I was just watching Annie Hall the other day and noticed how Woody Allen and Tony Roberts lusted over tall skinny model-types with no chest or butt to speak of. (OK, we know there are many reasons Woody Allen isn’t the best gauge of what is attractive, but bear with me.)
Here’s what I need right now: For my underwear to stop sliding down.
I grew up in the 70s watching the slim bodies of Ali McGraw, Peggy Lipton, and then-model Rene Russo, and it was their lithe shapes that inspired me. Today, thanks to Jennifer Lopez, Cardi B, and, oh right, those infamous Kardashians, a new feminine beauty standard had been established. It’s all about curves and da butt, just at the moment my rear is receding, like a middle-aged guy’s hairline.
I know this might seem like a good problem to some of you, but really it’s an annoyance no one talks about. Probably because they’re afraid women who are worried about their weight will throw celery sticks at them.
I have neither the body of a typical runway model or curvy popstar. My body is just, well, Asian, with small hips and ass. Which is fine. I don’t need a pneumatic rear. But here’s what I do need: For my underwear to stop sliding down. Is this a new midlife thing?!
My Disappearing Derriere
Through all of my adult life as a fashion editor, I never remember having problems with the fit of my panties. Medium was always the perfect size. I put them on and went off on my merry way. So how is it that now, as I find myself on the up ramp to “old-age,” I am having fit issues with my panties creeping towards my knees while walking my dog in sweatpants? When my dog decides to rev up his stroll to a pre-poop trot, I’ve felt them slide down my legs leaving me chilly-cheeked. I guess I’ve finally discovered a new need for pant pockets; they’re essential for pulling up your panties discreetly!
I know why my panties keep slipping. My darling daughter recently said to me, “Mom, you have no ass! Your back goes straight down to the top of your legs!” We Changs don’t mince words. I no longer have a slight bump, rear curve, or womanly hips that keep panties in their designated place.
Says one friend, ‘I’ve stopped wearing underwear. Not worth the trouble.’
It seems to be a midlife mom thing. When on a college tour with my younger daughter, I stood bored at the back of the crowd of moms encircling the guide. My eyes dwelled on their rears: They all had varying degrees of the same flat shape—granted some were wider than others, into the plus-sizes, but the rounded shape was gone. They must all have this phenomenon: The Sisterhood of the Falling Panties!
My friend Hannah, who hails from Europe, says, “My butt started losing its shape when I turned 50. My underwear would slide down and I’d wonder, Can people tell what’s going on under my clothes?! So I just stopped wearing underwear. Not worth the trouble anymore.” That’s one solution, I suppose.
When I did a little online research, I read that biology and gravity have a role in this panty slip and slide; it’s not my imagination. As we age, fat atrophies, skin becomes less elastic, and we lose five percent muscle mass every 10 years past age 35. All told, yes, our butts get plenty less perky.
Panties That’ll Stay Put
I decided to find a solution to this problem and went shopping. The problem is, panties really do need to be tried on like a pair of jeans. You need to squat, jump, and run in them and, of course, see if they show through your clothing. The jury is still out if the law prohibits the return of worn panties if you get them home and they don’t fit. I do remember my daughter’s story of witnessing a woman returning a pair of used panties at Victoria’s Secret in a Ziploc bag as the sales attendant begrudgingly accepted them with two tentative fingers. I suppose most women just accept the risk, grabbing a pair that match their pant size and hoping for the best.
To save you some trial and error, let me share what I learned in my search. You do not need the panties with the built-in butt pads! Though they may seem like the best choice, super-stretchy synthetics bind, create bulges, and stretch out over time. I have a newfound love for cotton undies from companies like Hanro, Only Hearts, Sloggi, and Skin (an upscale organic cotton brand) because they feel so much better against your skin. It’s like wearing your favorite worn tee shirt fabric. And they stay put if you shop smart.
I have a newfound love for cotton panties with a wide elastic waistband.
Contrary to conventional wisdom, you don’t need loads of elastic (those clingy strips inside or those super-tight leg openings) for the sliding-south issue. What you do want is a wider elastic band at the waist for comfort and zero visible panty line (VPL)—thin elastic will just dig into your waist. The newer raw-edged panties made of seamless polyester may not give you VPL but they will very likely slip to your ankles after a couple of washings, especially if you have nothing below the waist that will catch the fall.
I am not completely abandoning prettier, sexier underwear for pure comfort. You know there are panties in your drawer that you keep for special occasions. I’ve still got lace and silk ones for when I feel like dressing up, but it’s the stay-up cotton ones for most days, when I want my butt to stay covered. Until someone invents a bra-type device that lifts, separates, and pushes up the buttocks up, I must accept that J. Lo I will never be. But then, did I ever want to?