Men have it easy. They only have three different kinds of pants and, unless something is terribly wrong, nothing to fanny around with up top. Aside from having to decide whether to wear fitted boxers, loose boxers or Y-fronts (two out of three ain’t bad), all they need to worry about is whether their socks are matching.
I, on the other hand, recently cleared out my underwear drawer and was completely floored by the sheer volume and variety of forgotten underthings. It’s a jungle out there, so here’s a handy guide to over-the-shoulder boulder holders. Feel free to print it out and take it shopping with you for reference. Take copies for your friends.
These aren’t garments that really feature in my own personal heaving sea of underthings, but they do exist. What is their purpose? I mean, nipples are among those body parts – toes and armpits are others – where nobody has particularly nice ones. Either you’ve got a pair of saucers stretched across your waps like huge, bizarrely symmetrical birthmarks or you’ve got the smaller, more dainty variety, which even on the comeliest of breasts look like a couple of carelessly strewn pork scratchings. Like balls, fanny and arse, tits look best strung up in something tastefully raunchy to, as they say, leave something to the imagination. God knows that men’s junk looks ten times better trussed up in a pair of Calvin Kleins than it does hanging around in its natural state, like a pendulous collection of butcher’s ends. Personally, my recommendation is to just avoid, avoid, avoid.
The Pretty One
These are the bras covered in polka dots, pastel stripes, hearts, florals and all that other girly jazz. Now, I’ve written before with some vitriol about stereotypically girly shit being forced on girls. Obviously we don’t like that stuff all the time, but, well, sometimes we do. I’ve got as many bits and bobs adorned with ribbons and bows as the next
man girl. Anyway, these are the bras that we buy because they are lovely and feminine and wearing them makes us feel all pretty and cute and so on. Yes, even I, hard-faced bitch that I am, like stuff like this sometimes. I think it’s ingrained, no smoke without fire and all that. However, boys aren’t really on board with this shit. I mean, I buy this stuff because I like it, not because any one else does, but it came as a bit of a shock when my high school boyfriend – by all accounts a nice enough chap – bluntly told me that my new purchase (white, with an adorable pink cotton-reel print) was not in the slightest bit sexy. Did nothing for him, apparently. Obviously I was like ‘screw you, I like it’, but I never bothered to wear it in front of a bloke again. It’s nice, but not ‘loins burning with the flames of desire’ nice. Take heed and wear it to pyjama parties where the other girls will understand and coo appreciatively.
The Embellished One
You know the one; you saw it on the model sprawled lazily on a chaise longue wearing nothing but and you had to have it, so taken by its elaborate bells and whistles that you totally forgot to take into account how ludicrously impractical it is. Weird half cups, acres of lace and enormous, silky bows look marvellous until you have to put some clothes on, and then you get a rack as lumpy and noduled as a puddle of regurgitated Cheerios. I actually have a set of underwear made almost entirely of royal blue sequins, which looks smashing until I try and wear, well, anything on top of it. When nobody’s in the house I do just ponce around in it feeling fabulous though, which makes it all worthwhile.
If you own one of these and have managed to unlock its secrets completely, please drop me an email with some tips. In theory it should be the answer to all our problems, but I own one and have absolutely no fucking clue how to use it. It’s the sort of lingerie equivalent of All Saints’ famous parachute dress, which comes with handy step-by-step instructions because getting it on is so fantastically complicated. Apart from a few tentative experiments, one of which resulted in me hanging from the ceiling lamp by one shoulder and my second littlest toe, Cirque du Soleil-style, mine is sitting unused in a drawer, probably so heavily scented by now from my lavender smelly bag that to go anywhere near it would probably do the same as taking a chloroform-soaked tea-towel to the face. And there it will stay, frankly, until someone enlightens me.
I LOVE these. Although similar to the multi-way in that its purpose is to enable you to wear unconventionally cut clothes with ease, the strapless bra is spectacularly straightforward. They are impossible to fuck up; sometimes if I’m feeling exceptionally lazy I’ll wear my strapless bra even though I’m not wearing anything that calls for it, just so I don’t have to bother with the onerous task of coordinating my orang-utan arms with the straps. No fucking around here, you just strap it on and GO. You also get the added bonus of knowing instantly when you’ve put on weight because the bra will start leaving red welts on you when you’ve gained some extra poundage. Winner! (Sort of.)
Apparently this isn’t the case for our voluptuous friends though; I have been reliably informed that above a certain size there is absolutely no chance of finding a strapless garment capable of taking that kind of strain. “I know for you dainty-chested folk strapless bras are not an issue,” a busty mate of mine said sadly the other day. “The weight of my own tits means that strapless bras just don’t stand a chance. Even Wonderbra in their infinite wisdom cannot properly invent a strapless plunging work of tit art for people like me, and stick-on bras are absolutely out of the question.”
