Posts by Karolina

No, You Don’t Deserve Luxury Lingerie

Karolina Laskowska Lingerie - photography by Tigz Rice Studios, modelled by Yazzmin. All of these lingerie pieces are handmade in the UK at low retail margins but are still very far outside most people's lingerie budgets.

Karolina Laskowska Lingerie. Photography by Tigz Rice Studios, modelled by Yazzmin. All of these lingerie pieces are handmade in the UK at low retail margins, but are still very far outside most people’s lingerie budgets.

I’ve noticed a pretty disturbing trend in the lingerie world right now: that of entitlement. There’s an awful lot of people out there who really seem to believe they unquestionably deserve luxury lingerie. Paying for it seems to be another matter entirely, whether that means paying what the individual believes to be a ‘fair’ price or getting the piece for free.

Clickbait headline aside, I genuinely believe that the sense of entitlement that is so pervasive in online lingerie communities can be harmful. From skewing customer perceptions of value to creating a hostile environment for independent designers, it’s a wide-reaching problem (not necessarily limited to the world of lingerie, though this is where I wish to focus today for obvious reasons).

The Sparklewren 'Strawberry Leopard' corset. Photography by InaGlo Photography. This is one of the many pieces I scrimped and saved for as a student, forgoing other 'luxuries' such as alcohol and going out. As a personal tip for very expensive pieces from independent designers - it's always worth asking if they can take installments to space out the damage to your bank balance!

The Sparklewren ‘Strawberry Leopard’ corset. Photography by InaGlo Photography. A one-off piece of couture with many hours of hand stitching and skilled labour behind it.  This is one of the many pieces I scrimped and saved for as a student, forgoing other ‘luxuries’ such as alcohol and going out. As a personal tip for very expensive pieces from independent designers — it’s always worth asking if they can take installments to space out the damage to your bank balance!

Luxury lingerie is expensive. This is a pretty unavoidable fact. Unfortunately, this means it is outside the means of many people. I know all too well how frustrating this can be; there have been all too many times I pinched pennies and (inadvisably) skipped meals as a student so I could afford new silk underthings. At no point, however, did I ever feel I was owed these things. If I came across a piece of lingerie I desperately wanted, I’d save up for it and give up other ‘extras’ in my life. When I later started my own lingerie brand, I was shocked at the sheer number of individuals who would simply ask me to give them lingerie for either hugely discounted prices — or for free.

This Matalan full bust bra retails at only £8. I don't think I'd be able to even buy the parts to make my own bra for that little in the UK. When products are this cheap, do you ever stop to think why or to consider the manufacturing process?

This Matalan full bust bra retails at only £8. I don’t think I’d be able to even buy the parts to make my own bra for that little in the UK. When products are this cheap, do you ever stop to think why or to consider the manufacturing process?

Fast fashion has had a lot of terrible effects on the industry. The human cost is perhaps the most shocking; who can forget how awful the factory collapse at the Rana Plaza in Bangladesh was? Perhaps it is most telling that it took the loss of so much human life for the Western world to open its eyes to the awful working conditions that make their cheap clothing so possible. It’s only recently that large areas of the industry have started taking an active effort in ensuring products are ethically produced, and even that throws up a lot of difficulties. Thankfully the independent side of the industry has made it much easier to trace the supply chain and ensure that your purchases are ethical. 

An embellished leavers lace by Sophie Hallette that I use in my designs. The wholesale cost of this is roughly in excess of £35 per metre. It's simply impossible for a piece of lingerie that uses this kind of fabric to carry the same price tag as a piece from Walmart.

An embellished Leavers lace by Sophie Hallette that I use in my designs. The wholesale cost of this is roughly in excess of £35 per metre. It’s simply impossible for a piece of lingerie that uses this kind of fabric to carry the same price tag as a piece from Walmart.

