Posts by Karolina

Lace in Lingerie: Different Types and How It’s Used

Victorian chantilly lace

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

‘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

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

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

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

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.

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

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

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

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

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?

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 Soiree Ester Bra & Knicker

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

Agent Provocateur Soiree Ester Lifestyle

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.

Agent Provocateur Soiree Ester Review 2

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!

Agent Provocateur Soiree Ester Review 1

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.

Agent Provocateur Ester

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!

Agent Provocateur Ester knickers Agent Provocateur Ester bra

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?

 

 

Karolina

Karolina

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

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Review: Toru & Naoko ‘Kelly’ Soft Bra and High-Waisted Knicker Set

Note: I purchased this lingerie for myself, Toru & Naoko have no affiliation with this review.

Toru and Naoko Kelly set review 3

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.

Toru & Naoko Kelly set

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.

Toru & Naoko knickers

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!

Toru and Naoko Kelly set review back

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.

Toru & Naoko details

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?

Karolina

Karolina

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

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Review: Luva Huva Lace Bralet

Disclosure: This lingerie was sent to me free of charge for review purposes. All opinions are my own.

Luva Huva lace bra review

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

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 Lace Bralet

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.

Luva Huva lace bra review 2

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.

Luva Huva lace bra back

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?

 

Karolina

Karolina

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

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The Oxford Conference of Corsetry 2014 In Review

Oxford Conference of Corsetry - Narrowed Visions Sanakor corset reproduction

Sanakor corset reproduction by Nikki Swift/Narrowed Visions

Earlier this month, I found myself at the Oxford Conference of Corsetry – an amazing event dedicated to one of my favourite garments in the entire world of lingerie. We saw Marianne review the event last year as an organiser, but I thought that this year I could give my perspective as an attendee.

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.

Oxford Conference of Corsetry - Corset Table

The corset table where attendees could display their work – I have never before seen so many gorgeous designs in one place!

Oxford Conference of Corsetry - Videnoir

Corset by Videnoir

Oxford Conference of Corsetry - Pop Antique Corset

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!

Oxford Conference of Corsetry - Crikey Aphrodite

Corset by Crikey Aphrodite! – inspired by the portrait of Elizabeth I in Jesus College

Oxford Conference of Corsetry - Paper Dolls and Mood board

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’!

Oxford Conference of Corsetry - Clessidra

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.

Oxford Conference of Corsetry - Sparklewren

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.

Oxford Conference of Corsetry - Dinner

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 - Morua

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

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!

Karolina

Karolina

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

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Review: FRKS Lingerie Night Wolf bralette and panties

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

FRKS Night Wolf PantyFRKS Lingerie Howling Wolf Panty – $40

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?

FRKS Night Wolf Bra Front

‘Night Wolf’ bralet and high-waisted knickers – $75

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.

FRKS Night Wolf front

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.

FRKS Night Wolf BackFRKS Night Wolf bralet detail

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!

FRKS Night Wolf Embroidery Detail

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.

FRKS Night Wolf Panty Flat

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.

FRKS Night Wolf bralet front

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?

Karolina

Karolina

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

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Review: Salua Lingerie Monarch Butterfly Romper

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

Journelle Salua Monarch Butterly Romper

Photo from Journelle

I’ve never had the best experiences with one-piece lingerie styles – my body shape is a little unusual by most Fashion standards, so finding one that fits has always been a bit of a challenge.  Nevertheless, my love of beautiful lace cannot be denied – so when Salua Lingerie offered this gorgeous ‘Monarch Butterfly’ romper from their SS14 collection for review, I was smitten. I love the mix of opaque silk with the delicate appliquéd eyelash lace trim – the placement is unusual and frames the body beautifully.

Salua Lingerie isn’t a brand I’m particularly well acquainted with – their designs don’t seem to have made it over to Europe and I’ve only ever seen a handful of photos online.  Originally founded in 1993 in Colombia, its designer has since moved to Seattle, though production remains in South America.  Their style is very classically feminine and romantic, with its all white-colourway carrying a very Bridal feel.  I was sent the Monarch Butterfly romper in a size medium (I normally wear a UK10/12).  It is available in sizes XS-XL and retails for $174, made of stretch silk satin and soft eyelash lace.

