Disclosure: The lingerie in this review was purchased with my own money and all opinions are my own. This post contains affiliate links.
Photo by Agent Provocateur
I’m the first to admit that I’m a little desensitized to lingerie – I spend so much time around it that it takes something seriously special to get me excited. Brands like Agent Provocateur don’t usually capture my imagination (with the exception of their Soiree collection, as I covered in this review). So imagine my surprise when Agent Provocateur’s A/W13 collection managed to get me salivating over not one, but two styles – the Annoushka (because my lace obsession cannot be denied and that halterneck is utterly beautiful) and the Demelza, with its delicious graphic strapping and lace appliqué details. I have a pretty limited lingerie budget these days and couldn’t even begin to think about purchasing full price Agent Provocateur outright – so image my delight when my careful ebay trawling turned up a cut price brand new Demelza bra and suspender in my exact sizes…
I purchased the Demelza bra in my usual Agent Provocateur size 32D (one cup size up from other brands) and suspender in a ‘3’ (equivalent to a UK 10-12). The bra retails for $250 and the suspender for $330. Matching co-ordinates include a brief, thong and corset. The bra is available in sizes 32A-36E and co-ordinates in AP sizes 1-5.
Photo by Karolina Laskowska
The set is made of layered bobbinet tulle (a type of very fine tulle that is made of twisted fibres in a similar manner to lace), embellished with Sophie Hallette lace appliqué and ultra-delicate silk satin binding and rouleau strapping. Both bra and suspender feature a double layer of tulle, with black on the outside and a peach on the inside. Even with the layer of black tulle, it is so fine that it still appears extremely sheer against the skin. All of the elastics, trims and wire casings are in black and provide a stark graphic contrast. Somewhat surprisingly, the bra is made entirely of the tulle, even the wings – as such, I would advise against risking sizing down in the band with this style, as the lack of stretch means the fabric may not be able to take the tension. The bra also features a plastic bone at the side of the cradle for additional support All the metal components are gold toned, with sliders featuring the Agent Provocateur brand logo. The shoulder and garter straps are elasticated and adjustable, whilst the crossover straps at the front of the bra are fixed length and made of silk rouleau. Both pieces close with black and gold hooks and eyes, with the suspender featuring an additional gold swan hook and elastic closure for a peephole effect.
Bra detail. Photo by Karolina Laskowska
I’m pretty happy with the fit of both of these pieces – I had to size up from my usual 32C in the bra, but I find that the wire is a good fit and fully and comfortably encases my breasts. The cups are fairly shallow and give a slight push up effect which helps to keep the tension of the unadjustable crossover strapping (I was pleasantly surprised to discover that this detail didn’t have any issues with gaping or cutting in!). The underband is comfortably firm, but I would recommend sizing up in this style as I normally wear 30-size bands (which were not available in this style). The suspender sits comfortably at my natural waist and covers my hips relatively smoothly. All 4 garter clips sit at a comfortable height for stockings and can be adjusted. I would also recommend sizing up in this suspender compared to your normal dress size – although consistent with the brand’s sizing, I did choose a size up from my normal dress size.
Photo by Karolina Laskowska
Although I absolutely adore the design and styling of these two garments, I’ve discovered some pretty major design issues with them. The tulle used is extremely scratchy, to the point that I would not be able to wear these garments comfortably for more than a few minutes. The lace appliqué has not been stitched to the tulle, but glued – and not particularly well, at that. If you look closely at the garments, you can see the adhesive extending beyond the edge of the appliqué and shining, giving the pieces quite a messy feel. Also rather disconcertingly, the bonding process has meant the lace has melted a little and now feels quite crispy! After discussing this set with fellow Agent Provocateur fans, I was rather disturbed to learn that this set has seen some serious issues when it comes to longevity and washing – several people have stated that the tulle is extremely delicate and prone to tearing even during gentle wearing, which makes me worry about actually washing these designs. As a consequence, I don’t think I’ll be saving up to purchase the matching knickers to complete this set – I like my lingerie to last more than a single wear!
Suspender detail. Photo by Karolina Laskowska
This set has left me feeling a little disappointed with Agent Provocateur – what should be a luxury experience has left me feeling rather deflated. Although the gold components and couture quality lace certainly give a luxe feel, the construction methods and scratchy fabric leaves a lot to be desired.
Readers: Have you ever purchased from Agent Provocateur? What did you think about the garment quality?
Internship at Sparklewren Corsetry. Photo courtesy of Sparklewren
For most students in the fashion industry, internships are an unavoidable hurdle that must be crossed. Lingerie students are no exception, and the process of finding and completing suitable internships can be fraught with worry – from competition to get a place with the best brands to the financial implications of working (usually) for free in major cities, it can be a difficult time even for the most savvy lingerista.
I graduated from a lingerie design degree just a few months ago and have been through a substantial amount of internships in that time, along with hearing the experiences of my coursemates. Most of us would agree that, although we learned a lot, there’s certainly a few things we would have approached differently now. I hope that this guide will help you to avoid some of our mistakes!
Choosing where to apply
Nouvel Emoi by Huit – one of Wacoal Europe’s brands. Photo by Journelle
There are a few mistakes I see students make repeatedly when applying for internships: applying too late and applying to brands just because they like the designs. Depending on the brand (especially in the case of very large companies), it pays to apply early – the longer you leave it, the more likely it is that other students will have sent in their applications and they’ll no longer have a place for you.
When it comes to choosing which brands to apply to, I cannot emphasise enough that you shouldn’t get in touch just because you like someone’s designs. Although it’s great if you can get a placement where you love the aesthetic, it should come secondary to what you can learn there.
Think carefully about the direction that you want your career to go in and about the skills you wish to learn to help aid your journey in the lingerie world. If you want the security of employment with a company like Wacoal Europe or Victoria’s Secret, it makes more sense to get in touch with them than to just spend some time at a local independent lingerie boutique. Likewise, if you hope to one day start your own lingerie brand then working with smaller, independent designers can add valuable strings to your bow.
Remember that larger companies will often have separate departments for each area of the industry (and so you could potentially gain a more focused experience there, usually in the form of shadowing employees); independent brands often do everything in house, giving you a more general perspective and much more hands on experience (and in my experience, smaller brands give their interns a lot more responsibility – which can be an exciting if scary learning curve!).
How to apply
‘Jaguar’ by Damaris – a brand that regularly offers internship opportunities
The best method to apply for internships is undeniably by email – just make sure that the email is going to the right place! Some brands have dedicated webpages for internships (such as Sparklewren here), others address internships in their ‘Careers’ page (such as Damaris and Lascivious). However, not all brands share this information so readily. With smaller, independent brands, you can usually find a general contact email that will direct you to the right person.
This isn’t so easy with large companies, though. In my experience, the best way to get a place with a bigger-scale brand is to go and talk to their representatives in person at a trade show. Trade shows generally are an excellent place to network and make new contacts – there are very few other opportunities where you’ll get a chance to meet the brand representatives short of a personal connection.
Although it doesn’t hurt to message a brand over social media asking for a contact email, I cannot emphasise enough – don’t try to apply for an internship through Facebook/Twitter/Instagram – it comes across as extremely unprofessional! Ensure that all of your communication is polite and courteous – it may help to view applying for an internship in a similar manner to applying for a job.
It often helps if you attach your CV (or resumé) to your first contact email, to give the brand a chance to see what you can bring to them. Ensure that your CV is professionally written – if it’s five pages long, features 10 different fonts and largely talks about your experience working part time in the catering industry, it’s likely that it will get skipped over.
