Review: Carine Gilson Couture Lingerie

Disclosure: I purchased all of the lingerie in this review myself. All opinions are my own.

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Carine Gilson’s lingerie has been on my lust list for longer than I can remember.  Renowned for her couture approach to lingerie and using only the finest silks and chantilly laces, her designs are the creme de la creme of the lingerie world – and most certainly carry the price tag to match – knickers tend to start around $350 whilst a chemise can set you back over $1000.  Her designs have always been something that I’ve dreamed about but assumed I’d never be able to actually own.

Nevertheless, I was trawling the post-Christmas sales back in January and found myself in Harrod’s, a luxury department store in Central London. This is the sort of place I’d never normally be able to shop in, yet the sales make all the difference – ‘clearance’ is a magical world! Nevertheless, it was rather a traumatic experience to see so many pieces of exquisite lingerie (Rosamosario, Jenny Packham and Marjolaine just to name a few brands) shoved haphazardly onto racks and strewn across the floor. Nevertheless, I plowed through to uncover a Carine Gilson bra and French knicker at 80% off in almost my size – and then I made the mistake of taking them to the changing room, from which point I was essentially doomed to buy them.

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Whilst the two pieces I chose weren’t exactly matching in terms of colour, they both featured the same lace designs and featured such clashing colours that I figured I could make them work as a set. The bra is a plunge/push up style with molded cups, whilst the knickers are a fairly loose-fitting ‘French knicker’ style with a stretch waistband.  The bra is a 34B – I usually wear a 32C/30D, so whilst it is the same cup size, the band is a little loose. The knickers are a Large which I would equate to a UK12.  Similar bra styles sell for around $548 and knickers for $466 and are available in sizes 32B-36C and Small – Large.

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Personally, the fit of these garments played a relatively minor part in my decision to purchase them. Nevertheless, given the fact that I’d purchased the ‘wrong’ bra size, the fit is still good. The cups fit well with the wire fully encasing my breast tissue. The band is a little looser than I’d normally like, which is understandable given that it’s a couple of sizes out of my normal choice.  The knickers are all round a good fit, with enough stretch in the waistband to sit comfortably just above my hips.

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What prompted me to actually purchase these was the, quite frankly, insane attention to detail. It’s reaffirmed my opinion that Carine Gilson’s designs are the absolute pinnacle of the luxury lingerie experience. As a designer myself, this is something I’m usually extremely critical of – yet these pieces are pretty much flawless. The construction of both pieces is exquisite. The bra has had all of its elastics bagged out so that they’re not externally visible and give a smooth finish. The straps are made of silk and the bra is lined with silk. The actual wire casing is lined with silk – whilst this isn’t exactly practical in the long run (wire casings have to be sturdy as the take most of the stress when wearing the bra), it certainly feels wonderful – plus I doubt these designs were ever intended for every day wear. My personal favourite element of the bra’s construction is that the additional push up pad ‘cookies’ that come with it are also covered in silk! The lace is appliquéd onto the cups symmetrically with near invisible stitching.

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However, the finesse of the construction truly comes to light with the knickers, where there’s no covering up of the stitching as within the bra. All the seams are French seams – a time-consuming technique that involves trapping all the raw edges within the seam itself, so there’s only beautifully finished edges actually in contact with the skin. The gusset is lined with silk and has been bagged out so there are no visible raw edges. The hem of the knickers and the stitching on the actual lace applique is so impossibly tiny and fine that it’s difficult to believe it’s actually physically possible to sew so immaculately – on the exterior of the garment you can’t even see that it’s been stitched.  Literally the only element of the knickers’ construction that hasn’t left me overwhelmed is the 3-point zigzag stitch that they’ve used on the elasticed waistband – but even that is finished with an exquisite silk ruffle!

For me, Carine Gilson lingerie is the epitome of luxury – the construction is perfect and the design absolutely exquisitely elegant and timeless. It has one major flaw though – it’s so beautiful that I’m actually scared to wear it and it’s remained wrapped in tissue in a box since I bought it, taken out only for these photos! I’m still hit with pangs of guilt for actually buying it, given the rather ridiculous expense even at 80%, but I’m trying to justify it as motivation for myself as a designer – I’m hoping that one day I too will be able to create something this beautiful!

Readers: Have you encountered Carine Gilson lingerie before? What makes a lingerie experience true luxury for you?

Karolina

Karolina

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

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11 Comments

  1. 04/03/14 at 0:18

    IT’S SO AMAZING. I hate you a little for having such a beautiful piece in your collection. It was all I could do when I was in the boutique in London not to run off with everything!

    • 04/03/14 at 3:12

      I still haven’t been to the London boutique, I REALLY need to get round to that! I can imagine the temptation, I fear I’d want to do the same myself :P

  2. 04/03/14 at 4:37

    I love those tap shorts and love the color combo you chose. So tempting.

  3. Leanna
    04/03/14 at 6:06

    Lust of Carine proportions is completely justified at 80% off I believe! I very nearly did the same in a Net a Porter sale once, with a camisole and French knickers, but I’m actually sized out of the Large so wouldn’t be able to even physically put either of them on. Yet I still got as far as the checkout page because they are so, so painfully beautiful. I literally was willing to just hang them on the wall and look at them lovingly, but reluctantly did give up in the end, as they should be worn and enjoyed. If you were to imagine the sheer pleasure you get every time you look at those tiny stitches, and those seams, and evened that out with what you spent on something you have loved from afar for so long, I’m sure the value will far outweigh the price. I think sometimes money spent on material things is as much about the experience of owning, treasuring and enjoying something, and the feeling it brings you, than merely the physical item. But you still have to wear them, so I don’t have to wistfully regret not having having bought them despite not being able to do so myself!

    • 05/03/14 at 4:26

      Leanne – I almost did the same at the Net-A-Porter sale! I’m going to treat this set as a something for study and inspiration rather than as just lingerie… so in a way that’s justifiable?! It will take a while to find the courage to wear it!

  4. Mateo
    04/03/14 at 15:58

    Wow, these pieces are so beautiful! Love the match in color, purple and yellow …. <3
    This is a gorgeous match, and I love the daring in it.
    They both look so very luscious in fabric, would just love to wear something like this!
    Good pick <3

  5. Hannah
    04/03/14 at 20:52

    Karolina:
    Do you consider Agent Provocateur luxurious or just a big name behind an inferior product? Just curious, you seem to be quite the expert!
    Hannah

    • 05/03/14 at 4:27

      I’d say that Agent Provocateur have luxury branding but not a luxury product… all a matter of personal opinion though! :)

      • Hannah
        05/03/14 at 16:33

        Have you purchased items from them that didn’t work out for you? I wish there were more reviews. I hear both sides: they break right away or they are very luxurious and last forever if you take care of them.

  6. Gabe
    05/03/14 at 10:19

    This is beautiful! Since you’re obviously a woman who knows her lingerie, what’s your favourite brand?

    • 05/03/14 at 15:09

      I don’t really have a single favourite brand – it depends to depend season by season on the collection and what I’m looking for! I’ll always love Carine Gilson’s designs for their timelessness, elegance and quality. I love Marika Vera’s designs but they don’t seem to fit my body shape very well which is a bit heartbreaking. I love everything Sparklewren does but that’s more corsetry than lingerie – I don’t have a single favourite though as I am *very* picky!

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