Review: Impish Lee Custom Lingerie, Part 2
Disclosure: I received this lingerie from Impish Lee for review purposes free of charge. All opinions are my own.
This article is the second installment in my review of Impish Lee’s designs. The first part focused on the specifics of the lingerie itself, from quality of construction to fit. This part will instead focus on the experience of ordering from the brand and the complexities of the brand’s highly unusual business model.
Impish Lee’s product range is most noteworthy for the fact that it’s entirely customisable. The brand’s selling point is its innovative ‘design-your-own’ app, allowing customers to choose from a plethora of fabrics, trims and garment silhouettes. It advertises over a trillion design options. Such an incredibly diverse selection of fabrics (all of which are made to order) was made possible by a successful crowdfunding campaign, which successfully raised a sum of $14,417 last year.
The brand’s offerings are impressive not just for the number of design options. Alongside the apparent 27 million design possibilities, there’s also one of the widest size ranges that I’ve ever seen for an independent lingerie brand, encompassing dress sizes 0-24, bra band sizes 28-40 and cup sizes A-J. This is particularly noteworthy as it applies to structured underwire bras. Underwire bras are one of the most complex pieces of lingerie to make, from the use of specialist materials to the intricate construction techniques.
The development of full bust bras is an extremely difficult, costly and time consuming process. This is part of the reason why most lingerie brands choose to specialise in a particular size range. Many independent brands choose to eschew underwires completely for this reason, so to see Impish Lee approach their size range so wholeheartedly is simultaneously encouraging and slightly concerning.
There’s a distinct lack of size inclusivity in the fashion world, with independent brands in particular often only sticking to the core size ranges. However, full bust bras and plus fit clothing require an in depth knowledge of specialist pattern cutting and grading. As much as I hope that the brand has achieved a good fit across their full size range (which I already know that they have achieved in the core ones), I can’t help but remain a little skeptical about their larger ranges. It's a phenomenal quantity of sizes, with 13 dress sizes and 70 bra sizes. For a company of this size, that's a lot of work in getting the fit right.
Fortunately, my concerns are somewhat assuaged by the website’s gallery. In an industry where the majority of lingerie brands rely on imagery solely of slim models, Impish Lee has captured its designs on a wide range of sizes. Not only does this help to demonstrate garment fit, but it allows customers who aren’t normally represented in the wider arena of fashion to see their body shapes in the products.
Unfortunately I found Impish Lee’s general approach to bra sizing to be a little confusing even for a professional like myself. The website’s bra size calculator asks for 5 measurements and gives so many size options (including sister sizes) that anyone unfamiliar with bras would be utterly overwhelmed. When I placed my order, I ended up simply choosing my usual bra size rather than what the website recommended and I’m glad that I did. The bra I received was a comfortably firm fit, and I suspect the 28DD recommended on the site would have been a little too tight.
I was more than a little surprised to read Impish Lee’s returns policies. They're incredibly generous considering how every piece of the brand’s lingerie is made to order. The brand offers free returns on most orders within 30 days of delivery, either for store credit or a remake (not inclusive of underwear, which seems to be a relatively standard policy for US based brands). This is the sort of policy one would expect from a massive corporation, but it’s truly impressive for a small, independent brand to achieve. It makes me wonder how sustainable this model is as lingerie purchased at a distance often has a relatively high return rate. Owing to the custom nature of Impish Lee’s products, it can’t be easy to recoup losses on returned merchandise.
Impish Lee’s prices are relatively affordable compared to many independent brands, with prices ranging from $68 for a thong panty to $168 for a full length robe. I wouldn’t categorise its designs as luxury in any way (in fact, one of the issues that I did take in my initial review was the low quality of certain fabrics), but the prices are a fraction of what you would normally pay for custom lingerie. Certainly they’re higher than many individuals are used to paying for lingerie, but this can be explained by the manufacturing techniques used by the brand. All garments are made to order, ethically in New York. This means there’s a fraction of the usual waste produced by other brands, but also that there’s a higher manufacturing cost per garment.
The experience of actually placing an order with the brand was a relatively positive one. There was quite a lot of fun to be had playing around with the variety of silhouettes and colours on offer. It reminded me somewhat of the dress up video games I used to play as a child (which is not bad thing!). I will admit though, that when it came to actually picking a final design I did find myself struck by choice paralysis. With so many options available it can get overwhelming. Fortunately, there are a number of design templates available, which offer at the very least a good starting point and make the customisation process a little less daunting.
Alongside the fabric options, the app also has 4 different skin tone options for the lingerie liner colours. It’s a commendable move to see a brand offer different colour options for varying skintones. One move I would like to see the brand move towards in the future is to also include some different body shape options within the app, to further help customers visualise the products on themselves (albeit as a 2D illustrated version).
Overall, I’ve been pretty impressed by Impish Lee’s offerings. Their brand philosophy was always incredibly ambitious from the get-go. Even seeing its kickstarter success left me impressed, but it’s the brand's willingness to take criticism on board and consistently improve their offerings that has made a positive impression. Whilst I retain some healthy scepticism towards certain elements of its business model, I do hope that it sees longterm success. Custom lingerie is a tricky beast at the best of times, and I can only commend a lingerie brand that can offer such an affordable and accessible option.
Readers: Would you ever order custom lingerie? How do you feel about ordering underwire bras from an indie brand?