Tip: Although not compulsory, attaching a link to your online portfolio is a great way to stand out amongst other candidates and get you noticed for your creativity!
It’s an utterly unfair reality that individuals with financial stability and privilege have the best chance at a successful design career – because, to be blunt, studying lingerie design is expensive. Most internships are unpaid – although some (but not all) compensate some travel and food costs, there’s some serious financial implications that you’ll have to consider – whether it’s the travel to and accommodation in a major city (where most brands are based) or the time away from a paying job.
Tip: Track down friends and family in major cities and arrange to say with them during internships to help cut down on costs.
During my internship with Kiss Me Deadly I developed a range of accessories including these nipple pasties
There’s a lot of talk about whether internships are exploitative – and whilst I certainly agree that in some cases they can be (and I have little respect for a company that writes unpaid labour into a business plan or relies on unpaid interns for production), it’s unavoidably true that they can be extremely valuable experiences that more than pay for themselves if you approach them the right way. The time that I spent with Kiss Me Deadly certainly gave my brand an incredible boost in the business knowledge that I learned, whilst my graduate collection would have been comparably lacklustre if it hadn’t been for the embellishment techniques I’d learned during my time with couture corsetiere Sparklewren!
How to behave
It should go without saying that you treat any internship like a job – dress appropriately, be punctual and be polite. Just because you’re not being paid a wage doesn’t make it acceptable to not bother turning up – it reflects badly on you and the institution where you study and can greatly inconvenience a company that has specially arranged their schedule around you.
However, just because you’re unpaid absolutely does not give a brand the justification to treat you badly. If you feel that you’re not being treated with respect then make sure you speak up – in the worst case scenario, you do not have to stay there. Don’t feel guilty about leaving if you’re not being treated like a human being!
If you’ve found yourself being set tasks that you did not sign up for, ensure that you communicate with the brand. They need to know that you’re unhappy. If you’ve found yourself being assigned the sole task of dog walking for two weeks (or something else equally irrelevant to the lingerie or fashion industry), you shouldn’t be expected to grin and bear it. Speak to the brand and try to find a compromise on the tasks that you engage with – if they’re not willing to budge, there’s no obligation for you to spend your time there.
Tip: If there are particular things that you want to learn, make sure you’ve discussed this with the brand before you start. If you only want to assist with design and the brand don’t have anything planned it may not be the best opportunity for you!
UK employment guidelines state that unpaid interns cannot do work that an employer will profit from directly – bear this in mind when you apply for a position. If you end up being used just to sew products for the brand, this should ring alarm bells! Likewise, if you’ve been promised payment for your time there only to have the company change their mind, stand your ground – the fashion industry doesn’t operate under its own laws!
Make the most out of your time there
Interns working at Sparklewren corsetry
Don’t view your internship as a set amount of hours you have to drag yourself through to progress to the next tier of the industry – use it as a time to learn. There is so much real world experience that you can gain as an intern that any educational institution will miss off their curriculum entirely. Keep an open mind, pay attention to what you do and the work going on around and most importantly – ask questions. This will be one of the only times you’ll get an opportunity to see behind the curtain of the glamorous industry façade, so to speak – use it to learn about the ins and outs of running a business, the realities of production and constrictions of commercial design. There are so many things that a university course won’t teach you and the sooner you learn the better.
Tip: This is the best time to learn about the business side of the industry! If you aspire to one day run your own brand, this is the time to pay attention to the day-to-day tasks that drive a business.
How long to intern for
For many individuals, the length of an internship is dictated by cost. If you don’t live in the city where the internship takes place, you may have a limited budget for accommodation – you’ll have to carefully consider the costs and benefits of each individual opportunity. With smaller brands, you can be expected to spend anything between a few days to a month working with them. Be wary of any internship that doesn’t offer any financial compensation but expects you to spend months at a time with them.
Some universities build a year in industry into their curriculum, a great opportunity to take a placement at a company for a longer length of time. In these scenarios you should expect some kind of financial compensation, even if it is minimum wage. Either way, the length of an internship is usually open to some kind of negotiation – if you’re trying to find a placement during your university holidays, brands are often happy to work around your time constraints.
When to intern
The best time to intern is usually during university holidays. Ideally you’d be lucky enough to either have a student loan to subsist from or supportive and financially stable parents that can help fund your internship. It’s best to make new contacts during your studies – the people you meet during your internships can be very valuable, either as individuals to help you and sponsor your graduate collections or to potentially offer you a job once you’ve graduated!
Tip: The Summer holidays of universities are a great time to fit in as many internships as possible – if you spend a week or two with different brands it will give you an opportunity to see lots of facets of the industry.
Keep in touch!
If you enjoyed your time interning, then make sure you stay in touch! Networking pays off in the long run and it never hurts to make new friends in the world of knickers. Plus, you never know – if a certain brand keeps your name in mind, you may have a job waiting for you once you graduate.
Readers: Would you ever consider studying lingerie? If you’re a fellow fashion graduate, do you have any other tips to offer?
Disclosure: These corsets were purchased by The Lingerie Addict for the purpose of review. All opinions are my own.
Photo by Restyle
Over the recent years, the off-the-rack end of the corset market has boomed. Lots of brands have discovered the demand for curvy corsets without the custom price tag and have filled the niche to much praise. Last week Marianne covered the top 3 starter corset brands under $100 – as a corset obsessive (regularly wearing and making them), I was intrigued to see what this new breed of heavily-shaping underbusts could offer.
I chose three underbusts under $100 from some of the most prominent ‘affordable’ brands: Restyle, Orchard Corset and Mystic City. Each corset was purchased in a size 20″ waist, offering the closest comfortable measurements to my natural ribcage and hip measurements (which are, for reference, a 27.5″ ribcage, 33″ high hip and 35″ low hip. My natural waist measurement is 25″). I must admit that when I went into these reviews, I was skeptical – the prices are just too low for me to be able to equate them to what I would define as a ‘good corset.’ The price tags they carry – between $50-99 per piece – wouldn’t even begin to cover my bare material costs if I wanted to make my own corset. I think it’s very important when approaching budget corsetry to keep reasonable expectations. At this price point, something has to be missing that you’d otherwise expect from a non-budget brand – whether that be ethical manufacturing (I’m not going to comment on individual companies, but suffice to say large parts of Asia don’t have a great track record compared to, say, Europe), good quality fabrics and components (such as fine-weave coutil and German steel busks), curvy patterning, hand finished binding and accurate stitching. This is by no means an exhaustive list, but these are all areas that are important to address – I’m a strong believer in getting what you pay for.
Closed measurements: underbust 27.5″, waist 20″, high hip 32″. Centre front height 12″
This corset is by far the curviest out of the three and I love the contoured top and bottom lines – it’s flattering and helps make the corset seem all the more dramatic. It’s the simplest design of the three corsets that I chose, with a plain black fashion layer and no additional embellishment.
The corset is constructed out of two layers of black cotton twill. It doesn’t contain a waist tape, which will affect the longevity of the piece – I noticed a minute amount of stretching around the waist in the short time I was wearing it and I suspect that this would worsen with time (though could be remedied with customising the corset with your own waist tape). The corset is bound in accurately machine stitched black cotton bias tape. There are two garter tabs on either side of the corset, sewn into the bottom binding.
