Pilgrims wore white undergarments because they valued looks over odor: I wear colored undergarments because I value both

Tracey Folly

*This is a work of nonfiction based on actual events I experienced firsthand; used with permission.

White undergarments have been around for ages. If I had to guess, I'd say white was the original color. It's much like the story of Henry Ford and his Ford Model T; as Ford once said, customers could order the car in any color they wanted... as long as it was black.

Pilgrims wore all-white undergarments in lieu of bathing. Instead of washing their bodies, they expected their white underpants and other unmentionables to absorb the dirt and oil from the skin. Frequent underclothes changes were necessary to maintain one's appearance; it didn't matter if you smelled bad so long as your underclothes were white.

'Cleanliness, to the extent that people thought about it in the 17th century, had much more to do with what we now call underwear than anything else,' [W. Peter] Ward [author of The Clean Body: A Modern History] says. Colonists kept themselves 'clean' by changing the white linens under their clothes. The cleaner and whiter the linens, the cleaner the person—or so the thinking went.

Back in the days of my mother's youth, if a young lady wanted to start wearing brassieres, they got white brassieres. If you didn't want white brassieres, then you didn't get brassieres at all.

"White, white, or white," my mother told me. "They had underwear in other colors, but they only had underwear in white."

I'm not denying the existence of other colors of bras back then, I've seen plenty of photos of Marilyn Monroe in colored brassieres (or were those bikini tops), but they weren't for the common folk. The common folk bought white.

I would never buy white undergarments. I would rather go without than go with white.

My grandmother used to punish her white undergarments by turning them yellow, the ugliest drabbest shade of sickly yellow you've ever seen. She turned bright white brassieres and white granny panties into ugly, hideous colors like it was her superpower.

When I shop for a new bra, my go-to color is red. Black is my second choice. There are other nice colors, too. I always buy one of each color. I stay away from beige and white because they remind me of my grandmother's undergarments.

Also, there's nothing less attractive than a beige bra strap peeking out from beneath a scoop-necked shirt or a tank top. A beige bra strap doesn't look like a beige bra strap. A beige bra strap looks like someone started out with a white bra and turned it muddy-colored in the wash.

I like variety. I like contrasting colors. I like happy hues. I do not like beige or any other neutral colors for that matter. Black is an exception. When I say I don't like neutral colors, I'm talking about the fifty shades of beige they sell bras in.

My mother is the same way. In fact, it was my mother who fostered my distaste for bras of beige.

"It's very important to me to have a well-fitting, brightly colored bra," my mother told me. "After what I went through wearing dingy-white bras in my teens, I'll never go back. Ladies, leave those ugly bras at the store. Buy the pretty ones that will make you happy in the long run."

What do you think? Traditional white or every color of the rainbow? There's no wrong answer as long as you also bathe regularly. Comments are welcome.

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Writing about relationships online since 2009.

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