Lingerie from the 1920′s was known for its loose, easy, carefree spirit. I’d even venture to call a lot of it “sporty,” especially considering what came before and after. This post isn’t about going for vintage reproductions of twenties-style lingerie. Rather, to me these pieces invoke the emphasis on lace, effortless shilouettes, straightforward wear, and luxe materials that was so typical of 1920′s underpinnings. I also chose items that I felt accentuated the softer color palette and focus on comfort that was indicative of this era. I hope you like the selection here. Are there any ‘Great Gatsby’ pieces you’d like to share in the comments?
I’m not sure what’s happening, but I have been obsessed with robes, dressing gowns, and glamorous vintage-style loungewear lately. The more over-the-top and dripping in feathers and ruffles and lace, the better. The heyday of the dressing gown is long gone, but there are some designers out there attempting to stage a comeback (and thank goodness for that!). Here are 10 of my favorite classic, vintage-inspired dressing gowns. (Editor’s Note: Just click the photo to be taken to the item!)
I was at a dinner party recently when a svelte professor friend of mine pulled me aside conspiratorially. It was Oscar season and everyone had been gossiping about their picks. What could this woman want to confide in me, I wondered? But as a lingerie designer I’m pretty used to being sought out for quiet talks about skivvies and other generally private matters.
She leaned in and said, “I am obsessed with longline bras.” I asked why, and she said they fit her small rib cage and bust in a way that lent support while not causing any digging or discomfort. She also thought the appearance was more flattering, since there was more fabric in the silhouette and this had an effect of making the area appear larger. I asked to see (for professional reasons!) and she dartingly looked around at the room full of wine-soaked women and gay men and then lifted her shirt to show me her adorable longline bra from independent brand Fortnight.
The longline bra trend has been going on for a few seasons, and it’s nice to see a reinterpretation of an old silhouette that has been neglected for many years.
Longline bras are those that extend a few inches below the bottom of the cup, over the ribcage and sometimes as far as just above the navel. Sometimes they are structured like bustiers and have shaping properties.
The longline bra had its heyday in the midcentury, when dresses fit tightly over the rib cage and waist. A longline bra did the all-in-one job of supporting and shaping the bust as well as slimming the rib cage. A girdle or structured slip might take over shaping from the rib cage through the waist and hips. Longline bras were especially good foundations under the popular strapless dresses of the 1950′s since their length allowed them to fit the body more securely without requiring straps in order to stay in place. They were the functional foundation for the bombshell silhouette of the era–though they were not necessarily considered especially sexy or fashionable pieces as standalone lingerie.
During the more minimalist lingerie eras of the 60′s and 70′s they all but disappeared in favor of soft cup triangle “no-bra bras,” and haven’t reemerged as fashion pieces until recently. The longline is a cousin of the bustier, which has maintained a presence since the 80′s, but it can differ in a few ways. Bustiers are sometimes designed to be worn as ready to wear, and feature strong boning and wiring in their waist and cup structure. They are often associated with statement-making surface prints, designs, and fabrics that may refer to modes like traditional corsetry, punk, vintage costume, body-con, or hyper embellishment.
What’s emerged recently in the longline bra is a much softer and sweeter approach. The length does not necessarily serve a shaping purpose, and in some cases doesn’t involve boning at all. Here are some favorites of mine:
RETRO AND STRUCTURED
The two styles below make reference to the more structured origin of the retro longline bra. Va bien is known as a shapewear brand, and I like how this style is both functional as well as sexy (Floral strech lace and power tulle, along with ultra-lift cups and a low plunge).
Bordelle is a great fashion brand that does gorgeous things with powerful stretch materials and references to feminine bondagewear. This bra is modern and sexy while having a structured feel to it.
PRETTY AND GIRLY
This new generation of longline bras focus on floral and ditsy prints, lightweight fabrics with low stretch content, and are not designed for shapewear function.
A different direction for the longline trend is the sweet unstructured stretch bralette, designed for light support and a general air of sweetness.
What are your thoughts on longline bras? I’ve read that some larger sized women prefer them because they allow breast weight to be distributed around the rib cage, and I’ve heard others claim they’re hard to find and sizing is difficult. Any favorite styles or brands?
