Literary Lingerie

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Cabin Fever

February 9, 2013

By Morgan O’Neill

It has been almost a year since I first referred to a Robert Herrick poem in this blog.  It was just after seeing a beautiful Jane Woolrich baby doll design that swept me away.  Now, it seems I am drawn back to Herrick, one, because he is so easy to read, but, two, because the sudden wet, icy cold of a Northeast winter has me hunkered down continually searching for a glimmer of warmth wherever it can be found, real or imagined.

The real is an ugly thing to see.  We could skype but no video is permitted.  Ensconced in my office over my garage with no insulation underneath my body is wrapped for burial starting with my feet, mummy-like.  Heavy socks, a seemingly trite holiday gift once again prove their worth. Blue sweats, another gift adorn my shapeless form.  A woolen skullcap, blue as well, caps my hairless dome. Beneath the outerwear, my innerwear consists of aging long underwear somewhat stretched out from overuse and looks as if I am shedding snakelike.  They are blue too, matching my lips.  So there, I have finally coordinated my look, a blue lipped, blue dressed shapeless gnome inside and out.  The gray New England sky reflects unevenly the winter blues within.  This explains my need for Herrick.

Farewell Frost; Or,
Welcome the Spring

Fled are the frosts, and now the fields appear
Reclothed in fresh and verdant diaper.
Thawed are the snows, and now the lusty spring
Gives to each mead a neat enameling.
The palms put forth their gems, and every tree
Now swaggers in her leafy gallantry.
The while the Daulian minstrel sweetly sings,
With warbling notes, her Terean sufferings.
What gentle winds perspire, as if here
Never have been the northern plunderer
To strip the tree and fields, to their distress,
Leaving them to pitied nakedness,
And look how, when a frantic storm doth tear
A stubborn oak or holm (long growing there),
But lulled to calmness, then succeeds a breeze
That scarcely stirs the nodding leaves of trees:
So, when this war (which, tempest-like, doth spoil
Our salt, our corn, our honey, wine and oil)
Falls to a temper, and doth mildly cast
His inconsiderable frenzy off at last,
The gentle dove may, when these turmoils cease,
Bring in her bill once more the branch of peace.

Now, don’t you feel better, warmer, more positive, uplifted.  I do.  Sure, this poem from Herrick’s Hesperides published in 1648 evokes the spring, the coming rebirth of the land.  It has nothing to do with lingerie. But, who cares?  It makes me feel warm inside just like lingerie.

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Listening To Lingerie

January 16, 2013

By Morgan O’Neill

So Ellen, Lingerie Briefs executive editor, has been on my case because I haven’t published much lately.  I have many great excuses I am prepared to defend myself with, notwithstanding the key one being my utter inability to intelligently connect what I am reading or reading about to lingerie.  Essentially, that is the theme behind the blog.   So, without that connectivity I remain speechless.  Or, blogless as it may be. That combined with the ever-present end-of-year array of things both important and trivial that must be attended to, writing has taken a back seat.  How is that for a rationalization?

Don’t get me wrong.  I am still reading though in a less conventional way.  I am listening to audiobooks!   And I must say that I have fallen in love with the genre. Yes, they have been around for decades.  Clumsy cassette players. Tapes (some unlabeled), batteries, dead and alive, evoke memories.  But today, with easy downloads, headphones and mobility and a vast library of choices, audiobooks have come of age.

Remember the hissing background of a dirty cassette player.  Or the narration slightly out of sync because a tape was too loose or too tight or worse, bent in some way.  Audiobooks (there weren’t even books) were tapes, not books; an interesting idea but in a nascent stage.  But today with the enhanced production values and stellar talent narrating the stories, audiobooks are a great way to pass time, particularly if you need both hands free.

When you are driving.  When you are doing the yard.  When you are housecleaning.  When you are cooking or feeding the dogs or grocery shopping or doing any one of the daily chores that take up your time, audiobooks are a terrific diversion from the menial, but necessary chores of the day.  I listened to Steig Larsson’s trilogy about Lisbeth Salander beginning with The Girl With The Dragon Tatoo and never stopped.  It is the perfect material for the trek by car through the Adirondack State Park in the dead of winter especially when cell service is suspect.  I have also become a serial character addict.  I never knew who Mitch Rapp was before I picked up a Vince Flynn spy story.  Now I have listened to all of his stories. I feel like I could easily be deluded into the righteous but apparently necessary covert operations of the CIA.   I never knew that I would like spy stories or detective stories.  Henning Mankell’s Kurt Wallender character is frumpish and certainly more dour than most, but he fascinates me and I don’t know why.  I have now read all of the stories.  So I am a fan.

