Bespoke lingerie: on why you should give the designer creative freedom

Sparklewren corsetry, photography by Peter Laskowski

I’m a strong believer that if you’re going to spend a lot of money on something, it should be spectacular, particularly when it comes to lingerie. I’m not the most practical of people, and aesthetics tend to override practicality in almost every area of life.  If I’m going buy an expensive piece of lingerie, I want it to be something beautiful – especially if I’m ordering a custom or bespoke piece. It should be something unique and unusual that you wouldn’t be able to find elsewhere.

Whilst some people turn to buying bespoke lingerie because they’re looking for someone to make existing ideas a reality or help them find a perfect fit (which is of course perfectly understandable and more than reasonable), there is another side to the coin that you should perhaps consider: giving the designer creative freedom.

If you’re buying from a particular designer, it may well be because you love their design style. To order something bespoke and then to either totally dictate the design yourself or go for something basic seems like a missed opportunity – bespoke is your chance to give a designer creative freedom and to create something absolutely exceptional, just for you.

Sparklewren corsetry, photography by Peter Laskowski

The idea for this post stems from the fact that I was recently lucky enough to commission a corset from Sparklewren. I’ve owned quite a few corsets in my time, with several of those being custom orders. However, this was the first time I did not dictate what I wanted in my corset; previously I’d specified exactly which fabrics, trims and embellishments I wanted down to the very last detail. And whilst I was happy with the final garments, I was never totally bowled over by them: they were what I expected. Pretty, but not exceptional.

My experience with Sparklewren was totally different. Seeing Jenni’s work made it near impossible to decide what I wanted – each of her corsets is a work of art in its own right. How was I meant to choose between all the possibilities?

My final Sparklewren corset, as inspired by moth wings. Photography by Peter Laskowski

Well, the answer was I didn’t have to choose at all. I let my corset be Jenni’s vision, to create something that she could get excited about; and I’m incredibly glad that I did, because I couldn’t be happier with my final corset – it’s a true signature Sparklewren piece, and not something stemming from my own imagining. Whilst she checked in with me on each of her ideas for shaping, colours and embellishment, once she had my approval it was all her ideas. I’m in love with the final design, and it’s something I could never have conceived by myself.

This experience got me thinking – I definitely have plans to purchase more bespoke corsetry and lingerie in the future, and I don’t want it to be something I’ve partially designed myself. If you approach an independent designer to make you something extra special – consider letting them decide on the design for you. Sure, it might be a risk, but where’s the fun in knowing exactly what you’re going to get?

There’s some incredible independent brands out there that will make bespoke pieces at a range of price points – here’s just a few of my favourites:

Nearer The Moon

Dottie’s Delights

Model: Lily DeVille, photohraphy: Redrum Collaborations

Honeycooler Handmade

Image by Antonette Streeter Photography.

Sparklewren

Model: Samio Olowu, photography: InaGlo Photography

Readers: have you ever bought bespoke lingerie before? What was your experience like – did you have an exact idea of what you wanted in mind or did you give the designer creative freedom?

Karolina

Karolina

Contour Fashion graduate. Spends most of her time sewing bras and getting excited by shiny things.

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10 Comments

  1. 04/06/13 at 2:34

    It never really occurred to me to just let a designer take the reins once I’ve commissioned them for a custom piece. Of course, it makes perfect sense; you’ve hired this person because you admire their work and their design aesthetic and because you think they’ll do an awesome job. But giving up control of the finished product is something I never thought of. Now that I *am* thinking about it though…I really like the idea! How fun to get a completely unique and totally made for you creation.

  2. 04/06/13 at 6:32

    I would love to commission something that was just ‘whatever the designer liked’– it would be so fun to see the result. I wish I could get a Sparklewren corset also, I’m jealous!

  3. 04/06/13 at 11:02

    My corset is also Jenni’s vision and it’s AMAZING. I can’t wait to have it professionally photographed!

