How do you choose underwear for a woman? If you’re tired of hearing her say, "But I thought this was for me, not for you," then it’s time you listened to the advice of Dr. Christiana Tsaousi, who is one among the rare breed known as "underwear consumption" experts. According to her latest research, you should begin by avoiding anything you’ve seen promoted as sexy on TV. Tsaousi, a lecturer at the University of Leicester's School of Management, found that each woman’s personal taste is influenced by her personal needs, her social background, her professional status, and her upbringing. "When partners are looking to buy underwear as Valentine's gifts for their wives or girlfriends, they should choose underwear which will fit their partners well and will make them feel comfortable — rather than the stereotypical tiny, uncomfortable types,” said Tsauousi in a press release. “This will ultimately lead to them feeling nice about themselves."

Underwear consumption

“This paper argues that women’s underwear functions as a source for (re)constructing female identity, and that women’s consumption of underwear is an embodied experience through which they ‘learn’ to choose the ‘right’ underwear for the right occasion.”

Say what?

Seeking to expand “the limited literature on underwear and its significance in terms of identity and consumption,” Tsauousi interviewed a number of women from a range of backgrounds and life experiences, including university lecturers, young mothers, and even female rugby players. Some groups, she discovered, preferred "cute" underwear (young rugby girls), while others liked underwear that could support their professional outerwear (academic women). Next, she analyzed the influence of upbringing, profession, age, and social status on underwear choices.

What she quickly discovered was that women make similar judgments about their underwear as they do about their outerwear. Time and thought went into these purchases. She also found a big influence on underwear taste for many women came from dear old Mom. "We can't forget that the mother normally buys the first bra for her daughter,” Tsaousi commented. “It is the first act of being feminine, and introduces girls to the idea that they are becoming a woman." Even though it is important, underwear consumption has been too long neglected by academia, she believes. "Obviously women's outer dress is visible so it is under scrutiny by others,” Tsaousi said. But just because others cannot see it doesn’t mean these garments aren’t important to those wearing it. In fact, women think very carefully about choosing the right underwear for each situation. For this reason, comfort is often as important as "sexiness."

Bottom line: It's probably time to say bye-bye to the red thong lying on a bed of tissue paper inside an overdressed box.

Source: Tsaousi C. ‘What underwear do I like?’ Taste and (embodied) cultural capital in the consumption of women’s underwear. Journal of Consumer Culture. 2014.