What You Should Be Wearing Under All Your Party Dresses

Most people may equate January with self-imposed Netflix hibernation, but let’s be real: We all have events to attend. Whether it’s a winter wedding, a fancy dinner, or a BFF’s birthday bash, why not pull out all the stops (especially when 90% of your month is likely spent wearing turtlenecks and boots). But before you whip out all your glittery, body-con, high-slit, low-backed pieces (hey, who doesn’t love dressing up every now and then?), you might want to go bra shopping, first.
“I advise women to go shopping for underwear before they buy clothes,” Lori Kaplan of New York City’s BraTenders told Refinery29. “That way, they see what’s available in their size. Then, they know what they can wear on top.” A good bra, as we’ve written about, can change everything from your posture to the way a certain article of clothing sits on you.
Good bras are also pretty basic — straps that hold up your cups and a band that supports you. “Your bra should be in the same place as it is in the front, parallel to the floor,”Kaplan warns. “The underwire is snug under your armpits, the bridge of the bra flush against your sternum. There should be nothing bulging or spilling.”
To avoid that bulging and spilling, however, bras require some sort of strap or support. So what do you do if you want to pull off a look like Kendall Jenner’s birthday dress? How do you quell any concerns about nip slips? Ahead, Kaplan, as well as Iris Clarke of wedding boutique Iris Lingerie, are here to help us figure out exactly what to wear under all of our fancy dresses.
The Off-The-Shoulder
The summery trend has made its way into fall and winter dressing, which means we’ll probably be seeing this neckline everywhere come New Year’s Eve. Luckily, the proper undergarments are actually pretty straightforward — if you get the right fit.
According to Kaplan, the key to looking and feeling great in an off-the-shoulder dress is a good strapless bra. “It should fit well,” Kaplan says. “The back should be in line with the front, and the front should be snug around the rib cage.”
If it’s the right size, Kaplan says it should stay in place all night — without you having to pull up your bra every five seconds.
Luckily, brands have become progressively more size-inclusive, which amounts to strapless bras in larger sizes that still provide support.
“They finally came up with a J-cup strapless bras,” says Iris Clarke of Brooklyn’s Iris Lingerie, “which is important, because strapless bras don’t fit the same way as regular bras. You want the bra to hold you.”
The Cher Horowitz “Show A Little Skin” Dress
Spaghetti straps and a low back might be subtly sexy, but they’re also a pain in the ass when it comes to finding the right undergarments.
“The straps and the band of the bra are what supply the structure and support,” Kaplan says. “If you take both those things away, well, gravity is still the strongest force in the universe.” Luckily, with a moderately low back, you can still find some supporting options…
For a strapless, yet supported, bra, bustiers might be your best bet, as the boning provides more support while allowing the back to go lower. “It won’t go all the way down to the butt, but it’s a very low back,” Clarke says.
If you can wear straps with your dress, but have a plunging back line, you could buy an adjustable strap that lowers your bra line. Careful, though — this could also make the front of your bra ride up and “sometimes, the elastic cuts in,” Kaplan says.
The Even Lower-Backed Dress
If you’re showing off everything from your neck to the small of your back, it’s likely that you won’t be able to wear much shapewear — or you could go braless. But if you prefer some sort of support, you’re going to have to stick to, well, stickies.
Your first option? Constructing a bra out of tape. “Sometimes, women will wear two on each side for a little extra lift,” Kaplan says. The only problem with this? Limited sizing — these adhesive bras usually only go up to a DD.
Then, there’s the adhesive option, which is basically a bra that you stick on. This particular option goes up to a DDD.
The Deep V
The opposite of the low-back plunge, the deep V dress shows off your décolletage — and requires much more than a push-up bra to pull off.
Luckily, bras have been created specifically to work with deep-V necklines. Case in point? The U-plunge bra, with seamless finishes and a deep neckline to hide under that dress.
High Slits
You could wear pantyhose under that high slit dress for some warmth this season, as Clarke recommends. But if you prefer to show your skin…
You’ll have to wear a thong. If it’s a particularly unforgiving fabric, there are control thongs you could wear with a high slit, Kaplan says.
Alternatively, a G-string can be nicely concealed. “You could hike the straps up to above the hips so you wouldn’t see a line,” Kaplan says.
An Even-Higher Slit
Of course, none of that would work if your slit was cut to the waist for an extra leg-lengthening effect. This means securing a few key folds with fashion tape (for fear of a random gust of wind) and another form of adhesive…
When you need a truly strapless panty, you could opt for a stick-on thong. “When we see models wearing dresses that’s cut down to the butt crack, they’re not wearing underwear,” Kaplan says. But a stick-on thong? Potentially. One caveat: “You’ll need to have a Brazilian [wax] while wearing it, or it would be murder to take off,” Kaplan says.
The Body-Con
The body-con dress is a classically chic, put-together dress — but it could also be potentially uncomfortable. The fabric could bunch at all the wrong places, cling to your skin when it’s hot, and otherwise be a little bit too close for comfort
Enter: your mother’s favorite slip. “Some dresses will cling, so that’s when slips are good for you,” Clarke says.
With tight dresses, however, seamless is key. If you’re worried about lumps, side boob, or underwear lines, this might be exactly what you need.
Of course, you could also just go for a seamless bra and some laser-cut underwear. “A lot of underwear now is laser-cut, so there’s no elastic and it lays totally flat against the body,” Kaplan says. “Most of them are hipster style.”
With buying underwear, however, you need to have the right fit — lest you end up with visible panty lines when you don’t want them. “Bikinis come up well under the belly button, so if there’s a roll there that’s not the right shape for you,” Kaplan says. “You want something that is high-waisted.”
If your underwear is bunching up or riding up, on the other hand, Kaplan suggests finding a size down, or opting for a stretchier fit that grips under your butt. “Full coverage would not be good for someone with a problem that something rides up,” Kaplan says, “But I would say bikini or thong.”
Mermaid Dresses
Even tighter than a body-con dress, these gowns won’t work with a slip, but might require some smoothing of your legs.