A Guide to Ethical Lingerie & Underwear

Hands up, who’s found it difficult to find good, ethically-made lingerie? Yeah, me too. My collection started slow, with a few underwear sets in sustainable fabrics, but thankfully the number of ethical undie makers has grown, and I’m excited to finally bring you this much sought-after guide!

As I’ve said in previous ethical shopping guides, it’s easier to make an ethical t-shirt than it is to create a more complex piece, like shoes, or a bra. If you think about it, a bra is actually quite technical! You’ve got to think about the fabric, the elastic, the clasps, the straps, the cups… Oh and the fit!

I believe this is one of the reasons why there’s been a general lack of ethical options out there, but with some fervent searching, I’ve now been able to curate a full underwear-drawer full of fairly made pieces, and with it, this guide of the best places to update your underwear sets.

What To Look For In Ethical Underwear

So, when it comes to ethical fashion in general, there are a few things to look for:

  • Publicly-available information on fair labour practices, wages, and treatment of staff
  • US and European factories (although this doesn’t always guarantee fair labour)
  • And of course, knowing that you really need a new piece – overconsumption isn’t ethical either

Alongside looking for all the above, it’s quite important to choose underwear made from natural materials. My reasoning is two-fold: first, save the planet. Natural materials are renewable and biodegradable. Second: these materials will be against your skin all day, so you probably want something that’s natural and more breathable than plastic-based fibres.

For me, the best sustainable fibres found in underwear are:

  • Organic cotton
  • Wool (or like Organic Basics, recycled wool)
  • Silk (although there are issues around how silk is sourced)

Of course, there are plenty of other fibres that you’ll find being used too. Make It Last created a great guide to viscose, modal, lyocell, and Tencel, which all creep up under the natural fibre category, but in fact use a lot of chemical processing to turn wood and bamboo into these fabric threads.

So perhaps the middle-ground is recycled materials. They’re low in their environmental impact, and they tend to be recyclable once they’ve reached the end of their lifespan too.

And of course, there will usually be some kind of stretchy material involved too. These are complex pieces after all, so I’ll leave it to you to decide which materials you prefer.

What’s In My Lingerie Drawer…

So, while I tend to be quite a private person, I’ve dared to “bare all” in this post. I’ve shared my first ever photos that show my underwear (stretch marks and all) and I’m also going to talk about my own underwear collection. I hope you appreciate this!

Dusk pink triangle bra and briefs from Organic Basics.* The set I’m wearing for this post is my newest pair of bra and briefs from Organic Basics, who kindly gifted me the set to try. The Danish brand has been making waves across almost every ethical fashion influencer’s Instagram page recently – their clean style, paired with carefully-selected materials and factories in Austria, Italy, Portugal, and Turkey make them a winner on almost every front. Plus, they are so comfy to wear. Win win win win win.

Light grey thongs from Woron.* A few years ago I was introduced to Woron by my blogger friend Katie Vibes, and was also taken with their minimal and sustainable approach. I ordered a simple set to get started, and they’ve lasted well over time. The Scandi brand has gone on to create essentials, pyjamas, and even cute little sleep masks too!

Black basic bra and briefs from Boody*. Finally, what was potentially my first foray into sustainable undies – my basic black Boody set. Made from bamboo-based lyocell-fibre, I was torn about the material, but three years later and I’m still wearing the set – they really are as good as new! If you’re looking for long-lasting underwear, I’d highly recommend them.

29 Ethical Lingerie & Underwear Brands

And here we are! Alongside my own favourites, here’s a run-down of all the ethical lingerie brands that sell to the UK (many of which are on my wishlist!):

AmaElla: Simple organic cotton lingerie designed in the UK and made in Portugal.

BAM*: Bamboo-based briefs alongside their yoga wear and crop tops.

Bare Boutique: Sustainable underwear brand by Kara Kupe, creating basics and underwear made with bamboo.

Boody*: Underwear basics made from bamboo fibres (rayon) and nylon. Full review →

Chantelle*: Socially-conscious lingerie brand with new Motif range made from recycled fabrics.

Colie & Co*: Playful and cheeky printed lingerie made in Portugal and sold via Etsy.

Cotton & Push: Vegan lingerie made from organic and natural fibres.

Crease*: Feminine silk lingerie pieces made with sustainability and environmental impact at heart.

Elliot Organics: Soft underwear and camis made with organic fabrics and understated charm.

Hara: Australian-made bamboo-based underwear in rainbow brights.

Knickey: Organic cotton knickers in a range of muted colours and styles.

Know The Origin*: UK-based digital department store stocking a range of ethical underwear brands.

La Perla: Intricate, sophisticated, luxury lingerie made in Italy and across Europe.

Lara Intimates: Non-wired bra specialists ranging from 26A – 36F, owning almost 100% of their supply chain and making bras on demand.

Magi: The first ever hemp underwear brand that’s cute! Comes in both neutrals and pastel brights.

ModiBodi*: The most comfortable period pants I’ve tried. While they’re not perfect in terms of materials or manufacture, they do reduce the need for disposable period products!

Nude: Soft organic cotton underwear in a range of dreamy pastels, made in Spain.

Olly*: Organic cotton underwear with fine detailing, made in Europe.

Organic Basics*: Underwear essentials made fairly from sustainable materials. Get 10% off with the code BESMAOBX.

