Kenzie dropped this one into the suggestion box:
can you do a post on underwear? like the right kind of bras and panties to help avoid lumps, bumps, and lines on different outfit types, as well as employing slips and camisoles when necessary.
Whew. This one is a toughie for me. I defer to K-Line on all things bra, and must refer you to her amazing guest post on bra fittings to get started. I won’t claim to be an expert at underthings, and know from experience that folks get VERY TOUCHY when this topic is discussed. So here’s the requisite boatload of caveats: No two bodies are alike, so no two women will require the same undergarments for the same purposes. I’ll tell you what I know has worked for my clients and worked for me. I trust you to use your judgment. And I trust you to take what applies to you, discard the rest, and assume positive intent.
All righty then. Let’s dig in.
What I know about bras
I know that what looks adorable on the rack may look atrocious under a tight tee shirt. I know that small breasts sometimes do better in full coverage cups. I know that absolutely NO ONE agrees upon how to measure for a bra, but that I’ve never been able to puzzle out any of the DIY instructions and have far better luck getting help from department store employees. Bras are tough. They just are. I don’t know a single woman who can sail into her local Vicky’s Secret and buy a new brassiere without trying it on. And probably some agonizing.
In terms of universals? There aren’t any. But here are some personal observations that might help:
- “Back fat” is a term that was created by people who market and sell stuff. Bras dig. I’ve seen professional athletes with less than 5% body fat whose bras dig into their backs. Try not to get too wound up about it.
- That said, remember that a bra with a wide band is less likely to subdivide you than a bra with a narrow band. (Assuming you are slightly less squishy a bit further down your torso.) This is why longline bras were the norm for ages – less digging.
- Try a variety of cup styles to see what works. Try them while wearing a fitted tee shirt, the ultimate tester of a bra’s prowess. I wore demi cups for AGES until the good folks at Bali put me into one of their One Smooth U Lift Bras (pictured above), and blew my mind. I need a padded bra for nipple-related reasons, but the demi cups jutted out from my bust. This full coverage bra has a profile that sits closer to my frame. No more visible bra lines! Moral: If you can find more than one style in your size, try as many as you can.
- If you’re going to invest big bucks, do it on a bra that fits you beautifully – even under a single, tight layer of clothing – in a color that matches your skin tone. If you ever wear white, you’ll need it. Pretty is nice, nude is necessary.
- Strapless and convertible bras often fit differently than standard bras. Get professional help, if you can. (I own neither. I simply tuck my straps into my cups. The joys of being a small-busted gal who wears padding!)
- In terms of different bras for different outfits? I don’t know, friends, I feel like the aforementioned fabulously fitting nude bra should cover most of your bases. You can employ various other underthings to deal with potential issues.
What I know about panties
What I know about panties makes me feel old. Since I have a list of reproductive issues that would turn your head around, I am forced to stick to Cotton Hi-Cuts. And every gynecologist I’ve ever seen has reinforced the idea that 100% cotton is best, best, best for your health. So.
- 100% cotton panties are best for vaginal health. Seductive they ain’t, but if you get yeast infections, bacterial vaginosis, or any other recurring infection or pain-related issue, they’re the way. The only way. I know that has nothing to do with fitting/flattery, but allow me a brief stint on the soapbox.
- Thongs work for many people in terms of seamlessness, but there are two caveats. A properly fitting thong doesn’t dig into you. If it digs into your hips, you’ve just negated any assumed pantyline invisibility. Also thongs aren’t good for anyone yeast-prone, so be aware.
- Unless you are wearing thin or tight pants, a thin or tight dress, or a thin or tight skirt, you can wear just about any style of properly fitting panty and no one will know. Full and a-line skirts are especially forgiving, so bring on the briefs!
- I got into a minor scuffle with two lingerie experts over panty fitting once. One maintained that I should be wearing size medium panties because, well, I’m relatively medium-sized. The other agreed with ME, and I maintain that I should wear panties that sit flat and quiet against my hips and rear end without pinching or subdividing me. In most cases that’s a size extra-large. I’m not saying that everyone should size up three full sizes, just sharing my own experience and preference. Undies that dig are uncomfortable, and they show through your clothes. That is all.
- If you’ve got on tights or shape wear, there’s nothing wrong with going commando. (Assuming that doing so won’t make you uncomfortable/squeamish.)
- If, like most women, you get bloated over the course of the month, keep a few styles and sizes of panties on-hand. What sits flat on the 5th may squeeze your parts by the 28th.