  4. 04/06/13 at 13:32

    I had also commissioned a Sparklewren piece last year, and it was a really unique experience – while I chose the colors and inspiration, I gave Jenni some leave on how the corset may be shaped, the construction methods, the pattern of embellishment, and she also gave me several different choices on flossing motifs. Since then, I have been much more lenient when working with corsetieres and have allowed them to make some choices of their own; the pink contrast and silhouette on my Puimond corset, and the bedazzling on my Waisted Creations corset. To me, there is little point in owning a piece from a recognized designer if they are not allowed to inject at least a bit of their own personality into what they’re making. Those have been true “group efforts”, but at some point I would love to have the expendable funds to just give a corsetiere my measurements and let them go wild, so the end product is a complete surprise.

  5. 04/06/13 at 15:17

    It’s a great idea when it works well, but with the exception of Bordelle there’s no one lingerie brand from which I’ve liked EVERY item they’ve ever produced. And especially when I’m paying more for bespoke, I’d be worried about the designer creating something that was more them than me – it’d be a big disappointment to fork out for something and then not be totally happy with the result. Nice idea in principle, but I’m not sure it’s for me ;)

  6. 04/06/13 at 20:17

    As a designer, I completely agree with the sentiment of this article. I Always prefer the projects where I am given creative freedom. The pieces I design without client input are always significantly more striking and true to my design aesthetic than the pieces with strict client guidelines. It is a huge complement to give that level of trust to a designer, and I realize that it is also a gamble, but it certainly makes designers happier! Hopefully this article will inspire lots of people to commission beautiful surprises for themselves! It is an incredibly rewarding process for both parties involved!

  7. 05/06/13 at 14:42

    We’ve just been discussing customised lingerie this week but on a much smaller and more affordable scale! Having a bespoke corset or lingerie set is the ultimate really. The Sparklewren and InaGlo corsets are beautiful!

  8. AlexaFaie
    05/06/13 at 15:04

    I understand the idea of letting the designer have free reign, but for myself I don’t think I could do it. I suppose its a trust issue. I don’t trust anyone other than myself to create something that I’d most definitely like without seeing the insides of my head.
    They may create a sample piece that I love, but that’s no guarantee that the creative freedom would generate exactly what I’d be after because I am ridiculously picky with everything. Its easier to love a finished corset than one which you don’t know where its going to end up. I remember Jenni asking what sort of things we’d be interested in commissioning from her as she was putting up the etsy listing for the patronage corsets, following the “rules” of the listing (colour, texture, inspiration) and found myself getting more and more specific, to the point where I was picking out exact fabrics and lace, imagining placements for crystals, shapes of the corset at top and bottom of both the front and back…. Basically by the end of my thought which had just begun with a colour theme of bright but pale (not jewel tone nor pastel, in between) green, yellow and orange and the inspiration of butterfly wings, I’d planned out exactly how I’d like the whole thing, including a skirt, to look. Which pretty much leaves no creative freedom at all!

    I love the idea of being able to give that level of creativity to the designer, but I’m not sure that I will ever be able to actually do it. Ha ha! Sparklewren creates beautiful and unique pieces, but I’d have to just go for a bespoke corset from her as it is a lot of money to “waste” if you don’t like the final design of a creative liberty corset. And I’d HATE to own a Sparklewren corset I was disappointed with. That’s so many kinds of wrongness!

  9. 05/06/13 at 19:44

    Interesting article – thanks. It reminds me very much of the commissioning process undertaken by an editor. I have seen and heard many editors commissioning designers by specifying the design themselves, down to the last colour, element, motif and angle. To me this has always seemed such a waste of design talent. If you are employing the skills of a designer, you usually get a more interesting result if you let them use those skills! Personally I love the process of working with a designer to tease out new thoughts and directions.

  10. 07/06/13 at 4:50

    I actually prefer to give people free reign in everything. I tend to be easygoing in that way, I just like to get to know someone (and them me) and then let them run wild. They are the talent, as long as they have an understand of my personality they can design to that end and the rest is all their talent. I hired them for their talent, not to make a Sara clone of something. I always tell my hairdresser to have fun and do what they like because I trust them. I might say “keep it long” but that’s the only guidance. Same applies here. When commissioning something I want their talent..not my vision. I rarely have vision! I just know talent when I see it and want access to that. So that’s what I buy. A piece of that talent.

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