Dirty panties!: Lingerie shop crusades against used underwear

Last month, a Today Show investigation revealed a shocking fact: Major retailers like Victoria's Secret and Macy's were re-selling underwear that customers -- or rather, Today show operatives wearing hidden cameras -- had returned. Even after the Today folks stained said panties with baby oil, they ended up back on the shelves.

The investigation disgusted Alicia Vargo, the owner of Pampered Passions Fine Lingerie, an upscale online bra-and-panty retailer based in Englewood. In fact, she was so disgusted, she started an online petition to encourage lawmakers to outlaw the icky practice.

"This poses serious health threats to women," the petition says, noting that worn underwear can harbor "dangerous germs and diseases" for weeks. "The act should be punishable by law." That's right; it's time to bring in The Panty Police.

In an e-mail, Vargo explained her motivation:

The petition was truly put into action because of the terrible press the Today show created when they did their feature on retailers selling used lingerie. Pampered Passions has always had a very strict [return] policy, and our customers have been frustrated with it at times. Our customers do know, however, that we will never sell them anything "recycled," and even the frustrated customers come back as they trust our policies and procedures.

Once we collect our 1,000 signatures, we are going to write a letter to Colorado congresspeople to ask them to consider helping us start a bill. We are also trying to gauge if there is enough passion behind this before we do a formal signature collection process. To get a bill on the ballot, you need to hand-collect written signatures (not online signatures), which is a sizable undertaking. This petition, simply put, was designed to bring attention to this practice, show our support of current bills being considered in various states [such as Maryland, Vargo says], and use the signatures as fodder for writing letters to our local congresspeople.

As of noon today, the petition had 157 signatures. So until the day when Coloradans head to the ballot box to say no to dirty panties, Vargo has some tips for avoiding catching diseases in your nether regions:

  • Make certain you only shop at retail stores that carry disposable panties or thong guards in the dressing rooms -- the equivalent of disposable toilet seat covers.

  • Review stores' return policies.The more flexible the policies are, the more likely they will be to ship out used lingerie.

  • Always wash your lingerie -- or any clothing for that matter -- before wearing it. You don't know who has tried on even a shirt or pair of pants before you.

Maybe it was Crabby McCrabberson. Yuck.

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Melanie Asmar is a staff writer for Westword. She joined the paper in 2009 and has won awards for her stories about education, immigration and epic legal battles. Got a tip? She'd love to hear it.
Contact: Melanie Asmar