Advice

Underwear & Shapewear

This is an area of wardrobe that is often neglected. I’m guilty of it too. So in 2018, I made the conscious decision to improve my under garment collection. Like outerwear, underwear needs to be functional as well as fashionable (even if only few people see it).

Panties

Thong: I would venture to say essential. There are few things I dislike more than panty lines especially with pants. I wear thongs with pretty much everything, except maybe flowy skirts & dresses in the summer (just in case there’s a gust of wind – you don’t want to have a Marilyn moment).

Full back: For the ladies who don’t like thongs, the alternative to avoid panty lines would be underwear that fully covers your rear (especially if it’s plump like mine). The leg should be low cut, hitting the point where your butt meets your thigh. This is what I opt for under flowy skirts & dresses.

Brazilian: Sexy but not often practical. Brazilian or demi cut panties cover about half your bottom, which makes them unflattering under pretty much everything.

Short: practical under flowy or short skirts & dresses as an alternate to full backs. I recommend these only for women with very slender legs, otherwise they tend to ride up in the middle which is neither comfortable nor flattering.

Hipster: The “waistband” for these sits at hip level (hence the name) with a low cut leg. If you are petite, or have shorter legs than torso, and/or don’t have a relatively flat tummy, I would steer away from this style. You will find it to be both uncomfortable and unflattering.

Classy Tips:

  • Under white, the underwear should match your skin tone, whatever that may be, not the garment. Meaning you don’t wear white underwear under white pants.
  • To avoid panty lines and for added comfort, look for seamless where possible and buy a size larger rather than smaller
  • Select higher waist cuts to avoid panty lines from the front, especially if you don’t have a flat tummy, with a high cut leg
  • Once you’ve gotten dressed, bend over to ensure that your underwear does not get exposed. 

Shapewear

I know, the dreaded shaper. Believe me when I say, I feel your pain. However, I do not attend any major event, especially dressier evening affairs, without shapewear. As uncomfortable as it may be, I would feel less comfortable without it. And it’s not about appearing thinner. It’s more about creating a clean look by reducing visible lines on your outfit from your bra and panties.

The good news is that shapewear has improved over the years in terms of comfort, variety of style and aesthetic appeal. So it’s not that beige girdle that your mom used to wear (no offence to moms). 

Some of my personal pieces include:

High-waisted panty: I have two styles – (a) up to just above the belly button and (b) up to the bra line. The first option is great to wear with a bustier because the 2 garments meet around the natural waistline for full body coverage. The second option is good under form fitting dresses that you can pair with your own bra. It is, however, less practical because it can leave a gap in the back, resulting in more lines rather than fewer. I also find personally that it sits right under your bra, making it uncomfortable when you are seated. Look for styles with wider waistbands so they stay up when you move and they don’t press into your skin. Both styles should cover your entire booty so that you don’t show panty lines. The leg should sit at the point where your butt/crotch meets your thigh.

High-waisted with half short: a good option under flowy and A-line dresses so as not to show a line on your leg when you move or sit (as is often the case with form fitting dresses, at least on me due to my thick thighs). The leg should end a little above the knee. Look for styles that are laser cut on the leg so they sit flat against the body versus options with a finished seam.

High-waisted with ¾ leg: perfect under pants of lightweight fabric that are not lined. One of my garment pet peeves: clothing should be lined! Anyway, I digress. Remember that episode of Oprah where she showed us the pantyhose she had cut and wore under her pants? This shapewear in the solution to that. They allow for a cleaner leg line.

Full-body with straps: preferred option with dresses, skirt/top combination or jumpsuits. Tends to be most comfortable in my opinion. Mine does not have a full supportive bra so I layer over my regular bra. Look for something that unhooks at the crotch so you don’t have to undress when you use the toilet (something I figured out after the fact). Alternative is to find one that is not a brief style but instead falls like a dress.

