Why buy handmade lingerie?
There are so many great reasons that this answer could be very long, but to put it briefly: it can be personalized to fit your body and customized to suit your taste. Handmade lingerie, whether made by yourself or another maker, can be made of more high quality materials and with more care and attention to detail than mass produced garments. You’re also helping support the small scale makers that create lingerie and sewing patterns, as well as the small businesses that supply lingerie materials. If you make or have a small business make your lingerie, you are ensuring that the garments you enjoy have been produced under safer, more ethical working conditions than mass produced fashion.
Why is handmade lingerie more expensive than retail?
To put a long and complicated story very briefly, this is a result of the higher cost in time, materials, and labor that a small scale producer begins with. A typical large scale garment maker has specialized equipment, access to supplies at wholesale cost, and relies on outsourcing production to factories where the cost of labor is lower and conditions are not necessarily protected by first world labor law protections or environmental standards.
Because small scale garment makers often don’t have access to the specialized software and manufacturing equipment and the assembly line style manufacturing method that the textile industry uses, each step is completed by hand and takes more time than it might otherwise. Patterns take longer to create when created by an individual using Adobe Illustrator or lower cost software available for home consumers than they would with industry software. Sewing bra channeling must be done in several careful passes rather than one step with a machine costing thousands of dollars that completes only this action. Sewing finishing elastics without a specialized coverstitch machine with a binder attachment also requires careful multiple passes of a typical sewing machine where a mass producer uses one.
Materials are also more costly when purchased in the smaller quantities a smaller garment maker would require. We also don’t always have the luxury of being able to work with a manufacturer to specify the fiber content, color, or finishes of the materials we require for a design. There are many components involved in lingerie that must be sourced and handled in different ways which requires more time, machine setting changes, and slower processes than a mass production setup would require. A bra often includes three types of elastic, a main fabric or lace, a lining fabric, stabilizing interior fabric, channeling, cup foam, seam tape, power net, a hook and eye closure, underwires, and rings and sliders, which must all be sourced at prices much closer to retail than what the garment making industry pays. Each of these materials also requires a specific handling, machine tension, stitch length and width settings, needle and thread specifications, all of which add time to the assembly process.
Finally, most small scale makers offering custom or handmade lingerie are operating in countries with strict environmental standards and labor laws in place to protect workers, and we believe that garment workers deserve to be paid a living wage for their work. These necessary protections do translate into higher production cost. We are accustomed to buying mass produced fashion and often don’t realize that the low prices we are used to paying for clothing are unfortunately predicated on outsourced, low paid labor at some point in the supply chain. Handmade lingerie prices are often significantly higher than retail, and understandably, this can be cost prohibitive, but represents the true value of the labor, time, and craftsmanship we put into our products. If you are able to support that and choose our garments, we are deeply thankful.
How do I choose a pattern size?
My patterns rely on body measurements for sizing rather than standard, somewhat arbitrary numerical values that shift over time and mean different things in different markets.
To choose your pattern size, begin with your high bust measurement. I use this raw measurement to label my pattern sizes, so there’s no confusion in translating what a size actually means in terms of body measurements or compared to other brands. If your high bust measurement is 36, choose the pattern size 36. If the pattern includes sizes for different cup sizes, each size will be labeled with the cup size as well, though it’s important to note that this doesn’t necessarily mean you should choose the same size as your bra size. If you wear a standard US 36B bra size, your upper bust may not actually measure 36″. Always go with the actual body measurement.
For more information on how to measure, see (here).
How do I choose my lingerie size?
I prefer to work with actual measurements for clothing because sizing conventions vary so much from brand to brand and country to country. Using specific measures eliminates some of the confusion that comes from vanity sizing and gradual industry shifts over time. I work primarily with imperial units and inches, but am happy to help figure out metric conversions (or any sizing issues) as well. Feel free to message me at firstname.lastname@example.org for help.
For best results, it’s ideal to have someone help you to carefully take your measurements and then use those to choose your clothing and pattern sizes. Four measurements are key for most intimate wear: the full bust measurement, the underbust measurement, the waist measurement, and the full hip measurement. For clothing, measure over the same kind of foundational garments or underwear that you would wear under the garment. For lingerie, measure over a non-padded, thin bra that fits well.
For more on fitting, see (here).
Determining bra size can be complicated, and there are simple ways and more complicated ways to determine sizing. If ready to wear bras usually fit you comfortably, then the simple method of size determination is usually adequate. The simplest way to measure bra sizing is to find the difference between the full bust measurement and the underbust measurement. (Full bust – underbust = inches of difference). Each inch of difference represents a cup size, such that 1 inch is an A cup, 2 inches is a B cup, 3 inches is a C cup, and upwards.
If you find that ready to wear bras aren’t supportive or comfortable for you, though, your proportions probably vary from the ones assumed by the simple method. It’s best to take more measurements to get a more accurate idea of your size and you might consider having a bra made to your specifications.
