Inspired by the romance of the 1970’s, Agent Provocateur’s new Spring/Summer collection (featuring French actress Mylène Jampanoï) is all romance, lace, and flowers. Agent Provocateur has found their formula and they’re sticking with it; the Fifi and Daena pieces in particular strongly resemble lines from previous collections. Of the four sets, I believe the Mercy corset is the strongest piece, especially when paired with it’s rather striking coordinating skirt. After that, I love the Sprinkle range for it’s playful polka dota.
What do you think of Agent Provocateur’s new Spring/Summer range?
There’s been a really heated debate happening on Twitter today, and though I usually try to stay out of these (almost nothing good comes out internet debates), this is one case where I feel genuinely compelled to offer an alternative point of view.
If you’ve not yet heard of it, The War on Plus Four is the brainchild of Busts4Justice, a UK based lingerie blog that achieved worldwide fame when they protested Marks & Spencer charging more for DD+ bras. The group won their fight in 2008, and Marks & Spencer now offers only one price for all sizes (and rightly so, might I add).
While I wasn’t around for that campaign, I am here for their latest one…the #waronplusfour.
The core argument of the War on Plus Four seems to be that the traditional bra fitting formula (namely take your underbust measure and add 4) fails the vast majority of women, so the preferred approach is to take your underbust measure and purchase bras with that same band number. So, for example, instead of wearing a 34 band as I do now, I’d wear a 30 band or, at most, a 32 band.
There’s only one problem though, the last time I tried a 32 band, the bra didn’t fit. At all.
I don’t want to come across like I’m deriding the War on Plus Four campaign, because I’m not. Bra fitting is an intensely personal subject, and, as such, it stirs a lot of intensely personal emotions. And I firmly believe that the more education there is around bra fitting, the better, and that includes giving women alternative methods for thinking about their bras and their bra size.
However, my biggest concern with the War on Plus Four is that it seems to want to switch out one formula for yet another formula, and that’s disconcerting to me. While there are hundreds (and more likely, thousands) of women for whom the +4 formula doesn’t work, there are just as many (like myself) for whom it does.
Yet when I’ve brought up my personal experience to others bloggers I respect and admire, like Invest in Your Chest and Butterfly Collection, I’ve been regarded as a bit of a unicorn. And when I’ve mentioned this issue on Twitter, I’ve had people insist that I have no idea what I’m talking about and must be wearing the wrong size (I’m not, by the way. I was refitted last month and I’m still a 34 band). More than anything, I think it’s that outright denial that concerns me. If the +4 method doesn’t work for everyone, why would the +0 method work for everyone? And why would that be so hard to believe?
Though I haven’t seen anyone address yet, one of the things I have noticed is that the War on Plus Four seems to fall along full-busted and not-full-busted lines. In other words, most of the issues I’ve heard around the +4 measurement are coming from women with D cup breasts and higher. I asked Linda the Bra Lady about this on Twitter, and she was kind enough to share some of her 25+ years of experience with me. Most of it seems to boil down to this: bigger boobs require a tighter back.
By Baby’s Rules, another lingerie blogger (and one I wouldn’t have discovered without this conversation) also revealed that muscular women and thinner women often have to add inches due to larger lats and less cushion over the ribs.
Finally, Alicia from PJLingerie, reminded us that there are other factors to keep in mind, such as breast shape, density, and so on.
All this tells me that the solution to an inaccurate rule isn’t to develop another inaccurate rule. Or as Amaryllis (who really does need to start a blog of her own…she’s just that awesome) says–
Which is completely and 100% true.
Instead of coming up with a new rule that still won’t fit every woman, why not focus on bra fitting education? While I’m lucky enough to live close to BelleFleur Boutique (where I got my last bra fitting) tens of millions of women aren’t within driving distance of a decent lingerie store. And for tens of millions more, even when they do happen to be near a lingerie boutique, luxury lingerie is outside the reach of their budget.
But if a woman knows how the band is supposed to fit and how the cups are supposed to fit and how the gore is supposed to fit and so forth and so on, then it won’t matter if they’re far away from a boutique or if their bra size changes or what brand they buy from because then the core knowledge will be there. And it may not be a 100% perfect fit, but a 95% perfect one is a better than none at all.
If there isn’t a lingerie boutique in your neighborhood, Linda’s Bra Fit Calculator has gotten rave reviews from women of all sizes, and I also like that she has a special Bra FAQ page to address common issues.
