The Little Lingerie Drawer that Could

August 23, 2018

 

 

“You can be the ripest, juiciest peach in the world, and there's still going to be somebody who hates peaches.”

 

Dita Von Teese said that once, so it must be true right? But something Dita’s missing in her Chanel No. 5 words is that a woman who doesn’t look like her is, more often than not, considered strange fruit.

 

In this life, in my life, Black women are the ripest, juiciest peaches in a world that says peaches are poison. This skin I’m in comes with a lot more corset strings attached than Dita’s.

 

 "Stuck in a life that society says does not matter, I am constantly putting on bravery."

 

Stuck in a life that society says does not matter, I am constantly putting on bravery. Like a heavy coat, courage and intellect protect me from the storms I face when I step outside my door.

 

But hidden underneath my jeans, underneath my ever-tested strength, is my lingerie.

 

"When I get ready to face a world where women who look like me are physically and emotionally brutalized daily, I start with my armor underneath."

My lingerie drawer is full to busting with fishnets, lace, velvet, satin, leather, feathers, and fringe. When I get ready to face a world where women who look like me are physically and emotionally brutalized daily, I start with my armor underneath. The items of clothes that speak louder than any graphic tee would.

 

“Be gentle,” they say. “I’m too worthy. I’m too precious to be pushed to the side.”

 

They have their own personalities. They are made of sometimes conflicting elements like steel, lace, leather, or pearls. Their complexities are meant to be cherished and admired, but my identities and the thread they’re woven with are often overlooked or antagonized or stolen.

 

I wish I could defend myself as boldly as my ostrich feather burlesque fans, my delicately pleated chiffon babydoll chemise, or my double steel-boned satin underbust corsets present themselves. They are unapologetic of their mixture of softness and steel. I wish I could command society to honor me like they are honored as they rest in their vanilla-scented paper lined drawer. I hope one day all Black women can be honored, too. 

 

Magazines and movies and television are always telling me how I’m not sexy and beautiful . My skin is too dark. My nose is too wide. My waist is too thick. My belly is too soft.

 

But there is nothing sexier than Black Chantilly lace, more mysterious than the wide split on a long nightgown peignoir set, more interesting than the thick red contrast border of my black Cuban heel stockings, or more perfect than the softness of my velvet bralette. Maybe that’s why Black women are constantly scrutinized and appropriated. White women see us, and they want to slip us on. But we’re custom pieces, baby, not one size fits all.

 

The elements of myself that I’m told are never as good or as beautiful make my lingerie a prize, and there is something about the tangible beauty beneath my everyday clothes that feels good. And in times like these, I take my pleasures where I can find them.

 

 

 

That drawer doesn’t just hold clothes. It holds confidence. It carries self care.

 

I can’t add to the collection nearly as much as I’d like -if I had my way there would be a lingerie closet--but when I can spare some Christmas money or set aside savings by cooking instead of getting takeout I go straight to my local lingerie stores for some magic.

 

The brightly lit, pastel pink walls decorated with leather and spikes, feathers and sequins, velvet, and silk in every color of the rainbow teases my eyes. Petticoats hanging from the ceiling make the room feel as if it were surrounded by watercolor clouds. I escape in the safe haven of this place where everything, including me, is beautiful.

 

Even the pieces that I don’t like I still appreciate for their craftsmanship or their colors. Every piece is beautiful because the process of lingerie making is beautiful, laborious, and intense. Weaving together bobbins to make lace over a long period of time can make you blind. It could take weeks to remove the dye from your hands. Blood was shed for these garments, and reverence must be given. After all, how much pain and suffering and tearing down and sewing up did it take to survive this burden of being a Black woman? How many generations of women spun gold thread from uncaring stone?

 

With these beautiful objets d’art, I decorate and arm myself. If there’s any fear or doubt or hatred that I find myself having to shoulder, my lingerie becomes a reminder that beauty is always underneath and a promise to treat my body as lovingly as possible, even if no one else does.

 

My lingerie drawer is an escape from the constant images of Black death. It is my reminder that I deserve to be covered in silk and lavishly worshipped the same as any white woman.

 

Even with my oppression, I still recognize my privileges. I’m still a cisgender, able-bodied person who can afford to save up for these expensive pieces, some of which are made by dubious capitalists, but my activism doesn’t stop with my underwear drawer. As beautiful as I want to look, so I will unapologetically fight to dismantle white heteropatriarchy. My identity is femme, my feminism is intersectional, and I think people should have the right to express themselves however they need.

 

Expression is a need, like air or water, because it is self-love, and self-love is power.

 

Activist Sadie Delany said once that “Life is short, and it’s up to you to make it sweet.”

 

My little lingerie drawer that could makes my struggles, my oppressions, my activism, and my triumphs as sweet and refreshing as cool peach tea. 

 

 

Bio:Felicia Darnell is an unapologetic journalist and essayist who believes in intersectional praxis and pastels. She currently lives, writes, and tweets in Chicago. Twitter @Felicia_Darnell.  Her website is found at feliciadarnellportfolio.wordpress.com.

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