Upcycling in lingerie: why it’s a good thing

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I’ve always found that there’s something totally irresistible about antique and vintage textiles. Be it printed silks or exquisite laces, fabrics from bygone eras seem to have so much more care put into them that modern equivalents seem to pale a little. Our modern culture of fast and disposable fashion has done away with the care and delicacy that was once so commonplace.

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Victorian leavers lace

Britain used to be renowned for its exquisite leavers lace – a type of lace that is incomparably fine and made on unwieldy old-fashioned machines.  However, when the fashion industry realized that countries like China were producing lace at a fraction of the cost, the demand disappeared. Slowly Britain’s lace faded into obscurity, the machines either being sold overseas or destroyed. There are but a handful of companies now that still manufacture leavers lace, but it is now sold at a premium as a totally luxury product.

We live in a peculiar culture now; fashions move ridiculously fast and there’s far too much focus on disposability.  People are less likely to invest in a single piece and more likely to buy five cheap ones with the expectation to throw it out next season. Lingerie brands release seasonal collections, with limited edition colourways and prints. The biggest brands buy their fabrics in bulk and are inevitably faced with massive amounts left over – knowing they can’t use them again.

Fortunately, there are several lingerie brands who share these feelings.  Whilst  it’s incredibly unlikely that we’ll ever get the textile industry back as we once knew it, there’s several designers that are carrying on their legacies – whether it’s through using antique and vintage laces, giving vintage lingerie pieces a new lease of life or upcycling the seasonal leftover fabrics from bigger brands.  It means the designs are both unique and green – using existing resources instead of making them from scratch.  Here are a few of my favourites:

Gatsby_Pink_Knicker_1024x1024Ayten Gasson’s Gatsby high-waisted knickers, £42

Ayten Gasson uses both vintage Nottingham lace and lace from the UK’s remaining manufacturers.  My personal favourite is the Gatsby high-waisted knicker, trimmed with vintage cotton Nottingham lace.

IMG_0246Deja vu Dessous’ ‘Adella’ garter belt $279

Dollhouse Bettie’s ‘Deja vu Dessous’ upcycles existing vintage lingerie pieces to create some truly stunning one of a kind pieces.   I’ve fallen head-over-heels in love with the Adella Victorian garter belt – the rosettes and the flossing are too stunning to resist and it pains me that it’s out of my lingerie budget!

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Lovechild Boudoir’s ‘Barefoot in the Park’ skirted girdle, £59.99

Lovechild Boudoir also repurposes existing vintage pieces in signature burlesque inspired extravagance.  I love the heart appliqué on this ‘Barefoot In The Park’ girdle.

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Morua Designs corsetry. Photography by Sarah-Ann Wright, hair and makeup by Victoria Leanne, model is Camilla Yadgaroff.

I particularly love Morua Designs’ use of vintage and antique laces and trims – not only in corsetry, but in her delicate lace necklaces.  Whilst the latter isn’t strictly lingerie it could be the perfect boudoir accessory!

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Kiss Me Deadly’s ‘Paradise’ girdle, £55

Kiss Me Deadly regularly upcycle fabrics in their limited editions, with this season’s focus on gorgeous prints in longline girdles. I particularly love the ‘Paradise’ girdle which comes with its own set of paints for customization purposes.

Readers: what do you think of upcycling fabrics and vintage lingerie? Would you wear it?

Karolina

Karolina

Student at De Montfort University's world-renowned Contour Fashion course. Makes many knickers in her spare time.

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7 Comments

  1. Thursday
    02/07/13 at 6:04

    I think brands that can leverage existing resources, ethically, to make quality products are fantastic. However, I am always wary of existing vintage pieces being subject to the whim of modern tastes simply because someone doesn’t like them as they are. This is not what I’ve seen with Dollhouse Bettie’s reinventions – they are usually tasteful and manage to preserve some of the feel of rescued pieces. It does break my heart to see beautiful vintage dresses that have been cut to mini length simply because someone thought it looked cooler that way, not because that was the only way to rescue the piece.

  2. Halle
    02/07/13 at 14:04

    I make upcycled lingerie, so I’ll admit that I am a bit biased. Personally, I would never cut up an antique in wearable condition. I just couldn’t bear to. However, I did inherit some beautiful pieces from my great grandmother and can’t pass up a good second-hand find. Not all of these pieces are in good condition. Perhaps there is some unsightly pilling or a tear that cannot be repaired- these are the pieces I use as my basework. Whether it is the appliques or the lace, etc I would rather give a new life rather than doom it to the garbage can. So, I totally agree with these companies. Especially in the case of making classic/timeless pieces thus ensuring that they won’t be victims of too-quick trends.

  3. 02/07/13 at 23:15

    That’s an interesting article. We design and produce lingerie and often times, we have leftover material that has gone to waste. What we do is store/collect these material and turn them into fantastic pieces for our in-house staff. That way, we get creative, throw around some ideas, and experiment with designs and material combination.

  4. 02/07/13 at 23:25

    I wrote about Kiss Me Deadly’s upcycling here, last week: http://rockthecurves.00goddess.net/2013/06/kiss-me-deadly-has-your-match/ They have some gorgeous pieces and I love that we can get some fancy, retro lingerie that will actually match our bras from British brands, especially since KMD doesn’t make full-bust bras.

  5. 03/07/13 at 3:23

    I’m much more in favour of buying lingerie when I know it’s upcycled and/or ethical. :)

  6. 03/07/13 at 3:46

    Petits Secrets is made from upcycled fabric too, using unwanted clothing. You can even send the designer your own old clothes to have them turned into lingerie :)

  7. 03/07/13 at 14:51

    I love the idea of upcycling lingerie by a professional designer as so much of vintage lingerie is worthy of being preserved. Making something old look young again is just plain smart.

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