Catherine (from Kiss Me Deadly) and I have been doing a lot of chatting lately, and one of the things we’ve realized is that while she’s the head of an independent lingerie brand and I’m blogger who supports independent lingerie brands, we’ve never exactly talked about what an independent lingerie brand is or why they matter in the multibillion dollar economic machine that is the mainstream lingerie industry.
Since I’m currently on a plane across the Atlantic (and soon to cope with another stretch of jetlag once I’m safely back stateside), this seemed like the perfect opportunity to have that conversation…especially since I just spent significant portion of the Salon International de la Lingerie talking with independent lingerie brands.Also, this blog post kicks off a major indie lingerie brand event that starts in just a few days (on January 30th). I’ve heard there’s going to be tons of free knickers involved so definitely keep your eyes peeled.
Valentine’s Day…a time of love and outpourings of affection and people saying nice things to each other and loads of other stuff I’m really bad at! But it does have lingerie, and I do really like lingerie. So it seemed like a great time not just to talk about our lingerie, but about all the nice knickers I spend time with.
If you read much about the industry, you’ll hear us talking about being independent or boutique brands – but I’m not sure how many people know what that means. Boutique brands are usually the quirky designer brands that you find in the small shops and the department stores rather than mainstream shopping centre. You can get some very large companies running a boutique brand – for example Little Minx is owned by a large Australian corporation. Independent means something a bit different – it means that the brand does not have a corporation bankrolling it. That doesn’t always mean there’s not someone with money behind it, or that we aren’t also legally companies, but it means the huge corporate megastructure that exists behind mainstream brands isn’t there.
Indie lingerie brands can be anything from one person companies making their own items up to companies that have quite a few employees but have grown up all on their own – in the UK you don’t count as a large company here until you are making multimillions a year in turnover, so we’re all safe for that for a while I think! We all end up in the same section at trade shows and the assumption tends to be that we’re competitors, as if lingerie customers were like music fans or mainstream fashion buyers, where there are groups of people who specifically buy from indie brands or groups. After some research we did last year though, we’re pretty certain that’s not true, and that in fact indie lingerie brands compete with the high street!
But what does it mean from your point of view? Mostly that we produce more interesting things than the mainstream brands! If you have to justify your sales to a board, you tend to get a bit cautious – just look at how long it too Marks and Spencers to start doing things that weren’t beige, for heaven’s sake. Whereas indie brands make their name on innovative, niche and/or quirky designs. As with mainstream fashion, it’s pretty clear that in lingerie, lots of trends originate with small brands playing about and taking risks, and then getting co-opted by the mainstream once they’ve shown it can sell, so if you want to avoid a blandly walmart-ised industry, you want us to stick around.
Of course the downside is that small companies don’t have the resources or purchasing power of big ones, so we tend to be more expensive; but the world would be so much more boring without us, and quite often, when you support us, you can see where your money goes – often into more local circles.
You’d also be surprised how often you are talking directly to the person that designs the stuff, runs the company or makes the garments when you get in touch with an indie brand. That’s not an opportunity you’re going to get with a corporation, no matter how friendly their facebook might be, and it means there’s a far more dirct relationship between things you say and what comes out in . . . well this is fashion so it’s a years time, but still, you take my point.
So, want to support independent lingerie brands then? Good! Because this year 10 of us have got together and everyday one of us will be offering a giveaway or competition while the rest of us will be telling you what we love about them! With hosiery, swimwear, silk, full bust, shapewear and corsetry in the mix, none of us are anticipating this being difficult – especially as we also pulled together an awesome photoshoot for it.
Keep your eyes peeled online from the 30th January until the 10th February, for plenty of blog content and offers; we hope you’ll all join us in this celebration of this vibrant and creative sector of the market.
Is Victoria’s Secret feeling the pressure from luxury lingerie boutiques? The national retailer known for deals like 3/$30 panties is expanding into the world of luxury lingerie with their new Victoria’s Secret Designer Collection.
With knickers starting at $38, bras at $98, and teddies at $168 (along with a sheer lace corset that retails for $298), Victoria’s Secret is positioning itself as your high-end lingerie alternative just in time for Valentine’s Day. The lace overlays and ruffles have a somewhat more European vibe, but the shape and silhouette is still 100% Victoria’s Secret. What do you think of this new range? Any plans to try it out or should Victoria’s Secret stick to what it knows?
