Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Underneath it all

A good foundation is key to a good end result. I'm not talking makeup today (although I guess it could apply), or construction (again, also true here), but I'm talking clothes and fit. 

My good friend and faithful reader T brought this up a while ago when she asked "Can you do a post on VPL?  Oy."  Or something along those lines.  And as someone for whom fit is often an issue, this topic is near to my heart.

Visible Panty Lines and their cousins Visible Bra Lines (VBL), Visible Bra Straps (VBS), and Visible Undergarments In General (VUIG), can take an outfit from fab to fugly.

So how do you lay a good foundation?  Well-constructed, well-fitting, and (for bottoms) lined clothes definitely help.  If you're stuffed into too-tight clothes your undergarments will show more often than not.  If the fabric is too thin or too clingy, everything underneath will show.  Here are some tips to minimize the dreaded acronyms...add your own tips in the comments!

If you're anything like me, any underwear with elastic openings will cause visible lumps and bumps (I may be slim, but I am soft).  Even the ones that say "seamless."  Lacey undies can create a not-so-smooth surface that makes their presence known.  So I go with these.  The edges laser-cut (or whatever you call it) instead of elastic, so no squeezing! Make sure you get the right size, though, because the lack of elastic sometimes results in rolling of the edges (resulting in visible lines).  They're a little pricey, but I've yet to find a cheaper brand that produces something similar (have you?). You could also go thong or G-string iff you so choose.  When I'm wearing an unlined skirt, I add a slip.

I hate bra shopping, and I don't know anyone who actually enjoys it.  Finding the right fit is the key to combatting VBL.  It should sit flat to your chest in between your girls, not ride up in back, and not create bulges across your back or under your arm.  The cups should not gape, nor should your goods spill over. If frippleage is a problem, the cup should be lined enough so that you won't show through when you're cold.  Oh, and let's try to avoid a line where the cup ends and your skin begins, okay?  It feels like way too much to ask.

While I haven't found the all around "perfect" bra yet, I have learned a few things along the way. Look for smooth fabrics and fewer seams.  The cup should thin out toward the edges so there is no visible bump.  Steer clear of lace and other embellishments (for some bras at least...I have no problem with having a few fun bras lying around that I won't be wearing to work).  I like these because of their smooth and seamless construction (although if you are naturally blessed in the bosom, you might not want to go with a push-up).

As for VBS, this is more of a clothing-fit issue.  Get yourself some wider straps or a convertible bra with more options.  Or sew in a secret bra strap holder (instructional video here).

I've heard it said that slips are a little old-fashioned, but I believe they were so popular because, hey, they work!  A lot of office skirts are already lined, and do not need a slip, but for the girl on a budget, you can't always cross an otherwise great item off the list because it's missing a lining, so I have quite a few unlined pieces in my closet (most of my pants, some of my skirts, and a lot of my dresses).  I recommend having at least one full slip for dresses and one half slip (or pettipant/pettileg) for skirts.  Admittedly, finding the shorts things are much harder (I've had mine since high school and have no idea where I found them). Things to look for: lace may cause bumps, make sure the neckline is slightly lower than your lowest cut work dress, and consider the shape of the skirt.  An a-line slip stuffed into a pencil skirt is going to cause bumps.

Valuable not only for their modesty-retaining capability when paired with low-cut shirts, wearing a cami under a button-up top can help reduce gaping between the buttons (I was going to take pics to demonstrate but I don't think I want to post that on the Internet. Let's just say, by stretching the fabric across the chest, the button-up shirt then has a smooth surface to lie against).  Look for a cami that doesn't have bulky seams or straps, or one that has wider straps so they don't dig.  Lacey camis, while cute in some looks, may cause bumps if worn as an undershirt. A thin stretchy fabric will be wearable in summer, too. 

At the very least, you should own one of each of the above in skin tone and in black.  That should cover your bases.  If you have to choose one, choose skin toned (ok, so that's the very least).  I was emotionally scarred by a white-bra-under-gray-dress-in-flash-photo incident in high school that drilled that into my head indefinitely.  I hope you don't have to suffer through any similar experiences.

I really don't have anything against lace (I mean, it is sooo popular in lingerie for a reason), but the truth is, lace isn't smooth.  Save it for days when you're wearing jeans and looser clothes.

What are your foundational secrets? 


  1. Cami's are definitely a staple for me. I tend not to fill out a lot of tops so there is always a gap or it is too low cut. I like having them in all different colours so I can either match a shirt or contrast it.

  2. well, I just discovered earlier on the year that Macy's has a variety of old school slips on at least one rack in the underwear section. black, brown, white in a range of lengths. worth checking out.

  3. This post made me giggle. Another necessary staple? Strap perfect! I got mine at Target and swear by it when I wear racerback tanks. It also helps my stretched out bras fit better!

  4. Thank you for bringing up slips! I think it is the number 1 faux pas that younger women make --- a lovely dress or skirt made to look completely cheap because you can see things you shouldn't the minute they walk out into the sunlight! Horrible! Anyway, I found a great flesh colored short slip at Target about two years ago so I'm betting that's a good place to start.

