Kat Atwell is a freelance writer, blogger & stage presence telling stories that deliver laughs, validation & community.

Mental Health | Wellness & Self Image | Experiential & Reviews

Bottom Drawers: The Panty Challenge.

It’s time to have a frank discussion about being a big girl in a lingerie store.

First off, a disclaimer: Obviously, people can and should wear any kind of skivvies they want. Or wear none at all. Whatever makes you feel good, really. Go on with your bad selves.

Secondly, another disclaimer: Try to read the entry in its entirety. If you don’t, the title makes no sense.

Without further ado…

I’d lost sight of what made me feel good when my daughter was born over nine years ago. I didn’t think about me much for a very long time. I was mommed. I went full (coverage) stereotypical mom.

I have some really fantastic friends who have had to organize underwear interventions for me more than once over the past decade. They’ve had to force me to throw away nursing bras and tank tops WAY after I stopped nursing. Like, years after I stopped nursing. More recently, girlfriends have seen me in various states of undress sporting some seriously saggy, raggedy, ancient cotton underwear.

Furthermore, it used to be, once upon a time (read: two decades ago), I would own one, maaaybe two pairs of granny panties, with specific purpose. In a feeble attempt to keep myself from fooling around too soon on dates, I would wear worn out, bad panties on purpose. I wouldn’t shave my legs. I attempted to use potential humiliation as a chastity belt.

Shockingly enough, this strategy was unsuccessful 99% of the time, because lust will almost always trump Hanes, and guys really never cared as much as I thought they would about stubble or big underwear. I mean, they cared, but they didn’t care at that moment. You know what I’m saying.

I know I’m not the only one to have employed this tactic. Women in movies fail miserably using the bad underwear defense on the regular.


I will always love Bridget Jones.

OK, so fast forward to this past year. While the nursing bras and tanks were tossed a while back, the bad underwear stuck around; I just didn’t care. It’s not that I didn’t think I deserved to feel pretty under my clothes — I legitimately had gone so far past considering myself a sexy person that it did not matter.

I found a quote from Pamela Madsen online that rings true here.

“Self loving is a practice. Feeling sexy is a practice.”

So, this is how I wound up at Victoria’s Secret with my friend Helene, proceeding a massive pep talk and (a lot of) wine, shopping for all new panties during one of their gigantic sale days.

Side note: I think the last time I was in that store was 1997. Believe it or not, I was employed by Victoria’s Secret for a whole two weeks. There were three primary reasons my stay there didn’t last long:

  1. I couldn’t handle folding ALL the panties ALL the freaking time.
  2. I couldn’t drop the word “panties” that often. It felt awkward.
  3. The manager had to nonchalantly dig through your purse after each shift to ensure you weren’t stealing merchandise, and that was just weird (whether or not that practice is still in place is beyond me). I just couldn’t do it.

Back to now. The experience I had the day I walked into Victoria’s Secret in 2016 for the first time was frightening. Women were employing a very strong “kill or be killed” vibe.

Yeah, I’m not a shopper. So, this made ZERO sense to me.

I survived that first excursion, barely. Miraculously, I did wind up buying some new panties, despite feeling like I would look ridiculous in them. There were lacy ones, satiny ones, distinctly not full-coverage ones, you name it. But, I purchased them anyway, primarily because Helene made me. She had bravely thrown herself into fray and found the panties for me (and subsequently let me pick the ones I liked the most). I just stood there, stupefied, trying not to get knocked over by overzealous shoppers.

Once home, I tried them on. This part of story has been told a thousand times, I know, but she was right. I did feel more confident. I felt sexy(ish). I wanted to make an effort to look nicer.

That was a few months ago.

That “5 for $27.50” sale showed up again this past week. I surprised myself by feeling weirdly excited to go there again.


Who am I?

This would mean visiting Victoria’s Secret twice in one year.


I did it. I went, by myself, in the early afternoon. Thankfully, it wasn’t packed with frenzied women.

Here’s the thing: I’m a size 14–16. Victoria’s Secret doesn’t have bras in my size, which is a bummer (because my boobs are fabulous), but they do have large and extra-large panties, which work just fine.

My potentially unpopular opinion is that it’s nice not to have to shop in a plus-size-specific boutique or a big box store like Kohls or Macys for underthings every once in a while.


Right, so, since there was space to breathe during this excursion, and panties and bras weren’t being flung everywhere, I had the opportunity to take my time to look for specific types and colors on my own, without coaching from a friend. It was humbling. I noticed some stuff about the store I really didn’t like.

For starters, there wasn’t a single mannequin on display wearing anything bigger than a small. The tables and counters that had panties fanned out on top of them were made up primarily of extra-smalls. If you really paid attention, there was a slim chance you might stumble across a small or a medium. Have you ever flipped through thirty pairs of panties on a counter, looking for your size with no success, only to realize it’s because your size isn’t considered pretty enough to be on display?

It doesn’t feel good. Not a fan.

And then, there’s the added bonus of the organizational system at Victoria’s Secret. There are giant dressers everywhere, with drawers organized by size — horizontally. I think the whole drawer concept is supposed to be sexy. Anyway. Want to know where to find the larges and extra-larges? They’re always, always, across the bottom set of drawers.

Because it makes total sense to have the biggest women in the store have to squat down to find what they want. Because squatting in general makes a person feel super hot.

The other alternative is to just sit down on the floor, which is also a big confidence booster. If body language conveys power (as a bazillion studies prove), making the biggest people in the store get as low as possible to the ground clearly says something about how much our money, or perhaps our mere presence, is appreciated.

Relatively similar to what I look like on the floor while hunting for large panties.

I know this isn’t unique to Victoria’s Secret. But, in a store that exists to make women feel (or appear, I know) sexy, it makes me sad. Old Navy, fine, I can look down a few shelves for jeans my size without feeling humiliated or diminished as a person. But here? It’s different.

And yes, it would be easy enough to just not shop there any more. I could buy some damn sexy stuff at Lane Bryant or Torrid or any number of really wonderful shops online — you’re totally right. But, I LIKE knowing I can go into Victoria’s Secret. That I can shop there is empowering. The experience once I’m in the store is not. I can’t be the only person to feel like this.

So, here’s a tip for Victoria’s Secret marketing team, who I know undoubtedly will flock to this blog and take all the advice I’ve provided. First and foremost, reorganize your panties so that the sizes are put in drawers vertically, not horizontally. That way, women of all sizes can experience the joy of squatting on the floor. Also, put some fucking large panties on display, thus showing shoppers that *gasp* the bigger girls are clearly sexy, too, and shouldn’t be hidden.

Do it for me. Do it for the other people for whom it takes immense courage to enter your store. Empower those of us who want to buy some damn large or extra-large panties at Victoria’s Secret AND feel good about ourselves.

My adorable ass thanks you for your time and consideration.

Genes vs. Jeans

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