How To Shop For Those Unmentionables

You should feel like this every. single. day.

First things first: This is not a “naughty” article.  This is not about lingerie.  This is one of the more practical, less “fashion-forward” pieces you’ll get from me and my nimble little typing fingers.  True, most people, on most days, will never see what you have on under your clothing, and that’s the point.  For something that we wear every single day of our lives, it’s really a wonder how most of us spend so little time, effort, or money on these pieces.  Without the right cuts, colors, sizes, and shapes, our entire outfits would be thrown out of whack, and any chance we had of looking oh-so-stylish and wonderful and amazing just goes right out the window and into the trash.

Hanky Panky

How many times a day do you adjust your bra strap?  Pull down the clasp?  Pull up your top to cover the tops of the cups?  How often do you – ahem – deal with a wedgie (sorry)?  These things are no fun, and they are all things we can avoid.  So why don’t we?  For some reason it’s hard for us, especially at this point in our lives when we find ourselves strapped for extra spending cash, to throw away money on bras and underwear (I’m not a huge fan of the word “underwear”, but I refuse to use the p-word).  But the thing is, it’s NOT throwing away money.  These garments are necessities, so it’s time to start treating them with some respect.  There’s nothing I, personally, hate more than falling bra straps, and I will go to any and all lengths to avoid this phenomena.

What’s your pet peeve?  Whatever it may be, address it now and then fix it.  Make sure you never have to deal with it again.  I promise, making this one little adjustment will make your life soooooooo much easier.

Calvin Klein

Here’s a checklist of the essentials.  After that, feel free to go crazy and buy that purple lace bra that you can see through absolutely every shirt you own and matches nothing (hey, I’m a proponent of that whole Carrie Bradshaw “I know you can see my bra but it’s on purpose so there” attitude).  Just make sure you’re not sacrificing fit and comfort for style.  While I may sing a different tune when it comes to killer heels, if a bra or a pair of underwear is not comfortable or doesn’t fit well, it well show, both in the lay of your outfit and in your facial expression.  Realize this now, and save yourself the trouble and the awkwardness later.

The Gap

And so, without further adieu, a list of what every girl should have in her top drawer…or wherever you store those unmentionables:

  1. A black bra, a white bra, and a bra that matches your skin tone.
  2. The exact same color scheme as #1, but in a strapless variety.
  3. The same color scheme as above, but for down below.
  4. If you’re not partial to thongs, invest in no-panty-line underwear.  I never really trust these babies, and think thongs really are your best bet for certain outfits, but if you really can’t swing the T, then get yourself to a department store and test the waters with the help of your thinnest sundress or most snug shorts.  Jockey has an extensive line of this type of underwear, as does Victoria’s Secret.  I’ve also heard great things about Cosabella.
  5. A bra with claspable straps for your racer back tanks.  You wouldn’t think it, but I sport one of these almost everyday.  Their value is completely underrated for everyday wear.
  6. A backless bra.  I know this seems slightly more impractical, but it will open your eyes and your closet to so many more outfit opportunities.  Never again will you see an adorable top or dress in a store and then see the plunging (or non-existent) back and think, “I can’t wear this without a bra”.  It’s liberating!
  7. Bras that sit well on your body.  It should completely conform to your body.  If it sticks up, it doesn’t fit.  I don’t care how much it pushes you up or together or whatever.  Move on.  We can all see it sticking up from under your shirt…and it looks bad.  The point of a bra is for us to NOT notice it.  Truth be told, I’ve never had much luck finding a comfortable bra that stayed in place from Victoria’s Secret.  Interestingly enough, I’ve found some of my favorites at H&M.  And The Gap.
  8. Something lacy or colorful or patterned or whatever.  There’s no better feeling than slipping on a fun outfit underneath your outfit.  Your outfit – and thus, your style – begins the moment you put that very first item on your body, so if you don’t find that bra or undergarment fashionable or at least aesthetically pleasing, don’t buy it.  There are enough pieces out there to choose from that are both comfortable AND cute.  You shouldn’t have to compromise either.
  9. Last but not least.  Know your size.  Most lingerie departments and stores have attendants that will size you up.  We’ve all seen those before and after magazine articles.  They’re not lying.  Most women don’t know their real size, and it really does make all the difference.

Happy shopping!  You’ll feel so refreshed once you refresh this department of your closet, and feel more confident in your daily life.  Have any other tips that no woman should do without?  Let me know in the comments section below!


After graduating from college in ’09, Allyson Barkan flew off to Greece to teach English Literature at a private high school and explore Greek and European culture for a year.  Since returning stateside, she now works in Entertainment Public Relations in New York City.  For travel advice, stray observations as a 20-something in the big city, and the occasional hilarious misadventure, follow Allyson and on twitter at @aebarkan.

2 thoughts on “How To Shop For Those Unmentionables”

  1. Good information here. I work in Nordstrom lingerie and we say at least 2 or 3 nudes and a black and then something fun and that matches. Also a good strapless that FITS and stays up, and a sports bra. 80% of women are in the wrong bra size, usually too big. (If straps won’t stay up, the bra band is TOO BIG). Get properly fitted by a lingerie expert and you will be amazed. You should not have spillage out the top or bottom and no gapping. Panties: Try microfiber boy shorts under dresses in the summer — no line and discreet coverage. No line panties? The thinner the better or Hanky Panky thongs. But I personally prefer Soma Intimates no line panties. Wash everything cold delicate cycle in a mesh bag with lingerie wash (not woolite) and hang to dry. Don’t turn foam cups inside out for storage. Wear bras 3 times alternating with other bras in between before washing and they will last about a year or so depending on how many bras you have. Come see us at Nordstrom!

    1. Thanks so much for the helpful tips! These are awesome… I’ve heard Nordstrom seriously rocks for choosing lingerie / “the unmentionables”. Thanks again!!

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