For decades, it’s been the ultimate question for men. Now with the return of Bridget Jones, women could be left facing a similar dilemma: Team Brief or Team Thong.
Some 12 years after Renee Zellweger first donned those “absolutely enormous panties” in Bridget Jones’ Diary (right), Helen Fielding’s third instalment of chick lit sensation finally hits bookshelves next month. In Mad About The Boy, Bridget — now in her 40s — is still calorie-counting, looking for love, and squeezing herself into granny pants. So what about the rest of us? “Big knickers are back with a bang,” says Sharon Webb, head of lingerie buying at Debenhams.
“Sales of full briefs are up 49% compared to this time last year. While small pants continue to do well, thongs have declined overall, so it certainly seems women are enjoying the Bridget Jones trend again.”
When Marilyn Monroe famously flashed her undies in The Seven Year Itch in 1955, it sparked outrage. For today’s celebrities, being papped ain’t nothing but a g-string. Earlier this summer, Stacy Keibler accidentally gave fans a sneak peek of her barely-there pink panties at the Grand Prix in Monaco; while Gwyneth Paltrow hit headlines for wearing none at all at the premiere of Iron Man 3. &Then there’s Cheryl Cole, a fan of minimal underwear. “I always wear a matching set — a nice thong and a nice bra. I couldn’t wear underpants now,” she recently reported.
Meanwhile, after being spotted in a thong by her seven-year-old daughter Violet, actress Jennifer Garner joked: “She said, ‘Mom, your bottom has gotten so big that your panties don’t even begin to cover it!’”
But the stylish stars could be behind the times, according to lingerie experts. “G-strings have been going out of fashion for the last couple of years,” says Lorna Dempsey of Sleek.ie.
“Women now tend to go for either French or Brazilian cut panties, with a lace effect around the edges, as they both appeal to men and are comfortable to wear. Big knickers can be sexy, but only if worn as part of an overall vintage look. If you’re going for Bridget Jones pants, pair them with a matching bra or corset, or even stocking and suspenders.”
Indeed big knickers are the choice of headline-grabbing Mylene Cyrus and Jessie J, two stars known for their bold fashion statements.
A bit like ‘Bridge’ though, who once memorably kept Mark Darcy waiting while she changed into “genuinely tiny knickers”, most women want the best of both worlds.
Irish women own an average of 42 pairs of knickers, 31 of which are for ‘special occasions’ and 11 for everyday, according to a recent survey by Debenhams. “Any woman worth her salt will have a selection of undies in her bottom drawer,” says Dempsey.
“Everyone should have at least one item of shape-wear, along with a selection of comfortable and sexy undies. Whatever style you go for, you should always dress to suit your shape.
“Standing in front of a full-length mirror, make sure your bra fits, your knickers don’t give VPL [Visible Panty Line]. If your bum wobbles or you’ve got whale tail [Y-shaped waistband peeking above trousers], maybe a g-string isn’t for you.”