“In Intimate Detail” is thorough, thoughtful and inclusive.
Like many other people, I’ve had a complicated relationship to my body and undergarments. I felt out of place in my own skin, consistently made to feel as if my limbs, my breasts and butt were at the mercy of objectification, and later, assault. Buying lingerie seemed like a step into womanhood that I was underprepared for—I wasn’t doing it for myself. I was eyeing up garter belts, underwire lace bras and thongs debating whether my boyfriend would want me more if I was wrapped in silk and torturing my still-developing bosom.
I wasn’t ready to celebrate my body, nor was I ready to reclaim any sensuality after being hurt too many times. I felt disconnected from my physical self unless I was in pain. Pain became a reminder that I had flesh and bones and blood. But adorning myself only came to me more recently and I have only now started looking for lingerie that makes me feel like I am honoring who I am.
Cora Harrington’s “In Intimate Detail” is the book I wish I had when I was still buying utilitarian underwear or for someone else’s pleasure. For years, Harrington’s website, The Lingerie Addict has provided a space for beginners and lingerie aficionados alike, complete with essential content about what rests against our skin every day. In her first book, she gives readers a detailed look at the world of lingerie without judgement, shame and without the idea that we wear it to “fix” our bodies.
Much like her site, “In Intimate Detail” is thorough, thoughtful and inclusive. It offers tips on buying binders, how to shop for bras if you’re plus size, post-mastectomy/surgery, if your breasts were augmented, or what trans women and nonbinary people should know about buying their first bras. It is rare to find information about lingerie which is not only inclusive of physical disabilities, but also trans folks. Harrington makes sure to give us a space in which we all feel welcome, loved and celebrated.
The entire book feels like a treasure itself, the watercolor art by Sandy Wirt is a marvel to look at, and the pages feel elegant and beautiful to turn. Reading it feels like a luxurious experience, one where our perception of lingerie is expanded and enriched by Harrington’s wealth of knowledge and passion. Readers are given a thorough look at the technical construction of bras, helping us discern which type suits our breast shape and size, and we also have the chance to learn more about the actual history of lingerie, including the fact that early underwear used to be “open gusset” or crotchless because it was seen as more hygienic and modest!
One of my favorite chapters is Harrington’s guide through loungewear. While shopping for bras and underwear always made me feel uncomfortable, camisoles, slips and nightgowns were more accessible and easier to understand and I truly felt like I was buying them for myself and not for someone else. One of my favorite historical facts from her introduction to loungewear is that pajamas (or pyjamas) were everyday wear in India and later introduced to Europeans in the 17th century. In fact, Harrington details that most loungewear was not invented by Europeans at all [insert shocked face].
I think my perception of the world of undergarments, from bras to loungewear, would have been very different if I had read Harrington’s words years ago when I felt ashamed of myself for wanting to feel sexy. “In Intimate Detail” offers more possibilities and widens our gaze to the idea of wearing beautiful lingerie, not for someone else, not to look like someone else, but to expand who we are and centering ourselves and our own pleasure and happiness. As Harrington herself writes, “So often we’re encouraged to put ourselves last. To put our needs, wants, and desires after everyone else’s. But lingerie is a way of putting yourself first. It’s a way of taking care of yourself, treating yourself, and nourishing yourself. You deserve to celebrate your body and delight in your lingerie, to pamper and spoil yourself with the very best underwear you can afford.”
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