What to Wear Underneath Unlined Pants

unlined-pantsWhat do you wear under pants and suits that are unlined? Are you for or against the current trend of unlined clothing? Reader K wonders:

I have a question I was hoping you could address. As a slim, athletic woman I love Theory suits because they fit me like a glove. However, I’m peeved that the skirts and pants are unlined — which has already been noted on your site. I’ve found a number of slips that I can wear under the skirts, but I’m having trouble finding something to wear under the pants. All I’ve found is super-tight shapewear that feels uncomfortably tight at the waist, especially when sitting. Do you have any suggestions?

Great question, and I’m curious to hear what readers say. (We’ve already talked about how to reduce static cling in general.) For my $.02, I’m actually in favor of the move toward unlined pants, for a bunch of reasons. First, I often would find that the lining of my suiting clothes would be the first part to break down, sometimes even shredding — it really decreased that confident feeling of “I look put together today.” (Maybe I’m alone here, but if my underpinnings are in poor shape, no matter what else I’m wearing, everything else feels raggedy too!) Plus, the lining was often a cheap polyester — so while the pants or dress were washable, the lining wasn’t. (OR, the lining would need to be laundered way before the rest of the pants needed a wash.) Also, as someone who often needs to get pants hemmed (yay for being between regular and petite sizes), the lining in pants was just another layer to hem.

A few options for you to wear underneath unlined pants:

  • Jockey Skimmies.  Readers love these nonbinding shorts under skirts in the summertime, and many have mentioned loving them under pants as well. Yes, this is only half your leg — but how much do you really need your lower leg to be lined? A lot of readers mentioned liking the silky slipshorts for eliminating VPL, but I also note that the brand has a new “antistatic” version as well.
  • Silk long johns.  I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again: I love silk long johns in the wintertime. I just bought some non-silk ones from a major retailer and they’re going back because they feel super heavy and bulky compared to my silk ones. I’ve bought from Wintersilks for many years, but I’ve also found them at discount stores like Century21 — just look for a lightweight silk. It blocks the winter wind without retaining too much heat once you get inside, so they’re comfortable to wear — and the very lightweight nature means they don’t add bulk. Wintersilks has them in multiple lengths (shorts, capri, and full), so you have a lot of choices.
  • Spanx.  It doesn’t sound like this is for Reader K — and honestly I find the full-length Spanx to be too binding as well — but a lot of women LOVE their Spanx. I’ve even heard of women wearing them under yoga pants!
  • Regular pantyhose.  Personally I prefer any of the above options because the static cling can be worse with regular pantyhose, but a lot of women do this (or wear tights), particularly during winter months.

Ladies, what do you wear under your unlined pants? Do you prefer lined pants, or not?



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  1. Definitely prefer unlined pants for all the reasons Kat stated. The only exception would be if they were wool or a wool blend sometimes that can feel ‘scratchy’. I do find the trend in unlined dresses and skirts annoying especially when the fabric is so light, visible panty line becomes a given or even worse, when the fabric is almost see-through. Probably more to do with declining quality amongst some retailers. Slips are great if you can find something that fits you well, makes an outfit feel that much more put together, also helps with warmth so long as it’s not too cold outside e.g. in Fall. Also even with lined dresses/skirts you have to be careful with laundering, if you choose the wrong method, outer fabric can shrink leaving the lining looking slightly longer…

    • I agree. Haveing to wear pant’s with lineing is good when it is wool, b/c the wool get’s in between our leg’s and it get’s VERY itchey and scratchey. But the probelem with lineing is that it add’s BULK in places where it is NOT good to have bulk — in the leg’s and TUCHUS area’s, where we already have enough bulk. FOOEY!

