growing a minimalist wardrobe: step 5

October 16, 2014

Step 5: Streamline from the Bottom Up

Maybe this should be the first step. But I needed to ease in to this one, it being about underwear and all.

As it turns out, I’ll air my dirty laundry all day, but revealing my underwear drawer secrets makes me squirm. If it makes you squirm, too, maybe start with step one, two, three, and four if you haven’t already.

minimalist wardrobe, step 5 | reading my tea leaves Let me start with a story:

A few weeks ago I went to the bridal shower of one of my very best friends who happens to live in India. She’s getting married in November. And again in December. Bi-continental brides, man. They have all the fun. Innyway, as part of her pre-wedding festivities, we played a game wherein each guest had to bring the blushing bride a pair of underwear and she would in turn have to guess who had brought which pair.

With only very few exceptions, every person brought her a variation of the exact same pair: raspberry-mauve-peach-scarlet-magenta-blush-and-or-peony-colored lacy cheek huggers. Is that what they’re called? Anyway, girl has her underwear chock full of matching skivvies.

Which prompted me to think about what kind of underwear people would give me. And three thoughts came to mind: cotton, neutral, and the fact that I just might be the most boring person on the planet.
minimalist wardrobe, step 5 | reading my tea leaves But let me explain: Underwear is a tricky thing to approach minimally. I’ll be honest and say that I like to have a good 15-20 pair collection. That sounds like a lot, but when you don’t have your own washing machine, it’s nice to have some extras to allow for wardrobe changes and general laziness.

I’m sure it will surprise exactly no one when I say that I like my underwear and outfits to match, so that means I stick to a palette of greys, whites, nudes, and blacks. And with only a few exceptions, I opt for plain jane cotton in the name of health and comfort and an ability to toss them into the dryer. (^^^I keep my underwear drawer fresh with a lavender sachet.)

Finally: Is it too embarrassing to reference the Sex and the City episode where Carrie wears Big’s underwear? Yes? I’m going for it anyway. I remember watching that episode on this same bride-to-be’s couch circa 2000 and declaring that wearing men’s tighty-whities might be the best idea I’d ever seen. Choosing a simple array of well-fitting cotton underwear in neutral colors is the next best thing.

Other underwear sources I have my eye on should my wallet ever catch up: these with this, and these, and these, and just for fun!

What about bras? I’m still into these. Durable enough for breastfeeding, more or less comfy, not exactly sexy, but practical for now.

And now I’ve really bared all.

POSTSCRIPT: Some of you questioned my linking to this pair of dreamy postpartum underwear in the post I wrote about my hospital bag. First let me say that I still don’t think those are the world’s most bonkers choice. But let me also be the first to admit: I just didn’t get it. I wore the birthing-center-issued disposable underwear for two full weeks postpartum. If you’d like to read my thoughts about the tender days post-baby, head HERE. And yes: four months out I just replaced my stretched-out, saggy bottomed pregnancy underwear. Don’t ask me why I waited so long.

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  • Reply Rebecca October 16, 2014 at 11:54 am

    Oh yes, cotton, cotton, cotton! I too have mostly super basic ones, but I would love to find nice colors and detailing too while staying soft and comfortable… It's tricky. I discovered these this week and they seem dreamy although expensive…

    • Reply Erin October 16, 2014 at 11:56 am

      Oh! Those look *lovely!*

  • Reply T October 16, 2014 at 12:08 pm

    Comfy cotton – yes! Self esteem is what's sexy, not lace on its own. Kudos on sharing. 🙂

  • Reply Mary Beth October 16, 2014 at 12:45 pm

    Am I totally shaming myself right now to say that I think she wore Aidan's underwear? I think I know that because I thought they were too adorable together while eating (do I have this right?) Chinese takeout in bed. Anyway, all shaming aside, cotton underwear is definitely the way to go! Your posts have inspired me to drastically change my wardrobe. I've cut it in half so far, and I've also decided on a color palette! But, just like you, I'm having a lot of trouble with my underwear drawer! I'll keep at it.

    • Reply Erin October 16, 2014 at 7:57 pm

      Ha! No, you're probably right! Hmmm…might *have* to do more thorough research!

  • Reply Sarah Noel October 16, 2014 at 1:45 pm

    I love this because I too love to match my underwear to my clothes. I'm still on the hunt for the undergarments that best fit my post-two-babies body, so I'm heading to your links next!

