Upcycling in lingerie: why it's a good thing
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I've always found that there’s something totally irresistible about antique and vintage textiles. Be it printed silks or exquisite laces, fabrics from bygone eras seem to have so much more care put into them that modern equivalents pale a little in comparison. Our modern culture of fast and disposable fashion has done away with the care and delicacy that was once so commonplace.
Victorian leavers lace
Britain used to be renowned for its exquisite Leavers lace – a type of lace that is incomparably fine and made on unwieldy old-fashioned machines. However, when the fashion industry realized countries like China were producing lace at a fraction of the cost, the demand disappeared. Slowly, Britain’s lace faded into obscurity, the machines either being sold overseas or destroyed. There are but a handful of companies now that still manufacture Leavers lace, but it is now sold at a premium as a totally luxury product.
We live in a peculiar culture now; fashions move ridiculously fast and there’s far too much focus on disposability. People are less likely to invest in a single piece and more likely to buy five cheap ones with the expectation to throw it out next season. Lingerie brands release seasonal collections, with limited edition colourways and prints. The biggest brands buy their fabrics in bulk and are inevitably faced with massive amounts left over – knowing they can’t use them again.
Fortunately, there are several lingerie brands who share these feelings. Whilst it’s incredibly unlikely that we’ll ever get the textile industry back as we once knew it, there are several designers that are carrying on their legacies – whether it’s through using antique and vintage laces, giving vintage lingerie pieces a new lease on life, or upcycling the seasonal leftover fabrics from bigger brands. It means the designs are both unique and green – using existing resources instead of making them from scratch. Here are a few of my favourites:
Ayten Gasson uses both vintage Nottingham lace and lace from the UK’s remaining manufacturers. My personal favourite is the Gatsby high-waisted knicker, trimmed with vintage cotton Nottingham lace.
Dollhouse Bettie’s ‘Deja vu Dessous’ upcycles existing vintage lingerie pieces to create some truly stunning one of a kind pieces. I’ve fallen head-over-heels in love with the Adella Victorian garter belt – the rosettes and the flossing are too stunning to resist and it pains me that it’s out of my lingerie budget!
Lovechild Boudoir also repurposes existing vintage pieces in signature burlesque inspired extravagance. I love the heart appliqué on this ‘Barefoot In The Park’ girdle.
I particularly love Morua Designs' use of vintage and antique laces and trims – not only in corsetry, but in her delicate lace necklaces. Whilst the latter isn’t strictly lingerie, it could be the perfect boudoir accessory!
Kiss Me Deadly regularly upcycles fabrics in their limited editions, with this season’s focus on gorgeous prints in longline girdles. I particularly love the ‘Paradise’ girdle, which comes with its own set of paints for customization purposes.
Readers: what do you think of upcycling fabrics and vintage lingerie? Would you wear it?