The desire for ever cheaper clothing has been so heavily driven from all ends of the industry that it has now become the norm. Many consumers have become so used to these low prices that they simply expect bras to cost $5, regardless of the fabrics, embellishment and techniques that have gone into it. This becomes their associated value for all bras, perhaps because of the relative lack of knowledge of the work that actually goes into the garment. Human labour and craftsmanship simply don’t enter into the value equation.

The lack of understanding into the fashion industry has led to a total lack of reasonable expectations. Many consumers simply have no idea how much fabrics like silk and Leavers lace cost, let alone the arduous process that goes into developing a well-fitting bra. Expecting every lingerie brand to offer their products at a price that suits your personal budget just isn’t fair. Lingerie brands are businesses; businesses are rarely started with the intention of breaking even or losing money. They’re started as profitable ventures.

Angela Friedman's creations are all handmade in New York and are priced accordingly

Angela Friedman’s creations are all handmade in New York with exquisite fabrics (silk and French lace). They have to be priced accordingly.

A lingerie brand’s pricing is never calculated to cause you personal offence. The price of each piece of lingerie has to be carefully considered. This was something that was covered in greater deal by Angela Friedman’s series about what goes into handmade lingerie, but it seems to be an issue that isn’t even considered by many lingerie lovers. The price you pay for your lingerie isn’t just for the cost of the materials or the cost of stitching. It has to cover the businesses’ overheads, which can vary greatly according to the size of the business. As a designer myself, I do my utmost best to take a totally detached approach to pricing my designs; using a strict mathematical formula that involves the exact costs of fabrics and manufacturing, with standard wholesale and retail markups. It’s this way at every level across the industry. Even the larger brands that maintain higher profit margins do this from a pure business decision; a brand like Agent Provocateur may certainly be able to produce their products at a cheaper price and larger quantity than an independent luxury brand, but they also have scores of boutiques and hundreds of staff to pay.

The Agent Provocateur 'Shirley' slip, retailing at £395. This price not only has to cover the expensive materials (silk and lace) and time consuming construction (fiddly lace appliqué), but also the brands huge overheads.

The Agent Provocateur ‘Shirley’ slip, retailing at £395. This price not only has to cover the expensive materials (silk and lace) and time consuming construction (fiddly lace appliqué), but also the brand’s huge overheads.

Over the years, the growth of social media has totally changed the landscape of the lingerie industry. It’s opened doors for hundreds of new independent brands that would otherwise stand no chance of breaking into the industry without contacts or financial backing. It gives brands a chance to directly connect with a fan base as well as selling directly to them (without the previous need for finding wholesale stockists). Customers can connect directly with designers, with brands no longer appearing as anonymous enterprises. Unfortunately, this also means the removal of certain social barriers. The facelessness of online communication means individuals just don’t consider the implications of their words had they the social cues of actual face-to-face interaction. It’s become incredibly common for individuals to contact brands and simply ask for free products or to complain that their lingerie is ‘too expensive’ (rather than too expensive for the individual to afford). The latter statement can actually end up incredibly hurtful for independent designers who are producing the lingerie themselves at incredibly tight margins. It implies to them that their labour and craftsmanship is not worth fair payment. This may not have been the original intention behind the phrase ‘too expensive,’ but it’s an unfortunate consequence.

Karolina Laskowska Lingerie - photography by Tigz Rice Studios, modelled by Yazzmin. I've been told numerous times that my designs are 'too expensive'. If I was to bring my prices down, then I wouldn't be able to use couture French lace or English manufactured tulles and elastics. I also wouldn't be able to manufacture in the UK. Supporting local industry is an important element to my business, and not one that I'm willing to sacrifice just to make cheaper sales.

Karolina Laskowska Lingerie. Photography by Tigz Rice Studios, modelled by Yazzmin. I’ve been told numerous times that my designs are ‘too expensive.’ If I were to bring my prices down, I wouldn’t be able to use couture French lace or English manufactured tulles and elastics. I also wouldn’t be able to manufacture in the UK. Supporting local industry is an important element of my business, and not one I’m willing to sacrifice just to make cheaper sales.

