15-piece underwear essentials capsule wardrobe

Nikki ParkinsonFashion, How to 34 Comments

We’re going to get a bit personal.

I’m going to delve into my smalls’ drawer and I’m going to encourage you to do the same.

See, we can have all the clothes in the world but if we don’t have all the underwear essentials on hand, then our outfits can be seriously let down.

At my recent autumn-winter fashion workshop for Toowong Village, I was asked not one, but two, underwear questions.

One question was about shape wear and underwear that doesn’t show lumps and bumps. The other was all about the strapless bra – a hot topic this past summer thanks to our collective obsession with off-the-shoulder anything.

So, I got to thinking. Maybe you’d like to take a (virtual) peek into my underwear essentials collection – and get to creating a checklist for yourself.

I’ve broken down this underwear essentials capsule collection into “types” that I need in my wardrobe life: bras, pants, camis, slips, shapewear and sportswear.

As part of my job, I’m photographed in all manner of outfits. Having these key pieces on hand means that these outfits always work.

My challenge to you is to form an underwear capsule wardrobe that meets all YOUR outfit needs – from the every day to occasions or events.

And when it comes to bras, the suggestions below are based on my breast shape and size – do head out and get a proper fitting and explore options that suit yours.

15 underwear essentials

underwear essentials capsule wardrobe 15 pieces for every outfit

1. T-shirt bra: so many fabrics need a smooth line underneath, so as much as I like to pop on a fancy bra, most days I need a nude t-shirt bra to do the trick. This one is the perfect shape for my sideways-shaped boobs that don’t fill a full-cup bra.

2. Everyday fancy bra: I’ve got this bra in the three colours and love it because the flat lace makes it feel a little special to wear but the shape and comfort mean it’s a fabulous option for long days. The lace still shows through on some clingy fabrics but works on regular shirting or loose blouses.

3. An underwire strapless bra: This bra got an honourable mention in this post. It cost me a pretty penny but I have invested in both colours because of my off-the-shoulder top and dress obsession. The key for me was going up a size in the back measurement and down in the cup – so the girls actually filled the cup.

4. Bandeau strapless bra: When what I’m wearing requires a strapless bra situation but the outfit is on the casual side, this is my go-to bra. It’s comfort-plus yet still keeps my 16Ds vaguely northwards.

5. Underwire sports bra: Breasts do take a battering during physical activity such as running or walking. I’m strangely addicted to the latter so a good, supportive bra is a must. This is my fave.

6. Wireless sports bra: You may not need this bra, but for yoga I find the underwire restrictive when moving this old body from downward dog to shoulder stands and everything in between.

7. & 8. Seamless underwear: Often the key to a smooth line under your clothes is simply opting for everyday undies that don’t add lines – those that don’t have seams and don’t dig in to you. I swing between these and these and err on the generous size in sizing.

9. Shapewear shorts: Sometimes I call in the big guns. For an event or occasion, confidence is key and I want to ensure that I’m not concerned about any wayward lumps and bumps. I swear by these shorts for doing just that and not rolling down or repositioning said lumps and bumps.

10. Active underwear: Yes, it’s a thing. And a thing I’ve gladly embraced. Not only do they offer a smooth line under your exercise pants but they are made from a moisture-wicking fabric. I don’t know about you but I very much require that when I get active.

11. & 13. Stretch slips: I use these a lot – in black and white – not so much for a smooth line (see #12 for that) but more for adding a dignity layer under kaftans and loose, cotton frocks. Good for everyone in my vicinity during random gusts of wind, I say.

12. Slip with smoothing benefits: Just as in #9, this is one of my secret weapons. It’s comfortable to wear – yes, you can breathe in it. And it’s easy to go to the bathroom while wearing it, thanks to an inbuilt hook and eye clasp cotton gusset. This also works to keep the slip in place and prevent it from … umm … slipping … up. This has happened to me in the past with other styles. It’s far from an attractive look when you’re otherwise dressed to the nines and end up with an extra tube shape around your mid-section.

14. & 15. Stretch camis. Just like my stretch slips, my wardrobe would not work without stretch camis. I’ve got these ones (white and black) but also similar ones and tank style from Country Road. I find you need to replace the white ones more often because they discolour but they’re worth it. I wear them under lightweight blouses and tops. They also help to iron out any minor muffin-top situation with jeans.

Now that I’ve fully exposed myself to you, figuratively speaking, it’s your turn. I’d like you to share your underwear essentials – your secret weapons in your smalls’ drawer so we all can benefit.

Is there a bra you can’t do without? A style of underwear that very much works for your lifestyle? Shape wear that’s comfortable?

This post contains affiliate sales links and I may receive a small commission from purchases sold through those links. You don’t pay any more. Full disclosure policy here.

Comments 34

  1. Hi, this is a bit late, but hoping you would read this, just wondering, with the camis. Do you buy ones with built in bras or do you wear bras underneath the cami? Thanks

  2. Thank you. Very interesting article. I had no idea some of the ‘things’ existed! My bra choices are somewhat limited, as I normall wear a 10G bra (sometim s even an 8GG!), though the rest of me is about a size 12-14.
    My “go to” brands for bras are Freya and Fantasie.

