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’s 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 – there’s one tip in particular on how to modify the bra’s cradle to fit your own body shape that it would be easy to argue is 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 2-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 to which, the bra 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 – 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 at times and could certainly benefit from some editing. Overall, whilst I found large areas of this book problematic, I still think it is a good basic resource for craftspeople that hadn’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 miss her London boutique off the list! In my opinion it is the closest that 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 Ell 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 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 to be 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 more ‘green’ 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 its 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 that 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 craftsman – 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. Hand made 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 hand-made 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 1 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 pattern. ‘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 specialist 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?
Disclosure: I purchased this lingerie for myself, Agent Provocateur have no affiliation with this review.
Agent Provocateur’s Soiree collections has always been one of those things that I’ve spent hours drooling over, knowing full well that I’ll never be able to afford any of it. Those gorgeous silks and laces live very, very, very far outside of my budget – you’d easily be dropping over £1000 on a single lingerie set. Nevertheless, a girl can dream (and dream I did)… and when the Agent Provocateur Summer sale rolled round, I did A Very Bad Thing.
As most lingeristas know, the Agent Provocateur sales are things of beauties – prices can drop obscenely low, making these extremely luxurious pieces affordable. When I found myself in one of AP’s London boutiques, it was the ‘Ester’ Soiree set that particularly caught my eye – the luxurious and opulent hand beading and lace are simply breath taking – levels of detail that I simply hadn’t noticed in the glossy Soiree campaign images. Even on sale, it still wasn’t cheap – the exact figures elude me, but I believe the bra was around £125 and the matching briefs £75 (vastly reduced of course – the original set cost near £1000, which is hardly surprising given the level of hand sewing involved – and I totally used this fact to justify my purchase!). I bought the bra in a 32D (my usual size is 32C, though I found that the cups came up quite small) and knickers in a size 3. Unfortunately, as a previous season sale piece, it is no longer available on the website – it may return in future sales so keep an eye out!
The bra and knickers are both made of a combination of stretch silk and French lace. The bra is lightly padded and lined in silk chiffon – even the wings are made silk, which whilst not the most hard-wearing of fabrics, does feel utterly delicious against the skin. The cups of the bra feature layers of French lace with delicate layered scallops of tiny silk binding, embellished with extremely intricate beading, with a variety of glass beads and metallic sequins. The bra gore is also covered in beautiful chantilly lace and finished with a silk bow. The straps are half made of a wide strip of silk chiffon, with the back half in colour matched elastic with gold toned sliders. The knickers feature a front panel of layered French lace, beading and silk binding, with the rest of the knickers made of the same navy silk chiffon as the bra. The side panels feature two ‘bands’ of folded and ruched silk chiffon, with seamless construction. The front panel and gusset are both lined with silk chiffon. The attention to detail is simply exquisite.
I cannot find any particular fault with the fit – although I had to size up a cup size in this bra, it fits perfectly well (and I found it in line with the rest of AP’s sizing). The wires encase my breast tissue comfortably and the gore tacks. The cups are lightly padded and give a flattering shape. The briefs are very comfortable, and I love the fact that the layered side panels don’t actually contain any elastic trims – they give a very comfortable and flattering fit on the body, without cutting in as other layered ‘peekaboo’ constructions often do. My only real criticism of the knicker fit is that the front rise is lower than I would normally like, though of course this is a matter of personal preference rather than design criticism. Unfortunately the heavy texture of the beading means that this set is very visible through clothing – not that this causes me any problems, as it is firmly reserved for special occasion wear only!
I am rather enamored with this set, and even though it did cause my bank account a great deal of pain, I would say it is worth every penny – the beading is simply exquisite, and I feel like I am wearing a work of art when it is on my body. The Agent Provocateur Soiree collection offers true luxury, and were I to have the funds, I would certainly buy from them again – I’m keeping my fingers crossed for a lottery win!
Readers: what do you think of the Soiree collection? Would you ever consider purchasing a piece of it?
Note: I purchased this lingerie for myself, Toru & Naoko have no affiliation with this review.
The first time I heard of the brand ‘Toru & Naoko’, I knew I was going to be a fan – after all, they’re named after characters by one of my favourite authors and have a penchant for cut outs and sheer mesh. What’s not to love? I finally bit the bullet after Cora featured the ‘Kelly’ set’ as her lingerie of the week – the crossover bra detail and knicker cut outs were just too adorable not to buy.
I bought the Kelly bra and knickers as a set – they’re are listed as single sizes (XS-XXL at $85, with made to measure at an additional charge). The style is made to order, with a 3-week waiting time. Camilla, the brand owner, kindly agreed to make me set in a size small top and size medium bottom to accommodate my pear-shaped figure (I normally wear a 30D bra and UK 12 knicker). The set arrived in just under a month (impressive given that the brand are based in Chile!). the bra and knickers are both made of a stretchy polka-dot mesh with an additional of darker black mesh on the knickers, finished with organza ruffled elastic around the bust and on the knicker waist edge. The knickers are lined with a cotton gusset and the bra closed with hooks and eyes. Shoulder straps are made in a shiny satin elastic with black plastic components.
