growing a minimalist wardrobe: intimates.

June 30, 2015

growing a minimalist wardrobe: intimates | reading my tea leavesI’ve written a bit about underwear before.  And yes, I’m still blushing. In that post I revealed my interest in everything cotton and comfortable and neutrally colored, along with my penchant for matching my undies and bra with the rest of my outfit. Doesn’t matter if I’m the only one who knows it, there’s something about sporting a matching ensemble that just gets the confidence juices flowing right from the start of the day.

In my own life, I’m still relying on a combination of affordable cotton underwear with a few more special ones mixed in. For bras, I’m still eshewing too many clasps or clips in favor of things that can be yanked aside for easy access and popped back into place discreetly. (I am still holding out hope that someone might soon make a bralette that *also* has a thin layer of cushion for days when I’d rather my nipples not take center stage underneath a cotton tee.) I am slowly weaning myself off of these, because it’s time.
growing a minimalist wardrobe: intimates | reading my tea leaves After I wrote my first intimates post, I was introduced to Brook There (who sponsored this post back in December), and ever since I’ve been pinning a whole slew of other indie and eco companies. I’ve found myself especially drawn toward folks working to elevate the humble cotton bra and underwear to a place that feels a little bit special, even if the overall look is still simple.

In the interest of service, I’ve gathered a list of companies that I’ve been long admiring and a few that are new-to-me, for you guys to reference here. Lots of them are doing the cotton bralette and plain jane underwear that I like the best. Since I realize that glorified training bras and granny panties might not be everyone’s cup of tea, I’ve also tried to include a few companies that also make options that might work better for women who come in a shape different than my own, or who might simply prefer a little lace and wire alongside their organic cotton and elastic. Goodness knows that barring some kind of benefactress coming forward to keep me in beautiful underwear for the rest of my life, some of these finds might stay in the aspirational pile for me, but aspiring is my favorite pastime. As always, please, please add to the list if there’s anything you’ve been loving that I missed.

growing a minimalist wardrobe: intimates | reading my tea leaves

American Apparel: I’ve mentioned before my ambivalence about the company based on its former CEO, but extreme creepiness of former management aside, these guys do make affordable basics in sweatshop-free factories. Their Cotton Spandex Jersey Bra is a summer staple around here (pictured). And their Shirred Back Underwear make simple briefs just a little more fun (also pictured). They’re sturdy enough, but not works of art like some of the others on this list.

Base Range: These beautifully simple undergarments border on boring, which is honestly what I love most about them. Base Range produces their clothes in small factories, using natural materials and high standards. I like their Soft Bra and Lady Bra best. And if I saved my pennies their Classic Bell Pants could make for daily undies. More about their process here.

Between the Sheets: If you’re looking for something that’s a little more fancy, Between the Sheets has lacy options aplenty. Their silk charmeuse Arabesque Bralette is a super luxe option that’s still simple. Of course, I’m drawn toward the cotton Basic Play Bralette. I especially like the adjustable straps and thin back strap. Their sustainability statement is here. (Made in the USA.)
Brook There: I received their Black Organic Lingerie Set with White Silk and Black and White Stripe Set last winter and I’ve been loving them ever since. A strange thing to fawn over perhaps, but I especially appreciate the thickness of the straps on their bras. They feel substantial enough to do heavylifting (pun intended) but still delicate. I’m currently considering making their Midnight Organic Boyshort Underwear my summer sleep uniform. Their ethics statement is here. (Psst: There’s a special treat from Brook There coming in this weekend’s newsletter. Make sure you’re signed up.) (Made in the USA.) 
Hanky Panky: The choice for lace lovers. Their Retro Bralette is lacey but still simple and their organic Cotton with a Conscience Boyshorts are a little more subdued than the Signature Lace Boyshorts they’re famous for. You can check out their sustainability philosophy here. (Made in the USA.)
Icebreaker: While I tend toward cotton, some of you guys mentioned wearing woolen underwear last time I wrote. Icebreaker’s aesthetic definitely errs on the side of sporty, but these Siren Hipkini Stripe undies are a simple option if merino is the way you go.
Jonesy: Their debut collection has just two pieces, the Dallas Undies and Dallas Bralette. The stripped down, super-simple white cotton underthings with a little 80s-inspired stripe holds a lot of promise for the future. (Made in the USA.)
Najla Lingerie : I love the story of this family-owned lingerie line which began in 1920s Brooklyn and has been reminagined by the great-great niece of the founder. They had just a few products in their first collection—the Essentials Full Coverage Bra and Essentials Cotton Bikini are both currently on sale—and I think they’re worth bookmarking for the future. Products produced using ethical and sustainable practices with an emphasis on local vendors and suppliers. (Made in USA.) Update 2/2018: No longer open.
Only Hearts: I’ve written before about my love for Only Hearts organic cotton nightgowns. They also have Organic Underwear and Bra lines. If it’s underwire you’re after, they’ve got an organic bra with that too. Here’s their Sustainability Statement.
Pact Apparel: Is it TMI to tell you that these are James’s preferred boxers? Pact does just about everything right: they’re family run, fair-trade certified, sweatshop-free, and they use renewable energy factories, organic fabrics, and non-toxic supplies. I think I might divorce myself from fast fashion undies once and for all and invest in their Heather Grey Bikini Two-Pack next time I need to replace my basics. (Here’s their company pact.) 
Pansy: I love the look of the minimalist, simple, sturdy, organic cotton underwear these women are making. I’ve got my eyes on their Bra and Low Rise Underwear. They also have High Rise Underwear if you want to embrace granny chic, which I very much think you should. More about how they’re doing what they do, here. (Made in the USA.)

