How To Upgrade Your Lingerie Drawer Like An Adult

Illustrated by Mary Galloway.
When we think about refining our wardrobe, we like to talk about staples. These are the pieces we're okay spending a little more than we should on because we'll wear them for ages. (At least, that's what we tell ourselves when we sheepishly type our credit card information at checkout).

One telltale sign of adulthood that isn't immediately visible to all comes in the form of a complete and refined lingerie drawer. After all, what's a greater indicator of preparedness than having a bra and a panty for every sartorial situation?

We can't keep track of how our tastes might change each season. I mean, we had just reached peak culotte excitement when palazzo pants showed up and demanded our attention. And, odds are we probably will never not get distracted by a flashy trend. But, we may notice a refinement in how we spend over time. It just takes a bit to get past the bad shopping habits we carried with us through our teens and into our first apartments — like buying and wearing the same boyfriend briefs for a decade.

Once we're ready to stop simply talking the grown-up talk, it's time we start walking the grown-up walk. As far as updating our underwear drawer goes, we enlisted the experts at Journelle, Eberjey, and La Perla to walk us through what it means to thoughtfully build a lingerie wardrobe with less cotton, more lace, and an overhauling of what we consider our staples to be.
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Illustrated by Mary Galloway.
Bras

"When we’re younger, we’re king of buying things on whims, and I think, as you get older, you know what works for you," Claire Chambers, founder and CEO of Journelle, tells us. And, that means understanding how to wear a bra.

"They’re like architecture for the body," she explains, "and they have to fit very precisely." In the long run, it's worth going into a store for a proper fit session with an expert. Chambers sees this as a great opportunity to ask for candid feedback from a salesperson, since they'll be able to suggest silhouettes and styles based on your body specifically.

Ali Mejia, co-founder and creative director of Eberjey, puts comfort above all: "The misconception about lingerie is that people think it looks uncomfortable." However, as you grow and start stepping out of the cotton comfort zone, "you start to notice what fabrics feel good to your skin."

For every day wear, Mejia and Chambers agree that all-over lace is a triple-threat: classic, comfortable, and versatile. That, and expanding the silhouette repertoire outside of the T-shirt bra, are the big shifts in lingerie shopping habits that happen as one grows older. It's a matter of diversifying the contents of drawer and treating your lingerie as its own wardrobe. Treat it "like a toolkit," relates Chambers.

The style team at La Perla suggests thinking about intention. What do you want to get out of your bra in terms of look and feel? Wearing balcony or push-up styles enhance the size of a small bust, and an underwire with central straps give a larger bust more support.
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"Women should have probably three to five every day bras that are not T-shirt bras necessarily, but fit perfectly, are super comfortable, and are pretty and flattering," says Chambers. She picked this hybrid, contour-plunge, mesh-meets-lace style as an alternative to your go-to T-shirt bra. It is available up to a 36DDD at Journelle and up to a 36G on Natori's website.
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The perfect lingerie drawer is all about a mix of shapes and styles, Chambers and Meija agree. If she had to narrow down the list to just four bra silhouettes, though, Claire would boil it down to demi, plunge, racerback, and strapless. She recommends going into a lingerie store to get a fitting according to your comfort level and lifestyle, and say, "Look, I want a few different things that are totally wearable but different." This gorgeous, lacy demi fits a wide range of busts, from 36B to 34F.
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As you grow older, lingerie shopping becomes all about that lace ('bout that lace). "We’ve noticed that, when they get older, [customers] want more lace bras," Meija explains. "In terms of color, I like to keep it neutral — black, nude, and a little bit of white — but I love to throw in a pop of color," she says.

