Ask any woman and she'll tell you. Underwear just isn't what it used to be.
With leopard-print panties hidden under Brooks Brothers suits, bustiers an option for even the most respectable women and men's boxer shorts second only to Lycra tights as women's favorite workout wear, it's a wonder that "underwear" hasn't been renamed "fun-derwear."
But fun or luxurious, inside or out, to many women, lingerie makes a great gift . . . especially around Mother's Day.
"Mothers are always doing things for everyone else, never for themselves," says Bonnie Boring, manager of Caprice at Village of Cross Keys. "A gift of lingerie is one of those personal kinds of things you can do for them."
In the past few years, the lingerie market has grown to include items that run from the luxurious to the comfy and from the risque to the simply fun, as pajamas make a comeback and big T-shirts are worn with leggings to bed -- as well as to the store.
"The market has changed," says Ms. Boring. "We still have the peignoir, but we also have two-piece casual wear."
And the color palette for lingerie is more varied: The respectable beiges and oh-so-sweet pinks of old have been joined by an increasing array of florals and bright prints. "Florals and soft colors are for Mother's Day. And certainly, there's a lot more color than five years ago -- people are just more used to the idea," says Laura Holbrook, a spokeswoman for Victoria's secret.
Indeed, says Judie Cohen, co-owner of Bare Necessities of Lutherville, "Florals are all over. They are everywhere. I think we've changed: I think maybe we're more romantic."
No matter the size, taste or personal style of the mother in youlife (be it your own Mom or the mother of your children), there ought to be something out there that will please.
But while many women swoon over the fabulous Charmeuspeignoir sets and silky teddies made famous by prime-time soap operas, one glimpse at the triple-digit prices may send many gift-givers running for cotton briefs and over-size T-shirts. Thus perhaps the best news for this season's Mother's Day shoppers is that along with the growing popularity of these sweet nothings has come a surge in the number of stores and catalogs offering lingerie at every possible price point.
"Our company feels very strongly that women want beautiful lingerie at an affordable price," says Jan Flora, publicity director for J. C. Penney's Baltimore/Washington region. "We've created a special department called 'Delicates,' where a woman can find all the fine lingerie that she's looking for without having to spend a lot of money."
These in-store shops feature everything from lace-trimmed cotton nighties to the season's most popular jewel-colored slips. Also on the store's top picks list are shorty pajama sets and cotton knit nightshirts for sleeping or lounging. "Our customers are surprised that they can get many of these items for under $25," says Ms. Flora.
Expensive or not, lingerie gifts on Mother's Day lean toward the more traditional with a -- of luxury and perhaps a bit of sex appeal, say retailers. And comfort is becoming increasingly important.
At Victoria's Secret, a popular gift choice is a short kimono robe: "It's something you can use, but since it ties on the side, it's also a little bit unusual," says Ms. Holbrook. Slip-on mules that come in ivory and pink are also favored gifts.
PJs -- soothing, casual and sometimes attractive enough to greet visitors in -- are back in style as baby boomers spend more time at home lounging in front of their VCRs and TVs.
"Pajama sets are popular, shirt styles with shorts or longer pants. You can sleep in them and still answer the door instead of wearing your sweats," says Ms. Holbrook.
In a similar vein are Lycra outfits that double as lounge and sleepwear, says Ms. Cohen of Bare Necessities. "For younger mothers, there are fun types of things: Lycra pants with big overtops and cotton knit shirts that you can sleep in and answer the door in, even silk lounging pajamas or big, silk sleep shirts."
At Caprice, hand-painted T-shirts with leggings to match by Fresh Paint that sell for about $55 to $75, are also popular, says Ms. Boring. "You can wear them at home and you can run to the store in them, too."
And if you're the sort who likes to be on the cutting edge of fashion, one of the hottest selling items at Caprice is a new lingerie creation: the "hipslip" by Bodyslimmer. Selling for about $35 and billed as the "undergear of the '90s," the lace-trimmed Lycra undergarment is worn by many models under the super-slim, super-short fashions. "It's great under mini dresses or skirts and has panties built in, and looks like a short slip so you don't have a panty line," says Ms. Boring.
(A word to the wise if this is your Mother's Day selection, fellas: Be sure that the name "Bodyslimmer" doesn't send the wrong message to your loved one.)