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.
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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?
Comments on Host your own panty party
I so want to do this.
I am SO doing this!! My wedding is next month, so once I’m done with THAT party, I am totally throwing this one. What a totally super awesome and fun idea.
this is the best idea for a party I’ve seen in ages. It would be so fun!!! *must organise panty party soon*
This is so unlike me, but this sounds awesome. I have a *very* small tight knit group of chick friends, but it would be cool to have them involve other girls I don’t know. Hehehe, to the email-mobile!
I told my friends that if they were going to throw me a lingerie party I would like the theme to be Weird Lingerie Found At The Thrift Store. I want to combine these two ideas.
I kind of collect weird lingerie found at a thrift store. I feel like we would get along well.
I wish I had friends to do this… Especially since I didn’t get any new lingerie at my bachelorette party.
Me neither 🙁
My husband and his room-mates did this for several years, co-ed. The funny thing was, most of the attendees were super-conservative, super-modest people, yet everyone still had a blast! Obviously, that would depend on the dynamic of the group (they invited only very close friends who all knew each other well), but the party was always a hit!
Oh, man, I totally want to do this. Back when my femme friends were in the same general area, we would have Femme Nights where we would eat gourmet-ish food, lounge around in lingerie and watch movies. I wish we could all get together again and add presents!
Just want to say, that as an Australian, I can’t stand the word “panties” I was cringing the whole way through this article….
However… it does sound like an awesome idea I just have to think of a different name for it….
do you just buy the “panties” part or a whole set?
Call ’em whatever you want!
I attended Alissa’s party this year, and I saw all sorts of lingerie given, including sets: little shorts and camisoles, jammies, robes and undies… I got a little nightie and underwear set that I ADORE. It’s lacier and frillier than anything I would ever buy myself, which makes it all the more awesome.
Yeah – we pretty much picked the names for alliteration more than to definitively describe the gifts. 🙂
Some ladies ask not to be given bras for one reason or another, for example big cup sizes can be hard to shop for and may not fit. I had someone come once who in her preferences stated that she loves big comfy jammies – I think she got fuzzy pajama pants covered in penguins or something with matching oversized slippers. She loved it.
So now I have to know. What do you call them?
I’ve got to admit that I’m confused, because I swear I’ve heard Australians call ’em “panties” before. Maybe it’s just in Sydney?
In the UK we call them pants, knickers or underpants; we could call it a “Pants Party”, which would have an amusing double meaning too. The reason “panties” sounds so weird (at least here, this may be the case in Australia too, I don’t know) is because it’s very strongly associated with knickers for little girls, so combining the word with anything to do with sex or sexiness is major squick! Not saying it’s wrong, obviously, I just thought it was an interesting snippet of liguistic trivia.
Totally love this idea! I know a couple of people who I’m sure know more people who’d be up for it.
We call them undies usually!
Wow, I really like this idea.
Something that did pop into my mind- all bodies of shapes and sizes, etc. I was just wondering if it ever came up that someone felt uncomfortable because of their body size versus someone else. (We had this problem a lot when I did dance because some girls refused to change in front of others.) I think maybe just the idea of it kind of cuts out any body-shy people, but my ‘question’ is less of a question and more of a rhetorical wondering.
tl:dr love the idea and it made me think!
That’s a great question Melissa. I’m not a super skinny person myself, and we’ve had a pretty wide range of body types at our panty party down through the years including pregnant ladies and women who had recently given birth and so forth. I think one of the key things is that there isn’t a stated expectation that ladies MUST try on their new stuff. Most years we have a number of women who strip in front of everyone and put on their new underthings, a number of ladies who excuse themselves and go change somewhere else and come back, some who put their new stuff on over their clothes and a few who just don’t feel like it and take their present home without trying it on. It’s about the energy in the room.
That being said – larger women sometimes have more specific preferences. If I’ve got a new attendee who has a curvier body type sometimes I’ll try to have someone buy for her whose body type is similar so they know what they’re doing.
This was something I was wondering too. When I saw the budget limit, I was thinking “Let me attend one of these parties because if they can find me a bra for under $35 that works, let ’em!” LOL!
But I do love a good pair of adorkable slippers and pj pants!
Hah! I thought the exact same thing.
oh – I should mention, too, that the breakdown of who strips immediately/later/not at all etc. doesn’t follow particular body-type lines. There are slender women who don’t feel comfy trying on undies in front of the group and curvy girls who are topless five minutes in to the party. 🙂
Thanks for the follow-up! Makes sense now.
Panty party on! 🙂
This sounds awesome, but thinking about I know it wouldn’t work for me. I have size 34 G breasts (even when I’m not pregnant who knows what size they’ll settle on now) and larger than DD size actually isn’t that uncommon. It means I have to buy speciality bras that are like 135$ minimum, even though I am totally not a spend money on underwear kind of girl. Have you dealt with this kind of thing at your parties? I love to get some fantastic panties but bras are never going to work they are hard enough to buy myself.
oh yeah – in fact most of the women who attend and are bigger than a C cup ask that their person not attempt a bra. And we don’t expect folks to buy a bra for their lady, either. One of the best years for me, present-wise, was one where I got eight pairs of underwear and no bra or top. And there are plenty of years when I’ve opted out of buying a bra for my person and instead gone for lots of panties or cute pajama or lingerie sets instead.
