You know that feeling that some women — I’m not naming any names here, but we know who we are — sometimes get? That feeling that we don’t belong, that we’re really just faking it, that any minute someone’s going to come along and blow our cover of competence, exposing us for the frauds that we are? That, whadjamacallit, imposter syndrome?
Well, I am here to tell you that bad underwear — those holey, stained cotton briefs; that greying, pilled bra with the wonky hook and the spent elastic, the one you’re spilling out of — is the sartorial equivalent of imposter syndrome. On the outside, you may look like you’ve got it all together, but just under the surface of your power suit, you’ve got a foundation of crap.
I know whereof I speak. About six years ago, coming out of a five-year stretch that encompassed two pregnancies and a whack load of nursing, I had drawers full of unmentionably unattractive cotton briefs, discarded nursing bras, and a bunch of tired department-store bras (the same brand that my mom had worn, the same brand I had grown up wearing) in various sizes of “don’t quite fit” and in various shades of what I believe the designers now call “greige.”
There’s a much longer story here, the one where my drawers full of bras also included all of my mother’s old bras, the ones I took from her drawers after she died of breast cancer. But we will, for now, skip over that part of the story and my psyche to arrive at this point: my underwear was subpar. It didn’t fit. It looked bad on me, and I felt not only unattractive but tinged with grief whenever I wore it. Clearly, it was time for an upgrade.
When I upgraded, I upgraded big time. In one highly uncharacteristic, frenzied, slightly manic, entirely euphoric week, I dropped more money on lingerie than I had paid for a kids’ designer double stroller. I bought nine bras, and matching underwear, in various shades of sexy, all of which fit well, all of which made me almost unbearably happy. I had no money, but it barely mattered. I felt amazing.
And I want all of you, reading this in your ratty underwear (you know who you are), to feel amazing, too.
You don’t have to upgrade quite as dramatically as I did, fun as that was. But go. Go to an actual lingerie store and give yourself some serious time (and a pretty serious budget). Do not wait until you have lost 10 pounds. Try on a bunch of bras, including bras that you’re not sure about. You may be surprised once you see them on. Let the bra-store lady come in to the changeroom and tighten the straps and guide your breasts into their proper place. Think of her not as an intruder but as a Sherpa, someone entirely invested in the well-being of your bust, someone for whom it is painful to see you in an ill-fitting bra. Try not to gasp at the prices.
Remember this key phrase: “Does this one have matching underwear?”
Because you’re going to buy the matching underwear. Yes, you are. Ideally, you will have two or more pairs of matching underwear for each bra, because of washing ratios. (Also purchase one of those mesh laundry bags, because not even I have time to hand-wash underwear. As for the bras themselves, wear them in the shower, rub a little bit of soap into them, rinse and hang them to dry. Done.)
Choose your bras. Build up your collection over time until you have three, four, five to rotate through. Get rid of all the flimsy, torn, beige-ish bits of nylon you’ve been putting up with until now.
The point of this is not to buy more stuff that you don’t need. It’s not too look sexy for anyone else (although if your partner or lover or utterly consensual casual fling finds you sexy in your lovely undergarments, that’s a bonus). The point of this is that there is something fundamentally powerful and pleasurable in ensuring that the garments closest to your skin, the garments that touch your most private parts, are beautiful and well-chosen and comfortable.
This is what I want for you: I want you to wake in the morning and to open a drawer filled only with exquisite, well-fitting undergarments. Matching undergarments. I want you to pull on a pair of quality underwear that is the right size for your miraculous body as it is in this very moment, and I want you to lovingly house your perfect breasts in a matching bra that was chosen precisely for them. A bra that is at bare minimum attractive and utterly serviceable, and ideally also sexy as hell, however you define sexy.
I want you to look at yourself in your beautiful underwear and do that thing you did when you were a little kid where you smile and shimmy in front of the mirror because you are delighted with how stunningly bad-ass you look. I want you to notice how much better your shirts fit with the right bra underneath them. I want you, when you grab a bathroom break later on in the day, not to be able to resist quickly pulling up your shirt in front of the mirror and taking a moment to enjoy how great you look in your stunning lingerie.
I want you to feel supported, literally and figuratively.
Look: life is too short and you are too lovely to sell yourself short on crappy underwear, to wear clothes that make you feel anything but fantastic, from the skin up. Yes, of course, there are bigger problems in the world. But this one has a relatively easy fix. So fix it. And then, shrug off your imposter syndrome, and go out in the world, and create change.