That’s right… today we’re talking underwear. And most likely not just today, but for a while in the future! About a week or so ago, I randomly posted to Instagram asking for recommendations for new underwear. I wanted something cotton, with coverage (aka a brief or bikini style), and decent quality. What I was not prepared for was the number of women who would ask me to share what was submitted! I got a few submissions, but overwhelmingly the message was that most people don’t actually have underwear they love. Either they are like me and haven’t bought any in years or they just deal with disappointing panties… which got me thinking. What if I just started ordering underwear that was recommended and try them out? And what if I documented each step?? So I started doing that and it’s sort of blown up! I am officially deep in the midst of my #underwearthesis and hot on the trail of finding the most comfortable underwear for women. I got tired of the limitations for sharing my findings on Instagram, so I’ll be sharing regular updates here on the blog. But definitely follow along on IG because I post daily underwear chats (complete with ridiculous drawings of how each style fits my butt). Since this the first post, let’s dig into the why and what!
The Search for The Most Comfortable Underwear Brands Under $60
Why I’m conducting this highly scientific research project:
Not many of you know this, but I used to be an assistant designer at Nordstrom. Part of my job was to help the lead designers as they designed and revised underwear! I learned so much about fabric, fit, and design in this job. It’s really made me a better, more informed consumer. So I want to share that knowledge with you to help you do the same!
I’m also a really big nerd who loves to do deep dives on products and get into the nitty-gritty details. It’s not always about underwear, too. For example, during the inspection process of our new house, I research all of the wells on the surrounding properties to try to figure out when ours was built… and that turned into tracing back the original builder of the cabin, finding out when the house was plumbed for water, and more. I LOVE intense research projects like this.
And lastly, there is an element of self-care in this project of mine. When I first posed the question of asking for underwear recommendations, I received over 200 responses asking me to share the results. So many women are in the same boat as me: they haven’t bought underwear in way too long and don’t know what to get and where to get it. To me, this felt like the ultimate example of women putting aside their needs. Underwear is such a basic, necessary item and yet so many women aren’t prioritizing their comfort! My hope is that this will inspire you to splurge on a few new pairs of underwear that you actually love.
I am definitely not a scientist nor am I especially versed in the scientific method. But based on what I learned from grade school science class, knowing my criteria at the beginning is a good idea. So here are all of the factors I am keeping in mind as I review each pair:
- Fit and comfort — I really need to make this totally clear that I am search for the best panties for my own body. If you have a similar body type, that’s great. But if not, I still think you’ll be able to find relative info in my entire underwear thesis because it will help you be a better shopper and know exactly what you’re looking for! And I will absolutely be mentioning wedgies and chafing!
- Fabric quality + details
- Manufacturing quality — whenever possible, I will include my thoughts on how each pair of underwear was made so that you can be a more informed shopper
- Ethical practices
- Sustainability practices
- Washability — typically with lingerie, you’re not supposed to put them in the dryer. But because Sean does most of our laundry, my things inevitably end up in the dryer when they shouldn’t. For this reason, I will be keeping an eye on how the undies wash and dry in a machine.
If you think I should include another factor, leave a comment and let me know! With that in mind, here are some detailed photographs and notes to visually represent underwear-specific elements I will be factoring in. Plus, it will help if we’re all on the same page about terminology!
The gusset is the extra layer of fabric in the crotch of a pair of underwear. Typically it is a double layer of fabric, but sometimes they just use a heavier thread in that area so it’s one layer. The gusset is meant to absorb and smooth. When shopping for underwear, I always check to make sure the gusset is made of cotton — even if the rest of the panty is a synthetic material. A cotton gusset helps keep bacteria at bay, makes underwear more breathable, and cuts down on potential infections. A good gusset is your friend!
Seams and stitching
If you’ve seen any of the stories I’ve shared on Instagram, I talk a LOT about seams and stitching. For something as intimate and personal as underwear, the type of thread used to actually hold the fabric together is very important. You want it to have the right amount of stretch so that it moves with the fabric as you pull, but also not too stretchy so that the underwear actually stays put. It’s a balance!