This week I’m in Paris attending the Salon International de la Lingerie as the only lingerie blogger and the only member of the consumer press invited. I can’t wait to share my observations of F/W 2012’s upcoming collections with you, but in the meantime, here’s a brief history of French lingerie, reprinted with kind permission of Lingerie Francaise and Eurovet.
The history of French lingerie sheds light on the evolution of how women were perceived in each era. It is a story punctuated by women’s conquests, industrial visions or innovations, beautiful fabrics, minute craftsmanship, talents, creations, models, daring, social metamorphoses, know-how, excellence, seduction, elegance, refinement. All speak of an art of seduction “à la française”… the art of pleasing others, pleasing oneself, evoking complicity, attracting glances and nurturing the flames of a love of women.
Eight centuries of Ancient Rome hid women’s lingerie under long draperies that were too geometric to be sensual. The Middle Ages didn’t succeed in freeing women’s bodies. The Renaissance stimulated the soul more than the body. Magnificent 17th century grooming masked modesty almost too well.
The debauchery which arrived with the Enlightenment, its accompanying gallantry and games of pretext, painted the canvas of a new relationship between men and women. The silks, satins and ruffles of low-cut dresses lightened up the paintings of Jean Honoré Fragonard. The century’s grandiose spirit didn’t prevent Denis Diderot from writing love letters to Sophie Volland against a background of transparency and lightness.
In the first half of the 19th century, France forgot about women’s bodies, being too occupied by Napoleon’s conquests, overseas trade, its colonies and the return of the monarchy.
At the beginning of the 20th century, sitting on Thonnet chairs, the joke circulated that the recently built Eiffel Tower represented a woman’s leg in a fishnet stocking and its four pillars were garter belt fasteners. The Guimard metro stations emerged from the ground. The “S curve” became fashionable. Paul Poiret arrived at Worth in 1901. Garter belts succeeded garters. Stockings were black.
Silent movies arrived in the French capital, while the Ballets Russes oscillated between scandal and success. Paul Poiret banished the corset, replacing it with an inside waistband for his Empire dresses. Mario Fortuny’s legendary pleats appeared.
More women replaced their corsets by an elastic waistband. Rubberized springs replaced whalebone in corsets. Bandeaus and brassieres flattened the bust. The word “bra” entered the dictionary. In 1913, a bra separating the two breasts was invented. At the same time, a bra made of two triangles crossed in front and back was introduced. The first bras were in linen before being produced, in the 1920’s, in silk, chiffon or batiste.
World War I tolled the bell for a 19th century which couldn’t seem to disappear. The 20’s attempted to forget the war. Everyone danced the Charleston. Jazz inspired improvisation. The surrealists published their first manifesto. Freudian theses invaded the spirits. The period kicked off the decorative arts. In a search for unrestricted movement, women topped off their boyish silhouette with a bob hair cut. The flattening bra, floaty, split slip dresses and silver or flesh-toned silk stockings were a hit with garçonnes.
In the 1930’s, an overly-sensual Marlene Dietrich in “the Blue Angel”, clad in a corset, black stockings and garter belt, pushed Hollywood censors to forbid women’s removing their stockings on the big screen. Closed panties and tap pants replaced open, pre-war underpants. The bra-cup size system was perfected.
The long dress and bias cut became omnipresent. A neoclassic silhouette was reinvented. The deceptively seductive bust was back. Nylon was invented. The word “panties” became popular. Lejaby’s first “bra à la Gaby” was produced in the backroom of the Bellegarde movie theater near Lyon under the watchful eye of Gabrielle Viannay. In 1935, Mademoiselle Simone Pérèle received a diploma in corset-making. The same year, the beautiful Josephine Baker delighted the hearts of Tout-Paris in the movie “Princess Tam-Tam”, which later inspired the company founded by the Hiridjee sisters.
Exhausted by World War II, France slowly came back to life. French women obtained the right to vote. Simone de Beauvoir was praised for her book “Le Deuxième Sexe”. The “New Look” appeared. Underneath it, the Chantelle girdle softly, lightly tapered the hips. Breasts were pointy, the waist tiny, the skirt a corolla. The petticoat trend took off while the wasp- waist corset was invented. The bikini was launched.