The corset features interior boning channels, double boned on each seam with 10 spiral steels on either side. The boning is all a good length and fully fills each channel. The busk is heavy duty and 1″ wide with six equally spaced pins and loops. There is an unstiffened 1″ placket behind the busk. The centre back of the corset features a total of 4 flat steels, one on either side of the eyelets. There are 12 silver-toned eyelets on either side of the centre back – they’ve all been set well, with no visible splits. The lacing is similar to shoelace cord and has a slight spring to it – in my view this can make lacing a bit tricky at times but is also something that could be easily switched out for something with no stretch. There is an unstiffened modesty panel with around 6″ usable space behind the eyelets made of the same black twill as the fashion fabric. It’s lockstitched onto the centre back panel and can be easily removed with a seam ripper.
Photo by Karolina Laskowska
This underbust was by far the easiest to ‘break in’ (any tightlacing corset should be ‘seasoned’ to the wearer’s body before serious wear – Marianne mentions this briefly in her article on corset fit). It’s perhaps the best suited out of the three to my natural dramatic pair shape – I found it comfortable from my first wear, and I love how dramatic the hip curve is. The lacing gap is even down the back, further indication of how well suited this corset is for my shape.
Restyle Wide Hips Matt underbust hip stitch detail
Although this corset has my favourite shape of the three, its stitching leaves something to be desired. The stitching around the dramatically curved hip seam is particularly messy, which causes the fabric to wrinkle even when the corset is laced closed. However, given the extremely low price of this corset, I feel like expecting perfect stitching and smoothness would be an unreasonable expectation – dramatic curves are difficult to sew and the factory would have to cut a corner somewhere to keep to this price! Overall I’m pretty impressed with Restyle – at only $50, this corset offers serious curves and great value for money if you can overlook a few (minor) faults.
Closed measurements: 26″ underbust, 20″ waist, 33″ low hip (can be expanded with hip ties). Centre front height 13.5″.
Although sold as OC’s level 3 ‘extreme curves’ silhouette, this was the least curvy of the three corsets. It’s constructed of a double layer of black cotton twill with a pointed top line and lightly contoured bottom edge. The side seams feature hip ties that allow you to expand the hip measurement by a few inches. It’s a very longline corset, reaching 13.5″ in height at the centre front – I’d recommend this for people with particularly long torsos.
This corset carried the most pleasant ‘unboxing’ experienced – it came wrapped in pretty tissue paper with Orchard Corset logo stickers and a discount coupon for my next order. There is much more cohesive branding with this corset, whilst the others in this review arrived in polythene bags with no frills attached. It’s also worth noting that the product photos on the website show the corset on a couple of different body types, which is a big plus in my book.
Photo by Karolina Laskowska
The CS-426 is made of two layers of black cotton twill with a waist tape and bone channels sandwiched between the two layers. Upon opening my order, I was very struck by just how heavy this corset is – out of the three, it features the sturdiest weight of spiral steel boning. There are nine spiral steels on each side of the corset (double boned on most seams). Disappointingly, a lot of the spirals aren’t cut to the correct length for their channels – some have around an inch of loose space within the channel, causing the corset to buckle at the top/bottom edges. Additionally, some channels are not stitched particularly neatly and widen at certain areas where the bones start to twist.
Orcard Corset CS-426 stitch detail
There are flat steels on either side of the eyelets and behind the busk. The busk is a flexible busk with a re-enforcing steel bone underneath it and a 1/4″ wide modesty placket. Despite this re-enforcement, I was surprised about just how flexible it is – I haven’t worn the corset particularly long and it’s already permanently bent out of shape into a curve. I also noticed that the finish on the edges of the busk pins is a lot sharper than any corset that I’ve previously owned. There are 12 eyelets on either side of the centre back – almost all of them have been split but this hasn’t caused any problems with laces catching. There’s also five pairs of eyelets on each of the hip ties. The corset comes with shoelace style springy lacing, as with all three of these underbust corsets. My personal preference is for more rigid lacing but this is an easy fix. There is an unstiffened modesty panel with around 5″ of usable space, made of the same black cotton fashion fabric. It’s lockstitched into the back panel and could be easily removed with a seam ripper.
Orchard Corset CS-426 centre front binding detail
The corset binding is made of the same black cotton twill and has been machine stitched. I find that the binding on this corset really lets it down – it’s extremely messy, with an unpleasantly bulky finish on the inside, messy stitching and a very noticable overhang over the busk when the corset is closed. There are six garter tabs in total, sewn into the bottom edge binding. I’d say that the stitching on this corset overall is a big problem – it’s noticably inaccurate, especially on curvy seams (and there are areas where it gets seriously wonky).
Orchard Corset CS-426 interior binding
The CS-426 also has the longest stitch length of the three corsets – whilst this isn’t within itself a bad thing, it does indicate to me that more corners are cut in this style than in the other corsets that I’ve reviewed. This notion is further re-enforced by the fact that the wrong label has been sewn into this corset (stating that the fashion fabric is 100% polyester when it is in fact cotton), and that the corset arrived covered in lint – clearly a factory issue, as a lot of it was actually caught into the stitching. I was also a little disturbed to discover that although the modesty panel is sewn in, originally it had been glued in – an extremely cheap finishing. On the reverse side of the panel, the tape is visible sticking out of the seam – it’s still sticky and looks awful. This all indicates to me that the quality control of this brand isn’t perhaps as stringent as the others that I’ve reviewed.
Photo by Karolina Laskowska
This corset was the least comfortable out of the three that I’ve reviewed here. It took the longest to season and I often found it painful and uncomfortable, even when lightly laced. Its shape just isn’t right for my body – I’d actually say that it has less curve than my natural body. Even with the hip ties and option to increase hip size, the shape is still too smooth for me and I found it difficult to make the corset adhere to my body completely. There’s no way I’d be able to get the lacing gap comfortably even, but a /\ isn’t the end of the world either. This style of corset would probably be best for someone who has either an apple shaped or very straight-up-and-down figure.
Orchard Corset CS-426 modesty panel detail
Given that the corset is totally the wrong shape and style for my natural body, I feel that I have to comment at this point on Orchard Corset’s customer service. Unlike the other corsets in this review, their website doesn’t list corset measurements so I found their sizing a little difficult to navigate. I got in touch with their customer service with my body measurements, asking for a recommendation of styles suitable for waist training. They got back in touch promptly and I was recommended several styles of corset – most of them in a 20″ waist measurement, and one in 18″ (which admittedly struck me as a little negligent – a corset 7″ smaller than a natural waist in off-the-rack sounds like it could go horribly wrong – for an inexperienced corset wearer, this could cause them serious harm). The CS-426 was one of the styles recommended for me – despite me taking care with lightly breaking it in, it’s pretty clear that it’s totally wrong for my body shape. I tend to have much more respect for companies that will admit if a product is wrong for a customer rather than trying to shoehorn them into their products – so sadly, Orchard is not in my good books. Although I don’t think their corsets are necessarily a bad deal for the price (because let’s face it, $88 for a steel boned corset with some curve is very cheap whichever way you cut it), I couldn’t wholeheartedly recommend their products, given that there’s so many other brands out there at their price point creating a superior product.
Closed measurements: 26″ underbust, 20″ waist, 30-32″ high hip (can be expanded with hip ties). Centre front height 10.5″.