Seams are important because they play the biggest role in chafing. If a seam feels rough to your fingertips, chances are it will irritate the way more sensitive skin in your nether regions. Seams are also probably the weakest point of the entire pantry itself and the first to wear out. So having a sturdy, well-constructed seam is key.
When it comes to reviewing a waistband, I really focus on comfort. Some are made of a single, exposed wide piece of elastic while others are the same fabric as the panty. Or it’s a different trim, maybe a lace. Either way, definitely check for stretchiness so that they aren’t too tight that they can’t make it over the widest part of your body. Also check for softness and any potential for chafing. When we dig into individual brand reviews, I’ll be sharing a lot more detail about waistbands.
Because I haven’t bought underwear in so long, fit is a really big deal to me. Most of what I wear currently is wayyy too small because it’s so old. Sean actually jokes that it’s underwear for children. So I will be talking a LOT about how each pair fits my body shape. That being said, I want to share some info with you about what my body shape actually is for comparison!
I am 35 years old, have not had kids, 5’6 and about 170 pounds. This is the heaviest I’ve ever been thanks to some health issues, so I will be shedding some pounds after we move and set up a gym at home. In terms of pants sizing, I typically take a 29 or 30 in brands like Madewell or Frame. Most of the underwear I’ve ordered is a size medium.
And lastly, fabric content is important! I have yet to find a pair of underwear that is 100% cotton because you always need at least a tiny bit of elastic to provide stretch. And that’s totally fine! But as we dip more and more into synthetics or blends of fabric for underwear styles, that can impact the comfort, fit, washability, breathability, and more.
The underwear brands and styles I have already tested and reviewed (updated August 2021):
Still need to try:
As you can see… I’ve spent a lot of money trying to find the best underwear for women. Which basically makes me think I need to make this an ongoing series here on the blog! After I’ve wrapped up my thoughts on the styles listed above, these are the next round I want to try (all based on reader submissions):
- Patagonia: active briefs and barely bikini underwear
- Auden from Target
- Amazon Essentials
- Knickey: mid-rise hipster and low-rise bikini
- Fruit of the Loom
- Her Nest Project: the Betty sleep brief
- Organic Basics
- True & Co
- Victoria’s Secret
Brands I am not trying:
There are a few undies brands that I’ve tried and just never been impressed by, so they are not going to be factored into this post.
- Calvin Klein — I wore this brand for years and actually started this project because I was tired of my CK panties. They never provided enough coverage, eventually fell apart in the wash, and chafed the hell out of my crotch (this style especially).
- I’ve also been asked a lot about period panty recommendations. Unfortunately, I will not be reviewing those because, thanks to my IUD, I haven’t gotten a period in years! My friend Julie Sharp has two really great posts about Thinx: an introduction to Thinx and How to wash your Thinx (and I really trust her recommendations!).
A few more things to keep in mind…
When it comes to the style of underwear I generally prefer, I’m pretty traditional. I like briefs and bikinis, sometimes a hipster or boyshort for sleeping. I am open to high waisted styles, especially since I’m at home and not getting dressed nearly as often. And I am definitely not a thong person!
And lastly, this project of mine doesn’t include lingerie. I’m focused on day-to-day, mostly cotton panties that are comfortable! Lingerie is a totalllllly different ball of wax and an even more personal choice. So I’ll be skipping that category.
There is a LOT of info in these posts and I don’t want them to get insanely long. If you ever want to check in on this project of mine, be sure to check the category, linked here. Going forward, I’m going to dedicate a blog post to each brand that I’ve tried so that I can truly do a proper, robust review! After that, I’ll also be sharing recaps and round ups of my favorite undies, hopefully on a quarterly or semi-annual basis. I don’t want to bombard you with underwear posts, but there is a LOT to cover!
If there is anything else you want me to try, consider, or examine leave a comment, send me an email or message me on Instagram! I am always open to feedback — especially for a big project like this. I hope you enjoy!