Simone Pérèle defined itself by following current esthetics to create satin bras, cut and assembled in their rue Montyon workshop. Charles Fossez, an astrologer and star of Tout-Paris, also known as the “Burmese Fakir” sold Barbara girdles by mail. André Fuller had already been Lucienne’s pygmalion for a number of years, together they created Lou. Look and comfort were associated with a barely- felt underwire. Lou was already one of France’s leading lingerie companies. Empreinte did their most famous launch : pointy bras with a “revolutionary lifting effect”.
Brigitte Bardot nurtured fantasies while across the Atlantic, Marilyn Monroe let the immodest wind from a New York subway grate bare her legs to a still-Puritanical America. Gabrielle Chanel’s tweed suits confronted Christian Dior’s “New Look”. The baby doll nightie and Lycra appeared. Lejaby, still very avant-garde, negotiated sixty exclusivities for the Lycra fiber in France. Stiletto heels were worn with no-seam stockings.
A, B and C cups anticipated the D and E to follow, perfected by Madame Tardivelle and Madame Haug. During this period, Simone Pérèle created dozens of bra models, some that lasted for 20 years. By bringing together comfort and estheticism, the company launched the “Soleil” darted bra and “Sole Moi”, the first Lycra bra. Lou made their first underwear in prints with extremely supple stretch and produced “Pantylou” – invisible under pants.
The 1970’s were synonymous with new conquests for women’s rights. The film Emmanuelle symbolized the wave of erotic movies. A new generation of designers was confirmed. Pants were accepted and panties abandoned. T-shirts hit their stride by being worn alternatively under or over. Underwear revealed the body even more : low-waisted panties, preformed, transparent, even absent bra cups.
Ten years after creating “Soleil”, the pared down model “Petale” with no lace, became Simone Pérèle’s second best seller and the company launched “Papillon” among the first lingerie sets in the market. Lou’s famous Filet and V met the needs of women who wanted freedom. Chantelle signed their first molded bra revealing a perfectly held-in-place, natural bust. Lejaby followed the Women’s Lib movement : the company’s “Liberty” line was a true revolution, since it had no underwire and came in six acidic colors. Aubade launched the first backless bra, and followed with creations which let women tease men : the Agrafe Cœur, the Tanga. The House of Dior gave Gerbe the exclusivity to manufacture its pantyhose and stockings.
The 1980’s inaugurated the cult of the body, the arrival of high-tech and the emergence of new idols. With Like a Virgin, Madonna stood up to Michael Jackson who had already redone his face. Superwomen appeared. Paddings, leggings, bodysuits and fitted dresses invaded the windows of many brands’ new ready-to-wear stores. The bra celebrated its 100th anniversary. Lycra was everywhere. Charming lingerie followed in the direction of the camisole, thong, wasp-waist corset and garter belt. Lou’s Rio line incarnated the art of seductive shifting and carefree elegance. Chantelle offered active women “charming hold”. Gerbe multiplied collaborations with big names in “French haute couture”.
Siliconed lips, liposuction and top models were front page news in the 1990’s. Perfumes invaded the fashion houses. International brands exploded. A generation of fashion enfants terribles brought new life to haute couture. Wonderbra won the award in the push-up bra category. Full figures showed up on the runways. Buttock-boosting tights gained ground. Simone Pérèle’s microfiber bra, “Amelia” was a success. Molded models which gave the bust a natural look became the must-haves of their collections. Microfiber knits were a success at Chantelle with “Essensia”. “Nuage” by Lejaby also used this very new fabric. With “Divine”, Chantelle confirmed their innovative mastery of bra cups and became the world’s leading high-end French lingerie brand. The Aubade “Lessons of Seduction” saga began, a harbinger of ready-to-seduce lingerie.
In the first decade of the new century, heels went sky-high. The stiletto even established a record. Slip dresses and layers were worn with transparencies and tattoos. The era was about excessiveness. The night world overtook a daytime clarity. Microfibers confirmed their presence. Active, sport lingerie became democratic. The second skin effect emerged in intangible lingerie : seamless, invisible bras with molded cups and almost-transparent bandeaus. Empreinte gave “full-figured” women the depth of G cups while Aubade launched the world’s tiniest thong. Gerbe received the “One Hundred Years or More of a Living Heritage Company” award from the French government for their quality, “Made in France” product.
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