How do I underwear like a grown-ass woman?
October 23, 2016 2:19 PM   Subscribe

I have no idea how to buy underwear that fits anymore. How do I buy underwear in the modern world?

I am a woman. For 20+ years I've bought cotton Hanes multipacks at Target (bikini briefs), but the last pack I bought was a disaster. Then I bought a pack of boy brief style and a pack of granny briefs, and I want to chuck them all into the fire. In an ideal world I'd just like some affordable, cotton, panty-line-less, non-white underwear.

I'm a regular pants size 10/12 and keep losing and gaining the same 10 pounds - do I need two different sizes of underwear? Is it possible to somehow try underwear on before buying a whole pack? Is there an underwear matching internet algorithm that can point me in the right direction? I'm OK branching out beyond Target but don't know where to start.
posted by Maarika to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (32 answers total) 24 users marked this as a favorite
The greatest panty in the world is the Hanes Microfiber High-Cut (bikini and briefs, for me, are too binding at the thigh, so high-cuts or hi-cuts are the thing). They are very stretchy and should not care about 10 pounds. The cotton lining in the crotch will disintegrate from washings after a couple of years, and the microfiber will still look like new. Target carries them.

I consider the "cool comfort" and the "invisible" versions to be just about the same.
posted by Lyn Never at 2:26 PM on October 23, 2016 [4 favorites]

Unlike the prior commenter, I find that hi-cuts and bikinis don't fit me well - I prefer undies that come down a bit lower on the leg end. And low-waisted undies tend to roll down. I have a bit of a tummy but relatively slim thighs, so that's probably a factor.

Right now these boyshorts are my favorites. The lacy band at the top tends to break apart, but when it does I just cut it off and keep wearing them.

These also look promising though I haven't tried them yet, and if you are open to microfiber here's another option.

However it all really depends on your body type, what you are comfortable in, and what goes with your wardrobe needs. I suggest ordering several different options online, trying them on at home over your underwear, and then sending back everything that's an obvious no. Wear your "maybes" for a few weeks, see what you fall in love with, and buy more of those.
posted by bunderful at 2:46 PM on October 23, 2016

I'm in my mid-30s, and my sisters and I still buy aerie undies, in either boy shorts or briefs or bikinis. relatively cheap, they last for a long time, and are comfortable. The lace around the legs doesn't itch, either, if you get that style. I used to wear Hanes and jockey and Victoria's Secret and gap underwear, but the aeries are the only ones I keep going back to for regular cotton underwear.
posted by umwhat at 2:54 PM on October 23, 2016 [10 favorites]

Based on you wanting to chuck the low-cut styles into a fire, I'd also suggest a high-cut brief. I have a shape that's a bit more hourglassy with generous hips, thighs, and butt and I find that the boy-cut/low-cut styles cuts me in the most unflattering and demoralizing ways. It's a cute style, but it doesn't work with all shapes. Once you find a size and style that fits, a lost & found 10 lbs shouldn't matter at all.
posted by quince at 3:00 PM on October 23, 2016 [1 favorite]

I just bought 10 pairs of cotton bikini undies at Gap Body because they don't pinch and fit fine. Gap undies were recommended by someone else and have served me well for a long time. You can try one and see if it works for you, then possibly go back and get more. They do have beige, but they have other colors and patterns which are surprisingly nice -- a small bit of color first thing in the morning can be reassuring, especially if you're covering it with jeans or black again.
posted by amtho at 3:01 PM on October 23, 2016 [2 favorites]

I'm a devotee of Aerie Boybriefs--I like the lace-trimmed cotton version for maximum no-panty-line possible while still wearing cotton, but it also comes in prints. I have medium-wide thighs, a sizable rear, narrow hipbones, and a tummy. Even though these are called boybriefs, they don't pinch my thighs like boyshorts do. It is a lower rise, though.
posted by serelliya at 3:12 PM on October 23, 2016 [1 favorite]

I wear cotton jockey briefs and french cuts. This past summer they came out with lighter weight pointelle.
posted by brujita at 3:34 PM on October 23, 2016 [1 favorite]

I just hit the underwear section of Target and get whatever looks cute. They usually have a package deal going where you get 5 mix & match pairs for $20 or whatever. Aerie, Gap Body, VS, etc. are equally good for this, though I think a little more pricey.

I also fluctuate by 5-10 pounds and wear about your size, and I just buy medium in everything and it's fine.
posted by Sara C. at 3:41 PM on October 23, 2016 [1 favorite]

I'm probably an outlier, but underwear is also hard for me and I've basically spent my life trying to find underpants that don't crawl up my ass. The two things I've found that I'm good with are men's boxer briefs, Hanes or Fruit of the Loom, and the meundies boy shorts. Pricey, but comfortable and I like the fun prints.
posted by bile and syntax at 4:09 PM on October 23, 2016 [1 favorite]

I buy undies that fit me comfortably at my +10 lbs state, and in my -10 lbs state, they are only comfortably loose. I say that as an apple-brick shape with considerable stomach fat, who hates constricting underwear.

