Well here’s a blog post I’ve been meaning to write for literally years. Finding sustainable undies is no mean feat, and I prefer to recommend brands that I have tried and tested, so as a result, it’s been a long time in the making. I’m pretty set in my ways with the undies I trust now, so it’s time to impart my findings.
Underwear is a tricky one, because it usually comes with stretchy stuff, and that’s more than likely going to be made from plastic. I may be an advocate for washing my clothes less frequently, but that obviously doesn’t apply to underwear (!) so I’m keen to avoid those microplastics if possible, or at the very least find recycled fabrics and wash them in my Guppyfriend bag. And what on earth do you do with your worn-out pants other than chuck them in the bin? (You might be surprised: read on).
Clearly if shapewear is your go-to, natural fabrics aren’t going to cut it, but if standard knicks are your thing, I’m here to help. Because there are better options out there. Plus, fabric tech is coming on at a pace, so I will update this blog as I discover more planet-friendly pants along the way.
Best for bigger sizes: Stripe & Stare
It took me a while to decide what I was going to list Stripe and Stare as being best for, because it scores so highly in so many categories. Choice of colours: tick. Discounts for bundles: tick (you get 30% off when you buy three or more pairs). Natural fabrics: tick. But it had to be the range of sizes, because offering UK sizes 6-22 is a rarity in sustainable fashion. Also, having tried them, I can confirm that they are the comfiest knickers around.
The Original Knicker in raspberry, £18 (stripeandstare.com). Available in sizes UK 6-22.
They are made mostly from TENCEL™ Modal (sustainably sourced trees, pulped and spun into a fibre using non-toxic methods) which is an incredibly soft fabric. It’s absolutely ideal for pants. When they wear out, just snip off the lace and pop the rest on the compost. All packaging is biodegradable, and they plant a tree for every order, too.
Best value for money: Rapanui
If you think finding sustainable underwear is a hard task, then try finding affordable sustainable underwear. Because I really struggled. Pretty much the only brand I’ve come across is Rapanui, whose organic cotton knickers come in at £10 – still more expensive than a multipack from the high street, but that’s the price you pay for natural fabrics, renewable energy and fairly paid workers.
Organic cotton pants in raspberry, £10 (rapanui.com). Available in sizes S, M, L.
Buying more saves you money here; a bundle of 7 pairs is £49, or you could add a matching bralette for £21 (NB, I wear the large bralette and my bra size is 32DD). I’ve been wearing them for years (as in, the same pairs) and the design has improved a lot recently to extend their lifespan. (I work for Rapanui)
Best for beautiful knickers: Bedstraw + Madder
These pants are so pretty I wore them as emergency bikini bottoms when I was on holiday in Greece last year. But there is style and substance here, because they’re also made and dyed entirely using plants. Even the elastane is made from natural rubber, which means the pants are completely compostable.
Plant dyed organic cotton knicker, £18 (bedstrawandmadder.com). Available in sizes XS-XXL.
The traceability you get with a pair of Bedstraw + Madder knickers is unrivaled. The cotton used is regeneratively farmed, which means it’s not only organic, but is rain-fed and nourishes the soil. Working directly with the farmers, spinners, weavers and seamstresses also means that you know your pants have played a part in creating sustainable livelihoods in an industry known for doing the opposite.
Best for recycling: One Essentials
What if your pants were designed from the outset to be sent back to the company that made them when they wear out so they can be made into something new? That’s the idea behind One Essentials, whose circular knickers also happen to be mega comfy. Just generate a return label on the website to send back your old One Essentials pants, or any of their other products (they also make tees and sweatshirts).
Essential mid-rise brief, £19 (onee.earth). Available in sizes XS-XL
You can join in even if you haven’t bought any One Essentials products, because they accept back any old pants. They’ll then take care of making sure they are recycled into new materials for insulation or padding.
Best choice of shapes: Closely
Closely uses recycled materials to make its large range of lingerie. I’ve had a pair of the Freedom high waist briefs for a couple of years and they feel great to wear. They also come with the added advantage of no VPL and a flattering line on a tummy that isn’t flat.
The Bird High Waist, £35 (closely-official.com)
I also like the look of the lacey styles, like the Bird. Most styles have hipster, Brazilian and thong options as well as my preferred high waist. And I LOVE the diversity of models used on the website. Very inclusive – including age!
And if none of those take your fancy, Thought Clothing, Sancho’s and People Tree always have a great range of sustainable undies. These are all brands and stores I have tried and tested (and loved!) for items other than underwear, which is why they’re listed down here rather than up there! On a cottage industry scale, I also love the look of Wishanger Bespoke, which makes lingerie from vintage and deadstock fabrics.
Thanks for this, I’m trying to replace some much loved and now very old knickers and it’s so hard! My problem is that over the last few years styles seem to have settled into full, shorts, bikini and brazilans, none of which I find comfortable and all the sustainable brands seem to follow this pattern too. I used to buy a midi style from M&S which they discontinued. I keep a pair in my bag when I go shopping to see if I can match the shape anywhere. It’s getting desperate as my remains pairs one by one bite the dust!
I will let you know if I come across any!
[…] are certain items we all need to replace pretty regularly, such as basics like t-shirts, as well as underwear and socks. So with a higher turnover rate than the average piece in your wardrobe, it’s even more […]