Wednesday, October 31, 2007

When Underwear Becomes Outerwear

A couple of days ago I was walking to class when I noticed that the girl in front of me (a fellow student) was flashing her underwear at me with every step she took. She was wearing a jersey dress that hit a few inches above the knee, but the slits on either side rose up to her hips, which, when combined with each gust of wind that passed her, caused her skirt to fly up over her butt. It was one of those situations where you know you're not supposed to look, but it was impossible to ignore the pair of walking bright floral undies just a few feet away. I considered stopping her to let her know her underwear was showing, but she was in my upcoming class, and if offended, I didn't want to have her glaring at me every day for the rest of the semester.

But perhaps I was wrong in assuming her "look" was unintentional, as a recent New York Times article proclaimed "underwear as outerwear" as a major trend. Designers like Marc Jacobs are incorporating lingerie as parts of runway outfits, while celebs often don see-through tops to show off pretty bras and popular TV shows show female characters in camisoles and slips in and out of the bedroom. Lingerie retailers have responded by offering bras and underwear with details intended to be seen through or peeking outside of clothes.


Trendy or not, this is a look that I've never found attractive in any form. There are a thousand ways to look sexy without appearing that you're trying too hard, and this practice reeks of desperation. It's a fairly limited look as well, since there are few places and situations where this could pass for appropriate as all. Even when the rest of your look is totally proper and pulled together, a frilly thong sticking out of a skirt or a bra peeking through a see-through top destroys the whole outfit.

I think there are definitely different levels of acceptability when it comes to this trend. If you can't get around showing bra straps under a tank top, at least wear ones that will draw as little attention as possible (i.e. avoid the hot pink push up with rhinestone studded straps). Same goes for low-back tops or dresses where the back of the bra might rise above the top of the garment. Of course, if the bra is going to be really obvious, in the case of a backless dress or tube top, try to find a bra that isn't going to show, like a convertible or backless bra.


The article also mentioned slip dresses and corset belts as articles of clothing that shifted from underwear to outerwear. I think that while these pieces both still harbor sexy associations, the fact that they're worn over other clothing, they don't have the same suggestiveness. Still, it takes some skill to pair correctly (I love the look of a corset belt over a menswear-inspired shirt or dress). And finding the right piece is key; no one wants to walk into a party in a slip dress and have people think she simply paired her pajamas with some heels and called it an outfit.

When it comes to underwear, I don't think there's ever an excuse for flashing it. If your dress, shorts, jeans or skirt shows your underwear, don't wear those clothes. A stray bra strap is one thing, but flashing your panties borders on vulgar.

But maybe I'm too strict... what do you think about the underwear as outerwear trend?

17 comments:

Anonymous said...

Amen sister girl!

Anonymous said...

I think your mama would be proud!

Rae said...

I think the trend is disgusting, too - we don't want to see that. It was meant to be hidden, not flashed around for the world to gawk at. It's just...not at all classy.

Anonymous said...

My mother always asked, "Would you wear it to church?". Her logic dictated that, if one were too embarrassed to wear said garment to church, then it shouldn't be in one's wardrobe. But, I guess that folks whose underwear is always on display wouldn't understand that, either...

Anonymous said...

i dont know why women these days think its sexy to reveal underwear, its very embarrassing and untidy and definitely not attractive.

Cate said...

Amen! The only time I wore underwear as outerwear was at a specific kind of party (before I grasped the racist and sexist connotations, but it rhymes with Blimps and Prose) and it was demure...for that party. However, I have never brought that black lace tank out to play again, it's just inappropriate. There are far too many adorable options for people to resort to showing me their particular secret. Great post.

Anonymous said...

flashing your underwear is one thing but i personally don't have a problem with displaying bra straps and even the tops of bras that come above low-cut tanks and dresses. in fact whenever i know my bra is going to be visible i make sure to wear a cute one-like my hot pink one. naturally this look is not appropriate for work or class and i would cover up there, but i think the trend itself is kind of cute.

nadarine said...

the deep-v cocktail dress w intentional bra? GORGEOUS. I do think that particular piece is perfect for some occasions- especially w a fashiony crowd.

Jo said...

What do I think of showing off undies of any description?

Eugh.

Blar, yuck, hack, gark.

Eugh.

That is all.

(Of course, I'm damn near 40, so YMMV. I suppose it's fine for you crazy kids, but nobody wants to see my 18-Hour Bra and Jeebus-God-Super-Constricto Girdle flapping around.) ;-)

maui-girl95 said...

I really don't care to see anyone else's underwear. I can't believe that girl you saw didn't notice her dress flying up. Or I guess she knew, but didn't care!

I guess I'm old school because I don't really like seeing bra straps either. I just think it looks sloppy.

There are so many different types of bras and panties out there, it shouldn't be difficult to find ones that work under all types of clothing.

lisa said...

I like wearing camisoles with thin spaghetti straps and a bit of lace trim as layering pieces, or with jeans and skirts. They're not that different from tank tops, especially since they're not extremely low-cut or anything. I admit they look better with a strapless bra, but if you have a black cami and a bra with black straps, say, that's acceptable.

However, I definitely agree that flashing underwear is tacky. The poor girl should've worn leggings or a less revealing skirt.

kamo said...

i can almost appreciate a bit of (sexy, black) bra peeking out of the back or sides of a drapey dress or top, a la carrie bradshaw. i actually saw a girl doing this at a trendy restaurant the other week and thought it looked pretty cute. the arm holes of her top draped down so you could just see a few inches of lace. it was subtle enough that it worked, and didn't show any body parts.

anything else is just pulling a britney, in my opinion :p

Cherie said...

I guess I'm way too old for that - some of the young things with thin legs that go up to here - maybe cute? I just spent 2 days on a college campus, and I saw the gamut, from covered hippie bohemian to...yeah, there. And pj's too. In all honesty, I also saw some very cute outfits, nicely casual, on the young things. I guess the range of acceptability is much broader these days!

Anonymous said...

That would be one hundred percent unacceptable on our campus, but I go to a small (about 1600 traditionals) college, and you would look stunningly ridiculous walking around like that. I think that going around in public in your pajamas or sweatsuits is unacceptable, but that's just how I was raised. I think it's hilarious how if I wear a pair of casual heels and a nice sweater with jeans, everyone comments on how dressed up I am, when I think it's so much more ridiculous to look like a slob.

Katchin said...

I'm so cosigning!
Showing your undies doesn't border on vulgar, it is. What ever happened to mystery? In my opinion, a major part of being "sexy" is leaving a lasting impression, and making a man wonder about you when your gone. What' left to wonder about if your totally on display? If I'm not sleeping with you, I don't need to see any of that!

Anonymous said...

I have been wearing sheer tops that do show my bra a bit for years but i dont think it looks trashy. Whether something looks trashy or not comes down to how someone wears it. Someone who is curvaceous definately cannot pull off the sheer outerwear trend because it becomes too sexualized. However, if you have a slim body shape and small chest (think A cup or less) the exposure of underwear looks more stylish. The level of sheerness of the overgarment is also a factor. Generally i go for fabrics that are just a touch transparent and i'll wear a contrasting colored bra.

Attitude is another impt factor. If you can make it look unintentional and offhand, it comes off as quirky and cute instead of slutty.

I dunno. This trend is something i've been doing for a while whether it is a black bra under a semi transparent blouse or shirt, or cute red undies under a barely translucent (almost opaque) yellow dress.

I only cringe because everyone knows that once there is a trend, tons of ppl will be carrying it off badly.

Paige Sicx said...

Right on darling! I too have seen a fair share of wanna-be sexiness on my college campus. In this case, less usually isn't more.