An overview of underwear
Smalls bounce back bigger than ever, says Hilary Alexander, as lingerie sales rise.
Kate Winslet admitted she had 'gone commando'; Rihanna looked as if she had; and Renée Zellweger was quite clearly bra-less - just some of the celebrities who turned up sans underwear at the Costume Institute's black tie gala at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, last week.
What is it with these girls? I'm not suggesting there isn't a time and place for ditching your smalls, but surely wearing beautiful underpinnings is one of the greatest pleasures on earth; before it moves.
It's hardly as if they can't afford undies: the boom in celebrity collections and stores' own brand ranges means there is a greater and more gorgeous choice than ever before; accessibly priced, too.
According to the latest Mintel report, after a recession-hit 2009 underwear sales bounced back last year, up by a small, but perfectly formed 1% to £2.6 billion.
The rise was helped in part by the increasing tendency of women, especially the under-35's, to buy a new a bra and knickers for a whole variety of reasons: impulse, a hot date, a girls' night out, a weekend away; any or all of these can cause a surge of adrenalin that responds to seductive silk and lace in a more visceral way than when simply shopping to replace a bra that has passed its sell-by.
Although basic black and white continues to be the foundation of the average underwear drawer, the catwalk TV series such as 'Mad Men', fabric innovations, and superstar advertising campaigns featuring Daisy Lowe, Megan Fox, Victoria Beckham, Eva Mendes and Kelly Brook, are all shaping the way we shop for what lies beneath.
The revival of underwear-as-outerwear, pioneered by Jean Paul Gaultier and Dolce & Gabbana in the 1980's, and, more recently adopted as sexy 'stage armour' by Rihanna and Lady Gaga, provided a key surge in 2010, too, provoking a papparazzi frenzy when celebs and socialite-models such as Alice Dellal, Taylor Momsen, Lily Allen and even Kylie Minogue - fortunate to be able to at 42 - began working the visible suspenders and stocking tops look on the party circuit.
It's a look that seems set to continue, especially when you consider the retro-glamour of Untold's high-waisted 'big knickers', or Therapy's stretch-brocade 'corselette'dress, both complete with suspenders, and both from exclusive ranges, just in at House of Fraser. Mimi Holliday and Untold, meanwhile, both have cute-as-a-button petticoats which are pure festo-chic, worn with wellies or cowboy boots. Stayed tuned, too, for Triumph's stitched and seamed, 'cone' bra and sexy 'La Dolce Vita' corselette, due in at HOF in the autumn, to celebrate the brand's 125th anniversary, pure DolceVita - Sophia Loren.
Who needs a dress?