Flirtation or function? That’s what underwear decisions usually boil down to. You could opt for something from the Agent Provocateur school or a grown-up version of the ho-hum workhorses you bought by the three-pack in middle school. Now, though, style-conscious women are choosing cotton briefs—not only for their comfort but also for their insouciant chic.
In this era of unpadded triangle bras and androgynous beauties like Binx Walton, who wants to look like she’s trying too hard? Cotton is also better for women’s health: It doesn’t trap moisture, which synthetics like nylon and Lycra can do. “I recommend that all of my patients wear all-cotton underwear, because it breathes better,” says Sarah Yamaguchi, MD, a Los Angeles–based ob-gyn. “Little thongs can also be a problem, as they rub against the skin and cause irritation and can set you up for infections.”
Yet completely cotton undershorts are in short supply in the U.S., where the proliferation of “95 percent cotton” and “98 percent cotton” labels hint at the elastic that weaves its way through nearly every pair.
Shira Wheeler is on a mission to change that. Wheeler was a young American teaching English in Paris when she discovered the charms of cotton. “It’s a part of the culture there,” says the 32-year-old New Yorker. “You can find beautiful underwear at Monoprix while you’re grocery shopping.”
When she returned to the U.S., in 2007, she was dismayed by her options. “The fascination with lacy thongs had snowballed into a synthetic mess,” she says. “So much of what was considered sexy was a turnoff to me.”
Like so many other stylish American women, she only bought underwear when she traveled—Montenegro had a rich supply of cotton bikini bottoms, and she continued to patronize Monoprix. She threw herself into a career in fashion marketing, working for brands such as M.Patmos and Simon Miller, as well as helping her husband run the Brooklyn restaurant he co-owns, Lavender Lake. All the while, she was stuck on the notion that something “simple and sexy” was missing.
So Wheeler is launching Oddo Body, whose 100 percent cotton briefs are cut high to resemble a bikini bottom her mother saved from the 1970s; the super-soft, gossamer fabric comes from a tiny factory in Japan. “It was very important to me that the fabric be special in addition to being good for you,” she says. “Just because it’s all natural doesn’t mean it has to be at the expense of our sexuality.”
The underwear, now available on Oddo’s Kickstarter page, comes wrapped in a user’s guide to the body, featuring text about female anatomy and provocative artwork by artists such as Alexa Haas, Jillian Mayer, and Lara Apponyi; model and photographer Georgia Hilmer shot the campaign, which showcases real women wearing the briefs.
The project took seven years to come together, but it feels custom-built for today’s body-positive, sex-positive climate. “A lot of underwear lines are still promoting the male gaze,” says Wheeler. “Or at least what companies think men want. My husband has a different point of view.”
Watch Vogue.com’s most popular videos now:
The post Why Cotton Underwear Is Cool Again—And Better for Your Health appeared first on Vogue.