Mystic City’s MCC-44 is the most expensive of these three underbusts, but it’s also the one I was most impressed with. It went above and beyond my expectations of what a $99 corset could be – both from a design and construction perspective. The design is by far the most complex, with three different fashion fabrics – a gorgeous fuchsia pink poly-brocade at the centre front and back, black satin bone channels, and a loose mesh in between. It’s quite a short waspie-style corset, with a pointed top and bottom line and cut high on the hips. As a brand, Mystic City do seem fairly bare-bones – their designs are sold only through an Ebay store with no noticable branding and pretty minimalist product photos (as shown above – note the watermark to prevent the inevitable design theft that can occur on websites like Ebay!).
Photo by Karolina Laskowska
The corset is constructed with a mix of single-layer mesh and twill-lined channels for strength. A rigid waist tape runs along the interior, sandwiched beneath the boning channels and slightly visible through the gaps in the mesh. The mesh has a slight stretch to it when worn, but the corset shape is kept through the rigid waist tape and bone channels. The binding is a black polyester satin bias tape, carefully machine sewn with the ‘stitch in the ditch’ method so that the stitching is near invisible on the outside – a thoughtful construction technique that I would not expect at this price point. There are no garter tabs on this corset.
Mystic City MCC-44 interior detail
The corset is double boned on each seam with spiral steels, with a total of 10 spirals on each side. The boning is fairly lightweight and fully fill their channels. There are flat steel bones on either side of the eyelets at the centre back and a flat steel behind the busk for reinforcement. The busk is a standard flexible steel busk, made slightly more rigid with the steel bone behind it. It is stiffer than the Orchard Corset busk and has not been distorted through wear. There is a 1/2″ placket behind the busk, stiffened with a flat steel bone. There are 10 eyelets on either side of the centre back in a black enamel finish, in a much larger size than the other corsets – although certain corset purists tend to prefer small eyelets, I love the aesthetic of these oversized ones. All the eyelets have been well set with no splits. On the interior of the corset, some of the black enamel finish has rubbed off around the laces to reveal the metal underneath. The hips of this corset feature five pairs of smaller eyelets in the same black finish. The back of the corset laces with slightly springy shoelace style laces, though included in my order was also double-sided pink satin ribbon as shown in the product photo. The hip ties lace shut with a narrow double-sided black satin ribbon and allow for around 2″ extra hip expansion. The modesty panel is the ‘suspended’ style and is attached to the lacing through eyelets rather than the actual corset. It has a fashion layer of black satin and is lined in cotton twill and features five bones for structure – four spiral and one flat. The edge is finished in a black cotton binding.
Photo by Karolina Laskowska
This corset gives a comfortable and dramatic amount of curve, with a smoother line than the Restyle ‘Wide Hips’ corset with less of a cupped shape. It’s dramatically shapelier than the Orchard Corset CS-426. It’s very sturdy, and took quite a long time to comfortably break it in (though not as long as the Orchard Corset underbust). I don’t find it quite as comfortable as the Restyle underbust (I’ve found that cupped corset shapes work best with my body) but this is still the corset that I love the most out of the three. I was generally very struck by just how neat and impeccable the stitching is – I have literally not been able to find a single stitch out of place and cannot fault the construction – words I never thought that I’d be saying about a $100 corset!
Mystic City MCC-44 busk and fabric detail
I’d say that overall Mystic City’s MCC-44 was my favourite overall piece, but I’d be most likely to wear the Restyle Matt Wide Hips for comfort reasons. Trying these three corsets has been a very enlightening experience – almost all of my corset purchases over the past few years have been one-off pieces from single makers, but it’s great to see off-the-rack designers offering lower-priced pieces that actually shape the body. I do think it’s important though, as a customer, to maintain reasonable expectations for the price points. After all, a $50 underbust is never going to be of the same quality as a $2000 couture overbust – but they serve totally different purposes. I found it particularly interesting just how much variance there is between the three brands I’ve looked at in this review – in terms of garment quality, design, and branding/shopping experience. It’s also worth noting that Mystic City and Restyle’s designs are sewn in China, and Orchard Corset in Pakistan – neither of which are countries that are renowned for their ethical labour practices.
The quality of most of these pieces was largely in line with what I would expect at this price point – there are many areas that I would personally want to improve upon, but clearly aren’t a major concern for the companies producing them. Inevitably, you simply cannot have everything for cheap – there will always be a place for budget-priced corsetry, whether as a started brand or otherwise, but it just wouldn’t be fair to ask them to do the same job as an individually crafted piece.
Readers – have you ever tried any of these brands? What are your thoughts on off-the-rack corsetry?
Disclosure: I was sent this lingerie free of charge by Gooseberry Intimates. All opinions are my own.
Photo by Gooseberry Intimates
Gooseberry Intimates are a Bali-based independent brand, with an aesthetic that leans on the delicately lacey and softly unstructured side of the lingerie world. The brand first caught my eye last year after they were featured on TLA, and I adore their carefully considered use of sheer meshes and strategically laced lace scallops – so when I was offered one of their pieces to review I jumped at the chance!
Photo by Gooseberry Intimates
I was sent the black Paris Demi Body in a size medium (I normally wear a size 30D/32C bra and UK 12 knicker). The style is available in sizes XS-L and retails for $125. The body is also available in white, and the Paris range contains other co-ordinating pieces such as bras, camisoles and knickers.
Photo by Karolina Laskowska
The body is made with a mix of very soft and stretchy nylon mesh and a delicate eyelash lace. Cups are unlined and comprised of three parts for soft shaping and lift, with a soft elastic finishing along the neck edge. The wires are very soft and flexible and encased in a soft and plush casing. Shoulder straps are made of a satin finish elastic with gold toned adjusters. The top and leg edges are finished with a soft and stretchy plush elastic. Eyelash lace is symmetrically seamed and appliquéd onto the mesh on the centre front and as additional hip embellishment – a particularly cute and pretty detail! The gusset is lined in cotton jersey and features poppers for convenience. The body is finished with a tiny little satin bow and gold charm with the brand name at the centre gore.
Photo by Karolina Laskowska
I must admit that I was surprised at just how well this style fit me. I have a slightly longer than average torso, and a history with bodysuits being far too short to accomodate it. Fortunately, the mesh in this style is so soft and stretchy that I can imagine it would fit a fairly large range of different body shapes. I have a pear-shaped body and was pleased to discover that the mesh and elastic fit my hips and bum well, without any bagginess in the top half of the body. The body is a pull on style – although the bra wires meant this required a little wiggling when getting dressed, it didn’t cause any real issues.
Cup detail. Photo by Karolina Laskowska
The wire size in this size medium is a little larger than I would normally wear in a bra (I would estimate it to be best suited to a 32D/34C) – it’s a bit too wide for my breast shape, but I didn’t find this caused any major issues – this isn’t a particularly supportive style anyway and the wires help to add a little structure. It’s a matter of personal preference, but I did find the gusset width on this style to be far too narrow. Clocking in at just an inch and a half, it offers very little coverage and was something that I found a little uncomfortable. I also feel that the finishing could be just a little neater around the gusset – the fabric is a bit too wide for the popper tape it’s stitched into, so it ruches up at this point.
Gusset detail. Photo by Karolina Laskowska
I’ve only worn this bodysuit a couple of times and gently handwashed it once, and have been upset to find that the stitching around the lace appliqué on the hips has broken, causing the lace to come away from the mesh. The lace had only been lock stitched (straight stitched) onto the mesh – a problematic construction method, as it means that the stitching has no stretch. As the fit of this piece relies so much upon the stretchiness of the mesh, it’s no surprise that it has broken. A closer inspection also revealed that several areas of stitching around the appliqué had been skipped, which would further exacerbate this problem. Although the lace could be fairly easily stitched back on, it’s still a little upsetting for such a pretty piece to have such poor longevity.