      The manageing partner does NOT like for me to wear slack’s to begin with, and especially slack’s that are lined b/c of the bulky tuchus factor. So that is why I try and wear skirt’s where he can focuss instead on my leg’s when I wear heel’s. He does NOT like it when I wear flat’s b/c he say’s it detract’s from my body line. I think he know’s what he is talkeing about b/c Margie also has a very nice body line and she is about my age. She would never have married the manageing partner unless she knew a head of time that once she did, she effectively NEVER had to work, except to bring up their baby! YAY!!!! That is what I want, but I do NOT have to marry a guy like the manageing partner’s brother, b/c he would insist on haveing sex with me three x a day. Once in the morning, once after lunch, and once after dinner. DOUBEL FOOEY! I think I would have a different pancake body shape with all of that on top of me 3x per day! TRIPEL FOOEY!

  2. If the reader doesn’t want something that binds at the waist, Commando tights might be a good winter option – I use the regular (not control top) ones and they are bulky enough to smooth over underwear lines without squeezing me uncomfortably. I’m curious how their “no waist band” control top version feels, because sometimes I’d like the control but I HATE anything that cuts in at the waist.

    Nordstrom carries both the regular and control top versions.

    • The commando control top tights are amazing – they do not provide a lot of control but also do not cut in at all. I actually have trouble with the non-control top ones falling off while I walk.

  3. You want to avoid mid-thigh spanx if people can make out the outline of the bottom hem through your pants (ie, if the spanx roll up at the bottom or dig in). I noticed this once when I was wearing spanx under pants.

    • Agreed. The roll-up factor is terrible.

      Also agree on the seams — I even notice them on a lot of guy pants, so it’s uncomfortable to know exactly who the boxer brief crowd is.

  4. Manhattanite :

    My only unlined wool pants can be really annoying when I wear socks (knee high hose or trouser socks) because the fabric catches on the socks. I never have this problem with my lined pants. This makes them into summer only pants. Also, I hate unlined pants because I always get the feeling that the manufacturer is only getting rid of the lining to save money.

    • I read something recently (can’t remember where) about how unlined pants actually cost more to make. Something about how it costs more to properly finish all the inside hems than it does to slap a lining in there. I don’t know how accurate it was, but I was really surprised. I think of lined pants as more high-end because they lay better (on me at least).

  5. Gail the Goldfish :

    Jockey skimmies (the knee-length ones; the shorter ones roll up on me) or, if it’s super itchy wool and I need something full length, Uniqlo heat tech leggings, which are very thin. I don’t have a full-length solution for summer, but Uniqlo might have an equivalent in their Airism line, which is the “cooling” fabric line.

  6. I can’t stand unlined dress pants, but it’s getting harder and harder to find lined pants. I have one pair of unlined fine wool pants that I rarely wear, because if I have anything more than a thong underneath, they bunch up in the hips and crotch. They aren’t tight – quite the opposite, in fact – but they stick to anything other than my skin. I’ve tried spanx, skimmies, tights, silk long underwear, but nothing works. Grrrr!

    • Not sure if this is the same as any of the ones you’ve tried – or if it would work – but thinner yoga-pants-type leggings, like even the kind you can buy at forever21, but the ones that are short enough so when you sit down, your leggings don’t peek out (not sure if I’m explaining that right).

      I can’t stand unlined dress pants either. I find lots of lined pants at Limited, Banana Republic, Ann Taylor.

  7. Diana Barry :

    I only wear stuff under my unlined pants in winter – usually Sp*nx tights but I also have one pair of uniqlo heattech leggings. I prefer tights mostly because they are higher waisted – I am tallish so regular length leggings often don’t work for me.

  8. Am I the only one who just wears a thong and calls it a day? Hanky pankys don’t have any VPL. I only wear spanx under skirts so my thighs don’t rub in the summer…

    ETA: Also, I can’t stand lined pants — they end up making noise when I move. That “crunch crunch” sound that I’d rather not have…

    • anonymous :

      I was wondering the same thing. Seems like a simple solution to me.

