The Matching Sets Quandry

Hello Ladies,

Before I opened a lingerie store, my underwear drawer was a hodgepodge collection of “on sale” underwear which consisted of unique color combinations and prints well past their expiration date on the retail floor.  Due to the local scarcity of cute options in my size, I bought beige bras only, and I never considered whether my bra and underwear could or should match.  I viewed lingerie as a support item designed solely to supplement the clothes I wore for daily life.  Every bra had a smooth and seamless cup, and all of my underwear was designed to never give a VPL even under the thinnest jersey.  In short, my lingerie drawer was kind of boring.  Then, a few customers touted how confident and sexy they felt wearing matching sets and encouraged me dive into the world of beautiful lingerie headfirst.  A prudent shopper, I tested the waters by purchasing the matching shorts to my Freya Faye.

And my customers were right!  The allure of waking up each morning and picking which lingerie set suits your personality that morning is as fun as deciding what to wear.  Lingerie lets you create an outfit under an outfit that only you (and possibly a significant other) see and appreciate.  It’s a secret pleasure that boosts your mood because you feel sexy in and out of your clothes.

Slowly, I built a collection of adorable sets ranging from the burlesque-inspired Curvy Kate Tease Me  to the sweetly innocent Freya Pollyanna.  Each set has a different vibe that perks my mood.  The Freya Ellie brightens my day with its beautiful colors and artistic floral design while the Panache Andorra harkens back to Betty Paige and the other curvy pinups.  However, over the last few months, I’ve ran into a few problems.

The matching shorts for all my Freya bras have a flouncy hem on the leg which reminded me fondly of tap pants—a detail that eliminates their wear under anything form-fitting or composed of a thinner weight fabric.  Similarly, the rows of ruffles on the Tease Me shorts work only under jeans, a-line skirts, or heavy weight fabrics.    As a result, I often need to turn to my stock of Natori Bliss Girl Briefs on days I want to wear those bras in conjunction with something that needs VPL-free underwear which defeats the purpose of the matching set.  Because of my love for black, the combinations often match, and I even found a pair of lace briefs which pick up a latent color in the Freya Ellie.  Nevertheless, my beautiful matching underwear sits alone in a drawer while the bras receive more wear and attention.

Furthermore, many of my bras are rapidly approaching their donate date with my Freya Faye relegated to weekend excursions only.  When the donation pile beckons, I’ll have a matching bottom severed from its top.  With items like the Faye, I can always reorder the bra, but some styles are fashion-oriented or discontinued in the case of the Pollyanna.  Not to mention, the matching pants for these bras are ridiculously expensive ($29+) so purchasing a matching set becomes a pricey proposition especially when the pair will inevitably be separated.

Consequently, I’m revising my conditions for whether I purchase the matching bottom.

Rule 1:  I absolutely love the bottom in its own right.

For example, my Curvy Kate Emily briefs are one of my favorite panties because they blend well under clothes, are incredibly flattering and sexy, and feel comfortable all day.  I would definitely buy them again.

Rule 2:  Basics do not need the matching bottom unless Rule 1 applies

My Freya Faye bra looks just as cute with my Natori undies (around $15) as it does with the matching shorts, and the same can be said of the Pollyanna and Andorra too.

Your turn to weigh in:  Do you buy matching sets, or do you buy versatile undies to go with the bra?  If you do buy matching sets, what do you do with the panties once the bra is ready to donate?

Erica

The Matching Sets Quandry
Erica
Erica is a lover all things lingerie and is passionate about helping people find the bra which fits and flatters. Side passions include reading, writing, hiking, dairy-free food, walking her Jack Russell terrorists, and dying her hair everything from black to red.
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21 thoughts on “The Matching Sets Quandry

  • August 23, 2012 at 4:12 pm
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    When I purchased my Lagoon Andorra bra, the sales woman offered up the matching panties to me and I had to pass because they were $34. I have regretted that decisions ever since, and cannot find them anywhere!

    For me, I’m not about matchy-matchy sets. It just has never been something that I’ve done. Right now I am totally into wearing full briefs because I am working on losing weight. This means that I have extra skin and size differences to be conscious of (my tummy is bigger than my hips and thighs). I love boyshorts, but because of the discrepancy in size from waist to hips to legs, I can’t wear them cause they get really loose on my bum and legs and aren’t as comfortable.

    What I’ve found in purchasing my latest Emily, Andorra and Ariza is that my bottom half is still too big for the European sizes. I would likely need a US 20 or 22 in panties, and I think the biggest in conversion is maybe an 18? If I had more size and style options, I would probably consider buying matching panties because they really are cute!

