Knickers and Pants

I have discovered that my new-ish digital camera has much more memory than my vintage, steam-powered computer. This means I cannot upload all my lovely photos of Siracusa until I get a new one, because plugging the camera into the USB port made the computer have a kind of epileptic siezure.

Since this situation is really pants, I began reflecting philosophically on Italian cultural attitudes to pants.

Work tha booty! These are buttock enhancing padded knickers, available on Ebay. Click the image to order your very own pair!
Work that booty! These are buttock enhancing padded knickers, available on Ebay. Click the image to order your very own pair!

In Italy, they don’t have shops where you can buy underwear, nighties and day clothes all in one place. Seeing things to wear on your backside hanging next to fashionable apparel would probably lower the tone so badly that nobody would ever buy anything   …in the same way as I would not want to buy any fruit in a supermarket that put it on a shelf right next to the adult nappies.

Instead, to clothe your naked derriere in Italy, you have to go to massive out-of-town warehouses which sell nothing but socks, pants and white vests in wholesale units. They do let you open the packs and buy things individually, but few people do this. It’s just too scary.

People rummage about them looking sad, and if you bump into someone you know it is the norm to hide behind a pyramid display of Superman Y-fronts and pretend you haven’t seen each other.


When I got married, my mother-in-law delivered her son up to me with a kind of dowry – or maybe I should call it a trousseau – which consisted of enough white vests to open a shop, so many socks he could have kitted out an army, and a range of pants that I had to leave stacked in the living room until a second wardrobe could be delivered.

They were all in sealed boxes, by the dozen. Apparently I was supposed to monitor my husband’s intimate apparel regularly and throw away any offending items post haste. Pants with flailing elastic or leg holes which might permit fallout, white vests irrevocably stained with tomato sauce, and socks which let his toenails poke out were to go in the bin without delay. Then I was to extract new items from the warehouse and insert them into general circulation as replacements. For the rest of his life. Based on his normal attrition rate, she had obviously estimated he would live to 135.

So, Hubby is alright Jack, but what about me?

Buying a bra in Italy is simply pointless. Their bra sizes go from 1 to 6. That’s it.

The gents among you may not get this, but the ladies will. A bra has to accomodate your baps with no slack, and also fit snugly round your rib cage. This means you measure them with a chest size and a cup size. These vary independently of each other.

Except if you’re Italian. In Italy, you are not allowed to be a tall woman with fried eggs, nor are you allowed to be a petite woman with a massive rack. Oh no. Your chest and mammaries have to correlate in perfect proportion.

The flat chested ladies in Italy stick socks in their bras. They have to buy pads for their bikinis too, which means that when they come out of the sea they have to stand on the beach for a minute wringing out their boobs before they can lie down and sunbathe. I have joined the ranks of the beach-boob-wringers myself and honestly, it is a very strange thing to have to do.

It can lead to dreadful wardrobe malfunctions. I bought a lovely new bikini a few years ago and kitted it out with the usual fillers. As you will be aware, boobs are make of fat, which floats on water. Sponges, on the other hand, absorb it and sink. Mine parted company and, as I emerged form the sea, about 45 old men up and down the beach urgently had to roll over and start tanning their backs.

If your bra starts to deflate you can top it up using this tube. There is also a light, and a whilstle for attracting attention in you need help. Do not inflate your bra before leaving the aircraft.
If your bra starts to deflate you can top it up using this tube. There is also a light, and a whistle for attracting attention in you need help. Do not inflate your bra before leaving the aircraft.

Meanwhile the well-endowed petite ladies – this describes the vast majority of Italians – have to buy a bra which looks like nipple caps held on with really long tapes. You don’t get much support from these things. They usually walk around with their arms folded aross their chests and refuse to hurry, ever.

The only thing which remains to report on Italian knicker warehouses is the nightclothes. I have never seen a sexy little nightie in Italy, ever. I believe the Vatican regulates nightwear in Italy to ensure that maxiumum contraception potency is achieved in each and every design.

So can you buy any underwear at all in a normal shop in Italy?

