Best Budget Underwear for Women of 2021
The Fruit of the Loom Breathable Bikini was one of the styles that testers were happy to wear all day, every day, no matter what was on the agenda. The soft, smooth fabric is made of micro-mesh, venting heat and wicking moisture while feeling great against the skin for extended periods of time. The leg openings and waistband were sturdy enough to keep them in place but didn't restrict the range of motion or dig into our skin. They felt smooth and comfortable under jeans all day at work and performed well on the trails after clocking out. Our tester also wore them backpacking and was pleased with their breathability and moisture-wicking capabilities. Besides the bikini, Fruit of the Loom also makes the breathable micro-mesh style in a hipster, high or low rise brief, and plus sizes. The packages come in a variety of colors, from vibrant to muted.
This product comes in nice colors with clean lines but doesn't scream cuteness, and for a bikini cut, they offer full coverage. The breathable bikini was the most versatile pair tested, providing comfort and performance in the office or on the trails — all at a reasonable price.
The Iris and Lilly Hipster was a pair testers kept wanting to put on for daily wear. This product received high scores for comfort. The cotton is breathable, and the fabric is lightweight and soft, feeling great against the skin. The hipster fit offers a little more coverage than their bikini sister, and stays in place really well, offering incredible all-day comfort. They are available in a wide range of options, including neutrals, bolder colors, and a few patterns. This product is available in a three, five, or ten pack, and had one of the lower price-per-pair, making them a good value, especially considering how comfortable they are.
The cotton fabric got a bit damp while biking and running, but because it is so lightweight, it dried quicker than most of the other cotton pairs tested. These do have a tag in the side seam, which could be cut out. One portion came unstitched in our power stretch test, losing points for durability. These lightweight cotton hipsters are high in comfort, easy on the budget, and great for everyday wear and light to moderate exercise.
The Under Armour Pure Stretch Hipster's fabric is a dream. The material is lightweight and breathable, and this product was the quickest to dry, as well as one of the top performers at wicking moisture. The laser-cut edges lay smoothly under leggings without leaving lines.
That being said, they tend to ride up, especially with looser-fitting bottoms. While biking in loose shorts, they had to be adjusted a few times throughout the ride. They performed better under tighter clothing. They stay in place well under leggings for hikes and yoga. While the fabric is great for snowboarding, testers found the cut sometimes rode up and was hard to adjust through layers. These are also a bit spendy, with the highest price point-per-pair of this test. While the fabric performs outstandingly well for high-intensity activities, the fit does not keep up. These hipsters are great for some situations but are not quite perfect for everything.
The Iris and Lilly Bikini is a good balance of cute and comfy and is great for daily wear. The cotton fabric is lightweight and soft and feels smooth against the skin. Of the cotton garments tested, these were one of the thinner fabrics, drying faster than styles made out of thicker cotton. The cut is moderate, covering enough to stay in place, but not too much. This bikini comes with scalloped elastic around the edges, a tiny bow in front, and polka-dot and stripe patterns were a nice touch and earned them points for aesthetics. These are available in a three or five pack.
These were comfortable for running errands, lounging, walking, and skateboarding. They did get a bit damp during exercise but dried quickly. After multiple uses, washes, and stretch tests, one seam did develop a loose thread, and another small portion came unstitched. This flattering fit is high on daily comfort and aesthetics with an affordable price tag.
The Amazon Essentials Bonded Bikini was the only pair tested with bonded seams, and testers liked this feature. They lie smoothly against the skin without showing or digging in, but the bond gives them just enough structure to stay in place while running, backpacking, skateboarding, snowboarding, and working. They worked equally well with jeans, leggings, and exercise shorts. The cut was flattering, offering moderate coverage.
The fabric is made up of 78% nylon and 22% elastane, which is smooth and stretchy, but got the most sweaty of the synthetic fabric products tested when doing high-intensity exercise. The bonded seams and the fit are great, and we recommend these for all but the sweatiest activities.
The Fruit of the Loom Bikini is a solid staple, made with basic materials, but offers great value and fits well. This bikini stays in place without riding up or slipping down, even while running around at work all day, scoring well for comfort. It maintained its shape and did not stretch out much or show any damage in our durability tests. This product is available in six, ten, or twelve packs and neutral or bright colors, and is tied for the lowest price-per-pair.