If you’re in a relationship, this is the bra you save for Saturday nights – the proper ones where you make an effort and go on dates, not the ones spent in front of the X Factor in your his ‘n hers bathrobes – and for special occasions like birthdays. If you’re single, this is the bra you never wear because it seems wasteful when nobody’s going to see it. Yes, yes, I know, we wear nice lingerie for ourselves, but frankly if something is hand-wash only and cost as much as your quarterly electricity bill then you want it to be appreciated by as many people as possible. If you are very lazy with your laundry, like me, then eventually you’ll be forced to wear it because every other bra you own is languishing in the dirty washing basket, and all day you’ll feel totally guilt-ridden that you’re only getting it sweaty because you’re running for the bus and not because you’re being ravished. If you’re the latter, take heart! There’s nothing you can’t do if put your mind to it. Once when my mother was in her twenties and shopping in a department store, a complete stranger approached her and invited to her to a ball that very night (I wasn’t alive at the time, but presumably the eighties were a decade mercifully free of psychopaths and rapists). He insisted on buying her a new dress and she apparently had an amazing time. She always tells me the story when she’s pissed and puts this hideous emphasis on the word ‘amazing’, so I know some nasty shit went down. Anyway, the moral of the story is that you can achieve anything if you put it out there obviously enough.
The Sports Bra
I’ve mentioned the tyranny of sports bras on my blog before but unfortunately they are one of life’s necessary evils. Not wearing one causes an unsightly and painful jiggle-fest (unless you’re built like me and can do twenty star jumps butt naked without the slightest discomfort), causes stretch marks and attracts unwanted attention from lecherous gym-going types. Nobody wants to be put off their squat-thrusts by unsolicited ogling from the weight-lifting area after all. The problem with sports bras is that they just make us feel so butch; even the most generously proportioned racks are squished to buggery in a proper one so the lesser-titted folk have no chance. The only way to get around the problem is to come to terms that you’re just never going to pull at the gym and embrace your (temporary) hideousness. The red face and absent boobs and trickle of sweat running down your leg? It’s all just proof you’re doing it right.
The Tits McGee
My illustrating pal Carla has this bra that pushes her tits up so magnificently that geography field trippers have gleaned a greater understanding of how mountains are formed just by walking past. For the rest of us, that bustiest of bras is the one cut so well (or reinforced with so much padding) that we go out feeling like goddesses. Sometimes, though, these wonders of engineering go a little too far and turn the frontages of the well-endowed into big, fleshy jellies. (Manufacturers: why do you insist on making padded bras for larger sizes? It must be like selling snow to those proverbial Eskimos.) Know your strengths and buy accordingly.
This is the bra you’ve had for years that you can’t bear to get rid of. The chances are it doesn’t even fit any more because it’s so old and misshapen from being shoved down the back of the radiator, but even if it’s not as supportive as it should be, you still can’t bring yourself to discard it. Maybe you’ve shared precious memories with it (for my friend Becky it’s the one she used to mop up her own vomit after suffering an over-sensitive gag reflex on a drunken university one night stand) or maybe it’s just so comfortable it’s your go-to garment for slothing out. Either way, don’t wear it in front of anyone you want to impress (and if it really doesn’t fit then throw it out!)
Everyone’s been there. It’s ten minutes before you need to leave for a very important social engagement. You’re wearing a daring new dress; very daring, in fact, because it plunges significantly lower than anything else in your wardrobe. Unfortunately, even your plungiest of bras is still so visible it detracts entirely from your fabulous get-up, so with half an hour ago you made the executive decision to go bra-less. Unfortunately, after a few minutes of being wild and free it is already obvious that you’re going to be in for a shitty night of hoiking your top up every twenty seconds and eventually, in a haze of white wine, accidentally baring your unsheathed boobs to someone who will inevitably turn out to be the most inappropriate person in the room. In an attempt to steer yourself away from an uncertain fate of crippling embarrassment, you grab the only adhesive substance you have to hand, which is the Sellotape you used to wrap the thoughtful gift of bath salts you bought for the hostess at the train station on the way home. You’ve heard of tit tape before, after all – this will do the job just as well! Ineffectually squishing both boobs in one hand and using the other and your teeth to apply tape to your entire chest in order to strap them up in a sort of DIY stick-on bra, you eventually get it to hold in exactly the right place. Feeling smug with your own resource and ingenuity, you swan off into the sunset to have a cracking time.
Except you don’t have a cracking time. You have a totally shit time, mainly because
You vow never to be so bloody stupid again and go out and buy one of these bizarre sets of stick-on cups instead for next time.
You know what I mean, right?