Once a year, all the rules break down and you can buy knickers literally anwhere. But only red ones. You see, Italians put on red knickers for good luck at New Year, and they are sold in quirky packaging for people to give to their lovers as gifts. So in late December, you can literally buy red pants in the supermarket, in the greengrocer’s, in jewellery shops, in electronics outlets. They probably even have them at the Post Office.

17 Comments Add yours

  1. How bizarre about the sizing!!! I’m guessing you execute an annual bulk-buying operation in M&S…?

    Here, this will amuse you:


    1. Oh yes indeed! And I recently discovered the joy of buying bras in Sainsbury’s as well.

      I loved that link! Hilarious!


      1. Grab ’em where you can 😉

        It’s a good blog, that. Kind of like a magazine for women in their 50’s. Very cleverly written.


  2. SilvyRiga says:

    ahahah YES! In Northern Italy they started to offer different ranges of bras only few years ago and only in huge brands shop, like H&M, Accessorize and so on.
    I believe that southern Italy and Sicily in particular, have to wait much longer 🙂

    and, as I’m Italian, I can say that nighties are not sexy at all for us 😀 we rather prefer wearing our own natural skin in the hottest nights 🙂


    1. Ah haaa!!! Of course!!!! Going to bed in your birthday suit is of course the best way to guarantee a REALLY hot night! 🙂

      You know, H&M in Palermo used to sell proper sized bras for about 9 months, but then they took all the underwear away and don’t sell it any more. I don’t know if they just decided Sicilian boobs have to keep on suffering, or if nobody actually bought it except me. Maybe Sicilian women don’t even realise there’s a better way?


  3. Anna says:

    This is hilarious.
    What about all the Intimissimi stores? I saw a bunch in Italy – I loved them!


    1. Yes, you are right, they do have these stores on high steeets in Italy. But try breast feeding a baby then making your boobs stay inside one of those bras! I think that is why I have developed a blind spot to them, the same way my brain automatically blocks banner ads on screen!


  4. Expat Eye says:

    This is too funny! And I love the bloomers! Have to say I’ve never bought underwear in LV – I normally stock up when I go home. Everything is too trampy here – the opposite of the Vatican approach 😉


  5. Colin Bisset says:

    Hilarious. Love the idea of a whole nation in red knickers…!


  6. onomatopoeicbliss says:

    If I were the suing type, I’d have to file on ya, as you have resurrected the remnants of my bronchitis and you have me alternately laughing and gasping for breath.😂

    No wonder there are so many of us Italian American’s ovah here . . . we came to buy Fredericks and VS for our Babes!!😎


    1. Sorry to hear about the bronchitis. Shall I send you a dozen Sicilian white vests to make sure you don’t get a chill on your chest?
      As an extra precaution I could also send you a six pack of kidney-warming pants. They come above the belly-button and have soft elastic so you can easily tuck the vests inside them. I’m sure you know how Sicilians panic when they get a chill on their kidneys.


      1. Anonymous says:

        Kidney warmers! Apparently the Japanese also have this particular health fixation. In a Tokyo store, I saw wide wraparound bands that are for keeping the kidneys warm. Almost bought one as a souvenir. Wonder if there is maybe a good reason to keep our kidneys cozy?


      2. Goodness knows! But my mother tells me in 1930s England, people were also obsessed with keeping kidneys warm. I didn’t know it went all the way to Japan!
        Sometimes my husband gets out of bed groaning and says “Ai ow, my kidneys hurt, the cover must have slipped and let them get cold overnight” ….!!!


  7. Italy is strange 😛


    1. Ha ha! You’re not kidding!

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Seavila says:

    Just like mexico! The bras here go to a band size of 36 and a cup size of c nothing bigger and panties are never made for a big bottomed woman here but I think it’s because most Mexican ladies are petite and very slim hipped not wide hipped and busty like Americans so I’ve been reduced to buying all my bras and panties online and paying outrageous shipping :/ also I’ve noticed clothes only go to a size 9 for ladies here and everything is cut bigger in the waist and smaller in the hips do you have trouble finding clothes in Sicily too?


    1. VH says:

      It’s a nightmare finding clothes in Sicily! And so I resorted to using the Internet, which is a major gamble too! So many tiny clothes, so many big women!! I need to start a new business!


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