Now that I have written this excuse for not writing, it is odd how it makes me think about lingerie.  Lingerie styles that have been around forever just like the audiobook. They have been updated and improved many times over especially as technologies advance.  When I think of the evolution of the girdle and corset it is remarkable to see the changes and the innovations today that make what could have been a painful experience before a pleasure today.  Just look at Rago shapewear, then and now.  When I think about the weaving technology and the diversity of choices manufacturers have today versus years ago I know that wool can feel comfortable against the skin just like silk always has.  I know that some of the components of today’s well fitted bra just didn’t exist not too long ago. Check out the Flashback / Flashforward blogs by Layla L’Obatti and see just how beautifully lingerie has evolved.

Listening to a description of lingerie in an audiobook will never surpass looking at a beautiful women adorned in something enticing, but when there is no opportunity to look I can let my imagination go and listen instead.

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Hurricane Sandy Has Me Thinking

October 29, 2012

By Morgan O’Neill

The thought just occurred to me that two things you cannot or should not do outdoors in a hurricane is one; try to read a book and two, wear lingerie.  You might argue that the incongruity of this argument is ridiculous.  Who would wear lingerie outdoors in a hurricane?  Who would try to read a book outdoors in a hurricane?  And, really, what does this have to do with literature?  Well, if a penguin can wear a tuxedo in an arctic storm, why not?  And if a female Weather Channel reporter standing outdoors in Battery Park can take the time to tell me what she is wearing underneath, then anything is possible.

The Perfect Storm chronicles the confluence of two weather systems uniting to create a mega-storm.  No women were members of the six man crew on the Andrea Gail and Sebastian Junger told a great story about the travails of men at sea who knowingly challenge her wrath when she is more than a little upset.  The pace of the story leaves no time to contemplate sartorial decisions or certainly what lingerie might be aboard the Andrea Gail.  On the other hand, because the 24/7 news cycle heralding the lethargic arrival of the storm of the century must fill the interminable air time with inane chatter about this perfect storm anything is possible.

With nothing else to say given that the storm was moving at 13 miles per hour I was told that the white caps on the Hudson were getting bigger and bigger and bigger and wetter and wetter.  Well you get the gist of it.  So, the weathercaster, I think her name was Sandy, or Mandy or Peaches or April started to tell me what she was wearing.  No, not the rain gear, galoshes and such, but underneath.  So as you might imagine, my warped mind jumped to something silky, something soft, something intriguing because what she was telling me was not.  So, let’s go there.

 

The Perfect Storm is upon us.  Armageddon is here.  The world is coming to an end.  The Mayans told me so and so do the election polls, but Sandy, oh Sandy is dressed to kill.

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Reading For Information

September 16, 2012

By Morgan O’Neill

As a fledgling schoolchild, one of the first things you learn is how to read for information.  It is an important part of how new readers enter the world of literature and a practical necessity for making it to high school graduation.  It’s a mandatory survival techique

First Grade: you head to your classroom to meet your gray haired, ancient schoolmarm, when the bell rings, and she says “Welcome students.  I am Mrs. Donotpissmeoff.  Ahem, you, the buck toothed kid in the back of the room, wipe that smirk off your face.  I know what you’re thinking… all of the time.  Now students, where was I.  Ah, yes, please read the information on the yellow paper on your desk about the supplies you will need for my class. They will be important if you are going to succeed (a teacher’s word for survive) in my class.”  I bet Seal Team 6 never had to go through this sort of training!

During your first cafeteria lunch, the scary, fish-netted, Coke bottle bottom, eye glassed, four-eyed lunch lady points to a big sign and says, “Hey kid, yeah, you with the buck teeth, can’t you read?  It says only one dessert per student.  Put that jello back!”

At least there is recess.  Not really. Some big bully from the third grade walks right up to you and says, “Hey dweeb, read my lips.  This is my playground and if you want to survive you will give me your lunch money each Tuesday or I will hunt you down and push your face into next year!”  Reading lips is an elementary school art form, sort of the highest form of reading for survival.  And it gets worse because that is just the beginning of learning how to read for information.

Middle School is a more ambitious form of survival training; a must if you have any hope of ever going to high school.  Are you listening Seal Team 6?  Now, not only do you have to read for information from the authorities in charge of your academic destiny or from the thugs in charge of your pre-teen poverty, you have to learn how to interpret the cryptic notes passed to you from that girl in the row behind you in math class.  “Who do you like better, Betty or Veronica?  Isn’t Archie cute? Meet me behind the gym at recess!” “Do you like me?”