Hip lace detail. Photo by Karolina Laskowska
Overall, although I’m disappointed with the stitching of the lace embellishment, I still think that this is a very cute lingerie piece at a relatively affordable price point. It has a lot of carefully considered details and a really good fit – I just hope that in future collections the brand can slightly fine tune their construction methods!
Readers: Have you ever tried Gooseberry Intimates? What do you think of their lace pieces?
Disclosure: I received this set free of charge for review purposes. All opinions are my own.
There’s always been something about gorgeous branding that’s been absolutely irresistible to me. I’ll always adore lingerie for what it is, but when you throw in beautiful tags and a gift box – well, you’ve pretty much stolen my heart. I’m sure that I’m not alone in this – I know plenty of fellow lingeristas who keep their lingerie gift boxes for storage because they’re that damn pretty.
From a designer’s perspective, I know just how expensive it can be to make beautiful branding a reality. Minimum order quantities are very high and can be so expensive they’re unattainable for many new brands. Consequently, when I see an independent brand who have their entire lingerie experience so utterly on point, it’s a total joy. British indie Tallulah Love is one of those brands. Cora has previously reviewed their ‘Frilly Filly’ set and shared their ‘Darkside collection’ lookbook, but this was my first experience with the product in person.
I was sent one of Tallulah Love’s ‘Hummingbird’ gift sets in a size Medium (equivalent to a UK 12). It’s comprised of two satin knickers, beautifully presented in one of the brand’s pale blue and gold heart-shaped boxes, retailing at £42.50 – a price point that I couldn’t help but consider incredibly reasonable, considering the intricate embellishment and elaborate packaging.
Photos by Tallulah Love
Photos by Tallulah Love
When I received the package it was a positive joy to open – even the mailing bag is pretty, in pale blue with gold accents and the Tallulah Love logo. The knickers themselves are wonderfully pretty – the first is a pale grey satin with a satin coral pink ribbon ruffle on all the edges and a pale grey rosette at the centre front. There is profuse decorative embroidery on the back of these knickers –floral motifs in blue, green and pink with the Latin words ‘Aliquem Amore’ scrolling across the top (a translation of the brand’s ‘Show Some Love’ tagline, I believe). Although the website’s product photos show this knicker with the Tallulah Love logo embroidered on the hip, this is absent from the product that I received. The second is a pale duck-egg blue satin with a darker blue ribbon ruffle, dark blue rosette, and a subtler embroidered hummingbird on the side back of the knicker.
Both knickers are well made and I could find no faults in the construction. The satin in both knickers is made of polyester – it doesn’t carry quite the same lustre or softness as silk, but as far as poly-satins go, it’s of a good quality. Even after washing, I haven’t experienced the pilling you would normally find in cheaper satins. Gussets are lined in a cotton jersey whilst the leg and waist elastic is very soft and plush.
The grey/coral knicker with the larger piece of embroidery features a synthetic mesh lining to prevent skin contact with the embroidery. Although I understand why it’s been included (as such heavy embroidery can tend to have quite a scratchy backing), the layering of several synthetic fabrics means that these knickers have almost no breathability. I found this got quite uncomfortable and sweaty during wear, to the extent that I would not be able to wear these comfortably throughout an entire day.
Fortunately this wasn’t nearly as bad with the blue pair of knickers – the hummingbird embroidery isn’t nearly as profuse as the lily knicker and its placement is in a less sensitive area. The blue knickers don’t have any lining, and the embroidery didn’t really cause any discomfort while wearing them. Both of the knickers are a good fit – true to size with very soft elastic that doesn’t cause any pinching, and enough coverage for the knickers to feel playfully cheeky. They’re a fairly bulky knicker style – the frilly edges will show through lightweight clothing. I wouldn’t recommend these for everyday wear from the perspective of visibility and comfort.
Overall, I think this knicker set is utterly adorable, especially due to the gorgeous box they’re presented in. My only real criticism is the fabrics – I’m fully aware that wishing for silk isn’t a reasonable expectation at this price point (the cost of silk has gone up ridiculously in recent years), but I do feel it could have taken these knickers from a cute gifting item to beautifully indulgent luxury. Whilst I wouldn’t recommend them for everyday wear, I still think they’re perfect for gifting – after all, knickers this pretty don’t really need to venture out of the boudoir!
Readers: Have you ever tried Tallulah Love? Would you gift a style like this?
Disclosure: I purchased this lingerie for myself, Ludique have no affiliation with this review.
Ludique are an independent lingerie brand from Romania whose striking designs and stunning editorial imagery have been catching my eye for the past year or so. Their pieces are unashamedly daring and fashion forward, specialising in softer ‘boudoir’ styles. Their use of eyelash lace, daring cut outs and elastic strapping are all very in line with my personal aesthetics. So when I spotted the ‘Wicked’ set in a seasonal sale, I simply couldn’t resist snapping it up!
The Wicked bra and matching high-waisted knickers are available in sizes Small – Large and retail for 89 euros each. I purchased a size medium bra (I usually wear a size 30D/32C bra) and a large knicker (I usually wear a UK 12). The sizing information on their website is a little lacking, so working out your size may take a bit of guess work!
The set is made almost entirely out of a sheer black powernet with accents of eyelash lace and rouleaux elastic. Unlike most lingerie sets that I see, the elastic in this set isn’t stitched directly onto the fabric, instead encased inside ‘tubes’ of the powernet. The bra also features gold-toned sliders and closure which gives the set a lovely luxury touch. Seams and raw edges are encased in a foldover elastic to give a smooth finish.
The knickers feature a hook and eye closure on the left waist strap, to allow for ease of dressing, with the zigzag strapping being fully adjustable for different body shapes. All of the leg elastic is encased inside the fabric and gives a pleasantly seamless appearance on the body. It’s extremely picky of me to pick up in it, but I do think that the stitch quality could use some refinement – the garments use a very tight zigzag stitch throughout, which I personally find to be very bulky and a little uncomfortable when worn.
I’d say that overall the garments fit relatively true to standard sizing – as such, they didn’t quite work for my body shape. The bra gives soft support and is very comfortable, though I found that the cups were a little too widely spaced for me – I spent most of my time wearing it readjusting it. The fit problems that I experienced with the knickers were largely due to the fact that I have a very pear-shaped figure, with more than 10 inches difference between my waist and hips. Although the knickers fit my hips and bottom very well with no cutting in, they were very baggy around my waistline. Fortunately, due to the ‘cut out’ shape of the knickers, it wasn’t particularly difficult to alter the two straps around the waist (such a quick job that I ended up hand stitching it!) and to simply tighten the rouleaux elastic ‘zigzags’. A medium knicker probably would have offered a much better fit, however the issues I had were relatively minor.
I did however start to account a few problems with the set upon my first hand wash. Although the encased elastics give a lovely finish on the flat garments when you first wear them, even after a gentle wash I discovered that the elastics all start to twist around inside their casings, resulting in the various straps ruching up and twisting. Although the garments are still perfectly wearable, I felt a little disappointed to see lingerie at this kind of price point have such poor longevity.
