When you slip, I slip, we slip.

My mother bought me a forest green unlined velour dress to wear for Christmas one year.  It had a white lace collar, short puffy sleeves and hit just below mid-calf.  Allow me to describe it concisely: it was hideous.  The feel of the synthetic velvet against my sensitive skin was something like rubbing sandpaper on your face.  Almost painful.  It was because of this god-awful dress, because my mother grew up in the '50s and '60s, and because she had to conform to the completely insane gendered dress code of the federal government, that I grew up wearing slips. Whether it was under my communion dress, a seersucker jumper my Nanny made for me, or even a sundress...the rule in my household was:
If you can see through it or if it scratches your skin, if it's fall or winter, or if mom's in a particularly bad mood that day...you wear a slip.  That's it and that's all.
Yesterday, I was sitting in the student center on campus chatting with coworkers when a middle-aged woman of small stature walked by in a (likely unbeknownst to her) navy blue SHEER summer dress.  I could see her bright orange underpants without a hint of overexerted staring.  They were all, "look at me!  I'm orange underpants!"  THEN this morning, as we were pulling out of the coffee shop parking lot, I saw a woman wearing a white sundress and the white triangle positioned at the nexus of her ample ass cheeks made it very clear that she had gone to the trouble of wearing thong underwear that matched the dress.  Aren't thongs designed to conceal pantylines and not reveal them?** That is not really my point, though.  I don't bemoan anyone their right to let it all hang out...I am gay, I have spent a number of years in various gay bars (including leather bars, where people are always in various states of undress), I am not afraid of or made uncomfortable by nudity (or anything between it and a nun's habit).  Shiny happy naked people holding hands, or whatever. 

The overarching issue for me is that...well...I can see your underpants!  Did you want me to see your underpants?  Did you care?  Why wear a dress, in that case?  I realize that, even approaching the ripe old age of 31, I am still shirking off the modesty that was ingrained in me from a young age.  I still don't know precisely how to be feminine; I don't know how to wear make up without step-by-step instruction, I wear utilitarian undergarments, I don't cross my legs, skirts make me feel naked and I still have no idea how to style my hair despite numerous lessons and even more teachers.  Sexy is also not something that comes naturally to me.  But if I do find myself in a dress, leaving the house and going to a function where I will have to move and interact with people, with a cacophony of weather elements in the realm of possibility, I wear a slip.  It allows my dress/skirt to move easily, it doesn't get caught in my ass crack or crotch, and if the wind blows there's only a 50% chance that you'll really see my underpants.  I consider this my gift to the world, but I wonder...why doesn't the modern woman default to wearing a slip?

Am I...outdated?

** This is something I've struggled with for years, with friends and internally, as no one can convince me why: a) avoiding panty lines is important (why would you want to keep your underwear a secret, especially when most folks wear them too?); and b) exposing your private bits to a "bacteria sling" isn't something you'd want to avoid.

[Image: Vintage 1940s Simplicity Full Slip pattern from sandritocat - $22]


  1. I grew up wearing all kinds of camisoles, full slips, half slips, and even the kind that are lacy little shorts-- my mom was like your mom, and i'm still kind of scandalized when i can see someone's undies. It's not so much about my sense of propriety (okay, maybe it is) but i really love clothes, and i think that if you took the effort to dress up, you should do it all the way. I guess I hate feeling like someone half-assed something.

  2. "Half-assed something"


    And, I absolutely agree with you. :-)

  3. I only learned recently (like 2 years ago) that when wearing white your undergarments should match your skin tone in order to make them less visible (lines aside). It was a huge revelation.

    I prefer lycra biker short thingys to slips, mostly because I avoid wearing pantyhose at all costs.

    In my family thongs are referred to as "hiney floss."

  4. Yes, no problem with underwear, but I cringe when it seems to be an accidental reveal.

    My problem is that you can't really FIND slips anymore. I don't want something with crazy lace edging in weird colors. I just want a simple slip. Why is that so difficult? Am I going to the wrong stores?

  5. I agree with Rachel, that's the problem. You can't find slips. I've had several white/see-through ish dresses I'd love to have a slip for, but you can't find them! I've check most stores and been unsuccessful in finding them.

  6. Nicole - I agree that lyrca bike shorts or even Spanx are a viable option. Sometimes I find they still don't help with the clinging, though. And hiney floss is hilarious. :-)

  7. Rachel and Christina - Before I wrote this post, I went to sears.com because that's where my mom used to buy mine. They still have some selection there. I have also seen them at places like Kohls. You just have to shop in the old lady section. :-)

  8. I love your writing Meaghan!

    I must admit I'm in dire need of a few good slips, the ones I have don't come without uncomfortable habits of riding up, smashing the good bits, etc...

    Also my main complaint is the price on slips these days and the lack of sizes for us curvier gals.

  9. Agreed- the slip is so underrated. As are camisoles, etc... I'm not a prude, but I like knowing no one is going to see anything I don't choose to expose. And I think they're lovely, even the old- lady ones. There's something sweet and delicate about them.

    Regarding panty lines- I say if you're worried, go with bloomers or nothing.

  10. I wear dresses about half the work week, and I never wear a slip. For me, they're uncomfortable and unnecessary (I might feel different if any of my work clothing was sheer, but then I would also feel unemployed, because my office is very much not that kind of place). I do wear spanx-like items - basically the tops of pantyhose, or seamless bike shorts - not for modesty reasons or even "slimming" reasons, but for anti-chafing reasons. Chub rubs chaps my ass... or my thighs, anyway. (And in the case of more flow-y type skirts/dresses, they give me a little extra peace of mind when I'm walking around at lunchtime in the Inner Harbor wind.)

    Beyond that, I deeply and truly do not give a damn about undergarments, most especially the ones not on my own personal bits. I don't care if I can see them; I don't care who's wearing what; I just broadly and encompassingly don't care. As you and I have discussed many times, I have a "spillover" body. And I'm fat. And I'm aware that seeing more than the area above my neck is profoundly horrifying to the body police, but I'm not making special efforts to protect their delicate eyes from seeing a fat chick's boob or thigh or whatever. I'm pretty modest anyway these days (I'm old), but I'm not going to take special precautions above covering the stuff I personally want covered.

    Discussions about what other people "should" have on always trigger something for me - that feeling of being judged that I've grown after a lot of years of comments and looks and tsks about my spillover-age. So I try really hard not to project that stuff on to other people in the form of giving a hot damn what they've got on. It's not always easy, but in the case of slips, I guess I never cared to begin with, so I don't have to check the impulse to form an opinion about it. My mom was and is a jeans-wearing hippie who has probably not owned a slip since she graduated second grade 'round about 1966. She definitely never cared whether I put one on. And honestly, I kind of consider that a favor she did me. I've got enough to worry about with finding a bra that contains all it is asked to contain! :P

  11. girl, i love me a slip! and angela, i do agree with you regarding arguments about what people "should" do, but i think that a lot of the times these reveals are accidental, and the revealers would be mortified to know that it's happening. or maybe not! i hope this is the case! but i think people (of any and all genders) who wear women's clothing aren't being taught about the usefulness of the humble slip quite as much anymore. in recent years, i started wearing slips - found at thrift stores for pretty cheap - because i found that they help with sheer items, and avoid annoying clingyness, particularly in the cooler months when wearing tights and dealing with static. basically, because i was more comfortable in one. and that's what it comes down to for me. feels nice, wears nice, looks nice. everyone wins.


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All content © Meaghan O'Malley, 2009-2012. Header image by Rebekka Seale.