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Underwear must surely be a pants predictor of an economic upturn.

Byline: Steve Groves

IF ever there was a warning about the world of celebrity and fame - and the ignominy it can bring - it came last week as pictures of two youngsters with only underwear in view were splashed across the pages of Fleet Street's finest.

This was what the picture caption said: "Curators at Kensington Palace inspecting the fine linen chemise and split drawers which were worn by Queen Victoria."

What it didn't say was that the curator on the right, the one holding the Regina's underpants, seemed to be gritting her teeth and forcing a smile.

Who could blame her? She appeared to be thinking: "I didn't enter the museum business to be left holding the biggest pair of knickers this side of Prince Albert's memorial. The embalmed remains of an ancient Egyptian - by all means. The massive drawers of a dead ruler - no."

They reveal the Monarch to have had a 50-inch waist and a 66 inch bust. There's a small crown and the initials VR embroidered on them too. Until I was a big boy, my underpants had St Michael's on them, and my name was emblazoned on a specially prepared label, just in case they that'stypical Steve Groves Fair play, the garments looked clean and had been bought for the Royal Collection for pounds 600 at auction because, it was felt, they are part of the nation's heritage. But beware, those of you who seek fame and glamour. Unless you're prepared to have your nether garments held up to potential ridicule, you'd be better off as far from the red carpets as possible.

The linen bloomers and chemise were designed for the British Queen at the end of the 19th century. They were big enough for Brunel to have had a hand in them.

got mixed up in PE.

I couldn't donate those to the national collection even if I wanted to. My Dad used them to polish the car. I had to take them off first, mind. Ah, but the stories they could tell - none of them palatable.

So what stories can Victoria's knickers and vest tell us now? That she liked her grub, certainly. And that she didn't wear them to do PE.

But there is also a theory emerging in the troubled world of economics that the state of the underwear industry is a more reliable indicator than most of whether or not good times are just around the corner of your nether regions.

Admittedly this concept is based on research into men's underwear sales. This is how it goes: when times are hard, chaps will replace their pants less often, so if the ones he's wearing are getting pretty frayed around the edges, we're all in trouble.

But when sales pick up - hoorah, we're on the mend. It's taken some top brains to come up with that one.

So perhaps I'm being churlish about the value of Victoria's unmentionables. Am I missing some vast socio-economic significance? I don't think so. It's a big pants and vest set worn by a big woman. That's all.
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Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Sep 14, 2009
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