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Originally published at RavenDreams - Confessions. You can comment here or there.

As you will have guessed from my many other rants articles, I am passionate about redesigning shapewear to fit real needs not thought of by men. Like:

  • How do you get in and out of it when you need to pee?
  • The same goes for inconvenient times of the month.
  • How it fastens and where. Can you reach the closures? Are they in a comfortable location or does it shove a load of hooks in the most ridiculous of places?
  • Does it sit smoothly under your clothes and not roll down, ride up?
  • How to make this sexy – because currently it is a choice between unsexy sausage tubes which totally ruins the illusion that this is the real you.

I have been playing with the concept of playsuits and body shapewear for a while. I started out with soft supportive cups in the Kate line of babydolls and progressed with redesigning knickers with the Jane panties. So part way there!

I have always felt that the best way to learn good design was to look at bad design. Hooboy! Not currently at a loss for choice with the offerings in the general market! Ok. So keeping in mind the above list, I sat down and looked at the engineering stresses of conventional shapewear and asked what part of these contraptions were necessary and which were psychological.



Shapewear is there to give you a smoother profile, take out all the lumps and bumps. In some aspects slim waist and flatten abdomen. Some also lift and shape your bum. The lovely Matilda above shows how I started with the most problem areas. I was looking at how to use the grain of fabrics and cut in the first image to flatten, in the second to lift the bum and flatten the upper back and in the final image sooth the hips to create a waist and support the bust. What I noticed was that unless you are intentionally cinching the waist, any excess material in the back and you get uncomfortable bunching and worse it makes whatever you are wearing look really amateurishly made and cheap (but not in a good way). This is one of the main reason to avoid dresses with zippers down the back.

The next stage was to drape. But Matilda is a cold herd hearted woman with no softness in her and is unforgiving. Off to the phone tree to friends and clients who volunteer as fitting models. They are a courageous group of women who will happily (or with a little grumbling) will stand in weird positions near naked in my workroom gossiping while I stick pins in them. The result of that first attempt was a powermesh playsuit called the Elizabet (after the Countess of Bathroy because of the deep red colour chosen. Almost decided to do the photo shoot in the bath…;) The fit is lovely, but it is a playsuit as opposed to shapewear.

The Elizabet

With what I had learned from the Elizabet, I began to draft what I hoped would be something you could wear under a business suit – The Melanie, for the working girl in all of us.

The basis for any pattern when working with stretch materials is the fabric choice. So long before I even started drawing I had been trawling the world for excellent lycra and elasticine based Chantilly and levers lace in black. It had to stretch, be strong and durable and gorgeous. Lace on its own isn’t strong enough to shape your body and and be uncomfortable having a pattern imprinted on your skin! So mounting the lace onto a super soft, super strong powermesh is an ideal solution.

For this iteration a lot of consideration and experimentation went into the details. I wanted it to be sexy, but more than that I want to be able to wear it under a dress OR a pair of trousers and not have to get undressed whenever I needed the loo. Traditional bodies will have hooks or spans in the centre of the crotch.

WHY?!!!!! Who the hell ever thought that would be a good idea?!! The gymnastics to grab both ends alone are just unbelievable! And then put it WHERE?

Again, taking a page from Victorian lingerie, my thought was to create an overlapping open gusset to provide modesty and comfort. The back sections of the pantie  hook together in the centre providing lift and smoothing the hips. To go to the loo, simply unhook the back and open the gusset. The added benefit is the ability to take this from the office to playsuit… not necessarily changing location.



 

 

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Originally published at RavenDreams. You can comment here or there.

Still battling the, “its a lot of money for what it is…” notion, I thought I would use the concept of the Dress Diary to show you the design process from research and conception to finished product. Along the way there will be opportunities to help me make choices and influence the final design.

