Only 17% of women go commando while exercising, it turns out, and frankly I wasn’t one of them. But I was no less delighted to test out one of the first sample pairs of Dear Kate’s yoga pants, with built-in undies. For someone who’s worn the same few pairs of grungy $8 leggings to yoga for a year, these fancy pants were a welcome change. On a visit home, I even subjected them to my mom’s critical eye. “The seams on the front are a little weird,” she said, “like a sumo wrestler’s loincloth is sewn on. But otherwise, they look really good.” (Well, I didn’t really want to look like a sumo wrestler, but Dear Kate’s pants did look way better than my flimsy leggings.) Importantly, they were incredibly comfortable. They also made good on their promise to eliminate undie-related woes.
It’s no accident that women’s underwear have gotten tinier and tinier. We had bustles, then briefs, then thongs, then strapless panties. Women are sick of being harnessed in.
Dear Kate’s clothing startup is keyed into this issue. Their new line of yoga pants is engineered specifically to give women “the freedom to go commando” while working out. When Dear Kate surveyed 980 women about their pet peeves with yoga apparel–thank them for the 17% commando stat–they found that most problems could be eliminated by building underwear into the pants. “See-through fabric was a big problem,” designer Julie Sygiel says, adding that she “feels bad” for yoga apparel giant Lululemon’s unfortunate transparent-pant scandal. “And camel toes were a big no-no,” Sygiel says. “Then, of course, everyone hated visible panty lines.” She realized that if Dear Kate could solve these problems, they could make a product that women would really respond to. Dear Kate undoubtedly thinks that 17% figure is poised to rise as women discover their new product.
And it might. Here’s how it works: They build undies into workout pants, using a lining of leak-proof, stain-releasing Underlux material. Sygiel, who studied chemical engineering at Brown, founded Dear Kate in 2012 after developing the wicking Underlux fabric in an entrepreneurship class. She used it to create underwear that makes that time of the month less of a royal pain for women. “Yoga pants were never on my radar when Dear Kate first started in underwear,” Sygiel tells Co.Design. “But we had developed this dedicated following, and decided to apply this special fabric to workout wear.”
“I was formerly an underwear-wearer,” Sygiel reveals of her exercise habits. “When I got the first prototype of the pants, I went out for a run, and it was amazing. I was so free.” The gusset of the pants they developed is four layers thick, so these pants actually put more fabric between your body and the world than underwear does. With an inner lining of micropolyester and an outer lining of Nylon and Lycra, it’s designed for a combination of breathability and absorbency. It promises to eliminate wedgies, bunching up, and visible panty lines. I, for one, have since retired my leggings. (And no, I don’t go commando everywhere.)