Salua Lingerie Monarch Butterly Romper Front

Photo by Karolina Laskowska

 The romper is made of panelled stretch silk satin with appliquéd eyelash lace.  It has a very soft fit, with an unstructured bust and loose French knicker style fit on the bottom half.  Legs are cut very high and give a flattering fit.  There’s elastication at the waist and the centre back, to help cinch in the garment and give a better fit on a range of body shapes.  There straps are made of silk with gold toned adjusters.  The construction is sturdy and neat, with all of the appliquéd lace being applied with a coverlock stitch rather than a zigzag – probably a more secure method of stitching, although a bit more of a visible finish.  The fabric underneath has been cut at a zigzag, which minimizes fraying, though over time I can imagine some threads would start to come loose (not that this would cause any problems with the security of construction).

Salua Lingerie Monarch Butterly Detail

Photo by Karolina Laskowska

I love the design of this piece – the contrast between the transparent and delicate lace with the opaque silk is unusual and striking. I think the placement of the silk over the bust works particularly well – appearing almost like a floating soft bra.  The fit of this piece is remarkably good given my history with bodysuit style pieces.  I have a pear-shaped figure, with up to two sizes difference between my top and bottom halves, as well as an unusually long torso.  The length of this piece is perfect for me and the full cut of the knickers means my ample bottom is very comfortably accommodated.  The ruching elastic at the waist and centre back mean there’s quite a lot of flexibility to the fit – it would work with a range of body lengths and body shapes.   The bust doesn’t offer any real support, but there’s certainly space there for larger busted women to wear this romper comfortably.  Salua Lingerie Monarch Butterfly Romper Back

Photo by Karolina Laskowska

My only real complaint is that gusset of this romper is made entirely of lace with no lining to it.  This can get somewhat uncomfortable if you’re wearing this romper for extended periods of wear. I’m somewhat surprised that there isn’t at least a small panel of cotton included within the gusset – especially given that the rest of this garment feels so luxurious, it seems like somewhat of an oversight.  The high-leg cut of the romper also means that wearing some knickers underneath looks a little strange, so that isn’t an option with this piece either.

Overall I think that this is a gorgeous piece, with a subtly unusual design and luxurious fabrics.   It has a very welcome place in my lingerie wardrobe and will be the perfect for some lazy lounging this Summer!

Readers – how do you feel about this piece by Salua Lingerie? Are rompers a style you wear particularly often?

Karolina

Karolina

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

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Lingerie School: De Montfort University Graduates, 2014

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Karolina Laskowska

After three years studying Contour Fashion at De Montfort University, the end is finally in sight – I’m about to graduate from Lingerie School! Contour Fashion is a degree that specialises in intimate apparel – covering almost all areas of lingerie and then some. We’ve studied everything from corsetry to swimwear, and each chose our own final major projects – some girls chose to go down a technical route to fulfill a market niche, whilst others chose to design around aesthetics, pushing the boundaries of lingerie design.

My class is full of incredibly talented individuals and I’m so proud of what everyone has achieved- we all started at the same place, yet the final collections that everyone has created are so wonderfully varied, both from an aesthetic and technical perspective. Our final projects give students an opportunity to create something unique and boundary pushing, without having to worry about the consequences of whether the garments would sell at retail – it’s some of the most beautiful lingerie that sadly you’ll never be able to buy! I’m sharing a small fraction of this year’s graduate’s work with you and I hope you love it all as much as I do. Thank you to De Montfort University for letting me share all this incredible work with you!

All photoshoot images courtesy of De Montfort University, all other images belong to the respective designers.

Akaibi Vine

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Akaibi’s project is focused on sportswear for people with limited dexterity and flexibility, taking her inspiration from the Paralympics that were founded in her home town. By conducting interviews with people that suffer from limited mobility, she developed special silicone grips to help aid the process of dressing. The amount of technical detail and consideration that has gone into this collection is astounding and I can’t do it justice in a short paragraph – nevertheless, as a collection it’s a fresh and interesting take on sportswear, in a woefully underserved market.

Amber Khan

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Amber created a corsetry and lingerie based collection, taking its inspiration from oriental florals and 1950s silhouettes and fabric techniques. It’s focused on rigid structures designed to emphasize the contours of the female body. She used fan lacing as a key feature in the garments, taken from her love of vintage corsetry, as well as trying to recreate the structures of oriental fans. Amber designed her own floral print for the collection, using a mix of illustrations in digital print and embroidery.

Charlie Watson

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Charlie’s collection is inspired by the natural decay of flowers, using the varied textures throughout her surface embellishment. She’s used both modern and vintage shapes to create a stunning range of boudoir wear, with luxurious fabrics such as delicate leavers laces, silk satins, georgettes and chiffons. Corded lace was carefully positioned and appliquéd over the sheer fabrics to protect the wearer’s modesty, giving the collection a seductive and playful edge.

