The New York Times' Cintra Wilson has a rant against a certain famous purveyor of panties. She likens the national undie outpost to "a stretch-lace and animal-print McDonaldland of acceptable corporate erotica for the family casino crowd" in her particularly vitriolic V-Day column, Chug-a-Lugging Aphrodisiacs. Think you know who she's slamming?
If you guessed ever-popular provocateur Victoria's Secret, you're right on the money. Wilson argues that, far from being secretive or even subtle, Vickie's is veering into all-out hooker territory, forcing customers looking for lingerie that's reasonably priced—and reasonably positioned on the Scale of What's Sexy—to wade through a lot of trash to (maybe) find treasure.
And she's right. Walk into any Victoria's Secret in the country (or hit up their website, or page through their iconic catalog) and you have to navigate past all the over-the-top lacy, frilly, costume-y, and scanty "special night" stuff to get to still-sexy—but much more practical—staples that made VS a success. Sure, every woman wants to feel sexy, but do we really need a whole room of slap-in-the-face takes on sexuality that leaves nothing to the imagination?
Take VS's Cutout Teddy ($29.50), a testament to the power of a quarter yard of mesh, some dental floss, and good old fashioned gravity, or their Lace Slip with Garters ($58), a magenta and black lace homage to the Old West's finest whorehouses. Even Vickie's Pink Line, targeted at tweens and teens, is bordering on skimpy smut. Pink's Frilly Hiphugger Panties (5 for $25) look like what guys imagine girls wearing during all those illicit late-night sorority pillow fights. Ugh. Where's the mystery? What could Victoria's grand secret possibly be if she's telling us this much up front?
That's not to say VS doesn't still sell some of the most wearable underwear on the planet. I've already confessed my addiction to their cotton knickers (5 for $25), and their IPEX ($48-$51) is a fashion-meets-physics miracle. Their Angels Air Push-Up in all over lace ($48) is a sexy addition to any wardrobe, and their sweet ballet-length satin nightie ($27) is demure and flirty and probably much easier to slip out of than any of those string-and-mesh contraptions.
There's subtle sex appeal to be found, for sure, but you're going to have to make your way through a veritable maze of mass-produced eroticism to get the goods. Dodge the stripper send-ups in the front room! Rifle through the drawers to get to the wearable stuff that's belied by the nearly invisible satin thongs! Try to resist the scandalously named cosmetics lurking near the checkout counter (anyone for a lipstick named Sweet Release or Satin Sheets?)! And, for goodness sake, if you do find the secret to subtle sexiness, keep it to yourself. That's part of the fun.
Below are some more demure intimate choices that'll make you feel sexy in a classier way.