I'm really into these Warner hipster cut panties sold at Wal-Mart and Kohl's. The Kohl's kind seems to last a bit longer. They can give me a little VPL, but YMMV.
posted by Guess What at 4:21 PM on October 23, 2016 [1 favorite]

The DKNY Fusion Hipster is my underpinning of choice these days. No panty line and super comfortable for me.
posted by shesbookish at 4:26 PM on October 23, 2016

What works for you depends on where you gain/lose weight, I think. For me that's a butt and thigh thing; years ago my sis convinced me to try Hanky Panky. They're a thong, but hands down the most comfortable underwear I've ever owned. No panty lines, I've got em in tons of colors, cotton where it counts. Plus when my butt gets bigger they still fit.
posted by nat at 4:40 PM on October 23, 2016 [3 favorites]

Depending on what part of the underwear is being uncomfortable for you, string bikinis might be worth trying. They might also be more forgiving of weight fluctuation.

Is it possible to somehow try underwear on before buying a whole pack?

A lot of stores (Aerie, Victoria's Secret, Target) have n for $x type sales where you can get a variety of styles of individual underwear, but that's putting you in the $3-5/pair range rather than $1/pair like most of the multipacks.

Is there an underwear matching internet algorithm that can point me in the right direction?

A little more detail about what you don't like about what you've bought recently might help with the suggestions.
posted by Candleman at 5:10 PM on October 23, 2016 [2 favorites]

I also like Gap Body Low Rise Bikini (also available in fun colors and prints). They're comfortable, stay in place, and last forever. I am the same size as you and wear a Large. They sell them individually, so if I were you I'd buy a pair, see if you like them, then if you do, wait for a sale (they regularly have 40% off sales, or good deals on underwear) and stock up.
posted by radioamy at 5:29 PM on October 23, 2016 [1 favorite]

seconding radioamy's entire comment.
posted by bookworm4125 at 5:47 PM on October 23, 2016

After getting some info in the Emotional Labor thread last year, I have switched entirely to men's boxer-briefs. (I'm not sure about avoiding panty lines - I know some are elastic-waistband and some are elastic-through-fabric-tube waistband, but panty lines are very, very low on my list of concerns.)

They're nicely built to actually cover the whole area instead of a weird strip over the genitals, and they don't dissolve after the third wash. And as a long-time married person, I'm not concerned about whether anyone thinks they look sexy. (Husband thinks it's kinda flattering that I asked him to pick me up underwear in his brand.)

I'm sure it won't work for everyone, but I heartily recommend them for any woman who wants durable, non-bikini-shaped underwear and isn't worried about being seen in them.
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 6:55 PM on October 23, 2016

Response by poster: Excellent advice, everyone. As for what specifically annoys me about the latest round of Hanes purchases, the bikini briefs are oddly tight around the leg holes (previous versions still in my underwear drawer are not as tight), the higher-rise briefs are the same (plus they sag under my belly and I have to pull them up), and the boy briefs alternately sag down under my belly and feel like constant wedgies (it feels like they have no waistband whatsoever). I hate them all.

When I was pregnant I tried some string bikinis, but they lost shape and immediately sagged across my butt, resulting in wedgies and epic panty lines.
posted by Maarika at 6:56 PM on October 23, 2016

I've had luck with Calida, which is a luxury-ish Swiss brand of underwear/pajamas. I usually buy their modal or micromodal, which feels like cotton (and breathes like cotton) but is softer. They also have cotton. For me, they're stretchy enough to be flexible with +/- the five pounds of water bloat I tend to gain before my period, but not so stretchy that they give me panty muffin top or VPL. I bought a batch of maybe 8 pairs and wore them everyday for about four years before retiring them. I bought 8 two years ago and they are still going strong - no pilling whatsoever, no loose elastic, very little fading (although I rarely use the clothing dryer). In short, I have been very impressed with their quality. Previously I tried most of the brands you mentioned, and mentioned by commenters, and either didn't like the fit or found that they pilled and lost their shape too quickly. Calida can retail for ridiculous prices ($35 for a pair of underpants, anyone?), but I have found good deals on Sierra Trading Post. With their coupon codes, I have waited until the pair(s) I have my eye on are in the $6-8 range per pair and then buy. Still a bit pricey, but worth it for me, for comfort and durability. Just checked STP and I don't actually see any of the styles that I bought (or the fabrics), but if you check back every so often, they might show up...
posted by ClaireBear at 8:16 PM on October 23, 2016 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I switched from Hanes to Fruit of the Loom because the Hanes packs seemed to be barely tissue paper thick. FOTL seems much sturdier and better made, and similarly priced.
posted by jillithd at 8:17 PM on October 23, 2016

I'm a bit bigger than you, but my weight also fluctuates, so I buy to fit the bigger end of my range then hot water wash them. The cotton shrinks just enough to put them in a sort of in-between sizing, with enough give to endure if I get a bit bigger. It's also good to prevent yeast infections and keep things fresh.
posted by Jilder at 8:54 PM on October 23, 2016