The more accurate way to measure, especially if your rib cage or back proportions are broad or narrow, is to measure the front and back halves of the body separately. Measure your body circumference to get your band size, but to determine cup size, measure the full bust measurement in the front of the body only and the underbust measurement in the front of the body only. (It can be helpful to mark reference lines at your sides with something like an eyeliner pencil to be precise.) Measuring yourself in this way can also be helpful as a starting point for analyzing your breast shape, spacing, and width as well, especially using an eyeliner pencil to mark your precise breast root where it meets the chest wall.
For more on bra fit see (here).
What custom options are available?
There are many elements of my lingerie designs that can be adjusted for little or no cost.
Strap colors and widths, hardware color and size, hook and eye closure size, and lining fabrics can all be adjusted to your preferences. For example, bra cups lined in rigid fabrics can often be made with stretch mesh instead, which can help with some bra cup fit issues. I can substitute linings for transparency, such as if you prefer a lining such a soft jersey instead of more see through mesh. For a more luxurious feel, cups can be lined in silk fabric as well (though silk fabrics do cost more than typical lining fabrics). I also am happy to source base fabrics like bra tulle and stretch mesh in a variety of shades, because I appreciate that what is “nude” for one person’s skin tone isn’t “nude” for another person’s.
Design elements can be altered to meet a variety of physical needs. I can adjust most bralettes and even many wired bras to be nursing friendly by adding nursing clips, support structure, and a cup that can be lowered. I can add or omit underwires as desired for many designs, and often can substitute different lengths or styles of wires to address fit needs. Closure placement can be modified to be more accomodating to individual physical needs and different levels of mobility. Designs can be adjusted as needed to better meet post-mastectomy needs by removing wires and adding discrete pockets in lining for inserts.
For any of these adjustments, or any not listed here, feel free to contact me to discuss your preferences via email or start a conversation with me on Etsy. Some customizations may add additional processing time if they require sourcing specialized hardware or fabrics.
Do you sew lingerie for men?
I do! I’m happy to sew my lingerie designs for anyone who would like to wear them. I love sewing things for people that make them feel good in their own skin, and this is true for anyone of any gender identity.
What are bespoke items? How is this different than customized items? What do bespoke items cost?
A bespoke garment is a piece that is created to your own measurements and to your precise specifications. Choose your design style, your colors and materials, and your hardware and finishing trims for exactly the piece that you desire. (Customizing existing designs, by contrast, makes small modifications or substitutions of materials, trim selection, hardware, cup coverage, closure placement or fitting tweaks to an already designed garment.)
The process of creating a bespoke piece involves specifying your design, using example images, fabric swatches and creating a detailed fashion illustration to establish exactly what you are looking for. Then we discuss your measurements and draft the pattern. (If fit has been a particularly difficult issue for you in the past, arrangements can be made to create a fit prototype in materials of similar weight and stretch properties to your final fabrics to confirm the design is satisfactory.) Then the final garment will be cut, assembled, and finished with care.
The cost of bespoke garments varies based on the materials used and the complexity of design. The final price will be determined before the garment is begun. Due to the custom sizing and intimate nature of bespoke garments, returns are only accepted in cases of a flaw in the garment, though I offer fit adjustment alterations for free for up to six weeks after the garment has been delivered.
How long do handmade items take? Are rush items available?
The time it takes to produce handmade garments varies depending on the garment and the time of year. Orders are completed in the order received, so at certain times, the order queue may be longer than others. Estimates are given on Etsy listings for individual items. Typically underwired bras require up to two weeks more time to complete than other items to allow for ordering and shipping special hardware, such as underwires in specific styles and sizes. If at any time you would like a status update or time estimate on your order, feel free to contact me.
Where are garments made?
All garments I sell in my Etsy shop are sewn by me personally in my home studio outside of Saint Louis, Missouri.
What shipping options do you offer? Is rush shipping available?
I ship items using USPS, and items can be shipped priority upon request. I create orders in the order in which they are received, although if you have a special occasion where timeliness is a factor or need something urgently, please feel free to contact me.
Is packaging discreet? Can price information be omitted for gifts?
Items are shipped inside standard, sturdy USPS supply boxes, which allows for your privacy. I typically don’t include packing slips specifying pricing unless requested, so if items are intended as gifts, the cost won’t be listed in the packaging.
Do you have sales?
I typically don’t offer many sales, though I do offer a loyalty discount for repeat customers and occasionally have sample sales, which are announced via my Instagram page (@bluehoursatelier) and via my mailing list, which you can join (here).
How do I care for lingerie?
To care for your lingerie, hand washing is best, but most items can be washed by machine in cold water on the most delicate setting. It’s best to put items in a lingerie bag (or put in a pillowcase, tied it in a knot to close) and to make sure all bra closures are hooked to prevent snags. Hang to dry, since the heat from the dryer shortens the life and recovery of lingerie elastics and can damage delicate fabrics.
What is your return policy?
I want you to be satisfied with your garment. If it doesn’t fit or there is a construction issue, I accept returns and will make a replacement at no cost. Please let me know as soon as you receive the item if there are any concerns so that they may be addressed.
Because of the lengthy process involved in making bespoke items, I only accept returns in cases of garment defects, though I do offer free alteration service for 6 weeks after receipt of the item.