The Panty Primer Glossary of Panty

The Panty Primer Glossary of Panty


Panties are such a key wardrobe item that we’ll sometimes choose a certain style, consider it our favorite and never deviate from that choice. But just as we don’t wear one style of bra under every top, so too should our underwear flatter our outerwear. Here’s our skinny on the skivvies.

Elle Macpherson

La Perla


Hanky Panky
The Basics: Briefs and Bikinis
A staple in our underwear drawer, the brief is the panty shape we likely buy in multiples. While other silhouettes may skew sexier or work better with low rises or super-stretchy knits, the universal popularity of the brief (and the more abbreviated bikini brief) is due to its comfort. An average brief ends at the waistline, provides full coverage over the rear and the leg openings are modestly low. Since this style is all about personal comfort, if higher leg openings are more your thing try a French-cut panty. A high cut sports an even higher leg, but a slightly lower rise that is about one-inch below the waistline.

The bikini brief is another basic, typically offering the same back coverage of a classic brief, a higher leg opening like a French-cut panty and a lower rise that usually hits three-inches below the naval. This mid-rise wears better under pants and skirts cut with a trendy, modern lower rise. It’s smart to stock various fabric choices in briefs and bikinis—cotton for its breathability, microfiber when you want a second-skin seamless look, stretch cotton that easily adapts to weight fluctuations and tactel and modal for the pure bliss of their softness.

French-cut briefs

High-cut briefs

Low-rise briefs

Microfiber bikini briefs

Cotton bikini briefs

Modal bikini briefs
The Specialists: Thongs, Hipsters and Boyshorts
These undies are here for a reason. As women’s garments became more form-fitting, the basic brief needed a little tweak. The dreaded “panty line” became a prime fashion faux pas, so we wanted underwear that would disappear. Enter the thong. Once mildly scandalous, women soon discovered the prime advantage to this booty-baring cut—it’s pretty much invisible under the most body-conscious clothing. Designers now offer it in an array of rises from super-low to retro high-waisted, and in all materials from forget-it’s-there modal rayon to flirty lace to shaping thongs that hold in the belly.

The boyshort eliminates panty lines too, but by going in the opposite direction of a thong and adding material to the picture. Typically found in a versatile medium rise, the boyshort ends anywhere from just below the buttocks to halfway down the thigh. Usually made in microfiber or other second-skin materials to prevent bunching, they’re a great choice for slim-fitting skirts and dresses. If you’re going to wear body-hugging pants, try a seamless boyshort that touts disappearing edges so you won’t see where it ends. A hipster is one of the newest down-under wonders, with a rise that dips about three-to-four inches to accommodate all those modern low-rises, while the leg openings and rear coverage mimic a typical brief.

Low-rise thongs

High-waisted thongs

Lace thongs

Satin thongs

Shaping thongs

Modal thongs

Microfiber boy shorts
Seamless boy shortssrc
Seamless boy shorts

Hipster boy shorts

Lace boy shorts

Sheer boy shorts
Active boy shorts
The Romantics: Tangas, G-Strings and String Bikinis
While we all like to stock the everyday essentials and those specialized undies that make modern dressing easier, there’s a third category of panty too important to ignore. The feminine tanga and barely there G-string may not be the pairs you reach for on a constant rotation, but they’re a good bet for when you’re feeling flirtatious. Of all the panty styles we’ve covered here, the tanga is the most delightfully pretty, with a low rise that gently dips to a “V” in front and wide band sides that are more comfy—and flattering—than most stringed ones. Tangas are also usually offered in delicate colors and gorgeously detailed stretch lace.

G-strings and string bikinis are the underwear world’s sassy sirens. Cut very bare and down-to-there, these abbreviated briefs leave little to the imagination. In lingerie legend, the G-string is considered the forerunner of the thong, which is not surprising considering the bare bodaciousness of both. The G-string typically shows off a little triangle of fabric at the center back where the side strings meet. String bikinis provide a little more coverage over the rear, but the sides stay as skinny as possible. Both of these panty styles are frequently paired with matching babydoll, cami or bustier tops for a sexy set sure to smolder.

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