Full-body strapless: similar to the above, except without straps. This one generally looks like a tube dress so you would likely have to wear your own bra (required) and panties (as desired). Be mindful of how tight it is around your legs – you don’t want it to be visible on your clothes when you wear it.

There are many many more combinations of cuts and styles. It just depends on the garment you are wearing and what’s most appealing to you. As much as possible, you want to buy pieces that can be of greatest use in your wardrobe.

Bras

One of my most sacred rules: bras must be worn. Whether you have kiwis or melons (pardon the fruit metaphor), the right bra is key. First and foremost, I recommend getting properly fitted for a bra at a very good lingerie shop. Some of the more popular chains tend to “measure” you according to the sizes they carry that will accommodate you but not necessarily support you. And then after a few washes and wears, it’s quadri-boob city [SMH]!

Second, for the love of pete, do not obsess about the size. No one sees it. Do you know what a double D really is? An E. And triple D is an F, and so on. This is how the chain bra shops assuage you into believing you don’t have stripper boobs (no offence to strippers whatsoever).

Third, a supportive bra is supposed to be very tight around your rib cage. So snug, in fact, that when you first buy it, you can barely hook it on the largest ring. Believe me when I say, it will stretch over time with wear and wash. The cups should provide sufficient coverage such that when you bend over or move your tatas stay in place. I used to buy bra after bra from the same shops only for them to stretch within a few wears and washes. Last year, my dear sister told me about the bra shop that she loves so I decided to check it out. And I haven’t looked back since. The bras are excellent quality, they don’t stretch out, they are supportive and there are plenty of options (even sexy ones for well endowed girls such as myself).  I’m not going to lie, these bras are not cheap. $100+ However, I am a firm believer that you get what you pay for.

Basic styles that I think every woman should have in her arsenal:

T-shirt: also referred to as “everyday” bras. These tend to be more function that fashion, but that doesn’t always have to be the case. The important thing with t-shirt bras is that they are seamless and smooth (i.e. not lacy) so they are not visible under form fitting garments (like t-shirts). I recommend at least one “nude” (whatever that means for your skintone) and one black or otherwise coloured. Nude is a must for white and other light coloured or translucent tops. As you know, I consider white shirts/t-shirts a staple. Look for bras that have a little embellishment for some interest that doesn’t interfere with the smoothness of it.

Lacy: for making you feel sexy, even if it’s not date night. These are good with lined, opaque dresses and tops so the lace does not show on the outside of the garment. In my opinion, lace bras that are entirely visible under your garment look terrible. It’s like panty lines. Why would you want your boobs to look wrinkly?

Strapless: support is so so important here. Spend a few extra bucks and find a really good strapless bra. Two even. I was once in a high end dress shop and overheard a customer saying that she didn’t like a particular dress because it required a strapless bra, which she found uncomfortable. And my first thought was “that’s because you’re not using the right one.” I have finally found a strapless bra that I like and that holds up the girls. I can wear it all day without having to fidget with it. For the record, I don’t like those clear straps with a strapless dress or top. If the garment has a spaghetti strap, fine, but otherwise full strapless.

Bandeau: this is not really a bra in and of itself but this is the most logical place to discuss it (Type A personality. Logic is my middle name). The bandeau, paired with a proper bra, is a good alternative to a spaghetti strap tank top under another garment.  I use mine under dresses that show a lot of cleavage and tops that are translucent in order to make them office appropriate. Hence I have one black and one white.

Specialty: this list could be endless: convertible, halter, plunging neckline, low cut back, bustier… the options you select will depend on your wardrobe. And they are not going to be cheap but anything worth having usually isn’t. Often times, specialty bras go hand in hand with special occasion outfits. Personally, I have a low back bustier for a low back evening gown and a low back cocktail dress. I also have a “sticky” bra (basically cups with 2 sticky patches on either side that adhere to my body under my arms) for a specific mesh back bodysuit which is white and therefore see-through (not easy to find in my size!). If you’re going to a special occasion, such as a wedding, and you’ve spent good money on a dress, invest $100 into the proper bra to pair with it.

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