Despite all this negativity, I still think it’s a wonderful thing that so many independent lingerie brands are able to start businesses without all the hurdles that the pre-internet business world provided. The changing face of the industry has made many things easier, but provides new challenges. Changing attitudes of customers and the change of expectations is just another factor that has to be considered. As a lingerie consumer, you can play your part by educating yourself about what goes into your underthings — whether it be mass production, expensive luxe fabrics or hand craftsmanship. Have reasonable expectations of what to expect for your money and learn about where exactly your lingerie comes from.

Readers: What value do you place on your lingerie?

Karolina

Karolina

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

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My 6 Favorite Luxury Lingerie Designers

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links

Whilst I’m sure a lot of us identify as lingerie addicts, my problem goes a little deeper and hits the bank balance even harder: I’m a luxury lingerie addict. I’ve found that the further I’ve fallen down the rabbit hole of the lingerie world, the more discriminating and picky I’ve become about the pieces I choose to add to my wardrobe.

Luxury lingerie isn’t just about the individual garments; it’s an experience, that offers superior craftsmanship, exquisite materials and incomparable craftsmanship. From the obvious elements (silk satin instead of polyester, gold components instead of plastic) to the details only an aficionado will notice (Leavers lace instead of Raschel lace, French seams instead of overlocked seams), there’s a whole world of difference between what makes lingerie just ‘luxurious’ and what makes it truly ‘luxury.’ This list represents my current crème de la crème of the lingerie world; designers that have been tried and tested by yours truly, whose beautiful lingerie I would gladly add more of to my collection….

Carine Gilson

Photography by Karolina Laskowska

Photography by Karolina Laskowska

Exquisite lace appliqué

Exquisite lace appliqué

Carine Gilson french knicker detail 1

Lace appliqué and tiny hems

Impeccable internal construction details

Impeccable internal construction details

As far as I am concerned, Carine Gilson is the reigning queen of luxury lingerie. Her designs may not be the most innovative or fashion forward, but they carry a timeless elegance and beauty that will never feel out of place. The craftsmanship on her lingerie is the most exquisite that I’ve ever seen in lingerie: think improbably tiny hems, invisibly stitched intricate lace appliqué, French seams, silk wire casing and bagged out elastics…. As a designer myself, these pieces represent absolute lingerie perfection. Add to this the experience of actually shopping in one of her boutiques (I included the London store in my guide to lingerie shopping in London): it’s about as close as you’ll get to reaching lingerie heaven.

Jenny Packham

Photography by Karolina Laskowska

Photography by Karolina Laskowska

Photography by Karolina Laskowska

Photography by Karolina Laskowska

Satin stitch embroidery detail

Satin stitch embroidery detail

Lace appliqué and tiny rolled hem

Lace appliqué and tiny rolled hem

Jenny Packham is a designer who moved to intimates from evening wear, and she’s brought all of that glamour with her. I adore just how extravagant many of Packham’s nightwear pieces are: frou frou ostritch feather trims, delicate French laces and extravagantly voluminous bias cut silk…. The construction is impeccable, with ditch-stitched binding, French seams and carefully stitched appliqué and embroidery. The pieces I’ve been lucky enough to acquire are nightwear staples in the summer…. There really is nothing to compare to the experience of sleeping in bias cut and French seamed silk!

Agent Provocateur Soiree

Photography by Karolina Laskowska

Photography by Karolina Laskowska

Silk bra lining

Silk bra lining

Intricate lace and beading details

Intricate lace and beading details

I can’t deny that I’ve been disappointed with the quality of Agent Provocateur’s mainline over recent years (something that I addressed in my recent review of their ‘Demelza’ set), but the Soirée line is still something that I adore. I purchased my first set last year, and it’s been true love since. From the beautiful French laces and their exquisite placement, the carefully considered construction to the intricately hand sewn beading, these lingerie pieces are truly pieces to covet. I just wish that the collections were better represented on the brand’s website; they consistently show low-resolution and inaccurate product photos without full views or detail photos. The Soirée line is really something that you have to see in person to fully appreciate. If there’s an Agent Provocateur boutique near you that stocks it, I cannot recommend a visit enough.

