The Real Value of Luxury Lingerie

  |   By Laurie Shapiro

Investing in luxury lingerie is an investment in yourself. But what makes lingerie truly special? Is it the construction? The way it makes you feel? The memories you make while wearing it? As a former owner/designer of a luxury lingerie label, I discovered that the true value of lingerie is all of these things and more.

Why is it we have no problem splurging on expensive shoes or clothes, but flinch at the price tag on similarly priced lingerie? We justify those heels as investment items, something we'll wear a lot and that everyone can see. That sexy dress we buy for a romantic night out will probably only be worn a handful of times. But our lingerie? We rely on a few workhorse bras (with sensible panties to match) and cringe when we take off that knockout dress in front of someone special.

I started my lingerie label, Toad Lillie, rather by accident. I began with making fanciful pasties of beaded hand cut silk flowers and feathers (for fun "ta-da!" moments with your favorite panties). The brand took off and soon I was sewing silk bras, panties, garter belts, and loungewear. A self-taught seamstress, I took great pleasure and pride in creating pieces that were truly special, crafting made-to-measure items utilizing couture dressmaking techniques. Silk bras were lined to feel luxurious against the skin. Stretch silk panties had silk gussets, hand appliqued laces, and hand dyed elastics to match. Bedjackets had 30 yards of ruffled silk chiffon with the tiniest rolled hem. Chemises and camisoles had hand painted floral motifs and silk lined bodices. With all seams fully enclosed, there was not a serged edge to be seen. Basically, everything looked as fabulous turned out on your bedroom floor as it did on your body.

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Toad Lillie Luxury Lingerie

Toad Lillie Luxury Lingerie

Toad Lillie Luxury Lingerie

Toad Lillie Luxury LingerieToad Lillie

Most name brand luxury labels are not able to provide such attention to detail. Just because you recognize the name and it has a hefty price tag does not necessarily make it a luxury item worth purchasing. Pay as much attention to the fabrication of an item as you do the fit. There's nothing more tragic than investing in special lingerie only to have seams that pull apart. Look for fully enclosed french seams for chemises and camisoles. Ideally these items should be cut on the bias for a beautiful drape across the body. Stitches on the seams should be close together and sturdy. You don't want to see any raw edges (as these will fray). Look for lace that is appliqued with a very tiny and tight zig zag (with the fabric cut away cleanly on the inside next to the stitching line). The item should feel soft to the hand, and even softer on your body. Just because it says "silk" on the tag doesn't mean it's fine quality.

Consider looking beyond the big name labels to independent brands. Not only is this where you'll find more innovative and fashion-forward design, you'll get more personalized attention. Many small brands offer made-to-measure services or will customize a piece just for you. Independent brands have higher manufacturing costs as they aren't at the production scale to get reductions in labor or materials costs. A handmade silk bra will take over 2 hours to sew! That being said, many of the big name brands charge even more (you're paying for the name recognition after all).

Ordering special pieces from independents really adds to their value. Knowing something was made just for you, or was manufactured ethically from a small studio, adds a story to these pieces. These small studios are reviving lace production in their countries, using rare vintage laces and fabrics, or are making lovelies in expanded sizes.

From custom corsets to full bust silk bras, these are a few of my favorite independent designers. They're a great place to start as you begin looking for that piece that makes you feel like a million bucks:

Angela Friedman Luxury LingerieAngela Friedman

Gilda & Pearl Luxury Lingerie Gilda & Pearl

Dottie's Delights Luxury LingerieDottie's Delights
Harlow & Fox Luxury LingerieHarlow & Fox

Ayten Gasson Luxury LingerieAyten Gasson

I believe that the true value of luxury lingerie lies in the way it makes you feel. The best part of being a designer was not making pretty things. Rather it was talking to customers who were giddily planning a night of seduction or who were surprised to find themselves feeling emotional after rediscovering their self confidence. It doesn't take a lingerie overhaul to feel like you're taking care of yourself. Investing in one pair of showstopping panties or a camisole that slips smoothly across the skin can be all it takes to feel truly glamorous. Definitely a better return on your money than those shoes!

Do you splurge on luxury lingerie? What types of lingerie do you feel is worth spending more money on? Would you spend more on handmade or ethically produced lingerie?

Featured Image: Toad Lillie