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Sunday, 22 April 2012

Sexy Knickers

My mother bought me very functional clothes, which I knew were not very becoming on me, but as long as mother was spending her money, I knew I had little choice, other than to respect her efforts and contribution. Now that I’m a mother too, and one who has had a more privileged life than my own mother, despite the economic crisis that my family finds itself in, I understand why my mother did what she did. High fashion clothing is not a priority for me, either, when I buy clothes for my children, unless I can find it at the right price, and this rarely happens in Hania.

This was a difficult year financially, and I made sure that we could make do in terms of shoes and clothes with whatever we already had from previous years. I have been quite lucky over the years, in that I have been given many hand-me-downs from friends whose children had outgrown their clothes. They had a hardly-worn look, and some of them were quite fashionable, which pleased my daughter: like most girls, she is very fashion-conscious. I haven’t had to buy her a winter coat for the last two years, and it looks like we will have a winter coat for next year too, which does make me feel very pleased.

But there are some things I have to buy her that don’t come in those bags full of hand-me-downs, some of those obvious items that we generally don’t hand down, namely underwear. Children’s underwear can be bought quite cheaply from supermarkets in multi-packs, as well as what we call in Greece ‘kinezika’, meaning the clothes shops owned and operated by members of the Chinese community in Greece, which sprouted up quite suddenly all over the country. In recent times, quite a few have closed down, notably in Athens, due to the economic crisis, but in Hania, they have remained astutely open, no doubt well patronised by people who have changed their spending habits from the expensive to cheap-er lines.

I hate buying clothes from both these kinds of establishments, because they make me feel very cheap, but beggars can't be choosers, and the quality, while not very good, is at least good value for money. You don't spend much, and the clothes don't last very long, either. In other words, for a small price, you can change your underwear on a regular basis. Since underwear is not visible, no one need know where you bought your from, or how much you paid for it. And no one will know how frumpy-looking your cheap undies are either. Undies are one item where I don't have to war with my daughter when I buy her clothes. 

When I noticed her underwear looking rather grey and tired, I realised it was time to buy her some new stuff. On my next trip to the supermarket, I checked out the underwear in the multi-packs, but what caught my eye was the nearby basket full of what I would call Sexy Knickers on special, all selling for €2.49 a piece. This was of course slightly more expensive than what I usually pay per piece for undies (mine or hers) bought in a multi-pack, but I was mesmerised by the range of colours and patterns. They looked so unlike those standardised styles of the uniform undies range usually found in supermarkets. But their size range was not rather limited: S/M, No. 2, No. 3 and an unmarked brand which didn't mention any sizing on the label tag. None of the sizes meant anything to me, and they certainly didn't sound familiar in terms of children's sizes. But they all looked like very 'sensible' undies that would cover the whole bum; their appeal lay in their modern design, giving a fresh look to them.

These knickers reminded me of the fact that I never got to wear this kind of underwear as a young girl because knickers weren't made to look so cute back then, and even if they were, mother would never have bought them for me. The multi-packs looked boringly cheap and nasty now, compared to these fun-looking undies. After rummaging through the specials basket a few times, picking up the most eye-catching ones and stretching them in my handspan to get a feeling for size, I decided that the No 2 and S/M ones would probably be in my daughter's size.  When I presented the half a dozen that I had chosen at the checkout, I explained to the cashier that I was buying them for my daughter (just in case she thought otherwise).

Dear Sexy Knickers, Are You Being Served? BBC, 1973

I came home and left the Sexy Knickers on my daughter's bed, as a surprise for her when she came home from school. Sure enough, she was delighted. After checking them out, she came to me holding one in her hand: it was black with little pink hearts all over it, pink elastic trimming and a little black bow on the front.

"This one's too big," she told me. Too big? I must have picked a No. 3 instead of a No. 2. I looked at the label: it turned out to be one of those that had no sizing on it, the unmarked brand. I must have slipped it in by mistake, possibly because the alluring design distracted me...

... which is how I came to own a pair of Sexy Knickers myself. This is probably why they were all on sale - they were labelled incorrectly. It was a perfect fit. I felt rather tempted to return to the supermarket and buy a few more before they ran out, but I decided to wait until the next time I needed to buy some more milk, just so I didn't make it too obvious to anyone that I was buying them for myself. Better later than never at all, eh?

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