Storq: My very favorite maternity line (and RMTL sponsor) is coming out with an intimates bundle in 5, 4, 3, 2, soon! The bundle includes a bra (made with the same super-soft modal as their basics bundle and designed with a flexible cup for prengant and nursing mamas!), full-coverage underwear in the same modal fabric, and…socks! (Sign-up right here to get notified as soon as the collection launches.) (Made in the USA.)

Ten Undies: Ten Undies don’t have any frills or fuss—and you might argue not much support—but they look so incredibly comfortable. And they come in the prettiest pastels. Here’s the Ten BraTen High, and Ten Boy. (Made in the USA.) Update 2/2018: No longer open.
ThirdLove: These guys don’t have particularly laudable sustainability practices that I’ve found, but they are committed to making bra shopping less miserable and to providing high quality bras at affordable prices. They come in a wide range of sizes, just like humans do. Their True Bliss Wireless Bra has been getting rave reviews. More about their innovative bra designs, here.
Under the RootEverything in this shop is made to order in Seattle. Designs include hemp, organic cotton, upcycled, recycled, and vintage fabrics and have an old-timey look. The Helena High Waisted Panties and Libissa Longline Bralette are my favorites. More about what they’re up to here. (Made in the USA.)
Period Panties: This special class of underwear deserve a little shoutout for a) admitting that the menstrual cycle is a thing and b) innovating ways to take care of it sustainably. ThinxLunapanties, and Dear Kate are all paving the road in this category. Have any of you guys tried them?
More minimalist wardrobe posts, RIGHT HERE.

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  • Reply Amy @ The American-Made Guide to Life June 30, 2015 at 1:02 pm

    Erin, great post and thanks so much for pointing out the Made-in-USA options. Right now, my current fave from Hanky Panky are their new organic cotton boyshorts. Lace trimmed, but very simple and comfy.

  • Reply Erin Van Genderen June 30, 2015 at 1:24 pm

    You've introduced me to some great new brands! This comes at the perfect time, as I'm in the midst of replacing a panty drawer full of hole-y, worn to bits basics. I recently found On The Inside – it's a one-woman studio based in Asheville, NC, stocked with underthings that are stunning but still comfy enough for everyday. I've ordered a set in grey plus a saucier bralette/panty set in burgundy and black.

  • Reply Helen @ Relearning Loveliness June 30, 2015 at 1:53 pm

    Erin, thank you! I'd intended to email you about this very item; ever a fan of the bralette and a naysayer to underwire, I've been looking for the perfect fit and feel (soft, please!) in an undergarment. I had a feeling you'd know just the thing, and this post doesn't disappoint. Infinite thanks for reading my tealeaves — er, my mind. 😉

  • Reply Kimberly LaCroix June 30, 2015 at 2:21 pm

    Yes, yes, yes- a bralette with just a smidgen of cushion. Why is this so hard (i.e. impossible) to find? Soon after my daughter weaned, my already quite petite bosom wilted to nearly concave. I dream of a bralette that allows me to feel a bit feminine, but through which I don't advertise sudden changes in temperature. If you find this, please share the news! I almost emailed you about this last week, but restrained, because…an email about a bralette recommendation? It seemed a bit silly.

  • Reply Vanessa June 30, 2015 at 3:40 pm

    A bra, a bra, my kingdom for a bra! These all look lovely. I can't wait til one of these companies is successful enough to expand their size ranges a bit 🙂

    • Reply Erin June 30, 2015 at 9:49 pm

      Here's hoping! Third Love definitely has the largest size range in this group!

    • Reply admin June 30, 2015 at 9:49 pm

      Here's hoping! Third Love definitely has the largest size range in this group!

  • Reply Katharine Paljug June 30, 2015 at 4:08 pm

    Naja is another great brand — it's not a US company, but they seem to treat their employees very well. It's a small brand that employs and educated single mothers so they can support their families. Beautiful designs, things made of cotton, and right now they're having a sale to fund scholarships for their employees' children!

