bare necessities


Recently stocked up on some basic underwear, and realised they're all in shades of grey. I was reminded of this thoughtful post on Notes by Naive on the beauty of grey underthings.

I've always liked my underwear plain and basic, but a few years ago I began to understand the allure of a lace trim here, a ribbon edge there, and the delicate beauty of colours like ecru, grey, navy and taupe. Growing up, I found the idea of lingerie - as opposed to my simple plain underthings - vaguely aggressive, all shiny satin with garish contrasting lace panels, padding and push-ups, constrictive underwires, skimpy thongs. I was (and am) not a vixen and none of it made sense to me.

It was years before I realised that there are people who use matte fabrics, that lace and mesh can in fact be used in an understated way, and for the flat-chested (ie, me), there are these magic things known as soft bras, or bra-lets.    

I still like them simple and clean, but I now love a touch of playfulness and sensuality in what I buy. A delicate whisper of lace tracing my skin in contrast to the crisp cotton of my boyish shirts. Private, everyday pleasures.

100% cotton is a dream but where good quality pure cotton isn't available, I like a bit of elastane and viscose in the mix for smoothness and softness without compromising breath-ability. Triumph has a great eco-chic range selling feather-soft organic cotton things but the designs aren't always inspiring. Muji occasionally has some organic cotton ones on sale but their usual cotton-mix range is very nice as well. I don't like most designs at M&S but they make really good seamless lace knickers. For practical and pretty, I love Calvin Klein's lace Envy soft bras and the matching knickers. COS also makes surprisingly pretty and unique pieces, but the workmanship varies widely from piece to piece. Massimo Dutti used to make a nice range of lingerie, but they've shrunk their offerings in recent seasons, which is a pity. For a splurge on something unapologetically pretty but comfortable pieces, I like Eberjey and Bodas. Happily, all these can be washed in the machine if put in a net bag.

Your thoughts on lingerie?


Eileen said…
My vote goes to Muji! They have those 100% cotton ones that are so comfortable. In fact, I think I recognise the brown!

I used to wear Wacoal seamless boyshorts (I think that's what they are called) and after sometime realised that they are not as breathable and comfortable as cotton.
Pret a Porter P said…
Much like my clothing, mostly basic, mostly 794375857 black things but then I have my wild cards. Majority of my stuff is from Victoria's Secret bought years ago. I rarely shop there now as the padding is ridiculous and I feel “done” with them since Giselle left. But VS is quite ubiquitous and convenient, so if I need something it’s the first place I look. Their Biofit (don’t think they carry it in stores anymore) and Cotton line are good though. Gap Body is good—comfortable and the straps don’t slip. I like Emporio now too. I find La Perla exquisitely beautiful but disappointing to wear (and I have the scars to prove it). Stupidly enough I can't say I wouldn't buy them again. I have 1 set from Calvin Klein, but I no longer buy any of their stuff. No lofty ethical reasons, just a negative experience the first (and last) time I set foot in one of their stores. Funny enough, as I’m typing I’m wearing a CK sweater that’s probably going on 10+ years old.

To be honest I don't need any more bras especially, but ended up buying 2 last month. I avoided soft bras for years, but I guess I’m coming around if there’s an interesting design going on.
Anonymous said…
I've never been one to care about lingerie, really. The place I like to spend my energy on when it comes to personal luxury is socks, with cashmere ones being my favorite indulgence.

I generally just wear black t-shirt bras (because as anyone with dark skin in a western country knows, finding a brown bra - because according to companies/society the description "nude" really only applies to a very specific section of the spectrum of skin color - is like searching for buried treasure, but I digress...) and like you I've always been about simplicity. I am starting to come around to lace too and am in search of a nice lacy bra as well as a few pieces like your underwear to refresh my stock. Although I'm not very difficult to please, haha. I prefer cotton, but as long as they're comfortable I'm happy.
Ammu said…
Pretty! Most of my lingerie is black or nude - involving a fair bit of lace. I like wearing something feminine underneath my otherwise straightforward, tomboy-ish clothes :)
Sue said…
Oh I am a pretty boring undies person - mainly nude tee shirt bras with as little detail as possible as I don't like any underwear outlines through my clothes. I used to do all the pretty things when I was younger and I had a lot of Calvin Klein and that is still my label of choice if I want a prettier nude bra. I love soft bras but just wish they had that little bit more lift to them - even when you're small, you still need a little enhancement. And I am lazy - everything goes in the washing machine sans net bag.
A French girlfriend of mine gave me a lesson in lingerie. While I'm a lot like you where I prefer durable and plain cotton undies, the French will spend hundreds of euros on pretty little lacy bits.
lin said…
Eileen: I'm surprised how well Muji works for me...I always thought their sizes would be too small for me, but these are quite generous.

Pret a Porter P: I wish Gap body was available here, it looks promising online. Such a surprise to hear about La Perla, that's very disappointing from a luxury label.