Eberjey's Estelle style — a racerback bralette that's available in small, medium, and large — adds that eye-catching contrast to the mix and is perfect for off-duty wear.
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Getting out of that T-shirt bra rut might not happen overnight. To ease into it, Chambers recommends a mesh or microfiber cup — which is not quite all-over lace, but still a more sophisticated change in material and texture. This non-padded, underwire bra, available for cups 38D to 42F, has "swirls of pearl embroidery over black mesh" for an elegant finish you can still wear every day.
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Another hyphenated style, this silk-blend, contour, and balconette bra has an element of luxury to it — and is available up to a 36D.
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A lace trim lets you dip your toes in the grown-up lingerie waters. This three-part, underwire, balconette bra is an easy addition to your work wardrobe. It is offered in cups 30DD to 38J and comes in nude and black.
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This soft-cup plunge bra — part of Cosabella's extended collection, which ranges from petite to extra large — comes in 31 colors. It allows you to pick up multiple colors for a variety of outfit scenarios, like a more subtle, neutral hue to wear Monday through Friday and a highly saturated one for Saturday and Sunday.
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The name isn't joking: The straps on this plunge bra, which comes up to a 38G, can be worn close together, wider set, as a halter, as a racerback, or as a criss-cross back. (Yes, these last two are different.)
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Chambers has observed "a really nice growth in the kind of fun, sexy category" in her stores. Bralettes, she says, are "more prevalent and more affordable than they were in the past," while still maintaining their "high quality." Because they're such a good bang for your buck, Claire believes they're "a really fun way to inject and experiment with a little bit of sexiness in your life." This French-lace-meets-satin bralette from London-based Kriss Soonik is the epitome of luxe — and it is available in small, medium, and large sizes.
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The open, half-cups on this bralette, which comes in sizes small through large, balances a more risque silhouette with soft lace.
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Chambers has noticed a growing interest in longline bras, which have many different applications at varying levels of boldness — like, for example, as a top under a blazer or under a sheer T-shirt where the color and detailing of the lingerie peeks through. This pistachio-hued number is a great primer for ladies with cups 30D to 36F.
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The style team at La Perla names the longline as a must-have silhouette to own before turning 30. It offers coverage under sheer tops and dresses, but can also be worn as a top, depending on the material. This semi-sheer piece is available in red up to a 38C at Net-a-Porter and in different colors up to a 36D on the La Perla website. It may look delicate at first glance, but this bra has underwire support in its stretch-lace cups.
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Illustrated by Mary Galloway.
Panties

Chambers' ideal delicates drawer "would also have two pairs of matching underwear" per bra, but before you create a color wheel based on your lingerie, take a hard look at the undies you already own. "We all get stuck with a bunch of underwear in our drawers that are old and tattered, so I think a fun thing to do is clear that out."

Mejia suggests laying all your panties out on your bed and grouping them — first by fabric, then by color. That way, you have a visual understanding of the holes in your existing wardrobe. Are there enough neutrals? Do you need more color? Could you use one more brief or boyshort?

Chambers thinks a good balance includes "a dozen pairs of underwear" that are evenly split among thongs, boyshorts, and bikinis — depending on your lifestyle and needs. Like with bras, there should also be a mix of materials present: cotton, microfiber, lace, and silk. You should have a little bit of everything.

You should then cycle through these panties annually. "Generally speaking, lace and elastic break down, probably starting at 6 months," she says. "If you hand-wash...you’re going to get probably twice the life out of [it]."
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Thongs are an incredibly practical work panty — especially if you find yourself in pencil skirts often. But, they don't have to be basic. The asymmetric-lace front on this G-string lends an unexpected twist on the classic silhouette.
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To best utilize online retailers, Chambers encourages perusing through the bestseller section. "For most retailers, that's not just a marketing ploy," she explains. "Those really are our bestsellers and there’s a reason. They’re tried-and-true, the fit is great, and they’re comfortable." This mesh thong from Ongossamer gets customer love on Journelle's favorites page.
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Elastic-free microfiber is the way to go if you seek a smooth fit. Even the product description reads, "there’s no better way to go commando without actually going commando."
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"I think it’s all in the mix of function and fashion," Mejia emphasizes. Your panty selection should represent your sartorial needs and personal preference. (For example, a thong for figure-hugging bottoms and boyshorts for when you want a little more coverage.)
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This boyshort falls between panty categories. While there's more material coverage with this silhouette, the sheer nature of the indigo lace is as cheeky in its exposure as a thong is.
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This eye-popping, yellow, hipster brief fits into a more playful weekend wardrobe, worn under boyfriend jeans or other loose bottoms.
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In terms of non-essential undies that are just good to have, Chambers calls out the high-waisted panty: "It’s not an overtly sexy thing, but it can look so chic if you wear it well."
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Test out a new silhouette with a familiar feel. You already love your cotton briefs, so fall back on the material you're used to and use it as a stepping stone to try a higher waistline.
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Chambers stresses the confidence-boosting powers of coordinating your bra and panty. "A matching set goes a long way," she explains. "It feels polished, and it feels like that first step to that elegant, confident, young woman that you want to be."
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"All-over lace is just so flattering on everybody and it feels good," says Chambers. "It feels sexy. It feels very classic, and I love that. A lot of women will look at that and say, 'I don’t want the lace to show through,' but all-over lace is actually incredibly wearable. The only exception might be if you’re wearing a white, silk shirt, but almost everything we wear on a daily basis is totally fine for that. So, I really encourage women to get out of the box ."
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"Once you start putting sets together, you feel different," reflects Mejia. "You build your confidence. You just know you feel good underneath."
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Illustrated by Mary Galloway.
Others

