How to Custom Order Lingerie From An Independent Designer
I love custom lingerie. It's great if you're a non-standard shape or want the perfect piece that just isn't available on the market right now in your size range. Over the years I've definitely developed a routine that I follow when I order a new custom piece, so I thought today I'd put together a guide for everyone else. This contains both the basics and some more detailed dos and don'ts that I've learned over the years.
Research and Planning Stage:
Usually custom pieces are either done as a made to order piece from a designer's existing line or as a fully custom piece that is unique to you. Either way, you'll want to start with lots of research and go in knowing what you want. Remember that if you see a piece you love but want changes made to (colors, necklines, straps, etc), most designers can accommodate that pretty easily.
You also want to think about how you're going to wear the piece, especially if you're thinking about going the whole lingerie-as-outerwear look. Do you need to be able to hide a bra under it? What will you wear it with? Designers can often come up with extra accommodations that make a piece easier to wear as fashion that don't effect the look of the piece, like hidden linings or alternative strap placements.
You'll also want to contact your potential designer or designers and see if they have experience with your size range or body type, especially if you're looking at bras outside their normal size range. Remember that designers don't get paid to answer your questions unless you order, so please be organized and try to keep things short and business-like in your initial inquiry.
If you're nervous about whether a new designer will work out or not, you can always start with something basic like a robe or a camisole that is easier to fit. Bra size pieces are the toughest and represent the most risk (if you're a non-standard size, especially) so starting with a more generic item can be a great way to get confidence and try out the custom lingerie process. You can also talk about payment terms here. Some designers want all the money upfront and some will split it into stages, so make sure you know about relevant payment dates and what is expected when they occur.
Once you've had an initial conversation and committed to a designer, it's time for the fun part. The designer will usually come back to you with a sketch of your piece, as well as some more questions about fit and function. This is another great opportunity to have a detailed conversation about what you want and how you're going to incorporate the piece into your life. Any changes to the design need to be made here --- after this you're committed to the design that you approved. This is also the time for you to ask for fabric samples and pick which fabrics to use, if it's appropriate for the project.
The Waiting Stage:
This is the worst part, at least if you're impatient like me. Designers will usually list wait times on their site or on their Etsy store. They vary from a few days to a few months, so make sure you know what kind of timetable you're working with. If you need your piece for a special event or date, that should be made clear during the planning and design stages.
As you can see, researching and planning thoughtfully can take a lot of the guess work out of this process. It's vital to put in the time upfront to ensure a good result. I know lots of people worry about custom pieces showing up and being awful or not fitting, but I've honestly never had a custom piece that I didn't love. If you pick a designer who knows your size range and you're upfront about what you want, it's truly hard to go wrong.