What is a Dress Diary? Its a series of blog articles most often written by amateur tailors and costumers (some times professionals but not very often because the fashion industry is so secretive) to show other amateur costumers their experiments, ask advice and to teach others about their techniques. Here is an example of a completed diary by a truly inspirational seamstress and innovator: Mode Historique – Striped Anglaise Diary.  While the fashion industry hides away it’s designs until revealing them with great publicity at a catwalk show – the world of media is changing. What better way to show you the quality and care that goes into every garment than by taking you along for the ride?

So…

I began researching designs for baby dolls and nighties about 18 months ago (Wow! that long ago? Yep. Boundary disputes can be very distracting. But that’s another story…). I looking through the collections at The Metropolitan Museum of Art website. I get my best inspiration from history and then I like to put my own spin and modern tailoring techniques onto the redesigns for a modernly retro feel.

I found this charming Amazonian baby doll and wrap by Iris made in 1964 and from the collection of Mrs. Sylvia Pedlar. I fell in love immediately with this sexy peekaboo number. If you look at the image of the back, it ties like a halter but at one time I believe the straps were sewn more conventionally into the back. That kind of long, non-adjustable strap would have meant that it would have been very difficult to keep the straps from slipping off the shoulders – hence the change to tying it at the neck. I also liked the combinations of fabric finishes with plain weave silk, satin and georgette.




When starting to sketch, I had to keep in mind a plus size figure’s needs. The bows on the origional would look unbalanced, making almost a clowninsh feature of one breast. I wanted a softer, more alluring feel with a Grecian gathering at the shoulders. I wanted to maintain the very naughty side opening matching slits in both the nightie and the wrap. At first I thought to keep it very simple and use a seethrough georgette for the main part of the nightie have a wide strip of satin ribbon highlighting the nightie’s side slit opening and make the wrap fully in a matching satin. As I began to work out modesty issues of exposing one nipple to the world I began to envision different laces; Chantilly eyelash edged, 3D layered lace, guipure… Comments about my current robe/wrap selections is that the women who wear them don’t just wear them in the bedroom but out on the town as well. The impact there in fabric choices becomes more flexible with satins, brocades and full fabric laces to make it a transitional wardrobe choice.



Remember, I began with these sketches over a year ago and the images I were using as inspirational are free in the interwebs. In the meantime, others found the same inspiration. Here’s LaPerla’s version in white georgette and pink satin edging and white lace details. Made from 100% silk and retailing at £435.00.



Its a sexy little one piece – so no separate wrap. As a one piece it uses less fabric which makes it easier and more cost effective to mass manufacture. Its a cleverly thought homage to the original which solves the halter vs back strap issues with the integrated wrap shoulder and a spaghetti strap on the other side.

So this was the first part of the Dress Diary. In the next part I will dive head first into fabrics and begin to create the toille (draped pattern).

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Originally published at RavenDreams. Please leave any comments there.

The JaneGussets! We all hate the cheese wire of centre front and centre back sewn panties and the camel toe that inherently comes with too small or too narrow gussets. Traditonally gusset front seams are placed just at, to be plain, the vulva. This can be very irritating and absolute hell on a very sensitive area. Placing the seam there may be more visually attractive, but it does not address the health issues many women face.  First I made the gusset both wider, to cup rather than cut, and then longer to extend over the sensitive areas and to help you feel more protected against possible exposure or accident. Then I employed Victorian tailoring techniques usaully only applied to jacket or bodice fitting to create a seam line that allowed for more fullness right where a mature woman needs it. The back seam uses the same techniques creating a more luscious curve to your bum while also reducing bunching and wedgies. What’s the point of having expensive elegant underwear if you are always having to pull it out of… well, you get the point.

And, I hadn’t thought of it until this very moment, but for those who practice a more “glamorous lifestyle” – there’s more room to tuck too! We do try to encourage diversity!

So – higher cut legs, a waist line that wraps around your hips, a specifically tailored gusset to a woman’s needs – The Plain Jane isn’t so plain.
What I find so disappointing in other designers is that they say they are creating “NEW” lines that are “innovative”, but actually they are only the same old cut and patterns but in different colours. Here are two examples. Can you tell which top designer or high street shop produced which pant?

