Laundry is my favorite chore. I mean, if I had to choose one, that’s what it would be. I hate mopping floors and cleaning bathtubs. I don’t even mind cleaning toilets that much, but bathtubs really bother me.
Laundry has so much ritual in it. It is the work of women and mothers, handed down from generation to generation through stories, lessons, and simple necessity. As a little girl, my mother taught me about laundry at first by default: I learned because she did a lot of it. My mother loved beautiful linens – white linen tea towels and table cloths, waffle-weave bath towels, crisp percale sheets. Terry cloth was not common in my home. She also loved hanging laundry out to dry. It makes things last longer, she’d tell me. She hung every thing she could outside on the line with clothespins, and she filled wooden laundry racks with more laundry. In the winter, the wooden racks came inside, and she hung things to dry through the cold months.
Certain things she hung simply because she liked to. She liked the stiff feel of cottons after they dried naturally (it used to drive me nuts). Other things, however, she hung because they were not – under any circumstances – to be put in the dryer. The dryer would destroy them, she told me. Items not allowed in the dryer were precious, pretty things: silk, lace, lingerie, tights, slips.
I loved this reverence of undergarments. These delicate, beautiful things, so feminine in nature and design, were elevated from the rest and they were entitled to luxury, gentleness, special treatment. When I left home, I carried this information with me, and I discovered much of the world hadn’t learned this. Laundry was laundry, and everything went in the dryer. I watched many of my girlfriends fry things in Laundromat dryers during my college days, despite my warnings (“I really don’t think you should put your new custom-made raver hoodie with the glitter letters and the fur cuffs in the dryer”).
When I was very young, around 14 or 15, I got my first job helping my mom’s friend at her bridal and tuxedo rental shop. The front end of the shop was a small lingerie boutique – something that was viewed as incredibly racy in my teeny tiny mountain town. I loved it. Part of my job was to dig through bins and bins of expensive, beautiful lingerie and organize it by size, style or color.
I learned about bustiers and garter belts, thong panties and underwear. I pored slowly through the pages of the promotional catalogs that the lingerie companies sent us. I learned about bridal lingerie, I learned that certain things you should never iron – only steam. I learned about impeccable, desirable beauty sewed through satin and lace.
Of course I was too young to wear lingerie at the time (I spent most of my time in soccer shorts and sports bras), but that didn’t stop me from acquiring a set of black satin and velvet lingerie – I chose a bustier and a matching thong. My body had recently bloomed into its curves, and in the dressing room mirror, I filled it out perfectly. I loved it. I paid for the set in hours that I worked for the shop owner.
For years, I carried that bustier and thong with me, with the tags on, in my underwear drawer. I showed it to friends, who sighed when they touched it. We tried it on sometimes, but I never wore it. It didn’t matter. Knowing that it was in my dresser made me feel grown up, beautiful, educated.
Lingerie is powerful. Though it’s not much fabric and though it’s generally hidden from the world, it draws greater strength from its subtlety. A woman with good underwear is a woman who knows what she’s worth. A woman who buys herself good lingerie is a woman who knows the value of valuing herself, and the satisfaction that hidden beauty carries.
Lingerie is often misrepresented as a tool for seduction. Pop culture has made it so. But lingerie’s true power lies not in calling flies to honey; its true power lies in its fierce femininity, its secrecy, and the quiet satisfaction it gives to the woman who owns it.
Of course, as with all things that are delicate and beloved – treasure it. Don’t put that shit in the dryer.
Written by Sadie Rose Casey
Photos by Kyle Delmar
BTW the women in the photographs are wearing: