growing a minimalist wardrobe: intimates (again).

February 7, 2018

For the past three months I’ve been rolling down the stretched-out elastic on my everyday cotton underwear in hopes that the adjustment might stop them from sliding ever lower on my bum. (It does, for several minutes at least.) The underwear in question were stressed and stretched during nine months of pregnancy and still, a full year after giving birth, I haven’t bothered to replace them.

In hopes that fresh skivvies might make getting through the winter months a bit more lovely (or at least a bit more comfortable), I thought it’d be nice to give you and me an updated list of simple and sustainably made underthings. I made a list of thoughtful intimates companies two years ago, and as I did then, I’ve tried to include a range of very-lovely-but-perhaps-too-precious-for-every-day options alongside a few that are quite a bit more basic. I’ve tried my best to parse greenwashing and storytelling and find folks who are indeed doing something good for somebody or some place. Still, you’ll find nary a palm frond or fig leaf on this list and so suffice to say there’s more that goes into clothing production than most of us would care to grapple with. I’m hopeful these might offer a few folks a few options.

As for the favorites mentioned last go round, I stand by them. I did, indeed, stock up on PACT organic bikinis after the last post. They’ve been solid and have held up nicely, pregnancy notwithstanding. (I was surprised to realize they have a turquoise logo on the bum and sincerely wish it wasn’t there.) In a similar vein, I had some luck with basic organic cotton undies from Muji, but found them to be a bit less resilient in terms of elastic quality over the long haul. I’m very much indebted to RMTL sponsor, Storq, for making an excellent nursing bra. I’ve been living in their blush and black bras for the past year and they’re the only nursing bras I’ve ever had. (More colors are coming this spring.)

Herewith, a few others folks I’ve been admiring:

Botanica Workshop: Misa Miyagawa’s vintage-inspired bras and underwear are very lovely. I have a set of Aya Bralette and Astra Hi-Waist Brief in Petal (shown here). The bralette is delicate and lovely but sewn in just the right way to give a nice shape and solid support. The high-waisted underwear hug in just the right way. They’re both cut from thick organic cotton jersey that has held up beautifully to regular wear. The vintage mother-of-pearl buttons adorning both bra and underwear make them extra special. (PS: The bra might look delicate, but it’s a toughie: mine has withstood six months of being pulled aside and tugged on by a nursing baby.)

Everlane: Since originally publishing this piece, Everlane launched a line of basic cotton underwear (bras and bodysuits, too). They’re simple and comfortable and I’ve been wearing them for the past several months. Now available in seven colors!

Hackwith Design House: Hackwith (a longtime RMTL sponsor) launched a very lovely collection of intimates just this week and I’m lucky enough to be able to vouch for them, too. The pearl twist bralette and pearl high-waisted underwear shown here are simultaneously comfortable and sexy. I love wearing high-waisted underwear under lightweight summer dresses that fall on the sheer end of the opacity spectrum and these will be perfect. The HDH intimates collection is cut from American-made modal fabric that’s as buttery soft as they claim. You won’t find underwire on these designs, but thoughtful design and stretchy modal means they feel supportive without being restrictive. 

Hesta Organic: Hesta sells GOTS-certified “period panties” (more on that subject here) and regular old sets of organic cotton underwear. Nothing fancy about these guys, but they come in a wide range of sizes and look like they’d make a great staple for day-to-day wear. Sold in packs of three, they’re also an organic option that won’t break the bank. 

Land of Women: Land of Women nail elegant, minimalist design. I’m still on the fence about their Italian Supersoft fabric—a blend of Polyamide and Elastane—but if you’re hoping for something a bit more luxe than cotton, it might be just right for you. (One real bonus: it’s swim-friendly!). They also have lace and mesh designs and a simple nursing bra.

Lonely: These lacy beauties might tempt even the most staunch underwear-minimalist. (Just ask me.) The New Zealand-based Lonely makes their bras in sizes designed to fit the diversity of female bodies. They make bralettes for petite women and bralette-like bras complete with underwires to give extra support for those who need it. Available in sizes A-F.

Nude: The beautiful color palette of these Spanish-made cotton underthings might finally convince me to add a bit of color to my underwear collection. Unadorned and simple bras, underwear, and bodysuits are made from a choice of conventional or organic cotton. Bras come with an option for adjustable thick or thin straps depending on the kind of support you might need.

OrganicBasics: As the name implies, these guys are making very basic, GOTS and Oeko-Tex-certified organic cotton basics. I haven’t tried them myself, but they look like a solid option for filling your drawer with everyday options.

Sloane and Tate: Women-owned Sloan and Tate make men-inspired underwear, for women: think thick elastic waistbands. All Sloane and Tate products are produced in women-run factories in LA. They donate new underwear to The Good Shepherd, a domestic violence shelter for women in LA. 

Tomboy X: Tomboy X makes bras and underwear designed to fit all bodies comfortably, no matter where you might fall on the size or gender spectrum. They focus on gender-neutral styles and stock sizes XS-4X. Tomboy X products are produced in women-owned factories domestically and abroad where workers are paid living wages. If you’re hoping to stock up, they offer 10% off three pairs of underwear and 15% off seven pairs.
Many thanks to Anna Jacobs for contributing editorial research for this post and to Botanica Workshop, Hackwith Design, and Storq for letting me test-drive your ‘wears.

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41 Comments

  • Reply Sarah February 7, 2018 at 10:40 am

    Hackwith intimates ads started popping up on my Pinterest feed, happy to see your review here. I’m saving my pennies for Tomboy X undies, but meanwhile just bought some nice Gillian-whatsherface boyshorts from Target to replace my long past due Victoria’s Secret freebies.

    I’ll have to bookmark your bralette suggestions. I just ordered one from Lively to try in search of some medium everyday support to rely on rather than my sports bras which are either getting worn or super-high-impact.

  • Reply Rebecca Lately February 7, 2018 at 10:57 am

    This is wonderful. I’ve been saving a Hackwith Design coupon code for a couple months, so I’m ordering their high waisted underwear. I’m definitely bookmarking this to reference later.

  • Reply Jennifer February 7, 2018 at 11:31 am

    Erin, where are the two sets in the photos from?

    • Reply ERIN BOYLE February 7, 2018 at 11:45 am

      Wrote about ’em in the text, but the white one is from Hackwith and the tan is from Botanica Workshop!

  • Reply Milou February 7, 2018 at 11:31 am

    Thank you for a great list!
    I wish I could get away with a bralette, but as a 32DD…not so much. I recently discovered Negative Underwear and I highly recommend their bras. They are unlined,, beautiful, simple and comfy.

    • Reply Jen February 7, 2018 at 1:22 pm

      Milou, couldn’t agree more! Similar size here and all I want is a bralette that works for me. Any other busty ladies out there who have had any luck with a bralette style (ideally cotton, non-wire)?

      • Reply ERIN BOYLE February 7, 2018 at 1:30 pm

        Hey Jen, Sounds like you might not want the lacy underwire styles, but Lonely has some nice bralette-like options in a wide size range!

    • Reply ERIN BOYLE February 7, 2018 at 1:26 pm

      Hey Milou, Glad you’ve had good luck with Negative! Did you see the bralette-like options from Lonely listed here? They have underwire and come in sizes ranging from AA-G! Could be a fit?

      • Reply Milou February 7, 2018 at 3:54 pm

        I’ll totally check it out! Thank you!

    • Reply Bridget February 8, 2018 at 10:21 am

      I’m a 32D on a 5’2” frame and I’d recommend The Nude Label. The designs are so simple and comfortable, and the staff were just absolute dears. They helped with sizing my fit for their cut-out bra and were spot on. The nips do peek out just a wee bit if I’ve been lying down in a weird position but not too much, and the garter lining the bottom gives surprisingly adequate support for big-chested ladies without being too tight (though next time I would go for the wide strap option). I’m now regretting only getting one because I’ve been guiltily wearing it every day.

  • Reply Anna Maria February 7, 2018 at 1:43 pm

    After two pregnancies is quick succession I’m excited to stock up on some better underthings – thanks for the great list.

    My favorite bra for weekdays (days that involve both breastfeeding & pumping) is by The Dairy Fairy: https://shop.thedairyfairy.com/arden-all-in-one-nursing-and-handsfree-pumping-bra/

    • Reply sasha February 7, 2018 at 4:28 pm

      Dairy Fairy? Love the name!!

  • Reply Jessica February 7, 2018 at 2:55 pm

    I just have to comment on the storq nursing bra. I really, really wanted to love it, but I just couldn’t. I’m a small woman with a larger chest, but definitely not so large you’d actually notice (think the 34c range, but in a 30 instead of 34 — it’s called a DD/E, but the actually breast size is equivalent to a C-sized breast on a 34-sized rib cage). I think I look absolutely average, and some of my friends have even commented on my smaller breasts.

    It’s just that apparently all small framed woman have small breasts (see storq’s sizing) and your breasts get bigger the larger your body. I reached out to storq and explained all this to them, and they recommended a larger size, maybe medium or large, and it did not work at all — loose and hiking up in the back and boobs spilling out in the front. Add in the growing, changing, differently sized breasts of a pregnant and then nursing woman, and it was a disaster. I donated it. I guess the summary is that storq is nice, if you fall into their very narrow band of sizing. If you don’t fit into that narrow band, it might not work for you. I went with a boob bra, which I do believe is also somewhat ethically made.

    • Reply ERIN BOYLE February 7, 2018 at 3:37 pm

      So glad you found something that worked for you!

      • Reply Jessica February 7, 2018 at 3:46 pm

        Yes, and I did not mean for my comment to come off as snarky as I now re-read it and hear (not sleeping baby will be blamed). Storq is a really excellent brand and I still have their skirt, leggings, and dress hanging in my closed (a friend recently visited and asked to borrow a pair of leggings — she picked a pair out of my closet, put them on, and gushed about how comfortable they were — we both though it was hilarious that the storq/maternity leggings were the best of the bunch). Excited to try out your other suggestions when the perennial suggestion (wear what you have until it no longer works for you) wears out. Thanks!!

        • Reply ERIN BOYLE February 7, 2018 at 3:51 pm

          Gosh, no worries! It’s so disappointing when something doesn’t work out for you! Glad you loved those leggings! xx.

        • Reply Stephanie April 26, 2018 at 4:52 pm

          You weren’t snarky. You made a really valid point about an issue that I’ve experienced, too.

  • Reply sasha February 7, 2018 at 4:37 pm

    Shout out for extreme minimalism in the under things department: nada!

    I’m still getting used to no bra, but I’m just about there. I’m tiny and it’s hard to find anything at all that fits, let alone ethical, or pretty. I have the best luck in the girls section at Target my one and only bra that doesn’t irritate or annoy in any way is thread bare, so I just started not wearing one. I like it.

    Undies? I gave those up when newly pregnant 22 years ago and I’ve never dreamed of going back. I have sensory issues and I’m 100% happier without undies rubbing me the wrong way. It’s also very healthy. And I must have saved about a million bucks by now
    If I wear a short sun dress I just wear stretchy comfy black bike shorts under, sort of like Spanx but not constricting at all.
    If no undies appeals, just try it. You might be really surprised how easy it is.

    • Reply Sarah February 8, 2018 at 10:35 am

      I’ve largely gone undie-free thanks to my doc’s recommendation to resolve some skin issues. And actually, needing fewer pairs of underwear mean I’m okay with spending extra cash on nice ones for when I want to wear them. Going for bralettes (or, currently, mostly just sports bras) is my compromising step towards bra-free. I think my nipples are way too sensitive to give up bras entirely. I’m pleased, however, to give up the notion that underwires are “more grown up” or otherwise required for absolutely everyone, rather than just another option people with different bodies might choose. I think Erin shared a great New Yorker article back in the fall about a woman with a much larger bust size going bra-free, and it was so well written with a good sense of humor.

  • Reply Elysha February 7, 2018 at 7:01 pm

    Lovely! I just wanted to throw this out there- my friend makes gorgeous and comfortable lace bras and underwear, but the most amazing product (for me) has been the stunning nursing bras she makes- you can find them on her website: https://www.rosaliewynne.com/

    It’s so hard to find comfortable and perfectly fitted nursing bras that are comfortable AND beautiful. I have lived in mine over this past year as a nursing mom.

  • Reply Danielle February 7, 2018 at 7:17 pm

    Thank you so much for this post!!

  • Reply Manuela February 8, 2018 at 6:02 am

    Hi, Erin and other reader from RMTL,
    sorry to make a post not related to the subject, but perhaps you can help me: I bought a beautiful waved canvas tote on Etsy but on the first outing there was a sudden storm and is now terribly stained. It has been drying on a rack for 15 days with no improvements. Do you know what else can I do?
    Thank you.
    Manuela from Portugal

    • Reply ERIN BOYLE February 8, 2018 at 7:20 am

      Hi Manuela, Waxed canvas should typically hold up pretty well in stormy weather, but I’d reach out to the Etsy seller directly and ask if there’s a special treatment or solution that might help! Good luck!

  • Reply m February 8, 2018 at 6:05 pm

    hi! what about children? i’d love a similar related list..

    • Reply ERIN BOYLE February 8, 2018 at 8:20 pm

      Will try to gather a few ideas!

    • Reply Stephanie April 26, 2018 at 5:07 pm

      I used to get Hanna Anderson undies for my kids (now 18 & 14). They are organic cotton and last SO LONG that they can be handed down multiple times. When my daughter was a freshman, I noticed that she was still wearing a pair I bought her in 4th grade (this was before puberty really hit). They were in fine condition, although a little on the small side. They are thick enough cotton that you can buy them big and they last a very long time, even through growth spurts. They’re super comfy. My son liked the boxer briefs a lot, too. They make organic cotton undershirts, as well.

      • Reply Betsey April 29, 2018 at 9:33 am

        Seconding the Hanna undies. They are so great. I keep hoping they’ll just make them in women’s sizes as well!

  • Reply Kat van der Hoorn February 8, 2018 at 6:39 pm

    I am counting the (days, weeks, hours) until Elizabeth Suzann launches and underwear line. She’s hinted at it a few times – I can’t wait! Until then, my PACT with the hideous turqoise logo is how I shall go.

    • Reply Jenny/AdventuresAlongTheWay March 31, 2018 at 2:14 pm

      My most recent Pact underwear (bought in the last couple of months) has a grey logo on the behind instead of the previous turquoise one. I definitely prefer the grey. There is a logo on their tank tops as well (turquoise,), which I also find annoying, but the tank tops are too long on me so I hem them to a shorter length, which also removes the logo. Two birds, one stone..,

      I’d love for the logo to not be there or at least be embroidered on there in the same color as the fabric… But they remain my favourites because the boyshorts fit me really well, better than any other boyshort I have ever tried. They are my everyday undies…

  • Reply Anna February 9, 2018 at 7:38 am

    Thanks for the post, Erin! My two cents: I have two Land of Women super soft bras. They have been great for switching to a bralette after padded/underwire bras (I am a slim B-cup). They are pleasantly light under sheer summer tops — and yes, swim friendly. One year on, though, I would not buy this synthetic bra again, as I am keen to live plastic-free.

    More recently, I bought two bras from the Lauren Manoogian / Pansy collab (15% cashmere, 85% cotton), in bone and charcoal. The fabric is wonderfully cozy and the Pansy cut is an unexpectedly good, supportive fit. Having tried these, I would consider the standard 100% cotton Pansies for the warmer months.

  • Reply kathryn February 9, 2018 at 9:34 am

    I’ve been on the hunt for comfy and sustainable underwear for ages. I wanted to like PACT but found they either fell apart, or sizing was funky and rode up in the wrong places. The best I’ve found is ALAS The Label – which unfortunately is an Australian brand that is pretty impossible to find in the US. But it’s organic cotton and a very comfy cut. My fingers are permanently crossed that someone will start carrying them more locally!

  • Reply Phoebe February 11, 2018 at 9:59 pm

    I love the idea of a supersoft bralette without unnecessary padding and wires (also, so much easier to deal with when nursing!), but when I’ve tried bralettes, there’s a little too much nipple show through for my comfort. Do any of these provide a little more modesty in that regard? I’ve tried looking at the websites and I haven’t been able to find much information. . . Thanks!

    • Reply ERIN BOYLE February 12, 2018 at 8:23 am

      Hey Phoebe, Not sure if you’re looking something with padding, but the Nude bralettes are solid as opposed to mesh or lace so that might be more in the vein of what you’re looking for!

  • Reply Sommer February 11, 2018 at 11:54 pm

    Thanks for this update! I’ve referenced your original post in the past and like the looks of some of these as well. I’ve gone through a couple pregnancies and nursing and am going to need some new fitting under clothes soon. It’s been a challenge to find the pretty, ethical, comfortable pieces that I dream of and you have saved me some research time. 😉

  • Reply Mihela February 14, 2018 at 2:44 pm

    Anyone tried Icebreakers 100% wool undies and bras?? The best on the market by far. 🙂
    Loved your post though!
    🙂

  • Reply Jess February 28, 2018 at 8:40 am

    Not related to underthings, specifically, but would love to read your tips on parsing greenwashing / storytelling — it’s getting harder and harder to do, it seems!

    • Reply ERIN BOYLE February 28, 2018 at 9:44 am

      So hard to do! Will see if I can cobble together something helpful!

  • Reply Jenny/AdventuresAlongTheWay March 31, 2018 at 2:18 pm

    I’m looking forward to exploring some of these links. And there is a long-length, long-sleeve black jersey robe on Between the Sheets that looks exactly like what I have been looking for for a couple of years! It’s pricey but all robes seem pricey these days, so I will have to consider it, especially since it’s made in the US. I’m also considering sewing my own robe exactly how I want it, so I’ll have to think about it… I might have leftover linen fabric after I make a couple of dresses and that could maybe become a robe…?

  • Reply Anna Lieding May 10, 2018 at 9:23 pm

    Yay! what an amazingly comprehensive post. I love my Pact organic undergarments. And am now going to definitely hit up some of the others you mentioned. Thank you Erin.
    Mahalo

  • Reply Dana May 15, 2018 at 9:20 pm

    Thanks for the post! What do you all do with old underthings? Donate? Recycle?

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