Undies and girdles and bloomers, Oh My!

by Ken Carpenter



            Last year I performed the very unmanly act of pitching out some old underwear that was still relatively young, especially when compared to my youngest son, who is only 28. In truth, one pair may have been as old as he, but there was still some life left in them. I just decided that I would rather toss them out than listen to any “ragged panties” cracks from my wife, to whom all underwear, even men’s, is known as panties. It is most disconcerting.

            I don’t know why men have such a hard time throwing away old underwear. It is like they are thinking that there are starving urchins in China who would love to have some hole-infested undies, so they shouldn’t be wasted until they fall apart. I am no different, and I’ve been known to wear them until they are as transparent as cellophane.

            Maybe women are just as bad, but I doubt it. They seem to spend more time thinking about consequences than men do. Like for instance, being hauled into the emergency room wearing bloomers with a big hole in the rump. I guess most men could care less as long as the soon to be exposed bottom is comfortable while it awaits its fate.

            Sometime around the 13th century pull-on underpants were invented, usually made of linen, and cheap enough so that even the crude peasants started wearing them. Perhaps that is why many men try to milk every last possible wearing out of their unmentionables, they inherited the tendency from their peasant ancestors.

            Widespread use of undergarments improved sanitation and caused peasant life spans to increase, and at the same time the rich decided they needed fancier and more torturous undies to show off their status. Corsets and codpieces were developed, further proof that I come from peasant stock. You would have to hold me at knifepoint to get a gut-cinching corset on me. It is said that some women would shrink their waist to 14 inches with a good, tight corset. Can you say “Aaaaarrrgh!”

            Women’s underwear has spawned a long line of interestingly named items. Pantaloons, bloomers, drawers, petticoats, knickers, chemises, and the terrifying girdle are just a few, but I guess some are actually bisexual. Or whatever a garment is called that is used by both sexes.

            My personal favorite is the ‘bum roll’, a tightly wrapped cylinder of fabric that rested on a lady’s hips to make her waist appear even smaller. It was quite often worn under a farthingale, another temptingly titled garment.

            Underwear in the new millennium has shrunk down to band-aid size, and I wonder how much smaller they can go. If all the blubber surveys can be believed, American parts that need covering are only getting bigger. Something does not mesh.

I guess it should come as no surprise that there is still a market for innard scrunching articles like girdles and corsets. Who wears them I don’t know. When I was a kid it took my Mom 15 minutes to get her girdle on, and she seemed short of breath the whole time she wore it. My sister lived in terror that she would someday have to endure the same thing when she turned into a grownup, but as far as I know she hasn’t yet. Yet, I say.

In closing, I guess I should admit that I am the not so proud owner of three pair of bikini briefs. My dear, panty-loving wife bought them for me because she thought I would be cute in them. She still insists that is the case, but every time I put them on I am reminded of a pig in a tutu.

If you are given to visualizing what you read, I am eternally remorseful for you.