best in class

The 18 Very Best Women’s Underwear

We asked stylists, rappers, models, and designers about their favorites.

Panties for everyone. Photo: Marcus McDonald
Panties for everyone. Photo: Marcus McDonald

Because it’s usually unseen, your underwear should feel invisible — should being the operative word here, as anyone who’s dealt with a too-tight thong, a wedgie, or visible panty line can attest to. If the contents of your undies drawer don’t quite make the cut, this is a good place to start looking for upgrades. Below, we’ve compiled recommendations from a panel of women whose style we admire, including lingerie experts, entrepreneurs, models, and musicians. And to ensure no brief was left behind, we searched our archive for any we considered worthy of a coveted spot on this list. From comfortable boyshorts to lacy little numbers, there’s probably a panty for you here.

Best overall | Best less expensive | Best high-rise brief | Best less expensive high-rise brief | Best hipster | Best hipster for plus sizes | Best boybrief | Best boyshort | Best overall thong | Best less expensive thong | Best seamless thong | Best no-show | Best cheeky | Best French-cut | Best less-expensive French-cut | Best G-string | Best maternity | Best period

What we’re looking for

Sizing: The intimates industry has a reputation of being exclusionary — though that’s slowly changing. Size inclusion was a big sticking point for us, and so we tried to highlight undergarments offered in a wider range of sizes.

Cut: Whereas men’s underwear comes down to three main cuts (boxers, briefs, and boxer briefs), it’s the Wild West out there for women. There’s the sisterhood of briefs, bikinis, and thongs from which others descend, such as the boyshort, hipster, and cheeky. Then there are the capitalized cuts, like the French cut that harks back to the Baywatch days of one-pieces, and the G-string, which is the next best thing to nothing at all. Rise is another consideration — maybe you prefer a high-rise (à la “My Calvins” ), low-rise, or something in the middle.

Material: How a pair feels will depend on what it’s made from. Cotton is a favorite for its breathability. Modal is an alternative often seen in sustainable options since it’s biodegradable. For its airiness, mesh (usually manufactured from nylon) works as another popular textile. To make a panty more moldable to the body, some stretch (either elastane or spandex) will generally make an appearance on tags. Since underwear is such a personal choice, there’s really no right answer to which material is best — but to help you, we’ve detailed the materials used in every recommendation.

Price: Even though almost all of us would consider underwear an essential, it isn’t always priced that way. Our focus, therefore, was on the undies that truly feel well worth it. Each of the picks is denoted as $ (under $15), $$ (under $25), or $$$ (over $25).

Best overall underwear

Photo: retailer

Sizes XS–L/XL | Bikini, seamless edges | Cotton, elastane | $$$ 

Of all the labels that are popular with our panelists (keep in mind that we heard about just shy of 60 pairs), Commando was cited the most. The label’s underwear was repeatedly praised for its, well, almost-gone-commando fit. “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,” explains Alison Freer, costume designer and Strategist contributor.

When it came down to deciding which style to crown as our overall winner, we chose Commando’s bikini because the cut was pretty popular among the obsessives we talked to. Stylist Jasmine Caccamo describes it as seamless, with a shape that works underneath both leggings and body-skimming silk dresses. Bee Stuart, personal stylist and founder of QueerYorker, is another Commando convert, describing its bikinis (her favorite is the frillier Double Take) as luxe feeling even for everyday, showing off a hint of skin while offering full (comfortable) coverage.

Best less expensive underwear

Sizes XS–XXL | Brief, sits below hips | Pima cotton, lycra, lace (nylon, spandex) | $$

Commando was our clear front-runner, but the Bliss comes in at a close second, given its history as an all-time Strategist reader favorite. Cora Harrington (a.k.a. the Lingerie Addict), author of In Intimate Detail: How to Choose, Wear, and Love Lingerie, wrote an ode to these briefs. “They’re cute. They’re comfy. The Pima cotton means they’re supersoft,” she explains. Harrington doesn’t even mind paying full price (though the $20 briefs are often on sale anyway) and frequently brags about them to friends. Dolley Frearson, co-founder and creative director of High Fashion Home, loves them, too, as the briefs smooth and don’t pinch or ride up. “They will eventually replace almost all of your underwear,” she promises.