Steph Aman

Photography by Karolina Laskowska

Photography by Karolina Laskowska

Steph aman butterfly embroidery

Butterfly cutwork embroidery

Steph Aman embroidery detail 1

Layered embroidery detail

Steph Aman hem detail

Embroidered hem detail

I first spotted Steph Aman’s designs in luxury erotic emporium Coco De Mer. Her silk loungewear contains what I can only describe as the most exquisite embroidery that I’ve ever seen. Everything is stitched by Steph herself on an antique embroidery machine in London, on gorgeously lightweight chiffons, georgettes and tulles. I adore how she uses both traditionally feminine motifs like butterflies and florals alongside more subversive designs such as horse skeletons; there are so many layers of beautifully considered design that you constantly feel like you’re discovering something new. Photos just cannot do Steph’s work justice: they truly need to be seen and felt to be fully appreciated…. The craftsmanship is that incredible.

Sparklewren

Photography by Karolina Laskowska

Photography by Karolina Laskowska

'Moth' neckline detail

‘Moth’ neckline detail

sparklewren detail 2

‘Moth’ lace appliqué detail

I think that it would be fair to say that Jenni Hampshire of Sparklewren is my favourite corset designer of all time. Each of the pieces that she creates is utterly beautiful in a way that words cannot describe. As the only designer on this list that specialises in bespoke, it’s a given that the fit of her garments is utterly impeccable. The embellishment, complexity of construction and hand finishing result in these couture corsets being true heirloom pieces. Every time I look at the corsets in my collection, I find something new to love – further levels of complexity and intricacy in the divine lace appliqué and beading. I don’t think I’ll ever find the sufficient words to describe my adoration for Sparklewren – suffice to say I have many more corset purchases planned….

Harlow & Fox

Photography by Karolina Laskowska

Photography by Karolina Laskowska

French lace insert detail

French lace insert detail

Silk covered buttons and loop fastenings

Silk covered buttons and loop fastenings

The full bust market is one that’s woefully under-served by the high-end sector… and thankfully, Harlow & Fox have stepped in to serve that niche beautifully. Designer Leanna has hit every nail on the head to cement this brand as one of pure luxury. The fabrics are utterly exquisite: delicate French Chantilly laces, Italian embroideries, gossamer fine silk georgette and sumptuous silk satin. The finishing is impeccable, and makes for an utterly wonderful wearing experience; from the silk lined bras to the double-sided satin Augusta robe. Silk is undoubtedly a luxury fabric, but so few lingerie brands use it anywhere but the outside of the garment. It’s a mark of true luxury to see the actual wearing experience so highly considered.

Readers: Have you tried any of these brands? What are your favourite luxury brands?

Karolina

Karolina

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

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Review: Chantelle C Naturel Minimizer Bra

Disclosure: I was sent this lingerie free of charge by Chantelle. All opinions are my own.

Photo by Chantelle

Photo by Chantelle

Chantelle is one of those lingerie brands that I’ve seen countless times in department stores, but never actually made a conscious effort to discover for myself. Their bras have always seemed pretty to me, but not exciting enough to pique my interest — my main associations with them are of delicate lace and embroidered balconette bras.

I was a little surprised when I was sent their ‘C Naturel’ minimizer bra to review. Not only is this kind of minimal style something that I don’t associate with the Chantelle brand, but minimizer bras in general have never really been on my lingerie radar. I tend to have quite a dim view of beige t-shirt style bras, given that I prefer the more frivolous and fancy variety of lingerie. Consequently, I seriously wasn’t expecting to like this bra as much as I do.