    Reply
    • Erica
      August 23, 2012 at 4:51 pm
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      Nicole, that’s exactly what I’m talking about with the panties! Why do they have to be so expensive??? The Natoris’ are half the price and feel more comfortable, so I’m not sure why major fashion brands can’t get on board with this too. If you email me your size, I *may* be able to track them down for you. The manufacturer may have a few left, but it’s worth a shot.

      I don’t like a lot of the low rise stuff anyway and prefer more coverage, but it seems like a lot of designers go for the thong, the short, or the higher cut brief. My favorites are still the Curvy Kate undies, especially the Emily, because I feel like the coverage is perfect for me. Also, Curvy Kate and Panache tend to cut rather small in the pants. I got a 12 from Panache in the Andorra, and the fit is decent but they elastic at the top cuts in a bit. This is another reason I like the Natori briefs. They don’t have that elastic strip at the top which (even in the right size) pushes in my squishy hips to create muffin top.

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      • August 27, 2012 at 4:11 pm
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        I never saw this! Sorry! I’d love if you could track some panties down for me! Or at least try! I would need a US 20 or 22. Not sure what the UK size is. They probably don’t make them 🙁

        But I swear the girl at Intimacy showed me a pair in the lagoon color in a “big” size! Hmm..

        Shoot me an email if you find anything (or even if not!)
        nicole.lyne.russell@gmail.com

        Reply
  • August 23, 2012 at 7:55 pm
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    I think in terms of bottoms we might have a lot in common! I also love CK underwear because it’s about the only underwear on the market that actually fits me well. I actually really want to buy an Emily but am trying to find somewhere that actually ships to Brazil without charge an arm and a leg (always a difficult task!).

    Normally, I don’t buy matching sets simply because the bottoms don’t fit me well. I’d love to have some more, though…

    Reply
    • Erica
      August 24, 2012 at 10:48 am
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      I really like Curvy Kate bottoms too, June. I think they cut the top a little more open so it doesn’t dig into the hips. Plus, the rise is better than a lot other companies as well. I think you’ll like the Emily set if you can snag one because it’s super cute but very comfortable throughout the day as well.

      Reply
  • August 23, 2012 at 9:55 pm
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    This is actually a question that’s been bothering me…. why DO they make the matching bottoms so expensive? I appreciate that a well made DD+ bra requires considerable R&D effort to design, has many intricate pieces requiring precision assembly, and requires specialized materials… and I’m fully prepared to pay the price that comes with that. But there is no way that I can justify to myself paying more than half again the price of my bra for a pair of panties, matching or otherwise.

    Erica, can you shed any light on why manufacturers choose to sell the matching bottom at (what I assume must be) such a large markup? What proportion of your customers opt to buy sets? I find it hard to believe that this is the optimally profit-maximing position on the panty supply-demand curve!

    Reply
    • Erica
      August 24, 2012 at 11:14 am
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      Hi Anna! I do have a little information about why the matching bottoms tend to be pricey. First, the markup for the underwear is the exact same as the bra, meaning they are expensive for retailers too. In some cases (like the Fantasie Vivienne Short), the wholesale cost of the underwear is higher than the wholesale cost of some of the other bras we sell! If we had a better markup, I’d consider dropping the price on the pants by about $10 to keep them in a slightly more reasonable range.

      This begs the question: Why are the undies so expensive then? I asked my Eveden sales rep this once, and she said that the Eveden brands (Fantasie, Freya, etc.) are known for their bras, not underwear. Women go to to Walmart or Target and buy packs of undies for less, which makes it difficult for Eveden to compete. As a result, when they offer a pant, they want to use higher quality materials and create a design that is unique and special. They want to go above and beyond what you can get from Walmart, Target, or even a label like Natori. The underwear, like the bra, starts to require more design time.

      On the one hand, I can understand their reasoning, especially for basic underwear because you can get it cheaper. However, some of their sets are very distinctive, and it’s tough to find a pair of underwear that will even “faux match” it. I would love to see them offer a half price matching option that’s a little less “unique” so that everyone can appreciate the set.

      Of my customers, I’d say around 5% want a matching set. Whenever we place a fashion order in the future, we will only be buying 3 pairs of underwear for the entire store, mostly because the women who may care about a matching set often can’t afford to do so with the high cost of the underwear!

