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You wear underwear every day, so it should be the most comfortable and durable clothing you own.
Luckily, brands Tommy John, Everlane, and Parade are getting it right.
We’ve rounded up the best underwear brands for women, plus our favorite styles to shop, below.
Underwear. You won’t give it a second thought if it’s fabulously comfortable, but if it’s anything less than that, it’s all you’ll be able to think about. But thankfully, there are plenty of options these days that are as comfortable as they are playful, and you really can’t ask for more when it comes to your undergarments.
But how do you know if your underwear is or isn’t working for you? One, if not the most important factor to consider is comfort. Does your underwear stay in place all day or does it continuously ride up? Does your underwear feel like your second skin or is it irritating? It’s also crucial to check out material. Underwear fabrics should not only be soft and cozy, but sound enough to withstand several washes. And if you have a more active lifestyle, you might want to find underwear that’s made of stretchy, breathable materials.
And if you purchase a pair of underwear that you realize doesn’t look or feel quite right, many online underwear companies have satisfaction guarantees. That typically means you can get a replacement, refund, or store credit. Hopefully, though, this list of brands and product recommendations can help guide you down a path that most suits you.
Here are the best places to buy underwear in 2021:
Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky
Updated on 1/14/2021 by Katie Decker-Jacoby. Updated prices and links. Rewrote the introduction and summary bullets.
Tommy John may have started off with men’s underwear, but its new feminine Second Skin and Air underwear collections prove that the company’s designers know a thing or two about what people want in a great pair of underwear. That means no scrunching, chafing, bunching, or riding up. And boy does Tommy John’s underwear deliver on its promise that there will be “no adjustment needed.”
The Insider Reviews team tested out both the Second Skin and Air underwear collections and loved every pair. From the sexy thong and cheeky styles to the practical and attractive briefs, Tommy John’s underwear is super comfortable.
The Air collection is fantastic for hotter weather or workouts because it’s made with improved ventilation, moisture-wicking, and deodorizing fabric. The Air underwear comes in briefs, cheeky, and thongs that are made from 77% Nylon mesh and 23% Spandex.
What to buy:
Everlane goes back to basics with supremely soft Supima cotton that’s ethically sourced and transparently priced.
If you don’t want to spend $20+ on one pair of underwear, you’re in luck, because our favorite basics brand Everlane has an underwear collection. The online company is known for its transparent pricing and ethically produced clothing, so you can feel good about the underwear you’re buying.
Everlane’s underwear collection features bikini, thong, hipster, and high-rise hipster styles that are all made with Supima cotton that’s grown in the United States and made into underwear at ethical factories. The cotton’s extra-long fibers are super soft on your skin and the material is breathable.
All of Everlane’s underwear is completely basic, or as the ad campaign says, “No frills. No bows. No bullsh*t.” It’s your everyday underwear. It’s made for you and puts your comfort above anything else.
If you’re looking for affordable, high-quality underwear that’s made ethically from the best material, Everlane’s Supima cotton underwear is for you.
What to buy:
You only have to pay $25 for 6 pairs of underwear from Aerie, but just because it doesn’t cost an arm and a leg doesn’t mean it’s not a fantastic piece of underwear.
Beyond the unbeatable price point, Aerie also makes truly comfortable and dependable underwear. Simple and unfussy, the majority of these undergarments are made of good ol’ cotton. But we’re not fazed by the lack of rayon, satin, and silk.
To say that Aerie has a wide selection would be an understatement — No matter what kind of style or color or print you’re looking for, this brand has it.
If all this isn’t enough to convince you to give Aerie a try, perhaps the message that the company is trying to send will do the trick. The brand’s #AerieReal campaign may have first debuted in 2014, but it’s still appealing to people who aren’t buying feminine underwear from airbrushed supermodels. The company has long pushed for honest acceptance of people’s bodies, and when it makes underwear this wearable, it’s pretty easy to accept yourself.
What to buy:
TomboyX makes gender-inclusive underwear that ranges in style from thongs to 9-inch boxer briefs and comes in sizes XS to 4X.
TomboyX adapted masculine-style underwear like trunks and boxer briefs to suit women’s bodies, giving people who prefer wearing underwear styles that aren’t traditionally feminine a more tailored option.
