The title of this post is inspired by one blog reader who left comments to the poll that compared Chinese and Western women wearing cheongsam (qipao).
Let me quote that comment:
“Crystal, you should do a post on why Chinese women wear such rubbish underwear. This is an area where most Western women are far ahead.”
To which another reader replied:
“Yeah, I have to agree <…> the choices for lingerie in China are awful.
<…> even in Shanghai, the Victoria’s Secret shop is a joke <…> every time I go back to the US, I make a special shopping trip just for lingerie for my girlfriend. Now she won’t wear anything else. Oh, and, Chinese girls, just a tip–I know you like red, but red underwear doesn’t make you look sophisticated, it makes you look older. Black or another color to go with your skin. Please.”
I wrote down the note to myself to return to this topic later, and this is what I am doing now. However, I am not a fashion critic and will only describe my own experience and some things that I noticed watching my friends. And you are free to make conclusions.
First of all, it’s natural that any girl’s understanding about fashion is primarily formed through observation of her mother. In reality, the generation of our mothers not only has a very different opinion about intimate clothing, but years ago they didn’t have any decent choice of underwear. Thus, they hardly can serve as role models in this aspect of fashion.
Whenever my mom saw me changing clothes, she would always say something like – “I can’t understand why you buy such small underwear. Half of your butt is outside. Why don’t you buy bigger and more comfortable undies?” I would usually rebut noticing that her underwear would fit to be my shorts. Actually, many of my friends confirmed that they have similar misunderstandings with their mothers. So, we have to figure out the fashion rules by ourselves (with the help of friends and media).
As for media, one who saw some Korean, Chinese or Japanese series and advertisements won’t be surprised why we like childish patterns on all kind of clothes and accessories (including underwear). These patterns come in different flavors: bunnies, pigs, funny faces, cartoons, hearts etc. And to make it even cuter such outfit sometimes comes in pairs (for males and females).
Of course, we have shops specializing in sexy lingerie and other intimate clothing. But only brave Chinese girls would consider buying the daring outfit. Here works the same logic as with the usage of contraceptives: being sexy is the same as admitting to have sex; and although everyone does it, nobody talks about it. So, very often girls would pass by the windows of these shops, exchange few comments (“How can people wear something like that?”) and embarrassingly giggle.
My friend M. is a good example of traditional Chinese girl. When I used to visit her, I often stayed to sleep at her house. Few times I could see her underwear when she changed the clothes or washed them. And I paid attention that all of them looked pretty much the same: white cotton underwear fully wrapping the bottom. I asked her if she had other style. “No” – she answered – “I like this color. Also they are convenient and not visible under light-colored trousers.”
So I asked if she would consider to wear T-back underwear or strings for her husband. “Are you kidding?” – she said – “I am not that kind of girl. And, besides, silk and lace are not healthy.”
Other girl was brave enough to experiment but encountered a totally unexpected kind of trouble. Let’s call her S. She is a close friend of my fiance’s ex-girlfriend, Christine. One day S. complained to Christine about pains “down there”. It’s worth to note that she is a good-hearted but somewhat… err… naive girl. So, Christine – being a true friend – decided to take her to a good gynecologist she knew. After examination, doctor took Christine aside and tactfully asked whether she knows if S. lately had some violent/unpleasant experience (read – rape).
Christine interrogated her friend and found out that few days ago she for the first time bought new sexy string underwear (you know, with such super-narrow rear part). And somehow she got confused between front and back…
Of course, such naivety is extraordinary but it demonstrates the possibility of awkward situations related to intimate topics, when one is eager to try out something new without knowing exactly how to do it. However, even knowledge doesn’t guarantee the desired outcome.
When I lived in Chongqing, I always liked to buy underwear in one specific shop. So, I got to know the salesgirl working there. One time she complained that her own encounter with sexy underwear was unsuccessful.
She bought it in order to make a pleasant surprise for her husband. When he came back home and entered the bedroom, he found his wife lying on bed, dressed in bra and G-string underwear. She said something sexy to greet him, but instead of engaging in the game the husband was stunned and just said: “What are you doing? Are you mad?”
Before you make the conclusion that it is hopeless to expect us to wear nice and sexy underwear, let me remind that Chinese girls are very fashion- and appearance-conscious. The only reason why our intimate wardrobe is not as rich as that of Western girls is the lack of exposure. But if the boyfriend/husband of Chinese woman shows sincere interest and tact, he will be surprised how quickly she expands her horizons beyond any expectations.
Finally, let me explain few things regarding the red color. There are at least two reasons why Chinese would wear red underwear.
Firstly, red color is the symbol of luck and happiness. And, by the way, many Chinese men who like to gamble make sure to wear red underwear when playing.
Second reason is related to zodiacs. As you know every year in Chinese calendar is linked with some animal. These zodiacs repeat each 12 years.
Chinese believe that for a person who was born in the year of the same zodiac as the current year, it can be unlucky (that is when he/she is 12, 24, 36 and so on). So, in order to repel bad luck and evils, people would prepare a big stock of red underwear and use it during the “unlucky” year.
I wish, however, that in 2011 even Rabbits would avoid bad luck without worrying about the color of their underwear.
Not superstitious Crystal Tao