- As is the case with bras, it will benefit you to own at least one pair of perfectly fitting panties that match your skin tone. Sometimes pants are white, sometimes skirts are sheer. If all your panties are leopard print, that may become a problem.
What I know about slips and pettipants
I know that an unlined skirt and pair of tights will fight each other without a slip to keep the peace. I know that some decoratively edged slips show through thin or tight dresses. I know that slips can cause their own sets of fitting woes. More specifically:
- Buy a slip that is comfortable around your waist. Many slips have teeny tiny elastic waistbands that love to dig into your midsection. I prefer versions with flat, wide, stretch lace waistbands – like this one - which may migrate around me a bit but do NOT dig.
- If your thighs rub against each other and that irritates you, try pettipants instead of a slip. Actually, even if you’re not fussed about thigh chafing, consider pettipants. They’re pretty amazing. And offer a bit more protection should you saunter across a breezy subway grate, Marilyn-style.
- I have never, ever successfully deployed a full slip. I know they must be good for something – probably some sort of complex dress – but eesh, they just never work for me. I tend to wear fitted stuff up top and volume on the bottom with a cinched waist, so full slips just get wadded up and mangled under all that.
- I don’t believe that slips are necessary any time skirts or dresses are worn. Obviously, a lined skirt or dress doesn’t need an additional layer shoved under there, but even unlined skirts don’t always require a slip. If I’m cold, if I’m wearing tights, or if I just feel I need the extra coverage, that’s one thing. But so long as I’m not wearing a flippy full skirt and going panty-free (which has literally never happened ever), I skip the slip.
What I know about shape wear
Holy moly, you wanna talk hot topic? I know that shape wear is controversial, and that many folks feel it’s a tool of oppression. I know that I waffle on it myself. I know that I own a couple of pieces and they’re helpful at times. I know that for me, they are NOT for every day wear. A few more thoughts:
- I honestly don’t see the point of anything less than a high-waisted, mid-thigh piece like the one shown above. (Which I own and recommend.) I know there must be some body types out there who can benefit from simple shape wear briefs or who only want a cami, but I figure if I’m going to bother pouring myself into this kind of thing, I might as well smooth out everything from bust to legs.
- Actually, since many women would rather include the portion of the back where their bra band rests, this one-piece is a great idea. HOWEVER, it will only work if you have a statistically proportionate torso. And you may not know that until you try it on. Frustrating.
- Shape wear should not be so horrifyingly uncomfortable that you are in misery while wearing it. Yes, it will feel snug and yes, it should offer compression. But if you can’t breathe, feel faint, or experience any other severe discomfort, you are wearing the wrong size. Do not buy shape wear a size smaller than you should wear in hopes of making yourself appear smaller. You’ll just be miserable and possibly make yourself ill.
- Shape wear will not make you look a size smaller. I don’t care what anyone says. It will smooth you out, and firm you up and is wonderful for outfits where you might worry about The Jiggle. It will not help you fit into a dress that is too small, and it will not compress you into looking 10 pounds lighter.
What I know about camisoles
I know that I don’t think all camisoles should be shape wear, although most of them seem to be. I know that the only kind I’ve found useful are slippery nylon blends. Furthermore:
- A slippery camisole that matches your skin tone is a very useful piece to have. It can make many sheer garments appear more opaque, and can add warmth on cold days.
- If you are experiencing some minor bra digging and don’t feel like dealing with shape wear, sometimes a fitted cami can even things out a bit. This will only work if your outer layer isn’t skin-tight.
- Unless they’re going to show, I’ve never seen the point of lacy or embellished camis. That stuff just makes for lumps and bumps under your clothing. But then, I’m an old stick in the mud.
What I know about specialty lingerie
Zilch. Zippo. Nada. I’ve never worn a longline, don’t own a garter belt, and all my panties have crotches. Cant’ be of much help here, I’m afraid.
DAMN that got long. Hopefully I covered most of the bases and dispensed some helpful – or, at least, amusing – information about my own views on and experiences with underthings. Again, I do my utmost to be all-inclusive, all-encompassing, and all-loving because I want everyone who reads this blog to feel welcome and respected and important and gorgeous and worthy. If you felt omitted from this post, it was not an intentional, malicious, or judgmental exclusion. I am human. I try to consider all the angles, but I can’t always see them.
Related post: The Perils of Undergarments
So, what are your key undergarments? Views on how they should fit? Which pieces do you use for which occasions? Or do you do the same set regardless of your outfit? Any resources or wisdom to share?
Top image courtesy Dianamite420. And yes, it’s meant to be amusing.
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