If, for example, you prefer wearing men’s boxer briefs, but you’re sick of feeling that annoying bunching that comes from creating space for certain parts of male anatomy, TomboyX has boxer briefs for you. Whether you want boyshorts, 4.5-inch long shorts, 6-inch long shorts, or 9-inch long shorts, TomboyX has you covered.
The company also makes more traditionally feminine styles like thongs, bikinis, and briefs. Sizes range from XS to 4X to suit many different body shapes and sizes, so there really ought to be something for everyone.
The underwear is made with Standard 100 by Oeko-Tex cotton that’s eco-friendly. You can also get MicroModal and athlete-friendly Active Drirelease fabric if you prefer.
Bright, colorful, and extremely budget-friendly, Parade is perfect for those looking to stock up on comfortable underwear.
Parade is known for stretchy, comfortable, can-barely-feel-them underwear — from cheeky-cut briefs to high-waisted thongs. The underwear comes in two materials; the Re:Play fabric is made of breathable, recycled yarn, while its Silky Mesh is stretchy, breathable cotton you can barely feel against your skin. There are also five different styles to choose from, so you can always get a comfortable pair of panties
The Insider Reviews team tested Parade’s underwear and found all of the styles they tried to be super comfortable. Reporter Mara Leighton relies on the Parade Thong as her go-to workout undergarment, because of the material’s silky feel and non-roll waistband.
Parade also wins points for its commitment to fun colors and patterns. The brand is constantly rolling out new collections, from bright neons to kitschy mesh dots. The only drawback — Parade can sometimes have low stock in its popular styles, especially during the brand’s many sales. So snap up your favorites when they’re available.
What to buy:
Other shops to consider:
While we tend to favor the brands mentioned above after testing, we’d also recommend picks from these shops, too:
Hanky Panky: This brand is responsible for many cult-favorite lace styles — primarily thongs. While we love Hanky Panky underwear, they’re admittedly a little pricey for what you’re getting. If you’re a fan it’d be wise to stock up during annual sale events.
Spanx: We’re fans of the brand’s pants and bras, but we haven’t yet tested their underwear. However, the brand offers a good style variety, comfortable materials, and a decent XS-3X size range.
MeUndies: We think MeUndies makes some of the most comfortable underwear ever, and the brand has the best variety of patterns.
True & Co: For those of us who don’t want our underwear to be just barely there, the hipster is the perfect underwear, and True & Co makes great hipsters.
Lively: Lively is another great underwear startup that makes affordable underwear at $10 a pair or 3 pairs for $25. We like the brand’s underwear as well as its bras and recommend both.
What we’re looking forward to testing:
We’re constantly on the hunt for our new favorite pair of underwear. Here is what we’re testing next:
Knix:Knix is known for its leakproof period underwear that rivals other, similar brands on the market. But it blends that functionality with fashion, and regularly releases beautiful collections of chic prints and colors. Plus, it’s ultra-inclusive advertising is a breath of fresh air. We’re looking forward to seeing how the period underwear stands up.
Stripe & Stare:The brand is known for delicate, feminine “knickers” in kitschy patterns and colors. But don’t like the girlish prints fool you. Stripe & Stare is made from Tencel Mirco Modal, an eco-friendly fabric that is totally sustainable. The brand claims its the softest material we’ll ever wear — a challenge we’re ready to accept.
Steamers can do lots of things that irons can’t – de-wrinkle delicate fabrics, lift stale smells out of clothes, smooth your curtains without taking them down, and refresh upholstery. They can also save you money on dry cleaning over time.
I worked in the fashion departments of various publications for eight years where I steamed hundreds of garments for photo shoots, from gauzy, hand-beaded wedding dresses to vintage concert tees (at Coney Island in 40 degree weather, no less). In other words, I have strong steamer opinions (and may or may not reflexively pack a handheld one if I’m going away for more than one night). Aside from my personal experience, I also consulted the entrepreneurs behind two companies entirely devoted to top-level laundry care, Celsious and The Laundress, for their product recommendations and expert tips.