Three sets of lace back panties

Three sets of basic thongs.

 

 

 

 

It is the same pattern and the same finishes from all three companies.

As I move forward, my challenge will be to take my pattern and take it from Plain Jane to uber sexy and truly innovate! My first foray is the Low Rise Jane.

Ever buy hip-hugger jeans and have the back of your knickers embarrassingly exposed whenever you bent over to… well do anything? This Low Rise version of The Jane holds to all of the principals of The Jane for comfort and stability. These are designed to hug the top hip and then dip into a well fitting, secure V.  There are other versions on the market that have elastic that crisscrosses over the back linking the two sides like a waistband. But with the way that this Jane has been designed there the V is so secure it wont fall off your hips and as it is attached to the Jane gusset, no bunching or riding up either.

You may now bend over with confidence!

The Low Rise Jane

 

 

 

These and all the current versions of The Jane can be found at the following online outlets :)

@Etsy and @Big Tattoo Planet

Anyhoo tell me what you think and if you have any suggestions on what you would like the Jane to do next!

 

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Originally published at RavenDreams. You can comment here or there.

“A seam in your crotch is like a cheesewire covered in sandpaper. Thongs are instruments of torture. Don’t even talk to me about knicker with tight elastic on the legs, or god help us, a non-breathable fabric gusset.” – found in The Lingerie Addict

I have made some serious rants in the past about the sizing and fit of lingerie and now at last I can finally tell you what I have been doing about it! Since I stated the business back in March of 2011 with just an idea that I could possibly make my own lingerie I have been exploring vintage patterns and modern techniques in a journey to create a simple pair of pants that was fit to purpose. The quote from The Lingerie Addict article pretty much sums up how I feel about fit. But having comfy panties does not mean they cant be dead sexy too. to emphasize my meaning below is a picture of two women in your typical bikini knicker. As you can plainly see the same design of pant does not suit both sizes. Plus it was incredibly difficult to find an image a mid-range plus size woman wearing underwear as most places sell knickers modeled by a UK12 or UK14.

comparison

The next set of pictures show a prototype I developed for a new way of cutting and fitting plus size panties in comparison with regular low rise panties on my long suffering intern (LSI) (who is also a size UK14). BTW: I have made all the images in greyscale because we are talking about bodies, not sex.)

Proto Jane front
The image on the left shows LSI with her normal low rise pants underneath the prototype. You can see the regular panties cut in at the waistline and start to create a “muffin top” effect. Also the legs are cut very low on the hip so every time she sits down, the pants begin to slide sown and off. The image on the right shows just the prototype. Instead of a muffin top, she has smoother more elegant curves and as the legs are cut to sit at the top f her leg, no drag AND her legs look much longer!

Proto Jane side view

The industry has not changed in 30+ years. The same patterns, styles and methods are used. They take the one style that was designed for a size UK6 and then scale… Again here we see why that narrow thinking isn’t appropriate. In the high street traditional low rise LSI looks like she has a very unflattering spare tire, a lumpy bum and a possibly deformed back, but in the prototype she has a smooth curvacious and cheeky shape.

Proto Jane rear view

The last photo shows how the prototype sits higher on the hips. The one thing I find many women, myself very much included, is the loss of my knickers in what I call the “rear creep”. They slide down and then fall off while somehow managing to create one heck of a self wedgie.

But so far the prototype looks like basic high leg knickers – the innovations lie in the gusset! But I will cover that tomorrow in glorious Technicolor!

 

Stay tuned!

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Originally published at RavenDreams. Please leave any comments there.

I have slimmed down to a size 20 which means I can buy a swim suit from Tesco. The body is impossibly long but as I am a designer,  I have taken 4 inches of of the crotch to make fit me and stop some very embarrassing exposure. So now it fits at the bottom but my 40 GGs are one bounce away from doing the can can for the public.  Sigh.