  • Reply Allison October 16, 2014 at 1:48 pm

    Girl loves her matching underwear drawer. And her awesome friends 🙂

    • Reply Erin October 16, 2014 at 7:57 pm


  • Reply Jana | One Drawing A Day October 16, 2014 at 2:50 pm

    I have similiar bras like that from Target-so comfy and easy to launder 🙂

  • Reply Anonymous October 16, 2014 at 4:37 pm

    I love this series. It's so so wonderfully helpful without being overly prescriptive! xo

    • Reply Erin October 16, 2014 at 7:57 pm

      I love when Anonymous is friendly! Thanks so much for your kind words!

  • Reply Lauren McGinnis October 16, 2014 at 6:39 pm

    I recently started buying PACT underthings ( and love them. I plan to slowly switch out my whole drawer.

    • Reply Erin October 16, 2014 at 7:58 pm

      PACT! I searched for these guys, knowing that they were in my wishful pile, but couldn't remember the name! Thank you!

  • Reply Rebecca October 16, 2014 at 7:50 pm

    I started my wardrobe streamlining with my underwear drawer. I bought new VS shorties (enough to go a full two weeks without doing laundry) and kept only my very most comfortable skimpier pairs, and I packed everything else into a big with my other non-active Project 333 items to see if I would miss them. I didn't, and after several months, I got ride of most of them. Nearly two years later, the cotton ones are wearing out, faded, and stretched, and I'm moving in a different direction: wool. I have six pairs of fantastic merino wool underwear from Icebreaker and they are my favorite. Wool has become my favorite material for socks, too. I'm currently building a wool sock and undies wardrobe with the intent to get rid of nearly everything else in the coming months. I can only buy a few either variety at a time, though, at $30 per pop!

    My only hiccup? Bras. I'm a 30-32 DD/E, so the only way I can forego underwire (as with the Coobie, which I've tried and which WAS comfortable, just didn't lift the girls AT ALL, because my rib cage is just too small) is with a pretty tight chest band. The Need Supply Co one may be worth trying. I have found a few bras from a specialty shop that fit well, and I tend to buy four, wear them to death, then go buy four more. When no one makes bras that fit, it's really easy to have a minimalist bra wardrobe. Ho-hum.

    • Reply Erin October 16, 2014 at 8:00 pm

      FASCINATING! Thanks for sharing those Icebreakers!

    • Reply Christa Hannon October 20, 2014 at 11:30 pm

      I'm also slowly transitioning to merino undies. I especially like them for hiking and snowsports. They keep my bottom dryer all around. They dry quickly, too, which is great when you're handwashing them.

  • Reply Abigail October 16, 2014 at 8:32 pm

    It's funny when you said "I like my underwear and outfits to match"… I can totally relate. I have the same hues too.

  • Reply Jodi October 16, 2014 at 10:34 pm

    This may be erring on the side of too personal, but are those lace-trimmed bras of the maternity variety? If so, do you recommend them? Thanks, Erin x

  • Reply Julia October 17, 2014 at 3:28 am

    This was such a fun post, I feel like wearing great underwear makes one's day 🙂 I'd definitely recommend the Geo Lace briefs from American, they're seriously the only briefs I've ever found that don't end up in wedgie situations…ever! (Am I the only one with this problem? Probably!)

  • Reply Lexie October 17, 2014 at 6:36 am

    I applaud your honesty with your fellow women ! We all have our favorites. My minimalist wardrobe paring will not affect my underwear drawer. I can only do laundry once a month due to budget issues and no washer or dryer here, so I have a collection of 30 of my favorite most wonderfully soft and durable undies on the planet. The Jockey Comfies. I buy them 12 at a time at the Jockey outlets where they are always on sale and replace them as needed. I am however minimalistic qualified with my undies in that I keep to 3 basic colors, tan, white and black. Best underwear on the planet. They are like wearing air, you never notice anything but the utmost in comfort all day long.

  • Reply jodi October 17, 2014 at 7:09 pm

    I owe you a big THANK YOU! Between your recent posts on creating a minimalist wardrobe, and my fella's recent decision to go through his clothes and get rid of some things, I took to my closet this week with an axe! Yep, three full garbage bags (the big black kind) full of clothes and an entire box of shoes. I cannot tell you how liberated and wonderful it feels! Also, I can now really see what I have — and what I need in my wardrobe. Thanks so much for the inspiration, Erin 🙂

  • Reply Anonymous November 26, 2014 at 1:55 am

    This post and the ensuing comments are awesome. My baby is 7 months old and I'm just now getting around now to transitioning/updating my underwear situation and these suggestions have been stellar! Pre-baby I was all about these Hanes cotton briefs from Target that I started wearing during college but during my pregnancy I bought a bunch of pretty panties from TJ Maxx that were er…right sized for my pregnant bottom and now I think I'm converted.
    Thanks for a great post!

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