Lingerie or Undergarments – Which One is Which?

-SLH West Coast Apparel Editor : 

No great outfit stands alone without an equally great foundation beneath it. We all know this to be true, but getting from that point A to point B can be confusing at best and at worst, downright frustrating. Do we go for the self-indulgent lacy number or the strategic shapewear? Fact is, when your undergarments are working for you, it makes you feel good, happy and confident. When they don’t, well…that’s when you’re spending more time trying to nonchalantly squirm and re-adjust then enjoying yourself.

Okay, so deep breath. We got you, girl. First we’ll go over some of the basics and then delve deep into the options.

So for starters – what’s the difference? In simplest terms, everything from lingerie to running bras are considered Undergarments. But from there the definitions get more specific:

Lingerie refers to anything usually made of luxurious fabrics (think silk, chiffon, lace, etc) with intricate designs that range from simple to pretty complicated constructions. Generally these pieces will be the most expensive clothing items you own for the least amount of ‘real estate’. Corsets, bodysuits, bustiers, garter belts, negligees, matching sets, teddies, the list goes on. The thing to remember about lingerie is that it’s supposed to look good foremost as a stand alone piece, and secondarily as an undergarment. So should all those sweet nothings be banished to “boudoir only”? Absolutely not! But the key is to be aware of how those under fabrics will play well (or not) with your clothing. Frankly IMHO there’s nothing like the rush of confidence you get strolling into a meeting room wearing something luxurious and a little sexy underneath

Intimates, aka “underwear” refer to your standard day-to-day fare. They are the work horses of your wardrobe. Boy shorts, panties, camisoles, bras. You expect them to be comfortable, functional and be able to withstand just about anything. While you’re still beating yourself up for that time you spilled wine on your shirt and stained your Agent Provocateur bra, you don’t even bat an eye when you accidentally drop a glob of Ben & Jerry’s Chunky Monkey on your tee along with the cotton Jockey bra beneath.

Shapewear, sometimes called “compression wear” are a series of specialty undergarments, meant to help improve your silhouette either in part or as a whole. While this type of undergarment has been around since, well, the beginning of all things “under”, it has historically been recorded as ‘uncomfortable’ at best and in many cases, downright detrimental to your body and health (think ancient girdles and Victorian spine-crushing corsets). That is, until now. Fast forward to the 21st Century and the invention of nylon, early lycra and spandex. Companies like Spanx use these synthetic fibers to replace the rigid and damaging materials of yore. The result? The best of both worlds : i.e. shape-enhancement with elasticity. Finally…women everywhere can rejoice in the confidence of shapeliness and comfort. How sexy is that?

Okay, so now that we’ve gone over the basic definitions of the three main types of undergarments, let’s move on to some of the most popular types and how they work best with your wardrobe.

Bra – Way back in Ancient Greece (we’re talking 2900 BC here) women of the day wore some of the first bras, made usually of linen or leather. While we’ve come a long way since then, one thing still rings true – regardless of what top, dress or jumpsuit you put on, underneath you’re more than likely sporting some form of a bra.

Shop This Look : [from Left to Right]

Versace Printed Silk Bustier with Lace $600, Spanx Bra-llelujah!® Bralette $48, Calvin Klein Perfectly Fit Full Coverage T-Shirt Bra $33.99

Camisole – When you want to show off some curves, but maybe not as much skin along with it, the camisole is the perfect complement. While the top stays tight, the midriff area can be streamlined (sometimes with a little help from mr. spandex, thank you) or more flowy, all depending on your personal comfort level.

Shop This Look : [from Left to Right]

Le Senza Cropped Cami and Short Set $39.95, Spanx Socialight Cami $38-$42, Georgia Cami and Shorts Set Pink $40

Briefs – Like the bra, briefs have been around for quite a while. And while they’ve gone through more than a few lavish incarnations in their time, today’s briefs are streamlined to fit. Be it jeans, dress pants, dresses or shorts we really don’t go anywhere (even sleep) without them. But don’t call them basic – no sir! Today’s fabrics run the gamut from super breathable to tummy control and from low-legged boy shorts to barely there G-string thongs. The most popular fabric, regardless of style? Not surprisingly that hasn’t changed – we ladies do love our lace!

Shop This Look : [from Left to Right]

Lise Charmel Dressing Floral-Lace Thong $123.00, Spanx Spotlight on Lace Brief $38.00 – $42.00, Dorina Microfiber Brief Panty $7.50

Bodysuit – Last but not least, to round out our undergarments, we have the bodysuit. Sometimes referred to as a teddy, it combines the elements of bra, brief and cami into a single garment. Like briefs, the bottom can be long, short or barely existent. Like bras, it comes with plenty of built in support for the “ladies upstairs”. And like the cami, it can come with material meant to show off, shape up or both, while showing as little or as much skin as you like. Perfect for under dresses, jumpsuits or any outfit that requires complete streamlining.

Shop This Look : [from Left to Right]

Hanky Panky After Midnight Signature Lace Teddy Bodysuit $72.00, Spanx Haute Contour® Nouveau Thong Bodysuit $148.00, Cassandra Anika Lace Bodysuit $42.00

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