Each steamer below was tested on a variety of textiles – silk, cotton, wool, cashmere, and linen, as well as several synthetic blends – and used on garments both vertically with a hanger and horizontally with an ironing board. I evaluated for strength and steadiness of steam flow, water tank size, ease of use, and special features, with points immediately docked for any sign of sputtering. You can read more about how I tested clothes steamers here, along with tips on how to clean them and a breakdown of which fabrics should and shouldn’t be steamed.
Pros: Adjustable steam force, heats quickly, snap-on shield to protect your hands, large water tank, balanced design, 3-year warranty
Cons: Heavy, metal “wrinkle remover bar” isn’t as effective as an iron
While an upright steamer is a great investment if you have a large household or a wardrobe full of delicate fabrics, most people can get by with a handheld model. And, out of the seven handheld models I tested, the Sunbeam Power Steam Fabric Steamer was the clear winner, thanks to its adjustable steam flow settings, balanced design, and thoughtful additional features.
First, the basics. The Sunbeam heats up in under a minute and its tank holds 11 ounces of water, which is significantly more than most handheld steamers (eight ounces seems to be the standard). This means you’ll get a fairly long steaming session out of it (about 15 minutes) before needing a refill. I was able to de-wrinkle a tea-length silk dress, two cotton button-down shirts, a wool mini skirt, a cashmere cardigan, and a pair of corduroy pants in my first go-round, with zero wet spots.
Of course, a bigger tank translates to extra weight, and at four pounds when filled to capacity, this was one of the heavier devices I tried. However, it was never uncomfortable to hold, thanks to its well-balanced design; many of its competitors were top-heavy, which made them feel slightly unstable in comparison.
Steamer nozzles typically release steam through a series of holes, but the Sunbeam’s is outfitted with one long vent, resulting in a more powerful and concentrated jet. The high and low settings allow you to control the force of the flow — a rare feature for steamers of this size — while a trigger button unleashes short bursts of steam. I should mention that this same button also slides down to lock the Sunbeam into constant steam mode, which you will do accidentally the first few times you use it.
When set to high, the Sunbeam was the only handheld steamer that significantly smoothed my wrinkled linen curtains — the “final boss” in my series of tests (you can read more about my methodology here) — although it was eventually outperformed in this regard by my professional-grade pick below. Still, I was impressed by the way it handled a fabric that typically only responds to ironing (here’s a rundown on which fabrics you should steam versus iron).
Aside from its customizable steam flow, the Sunbeam has a slew of thoughtful features that genuinely improved my handheld steaming experience. Its nozzle is equipped with a metal “wrinkle remover bar,” which acts as a mini-iron and provides an extra layer of polish. This proved to be a valuable addition when I was steaming the collars and cuffs of my button-down shirts. However, while the bar does its job on vertically-hung garments, it loses its effectiveness when applied to an ironing board. Other parts of the nozzle protrude slightly farther than the wrinkle remover bar, meaning it won’t seamlessly glide over flat, horizontal surfaces.
The Sunbeam comes with three nozzle attachments: a lint brush, a short-bristle brush, and a steam handle. The lint brush is designed to remove lint, dust, and pet hair, while the short-bristle brush loosens the fibers of heavy fabrics to allow for better steam penetration, according to the company. While the lint brush did an excellent job refreshing the green velvet couch that my kitten has claimed as his nap spot, I can’t confidently recommend using it on clothing, especially items made from delicate materials. The experts I spoke to said to always hold your steamer several inches away from — never directly on — your garments. Similarly, I’d proceed with caution before running the brush over, say, a wool coat, although thicker upholstery and short-pile rugs should be able to handle it.
The steam handle is a snap-on plastic shield designed to protect your hands from the heat. It’s a thoughtful feature that I wish was more common, and certainly a more elegant solution to safety concerns than including a literal oven mitt with your steamer (you can read more on the other steamers I tested here).
The best professional-grade steamer
A fashion industry standard, the reliable Jiffy J-2 emits powerful steam while remaining gentle enough to use on your most delicate garments.