Overall, although I still love the look of Ludique’s designs, I’m not sure that I’d purchase their pieces again – whilst I still adore their designs (in particular their body suits!), I don’t feel that they fit my body shape well enough or offer quality in line with my expectations for this price point (though there’s a pretty high chance that as a designer myself that my standards are just too high!).
Readers: what do you think of Ludique’s designs? Have you tried this brand?
Note: This book was purchased for the purpose of review. All opinions are my own.
Home sewing seems to have made somewhat of resurgence in recent years – everywhere you look, there are guides and how-to projects on how to make everything from dresses to cushion covers. In the UK there’s even a nationally broadcast TV show called ‘The Great British Sewing Bee’. Whilst there are plenty of books, magazines and websites dedicated to clothing and home improvement sewing projects, bras have been left conspicuously behind. Which isn’t exactly surprising – wired bras are one of the most complex garments that you can try to sew yourself. They feature some of the most precise and varied sewing operations in a single garment, with at least around 30 individual parts to each garment.
‘Demystifying bra fitting and construction’ by Norma Loehr is currently available through Amazon, at $26.12 for the paperback edition and $15.88 for the Kindle edition. I’ll happily admit that I’m not the target audience for this book, so my approach will be a little different to the average customer’s. Unfortunately, I found quite a lot of issues with this book as a resource for bra-construction newbies. To give the short review, I found it to be simultaneously over-complicating and over-simplistic, though peppered with useful tips.
Whilst there is a lot of useful information shared in this book, particularly with regards to the basics of bra construction which are not readily available, I also found that there was quite a lot of misinformation. My opinion of this book got off to a fairly rocky start. It starts with 10 ‘reasons to sew your own bras’, the majority of which I heavily disagree with. For example, it lists that ‘It is cheaper than buying a bra… It is faster and more efficient than shopping for a bra… You get exactly what you want… You get a bra that fits’. In my personal experience, these reasons can only be true once you are highly experienced in sewing bras, highly experienced in lingerie pattern cutting, and able to purchase lingerie-specific fabrics and components in bulk. In any of these situations, it is highly unlikely that you would look to a book like this for help.
Nevertheless, this book does offer a lot of useful tips. The basics are covered very accurately – Loehr clearly explains a variety of different lingerie components and their different functions, with illustrations alongside. Whilst a lot of these photographs aren’t quite as clear or big as I’d like (and some are in fact quite pixellated), they’d certainly be useful as an introduction. I particularly appreciate the depth that she goes into with regards to lingerie fabric, explaining their handling and how this can affect bra fit. There are some excellent tips on how to customise a bra pattern to fit your own body. One tip in particular — on how to modify the bra’s cradle to fit your own body shape — is easily worth the entire price of the book.
As I mentioned before, I found this book a little limiting in what it had to offer. It refers to few cup shapes, limited mostly to a horizontal seamed two-part cup construction (though it also gives instructions on how to split the bottom cup for a more rounded shape). It also only refers to soft fabric cups, with no reference to how to construct foam bras or how to use moulded cups. There are also certain assumptions about bra components (particularly bra wires) that I find a little unrealistic for a bra newbie. For example, I have yet to encounter a single bra wire supplier that will send a style chart unless you’re buying at least a thousand pieces. In addition, the book doesn’t fully address how much a wire can affect bra shape, and the fact that just any bra wire cannot be put into an existing bra pattern and expected to fit. I found this particularly problematic as the book gives such limited pattern cutting advice – a bra’s pattern should be built to fit a wire, and not vice versa.
I also found that the book overcomplicates certain areas of construction, using methods that I personally don’t agree with, and wouldn’t recommend to a beginner. I also found the book a little difficult to read at times – the text could get long-winded and difficult to follow, and could certainly benefit from some editing. However, whilst I found large areas of this book problematic, overall I still think it is a good basic resource for craftspeople who haven’t encountered bra-making before. It is certainly a step in the right direction in an area that is so woefully lacking in information.
Readers: have you ever tried to make a bra? Would you consider buying this book?
I’m a born-and-bred Londoner, so I’ve got to know the underwear ins and outs of my city pretty well over the years. I thought that I’d share some of my favourite lingerie locations with you, just in case you’re planning a trip to the capital in the near future!
All photography by Karolina Laskowska unless otherwise credited.
Opening times: Monday from 14h00 to 18h00 – Tuesday – Saturday from 10h30 to 18h30
Given that Carine Gilson is one of my favourite ever lingerie designers, I wasn’t going to leave her London boutique off the list! In my opinion it is the closest you can come to lingerie paradise – but would you expect anything but from couture lingerie? Admittedly the lingerie that you’ll find here are pretty far out of most people’s price ranges (my own included), though I thoroughly recommend a visit even if it is just to peruse the latest collections and stare adoringly at the beautiful lace and incredible craftsmanship. The boutique has two floors, with the basement offering the most opulent changing room I’ve ever seen – plenty of twirling space, with gorgeous gilded artwork on the wall and further racks of delicious lingerie to tempt you…. The staff are incredibly friendly and welcoming, and should you have the funds and they don’t have your size in stock, they may be able to arrange for the atelier to make it specially. This is literally the pinnacle of luxury lingerie!
The V&A is my favourite museum of all time, and a must for any fashion lover. It’s free to visit, with certain temporary exhibitions carrying entry charges. The permanent fashion collection contains some absolutely exquisite examples of vintage and historical lingerie – including (but not limited to!) 18th century stays, Victorian corsetry and crinolines, 1920s slips and Christian Dior’s New Look foundations. It’s also possible to make appointments to view the archive and see certain parts of the collection that aren’t available to the public up close.
Coco De Mer is world renowned for its blend of fashion and eroticism – and with good reasons! It’s one of my all-time favourite boutiques to shop in, with a near-unbeatable selection of luxury lingerie to suit nearly every tastes – whether you’re into feminine silks and laces or hardcore leather and latex. One of the things that I love most about this shop is that they stock so many new and unusual designers that may not be the easiest to find in the UK – including most recently Paloma Casile, Edge O’ Beyond, Something Wicked and I D Sarrieri. Coco De Mer also has its own range of lingerie, with plenty of cheeky naughtiness to be found – expect lots of ouvert knickers and cupless bras! The boutique also carries a range of gorgeous one-off corsetry from designers Sian Hoffman and Kunza, and a range of utterly gorgeous vintage silk kimonos. The staff here are always friendly and helpful, and very knowledgeable about the products and the fit. Be warned though – dispersed between the beautiful lingerie you will also encounter quite a few sex toys, so this may not be the best place to visit on a family holiday!
Selfridges is an incredible department store, but for obvious reasons the lingerie department is my favourite part. It’s a relatively diverse department, offering lower price point brands such as L’Agent, Wacoal and Elle Macpherson, alongside its more luxurious offerings. You’ll also find an excellent hosiery section (including my personal favourites Falke and Wolford), nightwear (with lace deliciousness from Marjolaine and beautiful silk prints from Meng) and concessions for Myla, La Perla and Agent Provocateur, the latter stocking an excellent selection of their ‘Soiree’ range, which I thoroughly recommend inspecting in person for the beautiful details that you can’t make out online. However, my favourite part of the Selfridges lingerie department is the ‘Contemporary’ section – here you’ll find the most exciting independent lingerie brands, often with exclusive designs for Selfridges. The range of designers seems to change every season, but the last time I visited it included Something Wicked, Loveday London, ID Sarrieri and Bordelle. I’ve enjoyed many afternoons playing dress up here and have spent entirely too much money in their seasonal sales!