I love this idea – but I really do think it can be really sucks for plus-sized gals. No matter what “don’t try and buy bras for C cups and up” rules are applied, no one who is plus sized is going to come out of this adventure with the same quality, or quantity, of lingerie. Plus sized nighties? $60+, plus sized panties? 1 pair for $20… you get the idea. I can buy my size 8 sister a whole ensemble for what I pay for a single item for me. When I find plus sized bras for less than $20, I actually post it on facebook, it’s that much of a big deal. Even when cheaper plus sized items are available, the person receiving them is going to receive an item of appreciably lower quality than what someone for the same price is going to receive in a “standard” size.
I don’t know if there’s a good way to get around this – when my friends and I have clothes swaps, we often hold “Amazons Clothes Swaps” where all of the clothes brought must be size Large or larger, and shoes size 9 or larger, other accessories are not limited. However, I feel like for the panty party idea, this sort of limit might be hurtful to friends who would want to participate even if they aren’t Amazons (I feel like it’s less of an issue at clothes swaps, somehow?)
Whether this is an issue for your group of friends will probably also depend on average income, too. For me to spend even $40 on attending a party, I would have to work my budget conscientiously.
I would love to attend one of your Amazon Clothes Swap parties! I haven’t attempted any type of clothing swap or “panty party” because all of my friends are about five feet tall… I’m 6’4″ 🙁
OMG!! This would be so awesome!!!! Now I just need to convince my friends….
For the shy… we wore our bras on the outside and strung the panties up around the room like garland… oh and stole the brides and hid them in the freezer.
I’m hoping you mean that you stole the bride’s bras and not that you hid several brides in the freezer…!
Yes. The BRIDE’S panties. Shame on my punctuation 🙂
Yeah, I’m with some of the other commenters who expressed reservations. I think I would have been really into this when I was 17 and all my friends got naked as a matter of course (we were theatre people, but whatevs). Actually, even then this would have cut out the girls who were heavy or who felt insecure about their bodies. Seems like this party sets up an expectation that if you’re going to be FULL OF FUN, then you gotta SHOW THE GOODS. Otherwise, what’s the point?
And yeah– discount lingerie? There’s a reason why women stress out and spend too much money on undies: sometimes, it takes just the right pair to make you feel beautiful.
I think this party would make me feel awkward and weird. Unless I was extremely drunk. And then I’d probably embarrass myself!
Sounds like it’s not an idea that’s a good fit for you and your group of friends, which is totally fine. I will say that as an attendee in my late-30s, there was zero pressure to “show the goods.” I certainly didn’t, and I didn’t have any sense of being somehow unfull of fun.
This is all to say, if it’s not a fit for you — that’s cool. I’d caution you to avoid making generalizations, however, about how people attending might feel.
Interesting thing about your comment is that my personal progression seems to be the total opposite to yours! When I was 17, no way would I EVER strip down to my underwear in front of anyone not close family, let alone attend and feel comfortable at any kind of party like this. I used to wear huge baggy t-shirts to swim in, thats how uncomfortable I was showing skin. As I have gotten older, I have gotten way more comfortable with my body, and as a result, this kind of party sounds like a blast to me now! And I am what you would call ‘heavy’, ‘thick’, ‘curvy’ or all those other euphemisms. I also know that my best friend would rather DIE than take off her kit in front of other people, including me. And yet she loves lingerie, so we would both love a party like this, only I would be the one dying to get my kit off to try on my gift while she sat fully clothed beside me! Doesn’t mean she’s no fun, that’s just her preference. Each one of us is so different, and just because I’m a big girl, it doesn’t automatically exclude me from a party like this.
I love the idea of a panty party, but also appreciate those who may have reservations. For those with reservations, may I suggest a minor change to the possibility of a pj party? Same idea–get together with friends and friends-of-friends, and swap/assign sizes for pjs/slippers. You can imagine designing a fun Mad-Lib type fill in the blank or Knock Knock-stationary type questionnaire for the type of pjs they are interested in. Even with the category of “surprise me” for the more adventuresome.
I’m pretty specific about pjs–prefer sleep shirts, not pant sets, please no nipple see-through, etc, but like to wear matching pants prior to going to bed, and I tend to only buy cheapo pjs and never have a matching set due to the rarity of finding sleepshirts with matching shorts (usually I repurpose yoga pants or shorts). And like panties/underwear, I can’t find the justification to spent serious $$ money on something I sleep in, but would participate in an evening like this because it is also socializing (desperately need, etc). Beyond my ongoing search for the perfect sleep shirt, I can totally see someone having fun picking out a cool thing based upon some rando responses to a survey. And I would totally throw on a sleep shirt over what I was wearing to “model” (shades of when I was a kid modeling back-to-school clothes shopping) or even changing and throwing on over a bra.
Yes! So many ways this panty party idea can be tweaked and changed to suit different groups of people.
I am planning our first ever party right now!! All the girls at work were chatting that we need to do something outside of work that will keep us laughing, relax, and totally forget about the stress of work and this is exactly what we need!
Do you have or can you point me in the direction of example wording to use on your invitations!? I am searching for something funny and different, we are a wild group of friends! All I can find online is for Bachelorette Showers, and that is not what we are looking for!