As a commuter in London I’m bombarded every day with thousands of adverts. Normally it all passes me by in a blur but this week one craftily snuck by my mental filters. The advert in question features the unbelievably gorgeous Bar Refaeli posing for Passionata in their latest lingerie range. The images are, of course, extraordinarily provocative. Bar poses casually on a swing in a tutu, much like I do after a long hard day at the office. The underwear in the advert is, frankly, secondary to her beauty.
The problem I’ve got is that as a woman, I’m supposed to look at those adverts, ignore the ludicrous staging/perfect hair/perfect make up/and…well, not so much ‘come to bed eyes’ as ‘I hope you’re going to wipe that up’ eyes and think ‘By jove, that underwear’s great. If I buy that, I too will look as amazing as that twenty five year old Israli siren.’
I don’t think this.
What I think is more along the lines of: ‘Oh for God’s sake look at that smug cow, I haven’t even had coffee, my cheap bra is digging into my side boob and that bint’s being forced through my retinas. Must lose weight! Oh bugger, look at the queue for the escalator…’ I don’t think this response was Passionata’s aim.
I understand, of course, that the average woman isn’t suitable for underwear modelling. You have to be tall, curvy yet inexplicably thin and photogenic. By contrast, I don’t want to look at some pale, round-shouldered girl who’s been shoe-horned into a peach bra and knickers set and plonked on a swing in a draughty studio in Basildon. I do appreciate that the inherent sexiness of the model displays the underwear in its best light but my point is, how many women actually look at that advert and think ‘Them’s the undercrackers for me!’ Not many, I’ll wager.
I have one friend who exclusively owns ‘sets’ of underwear. Each bra has a matching pair of knickers and she never interchanges them. To her, underwear is a joy. She feels great if she knows she looks great underneath it all. The rest of us can only dream of being so perfectly coordinated and groomed.
If you’re anything like me (not you blokes obviously, although I’m sure the images of David Beckham displaying his ‘golden bulge’ in jockey shorts for Emporio Armarni didn’t exactly make you feel good about last night’s curry), then you’ll own underwear in the following categories:
Possible Shag: Yes that’s right, a man is probably going to see your underwear. He may not actually identify it as underwear at the crucial moment, rather as a scratchy, fiddly hinderance that needs to be disposed of sharpish. Unless of course you go in for the strip ‘n’ prowl move but if you do you’re probably wearing a set of underwear so flammable that if you get within ten feet of a Bic lighter it will be welded to you for all eternity. I think men appreciate underwear but only really as a challenge. No man has ever paused in the throes of passion and said ‘Good lord! Is that the new Agent Provocateur half padded plunge with the crown elastic trims?’ It’s probably more like ‘Pink and black stuff! Must…remove…must…aaahhhh boobs.’ Women do feel more confident in a nice set of underwear though and so we keep two or three sets of fancy stuff with lace for just such an occasion. Obviously if the relationship progresses, you’ll probably never see that underwear again.
Work Underwear: If you do an office job, you inevitably spend most of the day sitting about and while this doesn’t sound like much of a challenge for your average high street underwear set, achieving comfort for 8 hours in a chair is fraught with difficulty. VPL is hideous, we all know this and so to avoid the ‘four bum cheek’ look in your smart work trousers, you wear a thong. Unless you’ve discovered a thong made from kitten fur and silk, the chances are that bit of lace-edged cotton up your crack is going to start chafing and not just at the back. Every girl has, at some time or another, popped to the loo to pull the thong out of their intimate regions for five blessed seconds before wearily letting it ping back into place to rub for another hour or so. Bras are another challenge. Most people have appalling posture so unless you sit like with a back like a ramrod then you’ll probably spend a large amount of time with a small portion of underwire digging in. Giant pants and miraculously supportive wire-free bras in seamless cotton would be best but high street retailers have yet to bring out the ‘Desk Job’ lingerie range.
Time Of The Month: (Men – skip this bit. Honestly, you don’t want to know.) So Flo’s in town and we’re feeling several thousand degrees below terrific. All we want to do is lie on the sofa shouting abuse at Come Dine With Me while drinking tea by the gallon. We do not (and I really can’t stress this enough) want to go rollerblading. No woman has ever, EVER worn white jeans on her period. The nineties tampon adverts were designed to make us believe we could but most women would rather play chicken on the M25 than attempt something so dangerous. Of course, advances in sanitary product technology mean you can now wear a thong during your period but most women I know have a greying, holey, limp collection of knickers that once a month at the peak of the discomfort are guiltily put on underneath our otherwise fabulous outfits. They’re Period Pants and by God, they’re wonderful.
Every Day: Most women, most of the time wear pretty boring underwear. There is nothing exciting about a white cotton set but it’s comfortable and practical. We don’t expect anyone to see it, bar an impromptu liaison or freak accident involving the office shredder and we wear it in the knowledge that it’s supporting where it should, isn’t showing and is generally inoffensive to the world at large. M&S are the masters of this and their underwear adverts are far more realistic (even though hardly anyone looks like Ana Beatriz Barros).
You may also own a couple of pairs of stockings, bought on a whim and either never worn, worn once on a date or laddered before you’d got one over your knee and shoved them angrily back in the drawer. Stockings are one thing but I don’t know anyone who wears suspenders, seriously I don’t. It’s hard enough stopping most pairs of knickers rolling up at the sides without then having to strap yourself into the lingerie equivalent of a safety harness.
Underwear choice is of course, deeply personal but I honestly don’t think the over-sexed adverts are aimed at women. I think they’re aimed at men and in turn women think ‘Oh blimey, I bet he’s expecting all that frou-frou nonsense, I’d best nip down La Senza and see what’s on sale.’ I’m sure I don’t speak for all women but on the whole, comfort is paramount and this has never involved wearing a tutu on a swing.