Size comparison: ‘Large’ on the left, ‘Medium’ on the right
When I opened my order, my initial impressions were a little mixed. The lingerie is wrapped in a very cute drawstring bag, printed with the brand’s logo. However, the printing process has left the bag with a very unpleasant chemical smell, which unfortunately does seep into the lingerie and takes a long time and a few washes to fade. I also noticed that the labels within the garments didn’t actually feature any sizes – which is what I suspect led to the next problem. When I first tried the lingerie on, I noticed that whilst the bra was a good fit, I didn’t even want to try the knickers on – they were absolutely tiny, and when I measured their waist/hips at maximum stretch, they essentially equated to a size XS/S on the brand’s sizing chart. Equally problematically, the knicker elastic binding had a lot of skipped stitches – in one area so much so that the knicker fabric had actually escaped the binding, leaving a hole on the knicker hip. I contacted Camilla about this problem and she offered to replace the knickers for the hole fault immediately, but also said that the sizing was accurate. Consequently, I asked for her to send a size Large instead. This second pair of knickers arrived very promptly, though I have to say that the sizing of this brand does worry me – there is a huge difference between the two knickers in sizing, as you can see in the photo above. Although they are supposedly only a size different, there’s nearly 14cm difference in measurements between the two – I am personally convinced that I was originally sent the wrong size – though working out whether fulfillment issues or sizing problems are worse isn’t really a decision I want to be making about a brand!
Putting aside the problems listed above, I still think this is an extremely cute lingerie set – the design is so unusual! The polkadot mesh is soft and comfortable, and both the bra and (large) knickers are a good fit. The bra’s crossover detail does have a tendency to twist and cut in in certain positions, though this is unfortunately unavoidable given the garment shape. The bra does offer some light support, more suitable for loungewear rather than everyday wear. There’s enough stretch in the knicker fabric and elastic for the hip cut outs to not cut in – something I do worry about with most cut out designs.
With regards to the quality of the garments, there is a lot of room for improvement. The stitching is very inconsistent and a little uneven in some areas, with quite a lot of skipped stitching throughout the zigzag stitches. There are also a few smaller details that would have made a world of difference had they been considered – for example, the organza trim at the back of the bra has just been cut and left raw, instead of being gathered into the hook and eye for a smoother finish.
However, I am willing to cut Toru & Naoko a bit of slack for these problems; they are a very new Indie brand and it’s only reasonable that need some time to work out their quality control issues, though it would be nice to see them improve on these areas – I still love their unusual designs, and their price point is a lot more accessible than most indie brands and their customer service is excellent. It may be a while before I make another purchase, though I will certainly be watching the brand very keenly to see where they go next!
Readers: Have you tried Toru & Naoko? What do you think of their designs?
Disclosure: This lingerie was sent to me free of charge for review purposes. All opinions are my own.
To me, there has always been one thing that sets aside lingerie from every other kind of clothing: the detail. In no other area of fashion will you find such attention lavished to the smallest features that most people wouldn’t even consider – whether that be the exact shape and metal tone of a bra slider, to the size of the picot edge on knicker elastic. It’s this attention to detail that has kept me fascinated with lingerie, both as a designer and a wearer – I adore the opportunity to pore over intricate laces and fine silks.
Luva Huva Coraline Bra
Over the years, the Indie lingerie market has exploded – there are so many new designers offering up their take on intimates, with bralets proving one of the most popular garments on offer. This isn’t exactly surprising – lingerie pattern cutting and construction is difficult and time consuming, particularly when it comes to structured bras. Bralets give a way to sidestep this, offering soft support and little structure. So with all these new designers, it’s really the details that differentiate one soft bra from another.
Luva Huva are an independent brand based in the UK. They specialise in ethical manufacturing and sustainable fabrics and were included on our list of ‘Where to buy Ethically-made Lingerie‘. They mostly offer soft lingerie pieces and loungewear, with a focus on using organic and upcycled/end of line fabrics. I was sent a lace bralet to review in a size ‘C cup’ – unfortunately I cannot find the exact garment style on the website (nor were Luva Huva able to confirm which style I’d been sent), but it appears to be fairly close to this one, which retails at £42 and is available in sizes A-D cup.
