Over a decade ago one of my best friends and I unintentionally started a holiday. It started as a party — which it still is — but it was so much fun to do that we did it again and again and never stopped. It's been going for over a decade now. Somewhere along the line the ladies (oh yeah: it's ladies-only) who participate started referring to it as their favorite holiday of the year. It's The Panty Party and it is just as awesome as it sounds. Provided you think that it sounds SUPER awesome.
It all started twelve years ago, my first year out of undergrad, when a friend and I noticed a couple dynamics about our social circle. First, we realized that while there were lots of young women in our musical, artsy crowd of friends there weren't very many friendships among those women. Most of us were around each other because we had the same guy friends, a holdover from the messed up social dynamics of the conservative Christian college where many of us met. We also noticed that all the brides-to-be we knew who were heading to the altar right after graduation were having lingerie showers. My friend and I, both planning to be husband-free for the foreseeable future, felt this to be deeply unfair. After all, it's the single ladies that need the fancy panties, am I right?!
So we invited every girl we knew, about fifteen ladies, to a Panty Party. The premise was simple – each lady rsvp'd to me with her bra and underwear sizes. I then switched the sizes up and assigned each woman someone else's sizes to shop for. We set a spending cap and told everyone to go find something fabulous for the anonymous lady she was shopping for.
What resulted was one of the best nights of my life. Some people made lingerie for their person, others bought insane things that the recipient would never have purchased for herself. I ended up buying for a girl who had been invited on a whim, someone none of us knew well. She loved her present and the two of us hit it off enough to start a rock band together. We played music with each other for the following five years and now she is my official party co-host. New friendships were born, creative collaborations came into being and the night ended with most of us in our new undies, dancing madly to Moby's Play (it was 2001) and swearing that we would have a panty party every month. It ended up being an annual event.
Over the years the party has evolved, as have the attendees. Many of us are partnered now and I think this past year the scale tipped toward more mamas in the room than child-free. There are women who attend that I only see once a year at this party, and others who I see regularly throughout the year. We have experimented with different venues and numbers of invitees. If this sort of party sounds like something you'd like to try, here are a few things my friends and I have learned over the years about making it successful…
Choose a venue that works for the number of people coming and offers visual privacy. We had the party at people's homes for the first few years, which provided a more comfortable environment for some of our modesty-inclined attendees to try on their new underthings. We would ask folks to bring a treat or adult beverage to share. But this was crowded and labor intensive. When the party got bigger it moved to a friend's clothing shop for a couple of years which was fantastic for ambiance but still a hassle for food and clean-up. So we started experimenting with having the party at bars. The venue we have used for the past two years has a private room that can be reserved on guarantee: we spend X amount of dollars on food and drinks (never a problem) and the room is ours. The most important thing for any more public location is making sure that any windows or balconies can be curtained off so everyone who wants to flaunt what they got can do so without the whole world being able to see.
It is possible to have too many people, so choose the guest list wisely. We learned this the year we invited 60+ women and 55 of them showed up. The way our panty party works each lady opens her gift while everyone else watches, oohs, ahhs, and applauds. I've found that 30-35 is about the limit on the number of times a large group can do this without completely losing focus or taking way too much time.
Ask ladies to state any hard and fast preferences clearly. Be clear in the invitations that while the point of the party is to have a good time and get something fun that you might not get for yourself if there is a particular type of underwear that you would be sad to see in your gift basket the party coordinator needs to know so she can pass this along to whoever buys for you. The most often panned item in my experience is the thong panty – about half the women who come ask their gifter to avoid those.
Have a spending cap. Ours started at $25 and has been upped to $35. Some ladies always go over, but no one feels like they have to.
Plan well and early. Attendees need shopping time, so invites should go out about six weeks before the party date, with a clearly communicated "rsvp by" date. Give the ladies a week or two to check their calendars and rsvp. This gives the hosts a week to do assignments and send them out, leaving plenty of time for people to shop before the day. When I'm making assignments I give every lady who rsvp's a number and then give that number to the person who receives their sizes for shopping. I take a printout of the spreadsheet with numbers and assignments to the party to coordinate gifting.
Clearly communicate photography norms. It doesn't matter how many curtains are up if risque photos are hitting facebook the next morning. Our party started before the advent of digital cameras, so in the early days all evidence was recorded on film. Now I clearly ask people to be discreet about taking the photos and to avoid posting them to social media sites without the express permission of anyone in the picture. Part of the fun is that ladies from all sorts of professional settings can relax and let loose safely. After all, this year's party covered a wide spectrum of pre-school teachers, website gurus, artists, small business owners, musicians, photographers, stay-at-home moms and one future clergyperson.
So: when's your next panty party?