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July 2016

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Sizes are an art, not a science.

Posted 26/07/2016 at 00:00 Comments

Sizing makes even models do this:

We tend to think that size is a science; that with enough measurements, or the same measurements as someone else, we'll somehow magically finally get things that fit, every time, "true to size". Sadly, as we have all experienced, that is impossible. There are thousands of things that affect the fit of garments, just as there are thousands of differences between our bodies and our personal tastes, and the whole thing combines for unexpected problems. At a shoot earlier this year we took the opportunity to get photographer Paul to show just a few of the fit issues with two models who are quite different in size.

For this shoot we've not used any phototrickery or clips or padding or any of the other shenanigans that happen on shoots when the model and the garment don't quite go together well. 

On the left is Jess, on the right, Twig. When we shoot them together in a straight shot, you can see that they are pretty radically different in height, shape and so on, but on a catalogue shoot you'd usually see them without anything to show the scale, and in 3/4 length photo, which tends to reduce the appearance of the differences.

More importantly, they're both wearing KMD size small garments.

Obviously in the case of the Grace Robe I use the term "wearing" in the loosest sense, as Jess couldn't get it over her arms! But let's swap these garments around . . .

Cross my heart and hope to die, Jess is wearing the same size small Grace Gown as Twig was wearing in the first shot. Twig is wearing the Grace Robe that Jess couldn't get on, with a Karolina Laskowska set (you can see that on my XL bum here) and our Sirena cincher. Twig is petite for a model, so both Grace items end up sweeping the floor.

But the Grace robe and gown are both made from none-stretch fabrics, made in the same factory, made to the same sizing chart, and fitted on the same person during development. Why then does the Grace Gown work on both of them, even though Twig is 5'3 and usually wears a small or extra small, and Jess is 6' and usually wears a medium or large?

There are two reasons; style and cut.  The style means that the gown needs to fit at the bust, waist and hip; the robe needs to fit the shoulders and arms and well as the bust and waist. It's very full at the hip so that's not an issue. But it turns out that shoulders and arms are way more tricky than we realised! This presumably explains why most robes go for full sleeves, or cap sleeves, and flexible wrap tops rather than this more fitted style.

I should point out that it does look rather fabulous on many people, including The Lingerie Addict, though!

The robe is straight cut - that is, the yarns in the fabric go straight up and down and side to side.

In the gown, the fabric is cut on the bias, so the yarns go diagonally. This was a common way to make fabrics used in slips and dresses stretchy and cling (somewhat) to the body in the 30's, before lycra/elastane/other stretch fabrics were developed or became common. In this case, it means that the small size has enough flexibility to go over my usually XL-wearing hips.  Admittedly, I'm short, which helps (otherwise when it stretched that much it would end up halfway up my legs)

Once you start adding lycra to fabrics sizing become more of an approximation, and it's all about what you feel comfortable in really. The stretch fabrics we use for the body of the Star Dress and the Garter Dress really have an amazing amount of flexibility, but the Star Dress has a zip in the side which is rigid, and for that reason some attention needs to be paid on sizing. But again - this is a size S/M, on Jess (and that's a one of a kind 36DD vintage kimono silk bra Karolina made). Twig is wearing the size S/M Garter Dress, which as soft triangle cups that work pretty well for her petite frame.

Let's see if from the back and swapped around.


Again, I promise these are the same garments. Quite apart from anything else we'd all been in the studio for hours and no-one was going to go and fetch anything else, possibly ever again.  So Jess is wearing the size S/M Garter Dress and Twig is wearing the size S/M Star Dress.

From the front you can see that the Star Dress sits lower down on Twig and that Jess is considerably less constrained by fabric in the bust area in the Garter dress than Twig was. But we jumped up and down a bit and nothing fell out, which was slightly surprising. It's amazing what difference an underbust band can make! But obviously some people of either size wouldn't feel personally comfortable in these - there are people with small busts who only want to wear padded garments and people with fuller busts who won't leave bed without an underwire. I'm very lucky to work with both jess and Twig, neither of whom ever show anything but a cheerful disposition to whatever insane stunt I've suggested to them this time round!