Pros: Powerful steam, durable, heats quickly, no water droplets, excellent on curtains, convenient hook for clothes hangers, smooth wheels
Cons: Water tank isn’t securely locked to the base, no additional settings or features
The Jiffy J-2 has long been considered the fashion industry standard, and with good reason: it heats up in about two minutes and emits a powerful, consistent flow of steam while remaining gentle enough to use on fragile vintage garments and intricately detailed runway looks alike. So it’s no surprise that when I contacted the team at The Laundress, a nontoxic line of detergent and fabric care founded by two former Chanel and Ralph Lauren executives, the J-2 was their top recommendation.
“We’re big believers in investing in a high quality steamer because the steam is evenly distributed and you don’t see the sputtering you see in some other models,” The Laundress’s brand director Hannah Yokoji said of the device. “We find it super convenient, super reliable, and easy to clean.” (You can read Yokoji’s tips on steamer cleaning and maintenance here.)
The J-2‘s tank holds a gallon of water, which translates to about two hours of steaming time — a max that I hit the day I decided to steam all of the winter clothes I had just taken out of storage. While I’ve used this exact model on and off for years in work settings — first at retail jobs, then as a fashion editor — this was my first time applying it to my own wardrobe, and I was impressed with how quickly and thoroughly it removed the deep folds from my sweaters and restored the shape of my coats. Later I ran it over my linen curtains, which were left looking closer to freshly-ironed than I thought possible.
Back to that water tank. The cylindrical shape and convenient handle make it easy to tote to and from the sink. But the fact that it rests mostly above the base of the steamer, coupled with its lack of a locking mechanism, means that it’s extremely easy to knock over. If you’re a fashion assistant wheeling your J-2 around a set, this can be nerve wracking. If you’re steaming your laundry in front of the TV on a Sunday afternoon, it’s still slightly annoying.
Tank aside, the J-2 is incredibly durable. Walk into any magazine’s fashion closet or photo studio, and there’s a good chance you’ll spot a Jiffy that’s been there for more than a decade. Most floor-standing steamers have two wheels, but Jiffy’s has four, making it notably easier to move around. The nozzle is metal, not plastic, and the smooth wooden handle is comfortable to grip and keeps your hands safely distanced from the heat.
At around five feet tall, the J-2 can’t quite hold a maxi dress off the ground, but its hanger loop is positioned to accommodate nearly everything else, from suit trousers to trench coats. It comes with a three year warranty, which is one of the more generous ones I’ve seen during my research.
Pros: Compact, easy to clean, useful attachments, collapsible pole means you can steam sitting down, 5-year warranty
Cons: Some of the plastic parts feel flimsy, stiff wheels
Our former best overall clothes steamer, the PurSteam Professional Garment Steamer may not be as powerful as our current top pick, but it still has plenty to offer at less than a third of the price.
It heats up in about two minutes and its half-gallon tank produces a steady, sputter-free flow of steam, which, in my experience, lasts from 50 minutes to an hour. Unlike the other floor-standing models I tested, the PurSteam‘s tank is made from clear plastic, so you’ll know exactly when it’s almost time for a refill.
While it successfully smoothed silk blouses, wool-polyester pants, a tweed jacket, several synthetic-blend dresses (including a tiered lace one I wore to a pre-pandemic wedding), and a variety of knits, it left thinner cotton and linen items slightly more rumpled than its (admittedly pricier) upright competitors. That being said, it restored a midweight cotton twill jumpsuit to near-perfect condition. Overall, I’d say it performs as well as our top pick: it’s significantly more effective than most handhelds (with the addition of some floor-model perks), but doesn’t quite deliver professional-level results.
About those perks. One of the PurSteam‘s most notable features is its collapsible pole, which adjusts to four heights, ranging from two feet (for storage) to a fairly standard five feet when fully extended. Adjusting the pole midway allows you to steam a hanging garment while seated, making marathon laundry sessions significantly more comfortable. It also comes with an adjustable hanger that expands from 15 to 19 inches and includes clips for holding smaller items like children’s clothing or pillowcases.
The PurSteam is equipped with a fabric brush attachment as well as a pants press attachment, which is a tight clamp that holds fabric against the nozzle. As I mentioned in the Sunbeam Power Steam review above, the experts we spoke to recommend placing the nozzle of your steamer a few inches away from — not directly on — most clothing, so I’d proceed with caution before running thin material through the pants press or brushing anything other than sturdy upholstery.