The banding around the leg openings felt tight with the first wear and was a little constrictive while doing squats during a HIIT workout. The side seams are bulkier than some other options out there and can dig in a little, but ended up being comfortable. They also got a bit damp while exercising but were dry within half an hour. This no-frills bikini is comfortable and durable with a low price tag.
The Fruit of the Loom Brief offers good value, and along with their sister bikini, had the lowest price point-per-pair. The pack comes with neutrals, lighter and brighter colors, and a few patterned pairs. The brief style offers maximum coverage and stays securely in place with the lower leg openings and high waist while exercising or working on projects. They were comfortable, with no rubbing or tightness, and fit great under high-waisted pants or shorts, but not with mid or low-rise bottoms.
While the briefs stayed in place well, they did get sweaty, and the cotton took a while to dry out after exercise. They were great for light exercise, including neighborhood walks, but not ideal for sweat-inducing activities. These briefs are a good value option for high-waisted bottoms for daily activities and light exercise.
The Pokarla High Waist Cotton Brief fits nicely under high-waisted leggings, jeans and skirts, and the thick upper band keeps the style from looking frumpy. The soft fabric feels great next to the skin. The banded leg opening and elastic in the waistband keep these securely in place while doing exercise as well as getting on with daily life. These held up well, retaining their shape and integrity in our durability tests.
The leg bands seemed a bit tight after going through the dryer, so beware of shrinking when choosing a size. While the fabric was soft, it was the slowest to dry in our drying test, as well as the moisture-wicking test. We found they were great on a casual walk, but got pretty sweaty while working out, and stayed damp the longest. These offer a cute, modern twist on the traditional high-waist brief style.
The Emprella Lace Hipster scored well in aesthetics, offering fun patterns, various colors, and a lace waistband on half the garments in the ten pack. The cotton fabric and lace are both soft and feel good against the skin without being itchy. The seams at the leg openings are folded and sewn, so they are less visible than some of the banded styles.
These panties were alright for lounging, but the cut is cheeky, and they rode up constantly while skateboarding, walking, and even running errands, earning a low score for comfort. This product also felt damp while exercising and took a while to dry afterward. This hipster is a cute option for leisurely days but is not ideal for an active day or exercising.
The Anzermix Thong is great for minimizing panty lines under leggings or other tight clothing. The cotton/spandex fabric is smooth and soft, with a low-profile band around the waist and legs to keep them in place. The six-pack is available in a wide variety of color options and is good on a tight budget. This thong was one of the two fastest drying cotton products tested.
That being said, the quality seems a bit shoddy. Three of the six pairs had threads hanging off seams, and one even had a miss-sewn seam in the crotch. These were also the smallest-running pair in the test. So while we liked the colors and fabric, and the no-show aspects of this thong, we were unimpressed with the quality of manufacturing.
The Hanes Boyshorts stay in place well, whether working, skating, or relaxing. They were comfortable, allowing a full range of motion, and are a great alternative cut for a full coverage option. They fit well under shorts and leggings and cover enough to fly solo as pajama bottoms at bedtime. This pair was great for lounging in and was a repeat choice for evenings at home.
The cotton fabric absorbs moisture and dries slowly, so while the cut works excellently for exercise, it does not wick moisture very well. These are also made of 100% cotton, and with no spandex or elastane woven into the fabric, they did not regain their shape well after the stretch test. These comfortable, full-coverage bottoms are great for lounging and low-intensity activities but not ideal for getting hot and sweaty.
Why You Should Trust Us
While in college, Jessica Albery worked at a retail store specializing in women's underwear. During this time, she got to know the advantages of different styles and fabrics, worked with customers to identify their needs and find matching products, and amassed an alarmingly large array of underwear. Living an active lifestyle in Tahoe, she knows the merit of a high-performance pair of underwear for activities like backpacking, as well as the value of comfortable pairs for lounging and daily life. For additional input and different opinions regarding fit, comfort, and performance, other testers were incorporated into the review.
A good pair of underwear is the backbone of a woman's wardrobe, and the options are as varied as the activities we wear them for. We aim to present a comparison of some of the best underwear based on tests performed by our reviewer. Tests were designed to evaluate comfort, performance, quality, and durability. We also considered value and aesthetics to present a well-rounded review of the best products available.
Analysis and Test Results
We spent hours researching products available, purchased a wide range of undergarments, and ran them through a rigorous set of tests to determine comfort, performance, quality, and durability, as well as considering value and aesthetics. We tallied the results to get a picture of each product's strengths and weaknesses and rated them on the metrics you see here.
