Wednesday, February 6, 2008

the politics of lingerie

I've recently staked claim on a new web domain, the NOIR BOUDOIR and revamped my entire vintage lingerie section of my website. It is, after all, what originally inspired my love of vintage clothing and was the catalyst for my start in selling online. My shop in Des Moines already has a fairly large amount of vintage lingerie available, but being a hoarder at heart, I still had quite a bit stored away. As I went back over my offerings on the website, I realized two things A) it looked weak and B) some pieces had sold (despite the weak presentation) and I hadn't filled it back in.

So I began searching the racks and got out the things in back and started a two day marathon shooting pictures and adding lingerie to the site. A lot of what I have is 30s and 40s, and as I was shooting a friend of mine (hi Julie!) mentioned that she had for years lamented that nearly all lingerie from the 20s to the 40s was either white, peach or pink but that she had come to make peace with that. And it really is true.

After editing the pictures of the above early 30's bra and tap pants set, I realized why. This, to the naked eye, looks like peach silk. Peach silk trimmed in ecru lace. When photographed it began to take on a "nude" hue. Maybe its overthinking it, but it seems logical to me to assume that in the 20s, 30s and part of the 40s the higher end of lingerie would have been targeting American, caucasian women. Lingerie as something to be seen at all by men was a post-Victorian mentality, but still new territory. Keeping the textiles in the color range of the white woman's skin with hints of "sheer" lace was, I imagine, the raciest notion those of the female persuasion could handle!

Taking this a step further, on my site there is a black silk and ecru lace bra and tap pants from the 40s that came to me with a story of how it had been purchased in France by a young GI during WWII, and brought home to his lovely (likely blushing furiously) bride who then refused to wear it becuase the black was too racy.

It wasn't until the later 40s that black started to make its way into the actual underpinnings of women's wear....certainly, previous to that some forward thinking women may have worn it, but for the average woman wearing a black bra or panties was unheard of. It is interesting that as times changed and America became more accepting of its melting pot status in the world, the idea that the color of lingerie not necessarily match the color of your skin became more acceptable too. And interesting, too, that women these days shun the "nude" colored lingerie in bras, stockings and slips in favor of bold colors, prints and designs....

Here's to women of all colors....and to women being comfortable enough in their own skin to wear whatever they damn well please!