Charlotte Watson

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Charlotte’s collection ‘Aurora’ approaches soft bras from a fresh direction, using unusual construction features such as overbust and sidebust slings to give the garments aesthetic appeal as well as uplifting and supporting the breasts. Aesthetic inspiration came from glacier formations (with an icy colour palette and delicate lace applique and beading), whilst styling took its inspiration from the 1920s and 30s.

Charlotte Spence

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Charlotte was initially inspired by a 1920s barber chair, with the design process focusing on each of the chair’s individual elements, from the textured upholstery to the intricate iron works. The collection is called ‘The Cut Lilac Collection’ and includes intricately laser cut faux metallic snakeskin along with lilac silk and crepe contrast elements.

Daisy Hobbs

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Daisy’s collection ‘L’Amore a La Vie’ is designed with a bride’s trousseau in mind – building up each outfit for her special day. Her inspiration originated from a Fabarge exhibition and an exploration into the life of the Royals and the part that sheer excess played. The collection uses delicate Chantilly laces and luxurious silks.

Emma Stubbs

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‘Labyrinth’ takes its inspiration from traditional black work embroidery, updating it with a modern twist. Emma developed the print from her own illustrations, creating floral motif patterns from drawings of crowns, jewels and masquerade masks. The designs are created as one-off show pieces and are embellished with lace and beading.

Georgie McCarten

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Georgie’s collection ‘Palazzo di Giardino’ was initially inspired by intricate and elegant Florentine architecture. Golden silk satins and chiffons are layered with lace appliqué and hints of blue, accented with crackled blue leather and embellished with beading. The collection is aimed at a boutique lingerie level.

Jennifer Lodge

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Jennifer’s collection focused on the market niche of women with a 36-44 D-K cup bra size in dress sizes 14-26, creating a range of luxury boudoir lingerie. Entitled ‘A Russian Affair’, it was inspired by decadent Russian palaces with bold colours and striking gold embellishments. Stretch mesh was used to shape and control the body, with silk chiffons and satins creating fluidity and movement.

Karolina Laskowska

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My collection focused on bespoke corsetry, drawing its inspiration from Japanese kimono and antique corsetry, with colouration drawn from orchids and French macarons. All of the corsetry utilised genuine vintage kimono silks, upcycling them to give them a new lease of life. They’ve been paired with exquisite French leavers laces, both as a fabric and intricate appliqué. The corsets were all designed to give dramatic shaping, with a cupped rib silhouette allowing for comfortable waist reduction.

Nancy Hallam

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Nancy’s collection is called the ‘Ethereal Bride collection’. It draws its inspiration from Edwardian fashion and architecture, using exquisite hand made laces with intricate beading and luxurious silks.

Rosa Silva

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Rosa created a collection of high end swimwear entitled ‘Ceylon’. Her prints were inspired by Sri Lanka, conveyed through kaleidoscopic designs and rich embellishments. Designs are fashion forward with dramatic strapping details and exciting trimmings, from pompoms to beading, with contrast panelling in PVC.

Selina Bond

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‘Bella Suora’ drew its inspiration from the catacombs of Napoli and the clothing of Italian widows and nuns, in particular the use of lace and structure head-dresses. Selina created a collection of luxury lingerie, pairing unusual materials – carbon fibre was used to create structure, contoured pieces, which leavers laces gave lingerie an elegant contrast.

Sophie Cook

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Sophie’s initial inspiration was drawn from images of insects covered in dew drops, which later led to a study of the shaping of coral. Her collection echos the delicacy of detail found within the insects’ wings, contrasted with the harsh structure of the coral. Fins stretch meshes and crepe de chine were used, paired with delicate lace appliqué and embellished with beads and Swarovski crystals, a visual translation of glistening dew drops.

 

Readers: Which of these designs are your favourite? Have you ever considered studying lingerie design?

 

 

 

Karolina

Karolina

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

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Lace Appliqué Lingerie: What It Is and My Favorite Lustworthy Pieces

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links

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Lace appliqué in progress – each piece has to be individually placed and pinned securely before stitching!

As a student in my final year of lingerie school, the past few weeks have mostly comprised of delicately hand-sewing lace appliqué – it’s a technique that features heavily in my final collection, and a technique that I consider one of the most exquisitely beautiful in the entire world of lingerie.

The technique usually involves cutting out individual motifs from a piece of lace, placing them on a fabric base and carefully stitching around the edge to hold it in place. Sometimes the scallop (edge) of the lace is used instead or the motifs are ready-made. Often designers will also choose to have the fabric underneath the appliqué cut away so that the lace sits directly against the skin.