Ann Swift Lace at Portobello Market – my absolute favourite stall!
Location: Portobello Road, W10 5TA
Opening times: Antique market open 09h00-19h00 (though trading may begin earlier)
Portobello market is a famous antique market – as a designer I’ve found it one of the most inspiring locations in London. As a lingerie addict, I’ve also found it dangerously easy to spend my money! Here you can find stalls and arcades selling absolutely stunning antique laces (trust me when I say you simply cannot compare it to modern lace, it is that beautiful), genuine Victorian fashion plates detailing stunning corset illustrations and vintage fully fashioned stockings and lingerie. Admittedly, all of this will require a great deal of digging and patience – it’s a pretty big market with a lot to see! I’ve also learned that it doesn’t hurt to haggle and try to get a better deal – I’ve even had stallholders tell me off for not trying! The best stalls are out on a Saturday, and I would recommend visiting early to try to avoid the crowds.
Opening times: Friday-Saturday 10h00-18hoo. Tuesday to Thursday by appointment only.
If you happen to be visiting Portobello market, then I thoroughly recommend that you pop into the What Katie Did boutique – their reproduction vintage lingerie is absolutely stunning! They stock everything from bullet bras and tap pants to the best off-the-rack corsetry I’ve personally been able to find. Here you’ll be able to find sturdy garter belts with 6 straps that can hold up to everyday wear, as well as an amazing range of stretch and fully fashioned stockings at reasonable prices. I have to stop myself from wandering in too often now as their boudoir mules keep tempting me – with such lovely shop assistants and a discount for account holders, it’s only a matter of time before I cave in!
Readers: Have you ever visited London? What were your favourite lingerie places to visit?
Disclosure: I received this set free of charge for review purposes. All opinions are my own.
Silent Assembly ‘Zora’ set in pale pink
My ongoing love affair with lace is well documented – so there’s a pretty good chance that if you show me lingerie that uses fine French leavers lace, I’m going to be rather enamored. However, when I discovered new Australian brand Silent Assembly, it wasn’t their beautiful fabrics that caught my eye most – it was the innovative technology that went into their bras. The technical designer side of me was intrigued, so when the opportunity to review one of their products arrived, I jumped at it!
Silent Assembly Smooth set in ‘Marine Blue’
Silent Assembly specialise in a bra technology that they’ve called ‘Curvessence’, developed by founder Kay Choen – essentially, instead of bra wires, they use a specially developed memory nylon polymer built into moulded bra cups. Traditional bra wires are flat, and rely on the tension created by a tight underband to ‘spring’ the wire around a woman’s curved body to achieve a proper fit. For many women, this can cause discomfort, particularly if they are sensitive to tight clothing. Silent Assembly’s bras bypass this as their polymer wire replacements are 3D – shaped to follow the curve of a woman’s ribcage, with no need for any wire spring. These polymer ‘wires’ are already built into the cups of the bra, giving a much smoother and less bulky finish. Their website also claims that this style of cup is ‘greener’ than traditional bra styles, though I am personally a little skeptical. If you’re into bra geekery as much as I am, you can read more here.
Silent Assembly Xia body
The brand offers two ‘ranges’ of products – an ‘Everyday’ collection of smooth t-shirt bras with co-ordinating bottoms in a range of fashion colours, retailing around 69.95-79.95 AUD for a bra and 24.95-29.95 AUD for briefs. However, it’s the ‘Luxury’ collection that grabbed my attention most of all. The designs incorporate beautifully sumptuous fabrics and embellishments – from fine French laces and Swarovski crystals to delicate appliquéd chiffon flowers and pearls. I particularly love the unusual silhouette of the Xia body and the delicate floral embellishment on the Elidi set.
Silent Assembly Zora set, photo by Karolina Laskowska
I was sent the ‘Zora’ bra set in black to review, in sizes 32C and medium. The bra retails for 149 AUD and the ‘cheeki’ brief for 89.95 AUD, with a size range of 32-34 B-DD and 36B-D for bras and XS-L for briefs. The style also includes a midi-line brief and slip. Currently on the brand’s website the set is only available in pale pink and raspberry colourways.
Silent Assembly Zora bra interior, photo by Karolina Laskowska
The bra is a plunge style, with moulded cups that feature the aforementioned integrated polymer wires. The inside of the bra is as near a seamless finish as I can imagine being possible in a bra, with no wire casings or tapes against the skin apart from the underarm and underband elastic. The cups feature a stretch-chiffon and appliquéd French lace overlay, with the pale pink bra foam showing through the lace. Against pale skin this gives the impression of the lace being directly against the skin. The bras wings are also made of the same stretch lace and finish in unusually smooth hooks and eyes. Bra straps are comprised half of chiffon and half elastic, with gold toned components. The bra cup apexes are finished with cute satin bows and Swarovski crystals. The matching briefs are made of the same stretch chiffon and lace, with alternating ‘bands’ of chiffon and unlined lace appliqué, giving the design a nice play in transparency over the body. The knickers are also finished with satin bows and Swarovski crystals.
Silent Assembly Zora set, photo by Karolina Laskowska
Silent Assembly Zora set, photo by Karolina Laskowska
When it came to wearing the set, I have to admit that I was quite impressed with the polymer wire technology. I found the cups more comfortable than their traditional steel-wired counterparts. A lot less pressure was exerted on my body around the cups, and I didn’t have the usual irritants of wires poking at the centre front and underarms of the bra. I found the bra came up slightly larger in size than other 32Cs that I’ve tried. I’m between the sizes 30D and 32C and usually find that I can get away with a 32C on the tightest hook – however this bra proved to be a little too loose for my body. Even on the tightest hooks the band would ride up and I’d have to adjust it throughout the day. It’s a problem that could be rectified by choosing a smaller band size if one was available – in lieu of this I’m planning to alter the bra myself as it’s too gorgeous not to continue wearing! The briefs were a good fit, without any areas cutting in and offering a near seamless finish. The cut over the bottom is rather wonderfully cheeky, and I love the placement of the sheer lace!
Silent Assembly Zora bra detail, photo by Karolina Laskowska
My only real criticism of this set is that the knickers didn’t hold up very well to washing. Both bra and knickers were carefully hand washed in a gentle detergent, though I found that after the first wash the threads of the lace had already begun to unravel from the seam – I’d guess that this is a rare manufacturing fault rather than an inherent problem with the garment, though it was disappointing to see them come apart so soon! I’m fully aware that leavers lace is extremely delicate, though this is my first experience with such a problem.
Overall, I’m rather enamoured with the ‘Zora’ set. I love the potential that the ‘Curvessence’ technology offers the industry, and though Silent Assembly is still a young brand with a limited size range, I can’t wait to see what they do next. The attention to detail and construction are impeccable, with gorgeous fabrics and design details. I feel that the price points for these designs and fabrics are actually very reasonable – I hope that they find some UK stockists in the near future so that I can avoid those pesky import taxes!
Readers: What do you think of Silent Assembly? Would you be interested in trying polymer underwires?
Victorian chantilly laces from my personal collection
Lace is one of my absolute favourite things about lingerie – I’m absolutely obsessed with it. Its transparent delicacy and floral intricacy are incomparable when it comes to lingerie fabrics – so it’s no surprise how heavily it’s used! However, as far as materials go, it’s pretty expensive, for a variety of reasons. In this article I’m going to give you a brief introduction to this wonderful fabric and hopefully give you a better understanding of its significance in lingerie!
