I’ve written about underwear before on this blog, it’s true. For one thing, I enjoy sewing lingerie (and will probably do so again some day). For another, underwear, like cooking, is a repeating thread in the history of women.

It was in this context that underwear came up last night. I was talking with La Bella, who is my mother’s age. We were enjoying a good rant a deux, being scandalized by the way the younger generation shows off undergarments. I am not quite old enough to spend time being scandalized by the younger generation, which naturally includes my kids, my staff, and my students, but La Bella is and I was joining in.

Because, seriously, showing your bra strap or an inch of boxer shorts above your jeans is tacky. I don’t know the woman in this picture, but she posted her photo in Deviant Art, so I figure she’s willing to be used as an example.

Otherwise I’d have to use pictures of my kids, and I don’t do that here.


But La Bella, having longer experience, reminded me that going without a girdle used to be scandalous. Just as going braless is considered immodest (we certainly did so when I was a girl, but I think that was a brief window of opportunity), showing the shape of an actual physical bottom was considered immodest, too.

La Bella told me how when she first graduated and went to work in an office she, being a country girl, couldn’t figure out why all the other girls looked so trim and immobile. She was thin, but she just couldn’t avoid having a pert bottom. At last she realized that she needed to buy a girdle.

That provided the proper inhuman shape.

Is our distaste for visible bra straps the equivalent of the earlier distaste for an unfettered female bottom? I don’t think so.

Reaching back into the mists of time, however, I do remember the special panties which were designed in the early days of mini skirts to make it more okay to wear mini skirts. It’s practically impossible to wear a really short skirt without occasionally flashing your frillies. So the rumba panties dancers wore when they knew their moves would expose their bottoms became popular for little girls and then for women when they wore tiny skirts. There were also mini skirts that came with panties made of the same fabric, which was supposed to be more modest because they obviously were not intended to be hidden.

Maybe none of this is supposed to be logical.