As far as embellishment techniques go, it’s among the most expensive (perhaps only second to heavy beading!).  It’s time-consuming and extremely specialised – usually in the industry, a tight zigzag machine stitch is used to sew the lace down. The machinist has to carefully go around the edge of the delicated and complex motifs, without encroaching too much on the lace design and covering it up with thread.  Some particularly high-end designers even choose to hand-stitch their lace – I can testify that this can take hours and hours to complete, but results in totally invisible stitching on the outside of the garment and an impeccably beautiful finish. As a consequence, you most commonly find this technique in very high-end lingerie and corsetry – with a price tag to match!

Here are a few of my favourite examples of the lace appliqué technique being used in the lingerie world at the moment:

Topshop

Topshop – bra £20, knickers £8

I love how this Topshop set uses the lace scallop over a mesh base – the mix of sheer with a dark lace would look amazing and graphic against the skin. The navy tone of the lace also gives the set an elegant subtlety.

Elle MaphersonElle Macpherson – bra £65, brief £36

The red silk of this set is gorgeously opulent – I also love how the lace isn’t symmetrically placed, giving it a much more organic feel.

Angela Friedman

Angela Friedman – slip $265

I adore the richness of colour subtlety of the appliqué in this one-off piece by Angela Friedman -gorgeously sophisticated.

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Fleur of England – babydoll £275

This babydoll has been on my lustlist since I first saw it at a tradeshow – the peach combination of the delicate black thread chantilly lace over peach tulle is absolutely stunning.

Ava corsetry

Ava Corsetry – corset £695

I love the drama of this corset – the deep red silk paired with decadent corded lace appliqué and crystals make for a truly beautiful showpiece.

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Carine Gilson – camisole £565

I consider Carine Gilson’s designs the epitome of luxury in the lingerie world – having seen it in person, the quality of her garments are impeccable to none – the stitching is so tiny it’s near invisible! This camisole has such an elegant and classic colourway – the embellishment is so delicately perfect.

Layneau by MoscaStudio

Layneau – gown $2200

This gown by Layneau is a real showstopper – floor length silk with gloriously delicate chantilly lace edging on the neckline and hem. Those twin spaghetti straps set the whole garment off beautifully.

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Shell Belle Couture – t-shirt £90

I love how this garment blends the boundaries between lingerie and outerwear – plus sheer mesh and gorgeous lace are a win-win combination!

bopeepplaysetMyla – soft bra and brief £550

I adore the delicacy and frivolity of this chiffon and chantilly lace set – the scallop frill on the bottom of the bra is absolutely divine.

AP

Agent Provocateur – bra £125, suspender £165, brief £95

I’ve seen this ‘Demelza’ set by Agent Provocateur everywhere since its release – and with its unusual graphic strapping and delicate lace accents it’s easy to see why! I love how strong this design is, my only peeve is that this lace has been bonded (glued rather than stitched) which has left it with a slightly cripsy texture!

Readers: how do you feel about lace appliqué? Which of these designs is your favourite?

Karolina

Karolina

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

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Salon de la Lingerie Highlights – AW14/15

Back in January I visited the Salon de la Lingerie (one of the biggest lingerie trade shows) in Paris. It’s held twice a year and hundreds of brands exhibit there from all over the world. My absolute favourite part of the show is seeing the collections of the huge variety of Indie designers – this is where lingerie design gets most creative and takes the most risks. Without further ado, here are my highlights of next season’s lingerie from the Salon:

Almeida

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Almeida’s style seems to be very bold and overtly sexy – this season uses glossy patent leathers and feathered accessories, along with provocative cuts such as quarter cup bras and the unusual longline underbust corset. However, amidst the more S&M styled pieces it was the soft silk chiffon designs that caught my eye – I love the sleeve detail on the soft bra above and the soft diaphanous colouration.

Beautiful Bottoms

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Beautiful Bottoms have some truly stunning silk pieces for next season – ‘Graphic Galaxy’ is probably my favourite collection of theirs today, and I love how bold and psychedelic the prints have become, whilst the relaxed and simple silhouettes allow the prints to speak for themselves. I’m particularly in love with the ‘Ethereal Echo’ set, shown in the vest top above – it’s such a dreamy colourway and I adore the organic painterly feel to the print itself.

Betty Blue’s Loungerie/Betty Bridal

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Betty Blue’s Loungerie has been on my radar for a while, but I’d only ever seen the designs online. I’m so glad I’ve had the chance to see the products in person – the fleece robes are genuinely the most gratifyingly snuggly pieces of loungewear I have encountered in my entire life (and I seriously need one once I save up my pennies!). I’m also in love with the new silk ‘Nell’ pieces in a striking ‘Heather’ colourway (particularly that nightgown!). Betty is also launching ‘Betty Bridal’, releasing several of the existing ‘Nell’ designs in ivory. My particular favourite is the bodysuit – that plunge neckline and the strap detailing are just divine.

