Toru & Naoko: A Custom Plus Size Lingerie Review
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Since writing for The Lingerie Addict, I’ve frequently mentioned my annoyance with the lack of aesthetic variation in plus size lingerie. The selection for trendy or unique off-the-rack pieces is slowly improving from major brands like Torrid or Cacique, but not as quickly as I (or others) would like.
I was thrilled to see Toru & Naoko in TLA’s Best Brands of 2016 list. I understand picking a brand that doesn’t produce plus size items for off the rack purchase could be controversial, but unconventional options are abundant in the world of custom-sized lingerie. TLA has reviewed Toru & Naoko previously, but I’m excited to offer a perspective on ordering customized pieces for a fat body.
First, I want to stress, for most people, these pieces are not going to replace your highly-structured, everyday bra. Because these pieces aren’t designed exclusively for plus size consumers, they avoid one of the major pitfalls of plus design – watered down design with an emphasis on “figure flattery” over style.
That’s not to say these pieces aren’t gorgeous or “flattering.” But if you’re looking for items focused on appeasing misguided style rules for fat bodies first, with a nod to design second, this may not be the brand for you. The pieces from Toru & Naoko (and many other small brands offering customization) may not hide larger lower tummies or create an hourglass figure on all bodies, but they are sexy and stylish.
The ordering process is simple, especially given that once it’s over, you have a custom piece of lingerie. Nearly every item on the website can be ordered through the ‘Made to Measure’ option. This includes a surcharge, usually about $15 to $20 USD, but I find that totally fair given small brands lack the resources larger ones do. This relatively small fee, smaller than the price difference in many big brands that offer both straight and plus size options, likely covers things like the time and labor of pattern grading or additional fabric.
Once you’ve placed your order, you email your own measurements and correspond with the designer, Camilla, to perfect the fit. Providing my usual clothes and underwear sizing in addition to the raw measurements resulted in a better fit for me, as raw measurements alone result in pieces that are too large. Camilla may also suggest small tweaks to the designs when necessary to maintain the integrity of the design or to make wear more comfortable for different bodies.
I’ve made three separate purchases from Toru & Naoko since the end of 2015, and I’ve been pleased with all three. In my experience, it takes about 3 to 5 weeks to receive my items from the date the order is placed. The items are packaged in clear plastic pouches, with no discernible odor. The pieces arrived tagged and with instructions to hand wash only. The packaging is pleasant, unfussy and minimal.
The Product & Fit:
I’ve ordered the Agatha set, Janice keyhole bra and Isabel panties combo in pink and the Lacey mesh bra and Marlie high waist panties combo in white mesh. All of these pieces are constructed well, and they’ve held up through repeated wearings and washings (and in the case of one, a dye job). To my untrained eye, the construction is neatly done and any hooks and closures feel secure and weighty.
My first purchase, the Agatha set, was a near perfect fit. The panties are a comfortable full brief, sitting high enough on the waist to prevent roll down. The wrap bra is nearly perfect. Surprisingly enough, the wrap around element is slightly too long, but nothing that conflicts with the appearance of the item on the body. I do see how widening the strap area that wraps around the torso could result in a slightly improved fit for a larger torso, but I don’t think the design suffers without this adjustment.
The Janice keyhole bra and Isabel panty were originally a gorgeous blush pink when I purchased them. At the time of ordering, Camilla smartly suggested a more robust elastic for the halter bra because of my larger bust. This change made for a comfortable halter that felt supportive without tugging uncomfortably around the neck.
While we were never able to confirm the cause, I noticed a slight running of the black trim bleeding onto the pink during a hand wash, so I chose to dye them to a rich wine color. I did receive a store credit for the items because of this. I love the fit and edgy design of this panty (no longer available), but after spending some time in them, I do think this is a rare example of how a slight adjustment to where the cutouts are placed might have made for a slightly more comfortable fit on my body.
My most recent purchase is easily my favorite. The Lacey mesh bra and Marlie high waist panty is a beautifully minimalist white mesh set. There are no embellishments beyond the front closure of the bra, a surprisingly heavy feeling metal clasp. Again, the white briefs are genuinely high waisted and full coverage. The bra is deceptively delicate, it’s supportiveness is on par with the support I receive from my sturdier bralettes. The panty is a comfortable full brief, similar to the bottom half of the Agatha set. If it doesn’t come across in the pictures, I feel fantastic in these pieces.
Toru & Naoko is making a bold statement by offering customization for their pieces. The brand is also not ashamed to acknowledge their customers of various sizes on social media. While I would love to see larger models on their website, I am inclined to be more flexible about this than I am with big brands geared towards serving larger customers who won’t do the same.
Toru & Naoko’s pieces are so different from what’s available to most plus size shoppers. The Lacey and Marlie set is simultaneously one of the sexiest and most understated sets I’ve ever owned. The Agatha set draws attention to my midsection, something I would struggle to find on the rack in my size.
Wanting monochromatic mesh and minimal design? Or pieces reminiscent of art deco design, in soft blushes or rich grape? What about psychedelic pastel florals? All available in your size through the Toru & Naoko custom ordering process.
Stagnant design, driven mostly by lace embellishment and lazy cage detailing has overtaken the world of plus size lingerie. I would love to see plus-specific brands step up and offer more variety, instead of leaning in on the practice of exhausting one or two trends.
Customization also allows for others who may not be included in the world of off the rack lingerie, not just those who are excluded or limited because of size. However, I know for certain, the world of custom lingerie holds so much promise for fat bodies, especially those excluded from off the rack shopping because of limited sizing or lack of aesthetic diversity. I would highly recommend Toru & Naoko for the shopper seeking delicate pieces that lean toward minimalism.
Would you buy custom lingerie? How do you feel about pieces that aren’t like what is already on the rack?