A far more useful feature is the folding rack, a bar you affix to the PurSteam’s pole in order to hold items like folded trousers securely in place. I found that the extra bit of fabric tension allowed for a crisper finish while steaming.
While this steamer certainly provides a lot of bang for your buck, there are a few minor design flaws that I should note. The hose is a bit stiff and difficult to maneuver, although it becomes more flexible as the PurSteam heats up. While I haven’t broken one just yet, the plastic clips that lock the adjustable pole in place feel flimsier than they should be. And the two wheels at the back of the base are pretty much nonfunctional. In theory, you tilt the PurSteam to roll it; when fully upright, it won’t budge. But I tried tilting it at every angle and couldn’t get the wheels to spin.
Luckily, if anything mentioned above happens to be a dealbreaker, this steamer comes with a money-back guarantee as well as a five year warranty — the longest out of all the models I tested.
Pros: Large water tank, travel-friendly, heats quickly, automatic safety shut-off, powerful for its size
Cons: Occasional light sputtering when used horizontally
If you’re looking for a handheld steamer to occasionally freshen up a delicate dress, smooth some wrinkles in your suits after every few wears, or toss in a suitcase, then the Beautural 1200-Watt Steamer is an excellent affordable option. Out of all the budget steamers I tried, this one was the most effective at removing wrinkles and creases, thanks to its steady, powerful flow and even steam distribution.
The Beautural heats up in about 30 seconds and its tank holds 8.9 ounces of water, which gave me a little less than 15 minutes of steaming time. While these stats are similar to those of our top pick, the Sunbeam Power Steam Fabric Steamer, I wasn’t able to steam quite as many clothes per session. That’s partly because the Sunbeam’s tank is two ounces larger, but I also found that the Beautural needed a few more passes over the garments to leave them looking polished. That being said, you can still steam an entire outfit before needing to refill the Beautural. Overall, while I can confidently recommend it for lighter jobs, I’d plan on upgrading if you’re looking for something that will remove deep creases or smooth tough-to-steam fabrics like linen.
During my tests, the Beautural didn’t sputter while steaming vertically, but I did notice a few small water droplets when I held it horizontally above an ironing board. If you’re steaming something like a cotton button-down shirt, this isn’t really an issue, but I’d avoid using it on any textiles that can hold onto water spots, like silk.
Like several of the more expensive handhelds I tried, the Beautural comes with three nozzle attachments: a lint brush, a soft brush for loosening dust deep within tougher fabrics, and a creaser for maintaining pleats and folds (basically a plastic clip that secures your garment flush against the steam jets as you pull the fabric through). As I mentioned earlier in this guide, placing a steamer directly on your clothes isn’t recommended by experts, so use your best judgment as to whether or not the material you’re working with is sturdy enough to handle it. It’s safer to save the lint brush and soft brush for freshening up your upholstery.
It’s worth noting that, unlike most steamers (in any price range), the Beautural is equipped with a standby monitoring system. When it hasn’t been used for eight minutes, the device stops producing steam and the power indicator light flashes. To start it back up again, you simply hold the power button until it stops flashing, then press the steam trigger.
The Beautural comes with a one-year warranty, which is pretty standard for handheld steamers within the budget category.
What else we tested
Here are other clothes steamers we tested and don’t recommend.
Urpower Garment Steamer ($20.69): Although this was our former pick for the best clothes steamer on a budget, I found that it occasionally spit water when held vertically, taking it out of the running. It comes with a silver oven mitt to protect your hands from the heat, although wearing it makes the steamer difficult to hold.
Conair Complete Steam Fabric Steamer ($19.99): While it produced steady steam and scored points for being the one of the most compact and affordable models I tested, it left behind a few too many water spots for me to be able to confidently recommend it.
Rowenta DR8 120 X-Cel Handheld Steamer ($39.99): While the Rowenta is about the same size as the Sunbeam Power Steam Fabric Steamer (our pick for the best clothes steamer overall), its tank only holds 6.76 ounces of water compared the Sunbeam’s eight.