Chantelle C Naturel Minimizer braI was sent the ‘C Naturel’ bra in the ‘blush’ colourway. I was sent a 32C, sister size to my normal 30D. The bra retails at $69 and is available in band sizes 30-42 and cup sizes C-H. It is also available in caramel, orchid and ebony colourways.

Photo by Karolina Laskowska

Photo by Karolina Laskowska

The bra is a full cup style with an impressively seamless construction. The cups are comprised of a double layer of stretch fabric — the outer a powermesh with what feels like a microfibre lining. The cup neck edges are finished with a satin foldover elastic, with a subtle brown ‘stitch’ pattern along its length, a feature repeated on the straps. The centre front is also finished with this foldover elastic and a tiny satin bow with rose gold Chantelle logo charm; these are nice extra, unfussy details on an otherwise simple design.

The side cradle and centre front pieces of the bra are made with a double layer of non-stretch tulle, with the bra wings being comprised of an outer layer of powermesh and soft knit jersey underneath. The straps are in a ‘ballet back’ formation, which lends this bra an extra element of comfort. The bra wire casing is stitched in to be invisible externally, and even features what appears to be a layer of padding for extra comfort. The 32C closes with two hooks and eyes at the centre back at a 38mm width.

Centre front detail

Centre front detail

When I initially received the bra, I was a little disturbed to discover that the label advertised it as a ‘slimming’ bra. I have never considered breast size or shape to be equivalent to one’s overall weight or body shape.  Reassuringly, when this was brought up with a Chantelle US representative they agreed with me over this language concern; hopefully this was just a translation issue and will be rectified in future production runs!

Interior underwire detail

Interior underwire detail

I wasn’t sure what a minimizer bra could really offer me, given that I consider myself fairly small busted. Although I ordinarily wear a 30D, this largely means I have a very narrow ribcage. Nevertheless, I was pleasantly surprised by the shape this bra gave me when it was actually on the body. The cups have a small amount of stretch, so gave gentle lift and a naturally rounded shape. I love the silhouette this gives; it’s subtly flattening and it works excellently under some of the more androgynous jersey tops I tend to wear on a day-to-day basis.

My breasts are fairly bottom heavy, so I tend to avoid full cup bras as I struggle to fill them out. As you can see in the photo above, the cup on my smaller breast is slightly baggy on the top part. This doesn’t particularly bother me or show up under clothing. The wires on this bra are true to size and encase my breast tissue fully and comfortably. The wires are fairly flexible (more than most of my other everyday bras), but I actually found this quite comfortable. I’d be curious to see if this is a feature that extends to the higher end of this style’s size range, given that the 32C is the smallest cup size made in it. I found that the band came up true to size, and while the 32C was fairly comfortable on the tightest hook, I think I would have been better suited to the 30D. This bra was extremely comfortable throughout wear; I’d forget I was even wearing it on a daily basis, and it’s held up to multiple hand washes perfectly, with very few signs of wear.

Photo by Karolina Laskowska

Photo by Karolina Laskowska

Overall, I’m a pretty big fan of the C Naturel Minimizer bra. Although it’s not something I’d ever have picked out for myself, I’m so glad that I got to try it. I can get so caught up in the appearance of lingerie that the concept of silhouette and its effect on outerwear can often fall by the wayside. For those looking for a bra with subtle shaping and gentle lift, I thoroughly recommend this Chantelle piece.

Readers: Have you ever tried Chantelle? Which designs are your favourites?

Karolina

Karolina

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

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Review: Chantal Thomass Rendez-Vous Triangle Bra, Knicker and Camisole


Note: The lingerie in this review was purchased with my own money and all opinions are my own

Photo by Chantal Thomass

Photo by Chantal Thomass

Chantal Thomass is one of my all time favourite lingerie designers. Several of her sets feature heavily in my everyday lingerie wardrobe and her lookbooks regularly give me heart palpitations. Imagine my reaction when I discovered that she’d turned her hand to my most adored lingerie era, the 1920s, and even recreated the classic Kestos bralet shape… Suffice to say there was swooning involved.