    Plus, they have a bralette with a little bit of cup…!

  • Reply Laramie June 30, 2015 at 4:34 pm

    Those American Apparel bras were my staple until I saw a photo of myself wearing one…. Not rated for DD :/

    • Reply Erin June 30, 2015 at 9:49 pm

      Ah, I can imagine.

    • Reply admin June 30, 2015 at 9:49 pm

      Ah, I can imagine.

  • Reply Archana June 30, 2015 at 4:48 pm

    I met this women who uses scraps of fine silk, takes it to her tailor, and get strings put in. And wears them as her everyday underwear. No panty lines and quite luxurious.

    • Reply Sam May 17, 2016 at 8:26 pm

      What a gorgeous idea.

  • Reply Kari June 30, 2015 at 5:35 pm

    A bralette with adjustable straps and a bit of cushion. As has already been said, why is this so hard? Someone, please make some!

  • Reply Anonymous June 30, 2015 at 9:24 pm

    Do any of these brands carry larger cup sizes… Even just a DD? Sigh…

    • Reply Erin June 30, 2015 at 9:48 pm

      Yes! Third Love has an E cup!

    • Reply admin June 30, 2015 at 9:48 pm

      Yes! Third Love has an E cup!

  • Reply Jen July 1, 2015 at 2:32 am

    Thunderpants is NZ based, but make 98% organic cotton undies that cover my WHOLE behind. Wow. No panty lines, no riding up, etc! I splurged and bought five of them on sale =)

  • Reply Brenna Kinkaid July 1, 2015 at 1:18 pm

    I clicked through all of these and nearly shed a tear when I saw Najla Lingerie! I am an odd size (30 D…so I usually have to get my bands taken in) and finding a gorgeous full coverage bra in a 32 D from an ethical company just made my day. Thank you for your research and subscriber collaboration on this post. It made my heart happy!

    • Reply Helen @ Relearning Loveliness July 1, 2015 at 4:05 pm

      Brenna, I, too, am a 30D! I've not known any others! I tend to have a lot of luck with Chantelle and Calvin Klein, though I have no idea how ethical either company is…

    • Reply Vanessa July 1, 2015 at 4:07 pm

      SAME! For me, at 30 D/DD, there are not a ton of good options. I've never had mine taken in before though – have you had good experiences with that?

    • Reply Erin July 1, 2015 at 8:17 pm

      So glad to hear that, Brenna! xoxo.

    • Reply admin July 1, 2015 at 8:17 pm

      So glad to hear that, Brenna! xoxo.

    • Reply Brenna Kinkaid July 7, 2015 at 1:37 pm

      Vanessa, I definitely recommend getting them taken in so your band doesn't get loose so quickly. It really helps!

  • Reply omoriala July 1, 2015 at 3:31 pm

    These are definitely not the *most* ethical option, but I have to say the Gap modal pullover bra is my absolute favorite for its silky soft fabric and just enough double-lined coverage for small busts (A/B cups):

    The design comes in black or nude and is perfect for travel. They're so comfortable I've even slept in them by accident because I forgot I was wearing a bra!

  • Reply morgonfugl July 1, 2015 at 5:13 pm

    I really loved this post, thank you! Now I can stock up on panties, at least. Bras on the other hand… I'm a 30F-G usually, but now that I'm nursing… Well, let's just say I have yet to find a nursing bra with enough support. So sad!

    • Reply Nancy Cavillones July 2, 2015 at 6:30 pm

      I'm in your boat and have had good luck with Anita nursing bras. They don't have an underwire and are kind of sporty but they are comfortable and easy to use. I wore them with all three of my children, and I'm a bigger size than you. I bought them on Bare Necessities.

  • Reply Danielle July 2, 2015 at 12:26 pm

    I went looking for period panties eleven (yes, really) years ago. I can say Lunapanties will forever change the way you think about your period. Dear Kate's are a fun option as well. Highly recommended.

  • Reply Nancy Cavillones July 2, 2015 at 6:28 pm

    Wow!! I have never heard of period panties but it solves a major ethical dilemma for me. Thank you so much.

  • Reply infusionfibers July 7, 2015 at 2:30 am

    My favorite bra tops – er "glorified training bras" (I love your humor erin) are from Blue Canoe Organic, super comfy and no nonsense.

  • Reply Heather at Happy Chippy Junk July 8, 2015 at 5:07 am

    I smile because that is your bra!!

