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The long hard road to becoming a lingerie student; making the best of an unhealthy bra obsession!

By Karolina:

Having a bra fitting is a rite of passage for almost every girl nowadays - you could almost call it a step into womanhood. Amongst all of my British friends, it was a tradition to have your first one at Marks & Spencers – a nationwide department store with a reputation for reliability and for being frightfully... well, uncool.

It’s safe to say that I never looked forward to having a bra fitted. To me, bras looked cumbersome and uncomfortable. They represented entirely too much bother for what seemed to be only an added bit of modesty. So imagine my surprise when my mother took me to Rigby & Peller.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with the name, Rigby & Peller are the lingerie designers of the Queen. They are renowned for their quality and expertise. Going into one of their shops is quite an experience. For a sixteen year old girl to have her first proper bra fitting there, it leaves rather an indelible mark.

From the first step into shop I was awestruck. The luxurious surroundings initially didn’t make an impression on me but the delicate underthings on the hangers were a different story. These weren’t the beige t-shirt bras I’d envisioned wearing – these were works of art. Such attention had been lavished on their every detail, with delicate lace and stitching abounding.

When it came to the fitting, there was no avoiding the initial awkwardness of having to remove my top. Yet when I tried on the bras that the shop assistant considered suitable, I was shocked. Shocked at the fit and lack of discomfort of course, but also shocked at how they had transformed my body. These were garments that made me look and feel truly feminine. From that moment on I was hooked: lingerie could be a work of art within itself, but its true appeal came from how it made me feel.

Unfortunately, this life changing trip left me with one problem. I’d discovered that my bra size was 30D; at the time, it was almost impossible to find bras in my size. Nothing on my local high street would stock bras that fit me. It became a source of endless irritation – I was beginning to become obsessed with things I could not have!

Nevertheless, I simply believed that this inability to find fitting bras would simply be another of life’s endless sources of angst with no real effect on my day-to-day existence. I was in my final years of high school. As far as I was concerned, I was going to go to university to study something academic and end up with a sensible office job of some sort. I’d always been a creative person yet it seemed hopeless trying to follow an artistic career. Thinking that I was going to do a degree in English Language, I tried to focus on my university application. Yet there was always a part of me that knew that I wouldn’t be happy studying something so academic. It was a fairly last-minute decision to switch my application to an Art Foundation diploma - one that required vast amounts of discussion with parents and teachers before they became convinced.

Even the switch the Art Foundation diploma wasn’t that much of a step forward though. As far as I was concerned, it was simply another way of delaying university decisions for another year. It was only when in the Summer of 2010 I came across this article: The Most Gorgeous Lingerie You'll Never Wear

I was stunned. These pictures were some of the most gorgeous pieces of lingerie that I’d ever seen. The shock only increased when I read the article – this was the graduate collection of a student? From a degree that actually specialised in lingerie? Reading onwards and clicking on the links, I began to discover the wonders of De Montfort’s Contour Fashion degree. I couldn’t believe my eyes! This was my dream degree! Everything about it seemed perfect. I’d finally found what I was going to do with myself.

Getting a place on the course was never going to be easy. This course is one of the only ones of its kind in the world. It is world-renowned in the lingerie industry for the quality of its graduates. Consequently, there’s a lot of demand for places with only 30 odd on offer. These facts were already enough to make my head swim. I knew I had a lot of work to do before I could even think about applying.

The first hurdle to cross was my inability to sew. I knew the basics simply wouldn’t be enough – I needed some idea of how lingerie was put together. Unable to find relevant tuition in the UK, an amazing Aunt of mine found a wonderful lady in Poland who specialised in Mastectomy bras to teach me. This woman performed miracles. In just two days, she took me from not even knowing how to approach a sewing machine to being able to create a basic underwire bra.

With those skills under my belt, I could begin to design things that would’ve previously only been a dream. I start putting together my Contour Fashion portfolio with zeal! As nerve-wracking as it was trying to persuade them to take me onto their course in just over 25 pages, I finally managed it:

It seemed that even with my lack of textile knowledge, I’d worked hard enough to get myself a place on the course – just over a week after my interview at De Montfort, I received a letter that informed I’d been offered an unconditional place on the course. That letter was a dream-come-true – all that hard work had paid off and come September I’d be studying on the most perfect degree imaginable!

My experiences on this degree are something I want to be able to share with the readers of The Lingerie Addict; to give a proper insight to what goes on in the life of a lingerie student. I’ll be graduating in 2014 – in those three years I’ll have a unique opportunity to share with you the progress of my studies and my development as a designer! I hope that you’ll enjoy reading my monthly column as much as I’ll enjoy divulging my experiences!

Photos Credits: Lingerie Insight, Kiss Me Deadly, Karolina Laskowska

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Lingerie designer. Spends most of her time sewing bras and getting excited by chantilly lace.

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