A few weeks before Thanksgiving last year, I was on a panel for a lingerie brand where we were talking about who our underthings were for. Namely, when we slipped on a pair of sexy underwear, did we do it for ourselves, or did we do it for the person who might be lucky enough to slip it off? I argued that it wasn’t an either/or issue—it could be a both/and. “I feel sexy when I know that someone wants to rip my panties off,” I argued to a room full of gals grasping gin cocktails.
Then the next morning, I rolled out of bed, took a shower, and opened my underwear drawer to start getting ready—and I was horrified by what was looking back at me. My bras were ratty and stretched out. My underwear were old and full of holes. It was a bleak scene. This was the panty drawer that, according to what I’d told a room full of women the previous evening, was my source of strength and sexiness. And it was a f*cking mess.
Now, looking back at the year I had in 2018, and the lack of sex I had in said year (it was the driest of spells, my friends), it’s not surprising that my panty drawer looked like a post-apocalyptic relic. I worked through a series of hard knocks and bad dates. I lost my job in the beginning of the year, so instead of focusing on dating and caring for myself, I focused on getting my career back on track. Because of my professional pitfalls, I felt like a loser and a failure. And that’s not exactly the hottest feeling in the world, so my dating life suffered. I was in survival mode, not siren mode. My clothing, both visible and not, took a hit as a result.
But that was then. And in the cold light of day, I realized that I needed a change. I wanted my sexy back, and I was going to start with my underwear drawer. But instead of just relying on the same stretch cotton I typically did, I was going to finally indulge in some lacy underthings. (My fun fact is that, in the years before this panty overhaul, I’d just go commando on dates where I thought that sex was a possibility. Yes, even in a dress. I know.)
To me, lingerie was always the ultimate indulgence. It was one of those things I’d dreamed of owning when I was broke and living off pasta in college. “When I make it, I want to invest in some amazing lingerie,” I’d tell my friends. “That’s how I know that I’m successful.” In the meanwhile I relied on bargain-bin panties and bras at a heavy discount. Were they cute? Absolutely not. But economic? Of course. My Depression-era grandmother would be proud of those panty purchases.
Tossing out the old undies felt like I was cutting ties with a part of myself that no longer served me.
One of the benefits of the tough 2018 I’d had was that I started making good money as a freelancer—more, in fact, than I’d made in my previous full-time jobs. I hadn’t exactly “made it” per se, but I did have a little extra income to splurge on some bras and panties. Couple that with the insane Black Friday sales that came up a few weeks later, and I was able to do a complete overhaul for a grand total of less than $300. I shopped around but got the most stuff from Savage x Fenty, because their sizing was amazing and their deals—like three-packs for $30—were fabulous. (Leave it to Rihanna to do lingerie right.)
Every time a package arrived, it felt like it was Christmas morning. I’d open it up, lay my bounty on my bed, and do a little fashion show for myself in the mirror of my bedroom. The transformation I felt was instant, and it was incredible. Slipping on the new underthings, for me, was like popping on Wonder Woman’s arm cuffs. I felt invincible and confident, regardless of what I was wearing on top of the underwear. Underneath, I had super powers.
Tossing out the old undies felt like I was cutting ties with a part of myself that no longer served me. I was saying goodbye to the sad, schlubby gal who spent her days in leggings and cried because she didn’t know how she was going to pay her bills. I’d replaced her with a newer, more confident person who felt good in her skin. My underwear, surprisingly, was the foundation of that transformation. I’d slip it on in the morning and look at myself in the mirror with nothing but my panties on. I felt good about the way I looked, which made me want to take that energy into the rest of my day. I started dressing in clothing, not loungewear, and I started feeling better about the way I looked. And all it took was a new wardrobe of underwear. Who knew?
Since then I’ve become a big proponent of the lingerie overhaul. I know it’s a luxury that seems incredibly unnecessary for a lot of women. I get it. I used to order packs of underwear from Amazon and call it a day. But I cannot stress the beauty of doing something that’s solely for you. Your underwear don’t have to be frilly and lacy with mesh or bows—just something you feel excited to put on each morning the same way you do with a favorite dress or pair of boots. For me, that’s a sheer lace bra and G-string. If someone else gets to see them? Well, that’s great too.
Maria Del Russo is a sex and relationship writer in Brooklyn. Her first book, Simple Acts of Love, will be out this summer.