My poor pants drawer is a dusty coffin for bad knickers. Fifty per cent are holey, oversized and historic period pants, while 25% are strips of froth that will never again fit my postnatal bottom. The rest are kids’ knickers that took a wrong turn after the washing line. In the bra drawer, old breastfeeding tops are muddled with quarter-cup torture devices and emergency purchases that give me four udders not two breasts. My two, tired, “good” bras have been repaired several times, as their underwires make a biannual bid for freedom. I’ve known for a while that I need to find underwear that fits and is fit for its purpose. But I’ve been bogged down by the time commitment, put off by not knowing where to get a decent fitting service and feeling weirdly sentimental about binning underwear that has represented me at pivotal times in my life.
I don’t want to feel saggy and careworn like my current underwear, but I’ve found it hard to justify spending time and money on this hidden aspect of my life. Now that I’m committed to putting myself higher up the priority list, a wander round the lingerie aisle seems to force a depressing choice between granny pants and full-on male-gaze-inspired sex pot – neither of which is right for me, a 36-year-old woman who likes to move, occasionally has to lift heavy things and wants to look good in her own way. I want underwear that feels good on my body and makes my body feel good in turn. Sexy on my own terms but not, as on a recent evening out, a strapless number that has to be ripped off under cover of darkness on a London street because if I wear its rigid, rib-crunching irritating-ness for another moment I will cry out loudly about the patriarchy’s vice-like grip on my tits.
So, I have been on a personal pants mission to discover how I can pull myself out of underwear no man’s land. And it’s good news. I’ve worn things over the past few weeks that I didn’t believe existed. Grown-up underwear that’s fun, beautiful and comfortable. And I’m going to tell you where to find it.
First up: get fitted properly for a bra. The Freya and Fantasie fitting services (which can be found at many John Lewis, Debenhams and House of Fraser shops) come highly recommended, alongside Triumph fitting. My lifetime’s best bra fitting was done between kids at a local (now closed) boutique. The owner looked at me with X-ray eyes, asked me what size I wore and appeared with two completely different-sized but perfectly fitting bras – my two, much-repaired “good” bras. So, ask local friends if they’ve had a good experience somewhere and get there quickly if so. If you can’t make it for an in-person fitting, then don’t let that put you off. Lots of the brands I’ve tried have detailed measuring guides on their websites and these all worked well for me. Do try to persuade a buddy to do the measurements for you if possible, as they will be much more accurate.
I want underwear that feels good on my body and makes my body feel good in turn
Once you’ve got your size, head over to Marks & Spencer and its new Flexifit range. These are now my go-to for basics and come in a brilliant range of sizes. The high-rise full briefs looked comedically sail-size on the rail but feel amazing and look 1950s-cute when I put them on. More importantly, they come with a no-bunching, no-wedgie guarantee.
Neon Moon is a little more special. The triangle bra gives surprising uplift and the moon charms lift the set from utilitarian to something that feels a bit prettier. Extra points for a good range of sizes and choice of models. Eva lingerie, meanwhile, does soft, stretchy, grown-up undergarments with bras up to an E-cup. It’s the kind of thing I imagine successful, swishy women wear under their perfectly cut suits before making an irritatingly seamless transition to a fashionable bar courtesy of a hit of red lipstick.
More overtly sexy is Bluebella, which caters for larger busts, too, and up to size 18. Ignore the bondage-looking homepage (unless that’s your thing), because everything I’ve tried has been luscious, far from pornstar and a comfortable fit. You can go full fantasy with the Luella Bow body or choose something surprisingly supportive and practical like the Reed set.
Beija deserves a mention for making gorgeous styles work across a big (and small) range of cup sizes, plus top-notch marketing that shows women looking happy and in charge, rather than than dominated.
Small brands doing good things include the lovely What Lydia Made. Lydia’s range is fun, sexy and not a male fantasy in sight. I love the celebration of a range of body types in her photography and, if you fancy ice-cream-coloured, bespoke, handmade joy on your bum, she’s your gal. Lara Intimates runs a studio with a fitting service in Hackney, but their range can be ordered online with a sensible measuring guide. My favourite is the Wren bra, which looks wonderfully like Princess Leia playing rude tennis and feels supportive, light and flexible.
I am throwing away almost all of my old underwear. It is time to let it go and step into a slightly more grown-up future
And for luxury, ethical underwear, you can’t go wrong with Amaella. Its hydrangea print cheers me up every time I spot it in the drawer and it hits the style check box, as well as the ability to leg it after a toddler running towards the road in one ethically made and sourced hit.
And the last word goes to Boody. Oh, Boody, where have you been all my life? Everything is made out of bamboo (and at least 50% fluffy clouds). It’s like buying yourself a hug that lasts all day. Alongside knickers and bras (the padded shaper bra being my favourite for under a T-shirt), they do vests and leggings. I can see winter on the horizon and it’s filled with me wearing two layers of Boody under my Lucy & Yak boiler suit, feeling and looking amazing and warm.
So, I am throwing away almost all of my old underwear. It is time to let it go and step into a slightly more grown-up future – one where the first things I put on every day fill me with joy, comfort and remind me to love my body as much as I can. Who knew that finding the right gusset could feel so good?