Unsurprisingly, for a long time, women were not allowed to wear underwear for arguably the worst reason possible. Because it was considered improper for us to have anything between our legs. Even a thin layer of cotton. From there, it’s safe to say organic underwear brands were probably not on the radar for a while there.
But for a few “scandalously rich” Italian women in the sixteenth century, most women just wore long underdresses that later evolved into slips and petticoats. Fast forward to the 21st century, many of us now get to choose what goes between our legs and have tons of options to choose from, made of all sorts of different materials and they are very unlikely to a slip. But like everything else, some options are better than others.
That’s why I’ve put this guide together for you.
And whether you’re into briefs, boy shorts, the classic bikini, the cheeky hipster hybrid, the thong or the g-string, there is sure to be something for you to choose from. Before we dive into all the fun stuff let’s start with why we should shop for organic underwear in the first place.
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Why shop for organic underwear?
If you’re wondering why to shop for organic underwear, the answer is quite simple. The fashion industry is notoriously chemical-intensive. From the pesticides involved in farming the raw materials to make conventional fabrics like conventional cotton, dyes, and formaldehyde, conventional clothing exposes us to many chemicals with known adverse health effects.
Unfortunately, it is no different when it comes to our underwear, even though it touches one of the most delicate parts of our bodies. While it is important to look out for greenwashing, reaching for the best organic underwear possible is a great way of avoiding the unhealthy and unsustainable practices of the fashion industry, down to our knickers.
What to look for when shopping for organic underwear
When shopping for organic underwear I consider the same criteria as I would when shopping for any other article of clothing: materials and fabrics, ethical sourcing, and corporate responsibility.
Materials and fabrics:
When shopping for underwear or any sustainable fashion choosing from the most sustainable fabrics like jute, hemp, organic cotton or modal is crucial. When it comes to underwear, the key is breathability; which synthetic fabrics like nylon, polyester and spandex do not allow. Therefore it is best to go for natural fabrics, specifically cotton.
Where possible, opting for organic cotton or a breathable organic alternative is ideal to avoid the pesticide and other chemical use involved in the farming and manufacturing processes of conventional textiles into wearable garments.
You also want to look out for sustainable alternatives to chemical dyes and dyeing processes that are extremely harmful to the environment, and potentially harmful to us as well.
When considering organic materials and fabrics look for these third-party certifications to help you identify the right brands and products for you:
- Better Cotton Standard,
- Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS),
- Organic Content Standard (OCS), and
- USDA-Certified Organic.
When it comes to dyes and dyeing processes look for these third-party certifications:
When shopping in person check the tags. You'd be surprised how many clothing items are made with synthetic fabrics.
When it comes to ethical sourcing, we consider the practices around the production of the garment. So whether it’s a pair of ethical jeans to wiggle into, eco-friendly leggings and sweaters, or some lovely ethical underwear, I look for garments that are produced using responsible environmental and labour practices throughout the supply chain, wherever possible.
From how materials are sourced and manufactured, to the people who sew them together and the factories they are sewn in, the entire process must be done as ethically as possible to avoid the environmental degradation and unethical labour practices that have become synonymous with the fashion industry.
When it comes to fair labour and environmental practices lookout for the following third-party certifications:
- B Certified Corporations,
- Cradle to Cradle,
- Fairtrade International,
- Fair Trade USA,
- OEKO-TEX® 100 and,
Here we consider what else a given brand is doing to promote ethical and sustainable values and practices throughout its operations. From initiatives to create greater diversity and inclusion within their offices and offerings, to more sustainable packaging and take-back programs; we want to choose from brands that are demonstrating their commitment to more ethical and sustainable practices, wherever possible.
We are not looking for perfection so don’t feel bad if you find that the items that suit you best do not tick all the boxes. This criteria is here to serve as a guide. If you must compromise based on your needs and preferences, that’s fine. Life is really all about balance, and there is surely something out there for you that balances your needs and your commitment to finding healthier, more sustainable undergarments.
