Lingerie: it's not just for men's sake

A university study finds women use lingerie to impress each other as much as their boyfriends

While the mystery of why women spend so much money on lingerie does not rank up there with the creation of Stonehenge or the Egyptian pyramids, it has definitely puzzled a few members of the opposite sex since the undergarments become popular in the middle of the 20th century.

Popular wisdom says that 'women do it for their partners', but Per Østergaard, a graduate student of social sciences and philosophy at Aalborg University, wasn't satisfied with that explanation.

'I'm the kind of person who studies a bunch of crazy things,' Østergaard told Berlingske Tidende newspaper. 'Lingerie is an area which apparently hasn't received so much attention, but which takes up a great deal of space in our popular culture.'

So Østergaard began to collect data and conduct interviews with women to shed light on this under-researched area.

His findings: when selecting lingerie, the hierarchies of the dressing room play just as much a role as the intrigues of the bedroom when determining what lingerie women purchase.

Østergaard found that women use lingerie as a means for exploring other sides of their personality in addition to merely looking sexy for their mates. Lingerie essentially provides a means for exploring and defining a social identity.

According to Østergaard's findings, women continually size up each other's undergarments in public spaces to evaluate whether they fall within accepted norms.

There's a fine lace line between looking 'attractive' or instead like 'a housemother' or 'a hussy', he argues in 'Consumer situations - Perspectives and the experience economy', which is printed by Aalborg University's Publishing House.

And as Valentine's Day quickly approaches, Østergaard predicted men would continue to have difficulties choosing the right present for their girlfriends and wives.

'Men get their impression of undergarments through the media and have quite a stereotypical idea of what is sexy,' said Østergaard. 'But a lot of the lingerie that men see on fashion models doesn't necessarily look as good on their girlfriends at home. She knows that, but he doesn’t.'

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