Best high-rise brief

Sizes XXS–6X | Brief, waist-high rise | Cotton, spandex | $$$

If you’re looking for a high-rise brief that doesn’t veer into granny-panty territory, turn to Arq, maker of small-bust-friendly bralettes. Creative consultant Harling Ross Anton introduced us to this pair from the brand, which she owns in a checkered print (you can also choose from colors like pistachio, cherry, and buttercup). “I’ve heard underwear described as a ‘hug’ before but always suspected the comparison was hyperbolic until I got these,” she says of the “insanely comfortable” cut with edges that never dig into her thighs or stomach. And as she’s prone to UTIs, Anton points out that the high-rise undies are made from organic cotton that’s ethically and sustainably sourced. She isn’t alone in her praise: Lily Sullivan, senior brand marketing manager at Maude, likes to wear these around the house with one of the brand’s matching bras.

Best less expensive high-rise brief

From $24

Sizes XS–4XL | Brief, high-rise, full coverage | Cotton | $

These Jockeys are probably “the least risqué panties you ever own,” according to former Strategist staffer Margaret Rhodes. They have tighty-whitey energy but don’t actually feel that way thanks to an elastic waistband that’s covered in a layer of cotton. Unlike other waistbands that grip your midsection, Rhodes says, “the Elance embraces you.” And whereas Baserange, Araks, and Arq make grandma-esque briefs that still have some sex appeal, this pair “leaves pretty much everything to the imagination,” she says. “You don’t wear these undergarments — they wear you. More exactly, they swaddle you.”

Best hipster

Sizes XXS–XXL | Hipster, cheekier cut, high-rise | Supima cotton, elastane | $

Everlane makes minimalist underwear that, at first glance, could be mistaken for Hanes and are almost “aggressively plain,” says former Strategist writer Lori Keong. But that’s a big part of the appeal, especially if you’re in search of a high-waisted hipster that “makes your butt look like it’s starring in its own ’90s Calvin Klein commercial,” Keong explains. The pair rises to your navel without feeling confining or bunching up around your hips during the day, she says. They pass the very important VPL test, too. Lisa Buhler, founder of Lisa Says Gah, also vouches for Everlane, comparing its look to Hanro but at a fraction of the cost.

Best hipster for plus sizes

Sizes 1X–3X | Hipster, higher logo waistband | Cotton, modal, elastane | $$ 

For a plus-size-specific pair, it was impossible to ignore the power of this hipster. Shanel Esaloo, buyer at luxury plus-size label 11 Honoré, has only two pairs of underwear that she “would literally scream off of the rooftops for people to buy”: Negative Underwear’s briefs and these classic Calvin Kleins. Of the two, the latter is the one she wears almost every day — the pair is just that comfortable. Esaloo also points out that the thick, logoed waistband offers some midsection support.

Best boybrief

Sizes XXS–XXL | Brief-slash-boy short cut, mid-rise | Nylon, elastane | $

Aerie’s Real Me underwear line is much-loved among Strategist staffers. Former Strategist senior writer Karen Iorio Adelson details how the undies are “comfortable all day, stay in place, and provide full front coverage,” while Strategist deals writer Leah Muncy considers the label’s thongs “ride or die.” But it’s the brand’s boybrief, which sits at the intersection of a brief and a boy short, that really caught our eye. Lauren Chan, founder of plus-size womenswear company Henning, owns about 20 of them. In addition to being soft and lightweight, they have a mid-rise, low-cut hip and full bum coverage that Chan considers to be the perfect silhouette, one that’s not always easy to find with the high-rise, high-hip cuts that are popular now. There’s a reason why these are so flattering: Aerie uses a healthy percent of stretch, so these mold to you.

Best boyshort

Sizes XS–3XL | Boyshort, high-rise, medium coverage | Recycled fabric, cotton lining | $

Several of our panelists recommend underwear upstart Parade for its sustainability and curve-hugging cuts. Its Re:Play line, which is meant to move with you, was mentioned twice. These boyshorts are a favorite of Megababe founder Katie Sturino. “While the underwear stays put, I wouldn’t call it overly supportive — and I mean that in a good way,” she explains. These have a lighter construction Sturino prefers to the control tops that are often found in plus-size styles. With sheer inserts on the sides, it’s the kind of pair that “if the wind catches them the right (wrong?) way, can even allow me to show it off,” Sturino says. And if you prefer something cheekier, stylist Mac Doyle reaches for the brand’s high-rise briefs daily.