The Rendez-Vous collection is based around silk satin and 20s-inspired details such as ribbonwork flowers and flapper-style silhouettes. Included in the range is a padded bandeau bra, soft bralet, short, thong, suspender, slip and camisole. It appears to have been re-released a few times in new seasonal colourways: when I purchased the style there was a mauve and pale green version available, but I’ve also seen the set in golden-pink, pale blue and black. The bralet and short both retail at $195 and the camisole at $325. All three pieces are available in sizes S-L.

Photo by Karolina Laskowska

Photo by Karolina Laskowska

I purchased the bralet in a size medium, the short in a size small and the camisole in a small. I normally wear a 30D/32C bra and a UK 12 bottom, though I consistently tend to find Chantal Thomass’ styles can come up a little big in knicker styles.

Ribbonwork detailing

Ribbonwork detailing

All three pieces are made of a mix of stretch silk and French leavers lace. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that they were all sewn in France. All of my previous Chantal Thomass purchases were sewn in China, though it does explain why the price point of these styles is a little higher than average. I adore how many exquisite 1920s-inspired details there are to these pieces: intricate ribbonwork flowers, tiny silk satin binding, and delicate pintucks. It’s elements like these that elevate these pieces of lingerie to something seriously special.

Bralet fastenings

Bralet fastenings

The bralet is a replica of the original ‘Kestos’ bralet, one of the first ever commercially available bras with seperate cups that reached the peak of its popularity during the 1930s. This is one of my favourite bra styles of all time; I collect vintage examples of this style and I can honestly say that the Chantal Thomass recreation is charmingly historically accurate. Inevitably, this means that there are certain fit issues, but this is part of what makes me love this piece so much. The only elastication is in the crossover straps across the torso, with the shoulder straps remaining at fixed length. I found that the bra came up a little small – the medium offered the best fit in terms of cup coverage and gentle support, whereas with my narrow 30D ribcage I’d normally expect to wear a small.

Photo by Karolina Laskowska

Photo by Karolina Laskowska

The bralet offers very little support and its silhouette is a little at odds with the ‘ideal’ that modern clothing is built around. As such, it strikes me as an oddly uncommercial piece but one that I utterly adore as a consequence; I find it to be the perfect boudoir piece. Strappy lingerie is by no means a modern invention, but I love how sophisticated the Kestos inspired take on it is. The bra cups have a two-layer construction, with a nylon mesh inner and leavers lace outer. There are two darts in each cup for shaping, with all seams hidden internally. Edges are all finished with impeccably stitched silk binding, and the shoulder straps and torso straps are all covered in silk. The straps crossover at the back and fasten just under the bust with two small silk covered buttons and loops. The shoulder straps aren’t stitched in place, so can be moved slightly along the elastic to best suit your body shape.

Photo by Karolina Laskowska

Photo by Karolina Laskowska

The camisole offers a fairly similar fit to the bralet in terms of bust support, but works a little better with the modern figure as an unsupportive loungewear piece. The cups have a similar construction in that they feature a double layer of nylon mesh inner and leavers lace outer, with darts for gentle shaping. The main body of the camisole is a stretch silk, which offers some fit flexibility and ease of dressing.

Camisole pintuck details

Camisole pintuck details

The shoulder straps are adjustable with sliders at the back. It’s embellished with more of the beautiful ribbon work at the apex of each cup, and with delicate pin tucks at the centre front of the silk. The neckline of the cups is finished with very narrow silk binding. It’s a very comfortable piece – the mesh in the cups is soft against the skin and the stretch of the silk makes this a great piece for sleeping and lounging. It’s sturdily and accurately stitched, though I must admit that I’m a little perturbed by how sturdily it’s been constructed. All of the seams are either elasticated or taped, which can feel a little heavy going for such a light piece.

