In quite the most vital vote of the week, a survey by the Queen's underwear supplier, Rigby & Peller, has discovered that almost a third of women wear just two bras, presumably in rotation, one on the body, one in the wash. Despite boasting drawers teeming with box-fresh lingerie, seven out of 10 women admitted that they would rather sport their comfy favourites than some flashy new number they have bought (or had been bought for them).

So enamoured are we of cosiness over corsetry that three out of 10 women are prepared to wear these beloved items for a decade.

Women like to pretend that underwear horrors are confined to the unfair sex. Witness haranguing over Y fronts (Y fronts!), tatty boxers hanging off and imagining that having "Next" emblazoned on one's underpants somehow counts as cool. However, this is merely a diversionary tactic: we have been attempting to distract from our own underpinning panic all along.

Here, then, is my guide to the other dark secrets of the underwear drawer.


The one (bra)

The fact that we veer between two bras means that we actually favour one: the same style, one in black, one "nude"; "nude" being a euphemism for an ungodly shade of American tan. Except this hue is so ghastly that we can only wear it when on our own, or we will never have sex again. Hence, we are locked into a tyranny of midnight 30C washing cycles. Where most women possess only one such paragon, I possess five of my chosen one. Naturally, the style has been discontinued.

Show sets

So, now that we are living in one bra forever, with whatever mode of multipack, no-Visible Panty Line M&S pants feels the most comfortable, how come we require a drawer? Well, that would be for the show ponies of our lingerie life: the bra and knicker sets that are, mostly, for display purposes only.

Rigby & Peller maintains a third of us have ditched a bra after getting it home and discovering it didn't fit. More of us bung it in the drawer-cum-underwear area for when we are fitter/slimmer/less body conscious/drunk.

Most of us dream about being the kind of girl who is regularly resplendent in an achingly stylish matching bra and knicker combo in some au courant shade of dove or fuchsia. Alas, such rig-outs tend to be aching only in terms of the handwashing required, and one element of this ensemble invariably going missing after five minutes' ownership. The result: any lady who does more than lunch feels a sense of lifelong inadequacy in the undergarment department.

Gift underwear

At some point, men get it into their heads that they must bestow underwear upon us. Accordingly, each underwear drawer will contain a "trussed up like a turkey" section of "peekaboo" bras, savage thongs and nipple tassels that will only realistically come into circulation should we take up pole dancing.

Not only will such garments tend to be 400,000 times more garish, synthetic and fetishistic than usual, they will also be built for a doll - Barbie. See also that phrase designed to strike fear into every woman's soul: "scratchy lace".

Distinctly unmagic knickers

The real miscreant in the smalls department is the humble knicker. An instrument of torture second to none.

According to Debenhams' experts, women own 42 pairs of knickers of which 31 are "special" - ie, they never see daylight.

Speaking as someone who threw away all her summer knickers last week in fit of pique, I confess, I often now prefer to go without.

This after the occasion on which a pair once fell down and tripped me over in the street, causing the most British parent/child interaction of all time. (Nipper: "Did that lady's knickers just fall off?" Mother: "Yes, darling, but let's not make a thing out of it.")

Comfort togs

In this sub-genre lurks many a felony, including - according to my own survey - "Stuff that wasn't originally grey, but now is", "A pregnancy bra refitted using nappy pins", and "Knickers bigger than my own head". This stuff is invariably cotton, and what most women grab to go under their gym kit.

Of course, what Rigby & Peller has revealed is that all underwear is heading in this ignoble direction with enough breaking in. So, ladies, if you find yourself in a 20-year-old over-the-shoulder-boulder-holder, do at least give its shoulder straps a well-earned hoick.