  • Reply Julieta July 16, 2015 at 4:47 pm

    I just ordered a bralette from Tatiana's Threads, everything is handmade and so beautiful

  • Reply Anonymous September 18, 2015 at 12:10 am

    Hi Erin, I love your blog and have been following it for years. I feel compelled to comment on this post though, as I shared it with colleagues who were wondering about sustainable/fair trade underthings. Your casual dismissal of the extremely vile American Apparel was a spot of disappointment for us all. Not only is their CEO gross, their stores across the country have extremely hateful store practices (racial profiling, firing employees who are not "attractive," etc.). They are not welcoming to all body types or people as customers, employees, or models and thus do not make the cut as a fairly made/sold brand in my book. The other wonderful brands you highlight should not be pushed down the page by AA.

    I appreciate that you are including more affordable options, I just hope that some exist that are not part of such a negative corporation.

    Thank you for the help with our search! Looks like Pact is a clear favorite over here.

    • Reply admin September 18, 2015 at 12:48 am

      Hi Anonymous:

      Thanks for writing. I'm sorry that my inclusion of American Apparel was a disappointment to not only you, but also your colleagues. What an awful thing to read on a Thursday evening.

      I agree that American Apparel is far from perfect. I'm sorry that my note about my own ambivalence didn't strike the right tone for you. And I am, upon reading your note, even more dismayed by the disciminatory practices within their stores. They sound unquestionably abhorrent. Thanks for sharing that part of the story.

      On a personal note, I admit that I find myself repeatedly between a rock and a hard place with these posts. There is truly so little that could be largely defined as "affordable" in the ethical fashion world and I receive notes on a regular basis from readers who wish I would include more of these options. I promise: I am not holding back. Would that I could always recommend companies who upheld perfect standards of ethics, morals, environmental stewardship, and general human decency. I am doing my very best to find them. Clearly I struck out here.

  • Reply Rachel October 26, 2015 at 11:50 am

    I’ve always been confused as to why anyone would buy period panties. Why not just keep the old ones that have been ruined and only wear them during your period? I’ve been doing this since I was 13.

    • Reply Erin Boyle October 26, 2015 at 12:24 pm

      Did you check out this particular company? The underwear are actually specially designed to negate the need for other related gear. The point is less mess, but also less waste.

  • Reply Anna January 10, 2016 at 8:08 pm

    So Erin, this might be way too personal to ask, but I’m wondering if you were wearing those Coobie bras before baby, and whether you think you’ll keep wearing them/similar styles (for nursing accessibility). If you didn’t wear them, what did you wear? If this is too personal, don’t feel like you have to respond :).


    • Reply Erin Boyle January 10, 2016 at 8:15 pm

      I did own them pre-baby (though I can’t remember if also pre-pregnancy.) After a number of the strap clips snapped this spring, I decided not to re-buy. (And I was ready to be in something a little less utilitarian after so long in those guys!)

  • Reply Jessice September 28, 2016 at 10:12 pm

    I personally like Barely Undies. They have really soft thongs. their site is and btw they support victims against domestic violence.

  • Reply Lise December 13, 2016 at 10:01 pm

    I’m pretty late with my reply, but you should check out Cypress Label (if it wasn’t already recommended). Based in Brooklyn. Manufactured in LA. Sustainable practices.

  • Reply LS December 25, 2016 at 7:02 pm

    I’m looking for a simple, super comfortable (no underwire, etc.) bralette that can be worn with my go-to V-neck Ts, so hopefully a bit of shape, thin cushion for when there’s a chill, and a slightly lower cut/thinner straps (and a good fit for my 32-C size). I’m checking out Blue Canoe (Adjustable + Cami) , Ibex (Balance Bralette) and Icebreaker (Siren). Will hopefully find something that works and try to check back in here! (Would also love any updates if you have thoughts!)

    • Reply Danielle March 1, 2017 at 1:48 pm

      Any luck with your search?

  • Reply Deb C May 2, 2017 at 11:41 am

    You should check out Cottoniqe ( They make organic cotton underthings for women & men and a few things for kids.

  • Reply Xian August 20, 2017 at 5:06 am

    Oh wow, wonderful list! And how did you get Baserange to ship over? Their shipping fees are exorbitant.

    • Reply ERIN BOYLE August 20, 2017 at 8:07 am

      Hi Xian! I found Baserange at a local shop, but Need Supply also carries them!

      • Reply Xian August 20, 2017 at 8:21 am

        Oh wow! Thanks for the quick reply! I’ve found Baserange, Pansy, Nude Label and Sloane & Tarte all under-one-roof with free international shipping over $250 at Undone. Hallelujah!

        • Reply ERIN BOYLE August 20, 2017 at 8:24 am

          Perfect! I just noticed they’ve got Botanica Workshop, too, another recent favorite!

  • Reply Bre McKinley Johnson January 28, 2019 at 4:04 pm

    FYI I just tried the Najla Lingerie link and it appears that is no longer their site. Maybe this is the same company, but they certainly have some laudable afforts! Even a zero waste section:

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