Britta Uschkamp

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What I love most about Britta Uschkamp’s lingerie is just how uncompromisingly fun it is – very few designers manage to achieve that level of of carefree frivolity in their designs! They may not be too everyone’s taste but the gratuitous ribbons and unusual laces are deliciously girly. I’m a bit of a lace obsessive so I was very drawn to Britta’s use of it – in particular the Marilyn Monroe motifs, dip dying and metallic printing – not exactly standard lingerie fare, and it’s great to see a designer doing something so different.

Dirty Pretty Things/Flirty Pretty Things

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AW14/15 is possibly my favourite Dirty Pretty Things collection so far. The retro styling and unusual fabrics make a stunning pairing – gold leathers and holographic prints being the most striking! The stand out piece for me is the gold leather and black basque – I love the style lines, and the colourway is a failsafe way into my heart. I was also rather intrigued by the new diffusion line ‘Flirty Pretty Things’ debut collection – bold neons, leopard print and metallics all capture the DPT classic aesthetic but at a much more accessible price point – whilst it’s not lingerie for the faint hearted, there are some very bold and fashion forward pieces to be found.

KissKill

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The Salon was my first real encounter with Australian brand Kiss Kill and I absolutely love what they’re doing. Their collaboration with model Cheyenne Tozzi is absolutely stunning, and encompasses some of my favourite lingerie trends – strappy details, gold studs and metallic chantilly laces, whilst retaining a luxe edge. It’s fashion forward lingerie at its best, with many of the pieces made to be seen – I can definitely imagine rocking one of those bras under a sheer top!

Lorna Drew

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I’m a little ashamed to admit that I don’t pay nearly enough attention to the lingerie world outside of the fashion-focused indie and luxury brands – but I’m glad that I saw Lorna Drew’s designs in person at the show. A specialist maternity brand, there’s been real thought put into the product both from an aesthetic and a functional point of view. The designs are feminine without being overly fussy and the patented design means there’s up to three cup sizes adjustment to each bra.

Mirage Magique

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Mirage Magique are a new French luxury full-bust focused brand. Designer Sandra’s use of lace is truly stunning, particularly her bespoke burlesque pieces. The ‘Night Owl’ collection for AW14/15 gives a more wearable twist of showgirl glamour, with gorgeous lace details throughout. Alongside lingerie there’s also a range of boudoir accessories such as chokers and gloves – all of which could look equally lovely when worn outside of the bedroom. I hope to see more of this young designer in the future as she certainly carries a lot of promise!

Nichole de Carle

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Next season Nichole will be focusing more on ready-to-wear, blurring the boundaries between lingerie and womenswear – I’m particularly intrigued by the corsetted jackets and body-con dresses. There’s also new colourways and prints in the more classics designs, including tartans. What caught my eye most though was the new diffusion line – these ‘basics’ will still carry lots of Nichole’s signature strap detailing at a much more affordable price point.

Pretty Wild

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Dutch brand Pretty Wild’s use of leather and lace is absolutely breath-taking – during my time on their stand I couldn’t help but fall in love with almost every piece that I was shown. There’s a lot of lingerie on the market currently that’s following the formula of leather, lace and straps but this brand manages to stand out from the crowd – I love their unusual use of lace placement and paneling, particularly with regards to the lace scallops and the rather textural use of guipure embroideries. Definitely a brand to watch – their designs are now very firmly on my lust list.

Steph Aman

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London-based lingerie and loungewear designer Steph Aman creates pieces that are more akin to art in my opinion – there really are no other words for the intricate embroideries and level of detail given to her designs. The delicate embroideries and paintings on silk chiffons and tulles need to be seen in person to be truly appreciated. I particularly love the darker aesthetic that her collection carries this season, with motifs of skeletons and chains amongst the softly feminine florals.

Ysé

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French brand Ysé are a small-bust focused brand with a refreshing outlook on lingerie – their focus isn’t on push-up effects or enhancement, but simply to create beautiful lingerie that fits smaller frames as they already are, with a range of wired and soft cup bras on offer. The designs are fresh and directional, with gorgeous colour combinations and paneling details.

Readers: what do you think of these brands’ new offerings? Is there any lingerie that you’re particularly looking forward to seeing next season?

Karolina

Karolina

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

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