      Reply
      • August 24, 2012 at 5:18 pm
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        That’s really interesting! I completely agree; I would love to see basic, no-fuss matching Eveden bottoms in the $10 – $20 range. Personally, I consider most of their unique design elements more a deterrent than a selling point… too frequently they’re impractical for everyday wear.

        As an amusing sidenote, I saw a pair of matching Empreinte briefs retailing for over $200 (CAD) last week!

        Reply
        • Erica
          August 25, 2012 at 10:46 am
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          I’ve seen recommendations for luxury lingerie in magazines like Instyle where the entire bra/panty set is over $550. Beautiful as they may be, I can’t see spending that much one bra and one pair of panties!!

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  • August 25, 2012 at 10:43 am
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    I’m a lazy underwear person. I don’t think I’ve ever purchased a matching set. Now in part this is because I wear about a size 8-9 in US underwear sizes, which translates to around a size 16. I’m hippy with thighs and a big butt, so I have a lot of trouble getting fancy underwear to fit. I’ve bought nicer stuff before and had it really cut in in my thighs but fit ok everywhere else. So I just buy cheap Target undies, or go to Victoria’s Secret (because their basic underwear is great) or Macys for some of their store brands. Until I got myself in the right sizes and started buying some more fun bras, I got all my fun underwear fix in by a variety of bright and silly patterns on the bottoms.

    I still don’t have a ton of really fun bras because I just don’t need as much and they’re so expensive, but at least I have a few more interesting pieces now.

    Reply
    • Erica
      August 25, 2012 at 10:47 am
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      Stacy, I’ve heard good thing about Victoria’s Secret underwear, and sometimes it just works better for some people to switch brands. Many of the UK lingerie companies cut a bit smaller in the pant anyway, which makes it harder for women with curvaceous lower halves to get something to fit.

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  • August 28, 2012 at 9:13 am
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    I actually like buying matching sets for one reason: UK panties are the only ones I’ve found that make a size small (XS) enough for me, otherwise I have to buy my panties from the girl’s section which doesn’t give me any confidence. For a while Calvin Klein did offer XS in some of their panties but I can’t seem to find them anywhere anymore.

    BTW… Thank You for letting me know that you would special order the panties as well as the bras. I will be ordering from you soon but am waiting on the black Freya Gem to be released.

    Reply
    • Erica
      August 28, 2012 at 12:31 pm
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      Lindsay, if you’re interested in the matching set or pants, email me, and I can pre-order the entire set for you now. It’s no money down, and you get 15% off the set (5% off if you buy the bra only) when it arrives plus free standard shipping.

      You are right that the UK brands do help women who wear smaller pant sizes because most US companies stop at a small. However, both Hanky Panky and Affinitas offer XS sizes too. The Affinitas pants run a touch small too as I usually need a medium but have to size up to a large for them. They could be a great resource for you too.

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  • September 16, 2012 at 2:12 am
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    Until I discovered bras from the UK and finally got into them, I could never wear anything cute or matching, so I didn’t worry about it. I actually heard women really stress about it if their panties and bra did not match–like it was the end of the world. Some actually insisted that their matching underclothes had to match their clothes. This whole insistence, on either, I thought, was rather obsessive. I thought they were a little ridiculous, since I wasn’t even able to find such a thing as a cute color in a bra, nor a matching set of same. Once I discovered Panache, Masquerade, Pour Moi, Freya, Fantasie, and the like, about 5 years ago, I bought some sets. The problem is the materials, in my opinion. I would LOVE to have some COTTON underwear in matching colors to my favorite bras. Plain, simple, cotton—not moisture-trapping nylon and polyester. If you are prone to chronic bacterial vaginosis or yeast, you will stay well away from those fabrics. NONE of my favorite bra-makers offer cotton underwear. I have OCCASIONALLY found matching colors in other underwear manufacturers, but it’s rare. I finally just found a few cotton bikinis I liked and stuck with them. Calvin Klein is always good, but often my favorites only come in black and white. I don’t do white bras, so I don’t do white underwear. Black, as usual–and whether I like it or not–goes with everything … right? :-/ Emporio Armani makes a good bikini, though the waistband is a little tight, when the rest of the elastic and sizing is not. It’s not extreme, which I have found in some other brands. I’m not that overweight (about 10-20 pounds, at most), but given the extreme weight ups and downs in my life, my flesh is not as firm as I would like. Come on, who wants to look like a marshmallow with a string tied around it?

    The Armani bikinis? PERFECT match to the robin’s egg blue color of a Panache Tango II from a few years ago … by the time I found them, I got to wear them for just a little while, before I lost weight and the bra didn’t fit anymore. Ah, well. It’s just the way it goes.

