Unbeatable Underpinnings: An Intimate Look at the First Layer of Dressing

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Most of us devote a large amount of time and effort into creating great outfits from head to toe. But we often forget about the crucial first step in building a beautiful ensemble: choosing the right underwear. Nonetheless, the best outfits must always begin with the foundational layer. Why? Because choosing the wrong underwear can wreck the most inspired look and leave you adjusting your clothing all day long. From ill-fitting bras that pinch or gap to the dreaded VPL, wearing subpar underwear can cause any number of wardrobe malfunctions. But with the right underpinnings, you will look smooth, seamless, and effortlessly put together in any outfit. And most importantly, you’ll feel comfortable and confident all day long.

Luckily, building a collection of high-quality, dependable undergarments is easier than you might think. Keep reading to learn about the underpinning essentials every woman needs.

A reliable everyday bra.

Unbeatable Underpinnings: An Intimate Look at the First Layer of Dressing
Chantel Bra from Nordstrom

A high-quality bra is an investment piece that will help you look and feel your best all day long. Remember this if you are ever tempted to buy a cheaply made bra that looks good now but is likely to wear out within a few months. Garments that are built to last usually cost more upfront, but they stand the test of time and keep you comfortable. Make sure to choose a bra that meets your unique needs, as every woman is different. An everyday full coverage bra is a good basic that all women should own, regardless of their size and shape. It’s a good idea to have one in nude and also in black. And if you wish, you can supplement your collection with other fun colors and styles.

It’s also important to choose a bra that fits you correctly, as many women are wearing the wrong size bra. Meet with a professional in the lingerie department and try on several bras until you get a good fit. Most women tell me once they were fit properly, they went up in cup size and down in circumference. It’s also important to make sure the straps are tight enough. I often tighten the straps on my client’s bras when they are trying on clothing; it always improves the look and lift immediately.

Another tip: Rotate your bras for longevity. By not wearing the same bra two days in a row, you allow the bra’s elasticity to return, and with the proper care in washing, your bras last longer.

A go-to panty.

You should experiment with different panty styles until you find one that works for you. While there are many different styles to choose from, you can usually pinpoint the one that is best for you once you have chosen the level of coverage you prefer.
• If you want more coverage: A panty in a bikini, hip hugger, or brief style is great for giving you full coverage and comfort. Just make sure to choose the right size! Wearing a pair that’s too loose will cause unpleasant bunching, and a too-tight pair will create an unsightly crease in your silhouette. I like to wear bikini underwear when I work out.
• If you prefer a thong: Many women prefer thong underwear because they prevent panty lines in form-fitting clothing and because they can be very comfortable once you get used to them. Remember: Thongs that are too large will bunch and shift, so choose a size that fits snuggly but isn’t too tight. I often recommend the Hanky Panky retro thong to clients, particularly when wearing a dress or skirt. There is something magical about how it smooths out all the bumps and rolls of flesh. I find it is a must in the warm weather when not wearing pantyhose.

A lightweight camisole.

Camisoles are thin, sleeveless undergarments that can be worn underneath tee shirts or any other sheer tops. Camis provide excellent coverage underneath white tees or collared shirts, because they obscure the silhouette of your bra and create a smooth appearance. They are also a fantastic choice in cooler weather, when you’ll appreciate an additional layer to keep you warm.

A great slip.

Slips are either full- or half-length undergarments that you wear beneath a dress or skirt. Although slips (a.k.a., “petticoats”) are less popular today than they once were, they are worthwhile additions to your wardrobe, providing additional coverage and creating a smoothing effect beneath your dresses and skirts. And rest assured that a good slip will prevent peek-a-boo incidents on windy days and keep you covered when you’re wearing sheer clothing.

A supportive sports bra.

All women should wear a sports bra when working out, regardless of their bust size. A great sports bra helps you avoid discomfort during strenuous workouts and can prevent sagging over time. Sports bras are as cute and stylish as they are comfortable. In fact, many are designed to be seen peeking out from your workout top. As with any other bra, fit is important. No matter which style of sports bra you choose (such as pullover, racerback, encapsulation, compression, etc.), it should fit comfortably around your rib cage and should never gap or pucker in the cups.

Perfect hosiery.

From opaque black tights to barely there sheer stockings in black or nude, a good pair of hosiery can complete a great outfit involving a skirt or dress. Take good care of these essentials, since they are one of the few kinds of underpinnings meant to been seen. Either hand wash and line dry them or tuck them into your delicates laundry bag to keep them protected in the washing machine.

Soft and sturdy socks.

A collection of durable socks will keep your feet happy in all kinds of weather and activities. Trouser socks and crew socks are excellent options for cooler-weather wear and pair well with your dressier pants and jeans. Low cut or “ankle” socks are perfect for wearing with tennis shoes or fashion sneakers (choose an extra-low cut if you like to present your ankle). And in winter weather, you might prefer to wear insulated socks in a mid-calf length or higher.

Remember, when you’ve got the right underpinnings, the rest of your wardrobe will fit, feel, and look so much better. So, take stock of your current collection of “unmentionables” and see where you need an upgrade. Then treat yourself to some pretty new additions to help you dress with more comfort and confidence.


  • Marla Tomazin

    Marla Tomazin, Certified Image Consultant, established her image consulting business in 1990 with the goal of helping clients identify an authentic image and develop its effective expression. Marla utilizes her abilities in evaluating body shape, movement, and coloring as well as synthesizing optimal cuts, lines, colors, and textures. This results in balance and proportion that accentuate attributes and conceal flaws. Marla has appeared on numerous TV and radio stations and programs. Visit www.marlatomazin.com.

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