It gets worse.  I’m only in middle school.  My voice is still at an octave only my dog can hear.  I haven’t even read much beyond Dr. Seuss and Jack London and now I am being told I have to read for information in Spanish.  Little Joe never had to do this at school in Bonanza (Spanish for Bonanza), or on the Ponderosa (Spanish for the Ponderosa) somewhere in Nevada (Spanish for Mexico).

High School was a blur, probably because I was now learning to read for information in Playboy Magazine.  Those articles were great!  All sorts of information!  I just don’t remember any of it.  I was sort of hoping there would be details on how to interpret notes from that girl in math class still sitting behind me but somehow looking way different in that soft pink dress.  My confusion was multiplying.

Moreover, the home front was morphing with the school front.  Sort of like two hurricanes uniting to blow me into adulthood at hyper speed.  My Dad, way more intimidating than the school yard bully was constantly telling me that if I do not read the instructions, or do this, or do that, I would never learn how to do anything. Add my Mom to the mix, 10x more intimidating than any of the aforementioned characters, had an uncanny way of looking at me while chastising at him, “You cannot wash my blouse in hot water.  Read the instructions!   What is it with men!

“I don’t know Mom.  It all started in second grade; or, the second trimester.  I’m not sure.”

Now, light years have passed.  I made it through the “Reading for Information” gauntlet, bloodied but not maimed.  Then somebody changed the rules!  (“OMG, where r u?”)   What the hell is that?  Klingon?  CIA code?  Spanglish?  It is just not fair!

So, consider how my neurons synapsed when I began to focus on the language of lingerie.  My Mother’s girdle is now shapewear.  Underwear has become outerwear.  Jockey shorts and underpants have become Saxx and floss.  What was hidden is revealed.  Hosiery is stockings.  Stockings are tights.  Tights are leggings. Leggings are those things that disappear up a woman’s skirt.  A skirt is a soft chiffon dress on the girl sitting behind me in math class….  Oh, just forget it.

And forget the washing instructions.  Hand wash separately.  Hang to dry.  What the heck?  I am sitting here pondering what to do with the laundry basket piled high with intimates; my wife’s and my two daughters’.  I figure there is enough to keep me busy until the next millennium and I am a busy guy. So, as my male gene pool dictates my pondering concludes that if I read for information like any other normal guy this job will get done much faster.  What does the word separately mean anyway?  And where is the bleach?

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Heroics at CurveNY~ Brave New Brands

August 12, 2012

By Morgan O’Neill

When I was young and highly impressionable I was seduced by the idea of heroism.  I fell in love with the notion of being a hero, with saving the day. Like every other child of the fifties I was there when Superman came to comic book life to save Metropolis and Lois Lane from evil doers. Yet, in spite of Superman’s heroic deeds, there was always something inaccessible about him.  Maybe he was just too perfect, too good to be true.  I could never be like him.   In the sixties, the flawed hero entered my comic book world dressed like a spider with the forewarning that with “great power comes great responsibility.” Even more beguiling was the idea that this flawed hero, an imperfect individual could step beyond his or her failings and achieve something heroic.  Peter Parker was average.  So am I.  He epitomized teen angst.  So did I.  Maybe there was hope for me.

Lately my obsession with heroes has taken a different turn.  I have come to the point where comic book fantasy and compelling fictional heroic stories do not hold a candle to the stories about average folks rising to the occasion,  dealing with incredibly intense and overwhelming circumstances and somehow, in the end,  overcoming seemingly insurmountable odds. Those stories have been recounted in countless books.  Lansing’s The Endurance: Shackleton’s Legendary Antarctic Expedition, Hillenbrand’s Unbroken and Valerian Albanov’s In the Land of White Death.  Bet you haven’t heard of the last one.  It never made the best seller list, but let me tell you, it is an incredible story about perseverance.

In 1912, Russian navigator, Valerian Albanov, not unlike Ismael in Melville’s Moby Dick, joined an expedition that almost immediately was frozen fast in pack ice on the Kara Sea… for almost two years!  By 1914 the men aboard the Saint Anna were desperate. Finally, 13 of them, hauling makeshift sledges assembled with sundry ship parts set out across the frozen sea in search of rescue.  For over three months they trudged forward, often unaware that the movement of the sea ice in the opposite direction was often taking them backwards.  I won’t spoil the story, but what was most amazing is that Albanov, the navigator, kept a diary of the ordeal.  He was 31 when he boarded the Saint Anna.  The story was written with his own bone-numbing, frostbitten fingers.  The next time you face insurmountable odds, think about Albanov, or Louis Zamperni, or Ernest Schackleton and dream about the persistence and fortitude it takes to overcome the impossible.

