Why I Sew My Own Lingerie
After dabbling in sewing as a kid, I picked needle and thread back up six years ago when the intellectual work of grad school made me yearn for a tactile hobby.
While I enjoy making and wearing all kinds of garments, I love working with the delicate and sometimes extravagant fabrics that lend themselves to lingerie and loungewear, like silk, velvet, or mesh. Though we’ve explored some of the reasons why DIY might not be a cheaper or easier option than purchasing lingerie, I’d like to offer a few of the reasons why making my own lingerie as a hobby appeals to me.
First, it might in fact be less expensive. I know – hear me out. As we’ve documented here at TLA, the price of luxury lingerie, especially made-to-order pieces from small companies, often has a very narrow profit margin given the expense of materials and the time-consuming nature of the techniques. However, when it comes to our hobbies we can choose not to measure our time financially.
For me, the “cost” I put into sewing is in the materials I buy, and the time I spend I consider a pleasurable hobby rather than income lost. In this way, the items I make are less expensive in terms of monetary output than purchasing similar pieces.
That’s not to say making lingerie and loungewear is cheap! One of my favorite pieces that I’ve made is a luxurious winter dressing gown. With a wool plaid exterior, silk crepe lining, cotton flannel interlining, and silk rayon velvet collar and cuffs, this robe is warm, soft, and opulent – and not cheap. While I spent quite a bit in raw materials, by making it myself I was able to enjoy the thrill of tracking down just the right color fabric, to fine-tune all the details, and to create something I’ll wear for years.
Anyone living in a body that isn’t a standard ready-to-wear size knows that finding things that fit, are your style, and are within your budget can be an impossible challenge. Making your own lingerie that fits your exact body, with all its particularities, can be so satisfying and affirming.
Through sewing you can not only make things that aren’t commercially available in your size, you can also adjust for asymmetry, add or remove support, or choose seam techniques for skin sensitivities.
For instance, I have difficulty finding bodysuits that fit well on my long torso. I wanted a plain black bodysuit for a photoshoot, so I pulled out a pattern, added length to the torso and coverage to the butt, and sewed it up in a soft cotton knit. For added support around the bust, I lined it with powermesh and added a snug internal bra band.
Maybe you want something that you haven’t seen anywhere. Maybe an idea got stuck in your head and just needs to be brought to life. Using a special fabric, creating a unique shape, or designing something with special meaning are all excellent reasons to turn to your sewing machine!
I love thinking of my clothing as costumes that allow me to express different parts of my personality, gender, or imagination. While I like the feeling of binding sometimes, wearing the plain colored binder I’d purchased didn’t really give me a sense of joy. However, yards of hot pink powermesh certainly did! So I drafted up a pattern for a mesh binder with metallic trim and wear it with joy.
The skills used in sewing vary really widely, and therefore so do the reasons different people are drawn to sewing as a hobby. If you love getting down to the nitty-gritty of fitting, making underwire bras, with their precise measurements and engineered shapes, might be just the thing. If beautiful finishes send you swooning, French seams on silk and precise lace applique might be right up your alley.
For me, I love the design and problem-solving process of translating a vision into three dimensions. I might start from a pattern but tweak it, change its proportions, or add details. Or I might, as I’ve done here, think up something nerdy and fun and unlike anything you could buy in a store and create an homage to my favorite superhero, Captain Marvel.
With more lingerie patterns available in a wider range of sizes than even just six years ago when I started, lingerie-making continues to become more accessible to more people. Making your own lounge wear, too, is a wonderful way to treat your body and your time at home with a little extra care.
Have you made your own lingerie or lounge wear before?