Meet the women who have turned their hobby into a career

Once upon a time, your average woman’s knowledge of knickers was more or less limited to her own experience of wearing them. But not anymore. I’m not sure when this changed exactly– maybe in the 1990s when the low-rise jean with peeping-out thong became ubiquitous, I don’t know- but it has: now, in 2017 knickers are no longer a secret.

Sheer dresses, leggings, tight jeans, athlesiure wear – over the years, these have granted ordinary women like me a million unsought opportunities to follow the precise outline, to join up the dots, so to speak, of a million other ordinary women’s knickers.

Visible panty-lines are everywhere.

On me, you, the bus, in the post office, workplace and street. Everywhere, that is, apart from upstairs in fashion designer Ali Wheeler’s little lingerie atelier, Clonakilty.

Which, if you ask me — being chock full of women and knickers — is just the sort of place you’d most expect to find them. But then what do I know? I’m wearing one of a five-pack of cotton-rich M&S briefs.

There is no VPL in Hot Knickers Lingerie because Ali, its creator and owner, firmly believes that, “unless it’s meant to be seen, it shouldn’t be seen”.

Now, we all know that knickers are as diverse and contradictory as the bottoms they cover; there’s high-rise, low-rise, contorting, compressing; cheeky, sensible, architectural and naff; baggy hammocks, boy-shorts, barely-there- eye-patches, thermals and three millimetre pieces of string.

But there’s nothing of that ilk in Ali’s tiny weeny hand-made-knicker-factory — just elegant, comfortable, vintage-inspired shapewear lingerie that only the wearer will know she’s wearing, “unless of course she chooses otherwise”.

You might think you’ve heard this all before, but what Ali does in her Hot Knickers studio is actually quite unique: with a degree in fashion, background in bespoke costume design, extensive research, passion, hard work and four sewing machines, Ali Wheeler saves women’s bottoms from the tyranny of ill-fitting, uncomfortable unsexy knickers with VPL.