I’ll never forget a conversation I had with a married friend in my early 20s. I had expressed a desire to go lingerie shopping, to find something beautiful to wear. “We’ll go when you’re married,” she said. For a long time, I believed that lingerie was all about a future partner, even though I was the one wearing it. In the intervening years, I’ve learned, somewhat stumblingly, that I don’t have to be partnered to enjoy lingerie.
Maybe you also think that lingerie isn’t for you as a single person, or perhaps you’re intimidated about the process of selecting and wearing it (or maybe you’re already a lingerie champ). Either way, there’s something for you in Cora Harrington’s new book In Intimate Detail: How to choose, wear, and love lingerie. I caught up with her to talk about the delights of lingerie, and why you don’t have to be coupled to wear and enjoy it.
Tell me a little bit about your book?
It’s all about helping people find the lingerie of their dreams. I think the world of lingerie can be really intimidating and really confusing—there are so many terms, so many things to know— lingerie really has its own unique language. I think that combined with the unique sizing system and then just all of the feelings we have about our bodies, because our lingerie is what we wear closest to the skin, everything else kind of goes on top of it and covers it up. There’s a lot of feelings and emotions that can be attached to our intimate apparel. So the purpose of the book is to help make this world of lingerie more accessible to people, to unpack some of that terminology to make it more inviting, to try and convince people that there’s a place in this world of lingerie for you, there’s something here for you, there are people making products for you. Maybe you just don’t know the right words to find what you’re looking for, you haven’t heard anyone say ‘Hey, it’s okay to love lingerie, it’s okay to buy beautiful things for yourself,’ that you deserve it. That’s what I want this book to be—an invitation to come into the world of lingerie.
There’s a line in your introduction that I just love: “Lingerie can feel like a fancy party we weren’t invited to.” While that’s true for many, it might be especially true for single women. What do you see as the importance of lingerie for singles? Well for me, lingerie is for everybody that wants it. The purpose of my book isn’t if somebody is a die-hard ‘I hate lingerie, I’m never going to wear it.’ I’m just like ‘okay, you do you,’ but the point is that if you’re interested, if you want to learn more, then it’s for you. If you’re single and you feel like ‘oh I can’t wear lingerie because I don’t have a significant other,’ lingerie is for you. Wearing a beautiful silk robe is an indulgence for you. Wearing a beautiful pajama set, wearing a slip, wearing a lovely lace or embroidered bra—whatever you like—it should be for you. It is against your skin, it’s on your body, it’s the first thing you put on in the morning, it is the last thing you take off at night—you should wear something that makes you feel like the best version of yourself, and that’s the point. It’s not about wearing it for someone else who may or may not see it later on that day, it’s about knowing that you are doing this for yourself. You are adorning yourself to adore yourself.
In your book, you describe choosing and wearing delightful lingerie in a way that sounds a lot like self-care. Would you talk a little bit about that? I feel like as people, in general, there are so many rules, so many obligations or restrictions regarding how we have to present ourselves to the world. Especially if you’re a woman or a femme, there are even more rules regarding your appearance and how you are supposed to dress and how you’re supposed to look and what you’re supposed to wear. I feel like lingerie can be a place in your life where you can really express your truest self, where you can really be yourself no matter what you have to put on on top, or what you have to wear when you leave your home. Your lingerie can be something that is really just for you and to me that’s what intimate apparel means—that it’s something just for you or just for the people closest to you who you want to see. I don’t use the words self-care, but to me lingerie is all about connecting with yourself, connecting with who you are and expressing and experimenting with who that person can be in a way that we’re often not encouraged to do. I think lingerie is a really beautiful place to try that.
A lot of people are intimidated by lingerie: buying it, wearing it, making sure it fits. What would you say to those who are nervous about getting started with lingerie? I would say I totally understand why you’re feeling nervous. I don’t ever want to discount or delegitimize those feelings, because lingerie can be really scary and that’s a totally valid thing. I think sometimes it helps if you kind of narrow your focus a bit. The book covers a lot of different areas of lingerie, and that’s deliberate. It’s written in that way—maybe you’re just starting with bras and bra fit, and you can read that and buy a beautiful bra that fits you well, and maybe it’s like a year or two or maybe four or five years later where you’re like ‘oh I think I’m ready to buy a corset, I’m ready to buy a robe, it’s my honeymoon, I’m getting ready to go on a trip to Europe, or whatever, and I want to know more’ —where you can turn to the book again and read a chapter that is maybe more applicable to your life, but you don’t have to learn everything all at once or jump in with both feet if it feels really scary. I think one really great thing about being interested in lingerie today is not just the range of brands and styles and sizes we have access to in a way that is not like anything before, but also that there are lingerie bloggers and people that are sharing how products look and fit on their bodies so you can really get an accurate sense of how a product will look and work for you, which I think is really wonderful.
What are you hoping that your readers take away with them from your book? I just hope that they feel like lingerie is something that they can wear, like it’s something that they understand better, something that’s less scary, something that they are invited to. I know I used the metaphor of the party in the introduction and at the end of the book I want people to feel like ‘hey, there is something out there for me and there is someone who wants me to enjoy lingerie.’ I think a perspective on lingerie that is focused on ‘wear this sexy stuff for your presumably male partner ‘or ‘wear this bra or this shapewear so that you can look better’ that’s not a very inspiring perspective from my point of view, that’s not something that’s really going to motivate you to go out there and experiment or to discover what you like. I want people to feel like ‘oh, maybe this is something for me.’
Cara Strickland writes about food and drink, mental health, faith and being single from her home in the Pacific Northwest. She enjoys hot tea, good wine, and deep conversations. She will always want to play with your dog. Connect with her on Twitter @anxiouscook.