      • It depends on the fabric. Some fabric is so thin/light/stretchy that it shows every dimple, including – magically – ones I don’t notice having when I am completely in the buff. The other issue for me is scratchy fabric – unless it’s nice wool/wool blend, it often feels awful on my bare skin. I agree that the lining is often shoddy quality and is the first to break down, but I prefer lining to no lining anyway. That or wearing skirts (although for the first time in years I think I’m getting sick of skirts and dresses; I think I have knee-length outfit fatigue).

      • If you have a nice tight smooth hiney then sure! But if you’re like me you like to contain the jiggle and mask the lunar texture of my behind. I don’t think work is ready for my jelly.

    • +1. If the fabric is so thin that it shows every lump and dimple, then it’s too thin for me and I don’t buy it. Life is too short to need special undergarments under pants!

      I prefer lined pants, but they seem to be so rare nowadays that I’ve gotten over it.

    • Yeah, that’s pretty much what I do, too. In the winter, I often wear hose (I set aside old ones with runs for this) for extra warmth, and I wear knee-highs if I feel like my shoes need something, but normally, it’s nothing, and, TBH, it’s not something that I’ve ever given much thought to being concerned about. I don’t wear anything under skirts, either (unless I need something covering my legs).

      I don’t dislike lining, but any improvement I might get from it is so marginal that it’s really not even worth thinking about.

  9. For wool or wool-blend suit style trousers, I refuse to buy unlined for all the reasons Manhattanite lists above. Banana Republic and Ann Taylor almost always have some fully lined options, but I have to check the descriptions carefully because it’s not universal. I don’t mind unlined pants of the more casual variety–e.g., slim stretchy type pants like the Jcrew Minnies. I have a similar philosophy for skirts and dresses– I’m perfectly happy with an unlined knit jersey wrap dress, but I wouldn’t buy an unlined wool pencil skirt.

  10. FWIW, I think Theory is now lining their pencil skirts – at least, the last skirt I bought from them was (about 10 months ago).

  11. I don’t wear anything under my unlined pants except my normal underwear (unless it’s cold and I wear long johns). Is this a thing I’m supposed to by doing? Why?

    • Same here. I’ve never worn anything extra beneath my unlined pants.

    • Ekaterin Nile :

      Me too. I wear my standard underwear under my unlined pants (usually Theory). But my pants are not particularly tight in the booty region.

    • Sometimes I wear pantyhose under unlined pants, or even lined pants sometimes. That’s underwear, pantyhose, then pants (whether unlined or lined).

  12. Normal underpinnings (for me, this means Soma vanishing edge hipsters).

    If it is cold enough that my legs will be cold without another layer, then i’m wearing tights/knee boots and a skirt/dress.

    If my underwear is somehow making its presence known through the pants, then my pants arent office-appropriate (size, fabric, etc).

  13. Anonymous :

    I agree, I hate unlined wool pants for the reasons mentioned above. I even stopped shopping at j.crew despite the fact I like the cut of the pants because they don’t line them. However, for pants that are cheap, i sometimes over look this. However, I would never spend money on more expensive items that are not lined.

    For me, the main reasons are:
    – I dislike the feel of wool directly on my skin (almost all linings feel better, except for the absolute cheapest)
    – I think lined pants drape better and look better (less bunching on socks and and on the hip)
    – I feel like manufacturers are cheaping out by not lining pants and I don’t want to support this.
    – I am a cold person in general and like the added protection of the lining.

  14. I have had a tailor replace the cheap polyester lining with something more comfortable and longer-lasting. Not sure if you could have a tailor add lining if the pants didn’t have a lining to start with.

    • I am a sewer, by no means an expert alterationist, but you can definitely add a lining, it just depends on how much of a work around you are willing to deal with, and how skilled your alterationist is. If the fabrics is good quality and has a reasonable seam allowance (like a decent wool suiting fabric, and a 1/2″ seam allowance) and has a conventional waistband or yoke, you can remove the waistband and partially remove the zipper, add a lining, and re-attach the waistband and zipper. If the fabric is very light, or very inexpensive, then it may not survive the waistband removal process. I am lucky because I can do this myself–I have no idea how much it would cost to have this done by a professional.