If you feel overwhelmed, start small and try out some different options like I did when switching to cloth pads. DO NOT throw out your entire underwear drawer and start fresh. lol. It is always best to use what you have (unless it is deathly toxic) and to dispose of it safely when you are done.
Our favourite Organic Underwear Brands
Now that we’ve got that covered, let’s dive into some of my favourite organic underwear brands:
A leader in sustainable and ethical fashion, PACT is a US-based clothing and home goods brand. With some of the best organic cotton underwear, they also offer a wide selection of basics for both men and women, including eco-friendly socks, maternity clothing and organic underwear for all.
Their women’s selection includes several styles in a number of colours. I’d recommend none other than their Classic Fit Bikini. Sizes range up to XXL for women in all styles, and XXL for men in most styles.
Pact's Materials and fabrics
Pact’s underwear is made of GOTS organic cotton, a bit of elastane and zero toxic chemicals.
Pact's Ethical Sourcing
Using GOTS organic cotton means that Pact benefits from 91% less water consumption than they would if they used conventional cotton. They also avoid pesticide use and manufacture their underwear in Fair Trade certified factories ensuring safe and ethical working conditions for those who are putting their garments together.
Pact's Corporate responsibility
Pact uses 100% post-consumer recycled paperboard and cardboard boxes, as well as biodegradable plastic Polybags that may be recyclable at your local grocery store. They also offer the option to offset the carbon footprint associated with your shipment at check out, so look out for that when completing your order.
If you are looking for something to do with your old clothes, they’ve also started a clothing donation program in partnership with Give Back Box, where you can donate your gently used clothing (of any brand) using a pre-paid label.
Also featured as one of our favourite brands for eco-friendly tees, pyjamas and all-around affordable ethical fashion, KOTN also offers a great selection of nontoxic underwear for both men and women. Their selection is available in some lovely colours too and ranges in sizes up to XXL for men and women.
Kotn's Materials and fabrics
KOTN uses sustainably sourced premium Egyptian cotton and their fabric is certified OEKO-TEX® non-toxic, ensuring that each component, from the fibers, and trims, to the dyes used are not harmful to our health. Their underwear also contains a bit of spandex for stretch.
Kotn's Ethical Sourcing
KOTN only sources their cotton directly from farmers and ensures that all of their garments are ethically made in Egypt and Portugal where factory employees are paid fair wages and work in safe conditions, with opportunities to create a career for themselves.
Kotn's Corporate responsibility
A B Corp, KOTN also invests in the communities in which they work. So far, the brand has successfully built and is now operating 7 new schools in rural areas of Egypt. They’ve also successfully funded several other social impact projects including providing financial and other resources to smallholder farmers and impoverished communities. Within the next 5 years, they’ve committed to making 100% of their natural fibres certified organic.
Azura Bay is an online boutique curating cute, comfy and conscious lingeries, pjs and loungewear only from ethical brands. Founder Ashley McIntosh has made it her mission to provide the most ethical and eco garments making it easier for us to find the best options possible. Like us, Azura Bay looks for eco-friendly fabrics and production processes wherever possible. Their collection includes a variety of styles and colours with sizes ranging up to 2XL.
Azura Bay's Materials and fabrics
Azura Bay’s collection includes a number of styles in organic cotton, hemp, and more.
Azura Bay's Ethical Sourcing
Azura Bay ensures that all of the brands they carry are either Fair Trade certified or employing transparent, ethical practices where employees are treated with respect, paid fair wages and provided with safe and positive working conditions. Brands featured in their zero waste collection also upcycle fabric that has been discarded by bigger brands, use organic fabrics, as well as waterless dyeing processes.
Azura Bay's Corporate responsibility
Committed to making their business as eco-friendly as possible, Azura Bay uses compostable mailers that can be composted at home. They also use FSC Certified tissue paper and source 100% of the recycled boxes used in their operations from the US. They even look to use recycled content and eco-friendly inks for the rest of their packaging, promotional materials, and stickers wherever possible.
