philosophy of five for twenty-five. As a staunch believer in the powerful influence of environment on our ability to think creatively, big-box underwear depots do nothing to nourish our artful intentions, and beauty needs an incubator.
In this search for our personally-tailored beauty, Canadian model and actress, Shalom Harlow, had it right when she said “You don’t learn style from watching people on a runway. Fashion happens every morning when you wake up”. It’s a philosophy most of us understand as style in the trenches; it’s about creating a daily look with pieces that are realistically attainable. It’s not necessarily about the brand or the money, it’s about the moments when we decide take a piece, slip it on and own it.
Today, we have left the burning behind to reclaim our brassiere brawn. Styles are crafted for the -As to the +Gs and independent underwear boutiques are blossoming across Canada. The new wave of shopping experience emphasizes freedom of the body and gives women the opportunity to remanufacture social conventions in supportive spaces. As lovers of fashion, this consumer milieu is what we need challenge ourselves esthetically; a place where we feel comfortable enough to follow our instincts.
If you’re looking to up your underwear A-game, many boutiques in the National Capital Region offer a substitute to the florescent light ridden mall experience. Westoboro’s Brachic embodies a mantra of curvaceous celebration, fitting education and even plays hostess to private undie parties. My personal favorite, Purrfect Pineapples, is an online, cruelty-free lingerie company based out of Toronto. They don’t use animal products, denounce sweat-shop tactics and their inventive undergarment fashions embody the edginess of pin-up girls, the sweetness of childhood, and risque theatrics of burlesque. Not to mention the underwear models featured are some ridiculously hot, bad-ass dames! Owner and renaissance woman, Erika Shuhendler, makes all of her patterns from scratch, will ship anywhere in the world and takes custom orders. Both shoppes are pro-fashion, pro-women and fucking awesome. And by purchasing well-made and well thought-out undergarments, we move away from superfluous consumption and toward a collection of second skin to truly be proud of.
Go ahead…be courageous, practice acceptance, deconstruct, play and create.
And just so you know, we’re all about diversity, not discrimination. If you want to live by the Coco Chanel adage of removing one piece of accoutrement before you slip out the front door…do it. We fully support commando endeavors as well.
A video entitled Revealing Garments: A Brief History of Women’s Underwear – brought to you by Art Babble; conceived, initiated, designed, built, sculpted, programmed, shot, edited, painted and launched by a cross-departmental collection of individuals at the Indianapolis Museum of Art (IMA). It is intended to showcase video art content in high quality format from a variety of sources and perspectives.
Photography. Christos Spentzos