handmade wardrobe: lingerie

the timing of this post to overlap with valentine’s day is actually not my plan. but hey, if this is the one time of year you look at your undies drawer and think, hmmm, i should probably replace those ones with the worn-out elastic…, maybe this is the post for you.


i love lace, and i love lingerie. i actually wear it every day, because i feel better knowing i’m wearing something that makes me feel good even if i’m too stressed/tired/busy to put in much more effort than that. (fact: the effort is always first for me, and occasionally for me to feel even better about seeing someone else. but it’s always for me first and foremost.) but lately, my lingerie has looked pretty…awful. i haven’t purchased anything new and high-quality in years, and since i wear my items daily, they get pretty worn out. my undies are sad, and my favourite bra has already had its straps replaced and needs them to be replaced again, but also maybe it’s ok that i no longer feel as sexy in it after 5 years of wearing it almost every day and so replacing it with something else that i’ll wear for the next 5 years is alright.

honestly, 3 or 4 years ago i would have just gone to the mall, which i hated even then, and bought some new undies from one of the big chain stores. but now my politics are very different, and i’ve learned way too much about slow vs. fast fashion to be comfortable spending money in that way. i personally choose to instead just keep wearing the old undies in their worn-out state than to spend loads of money on new undies, because at this point i need to replace all of my undies, and buying one pair of environmentally and socially responsibly manufactured undies won’t help me out at this point. but if i was in the position of just needing one or two new pairs, and could set aside some monies to make that purchase, some of my favourite companies for this would be:

  • seeker intimates (made in the states using deadstock lace, which is sorta the only way i feel comfortable looking for lace these days, so if you have leads on that, lemme know)

  • lonely label (new zealand-based design house, manufactured elsewhere but with a clear code of compliance that they share that prioritizes workers’ rights, labour conditions, and environmental standards; models are wide-ranging in size, age, race, and specific campaigns have featured models openly living with disabilities and chronic/terminal illnesses)

  • vava lingerie (also made in the states using deadstock lace, and one of the more diverse brands as far as models go [cellulite in photos! thank you!] - one thing to note is that due to the construction, sizing seems to peak at 47.5” hips/42” bra bands)

  • elma lingerie (really pretty hand stitched finishings, custom orders to fit perfectly on any body, with a focus on very pretty designs for small busts [a cups and smaller] using quality lace)

  • driftlab textile co (they make a lot of things, but these naturally dyed undies with careful consideration of the plants and processes involved are pretty amazing)

  • willow layne lingerie (indie designer and a small making team, and the items fall more within budget-friendly lines, so if you’re looking to get something but can’t afford to shell out $60 for a pair of undies or $150 for a new bra, they’re a great place to check out)

ok, so here’s the thing. these folks make super pretty stuff, but honestly most of the time they’re not exactly what i’m looking for, and since i’ve been sewing so much and working on refining my finishing skills, i probably wouldn’t purchase something from them even if i had the monies for a few pieces because in the back of my head i’m thinking, i mean, i could just make something myself… also, purchasing items online from new-to-you companies means sizing might not work so great, and fluorescent lighting in tight fitting rooms is probably the most terrible thing for a positive self-image, especially if your body doesn’t naturally fall within the current (woefully inadequate) industry standard pattern blocks. so for those of you who are also interested in making your own perfectly fitted lingerie, here are some of my go-to pattern designers (either because i’ve sewn them myself or because they’re very good at what they do or both):

but what do you do with all the old stuff? this has been my trickiest issue, because putting clothes in the landfill is not my jam, and old lace really doesn’t make a good rag. here are a couple solutions i’ve been coming up with for this particular issue:

  • stuff floor poufs with your old undies

  • deconstruct your structured items and upcycle the hardware (findings, wires, longer pieces of strapping that haven’t stretched too much, larger pieces of lace that can salvaged) into new makes

i hope this has been a helpful list for you! curating a slow fashion wardrobe can take years to make, and honestly i feel like probably it should take years because we’re always learning and growing and evolving our personal politics as more information becomes available to us. i’m finally at a point where my regular outer wardrobe is pretty comfortably me-made, and fibreshed politics are influencing my fabric decisions in good ways (mostly i slow down more these days, which i think is good), so now i’m at a point where i can start focusing on the very bases of my wardrobe. which probably accounts a bit for why my undies look so sad and sorry these days actually…on that note, i would like to direct your attention to this article just to remind us all of the complexities and privilege it takes to engage in the wider slow fashion movement conversation. be gentle and critically honest with yourself as you move through your own journey.

a little extra note: i am getting a custom pair of undies made by my friend hennah. they’ve started making naturally dyed and screenprinted undies featuring herbal allies, and i feel like if i’m going to spend money on undies that i haven’t made myself, giving money to my friends so they can invest more in themselves and their own incredible practices is a good plan. also, those high-waisted undies will look super cute with any black bralettes i end up making, so there we go.

ash alberg