Let's Talk About The Price Of Underwear

Photographed by Lauren Perlstein.
By Sonia Evers

An unreliable source once told me that women in France spend more money on underwear per capita than those in any other country. I have no reason to believe this statement, but I do. French women are known for their unparalleled sense of style, and why wouldn’t that extend to their undergarments?

For as long as I can remember, I have been obsessed with underwear. When I was a little girl, I found looking at lingerie far more interesting than perusing the aisles of Toys "R" Us. I dreamed about the day when I would get to wear my own risqué sets, and imagined I’d have a closet devoted to lacy negligees, colorful underwire bras, and satin robes for “when I’m walking around the house with a cup of coffee” — that’s a quote directly out of my 1994 diary, FYI.

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Throughout high school, I strictly wore full-butt-coverage underwear, and I had a lot of pairs. Most of them were cooly called “boy shorts” and came from American Eagle, but I wasn’t averse to hitting up the local five-and-dime for six-packs of Hanes Her Way white cotton briefs either. It wasn’t about appearance, it was about comfort. Why I thought having a perma-wedgie was comfortable is something I’m still struggling to understand, but it was the era of puberty when little to nothing made sense. What did make sense, however, was that my underwear obsession wasn’t an expensive one. The American Eagle and Hanes briefs rarely cost more than $20 for a month’s supply, and when I was finally eligible for underwire bras, I shopped solely at Victoria’s Secret and Gap Body where the cups never ran over $40.

Today, everything is different.

The moment I discovered Hanky Panky and the world of comfortable thongs, my underwear habit skyrocketed in price. Paying $18 for a pair? Yikes.

My breasts, now sufficiently larger than an A-cup, require a bra that’s not only supportive but will last more than a few months. This means I’m paying for quality, not quantity, and the unfortunate reality of that is bras that cost $70 or more, which, to me, seems ridiculous for garments that go UNDER clothes.

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This pretty bra
, for example, is over $300. Am I crazy to think that’s totally unreasonable? That’s more than my favorite pair of jeans! And, while I can vow that this thong is as comfortable as they get, it makes me wonder whether $20 is an appropriate price for such a small piece of material. I’m not so sure. Plus, unlike expensive shirts and pants that we can wear multiple times before washing, underwear is a one-day-at-a-time thing. Tally up a pair a day for seven days, and that’s $140 — which makes my bank account scream and my brain think that maybe it’s time I became an actual nudist.

So, what do you think? Do French women have it right? Should we spend as much money on underwear as we do on the rest of our clothing? I do agree that quality is a necessary factor here, and that it's often neglected with more mainstream brands. But, so is quantity. Underwear is something we wear and change daily, which means we need a lot of it. Is it possible to have both quality and quantity? Better yet — what’s the most you’ll spend on underwear, and how do you justify it? Because, I just spent $85 on a bra and am beginning to think I’ve lost my marbles.

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