Size does matter

Big pants are not only more comfortable - they're sexier.

There is a fundamental rule about underwear: it should never communicate with the outside world. This is why G-strings, or thongs, really, really annoy me. They are always poking out from girls' waistbands. I know that they are worn by perfectly nice girls, my friends among them, which is why I feel a certain amount of reticence in writing this; but one must be fearless to be a correspondent. Women who wear thongs always try to insist that they are "comfortable", but this is nonsense. How can they be?

However, the wearing of thongs is nowhere near as bad as not wearing any knickers at all. I wouldn't mind but they always, always, have to tell you about it. It conjures up images only a stiff drink can erase from my head. I once worked with a TV celebrity who would go on so much about how she always went commando, that I can never look at her now without thinking of it. I was recently in a group of people when a girl there quite gratuitously mentioned she didn't wear, and wasn't wearing, any knickers. The men made appreciative but awkward noises. Afterwards I asked a few of them (they were my friends) if they found it sexy. "Yuk, no," they said, as one. "But then why . . . ?" "Cos girls expect you to find that sexy and you don't want to disappoint them," they confided.

I am biased, obviously, because I was a big pants girl long before Helen Fielding made them fashionable. When I was 16 and on holiday in Italy, my aunt would relentlessly tease me about my big pants as she hung the laundry out to dry; she always put my undercrackers outermost so that everyone could see them. (She'll be old one day, and vulnerable, and I shall take my revenge then.) But I honestly think that larger pants are sexier if you choose right. I'm talking not about shapeless cotton kidney warmers (though it is tremendously important to keep your kidneys warm), but French knickers, with their higher waists and gently flaring hems. These: a) are flattering, b) are sexy, c) don't give you VPL if you wear them in the right size. Elle Macpherson does some really lovely- looking ones, but they have a crucial detail wrong - there's some stitching in an unfortunate - shall we say central - place. Freya does the very best ones: great cut, fabrics, patterns, just perfect.

The only time that I've been tempted by really tiny, triangular knickers was when I was pregnant and started to get a sizeable bump. At any point in a pregnant woman's life she'll have to make the decision (like a beer-bellied man will) to go "over or under". I chose under, and my pants could not get "tanga" enough. I have to admit that I did relish the idea of shopping for pants that were "five for a tenner", came in glorious, often garish colours, and had sides no thicker than a fairy's eyelashes.

Annalisa Barbieri was in fashion PR for five years before going to the Observer to be fashion assistant. She has worked for the Evening Standard and the Times and was one of the fashion editors on the Independent on Sunday for five years, where she wrote the Dear Annie column. She was fishing correspondent of the Independent from 1997-2004.

This article first appeared in the 28 May 2007 issue of the New Statesman, Gaza: The jailed state