  5. Glad to see the plug for slips- Beth and I have both ranted about this before! Wearing a thin skirt without a slip does not look good- our mothers taught us better than that! But, I also have to put in a plug for the Spanx. I'm a big fan of the shorts that go all the way up your tummy. They work well for pants, skirts, and dresses, especially clingy ones.

  6. I really need to buy a half slip, it's one thing I don't own but I agree it's sometimes necessary. I LIVE by wearing camis under my tops, if not because of modesty for low cut, but also because sometimes shirts are more see-through around the chest than we realize! I find it horrible when you can see someone's bra almost completely just because they thought they didn't need a cami or other undershirt. I also want to invest in some Spanx like Sarah described that go from the legs up to the bra!

  7. Slips are awesome, so are boyshorts and stockings with gussets so can go "commando" if you choose. Scandalous, but that's how ballerinas never have VPL. It works great for bandage/very body conscious clothing. =P

  8. woot! im famous! thanks for covering this, angel! and i want to try that VS panty, interesting!! more comments in a bit, time crunch!

  9. Great tips! I really like your blog. So glad I found you!

  10. @ curls and pearls - Me too! I rarely ever go without a cami underneath whatever I'm wearing...I just like feeling more covered.

    @olusola - Sweet, I'll have to check it out. Nowadays I feel like all anyone has is spanx and shapewear.

    @ ashlee - I giggled the whole time while writing this :) I've always wanted to try the strap perfect! will have to pick some up.

    @ ens - "young people" geez. lol.

    @ sarah and sara - I haven't tried spanx or other shapewear, because I can't for the life of me figure it out! Sarah, I'm going to come ask you about it someday...I feel like nothing that I can get on is actually holding anything in.

    @ stylepint - What an interesting trick! I like boyshorts cuz they're comfy, but the elastic still squeezes quite a bit. I wonder if they make laser-cut-edge boyshorts.

    @ t - you have the best ideas!

    @ ms. shopportunity - Thanks!

  11. Interesting post! I've been thinking about underthings lately and how I would like to start purchasing more quality pieces.

    So what exactly is the purpose of a slip?

  12. @ Fia - Slips prevent underwear show-through in single-layer or thin fabrics, help the skirt fall more nicely (draping over the slip instead of clinging to your skin), and also prevent the dreaded leg silhouette when you're in bright light or sun (or in photos).

  13. ooh, i'm a big fan of slips too. esp if you're wearing a thin skirt with thong (and no slip), sometimes when you stand up from sitting down, your bskirt gets stuck in your butt cheeks and that's WAY worse than vpl!!

  14. LOL @ step's comment, cuz i know what you mean! I love when it helps with static cling, but hey, that's what dryer sheets are for, right?

    I have never heard of fripplage, that was hilarious.

    I wish all these pieces weren't so expensive. As for bra fitting--I think I'm still confused about what constitutes a good fit because I don't like being able to feel my bra when I'm wearing it, it feels constricting and too tight. And the strap perfect (which i need often because only certain brands make racer back bras and only in the typical BORING colors and styles) only works with certain kinds of bras that have straps and adjustment sliders towards the lower end of the straps or else you can't slip the strap perfect lower down your back. does that make sense? i suck at explaining this. :)

    thanks again for this article!

  15. @ step - hahah. Yes, I know what you mean. :)

    @ t - Yes, undergarments can be pricey, and honestly that keeps me from keeping a good supply. The nice thing is that you don't need an entire dresser full of these foundational garments, but like one of each to use for the days when you have to dress nice. I wouldn't wear my seamless underwear if I know I'm just wearing jeans all weekend, you know? And basic t-shirt bras can be a little cheaper, too. I find that Marshall's, Ross, and Nordstrom Rack can have bras at decent prices, if you're willing to look and be patient until you find the right one (since the inventory is so sporadic and unpredictable). I've found laser-cut-edge panties there, too.

  16. When I worked in retail one woman came in with a dress she bought from our store and it looked horrible on her. I took her straight upstairs for Spanx and a seamless front closure bra, and it looked like the dress was made for her. What a difference!

    Thanks for the bra strap holder link, I have some clothes that came with that and it is genius!

  17. @ tori - I totally love those bra-holder snap things...I used to steal my mom's tanks with them when I was in junior high. I have not found the right Spanx for me...any size that I can actually get over my thighs doesn't actually hold anything in! Am I doing something wrong?

  18. Angeline, found this post through IFB, and I'm SO glad that you spoke about this! It's so important -- especially in professional attire -- and I think a lot of ladies could use some insight about it.

    The only non-negotiable that I'd add to the list are Spanx, or one of their many imitators (I really like DKNY shapers). I wear these under every dress, trouser, etc. when dressing for business. A lot of the fabrics that 9-5 clothes are made of show lots of little lumps and bumps, and these even everything out and are, believe it or not, incredibly comfortable! I usually forgo slips in favor of these types of body shapers.

  19. @ keira - thanks! I don't know much about Spanx, but am definitely interested in finding out more. Sounds like I'll have to give them a try.

  20. Loved your Links a la Mode on IFB
    Love your blog , lets become fashionable blogger friends , lets follow each other.

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  21. Oh my goodness, I know this is an old post, but this is SO useful. Thanks! :)

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