03 February 2007

A woman's first layer of defense

The male fantasy that underneath an attractive, well-dressed professional woman's business suit lies a landscape of scalloped French lace, black mesh boyshorts and Alessandra-Ambrosio-esque cleavage is for the most part, just that -- a fantasy.

But it doesn't have to be.

Now, before you jump to conclusions, I'm not saying we should wear push-up bras and tap-pants to fulfill our male colleagues' wildest dreams. I'm also not saying undergarments should be a higher priority or even an equal priority to our outermost layers. What I am saying, however, is that if your budget has some extra room and you'd like a daily reminder that your feminine wiles still exist, why not look beyond the traditional Macy's-Labor-Day-sale cotton lingerie and indulge in a little acceptable inappropriateness no one at the office knows about but you?

Just like a confidence color, complementary lingerie (i.e. pieces that may not match exactly but still look good together) affords a woman that extra bit of empowerment she needs to get through an emotionally or professionally challenging day.

One myth I want to dispel up front is that sexier lingerie pieces are prohibitively more expensive than their more demure counterparts. That is just not true. The suburban Mom's favorite comfort bra brands - Wacoal, Olga, Warner, Natori, and Maidenform - have an average price for a bra and pair of regular briefs of approximately $35 and $12, respectively. The set Marisa Miller is wearing at right, the Tattoo-embroidered demi bra and matching thong, are only slightly more expensive at $38 and $18, respectively. And if you shop for lingerie like my friends and I do - by building your schedules around Victoria's Secret semi-annual sales in early June and January - those prices drop by 25 to 60 percent.

The second myth I would like to lay to rest is that sexy lingerie is too textured to wear under professional clothing. Though this assumption holds a bit more traction than the one previously discussed, it is still possible to wear a contemporary, make-your-Grandmother-blush bra underneath that ivory silk cap-sleeved button-up. This lightly-lined plunge bra, also from Victoria's Secret, has no raised seams and is perfect for those thin fabrics that show even the most subtle textures. The difference between this bra and a Wacoal t-shirt bra is that this one plunges and has specially-designed wiring to not only push your lady bits up and together but to display more of their curvature as well.

The last undergarment-related issue I would like to raise is one several of my readers have asked me to address, and that is the VPL. For those of you who don't watch the E! Network's Glamour Magazine specials, VPL stands for "visible panty line." If your trousers and skirts fit as they should, you should not be able to wear a brief or even a bikini underneath it. Hosiery helps mask the line, but in most cases, it's not enough. In these circumstances, slipping on a pair of backless underwear is less an issue of fashion than it is about function. The hottest young thing in a perfectly fitted Diane von Furstenberg twill suit risks vitiating all of her outfit's success if she shows a VPL. It's that devastating, that unforgiving.

There are several ways to avoid being a VPL offender. There's the thong, the G-string and my and my friend W's recent go-to choice: the Brazilian-cut tanga (pictured at right). I would show it from the back but for those of you who load this site during your lunch hour, I want to save you from receiving that embarrassing company e-mail chiding you for downloading porn. Instead, I'll just tell you that the difference between the tanga and a traditional thong is that the former has a more gradual cut similar to its front whereas the latter tends to have a significantly larger front-to-back fabric ratio.

My last piece of advice is to buy undergarments in colors like black, brown, nude, ivory, and red and in classic textures like mesh, lace, and satin-- in other words, colors and textures that can easily mix and match and therefore, give you dozens more bra/underwear permutations than you would have with either flower, stripe, or animal prints. Those with a different base and trim color - like this brown and white pair - are especially good investments for this reason.

And though I advise you not to wear winter hats with puff balls to work because they're unprofessional, it's not the same with underwear. If that pair of bejeweled Hello Kitty boyshorts is what you need to give a kick-ass briefing, then by all means, wear them.

Just make sure you pair them with a trouser or skirt in a heavier material. No need to grandstand your underwear seams or the outline of a cartoon cat's face.


a fan said...

it's going to be very difficult to look at you now and not wonder what's going on underneath the covers.

thanks a lot.

Johanna said...

Just rolled in and saw your comment.

Please, as if you didn't wonder *before* you read this posting what was going on under there.

I'm onto you, "a fan."

a fan said...

touché, darling.


sleep tight.

DC Celine said...

Yes, I'm all for looking good underneath, too...but there's this little matter of support...as far as I can tell, all things lacy and pretty are plain ol' crap in the support department.

Johanna said...

Yikes, totally forgot to address support in this piece. You're right-on, DC Celine, lack of support can be prohibitive in the lingerie department.

For those above a DD-cup, there really are very few options available that don't look like nursing bras. Plus, they usually cost $5-15 more than their smaller counterparts.

Shucks all around. I'll think about this one, do some research, and do an version 2.0 as soon as possible.