Jockey is a step up from the Hanes/Fruit of the Loom available at Target. (I have a theory that the Hanes stuff at Target is a lower quality than Hanes sold elsewhere, but I digress.) Jockey comes in different cuts/fabrics and they hold up pretty well. The thing that I like most about them is that the crotch part of the panties is still a reasonable width. I find them at Fred Meyer (like the PNW Kroger) or Macy's - don't buy them full price because they are on sale like 75% of the time.
posted by stowaway at 9:37 PM on October 23, 2016 [3 favorites]

The Warners linked above are great. I went online to Macy's and bought a single pair in a bunch of different brands and styles and then wore them all for trial periods. It was a bit of an investment for the testing phase but I'm the kind of gal who needs to wear her underwear for a few hours to see how it meets my needs. After I found those Warners, I bought a dozen pairs and then that was it.
posted by otherwordlyglow at 10:34 PM on October 23, 2016

Nthing Aerie, and I also have a few pairs of the Gilligan and O'Malley boyshorts bunderful links upthread and quite like those. I've had pretty good luck with both the G&O'M and Xhiliration undies in the 5-for-$20 displays at Target, not so much with the prepackaged Hanes/Fruit of the Loom/etc. stuff on the wall.
posted by Metroid Baby at 3:46 AM on October 24, 2016

It took me ages to realize buying underwear in 'large' was a perfectly okay thing to do. I have no idea why I was stuck on 'medium' for years. I guess I thought maybe underwear was more forgiving, but there's a lot of elastic involved. Maybe go up a size? I'm about your size and I think large is way more comfortable.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 6:48 AM on October 24, 2016 [4 favorites]

Seconding the Jockey rec-- I like their Elance briefs. They are high-waisted enough to stay in place even with a not-perfectly-flat belly.

Under skirts/dresses, I prefer Comfort Choice women's nylon boxer shorts (available on Amazon; check the size chart because the size numbers don't correspond to dress sizes). They are loose-fitting elastic-waist shorts made out of nylon slip material. They come to mid-thigh and thus prevent thigh chafing. They also do the jobs of a slip -- prevent skirts clinging to your legs, and add some opacity to skirts that need it.
posted by snowmentality at 6:58 AM on October 24, 2016

FWIW, several of my partners have sworn by the Jockey Elance string bikinis (including one that had a lot of problems finding comfortable leg holes in bikini cut) and they definitely held up for years.

If you can spot a visual difference between the old comfortable ones and new uncomfortable ones, you can possibly use that as a way to determine if other brands are going to be comfortable for you or not. Based on your comment about how the boy shorts fit, I'd recommend staying away from cuts that describe themselves as cheeky.
posted by Candleman at 7:43 AM on October 24, 2016

I love Jockey hipsters -- plenty of leg room and the waistline is somehow just right in the not-too-high and not-too-low department. I like the original kind, with elastic at waist and legs, but that might mean that they don't meet the pantyline-free criterion. I'd still try some, to have as a comfortable option, and then they have related lines in other materials and with covered elastic, etc., that might work for a very smooth pant line. But anyway, the hipsters worked for me in my 20s, and they're still my go-to as I approach 50 with my post-baby little poochy belly.
posted by acm at 8:58 AM on October 24, 2016

I used to wear Hanes and also noticed an unwelcome change in fit and fabric, especially the leg holes. I switched to the Warner hipsters listed above, they are really good.
posted by cabingirl at 10:03 AM on October 24, 2016

I just switched to Champion underwear after I had to throw out a pack of awful Hanes. (Ugh.) They're sold next to the activewear at Target, not in intimates. Anyway, the orange pack of Duo Dry Sports Briefs is the first thing that's fit me well in ages. YMMV with fit, but they have different cuts and Hanes used to fit me well, if that helps. They stand up well to laundering, unlike my experience with pairs from Soma.
posted by quarterinmyshoe at 11:24 AM on October 24, 2016 [1 favorite]

So, Lyn Never makes a good point, only I haven't been able to find Hanes Microfiber (i favor bikinis) for the past ~year, as they have all been replaced with "X-Temp" which has a different rayon/nylon/spandex/poly % breakdown. The new ones feel like crappy plastic. It's awful.

Just a brief (lol!) derail in case you go down that road and find yourself frustrated with the offerings.

I have found jockey to be a fine replacement, with a wide variety of cuts. If there's an outlet near you, they usually have a 5 for 30 deal, or something similar.
posted by sazerac at 2:25 PM on October 24, 2016

Yes, size up!. I am usually a large in clothes, and by accident just bought a pair in like XL or XXL in undies, and they are honestly so awesome. Yes, I'm a mom and over it. They are really cute though!

Sort of fit more like a well fitted bathing suit or something, rather than something that's always riding up my bits ;)
posted by Rocket26 at 8:56 AM on October 25, 2016 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Posting for underwear closure: I switched over to Fruit of the Loom bikini briefs in my usual size, problem solved. I bought one thong, and it is the absolute worst.

Hanes is dead to me.
posted by Maarika at 5:58 PM on June 11, 2017 [2 favorites]

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