In recent moans, being honest about my rants, I have looked at “shapewear”. And in a recent article by Margert Bognerief expounds on the lack of fit to puropse design.  Instead of plus size designed for a plus size body we have size 6 scaled for size 24. Gok Kwan and Spanx making girdles for thin people. I.E. because they don’t have plus size bulges, it sits right and does the job it was designed for. But try and find anywhere that stocks anything above a size 20 for the people who actually need it. Because the advertisers and the TV shows tell you if you want to look sexy or have a high street dress to look half way descent then you must wear a push up bra,  thigh slimming pants and a waist sincher. Why? Because the dress was designed initially to look good on a size six.  Not you. Then, even the size six is wearing shapewear. The dress is not fit to purpose of you have to do all that as a size six to look good in it.

The designer Catherine Clavering in an interview discussing disability and diversity in lingerie, admits that even she does not design for her own needs citing also the complaints of some of her customers; gusset width,  positioning of seams the hell of non-fitting underwear…

This and constant experimentation leads me to the conclusion that what is out there is not fit for purpose.  What is the point of design a garment that you the designer can’t wear?

I know this is my blog where I am supposed to big up my own products and sell sell sell… But we need to radically redesign basic underwear and the concepts around them. Throw away the book and get back to basic questions:
1. Can you take it off to pee easily?
2. Is it comfortable for long periods of time?
3. Does it fall off or roll down when you sit or walk long distances?
4. Does it flatter your shape without pain?

My designs have been slowly mutating as the feedback comes in. In response I have created The Plain Jane which is the basis of all my patterns for knickers. (Pictures to follow) There is not a straight line in them. The seams and fit is closer to Victorian jackets than modern panties. They are designed for to the above purposes and they are my most comfy, secure, and sexy knickers. If only I had time to make more for me!

When I get back from the beach it is time to show you all something new!

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Originally published at RavenDreams. You can comment here or there.

Something I have begun to notice when searching on shopping sites like Etsy.com or Ebay are the number sellers who come up in the results when typing in the tag “plus size”. But closer inspection shows that the seller has ONE item in a size US14/UK16 or worse yet, a size US12/UK14, and thus they qualify themselves as Plus Size specialists.

WTF?

The common range of plus sizes goes from a size UK18 – 32 (XL – 5XL) with the most popular plus sizes are 18-20 and 22-24. I really don’t see how these sellers can advertise themselves as selling plus size when they sell only one or two items and the size is on the cusp! It is outrageous! It is humiliating enough to know that as an averaged sized plus size woman you can’t walk into the major high street chains and find anything in there. Worse yet now we have sellers telling plus sized women that they wont be catered for unless they are at the smaller edge of being plus size. And then when you try to order an item to be told at checkout the item is permanently out of stock! Those of us who do design and manufacture plus size and being overwhelmed and hidden by the plethora of what feels like those jumping on the band wagon for mercenary profit.

Likewise I am bewildered by the recent attitude by the BBC towards the recent London Plus Size Fashion Weekend. The main story reported that many shops now included plus sizes by going up to a size 18 and SOME went higher… But then the interviews with the organizers and the comments from the morning hosts were focused on health issues and talking about obesity. The questions to the organizers were barbed to obtain odd responses. The subtitle version, which often did not match the content of the interview at all, even stated the importance of loosing weight was more desirable than being plus size.

It is every woman’s right to feel confidant and good about themselves.

When did plus size only become defined to be under a size 16 and the top end a size 18? Despite showing what vast market desire and need for good quality and well designed items there is to be told as a consumer that it is a shameful thing and to be avoided by loosing weight as fast as possible.

/rant

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Originally published at RavenDreams. You can comment here or there.

new patterns and new fabrics

New patterns and new silks and laces

New colours and fabrics and patterns. French knickers and tap pants in sheer Georgette of 95% silk and 5% elastine. No more cutting or bunching but a soft whisper thin silk that stretches! And new amazing and luxurious laces imported from Italy and France. Soon you will see how sexy they look and how great they make you feel!

