Women's underwear has come a long way. Born from the loin cloth, briefs are seen on female terracotta figures dating from 3000BCE. And the first recorded corset is to be found on a figure of a Cretan snake goddess from 2000BCE. That's some way from what's on the high street today, but there is a common thread - underwear matters, socially and aesthetically.
Today, it’s high fashion, and anyone who's anyone is getting in on the act, from Elle McPherson to Kylie to J-Lo. Even Bob Dylan has had a brief flirtation with women's underwear - in a much talked about advert for American favourite Victoria's Secret.
There's a million and one kinds in a million and one styles - briefs, bikini briefs, boxer briefs, thongs, tangas, corsets, culottes, basques, bras of varying kinds, bustiers, vests, panties, panty-girdles, cami-knickers, petticoats and slips. And that's not even taking into account stockings and their accoutrements, nightwear, swimwear, or specialist maternity or post-mastectomy wear.
Once you've chosen your style, there's the colour to think about. It's a bit trite directly to associate certain colours with personality characteristics - someone who likes red underwear is not necessarily fiery and passionate, they may just like red underwear - but there is a grain of truth in the idea that colours convey messages. White lingerie in any style inevitably communicates purity, even if purity is the last thing you intend.
Black lingerie is sexy and knowing. Brightly coloured patterns, like those used by Princess Tam Tam, are girlish and cheerful. Animal prints - well, that's pretty obvious. But what about the delicate pastels which are popular right now? It is entirely up to the wearer. Pastels are great because they are value-neutral - you can feel sexy or demure, or both, depending on your mood. Just make sure you go for the nice ones - vintage colours, not washed-out orangey or purpley hues which are better suited to your grandmother's curtains. Try shades of pistachio, mint, old rose and pale lemon. And if you want real vintage lingerie, there's Steinberg and Tolkein on London's High Street Kensington.
So pick your style, pick your colour, then pick who you are going to be today. And be grateful you're not wearing a pair of 3000-year old Sumerian briefs and a necklace and nothing else.