Reliable Vivio 500GC ($199): The Reliable Vivio 500GC was a top contender for our best professional-grade pick, although the Jiffy J-2 won out for its sturdier materials, more compact profile, and smoother wheels. However, the Reliable does have an edge over the Jiffy in one area: its water tank is far more difficult to accidentally knock over.
Our testing methodology
While I drew from my own experience as a former fashion editor using clothes steamers on photo sets over the years, I also steamed at least 10 garments with each model, tested every steamer on at least six different types of fabric, and developed a set of criteria to determine how they stacked up against each other. Here’s how I evaluated them:
Construction: I judged every steamer — both handheld and floor-standing models — on their overall sturdiness, as well as the materials used in their construction. Points were docked for flimsy parts, and handheld steamers that felt unstable when placed standing on a table were eliminated.
Ease of use: I noted each steamer’s heaviness, checked to see how easy it was to remove and fill their water tanks, and made sure their buttons didn’t stick. For floor-standing models, I paid attention to whether or not their hoses were easy to maneuver, and tested their wheels on both hardwood and carpeted surfaces.
Water Tank Size: A larger water tank translates to more steaming time, so I noted the size of each model’s.
Run Time: I tested each device to see how long it could continuously steam before the water tank needed to be refilled.
Power: A powerful steamer will smooth clothes in fewer passes. I noted how quickly and effectively each steamer removed wrinkles and creases in a variety of materials: cotton, silk, linen, wool, cashmere, and a variety of synthetic blends.
Sputtering: I checked to see whether or not each steamer spit water droplets when held both horizontally and vertically.
Comfort: Since steaming involves a lot of arm lifting, I judged each model on heaviness, as well as how easy it was to grip. I also checked to see if each handheld model felt balanced, since they can tend to be top-heavy.
Warranty: I only considered steamers with solid warranties.
Are steamers better than irons?
Steamers aren’t necessarily better than irons — both have their uses — but they’re certainly gentler and more effective on certain fabrics.
To get some insight on when to steam and when to iron, we spoke to Corinna Williams, co-founder of Celsious, an eco-conscious Brooklyn laundromat with its own collection of non-toxic, fragrance-free fabric care products, and Hannah Yokoji, brand director of The Laundress, a line of plant-based laundry and home cleaning items.
“Steaming is fantastic for more delicate, thinner fabrics as well as garments with complicated shapes (ruffles, peplums, etc.) or embellishments,” Williams said. “Save the ironing for sturdy materials like linen and cotton.” She named silk, rayon, lyocell, chiffon, and wool suiting as fabrics that respond well to steaming.
Wool knits and cashmere are fair game as well. “When it comes to wool garments, you don’t want to iron because it crushes the pile of the yarn and that’s something you want to preserve to keep your sweaters fluffy and soft,” Yokoji said.
And, if you want to extend the life of your favorite jeans, steaming is far easier on denim than ironing, and it allows you to go longer between washes. According to Yokoji, “You don’t typically have to wash denim after every wear unless it’s soiled or has a stain. We like to steam denim and spray it with a fabric freshener. That reduces the odor and helps retain the fit.”
Which fabrics and clothing items should never be steamed?
Williams advises against steaming leather, suede, pre-treated fabrics like moire, and waxed jackets (think Barbour, Belstaff, and Burberry).
Both experts we spoke to noted that steaming isn’t effective if you want to maintain sharp structural details like pleats. And, as mentioned earlier, while steaming won’t damage cotton or linen, an iron will smooth out their wrinkles more effectively.
How do you clean a steamer?
According to the experts we spoke with, neglecting to clean your clothes steamer regularly can result in a buildup of rust and hard water deposits, which in turn can stain your garments. While there are no set rules on how often you should clean your steamer — it largely depends on how frequently you use it — every few months, or when you notice the steam starting to slow, is a good general rule.
For a thorough cleaning, fill the water tank with a solution of one part white vinegar to two parts distilled water, run the steamer until the tank is about half empty, let the solution cool completely, empty the steamer, and repeat as necessary.
The Laundress sells a scented vinegar designed for this purpose if the smell of regular white vinegar bothers you.