Comfort is a key consideration for this wardrobe essential, and while some pairs are comfortable in some situations, they can be less ideal in others or may become uncomfortable after hours of wear. With this in mind, we tested each pair for extended periods of time while doing daily activities, like working, running errands, and cleaning the house. We also made sure to do aerobic activity in each pair to test how comfortable they were while being active. Products scored well if the fabric felt nice against the skin, stayed in place, and stretched to accommodate body movements. Garments lost points for any chafing, rubbing, cutting in, restricting the range of motion, riding up, or slipping down.
The Fruit of the Loom Breathable Bikini offers full coverage with lower leg openings and stayed securely in place no matter the situation. Of the cotton styles tested, the Ivy and Lilly Bikini and Hipster is made of a soft, lightweight cotton/elastane blend that felt fantastic against the skin. Both pairs fit great and also stayed in place without needing to be adjusted. These considerations made both styles of Ivy and Lilly underwear a tester favorite for comfortability.
When doing physically demanding activities, it's important that a pair of underwear is breathable, moisture-wicking, and quick to dry. To test how quickly each product dried, we washed them and hung them all out to dry, and timed how long each pair took to dry. To test moisture-wicking capabilities, we sprayed the inside of the garment with water and timed how long it took to dry. We also wore each pair while exercising, and tested if they got sweaty, and how long they took to dry after finishing the activity.
Some pairs got sweaty and felt uncomfortable, while others wicked moisture and dried quickly. The Under Armour Hipster's lightweight material performed best in the line dry test, and was breathable and dried quickly while biking and exercising. The Fruit of the Loom Breathable Bikini also performed well in all tests in this category, and testers were happy to wear it in their sweatiest endeavors, including biking, hiking, backpacking, snowboarding, and skating.
Quality and Durability
We believe that it's important for underwear to be made of quality goods that will last. To test durability, we did a stretch test on every garment. We measured the waistband, then stretched the pair between our hands 200 times, then measured them again to see if they stretched out or maintained their size. Some stretched a quarter of an inch, while others stretched up to an inch. Many maintained their shape and integrity, while the fabric on a few stayed misshapen where they had been pulled on.
We also did a power stretch test, where we pulled on either side as hard as we could. While none completely ripped, there were a few that the stitching came apart in the seams, or developed small holes. We also wore and washed each pair multiple times to see how they handled repeated wear and trips through the laundry. The Pokarla High Waist Brief performed well in each test in this category, retaining their shape and integrity in both stretch tests and after repeated wear and wash. The Amazon Essentials Bonded Bikinis durable construction showed no damage from the tests in this category, earning it a good ranking for this metric.
Aesthetics was the last category we judged each product on. We considered how the garment looked on regarding fit: did they cut in, pull, gap, or sag? We also considered colors and patterns, as well as the fabric used. The final thing we considered was whether they had any detailing that added a nice touch, such as scalloped edging, bows, or lace. And while lace on running undies may not be ideal, it is nice to have underwear that looks good, feels good, and performs well. The Emprella Lace Hipster did well in this category, with rich colors and pretty lace detailing. The lace fabric is soft, the colors vibrant, and the fit is flattering.
The Iris and Lilly Bikini came in a close second, with an attractive fit, as well as polka-dots and stripes, tiny bows, and scalloped elastic detailing. The Amazon Essentials Bonded Bikini and Under Armour Hipster both scored highly for an appealing appearance on, as well as sitting smoothly under clothing due to their bonded or laser-cut edges.
Multi-packs tend to offer better value, as you get more pairs, and often the price-per-pair goes down as the item count goes up. We looked at the price of the product versus quality and quantity to determine the value. The Ivy and Lilly Hipster offered the best value, balancing a low price-per-pair while achieving high scores for comfort, quality, as well as appearance. Fruit of the Loom had a strong showing in this category, with their Cotton Bikini and Cotton Brief tying for the lowest price-per-pair, while still scoring well in the comfort, quality, and durability.
The Fruit of the Loom Breathable Bikini is a great value for a slightly higher performance bottom, with a low price point that keeps them affordable.
After hours of researching and testing the options available, our expert compiled this comprehensive review of the best women's budget underwear. Whether you are looking for high-performance panties for athletic endeavors, or comfy cotton undies to wear all day every day, we did the research to make your decision easier.
— Jessica Albery