  3. For any breastfeeding Mums out there Jessica Simpson does a great and affordable range of cute styles. I ordered them from the states but was worth the shipping. I really struggled to find nursing bras over here when I was in that stage of the game!

  4. I recently discovered “knitted knockers” which are prosthetics for we women who’ve had a mastectomy etc… They’re knitted with organic cotton by dedicated volunteers. If you’ve experienced other prosthetics you’ll know how hot & heavy they can be to cart around. These are a dream; light, easy to wash, shape-able, & cool. Also we can use these in ‘ordinary’ bras…also a dream. Now I’m going to look at some of your bras Nikki.

  5. I love the Spanx bra-llelujah underwire bras… Can’t live without those. Also, love Boody (bamboo mix) bikini or briefs for seam free underwear.

  6. Your comment Nikki about the shape wear shorts only being for special occasions cracked me up – because I wear them or a variation of them every single day 🙂
    I have several pairs that I have bought over the years, cheap ones for summer from Kmart, etc and middle of the road ones for those cooler days and even a ‘high-end’ piece with built in stocking clips from Rago (http://rago-shapewear.com/catalog/product/rago_style_6210_-_high_waist_half_leg_extra_firm_shaping/) for when I want to go all out with my vintage clothing and don’t want to wear a corset as well!

  7. Just like to mention for those with larger breasts. Isabella’s Passion at Chermside. The ladies there are so professional and have fitted me easily with that sensible and sexy bra. ( and I’m a HH)

  8. Small bust issues! VERY hard to find good bras! Alot of them gape at the top of the cup leaving a dip in your clothes where for many the cup runneth over. All advice or brand recommendations welcome!

  9. I agree – as much as I love pretty bras, more often than not I’m reaching for my everyday nude t-shirt bra which I have in black as well. I love my Bella Bodies lounge bra for low key hanging at home too. x

  10. Hi Nikki, I really look forward to my daily ‘Styling you’ fix. I was just wonderiing about the sizing for the bella bodies garments, I’m keen to buy the sculpting shorts and the runway slip but I’ve lost track of how many smoothing undergarments I have purchased only to end up looking like a string of sausages.

  11. Oh Nikki, I was so inspired by the slips under floaty dresses you’ve featured before that I ordered a metalicus slip a few months ago. Alas, it was such a disappointment. I’ve only worn it once because it keeps riding right up and readjusting it is not a good look at work! I’m not sure if it’s because I’m pear shaped? Do you have any advice on how to make it stay? Or is there another brand or style you would recommend?

  12. I’ve obviously been following your tips for awhile Nikki as I’ve got all these covered!
    Probably my top performers are the Berlei Sculpt cleavage enhancing slips for modesty and a nice smooth line . In the snakeskin print and a gold colour these are less surgical than most shapewear out there.
    I love the fact that I can wear these with my normal bras and there’s enough of that breast enhancing going on without cutting off circulation elsewhere

  13. Thanks for sharing Nikki. I have a collection that works for my needs. I found the Intimo brand great for my bigger boobs as the lingerie shops and department stores are lacking in choice once you get beyond a certain size. The Bandeau bra as my strapless has worked well for me this Summer under all my dresses. I would like to add a Metalicus slip to my collection and will check out your Berlei undie suggestions. I also found that organising my Undies drawer very helpful. I got some drawer dividers from Howards Storage world which did the trick.

  14. I discovered my perfect bra last year in Myer it’s pretty with soft lace and is so comfortable it is the Bendon Yvette bra ,I am in the process of getting rid of any bras I don’t like and replacing them with these I have black patterned,mauve/blue colour,white and 2 cream ones and Myer One members can often get 25% off the Bendon range so I stock up then, I am a 12B now in this range.I’ve changed sizes so many times in my life from being a full C when I was younger to a DD cup when I had my son to now my favourite barley a B cup.
    I must be on the right track Nikki I have 3 slips,nude,white and black and 2 bandeau strapless bras and at shirt bra and seamless knickers for under clingy fabrics and I love bonds knickers for everyday.
    Thank you for sharing your underwear wardrobe with us Xx

  15. I like the shorts! I’m in my 40’s and still feel good in dresses but I have a flat bum! Can anyone recommend butt lifting pants or shorts that actually work?
    Cheers 🙂

  16. I’m pretty good in the bra department but underwear is a major problem for me !! I can’t seem to find comfortable good quality underwear (I”m 12-14) Department stores cater to my daughter’s generation and we are left with the “granny nickers”. I’ve tried to find the Berlei range but difficult – I will keep trying! Thanks for post great information.

    1. Hi Jacqueline. Can I offer a suggestion – I am the same sizing and have found these that are super comfortable, look nice and last for ages. http://www.myer.com.au/shop/mystore/briefs/parisienne-bikini-08008d-761920760-899864930 They come in a cotton variety and a more “slinky” material. Often places like Myer have 25% off and I just stock up then, I have also seen them on sale at Harris Scarfe (they are pretty easily available). Sorry for the long reply but I know exactly how frustrating it can be and these have been a fab find!

  17. Oh dear , I’m obviously not doing very well in the underwear front…out of these I only have the t-shirt bra, seamless knickers and a strapless bra (which I hardly ever wear! ). Better get on to it !!!!

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