Now, at the recent Curvexpo at the Javits Center the conditions for survival were slightly different.  Bone numbing cold was replaced by classic humid, 100 degree New York heat.  That is, of course, unless you were a model walking the chilly air conditioned show floor.   And certainly the conditions were not life threatening. I swear the sight of beautiful lingerie models was not the cause of my palpitating heart – I have A-Fib! –  Nor was it life threatening. Unless, you think that too much of beautiful lingerie models can kill you.  But, again, I digress.  What is amazing is to observe the little guys, the newcomers, the upstarts; the individual entrepreneurs go toe to toe with the big established lingerie manufacturers and persevere.  It does not take a leap to see the connection between one’s willingness to brave the harshest of natural calamities come what may and the willingness to put one’s entire heart, financial future and reputation on the line to compete with companies that could crush you should they be inclined. Yet, like Schackleton and Zamperini they do.  Whether or not the young navigator, Albanov does require you to read the story.

Shell Belle Couture

Naked Princess

 

Yes Master
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Chaucer ~ Inspiration

July 29, 2012

By Morgan O’Neill

Geoffrey Chaucer is widely considered the father of English literature and to the scholarly minded he is considered the greatest poet of the Middle Ages.  No, I do not mean that his poetry appeals to people ages 40 to 60, sort of like people aging out of the rock and roll era at about 30, to soft rock at 40 and elevator music just before they cart you away to the old age home.  I mean that period of time between the fifth and fifteenth centuries.  Chaucer, born in the mid-fourteenth century, lived near the tail end of this period. It was a time when language conventions were largely non-existent and words were spelled umpteen different ways.  The National Spelling Bee would have been a hoot back then.  But I digress.

Literature lovers are often compelled to read Chaucer when their professor says, “You cannot consider yourself remotely scholarly in the field unless you read Chaucer!”  Otherwise, unless you want to be a Middle Age’s geek, the average sane lover of literature would say, “Please, please my dear professor!  Is there no way I can be a lover of literature without torturing myself trying to interpret Chaucer?”  Whereby, your astounded professor says something pithy like, “If you do not read Chaucer then read my lips instead.  You will not make it through the graduate curriculum and you will be a failure for the rest of your pathetic literary existence.” So, like the religious sinner self-flagellating himself with a leather cat-o-nine tails, the literary lover surrounds himself with ten other texts to help him translate and interpret one line of a 500 line poem to satisfy some deep hidden urge to uncover the heart of the scholar within.  Damn those professors!

So, now I hate to admit it but I find myself periodically drawn back to Chaucer. Not necessarily to torture myself, because, believe me, it is torture.  But for love, which I guess is an insane type of torture as well.  Chaucer was prolific but I am particularly drawn to his dream poems of which he wrote four.  Love is the central theme of these verses. Dream fiction often involved the interplay and mingling of concepts and styles from many different disciplines.  This literary technique is evident in many of his dream poetry including House of Fame, Book of the Duchess, Legend of Good Women and Parlement of Foules in which  Chaucer weaves “old books” to reach beyond the intended meaning of the prior works and create a new plateau of learning.

So is there a Chaucer in the lingerie world?  Is there a designer out there whose work informs the lingerie lover and celebrates the early innovators as the seedbed for new ideas?  I would argue that there are many.  One only needs to look at the impact of retro styling and vintage design on current lingerie development.  Brands like, Bordelle, Toad Lillie, What Katie Did, Kiss Me Deadly, Dollhouse Bettie, Gilda and Pearl , Jenny Packham, Hanky Panky, Rago and many others continue to draw from the history of Intimate designs to establish their identity.  Every Fashion Bra brand, including Wacoal, Chantelle, Eveden, Aubade, and Maidenform, can lay claim to the influences of the past as they include retro influences in each of their collections.  Here, like with Chaucer, the old is integrated into the current to create something completely new.

Jenny Peckham

Dottie's Delights

What Katie Did

Inspiration comes from many sources and innovation is often a byproduct of some earlier idea that perhaps was before its time or just required a longer gestation cycle.  It is true of many great ideas that are only now coming to market.  Lingerie is no different.

 

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Morgan O’Neill

Literary Lingerie

 

Morgan O’Neill is a closet academic, who like many others, was sidelined by life to earn a living and raise his family. His love of the written word came later, but continues now, unabated. When the opportunity materialized to use his creative perspective and connect the real world of intimate apparel with his passion for literature, he unassumingly said, “That would be fun.” So, Literary Lingerie was born.