Tuesday 17 January 2017

Forget Victoria’s Secret - we can’t get enough of big knickers

Meadhbh McGrath

Published 08/12/2015 | 10:10

Stella McCartney 'Cherie Sneezing' Bra, ‎€54.95, and Bra, ‎€29.95, Brown Thomas
Cheek Frills 4-Pack Emoji Briefs, ‎€40, Brown Thomas
L'Agent by Agent Provocateur Penelope Suspender Brief, €48, Brown Thomas
Wonderbra Refined Glamour Triangle Bra, €39, Shaws Department Stores
Simone Perele 'Inspiration' Shorty Brief in Grape, ‎€39, Brown Thomas
Simone Perele 'Inspiration' Push-Up Bra in Grape, ‎€75, Brown Thomas
L'Agent by Agent Provacteur Penelope Bra, ?57, Brown Thomas
Stella McCartney 'Ellie Leaping' Bra ‎€85.95 and Brief ‎€44.95 in Flower Power, Brown Thomas
Rosie for Autograph Beau Silk Lace Plunge Bra, ‎€37, and Brazilian Knickers, ‎€17, Marks and Spencer
A scene from Bridget Jones

This season our fascination lies with larger underwear - a far cry from what's showcased on the Victoria's Secret catwalk.

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It’s that time of year again — the lingerie extravaganza that is the annual Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show will be broadcast to screens all across the world tomorrow night.

A scene from Bridget Jones
A scene from Bridget Jones

Sexy as they may be, the elaborate contraptions modelled by the likes of Gigi Hadid, Stella Maxwell and Lily Aldridge aren’t exactly designed with practicality in mind. While the Angels strut down the catwalk in giant feathered wings and all manner of uncomfortable underthings, in real life women are looking for something a little more wearable for everyday.

Well, hold on to your granny pants — according to Marks & Spencer, who sold close to 700,000 pairs of knickers in Ireland in the first six months of the year, big pants are back.

Soozie Jenkinson, head of Lingerie Design at M&S, confirms that women are retiring their barely-there smalls in favour of big, comfy knickers: “Today, less than one in 10 of the knickers we sell is a thong.”

Catherine Murray, Lingerie Buyer for Shaws Department Stores, says the figures are even more striking across their stores: “For me, it’s much less than one in 10. I remember a time when you wouldn’t wear anything but a thong, they were huge. Now, the one thing we don’t sell is thongs — people don’t want them!

L'Agent by Agent Provocateur Penelope Suspender Brief, €48, Brown Thomas
L'Agent by Agent Provocateur Penelope Suspender Brief, €48, Brown Thomas

“I think people are dressing for comfort. At the same time, there’s something fun about the fuller shapes. There’s huge choice out there, so you’re not feeling like you’re wearing your granny’s bloomers.”

Thongs and g-strings may have been all the rage in the 1990s, but now larger briefs are reclaiming their place in our underwear drawers. Everyone from Elle Macpherson to Chrissy Teigen to Kendall Jenner has given big knickers the stamp of approval.

Simone Perele 'Inspiration' Shorty Brief in Grape, ‎€39, Brown Thomas
Simone Perele 'Inspiration' Shorty Brief in Grape, ‎€39, Brown Thomas

The growing appeal of more ample-bottomed styles doesn’t mean plain or unflattering pants, as designers are beginning to recognise that everyday comfort and style are not mutually exclusive.

“I’ve noticed a lot of brands are moving towards more fashionable briefs,” says Rachelle Hanley, Lingerie & Hosiery Buyer for Arnotts.

Wonderbra Refined Glamour Shorty, ‎€18, Shaws Department Stores
Wonderbra Refined Glamour Shorty, ‎€18, Shaws Department Stores

“The styles are bigger but they look prettier. Women want something that is a solution or that is comfortable, but they don’t want it to look ugly — they want something nice when they are picking it out in the morning.”

The general feeling is that thongs have had their moment, but Jenkinson is keen to emphasise that, “in terms of style, there is no place for Bridget Jones boring knickers in our ranges!”

Cheek Frills 4-Pack Emoji Briefs, ‎€40, Brown Thomas
Cheek Frills 4-Pack Emoji Briefs, ‎€40, Brown Thomas

Who can forget the scene in Bridget Jones’s Diary, when Hugh Grant’s character spies a glimpse of Bridget’s broad-bottomed pants and cries: “Hello, Mummy!”

However, the return of big knickers hints at a changing definition of what it means to look and feel sexy. For years, thongs were considered the fail-safe weapon of seduction, but Roslyn Ellis, Brown Thomas Lingerie, Swimwear & Hosiery Buyer, says larger styles can “absolutely” be sexy.

Stella McCartney 'Cherie Sneezing' Bra, ‎€54.95, and Bra, ‎€29.95, Brown Thomas
Stella McCartney 'Cherie Sneezing' Bra, ‎€54.95, and Bra, ‎€29.95, Brown Thomas

“We carry the best brands, who specifically engineer the brief to flatter the bum — no matter what size! Often they will add touches like ruching on the back, which really flatters. A shaping brief with scalloped lace skimming the bum is very flattering, too. It is touches like this that make a bigger brief sexy,” she explains.

For many women, high-rise briefs are a blessing — they define the waist and cover areas you may feel self-conscious about.

Rosie for Autograph Beau Silk Lace Plunge Bra, ‎€37, and Brazilian Knickers, ‎€17, Marks and Spencer
Rosie for Autograph Beau Silk Lace Plunge Bra, ‎€37, and Brazilian Knickers, ‎€17, Marks and Spencer

“High-waist styles can be sheer and sexy, too, trimmed in lace or with velvet,” says Ellis.

She’s even noticed the trend reflected in the shopping habits of men during the Christmas gifting season.

“Men are treating their wives and girlfriends to beautiful lingerie because they want them to feel their best and to feel confident and super sexy in it. So quite often, he will have looked at the style she wears normally and won’t buy her a thong if there are none in her lingerie drawer.”

Ultimately, it’s about giving women greater variety when we’re getting ready. So whether you’re braving them alone (as seen on Isabel Marant’s spring-summer 2016 catwalk), deliberating what to pair with that sheer party dress, or looking for an everyday solution for work — ’tis most definitely the season to wear your big knickers with pride.

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