Knicker lace appliqué and binding details

Knicker lace appliqué and binding details

The matching shorts are a French knicker style, constructed of stretch silk with a centre seam. Although not quite as flowing and extravagant as a pair of tap pants, I appreciate the little details that allude to the 1920s: the loose, unelasticated legline, the lace appliqué detail, the ribbonwork rosette and the gusset insert. The stitching is sturdy and accurate, and particularly neatly done along the appliqué scallops and on the tiny leg edge silk binding. As enamoured as I am by the bralet and camisole in this set, I must admit that the matching knickers from the Rendez-Vous collection aren’t quite up to the same standard. I find that the waist elastic in this short is a little too firm and can cut in a little at times (though this doesn’t particularly bother me during wear). When I tried sizing up, I found that the rest of the knicker was a bit too baggy to look flattering. I also found that the gusset insert had a tendency to bunch up which isn’t the most attractive look, perhaps caused by the silk being stretched out during stitching. I actually also tried on the matching thong for this set, though discovered that the size small was far too tight, and the medium resulted in elastic strapping hanging loosely. I’d really love to see an authentic tap pant style to go with this set, though that may be asking for a bit too much!

Even with the knicker issues, I utterly adore this set and I’m over the moon that I got the chance to purchase it. It’s possibly the least sensible and most extravagant of my purchases this year, but it ticks all the boxes for my lingerie geekery and attention to detail. Chantal Thomass remains firmly near the top of my list of favourite designers and I know that I’ll be adding more of her designs to my lingerie wardrobe in the future.

Readers: Have you ever tried Chantal Thomass? What do you think of the Kestos bra style?

Karolina

Karolina

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

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Review: Agent Provocateur Demelza bra and suspender belt

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

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

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

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 four 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

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!

Demelza suspender detail. Photo by Karolina Laskowska

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 leave a lot to be desired.

Readers: Have you ever purchased from Agent Provocateur? What did you think about the garment quality?

Karolina

Karolina

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

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Lingerie Studies: A Guide To Internships

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links.

Internship at Sparklewren Corsetry. Photo courtesy of Sparklewren

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

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

‘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!

Cost

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

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

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?

Karolina

Karolina

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

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Review: Tightlacing Off-The-Rack Corsets Under $100

Disclosure: These corsets were purchased by The Lingerie Addict for the purpose of review. All opinions are my own.

Photo by Restyle

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.

Restyle – Black cotton underbust ‘Wide Hips Matt’ hourglass corset

Photo by Karolina Laskowska

Photo by Karolina Laskowska

Price: Approximately $50

Size: 20″

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.

Restyle Wide Hips underbust detail 2

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

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

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.

 

Orchard Corset CS-426 longline underbust with hip ties

Photo by Orchard Corset

Photo by Orchard Corset

Price: $88

Size: 20″

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

Mystic City – MCC-44 Mesh Corset

Photo by Mystic City

Photo by Mystic City

Price: $99

Size: 20″/XS

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

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

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

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

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?

Karolina

Karolina

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

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Review: Gooseberry Intimates Paris Demi Body

Disclosure: I was sent this lingerie free of charge by Gooseberry Intimates. All opinions are my own.

Gooseberry paris demi body

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

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

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

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

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

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

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?

Karolina

Karolina

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

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Review: Tallulah Love Hummingbird Knicker Gift Set

Disclosure: I received this set free of charge for review purposes. All opinions are my own.

Tallulah Love hummingbird gift set

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.

Tallulah Love Hummingbird gift set boxed

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

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.

Tallulah Love Coral Lily knicker detail 2

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.

IMG_0983

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.

Tallulah Love hummingbird knicker detail

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?

Karolina

Karolina

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

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Review: Ludique ‘Wicked’ soft bra and high-waisted knicker

Disclosure: I purchased this lingerie for myself, Ludique have no affiliation with this review.

Ludique lingerie Wicked set

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!

ludique wicked set

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!

Ludique wicked set back detail

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.

Ludique wicked knicker detail

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.

Ludique Wicked set review

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.

Ludique Wicked set review 3

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?

Karolina

Karolina

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

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