Have you ever had a sizing surprise? Let me know in the comments!
And keep your eyes open for the full shoot this set of pictures this came from, since its much more complicated!


Scanty Cartel: lets talk bras!

Posted 19/07/2016 at 09:56 Comments

A couple of weeks ago we met up in Coffee, Cake and Kisses for tea, cake, and bras. First lesson; don't put cake in your bra. Also don't get over-excited when a US brand says their bra comes with cookies; they just mean removable padding, not edible treats. This is a source of perpetual disappointment in my life.

Due to a family emergency, my esteemed colleague Karolina wasn't there, so we went for an informal ramble round the issues of bra size and fit rather than a points of order debate. And then we wore bras as hats.

In no particular order here are a few notes and questions from a very long discussion; most importantly, have any of you who have had lumpectormies got any bra recommendations?

The most important thing to know about bras is there's no standardisation at all. There's no agreement on what counts as x or y size, styles vary over time and country, all sorts of things.  You can even get the same bra in the same size from the same brand but if it's a different dye batch/roll of foam or a different factory or just a blip (because theyre sewn by people, bras are allowed to be sewn to within a 0.5cm room for error on each seam; sometimes that 0.5cm can make all the difference!), it might fit differently. For this reason, I suspect you can easily drive yourself completely demented if you get fixated on bra fit.  Also, no-one agrees on what counts as a bra or a bralet or a soft bra or a demi-cup or . . . you get the idea.

For some reason people seem to get much more het up about this than about similar issues in clothes and shoes - anyone got any theories on why?

Some people had found that changing bra size was a revelation - especially if you'd been thinking that your body was wrong, rather than just that the garment didn't work for you or was the wrong size or shape. We pretty much all had terrible bra fit stories, ranging from disinterested salespeople, folks who thought the "correct" fit was more important than your personal preference, pushing products or sizes that just didn't work, or, in my case, a woman who sized me up over the phone having never met me. Apparently she could tell by my breathing. What makes for a good fit experience? Well, as far as we can tell, it's all about the experience level - knowing the products inside out and being good with people.

Meet Steve, who made the beginner error of telling us his wife liked her comfortable bras but that they weren't the right size. Oh Steve.

We had a few people from overseas; notably Denocte who writes a dual-language lingerie blog. Happily we all agreed that bra size conversion is very much a guesstimate!  Each countries system is a bit different and they don't necessarily convert in an exact way. Plus, there's considerable geographical difference in what would make for a good fit. If I was targeting bras for people in Southern China, I'd make much smaller sizes, and focus on cleavage boosting. When we sell into Germany, The Netherlands and some other parts of Europe, we constantly get told that our bra straps aren't long enough; possibly because those countries peoples are typically taller than the relatively short British folks!

If you're selling into the US then be prepared for considerable demand a bra that shows no hint of nipple, creates a round shape, and is heavily padded. Our padded bras are occasionally sent back by US customers complaining that they do not match the description, because when we say "padded" they expect an 3 cm of foam and we mean maybe a third of that, max. The rest of the world, and especially Europe, has millions of shapes and styles of bra, so we played with a few. Emma Harris kindly let us look at 3 of her bras in the same size but different shapes and styles, all of which suit different shapes and different looks. We also took a look at bras that have cut away cups, and talked about where exactly your nipples are "supposed" to go. Here's the thing; everyone's nipples are in different places, so although bras are designed with one thing in mind, it doesn't always work out; if your nipples are very low down, they won't show even in a quarter cup, but if they are much higher up, they might peek out of low-but-over-the-nipple-line designs. None of these things mean your body is wrong; they just mean to get the same effect as on the product shots you'll need a different sort of bra.

Quarter cups also mimic ears headbands really well.

People talk about breast pain, or well, pain related to breasts, as if we all mean the same thing. But we don't some poeple get tenderness, some get muscle-aches type pain, some get skin issues, or sharp shooting pains . . . myriad are the discomforts! Much as everyone's aches and pains are different, what fixes them is also very individual.

