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When Does Underwear Become Lingerie?

The terms ‘underwear’ and ‘lingerie’ can typically be used to describe the same thing. It’s what you’re wearing under your clothes. But is there a difference between the two, and if so, what? Arguably, all lingerie is underwear, but not all underwear is lingerie. We look at what makes your standard knickers and bra go from just underwear to lingerie.

woman wearing corset

What is underwear?

The Oxford English Dictionary defines underwear as ‘Clothing worn under other clothes, typically next to the skin’. Underwear keeps our clothing clean as it absorbs sweat and oils from the skin. In the 17th and 18th Centuries, basic linen garments would be worn under clothing for warmth, modesty and hygiene reasons. Later on, it was traditionally used to create the perfect shape as a basis for clothing in the 18th and 19th centuries. Corsets were used by the upper classes to cinch in waists and improve posture. Underwear was seen as a foundation for outer garments and wasn’t used for sexual purposes, despite what you may see in films and period dramas. After all, there’s nothing sexy about having whale bones digging into your ribs!

Nowadays, we wear underwear for pretty similar reasons- modesty, hygiene support and body shaping. Underwear is mostly viewed as practical, and most people wear certain styles for comfort. The firm favourites are boy shorts, high leg and bikini styles in basic fabrics like cotton and nylon.

selection of bras

What is lingerie?

Lingerie is simply the French word for underwear. Everyone needs ‘regular’ underwear. Some days we just want to be comfortable or need to wear underwear that fits a practical purpose like exercising or a long day at work. However, in the UK, we think of lingerie as something a bit more special than regular undies. Typically, lingerie is made from more luxury fabrics such as lace and silk, and is not necessarily built for practicality but looks beautiful. It is usually more expensive as it tends to be more detailed and delicate. Lingerie can range from bra and knickers sets to teddies and chemises to more exotic designer lingerie. It is usually worn in the bedroom and used to spice up love lives across the nation.

woman wearing lingerie

Related: What’s The Best Lingerie For Your Body Shape? [Infographic]

What makes lingerie special?

Lingerie can be worn under clothes but is often only worn for aesthetic purposes. Most women have a ‘seduction set’ that they feel more confident when wearing. Lingerie, therefore, serves more of a purpose in a woman’s life than just something to wear under her clothes- it gives her confidence, makes her feel sexy and makes her feel in control. Emily Bendell ‘Great lingerie gives you an inner confidence at all times – not just in the bedroom but at work or home, or when out with friends -whenever or wherever’.

So what can we do to embrace this? The answer is simple. We can wear lingerie! But the most important part is not just to try and please your partner, but to make yourself feel amazing. Relationship Expert Kristina Marchant says ‘If you feel great in a slinky nightie or a sheer bra and panties, he’ll feel great looking at you in it. The confidence will translate’. Try to choose styles that make you feel gorgeous, and give yourself a confidence boost this evening – even if the person you are trying to impress is yoursefl!

What do you love about lingerie? Let us know in the comments!

About the Author Gemma Curtis

Gemma is a writer for Sparkling Strawberry who loves vintage glamour and lace details.

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