There’s Something Strange About The Way That Underwear Is Sold To Women

That's what Becky John, the founder of Who Made Your Pants, thinks. So she's doing something about it


by Pandora Sykes |
Published on

Perfectly sinewy, with an all-over tan and a tawny mass of artfully dishevelled hair, she leans over and puts her finger in her mouth. Perhaps she pushes her boobs together and out bubbles a coy giggle, a wink is thrown at the camera. No, I'm not describing the opening scene of a by-the-book porno, but a supermodel in a lingerie campaign. Aimed at women.

It's become entirely normal and totally expected for us to buy a pair of pants that have been thrust at us with enough sexuality to sink a battle ship. Supermodels are beautiful, beautiful women. But isn't it puzzling that major underwear brands see a supermodel's sexuality, rather than her GSOH, as a more effective means to push their product at regular folk like you and me? Not men – girls. Given that hygiene and societal expectations has us clothing our gusset/generally covering our pudendum on a near daily basis anyway (if you go commando, then rock on you freedom fighter) don't the sexy-hotty-titty-shots just seem a bit, well, superfluous?


It was a situation that irritated Becky John so much she decided to do something about it – founding campaigning lingerie brand Who Made Your Pants back in 2009. Based in Southampton, the company makes knickers out of material discarded at the end of the season by major factories by a staff force made up of vulnerable women. And perhaps the most important bit? There's no scrimping on the design of the pants for the ethics – they're as pretty as you'll find anywhere.


Next week, Becky plans to take her campaign for better conditions for women through the medium of pants to the next level – by targetting the way in which they are marketed at women. On Monday 7 July, Becky will be at Hartland Road in Camden 12-2pm and Trafalgar Square 4-6pm shooting a campaign for her lingerie – which she wants you to direct, telling her what you want to see from your pants. It's an idea she came up with after a conversation with No More Page 3 campaigner Lucy-Ann Holmes, where she realised just how messed up the public representation of women's bodies still is.

'It's about choice and options,' Becky tells The Debrief. 'I love underwear, but it's different to lingerie. Most imagery around underwear is really sexual [like lingerie.] Most women wear pants every day. They put their pants on in the morning and it's just about them and their pants. The fact that we are wearing pants next to our lady parts doesn't automatically make them sexy. It's bonkers! Women are about much more than their sexuality – they are powerful, strong and fun! It's just too narrow a focus.'

The fact is, it's not just brands that are one track minded about underwear – it's the way that a woman in the underwear is projected. Her body – nay, her pant-covered torso – is a sellable tool. It's become, Becky explains, so normalised we often don't even notice it. So while she accepts that the lads' mags-style of marketing that some of the major underwear brands employ has a place for some women, 'there's a place for all types of lingerie brands. Everyone can do their thing' – she sees the choice as too narrow right now. 'There's another way of marketing underwear – in a way woman have told us that they want – and it's just not been done yet. There are 7 billion people in the world and no one is telling them that they are allowed to have fabulous undies – for themselves!'

So what's Becky's main objective for Who Made Your Pants' campaign? Essentially, to widen the tropes of representation. To let women tell them what they want from their underwear – which Becky is going to film, on Monday and turn into a montage. On Monday, the award winning photographer Florence Fox will be shooting journalist and sustainable campaigner Rosalind Jana for the campaign – after Becky saw a picture of Ros wearing her WMYP knickers over three pairs of black tights – and jumping for joy in a country lane. 'That's just exactly what my pants are about. She was having fun!'


She believes it'll result in the absolute opposite of how pants are represented – the thing, let's remember that we wear on average for around 16 hours a day. 'There are two norms in underwear photography and two only: One is of two women who just* happen* to be in a bedroom together, in their underwear, pouting and possibly having a pillow fight, and the other is of a woman's torso in a pair of pants, wihout her face shown. That woman is literally being objectified. What's the point of having a real person in the image – if you aren't going to show her as a real person?'


From one real person to another – a woman is more than just the sum of her parts. Or should we say pants?

Follow Pandora on Twitter @pinsykes

Pictures: Getty; Who Made Your Pants?; Clothes, Cameras and Coffee

This article originally appeared on The Debrief.

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