fugly week

These Granny Panties Feel Like a Warm Embrace

They’re the underwear equivalent of a hot water bottle, or curling up with a puppy.

There are certain things in life that are so ugly they’re beautiful, or so ugly they’re cute. (The French call it jolie laide; the Japanese, busakawa.) Think of bulldogs, bumpy noses — or Birkenstocks. This week, we’re celebrating the faces that only a mother could love. Welcome to Fugly Week on the Strategist.

“Like a hug for your uterus.” That’s how my dear friend described her Jockey Elance Brief underwear to me. Typically sold in three-packs, the cotton Elance Hipster provides what Jockey’s website calls “full rise and coverage,” which is another way of saying that these could be the least risqué panties you ever own. Navel-high, with a snug fit that cups around the bottom of your butt cheek and reaches past your hip flexor.

These measurements are not titillating. Unlike the chic — even slightly sexy — grandma-esque briefs from lines like Araks and Baserange, the plain cotton Elance leaves pretty much everything to the imagination. But that’s part of the Elance’s magic. You don’t wear these undergarments — they wear you. More exactly, they swaddle you. They’re the underwear equivalent of a hot water bottle, or curling up with a puppy. This feeling is amplified by the fact that for its Elance line, Jockey covers its elastic waistband with a layer of cotton. Other high-waisted, “borrowed-from-the-boys” briefs don’t do this, leaving you instead with direct skin-to-stretch polyester contact. Those waistbands grip your midsection; the Elance embraces you.

Since learning about them six years ago, I’ve come to rely on Jockey’s fabric hugs. After a long day at work punctuated by crowded subway cars and heavy grocery bags, I go home and put them on immediately. When it’s February and cold and bitter out, they go great underneath marled-wool lounge pants. And even though maximum-coverage grandma panties have a newfound, counterintuitive sex appeal (maybe we have Carrie Bradshaw’s tighty-whities to thank for that?), and that’s great, when I put them on I feel as cocooned as ever.

I can’t do this all the time, for fear the effect will wear off, but on particularly difficult weeks, buying a new three-pack is some of the best retail therapy I know. Earlier this year, at home and dealing with the death of a family member, I found myself at a Macy’s staring at a wall-to-wall Jockey display. After I sent my friend — my original Jockey shaman — a picture of the brief-wearing mannequins, she texted me back: “Yessss!!!! As close as you get to getting a big, big hug when you are by yourself.” And then I bought a fresh pack.

A pair of “invisible underwear” that costume designer Alison Freer says is a red-carpet staple. “If you’ve ever wondered what the stars on the red carpet were wearing underneath those sheer, unforgiving gowns, the answer is almost certainly a pair of Commandos.”

These are Lucky magazine founder Kim France’s favorites. “On Gossamer’s Mesh Bikinis are so far and away the perfect underwear that I have a hard time understanding why anybody wears anything else: It’s superlight, highly breathable, and — most importantly — hugely VPL-resistant.”

Dolley Frearson, the co-founder and creative director of High Fashion Home, says that these are her go-to everyday underwear. “I need my underwear to feel comfortable and breathable. I also need them to appear smooth, and not pinch my skin in any place or ride up. And this is the only pair that does all of the above! They will eventually replace almost all of your underwear in your drawer.”

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These Granny Panties Feel Like a Warm Embrace