It's not all underwire and elastic waistbands. Updating your sleepwear is just as important as coordinating your bra and undies — not only in terms of looking good at every hour of the day, but also in always feeling put-together.

"I think people are really surprised that sleeping in a lightweight modal and a lace chemise is just comfortable as boxer shorts and a tank top," says Chambers. Meija concurs, saying that sleepwear is "the biggest component of making a shift into a more sophisticated lingerie drawer."

It's an easy switch to make, she says, because there are options for every comfort level: camis, tap shorts, teddies, sleep shirts, the list goes on. Even if you don't have the means to fully overhaul your underwear right this second, a new set of pajamas are a simple way to feel more sophisticated while getting in those eight hours of snooze.

And, we can't talk about lingerie without giving a shout-out to sexy non-essentials. A three-piece set is a great introduction into the world of classy add-ins that might not be for every day, but certainly have a place in your wardrobe.
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Sleepwear is central to the Eberjey brand since it's one of the reasons Mejia started the company. She recalls looking around at her roommates in college and thinking how everyone could use a set of really nice pajamas. "At some point, you realize that going to bed feeling beautiful is the most amazing way to take care of yourself," she notes, which is why Eberjey has such a wide offering of camis, teddies, sleep sets, and chemises.
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"We kind of get in the habits of college students in a way of what we sleep in," Chambers agrees. "So, sometimes, taking it up a bit is fun — whether it’s that you’re dressing in a nicer pair of pajamas or a chemise for the first time."
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As far as non-essential items go, the La Perla style team calls out slips and bustiers. They're not crucial to your wardrobe, but they can have an effect on how you feel. And, what's more luxurious than silk satin macrame?
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Consider this a sleepwear staple to invest in: a super-lush silk-and-lace negligée for the chicest eight hours ever.
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Whereas with bras and underwear, there are set silhouettes, and you can only really play with color, pattern, and material, Meija believes there's more room for innovation and playfulness in your pajamas. For example: sleep rompers! (This is our favorite, incredibly versatile summer piece.)
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You can wear this Oxford set year-round, but the colorful stripes and standing collar are distinctly summery — proof that even our lingerie drawer can feel seasonal.
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Sweet dreams are made of these.
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The soft, baggy feel of your favorite oversized button-down gets even softer and baggier for the best sleep ever.
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As you mature, your lingerie matures with you. Chambers considers three-pieces to be an important non-essential in an underwear drawer. A bralette, garter, and panty trio is the outfit under the outfit, one that falls closer to the "fashion" than the "function" end of the spectrum, but is still incredibly fun.
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Suspenders aren't seen as a practical piece in your wardrobe, but the style team at La Perla names it a key, sensual item that's worth having in your lingerie drawer.
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A high-neck bra and skirt belt are not the most obvious undergarment silhouettes, but the cheeky-yet-luxe lace brings them and the matching thong together so beautifully, you'll wonder why you don't see them more often.
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