Now, the very short and succinct review: this bralet is extremely disappointing. I have struggled to find redeeming features – there’s just so little that’s good about it. The design is ok, but nothing special. The lace is pretty, edged with a lacey-edged elastic. The underband and straps are made of a very stretchy foldover elastic, with sliders and the closure hook in clear plastic. The fit is poor (though in all honesty I suspected this may be the case when I discovered that their sizing goes by cup size alone, without any band size for context) – the elastic underband is fantastically stretchy and has a tendency to ride up and twist at the back. The cups have no structure, with a little gathering for volume at the bottom. They give no lift at all, and I found that there was a lot of baggy fabric towards the top of the cup, giving a pretty unflattering silhouette.
The bralet is particularly let down by its lack of attention to the crucial details – the components just feel cheap in their clear plastic finish. They haven’t even been properly filed down from the mold, with the hook having a spikey ridge that has a tendency to catch, snag and twist the elastic. The stitching is problematic in several areas – along the neck edge the tension of the thread is very off, with threads standing out from the fabric. There are also areas where there are a few skipped stitches (to give a visual representation: /\/\/\__/\/\/). On a personal level, as a designer, I would feel unable to sell a product of this quality. I’d like to think that this is a one-off problematic garment, but as Luva Huva did not respond to my follow-up email, I am unsure. Unfortunately this experience has somewhat tainted my view of the brand – which is a shame as it’s so refreshing to see a brand that takes such a responsible attitude towards ethical manufacturing and sustainability.
Readers: Have you ever tried Luva Huva? What was your experience?
I’d booked my place over 9 months ago (with the entire event selling out very shortly afterwards!), initially with a sense of uncertainty; after all, despite hearing so many wonderful things about its previous year, I’ve never considered myself a fully-fledged corsetiere. I’ve only ever sewn a handful of actual corsets, with nearly all of them being part of school assignments. Nevertheless, I’m so glad that I made the leap and went to this conference – it’s ended up being one of the best experiences of my life.
The corset table where attendees could display their work – I have never before seen so many gorgeous designs in one place!
Corset by Videnoir
Corset by Pop Antique – it took nearly all of my willpower not to run away with this!
The conference lasted two days and took place at Jesus College, Oxford. The first day started with tea and goodie bags, with a chance to get to know the fellow attendees. Throughout the day we had the opportunity to peruse the ‘embellishment bar’, a table where attendees donated and traded silks, laces and other embellishment goodies. A room was set aside for attendees to display their own work – I must have spent a good couple of hours there admiring the breadth of design styles, with each piece being inspiring in its own unique way. Not to mention that this provided the perfect opportunity to try on other designer’s work – which unfortunately led to me doubling my corset wish list and wanting to run away with most of the designs!
Corset by Crikey Aphrodite! – inspired by the portrait of Elizabeth I in Jesus College
My own moodboard and corset design
After a bit of getting to know each other, all of us delegates headed off to our first master class, with Alison Campbell of Crikey Aphrodite. Her talk was about inspiration and the use of moodboards to inform the design process – after which, we all went off through the college grounds in search of our own inspiration, whether it was the beautiful stonework, the intricate stained glass of the chapel or the gorgeous flora that the grounds had to offer. After compiling sketches and photographs, we all made our own collaged moodboards – piecing together our visual inspiration and fabric swatches, to then help us design corsets on the handily provided OCOC ‘paper dolls’!
Corset by Clessidra
Our second class was with Julia Bremble, of Sew Curvy/Clessidra corsetry and the main organizer of the entire conference. Her talk was about corset blocks and the importance of good and consistent patterns – extremely valuable advice for those of us who approach corsetry as a business. This was further cemented by our next talk, by TLA’s very own Marianne Faulkner (of her own corsetry brand ‘Pop Antique’), about corset grading (the process of changing the size of a garment through the manipulation of its pattern). Whilst the information in this talk is likely to go completely over the head of the average corset enthusiast, for those of us who enthuse about pattern cutting or ready to wear corsetry, it taught us invaluable lessons.
Corset by Sparklewren
The final class of the day that I attended was Jenni Hampshire of Sparklewren’s talk about Birdswing corsetry – a signature technique of Jenni’s that uses lots of panels to act as ‘hinges’ around the body for a flexible fit, inspired by an antique corset within the Symington Collection and Snibston Museum. As well as sharing the ins and outs of her construction processes, Jenni’s talk focused on how peculiar antique corsetry can teach us such new and unexpected things to apply to our own work.
Our formal dinner and its glorious surroundings!
The day finished with a wonderful drinks reception and formal 3-course dinner (all of course a wonderful excuse to bring out our poshest corseted attire!), all topped off with a wonderful speech by Autumn Adamme of Dark Garden corsetry – a truly inspiring pioneer of modern corsetry, leaving all of us attendees with a lot of food for thought. The evening was finished by a visit to the college bar – which I have to admit, led to me and several others engaging in some slightly intoxicated last minute corset stitching… Fortunately, without causing too much damage!
