Being a lingerie addict can be pretty costly, but when only you and a select amount of people will be seeing it, you want your lingerie to be long-lasting instead of a one-hit-wonder. IMO, there is no better way to do that then shopping for handmade lingerie. I'm continuously impressed by what someone can do with a little lace or leather.
Many people (myself included) prefer purchasing handmade lingerie because there's no question about whose hands put it together. I can acknowledge how difficult it is for a new business owner to choose to pay a seamstress a living wage in the United States as opposed to sending the clothing overseas, which is why I like to show my support for these smaller brands.
If you've ever perused around the internet for handmade lingerie, you'll notice these independent designers and brands tend to be more experimental with fabrics and designs, creating unique works of art instead mass-produced trends. Plus, most of the brands below do made-to-measure lingerie, which means each piece fits me, not a size chart. If you're ready to get seriously addicted to handmade undies, here are some great brands to start with.
PS: You'll notice that most of these brands are based in the UK, but I assure you they ship worldwide!
1. Julie K Lingerie
Milenne Bodysuit, £42, julieklingerie.com
"Pretty little pieces for your bits" is the motto for Julie K Lingerie. Designer and owner, Julie, admits on her site that she started prancing around in her mother's lingerie as a child. Today, Julie hand makes her growing line of lingerie in her hometown in Scotland, inspired by women she's met along the way. When I worked with Julie on my custom, hand-made bodysuit, the process was as exciting as it was easy. Julie sent me various patterns of delicate mesh to choose from and only a few weeks later, I had the bodysuit of my dreams, which remains one of my favorite pieces.
2. Ellice Lydia
Blue Belle Bralette, £17, ellicelydia.com
Ellice Heaton has been sewing from an early age, inspired by her grandmother to make her own clothes. Eventually, she began making handmade lingerie and found a growing number of people wanting to purchase her delicate pieces. "After I started selling a few pieces of lingerie on a small marketplace I was overwhelmed with the response from girls asking me to create unique pieces for them in an array of sizes. After doing some research I noticed that other companies do not offer soft lace cupped bralets for all sizes. This set me on the path to creating handmade, made to measure, lingerie for all sizes!" Heaton explains to me over email. I'm especially down with variety of cup sizes this lingerie brand has to offer: up to a GG.
Rio Leather And Embroidery Bra, £170, almeida.com
Always a fan of lace, but also always salivating over risqué bras and chokers, I was super excited to find out Almeida's lingerie is handcrafted. Founded in 2012, this is the place to be for boudoir style lingerie. It's a bit pricier than other brands on this list, but the quality makes it worth saving up for.
4. Nahina Lingerie
Black Velvet Lingerie Set, $74.76, etsy.com
IMO, Etsy is the place to be for handmade lingerie, and Nahina Lingerie's shop is a great source for anyone seeking feminine, vintage styles. Based out of Brighton, UK, Nikki Valledy has been selling Nahina Lingerie for only a couple of years, drawing inspiration from vintage patterns and enjoying the creative freedom that emulates in her work. "I love the delicacy of intimates. Working at such a small scale demands obsessive neatness and attention to detail, which I really enjoy as part of the making process." Valledy tells me. It's sites like Etsy that have allowed Nikki's designs make their way to bodies all around the world.
Bralette, $13.99, etsy.com
LoVyHouse has some of the cutest damn bras I've ever seen. For someone who can barely sew on a button, it's hard to believe these complex designs are handmade. The store is just under two years old and has reasonable prices for breathtaking, lacy pieces. This husband and wife team brings us handmade lingerie all the way from Vietnam to wherever you can log into your Etsy account.
6. Flash You And Me
There really isn't a single bra Flash You and Me has to offer that I haven't envisioned on my bod. This brand is only three years young, but designer and founder Līva Šteina has had plenty of experience in the fashion industry. Stiff bras and foreign material are what lead Šteina to create her own brand of handmade lingerie using breathable and natural fabrics. "My inspiration is always the interplay of women and fabrics. I honestly have not found anything more beautiful than the female body," Šteina tells me. "As a designer, I love to seek inspiration from things that are at most far from fashion. I can create a new pattern just by looking at how raindrops slip down the shoulders."
I've been a fan of LoLeviLa since before my lingerie interest turned into a fetish. Originally, I was attracted to the undies with cute little cut-outs on the butt. According to LoLeviLa's Etsy store, each item is handmade to order. Provocative, handmade, and affordable — what's not to love? Making handmade clothing wasn't as prestigious for shop owner and designer, Anna, as it is for us now; Anna grew up during a time where making garments was essential in Soviet Russia due to the deficit in clothing. "I design, make and sew almost every day," she tells me "Making underwear is my oxygen. It gives me strength to go on in every aspect of life." Her passion is translated in the intricate details of each of her items.
8. Handmade by Elma
Having come from a small town where the only place for lingerie was the mall, I opted to just not wear bras since shopping for a AA sizes proved nearly impossible. Elma Valerio, of Handmade by Elma, found herself in the same boat. After finding a lack of petite bras that were beautiful and sexy, she began making and selling her handmade lingerie online for petites struggling to find their size. Valerio finds her inspiration to be spontaneous, "You never know when something you see or hear will inspire you so I always keep my eyes and ears open," Valerio says. Like many handmade artists, she finds comfort and breathability are just as important as the aesthetics and considers all aspects of a fabric before deciding on a creation.
9. Uye Surana
"Delicately made in NYC" is what you'll find written on the site of these lingerie experts. The pieces are designed to be worn together or as separates, and many are designed to translate from innerwear to outerwear — aka my own dream come true for lingerie. According to designer, Monica Wesley, "a lot of our design choices are made by bringing together visuals we love with practical needs. We love softness & femininity and we draw that from depictions of nature and earth — flowers and gemstones." Over the past year, Uye Surana has phased out factory-made pieces to expand their handmade crafting as well as choosing local and sustainable processes. While Uye Surana shrinks their carbon footprint, they are also expanding their size range to meet the needs of their customers.
10. Bad Star Lingerie
Andora Bra, $72, badstarlove.bigcartel.com
Bad Star has been creating handmade lingerie since 2009, so I can't believe it was only last year that I started swooning over these bondage style bras and harnesses. Owner and designer Elisa Franceschi was inspired by the spirit of her parents, mixing modern, geometrical designs with the "romantic mystic." Franceschi works from her shop in France and handles everything from orders, to crafting and design.
11. Hopeless Lingerie
Alex Top, $95, hopelesslingerie.com
Creating dark, modern, and romantic handmade lingerie since 2008, Hopeless Lingerie's designer and owner, Gabrielle Adamidis, is inspired by B-Grade horror movies and her love of anything black and sheer. "The intention is to elicit excitement in a unique way, rather than relying on stereotypical views of what women’s lingerie should look like. (i.e. pushing or contorting the body into not so natural shapes) I like to challenge the notion that women need to look or be a certain way to be sexy and desirable, instead suggesting a women being comfortable and confident in her own skin is more important," Adamidis explains. As Hopeless Lingerie has grown, Adamidis now shares her handcrafting role with a few other designers on staff and they are focusing more and more on choosing organic, sustainable fabrics.
Sorry about your wallets, but you're welcome for all the pretty new lingerie goodies.
Image: Andrew Zaeh/Bustle; Courtesy Brands