When Hungry Bum Attacks

This article first appeared in last Sunday’s The Sunday Times Style.

tony kelly

What I am about to reveal is likely to repel past suitors (and possibly even the present one). I have – deep breath – a hungry bum. A ravenous booty, a nibbly tush, the munchiest of arses, which, for as long as I can remember, has tortured me with a near-constant wedgie. The chorus to my day is the ping of knicker elastic as I pick my panties out of my bottom. In desperation, I often find myself opting for a thong – the wedgiest of lingerie, but at least they don’t taunt your crack with a concertina of bunched-up cotton. But I’m sick of G-strings: they feel cheesy and inhospitable and painfully 1999. I want a pair of pants that will adequately holster my arse. In this modern age, is this really too much to ask?

I should probably mention that, proportionally speaking, my bottom is larger than the rest of me. “Like your grandmother, you have a bottom built for bloomers,” my mother says, unhelpfully. “If only I could just go pant-free, like they did in the olden days,” I retort. “I’d rather a gust up my gusset than a constant feeling of being bottily garrotted with a piece of lacy pink cheesewire.” “Well, yes,” she counters, “but they also pooed on a potty during mealtimes and they never brushed their teeth, which all rotted and fell out. I think wearing pants is a small price to pay for modern living.”

The oracle has spoken: I am to endure a lifetime of pants. So it’s high time that my capacious and voracious rump reconciled itself with their existence and stopped trying to consume them whole. I hit my favourite pants purveyors for some field research. It transpires that I am not alone. Sales ladies get impassioned on the subject, as does Style’s fashion editor, Flossie, who is forever de-wedging, too. “I love pretty, lacy knickers, but they tend to be the worst,” she says, sadly. Like me, Flossie has always¬†believed it was the fault of her bottom and not her pants. But wait, what if it is the pants? What if my bottom isn’t just built for bloomers? I feel positively heroic as I take on the mantle of all wedgie-suffering women o’er the globe. “Are you sure your pants aren’t just too small?” the sales lady in Selfridges says tentatively. I see myself through her eyes, trying to shoehorn my size-10 bum into a pair of teeny-weeny size-6 panties, like a butternut squash jamming itself through a spiraliser.

I tell her I once borrowed my mum’s size-not-to-be-disclosed Sloggies, but with that sort of Bridget Jones pant, there is even more fabric to hitch itself up betwixt my buttocks. “The problem now is that knickers don’t have a band at the leg,” she says. “It’s so you don’t get VPL, but it also means that the knickers don’t stay put.” She’s right – some of the worst perpetrators in my knicker drawer are seamless. “Have you tried french knickers?” she asks, proffering a very pretty pair of lacy Hanky Panky pants. My heart sinks. All lingerie sales assistants recommend french knickers (similar in shape to a Brazilian pant, or boy shorts.) Perhaps they suit pancake bottoms [my friend Monica, in possession of a pancake botty, has since confirmed my theory] but they are my least favourite, along with Spanx, which manage to dispense criminal wedgies despite their vast surface area. French knickers are cut high on the buttocks and are therefore predisposed to ascend. I want to think that a lovely lacy pair by Hanky Panky, which the folk at Selfridges tell me sell like hotcakes, will be the exception, but my fate is sealed.

A¬†lady in Topshop recommends a pair of printed boy shorts that are so uncomfortable, I throw them away after one wear, much like Justin Bieber with his Calvin Kleins (though I imagine that is more to do with dollar bills than incessant wedgies.) In M&S, a veritable pants paradise, the sales lady and I are overwhelmed by the mass of bikini briefs. They all look pretty stalwart, but my bottom remains stubbornly peckish. Over at Victoria’s secret, it’s a minefield of tricksy knickers, unless you have a bum like an angel. I try the deliciously soft Cheekini, but they too zoom straight up in the vortex. Despondent, I take a break and call the fashion historian Rosemary Hawthorne, aka The Knicker Lady. “It’s tough out there for a knicker,” she sighs. “People like to look lean in their clothes, and knickers, with their skimpy fabrics and cuts, have to overcompensate. What happened to practicality? People think of themselves lying on the silk sheers, waiting for their lover – not doing the washing-up.”

Cheered by Hawthorne’s suggestion that it is the knickers’ fault and not my arse’s, I resume my quest. In Gap, they get technical. “You need a thicker fabric. The thinner the fabric, the more they slip and slide.” I leave with a pair of normcore oatmeal-coloured “breathe” bikini briefs. I barely recall a wedgie all day. I return immediately and buy five more. Another winner is Bodas (specifically, the Tactel mini.) “Material is key,” the co-founder Helena Boas explains. “Viscose and polyester have issues. We use two strands of Tactel, a soft fibre.” The most resilient of all is the flirty Cheek Frills. It promises “the most comfortable knickers online,” made of supersoft modal – and they are. My daily wedgie count plumments from 30 to 3. Flossie and I are hooked. My bottom, tense for so many years, breathes a sign of relief.

Photograph by Tony Kelly

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