People Tree*: Ultra-comfortable organic cotton underwear in basic colours.

Project Pico: Organic cotton underwear, focusing on traditional artisanal techniques and supporting those communities.

Semi/Romantic: Italian-based lingerie brand working with European producers to make soft and cup bras in dreamy pastels with eco-friendy lace.

Stella McCartney*: Pretty meets sexy across SM’s range of printed and lacy lingerie – and they’re a leader in vegetarian materials and social sustainability.

Studio Pia: Risque, luxury lingerie made with structure and style.

Thought*: Simple, supportive bamboo and organic cotton jersey underwear.

The White Briefs*: Organic cotton basics made with GOTS certification across their supply chain.

Woron*: Essentials made from plant-based materials, made in a female-led factory in Hungary.

Y.O.U: Organic Faitrade-certified and PETA-approved vegan underwear, giving two pairs to Smalls for All charity for every pair purchased.

Zuela: Sweet organic cotton and lace sets made in Turkey and the UK.

What About Period Pants?

A little extra note on period pants – which are something I get asked about a lot! While I haven’t been able to find any ethically-made period pants (the majority are made overseas, without much clarity around their labour practices), I do use period underwear which are washable and reusable.

Period pants are a sustainable alternative to mainstream period products, so if you’re set on having greener periods, try my faves – ModiBodi* – which were kindly gifted to me, or another product such as a menstrual cup, or organic cotton products from Grace & Green or TOTM*.

This post contains gifted items (denoted with 'gifted') and affiliate links (denoted with '*')

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15 Comments

  1. Lisa Allan
    October 3, 2020 / 1:25 pm

    Hi,

    I’ve just started to buy ethically this year (buying second-hand clothing so not supporting fast-fashion and going cruelty free) and was finding it difficult to find ethical underwear that was also affordable so this list was very helpful!
    I think the most important things to me when buying are: worker’s pay and safe workplace, sustainability of production method and affordability. I believe everyone must buy to their means and what they value so appreciate the wide range or recommendations, makes it way more accessible for someone without tonnes of money to spend!

    I look forwards to reading more of your posts!

    Cheers,

    Lisa x

    • besma
      Author
      October 3, 2020 / 8:52 pm

      Hi Lisa, thanks for the lovely comment – I’m so happy I could help you find what you were looking for!

      B x

  2. Nadia
    August 25, 2020 / 9:42 am

    This was a good list if you’re smaller than a D, but again I’m frustrated. I want to be more ethical but as I wear a 32K, my choices seem completed limited to Bravissimo. I haven’t yet been able to find anywhere that caters to larger cup sizes.

    • besma
      Author
      August 26, 2020 / 12:30 pm

      Hi Nadia, sorry this list isn’t inclusive of your size! Lara Intimates is the place I tend to recommend for larger cup sizes, but they only go up to GG. I would recommend contacting them to ask whether they can produce more size-inclusive range, or point you in the direction of another brand.

      B x

      • besma
        Author
        December 1, 2020 / 6:14 pm

        Thank you for sharing this! I really enjoy Elen Mai’s blog so it’s great to see she has a guide for lingerie suited to larger sizes.

        B x

  3. Hannah
    February 7, 2020 / 5:42 pm

    Thank you so much for this list, first time I have heard of BAM and I am really glad I found it. Because it was seeming to be an impossible task to find ethical, no-VPL bikini briefs which delivered to the UK for a reasonable price (and were free from the overload of pesticides used on non-organic cotton products). I’m just not going to put up with anything which is uncomfortable or doesn’t work with half of my clothes, so I am so glad I have found a solution. Just hope they fit well now! Shows you can often find what you want if you are prepared to put in the time to search for it.

    Getting to try out bamboo as a fabric is a bonus because I had wanted to for a while. I will probably be checking their site in future if I ever need more gym clothes or other basics.

    • besma
      Author
      February 7, 2020 / 7:05 pm

      I’m so glad to hear you found the list helpful! BAM are a big favourite on my ethical activewear guide too. I’m going to be posting all about bamboo fabrics very soon, so keep an eye out for that!

      B x

  4. El
    November 10, 2019 / 10:05 pm

    Hi Besma, could you do an article on how ethical and sustainable &OtherStories is please?

    • November 11, 2019 / 10:14 am

      Added to my list, thank you El! x

    • R
      September 24, 2020 / 11:12 pm

      Hi El, you’re probably not wondering this anymore, but I used to work for & Other Stories and I just wanted to say that they’re pretty much bottom of the barrel – they’re owned by the H&M group, and a lot of those practices carry over. 🙁

      • Ir
        November 30, 2020 / 10:49 pm

        Is it the same with COS? I’m having suspicions over their practices after not finding any details on the fabric’s origin or even type, just the overall “recycled” and then found they are H&M owned as well…

  5. Catherine
    October 13, 2019 / 2:01 pm

    Just recently found your website – love it! So helpful. Any ideas on where I can find strapless bras?!

    • October 14, 2019 / 12:23 pm

      Hi Catherine, thank you so much! I don’t have any strapless bras myself, and they’re something of a rarity within ethical collections after having a quick search! I’d suggest looking at Stella McCartney who I know do bandeaus, but it may take a little more research! Do let me know how you get on?

      B x

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