Sue Limb’s undress rehearsal

Adam and Eve by Rubens

Adam and Eve by Rubens - Credit: Archant

We, alone among the animals, have been hiding our private parts ever since Eve stitched the first apron out of leaves

Whenever I’m cuddling my Jack Russell terrier – which is about every five seconds – I think how handy it must be to be covered in white fur. You’d never have a moment’s uneasiness about what to wear. And Wardrobe Malfunctions would be unknown.

Unlike us, dogs don’t worry about their rude bits showing. Even the Victorians, who famously hid the legs of pianos, never insisted that their pooches should be modestly encased in liberty bodices and white lacy drawers. (Though I believe in some parts of the USA this kind of thing is popular even today.)

But we, alone among the animals, have been hiding our private parts ever since Eve stitched the first apron out of leaves. Richard and Judy, our latter-day Adam and Eve, have presided over countless charitable appeals, good reads and great interviews, but they will forever be remembered for the moment, at an awards ceremony, when the front of poor Judy’s dress somehow came unfastened and she, all oblivious, carried on smiling graciously at the audience whilst revealing every detail of her bra.

It’s like that old American advert – ‘I dreamed I walked down Park Avenue in my Maidenform Bra.’ Though why advertising executives ever thought this approach would sell more bras is beyond me. The very word ‘Maidenform’ must send a shiver of horror down the spine of every middle-aged woman who recalls those terrifying scenarios. The stuff of nightmares.

Keeping one’s breasts discreetly veiled is a must in polite society. One of my worst wardrobe malfunctions occurred at the Minack Theatre in Cornwall, where I was one of a jolly troupe preparing to perform The Recruiting Officer by George Farquhar. The costume designer, a man unfamiliar with female anatomy, arrived bearing the frothy 18th century dresses moments before the Dress Rehearsal.

I was playing Melinda – an affected girl inclined to the vapours. Hastily I donned my dress, to discover to my horror that the bodice was so low-cut that my navel was almost exposed, let alone my Peak District. Because dress rehearsals are such panicky affairs, there was no time to insert even a modest ribbon or lace, and I had to perform the whole play topless. Casual tourists visiting the Minack come and go at will, crowds gathered, and ribald sniggering greeted my scenes. It was Farquharing embarrassing, I can tell you.

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If revealing one’s boobs is a no-no, revealing the rear end is even more disgraceful. Of course that is what my generation did en masse during those fateful months between the invention of the mini-skirt and the arrival of tights. I once attended a high-minded academic dinner party hosted by the historian Professor JH Plumb wearing a white satin mini-dress (me, not Plumb) which I later realised wasn’t a dress at all, but a mere blouse.

But my worst wardrobe malfunction revealed not my private parts, but my shocking sluttishness. I was in the habit, when in my single Bridget Jonesy days, of peeling off my clothes in one fell swoop and dropping them on the floor (at bedtime – at bedtime!)

One morning, heading off late for a yoga class, I dived into clean pants and tights (it was winter), and then grabbed last night’s trousers off the floor. Halfway through the yoga I noticed a large bulge in my trouser leg, and investigating, pulled out yesterday’s pants and tights in glorious technicolour. They had lurked, unsuspected, in the trousers as I’d peeled them all off together the night before. And as I was standing at the front of the class, everybody saw.

After such a humiliation, nakedness has no fears.

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This article by Sue Limb is from the April 2014 issue of Cotswold Life.

For more from Sue, follow her on twitter: @sue_limb