Lace was once created arduously by hand by skilled craftsmen – it held a hugely valuable place in society, with its various trends evoking a person’s status in society. Lace has always been a luxury fabric – whilst its individual fibres aren’t necessarily expensive in their raw state, it’s the huge amount of work that goes into creating them that carries this cost. Handmade laces first began to appear in Italy around the late 15th century. For many centuries, laces were made by hand. The two basic types of handmade laces are either needle lace, where the pattern is created with a needle and thread, or bobbin lace, where threads are wound onto weighted bobbins and twisted and plaited. However, these beautiful laces were rarely used on undergarments, instead being flaunted on outer clothing as a demonstration of wealth (that is, when it wasn’t outlawed for all but the clergy and aristocracy to wear!).
It wasn’t until the early 19th century that the most significant developments were made into machine-made laces. Amongst these was the ‘Leavers’ lace machine in 1813 – a machine that is still in use today, and was arguably one of the most instrumental in creating the modern lace industry that we know today. Please note that I’ve simplified the types of laces and machines greatly – there are many that I have chosen not to mention, and have instead chosen to cover the ones you will encounter most in lingerie.
‘Monica’ chemise by L’Agent by Agent Provocateur, using Raschel lace. Image from Net-A-Porter
Raschel lace – most contemporary laces are created on this machine, which uses a Jacquard apparatus to create the lace pattern, knitting whole rows of loops of thread at a time. This is the type of lace you’ll find most commonly in lingerie at lower price points – it is the fastest and easiest type of lace to manufacture, and one of the best for the use of synthetic fibres such as nylon.
Ayten Gasson’s ‘Orla’ bralet uses an English Leavers lace trim. Image from Ayten Gasson.
Fleur of England’s ‘Pandora’ babydoll uses French chantilly leavers lace. Image from Fleur of England.
Leavers lace – although an antique machine, some of the finest laces found in modern lingerie are still made of this type of lace. Originally the leavers lace industry was largely based in England (particularly Nottingham), but unfortunately there now remains only one manufacturer (who, conincidentally, makes many of the trims that Ayten Gasson uses in her designs). Most leavers laces are now made in France, particularly in the region of Calais (in fact, many designers choose to refer to this type of lace as ‘Dentelle de Calais’). These laces are incredibly fine, often with complex patterns. ‘Chantilly’ lace, where the pattern is interrupted throughout the design and surrounded by tulle, is a type of leavers lace that requires threads to later be hand ‘clipped’ around the start and finish of each new lace design. You are most likely to find this type of lace used in high-end and luxury lingerie.
Freya’s ‘Arabella’ style uses an embroidery in the top cup and knicker. Image from Freya.
Last season Bordelle created a custom ‘thorn’ embroidery for their lingerie designs. Image from Baby Likes To Pony.
Schiffli embroidery – whilst this is not technically a lace, it is often mistaken for one. Machine embroideries are most commonly created using Schiffli machines, which lockstitches designs onto a tulle base. These designs can be extremely complex and beautiful. You’ll find embroideries at all sides of the lingerie market – brands like Freya and Fauve use a great deal of embroideries in their designs, with more high-end brands such as Agent Provocateur using them in their designs. High-end brands are likely to have their own exclusive embroidery designs created just for them, as with Bordelle’s thorn embroidery from last season.
Myla’s ‘Layla’ bra uses a guipure lace on the cups and cradle. Image from Journelle.
Guipure lace – as with embroideries, Guipure is not technically a lace. It is in fact a heavy embroidery, where the tulle base has been chemically dissolved away, leaving the embroidered design free-standing. It is a fairly expensive fabric to use as its creation can be quite time consuming and resource heavy. Myla often use Guipure embroideries in their designs.
My ‘Agata’ set design uses a heavily embroidered and beaded French chantilly leavers lace on the cups and knickers
Close up detail of the lace used in my ‘Agata’ lingerie set design – featuring a chantilly lace base with embroidery and beading
Embellished laces – often laces can be later worked into either by machine or by hand – some of the most popular techniques are cording (where thin pieces of cord are delicately stitched over the original lace design to add texture), embroidery (both hand and machine, where the lace design is gone over with stitching for emphasis) and beading (where beads and sequins are hand-stitched for further embellishment). These can all be fairly costly varieties of lace, as they require very specialised and time consuming skills to create.
As well as there being these different types of lace, they can all also be found in totally different forms – different widths with different edgings, all of which hugely affects how the lace is used:
All-over – this type of lace is usually very wide and often does not necessarily have a finished edge – it is usually used the same as any other fabric and can be used to cover large areas in lace (for example, as the main fabric of a babydoll).
Trims – these are usually thin laces that are used either as edge finishings or embellishments on lingerie.
Flounce – this type of lace has no set width but features two different styles of edge on either side – usually one side features a scallop, whilst the other is flat. This lace is usually manufactured in matching symmetrical pairs. These laces (alongside galloons) are most commonly used in lingerie that features a scalloped edge.
Galloon – this type of lace features the same scallop design on both sides of the lace, meaning that symmetrical pieces can be cut from the same piece of lace.
Although it may not be something you’d ever considered, how lace is used can have a major influence on the cost of a garment. If a designer wants to use a scalloped edge along a bra cradle and wing, for example, they must pattern cut the bra to match up along each seam. This means each fabric piece for the bra has to be cut with a little overlap, so that when they are sewn together it appears as though the design continues through the bra, even when interrupted by stitching.
Agent Provocateur Soiree’s ‘Adara’ bra uses the lace’s scallop throughout – on the cup, cradle and wing. This would incur quite a lot of waste but its price reflects this – £395 just for the bra. Image from Agent Provocateur.
This type of pattern cutting has rather serious implications for garment cost, as it incurs an awful lot of waste – there are often large gaps between the cutting of each piece, regardless of how skilled the pattern cutter is. Although the odd centimeter of lace being wasted may not seem that serious a cost problem, you have to consider scaling up in larger areas of industry. If each lace bra wastes 5cm of lace and 1000s of bras are being sewn in one go, this can amount to whole kilometers of waste. Alternatively, if a particularly expensive type of lace is being used, those 5cm can get very pricey – for example, a particular lace trim that I use in my designs is intricately beaded and costs around £35 a metre at wholesale price. As an example, that 5cm ends up costing around £1.50 per garment – imagine scaling that up for production! Many brands work around these extra costs by topping an all-over lace fabric with a similar lace trim – the aesthetic is similar but usually costs a lot less!
This tulle maxi skirt form Rosamosario uses lace appliqué along the entire hem. Image from Net-A-Porter.
I covered the ins-and-outs of lace appliqué in a previous post, but this remains in my opinion one of the costliest ways to use lace in lingerie – not because there’s particularly vast amounts of the fabric being used, but purely because of the sheer volume of labour involved in stitching. Appliqué either involves ready-made lace motifs (often guipure) or hand cutting designs from a chantilly lace and then stitching around the edges onto the lingerie’s fabric to create an isolated piece of embellishment. Brands at lower-price points tend to use read-made lace motifs and tack just a couple of stitches on the most prominent parts of the motif. Ususally though, the piece of lace is carefully machined with a zig-zag stitch along its intricate edge to attach it completely to the garment’s fabric. This technique is most commonly seen in couture lingerie such as Carine Gilson and Rosamosario, where you’re unlikely to find lingerie selling for less than £500.
Readers: are you as fond of lace as I am? What is your favourite way that it’s used in lingerie?