“8.35 a.m. Begin selection of underwear. Laundry crisis means only available pants are vast white cotton. Too unattractive to contemplate, even for work (psychological damage). Go back to ironing basket. Find unsuitably small black lacy pair — prickly but better than giant Mummy-pant horror.”
– Brigdet Jone’s Diary (1997) by Helen Fielding
How many times has this same conversation run through your head? This excerpt from the book captured the most important yet unspoken decision that women make every day.Girls love it and men are selling it. The word lingerie has distinctive meanings for different customers, even if the Oxford dictionary offers a single meaning that is;Women’s underwear and nightclothes.
Lingerie has always been debated between two extreme perspectives. It was considered as something that is private and hence should be concealed but today it is considered as an object that can be used to show off perfect figures. So in a place where there exist these acute biases, is selling lingerie same as selling any other products? Or are there other complications strapped with it? How do these sellers have knack of judging the accurate size of the customer just with one look? With no options for a trial they usually have to get it right. But how do they build this comfort with their customers? Aren’t women hesitant to go to these stalls because the sellers are men?
Speaking to a few lingerie sellers helped in answering these questions. When asked whether girls and women hesitant about coming to buy lingerie, a lingerie seller said, “Woman were a bit shy at first when I was new maybe because even I didn’t know how to interact with them but now don’t face such problems especially because I have a few fixed customers who buy from me quite often.So, I know what fits them and judging by their body type I help the new customers find their perfect fit.Another seller shared the ordeal of solving mystery of the size when men visit the shop. “At times men too come to buy lingerie for their wives. In such situations,I have to help them in determining the size,since they usually have no idea. It is never easy, I have learnt through my experience, I have built trust with my customers.
A buyer who regularly shops for her lingerie at street stalls said, “I am very comfortable bargaining and I get a good deal if I buy bras in a bulk. I am sure their quality is not as good as the branded lingerie but it’s still more economical to shop for them often. It also helps me keep up the current trends like neon that have been going on. I know my sizes and they make up for the lack of trail rooms by promising to exchange the product if the fit isn’t right, it is like window shopping for clothes, I don’t see it differently.”
For people who still find it odd buying underwear on streets, thank god for the shops where you will find more privacy!!!
This post was first published in Marginalia 2014-15 by SCM Sophia. Adapted by Leading Lines.