Some people find they have so many issues with having large breasts that no bra solves them; one person had had a reduction. She would like you to know that the thing her doctors didn't tell her is that  you can find you just grow again!  Similarly, breast surgery in general is a bit of a fraught area with at times mixed results, which is why many people who have mastectomies or lumpectomies (to remove breast cancer) don't put themselves through more surgery for reconstruction.

Lumpectomies mean you have some breast tissue missing; and the same as when people are naturally not symmetrical (it's not at all uncommon to be different cup sizes on each breast), then it's tricky to find bras that fit, or that have the pocket for padding in the right place, and the bra strap on the side with the lumpectomy tends to slide off. We'd love to hear from anyone who has suggestions for this as post-cancer bras are definitely not something I know much about!

Never bring your mum to a bra fit conversation because ANY arguments you had in adolescence will get very rapidly re-run! Turns out mums are pretty crucial to how we think about bras and bra fit.


My three favourite bra myths are:

1) underwired bras cause cancer. They pick up radiation/electromagnetic waves through the metal and funnel it into your sensitive breast tissue.

No research has ever been done on this because the basic premise is frikking ridiculous.

2) bras that are too small cause cancer. They compress your lymph nodes so that toxins build up in and around your breasts.

I'm pretty certain you all know well enough that the human body is a marvel of toxin removal and you can chuck this notion in the bin with whatever detox diet you've been offered recently.

3) badly fitting bras cause digestive problems

I don't even know. I got 99 digestive problems and a bra aint one.

Basically, cooment with your peer-reviewed journal evidence for bras doing ANYTHING consistent health wise, really. And not that one from that Japanese phsyiotherapist that was weighing 8 people's poo. I don't even know how that got published.

Maz won "most visible lingerie", wearing Karolina Laskowska :)

"Is this the most diverse lingerie photoshoot ever?"

Posted 14/07/2016 at 11:53 Comments

You may have seen this title recently, asking if a major UK brands new advertising campaign is the "most diverse".

If you have the sort of enquiring mind many deadlies do, you may have found yourself wondering "well, is it? How would we measure that? Can we science this?"

The problem of measuring things that are basically ideas or experiences is a major one in social science. It's relativelyeasy to say if something's an apple or an orange, or even how many people prefer apples to oranges. But how do we measure how much they like them? Or what type of apple is the most apple-y in it's qualities, or what orange is the tastiest or the most orange-y? Some things are more experiental than objective.

Diversity is not the most objective idea in the world; everyone has their personal take on it. How so we define what counts as diverse? Classically in the UK, statutory and charitable organisations, or tech companies who care about this stuff, do it by producing statistics on demographics. Numbers of people who identify with various genders, ethnicities, disabilities, ages, etc.

This being fashion of course, what matters is what's visible, so on the upside, we don't need to survey people, we can just work from their publically available imagery.  Which is a relief, because if I was taking into account most fashion companies writing about diversity, I'd have to score them as nul point, largely on the basis of almost laughably bad tokenism, and ill-conceived versions of body positivity.  On the downside, working from brand imagery is a huge job, and we're clearly going to have to include "size" as a diversity variable and that will involve plenty of arguments because photographs do a bad job of accurately reflecting someone's size, what with largely obscuring peoples heights and generally mucking about with your perception. Plus, it's lots of pictures, even if we decided to only take a few brands from each sector to test out how diverse the industry is.

All of which means basically, I am looking for some help! If you're a fashion, business, contour or social science student and you want an intern job over the summer . . . I am basically asking for folks to look at lingerie and fashion imagery FOR SCIENCE. We can talk sampling, operationalisation of variables, and why pie charts are almost always the wrong way to  represent results. It'll be fun! It'll be a bloody good project for your CV.  And we can write it up in a variety of ways to get seen by plenty of people, so if you want to change your google footprint from drunk night out pictures to serious business, this would very much help.

So if you're into this stuff and have a break from uni this Summer, please do get in touch! Email If you've got an methodological viewpoint, or a science point, or want to know what the heck I am on about, leave a comment or a question below!