Pinup style, despite its classic vintage air, has a certain timelessness about it. The look has a niche following that ebbs and flows but changes slowly and dies seemingly never. I sat down to dissect what styling elements really make up the archetypal pinup look, with a little help from Gil Elvgren. Gil Elvgren is probably the best known, and most quintessential, pinup artist (more on that next week!), so I took my cues from an anthology of his paintings published by Taschen. The following is an analysis of fashion in classic pinup art.
The pinup bra is not beribboned and lacy, nor is it a bullet bra. No, what I saw the most of was simple bralettes: soft, often triangular cups; a clean, simple shape. Lucky for us, bralettes have been gaining in popularity over the past couple of years. Look for a simple black, sheer, or lace style and pair it with anything high waisted. As far as panties and bottoms go, the rise is virtually always on the natural waist. However, it’s not sleek, fitted briefs that were the stars: fitted or loose tap shorts were by far the most prolific style. For a daywear version of the same look, you could pair a bandeau or cropped blouse with sleeves with a pair of high-waist shorts or trousers with contrast detailing.
Garters and stockings, of course, are a must-have. Four garters, rather than the contemporary six, used to be the standard. Stockings were fully-fashioned in sheer brown or black.
For loungewear, you can’t go wrong with sheer, floor-length negligee. A more youthful look would be a lightweight or semi-sheer tunic-length nightie (just long enough to cover your rear), flared out from the shoulders, covering the torso to the pit of the throat, such as the one on the cover of the Elvgren book at the top of the page. (This, of course, looks particularly fetching when backlit from a cozily roaring hearth, casting a clear and curvy silhouette through the thin material.)
If you’re wanting a bustier, corset, or basque, look for one with lace panels at the center front, or front lacing detail. You probably won’t find one quite as cleavage-y as those illustrated, though.
The pinup color palette is heavy on black, white, and primary colors (with black and white, of course, being the favorite for lingerie). Springy floral and pastel tones are also popular. Prints are generally limited to floral motifs and classic stripes and gingham.
Lastly, with regard to what one would wear on top of all this lovely lingerie, the silhouettes are surprisingly modest in coverage, yet still figure conscious. Dresses or blouses might still have sleeves and modest necklines, even peter pan collars, but are well fitted to the bust and waist. Skirts are full, roughly knee-length, and, apparently, always caught on something. A sash or belt further highlights the nipped in natural waist of a vintage figure. The summery version of the look might feature a low, scooped neckline, spaghetti straps, and fit gathers under the bustline.
If you have any questions or comments, please share your thoughts in the discussion below!
Though I’ve only performed on stage twice (as my alter-ego Velvet Le Soie), burlesque still holds a very special place in my heart. I love the history. I love the characters. And, of course, I love the costumes.
Whether it’s outfitted with feathers or encrusted with rhinestones, few things make me more joyful than a beautiful burlesque costume. With that in mind, here are my 5 favorite showgirl-worthy pairs of hosiery.
Frantic About Frances is a lingerie brand I found on Etsy when it was brand new, and I’ve kept up with it sense because I felt it had a little something special. Fun, playful, kinda cheeky, Frantic About Frances’ designs make me smile, and I’m looking forward to seeing a lot more from this young brand in the years to come. All Frantic About Frances items are made to order. Bras are available in sizes 32A thru 36D and knickers are available in sizes S-L. Custom sizing is available upon request. What do you think of Frantic About Frances?
I’ve been a fan of Dottie’s Delights since 2009, and the thing I love most about this brand is how it manages to feel both very, very vintage and very, very fresh all at the same time. This is pin-up lingerie for a new generation, with on-trend colors, modern sizing and regularly updated styles. Never tired, stale, or boring, Dottie’s Delights has me excited about pointy bras, high waist knickers, and gartered girdles all over again. Dottie’s Delights bras are available in sizes 32A thru 38D. The high waist and low waist knickers are available in sizes XS through XXL. The nightgown is available in sizes S thru XL. And the garter belts and girdle skirts are available in sizes XS thru 3X. What’s your take on the new Spring/Summer range?