    Reply
    • Erica
      September 18, 2012 at 12:23 pm
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      Alex, I completely agree with you that I wish there was a cotton option from the UK manufacturers! I adore my cotton Natori underwear and turn to it often, especially because temps here can get quite hot during the summer. I would love to see those brands to a fancy matching pant in line with what they currently charge and then a cotton (or at least cheaper) option for the woman who doesn’t need a $40 pair of underwear. Funnily enough, by complete accident, I got a pair of Lace Bliss Girl Briefs from Natori in a latent color in my Freya Ellie bra that I absolutely love together. One of the things we hope to do with the store is try and get “faux matching” panties for some of the bras to keep the cost of a “set” lower.

      Reply
  • September 16, 2012 at 2:17 am
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    I forgot to mention the rule of thumb for UK sizing on underwear (or pants or swimwear bottoms): If you wear a US size 10 pants, count on choosing a size 14 in underwear. Size up TWO sizes.
    UK 18 = 14 US
    UK 16 = 12 US
    UK 14 = 10 US
    UK 12 = 8 US
    UK 10 = 6 US
    UK 8 = 4 US

    Reply
    • Erica
      September 18, 2012 at 12:17 pm
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      Thanks for including this as I know not everyone knows the conversion!

      Reply
  • September 18, 2012 at 5:24 pm
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    I’d love to be a matching sets kinda person, but the budget has never allowed that, with bras in sizes outside of mainstream being so pricey. So a lot of the time my bras have been purchased in sales, and I simply buy what fits… and up to quite recently mainly in black. Don’t get on with white, it is difficult to keep white and I’d hate looking matronly.

    Pants then, also mainly black (so at least the colour match), and on the rare occasions when I have splurged on matching sets, it’s been just like so many have commented on above: polyester, poor fit, vpl, uncomfortable, stiff lace… So I do what I’ve mostly done is match pants with what I’m wearing on the lower half… Light coloured trousers= nude briefs. Black or blue jeans= black or navy.
    I now live in the tropics and polyester underwear is not an option. cotton and cotton lycra only. On my last trip to uk I stocked up on the hi-leg briefs I fell in love with 10 yrs ago, and lucky for me Matalan sells a generic version of playtex cherish for a fraction of the price (3gbp a pair or thereabouts) so I bought about 25 pairs… but 5 yrs later they are slowly approaching their best before date.
    Buying undies here (in Mexico) is… eh… a challenge. Big white granny pants with cartoon characters on them… or dinky dinky ones in all colours (also with cartoons on them). Why anyone past the age of 10 would want Minnie or a little mermaid, teddy bears or icecream cones on their undies is beyond my comprehension. But they come in small, ridiculously small and downright impossible… Even a ”large” could be considered equivalent to a uk 4-6. Sigh. My hips and bottom requires something inbetween, which can be found in specialist shops at inflated prices, but nothing like even tescos or bhs supplies everyday.

    As for bras, don’t even go there. I have Never ever seen a single one in my size (34ff/g or 32g/h) Anywhere in Mexico. These days I rely exclusively on ebay and am fortunate in that I am skilled in doing alterations. Everyday I see women wearing ill fitting bras and I feel for them, but when they can hardly feed the family in low season, bras are off the priorities list all together. Lucky not that many local women are particularly big busted.

    I have been toying with the idea of opening a kind of informal bra-clinic here to do alterations for others who have no idea how to do it, and also fittings, but what is the point of even knowing your right size when these girls if there is nothing available to buy and what there is most can’t afford to buy?

    I find this so sad, because it reminds me of when I was 25 yrs younger and how the bra market was in those days and how wonderfully it has expanded and keeps expanding availability from starchy white and beige to pretty pretty! And I’d like colours and styles should be available to all regardless of size (and this goes for clothes too, of course). Maybe in another 20 yrs it will. For those who wear small bands and those who require bigger than an LL too. Everything started with a dream, right?

    Reply
    • Erica
      September 19, 2012 at 1:37 pm
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      Catpaw, your concerns about the South American bra market are ones I’ve heard echoed by other women too. There seems to be a true lack of options for women outside mainstream sizes, and unlike the US where you can at least buy online from US companies, in SA, you need to buy internationally which adds to the expense. Have you considered creating a non-profit company and soliciting donations from women and retailers abroad? I know a lot of store owners get so tired of stock that doesn’t sell that they will donate it, and we get women who leave bras they wore into the store too. You could do fitting and alterations on what you can get, and it would at least be something.

      Reply
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