 

 

 

 

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Originally published at RavenDreams. You can comment here or there.

Recently had a question from a client. She was confused as to why the bra sizes covered in our size charts only went up to a 46 when she was informed by a major high street chain that her bra size was a 50-52 for a size 26-28. I told her that I could pretty much guarantee that she was wearing the wrong bra size.

Ok… fasten your seat belts!

Although there has been a recent trend to offer larger cup sizes in a response to re-examining modern women’s bodies the industry as a whole has not really changed many of its practices. Bras used to be offered in a limited range of cup sizes mainly to cut down on manufacturing costs. These went usually from an A (more rarely a AA) up to a DD. Getting your hands on an E or above usually meant specialist stores, very limited styles and huge prices.

So… How did women get bras that fit? Honestly – they didn’t.

How a bra should fit:

  1. The band of the bra (back wings and cradle – the bit the cups are attached to) should be a snug fit without digging in and be an even straight line around the body. The back of the bra should not rise or create an arc.
  2. The side seams, where the back wings join the cradle, should sit on the mid-line of the body. If the side seam moves forward of the mid-line then the back size too large. If the side seam is more towards the back of the mid-line then the back size is too small. Side seam position is an indicator of the relationship between back size and cup size and should be noted where there is one in the design of the bra.
  3. The cup’s under-wire should fit to the line of your breast root. The breast root is where the main breast tissue joins to the body. When worn, the under-wire should “spring” no further than a thumb width from the side of the breast root. More than that and the wire will not support the breast tissue and distort its shape. Less than that and the wire could “pinch” the root and cause bruising and be painful.
  4. The big issue of the centre front bridge and under-wires: how tight fitting should they be? The centre bridge should fit snugly to your breast bone touching the skin NOT anchored in as if someone used a nail gun. Too tight can cause more damage than too loose.

How do manufacturers get around this?

Although many high street stores boast larger cup sizes most of you will have experienced that they are only widely available for up to a 38 back size. Style and range of choice becomes severely limited at 40 and over. (And it’s amazing how online ordering systems always say that over a 40DD is permanently out of stock!) So in order to make the sale certain adjustments to the way you are fitted will happen.

General Construction Notes:

In bra construction the cradle, where the cups sit, has little to no stretch, while the back of the bra has all of the stretch. This is to give the cups the most support so that they don’t distort during a long day of wear. This is also why steel under-wires work while being flexible enough for movement, they maintain their original shape. Bra patterns are scaled from a 34B. Mark Garbarczyk for Foundations Reveal’d has written a great series of articles outlining EXACTLY how the process of scaling bras works. As you increase the back measurements the cups also scales slightly. You can see a wonderful example of how that works here.

The larger back size vs the larger cup size

As most ranges are still only available up to a DD, to get a bra to fit if you need a larger cup size that is unavailable the solution is to increase the back size and hope that the cup is scaled to fit your needs. The corollary is also true; if only smaller back sizes are available you can make up for the lack of circumference by increasing the cup size. This is how the public is sold bras that are fitted but don’t fit.

Scenario 1: You go into a store and need a 46H, you may be fitted with a 50DD – they have increased the back size because they don’t carry a large enough range of larger cup sizes.

Scenario 2: You go into a store needing a 42F and get fitted for a 38Hthey have the larger cup sizes, but not the range in back sizes so a larger cup and a smaller back.

In the first scenario there will not be enough support for you bust to give you good shape and the most common symptoms are; the back rises up, you can pull the back out like a bow string, the bust “leaks” out the side and slide out from under the cup. The second scenario is by far more uncomfortable with symptoms; bra back and band cuts into you, the centre bridge feels like its digs and leaves red marks and bruising and the shoulder straps never stay up.

We have made a short video to demonstrate what I have written here and to show you how to check for your own fit. Remember these tips next time you go bra shopping and happy hunting!

Personally, I believe in a good plunge bra.

All the best!

Abi

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