Boody is an Australian brand working to offer the most comfortable, breathable, and sustainable everyday essentials possible, using only thoughtfully crafted Bamboo viscose made from organic bamboo. With quality, simplicity, and sustainability at their core, and sizes ranging up to 4XL, they make for a great option for anyone looking for comfy, breathable, non-toxic underwear and other essentials too.
Boody Materials and fabrics
Boody ensures that bamboo viscose is highly breathable, comfortable and soft, making it a suitable option for garments that sit close to the body like underwear. All of their products are made of OEKO-TEX® Standard 100, FSC and ECOCERT certified bamboo viscose which is also vegan approved, thermoregulating and hypoallergenic for those with particularly sensitive skin.
Boody Ethical Sourcing
To produce its bamboo viscose, Boody uses organically grown bamboo and no pesticides whatsoever making them a great option if you are looking for organic bamboo underwear. In fact, Boody ensures that toxic chemicals are prohibited in their manufacturing process.
The brand only works with Fair Trade certified factories and their factories use state-of-art computer knitting machines that help to reduce fabric waste. Generally, their manufacturing process is designed to mitigate waste wherever possible and their production methods are cruelty-free.
Boody Corporate responsibility
Boody recycles and reuses all of the water used in their production process. Their choice of rain-fed bamboo crops reduces their water consumption as well and their packaging is made using recycled, post-consumer waste from FSC-certified suppliers. Their packaging is completely plastic-free; opting for a biodegradable, compostable, recyclable corn-based plastic substitute (PLA) for their mailers. They also use vegetable-based inks that are safer for us and for the environment.
Since its inception, founders Cayla and Lauren went for the most environmentally responsible processes, low-impact fabrics, and ethical manufacturing possible in order to create the comfortable well-fitting selection of Knickey underwear we get to enjoy today. With praises from the likes of Vogue, Glamour, and Refinery29, just to name a few, their selection includes all the comfy essentials you may need, in a number of colours too. Sizes range from XXS to XXXL.
Knickey's Materials and fabrics
Knickey ensures that all of their undies are made of clean, cool, certified organic cotton which means no GMO seeds, and zero pesticides. They also contain a little bit of elastane for stretch.
Knickey's Ethical Sourcing
Knickey offers a look at their entire supply chain; from the farm in Gujarat, India where the non-GMO, certified organic cotton used in their undies is grown and handpicked; all the way to their Headquarters in Chelsea, NY where your orders will ship from. They also ensure that all of their products continue to be produced in Fair Trade International certified factories where the health, safety, and well-being of workers is a priority.
Knickey's Corporate responsibility
Your Knickey undies will arrive in entirely plastic-free packaging using Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) certified boxes. They’ve also partnered with Anybag to upcycle the oxo-degradable bags used in their bulk imports coming from India. Thanks to the implementation of clean energy initiatives and certified carbon offsets, Knickey is also currently operating in a carbon-neutral state and is working to become Climate Neutral certified by 2021.
Founded as a sustainability brand from the very beginning, Knickey also boasts an industry-leading Recycling program through which they’ve successfully recycled 75,000 garments in 2020 alone.
The Nude Label is a female-founded Spanish underwear brand that aims to provide classic and comfy basics for everyone. Made using organic cotton, The Nude Label makes for a great nontoxic organic underwear option. Their selection also includes bras, bodysuits (bodies) and swimwear, in lots of lovely earth tones.
Nude Label's Materials and fabrics
Their underwear is made of soft, sustainable GOTS certified organic cotton, featuring a bit of elastane as well. They also offer a collaborative limited collection of products dyed using ancient dyeing techniques and modern technology that reduce water consumption by up to 90% and saves up to 85% of the energy required compared to standard dying methods. You will find this collection under the ‘Shop’ section of the navigation bar.
Nude Label's Ethical Sourcing
All of The Nude Labels’ underwear is produced in a family-run factory in Valencia, Spain where they ensure that workers have healthy and safe working conditions while being paid fairly. This factory is located near their studio, helping them to have greater control over their processes and to ensure fair labour standards.