  15. I much prefer lined pants over unlined. The lining gives more structure to the pants and helps hide certain lumps and bumps that I’d rather not show the rest of the world! But I totally agree that polyester lining is the pits. I also like WinterSilks, and they have a shortie in three lengths that is light weight and doesn’t show through the pants fabric in their Intimates section. I prefer the above the knee ones, but that is just me. I also like these under a skirt in the summer to prevent chafing (ok, I have that problem even with hose). I buy their plus size 1x, but they range from S-3x.

  16. the freeze :

    Pretty much from November through March or so, I wear long unders underneath all of my pants. I rotate, depending on the pants, the weather, and what’s clean. I wear slips under almost all of my unlined skirts/dresses, unless it’s summer and I’m bare-legged, AND it’s not translucent.

    But, for under pants:

    My go-to’s are the cheap footless tights. They tend to have a lower waist (not like a control top), and are fairly thick, but not binding, and not lumpy. They do a pretty good job of smoothing everything out, and they tend not to get saggy/baggy.

    Second: regular long unders. I have a few different varieties: a pair of Thermasilk LJs, and a bunch of Cuddl Duds. There is one style of CDs that have a fairly silky exterior, so they’d be good like a slip at helping pants not get bunchy too. I also have CDs from walmart that feel more like cotton leggings. They’re thin, and fairly low-rise. They do get a little baggy in the knees, but not too much so. Lastly, for the uber cold days (like today), I have a full set of CD fleece LJs. Obviously, you need to size your pants up accordingly because they’re bulky. But very warm, and oddly enough, they don’t get baggy. They also have a fairly low waist.

    Lastly: tights/hose. I have one pair of footless pantyhose that were a return item at my Target. Apparently, they didn’t sell them in the stores, but they were mixed in with the rest of the tights. They are truly seamless-leg like pantyhose are (not like the “seamless” microfiber footless tights previously mentioned), and much thinner. No bagging, fits like a second skin.

    I also adjust socks and shoes accordingly. Cold weather is much better for knee socks & tall boots. My office is casual, so I can wear them under/over/with skirts.

    As for lining vs. none? It’s a toss-up. Depends on the pants. Wool/scratchy–please line. Light-colored material, or light-weight material–please line (in most cases). I agree that the lining tends to smooth things out underneath, and that to me, is helpful.

    As for needing to wash lining before pants–could you turn them inside-out and hand-wash the lining where it needs it, and then hang to dry?

  17. wintersilks :

    having been directed to the wintersilks s i t e from this page, I looked at their clearance–lots of lovely shells/shirts on sale very inexpensive

  18. Anonymous Associate :

    I feel like I am missing something. Why are people wearing anything except underwear (and a thong if panty lines are an issue) under unlined pants?

    • Anonymous :

      Thongs don’t necessarily work for everyone–not enough support if you have some flab/jiggle.

    • Because some people find it more comfortable? Not saying you also have to do it, just that some of us don’t like unlined pants.

    • NavyLawyer :

      Some people hate thongs. Typically the older you get the more you thongs are just plain uncomfortable, even for those without anything extra. Also I have seen plenty of thong lines. Thongs do not banish VPL.

  19. I’m always freezing in the winter and I’ve tried an assortment of different long johns, but this year I got some Burton baselayer bottoms meant for snowboarding and I’m going to stick with these from now on. they’re soft and comfortable and lovely, they’re short enough that they don’t bunch at my ankles or show at the cuff when I sit down, and they’re really slick so my pants slide over them the same as (or easier than, for some pants) bare skin. I also never overheat while wearing them like I have with some other baselayers.

  20. Smartwool thermal underwear works great.

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