Best overall thong

One size | Thong, high-rise | Nylon, lace (spandex trim), Supima cotton lining | $$

The thong is a polarizing panty — some swear by it, others curse at it. But if there’s a brand that’s perfected the silhouette, it’s Hanky Panky, which takes second place for the “most mentioned” title behind Commando. When Sullivan worked at a boutique in college, she saw its popularity firsthand: “Let me just say that Hanky Panky reigns supreme — their thongs I buy again and again.”

Barbara Corcoran, founder of Corcoran Group, recommends the label’s Signature Lace Original-Rise Thong, which features a high-on-the-hips rise and a V-shaped waistband that’s meant to keep the panty in place. “Everyone seems to wear these,” she says. “They come in every color, so it’s like a lace crayon box when you open your drawer.” Corcoran considers these an essential, explaining that she has rarely thrown out a pair, as the stretch material never gives up. Though they’re labeled one-size, Hanky Panky recommends these for sizes 4 to 14.

If you want to stock up, Hanky Panky’s three-piece packs are your best bet. Iva Pawling, co-founder of Richer Poorer, owns several sets of the lingerie line’s low-rise thongs. “I am equal parts proud and embarrassed that I have been wearing only Hanky Panky underwear for, oh, about 14 years,” she says. “I don’t have to think about them, and they just work.”

Best less expensive thong

Sizes XXS–XXL | Thong, high-rise | Cotton, spandex | $

This Gap thong is about half the price of Hanky Panky’s but comes highly recommended by Strategist deals writer Leah Muncy, who believes them to be “peak underwear.” The combination of the thong’s high leg and dipped V-shaped waist makes them much beloved. “I am so glad that we as a society have rediscovered the universally flattering V-waist,” she says. She buys them in bulk, especially when they’re on sale (which is often, as Gap is known to do). For a perfect fit, Muncy suggests sizing up to make these more comfortable. You won’t regret it: “I don’t think a better pair of underwear exists,” she says.

Best seamless thong

Sizes XS–3X | Thong, laser-cut edges | Lycra, elastane, spandex with cotton gusset | $$

For truly undetectable underwear, ballerina Erica Lall relies on the Under Statements Thong from Spanx. She tends to skip underwear when she’s dancing, so when she does wear a pair, they have to have a similar invisible feel — these do just that with no VPL in sight. “A lot of seamless underwear isn’t actually seamless, but this is,” she says, even going so far as to call the thong the softest she’s ever put on.

Best no-show underwear

Photo: Retailer

Sizes XS–4X | Brief, high-rise, laser-cut edges | Nylon, spandex | $

If you’re anti-thong but need something inconspicuous, then try out this Old Navy brief. These come courtesy of Stuart, who has high standards for her underwear, all of which this pair meets: These are comfortable, seamless, show zero panty lines, come in a different flesh-colored tones, and feature a smooth top. “They are light, airy, and feel like a second skin,” Stuart says. “You will forget you are wearing underwear, and that’s the goal when you don’t normally wear any.” Plus for everyday underwear, these still feel very sexy, giving her an extra boost of confidence.

Best cheeky underwear

Sizes XS–XXL | Cheeky (minimal back coverage), low-rise, raw seamless edges | Polyamide, elastane, cotton (for gusset) | $

Two model multi-hyphenates, artist Anna Theroux Ling and actress Hari Nef, directed us to Victoria’s Secret No-Show line, which they count on for shoots. Ling favors the brand’s flashier patterned pack of thongs, while Nef praises the slightly more subdued cheeky panties. It’s an open secret that models should wear a no-show underwear, “because you don’t know what they’re going to put you in,” meaning that if “you’re in your Hello Kitty underwear, that’s not the look,” Nef says. These do the trick, disappearing under whatever she’s wearing. Designed with a cheeky cut, they’re decidedly “not a thong, at least not the way we traditionally think of them,” Nef says. “I hate those.”