Oxford Conference of Corsetry – MoruaCorset by Morua, using embellishment techniques such as smocking and pleating
The final day of the conference was a little freer in structure, with fluid workshops and photoshoots running throughout the day. I started the day with Gerry Quinton’s (of Morua corsetry) embellishment workshop, where we were shown invaluable fabric manipulation techniques – including some thoroughly enjoyable smocking and fabric petal techniques that I can’t wait to use on my next corset design. This was the last formal workshop, with the rest of the day running on a much more ‘drop in’ structure. I found Cathy Hay’s (of Foundations Revealed, an extremely valuable corset-making resource) workshop about business particularly valuable. The insight and thoughts of the various attendees revealed a wealth of experience and areas to consider for their own businesses. It’s this networking that makes the conference so utterly invaluable – at no other event would you discover so many tiny nuggets of information that make such a huge difference to your business. Although I’m rather sad to say I missed them in lieu of networking and a photoshoot, there were also informal workshops with many of the other corset fellows of the conference.
Oxford Conference of Corsetry – Ella Rose modelling a Karolina Laskowska corset
My experience ended with a wonderful photoshoot with photographer Chris Murray and model Ella Rose – each attendee had the opportunity to photograph their work in the wonderful Jesus College surroundings. I’m impatiently waiting to receive the photos of my ‘Oxford’ corset (made especially for the event!), but the experience was the perfect end to such a wonderful weekend.
I didn’t want the conference to end and I hated having to leave – it was such an amazing experience, both in the sense of learning many new things to push my own corsetry, and in meeting so many like-minded people and making new friends. Corsetry may be more of a hobby than a business for me, but the conference definitely inspired me to push my work further and explore new ideas – I just hope I manage to put them into practice before the conference comes around again next year!
Readers: would you like to attend this event? Please share your thoughts in the comments below!
FRKS Lingerie are an indie brand based in Hungary that have been on my radar for quite a while now – their psychedelic colour palette and insanely intricate hand-embroidery caught my attention in the best possible way. I’d been planning to purchase my own set for quite a while, so when I was offered the opportunity to review a set I jumped at the chance. After all – who doesn’t want wolves and stars adorning their bottoms?
I was sent the ‘Howling Wolf’ Panty and ‘Night Wolf’ bralet in sizes Medium and 32C respectively (I normally wear a UK12 and 30D). The panties are available in sizes XS-XL and the bralet in sizes 30-38 A-C. All garments are made to order so it may be possible to have sizes outside this range created if you message Zsofi through her Etsy shop.
Both the bralet and the panties are made of a soft stretch mesh, with a lining in areas that feature embroidery for a more comfortable feel against the skin. The bralet includes panels of both blue and black mesh, with soft elastic edging and a racer-back shape. Straps are made of satin elastic and feature black enamelled adjustable sliders. There is intricate embroidery on the centre back panel, with motifs of a wolf, night sky and trees adorning it.
As much as I adore this bra design, I’ve had to admit defeat – the shape just doesn’t work for me. The cups are quite far apart for a bralet, and I found that whilst I could manipulate my breast tissue comfortably into the cups when I put it on, once I actually started to walk around and do things, my breasts fell out of the cups and into the centre. It’s a real shame, as if the cups were just a couple of centimetres closer together this would be an ideal fit – the underband is comfortably firm and the cups offer good coverage and light support. It just doesn’t work for my body shape! Fit issues aside, this bralet is extremely well made, with secure stitching all round. I’m particularly struck by the skill within the embroidery – it’s deliciously intricate, and isn’t distorted or stretched out of shape when the bra is on the body. The use of mesh lining on the embroidery panels also means you cannot feel it against the skin – which I must admit, was somewhat of a concern when I first saw these designs!
The knickers, however, I simply cannot fault. The embroidery is exquisite – quirky and cute, and beautifully executed. Once again, a mesh lining means that the garment is still soft against the skin without any irritation from knots or bulky embroidery stitching. As with the bralet, the knickers are very well made – all of the stitching is secure and neat. They’re a good fit, sitting low on the hips and have quite a cheeky cut on the bottom. The gusset is also nicely wide and they’re wonderfully comfortable.
I absolutely adore all of the tiny details on the knickers, embroidery aside – the double elastic trim across the centre front gives a nice graphic effect, whilst the tiny tassel trim and bow-tied peephole at the centre back give a cheeky finish. The bow also has the benefit of giving some fit flexibility.
Overall, I am totally in love with these FRKS Lingerie designs – they’re so unusual and innovative. I’d love to see more indie designers trying new techniques such as hand embroidery in their garments. I must admit though that I personally believe that FRKS Lingerie is massively undercharging for her work – there’s no way that this embroidery isn’t massively time consuming and requires a lot of skill. If the bra shape was tweaked only slightly, this set would be perfect – and I’m certainly hoping to add more of the knicker designs to my lingerie collection!
Readers – what do you think of FRKS Lingerie’s designs? What do you think of embroidery on lingerie?