It’s as if my entire torso has gone on vacation without me. I don’t know how to describe the feeling of wearing my underwear – it’s basically sweat and odor. Imagine underwear for a while, but your upper body. Imagine putting half of your body on ice and going on other tasks. For those of us who spend our day very aware of our race, this can change things.
Why do men often wear undershirts and women rarely? Show me a man with a closet full of pure white oxfords, and I will show you his stock of hans. Women sweat, too—something I’ve been telling people, defensively, my whole life. But we’re less likely to wear undershirts, perhaps because our clothes are often made of thinner materials, or because expectations on women’s bodies say we should look smooth and free of bulk like a dolphin.
For some reason, everyday wear doesn’t get the same thoughtful design as a pair of performance leggings. “It’s crazy when you think about the technology we require from our workout clothes,” says Michelle Schmelt, creator of Numi. “You wouldn’t buy anything for a workout if it didn’t have a technical component or wicking or something, and how much do you wear? The clothes we wear all day—we really need those to work with us too.”
Schmelt was working on finances when she realized her cute office wardrobe was going to be lost. She eschewed her delicate, knitted silk, fearing that a one-time wear would lead to high dry-cleaning bills and ruinous sweat stains. Even those of us who don’t trust ourselves with tops that cost over $40 know the pain of taking a jacket off after putting it on and knowing you’ll never see it again during a full wash cycle. As a result, “I decided to develop a women’s undershirt that you can wear comfortably and practically and wear under women’s clothing, which tends to need a specific design to make it really invisible,” says Schmelt.
Numi was launched in 2014 with a direct-to-consumer model. I’ve seen the ad dozens of times on Instagram, feeling the pull of the smooth, expensive-looking Tencel fabric, the reinforced cotton underarms, and the models flipping their hair and laughing at the memory that they were sweaty. Furthermore, the T-shirts are made with sustainable practices in Canada.
Schmelt sent me two Signature Numi undershirts – one in almond and one in pink. Both are cute enough to wear like regular T-shirts, tucked into jeans; It’s reversible, so you can wear it with any neckline. If you’re like me and prefer high-waisted jeans that come an inch below your bra, you can opt for the short version.
Whatever activity I did while wearing the Numi—running for the bus, running errands in too many layers, brisk walking while drinking coffee—I never felt the horrible wet warmth that is often the sad price of life on human form.
Numi also recently launched a radical second take on another essential with a stain-resistant, sweat-resistant, and machine-washable silk line. “We got a little deeper and asked, ‘Well, what other pain points do women have in their wardrobe?'” Schmelt says. “And what keeps coming back is that women love wearing silk because you feel good, you feel high — but this fabric is so hard that you don’t do anything, and suddenly there’s a speck out of nowhere. If you have kids, forget about it,” she laughs. (Kelly Ripa is a fan—she wears my silk napkin button constantly on her show.)
And when we say stain repellent, we mean it: Just watch Shemilt’s charming TikTok pour coffee and red wine onto Numi’s crisp silk blouse. With any other silk, seeing it would definitely make me sweat…if I wasn’t already wearing my underwear.
Jenny Singer is a writer at Glamor. You can follow her on Twitter.