Best French-cut underwear

Sizes XS–XL | Bikini, French cut | Italian mesh (polyamide, elastane) | $$$ 

As an employee of Maude, maker of one of our favorite vibrators, Sullivan definitely has thoughts on intimacy and intimates. The Canova, a slinkier take on the bikini, is one of her favorites (a feat considering she owns enough undies to not have to do laundry for about a month). “There is something I love about entirely sheer underwear even if you’re just wearing them randomly on a Tuesday,” she says of the see-through Italian mesh and leg-lengthening cut. If you really love the look of mesh, here’s an honorable mention: On Gossamer’s Mesh Bikini. Kim France, founding editor of Lucky, describes them “as VPL-resistant as a thong but without the annoyingness of a thong,” she says.

Best less expensive French-cut underwear

Sizes XXS–XXL | Brief, French leg, high-rise | Cotton, elastane | $$

Self-professed “granny-panty stan” Evelynn Escobar-Thomas, founder of intersectional hiking club Hike Clerb, buys so many of these high-rise briefs because “it’s the only underwear I want to wear.” Post-pregnancy, she focused on finding pairs that were softer and wouldn’t leave a line, and these became a fast favorite. Doyle recommends these for day-to-day wear, because a high-waisted brief offers enough coverage to feel secure but not so much as to bunch underneath clothes.

Best G-string

Sizes XS–5XL | G-string, hip-hugging rise | Lyocell bamboo, spandex | $$$ 

For more support than the traditional G-string allows, Montinique Dever, founder of Riot Swim, pointed us to Hara The Label. She says these are especially perfect under jeans, with more of a butt-emphasizing fit than other underwear (“Thank me later,” she adds). Dever also points out that the organic bamboo fabric makes them extra comfortable, even for those with sensitive skin. These come in a whole host of bright colors (made from natural plant dyes), including pumpkin, honey, and cherry, making them stand out in comparison to the nudes and earth tones dominating the market right now.

Best maternity underwear

Photo: retailer

Sizes S–XXL | Brief, high-rise | Tencel lyocell, elastane | $$$

Dever wore Boob’s briefs all throughout her pregnancy, but even after giving birth, she still reaches for these. They were designed with postpartum bellies in mind with a double-layered front to provide more support (especially for those recovering from a C-section). The panties are also made without any seams to dig into your skin, a feature Dever says she’s especially grateful for.

Best period underwear

Sizes XS–6X | Brief, high-rise | Cotton, spandex jersey, polyester (for leakproof layers) | $

If you’ve been thinking of trying out period underwear, Phenomenal CEO Meena Harris recommends Period. Harris was initially a skeptic, but after two consecutive pregnancies, she found these panties at a time when she “was extremely over having a period and having to deal with tampons,” she says. This high-waisted style is her favorite because, as Harris puts it, “as a mom, I choose high-waisted for everything.” Bryn Taylor, founder of Ouisa, is another fan, specifically of the lighter version, as “they’re not bulky like a pad” but absorb like one. The light can hold up to six tampons’ worth of blood, while the Harris-approved heavy one can hold eight to ten.

Some more women's underwear we've written about

Our experts

• Karen Iorio Adelson, former Strategist senior writer
Harling Ross Anton, creative consultant
• Lisa Buhler, founder of Lisa Says Gah
Jasmine Caccamo, stylist
• Lauren Chan, founder of plus-size womenswear company Henning
Barbara Corcoran, founder of Corcoran Group
Montinique Dever, founder of Riot Swim
Mac Doyle, stylist
Shanel Esaloo, buyer at luxury plus-size label 11 Honoré
Evelynn Escobar-Thomas, founder of intersectional hiking club Hike Clerb
Kim France, founding editor of Lucky
• Dolley Frearson, co-founder and creative director of High Fashion Home
Alison Freer, costume designer and Strategist contributor
• Cora Harrington, author of In Intimate Detail: How to Choose, Wear, and Love Lingerie
Meena Harris, CEO of Phenomenal
• Lori Keong, former Strategist writer
Erica Lall, ballerina
Anna Theroux Ling, model and artist
• Leah Muncy, Strategist deals writer
Hari Nef, model and actress
• Iva Pawling, co-founder of Richer Poorer
• Margaret Rhodes, former Strategist staffer
• Bee Stuart, personal stylist and founder of QueerYorker
Katie Sturino, Megababe founder
• Lily Sullivan, senior brand marketing manager at Maude
• Bryn Taylor, founder of Ouisa

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The 18 Very Best Women’s Underwear