Create Couture Lingerie
by Alexandra Armillas
from Threads #135, pp. 34-39
The intricate beauty and delicacy of fine lace and lingerie have been great inspirations to me. Sewn by machine or by hand, couture lingerie is cut to fit and combines hand-selected and balanced lace with luxurious fabrics and delicately executed buttons and fittings.
Here, I describe how I learned about couture lingerie and how you can make your own. I attended the Fashion Institute of Technology (F.I.T.) and interned at Christian Dior Lingerie during my senior year. When I graduated, Dior offered me a full-time position, and I received wonderful training in couture lingerie. The experience of working with extraordinary French laces-especially Alençon lace-and the finest cottons, silks, and novelty fabrics only reinforced my deep love of exquisite lingerie.
Later, after I worked for an innovative, contemporary company for several years and ran a small business that produced one-of-a-kind, couture lingerie from antique embroideries and silks, I again came to the attention of Christian Dior Lingerie-and a twenty-year stint as their head designer ensued. It was thrilling to create the concept of a lingerie collection-something that did not exist in the industry when I returned to Dior.
|Use buttons like jewelry. They are carefully selected to enhance the garment's overall feminine aura.|
Evolving with Dior
Over time, the Dior line evolved to two-hundred-piece per year collections for each of its five markets. The fabrics and silhouettes covered an extensive variety of techniques that included tailored, yarn-dyed, striped pajamas with embroidered emblems accompanied by Savoy Row quality tailored robes; christening gowns in the finest cotton lawn or silk; and silk bridal sets with French lace appliqué accompanied by luxurious silk, velvet, or brocade robes. An even more opulent collection called "Dior Le Connoisseur" allowed me to create truly couture, extraordinarily complex originals, using many imported and gossamer components.
Designing for Dior required biannual visits to the House of Dior in Paris, which was always inspiring. My deep love of France and its culture, people, and decorative arts, grew on every trip. I also had the honor of designing and launching the Oscar de la Renta Sleepwear Collection and of working with one of the finest people in the fashion industry-a true icon.
Couture lingerie is always worth the price. What is priceless is the sense of beauty and serenity an exquisite piece can impart to one's sense of self, well being, and happiness. With loving care, a couture piece can last a very long time.
The average lingerie sold today is serviceable and readily replaced. Most pieces do the job of providing something to sleep in, which is quite different from creating an heirloom that inspires a transcendent state and sweet dreams. I have always believed the private, inner world of a woman is where her life should begin and that couture lingerie is an important part of this world.
A couture camisole is a truly versatile addition to any woman's wardrobe. You can wear it to bed with a matching bikini, tap pants, or long pants for 1930s glamour. You can wear it to work under a suit or with a pair of jeans for an evening out with friends.
The techniques I demonstrate here are essentially the same as ones you would use to create a chemise, ballerinalength gown, or long gown. You can use some of the lace steps to create other lingerie pieces such as matching robes or bodysuits.
|Photocopy your lace. It simplifies the designing steps and conserves the real lace.||Drape your pattern. Use silk charmeuse to drape your original pattern or to test your commercial pattern.|