Bras can go on for so long! It's usually wears between I buy new ones.

humannracing: The choice of the word "nude" in fashion is used really narrowly, I agree...

I'm really most particular about fit and comfort when it comes to lingerie, because they ruin your day when they're uncomfortable! It's only in recent years that I started looking for pretty on top on comfort as well.

Ammu: I agree!

Sue: I hate VPLs and bras through my clothes as well. For that reason I'm worried what happens when my current t-shirt bras wear out...they've been discontinued...
lin said…
chocolate, cookies & candies: I have not reached that level of indulgence, although I was once very very tempted by a gorgeous Kiki de Montparnasse set. I do spend on quality basic bras because they just last years and years, but pretty things from Araks and Stella McCartney etc are just too much for me!
Anonymous said…
I mostly buy t-shirt bras (Chantelle) and cotton undies. My undies are from Victoria's Secret, but I'm not impressed with the quality of the last batch I purchased. So I'll be looking for a new source.

I do have some lacy things, but they're not always comfortable or practical, so I don't wear them as much. But I think it's nice to have them around as an option. Sometimes it's fun to wear a matching set of lacy things.
Alexandra said…
Always simple cuts and preferably 100% cotton! I love Petit Bateau, Stella Mc Cartney & COS. Have you heard of TEN undies? I think you'd like them - just did an interview with the designer over at my blog.
Maja H said…
I actually quite like lacy things, but they are not fancy pants (hey, appropriate) French lace kind of underthings - more like those candy-colored pieces of fabric that you get in the high-street. I quite like my underthings candy-colored, unless they serve a specific purpose like the aforementioned t-shirt bras :)

I also only buy colored socks, but that is so that my boyfriend's socks won't get mixed in with mine. We're practical like that.
Lindsay K said…
I agree with Alexandra, I think you would really like TEN.

I really like good quality lingerie- there's something really indulgent about it. For the most part I stick to nudes (Wacoal does nudes in so many different tones and petit/half sizes), black and I love Stella McCartney's pale blush tones. Stella McCartney is always my go to for something special. I like underthings that are soft, delicate and with a little bit of lace. I also really like bralettes, which I think work well on small frames. The other thing I'm really picky about is hosiery- I rely almost completely on Wolford for high quality tights that last and make legs look good/keep you warm.
Anonymous said…
My key thought is that I like to do a drawer overhaul in one shot. I don't replace them occasionally, or pick up pieces here or there. If I think what I have needs to be replaced, I do it in one full sweep. (And I save the old pieces to use on a trip, one final time.)
I will look at Muji. Currently petite bateau dominates with some hanro here and there.
lin said…
Ms M: My underwear rarely matches even if I purchase them as a set, haha. Like you said, practical reasons.

I actually find a lace trim as opposed to a normal elastic trim more comfortable.

Alexandra: TEN looks very appealing and I like the simplicity of the concept but without seeing them in person I don't think I can spend US$40 on cotton knickers...

I had some from petit bateau a long time ago I love it but the selection in Singapore so small. A shame. Stella McCartney is so pretty too look at!

Maja H: I know what you mean, I liked Topshop for a long time for such things, but they've changed the cuts and the materials and I haven't liked anything from them in a year plus now. Oh well.

About the socks, I agree, it's very practical. Actually I only like coloured socks too. Since all my sneakers are so plain...

Lindsay K: I have great T-shirt bras from Wacoal. And they seem to be indestructible.

I think good lingerie is definitely worth spending on. I don't need luxurious materials but they really need to be well made to fit well and comfortably. Plus they get so much wear...they're real workhorses.

Hosiery is happily something I need not worry about...I find it quite a pain whenever I need to buy them because I'm tall and nothing ever seems to stretch comfortably to my size!
lin said…
editor: I don't do my whole drawer, but I do do them in batches (hence the haul above), as different batches wear out at different times. I always seem to buy them in three for some reason. Maybe it's because there's always a discount for buying them in threes!

I save old ones for trips too!
A├»ssa said…
I'm drawn to mainly cotton basic underwear and in that range my favorites are Petit Bateau. Monoprix (a French supermarket)is so-so quality wise but sometimes I luck out.
Dim (another French brand) and M&S can offer a good choice of well cut t-shirt bras.
And as Humanracing mentioned it's a pain and a neverending quest to find underwear matching my skin tone.
For a splurge, I'm heading to Princesse tam-tam. It's a mid range price -and yet another French- brand! Ha ha!
Oh and I'd love to try on Eres lingerie, it's perfection in my eyes!
lin said…
Aissa: I've always wanted an Eres swimsuit - saw some lovely one-pieces once and never forgot them. Sigh.
Anonymous said…
Most of my bras are from Calvin Klein. I also love their lace Envy collection and I think it's the brand that fits my body type best.
My favourite knickers are probably the cotton ones from Gap Body, to be honest. Very, very basic and comfortable.
And finally, for something prettier and feminine (without being over the top) I usually go to Princesse Tam Tam.

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