If you want to build a refined, high-quality wardrobe your underwear should be more than just an afterthought. Underwear can not only make or break an outfit, the right pieces will also do wonders for your style from the inside, by boosting your confidence and comfort levels. If your current lingerie wardrobe could use a little TLC, don't worry: Compared to the rest of your closet it's comparatively easy to overhaul - as long as you know what to focus on. Here are seven ideas to get you started:
1. How much underwear do you really need?
If you are used to having an overflowing underwear drawer and lots of choices, think hard about whether you actually need that much or whether you have been sacrificing quality for quantity. If you’re a lingerie aficionado and love every single thing in your collection, that’s a different story, but if you know your underwear wardrobe could use a little detox, don’t hold back on it, just because you think you NEED a certain number of items. You probably need a lot less than you think.
Do the math if you don't believe me: Unless you change your panties more than once a day you really don’t need more than one for every day between laundry days plus a couple extra (side note: I am not a fan of the word 'panty' but could not for the life of me find a better alternative :) Knickers, slips, briefs, what do you call them?). For a bi-weekly laundry routine that would be 15-17 pieces, if you do laundry once a week you could even get by with only about 10. Note that I’m not saying you should own as few pieces as possible, just that you can’t play the “but I need that many” card as an excuse not to throw out imperfect, worn out pieces. For bras, I'd say the absolute minimum is four, although depending on how many different kinds of tops/dresses you own, you might need more to wear e.g. with a low neckline or a sheerer material (more on that below). By the way: It's totally fine to wear bras several times between washes, just not on consecutive days (to prevent them from losing shape).
2. Set your standards high
Vow to be just as selective when it comes to purchasing new underwear pieces as you are for any other wardrobe addition and just as ruthless when it comes to editing your selection. Take ten minutes right now to go through your entire underwear drawer and get rid of anything that is worn-out, uncomfortable, ill-fitting, stretched out or broken. Be extra diligent when assessing the comfort level of your pieces: nothing in your underwear section, not even special occasion items, thongs or lacy bras should be uncomfortable to wear. If during the process you ever feel like you should keep an item "just in case" or because you have "hardly anything left", reread point 1 above and remember that there is no point in owning imperfect items just for the sake of having a full drawer.
3. Perfect your everyday items
Once you have gotten rid of the worst offenders in your selection, you may have to add a few essentials back in. As usual, the first place I recommend you start your overhaul with is your everyday wear: Aim to stock your underwear wardrobe with a good number of high-quality pieces that fit you well and complement your everyday style. One of the best things I have done for my wardrobe recently was to get a week's worth of simple, seamless thongs. It was a comparatively small expense but now each morning I can literally just grab and go, instead of having to sort through piles of things that are either too uncomfortable, too tight, too visible, etc.
To upgrade your set of everyday items I recommend you first collect two pieces of information: a) the functional criteria your underwear needs to fulfil and b) your individual preferences for things like style, cut, material and colour. Go through your current underwear wardrobe and note down which qualities you love about your existing pieces (soft, lightweight materials, lacy trims, etc) and which you hate, both from a functional and an aesthetic point of view. Then, imagine an average two weeks in your life. What kinds of outfits do you wear on a daily basis and what kind of underwear would you ideally be wearing underneath? Use all of this to figure out a core set of everyday essentials that you like and can wear with the majority of your daytime clothes. Aim for at least seven days' worth of items, i.e. roughly 10 panties and 3-4 bras.
4. Make sure your underwear wardrobe covers every inch of your style concept
Without a doubt you will have at least a couple of pieces in your wardrobe that you can't wear with your everyday underwear, because they have a particularly low back, are very sheer, slim-fitting or something similar. I remember a few years back before I overhauled my wardrobe I had a lot of items that just sat in my closet and were essentially not a part of my wardrobe, just because I didn't have the right piece of underwear to wear underneath.
So, once you have sorted out your everyday pieces, you definitely also need to make sure that your underwear wardrobe accommodates to any special cases in your wardrobe. To do that, simply take half an hour or so to go through your wardrobe section by section (dresses, tops, skirts and so on) and write down every item that requires a very specific piece of underwear, i.e. a nude bra, an no-show thong, a strapless bra, etc. On your list also include anything that you could technically wear with your standard everyday underwear, but might not want to, i.e. dresses for special occasions, going out and so on. Then, see if any items could be catered to by the same pieces (see the next point) and write your final shopping list.
5. Focus on double-duty pieces
To keep your underwear drawer as streamlined and versatile as possible, try to find pieces that serve more than one function: For example, if you need to buy a strapless bra so you can finally wear that one top that's been sitting in the back of your closet, consider buying a nude strapless bra so you can wear it with all of your sheer/white tees and shirts as well.
6. Rethink how you organize your lingerie
Once you have edited out a few pieces and added a couple new ones back in, take a few moments to reorganize your new and improved lingerie wardrobe. The number one rule for organizing pretty much anything is to store things according to how often you use them. That means reserving easy-access spaces for everyday stuff and the back of your drawer/closet for lesser used items, like your special occasion/function wear. Also, consider adding a bit of physical structure to your current underwear storage system. You do not have to get too technical with this, but what you want to avoid (if you care about the life span of your items) is leaving everything in one big pile in a drawer. If that is your current situation, at least get a few boxes to separate your everyday from your special function items, and your bras from your panties.
7. Upgrade your laundry routine
As a final step, double check that you have been caring for your underwear properly. The first step to good garment care, as basic as it sounds, is to actually follow the instructions on the label, i.e. don't wash something at 40 degrees if the limit on the label is 30 and hand wash if an item needs to be hand washed. Beyond that, simply stick to a few best practices: Never tumble dry your underwear or leave it on the radiator. Always let it dry naturally. Make sure bras lie flat when drying or are hung from the gore (i.e. the center part that connects the cups), never from the straps. Always hand wash lacy, delicate items and avoid hot temperatures. It’s also a good idea to put items that can be machine-washed in a laundry mesh bag. This will prevent other garments from getting tangled in bra hooks or the underwiring and, more importantly, also reduce the strain on the garments inside (they are not tossed over as much) and thereby prevent them from losing shape.