Nude Label's Corporate responsibility
With sustainability as a core principle, The Nude Label is committed to reducing waste, and to creating sustainable, quality products. They also strive to use recycled or recyclable materials wherever possible and to continue to reduce their carbon footprint. The brand actively researches and uses alternative renewable solutions, while continuing to learn more about their existing products’ environmental impact in order to reduce it. They also create and provide environmental training for their team members in order to help grow their knowledge base which will help to move the brand’s environmental performance further along.
With their primary goal set to be as transparent as possible, Girlfriend Collective made sure to choose every part of their processes with great care. From raw materials to facilities through to their partners, being as ethical and sustainable as possible is a top priority. Also featured as one of our favourites for ethical maternity clothes, they offer underwear in sizes ranging from XXS to 6XL, making them a great option if you’re looking for extended sizes or ethical plus size fashion in general.
Girlfriend's Materials and fabrics
Their underwear is made of recycled PET bottles (RPET) and all of their garments are dyed using eco-friendly dyes.
Girlfriend's Ethical Sourcing
Girlfriend Collective’s fabric factory is SA8000 certified; a certification by Social Accountability International designed to protect workers worldwide through standardized working condition guidelines and wage guidelines. Cutting and sewing is also done at an SA8000 certified factory in Vietnam where they ensure there is no child labour, fair wages, and safe working conditions, with the right to unionize.
Their factory also treats the wastewater from their dyeing process before being re-released, and the dye mud generated is donated to a local pavement facility to be recycled into sidewalks and roads.
Girlfriend's Corporate responsibility
Girlfriend Collective only uses packaging that is 100% recycled and recyclable. To make a number of their garments, including their undies, Girlfriend Collective also uses recycled materials, helping to reduce waste to landfills and pollution caused by waste.
They’ve expressed support for the Black Lives Matter movement, providing a list of places to donate to in support of the movement, as well as a list of brands to buy from in these efforts.
You can even recycle your old Girlfriend garments through their ReGirlfriend recycling program, in exchange for store credit.
Founded by Stacy Kent, a conscious Canadian with an eye for simplicity and a commitment to sustainability, we now get to enjoy well-designed, sensible and sustainable underwear made entirely of organic cotton. As such, Kent offers a wide selection of Organic Pima Cotton undies in various styles and colours. They even offer clever packs like ‘The Full Week’ featuring a pair for every day of the week, or ‘The Work Week’ containing 5 pairs; each with a combination of different styles. Kent is a great option if you’re looking for 100% organic underwear.
Wear Kent's Materials and fabrics
All of Kent’s underwear is made of 100% GOTS certified Pima cotton.
Wear Kent's Ethical Sourcing
Kent is committed to using only the cleanest ingredients possible. With that, all of their products are 100% organic, non-toxic, plastic and micro-plastic free, vegan, and biodegradable. Their cotton supplier is also certified by the USDA National Organic Program and the World Fair Trade Organization.
All of their briefs are produced in California making them a great option if you are looking for organic cotton underwear made in the USA.
Wear Kent's Corporate responsibility
Your Kent briefs will be delivered in plant-based, acid-free, and compostable packaging. They also make sure to use soy-based, OEKO-TEX® certified inks, as well as tagless labels made in Canada. And, they offer the option to offset the carbon emissions associated with shipping your order, helping to reduce your carbon footprint while protecting our air.
As part of their commitment to restoring the planet, Kent advocates for people and for a clearer, just and equal way of living. To that end, they have pledged to continue to represent and to work with minority and black-owned businesses and professionals throughout their operations.
BROWSE KENT (USE CODE THEECOHUB15)
Drawers, knickers, skivvies, undies, chuddies or panties, whatever you call them, there are lots of healthy alternatives to reach for without the perils of fast fashion. If you are in the market for new undies and have a bunch of clothes you need to donate, make sure you are doing it responsibly. And did you know you can actually donate your bras? Of course, before you buy anything new, consider thrift stores!
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