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Shapewear knickers; because we like big pants!

  • By Catherine Clavering
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Shapewear knickers; because we like big pants!

I’m not sure if you noticed, but for once this year we’ve been working on making nearly as many knickers as suspender belts. Thats been helped along by a few contour students and graduates, one who helped us recreate the Van Mimi knicker and a new basque, another who came up with the Amy set, and the last one, Elyzzabeth Beswick, created the patterns for the various Vargas Panty Girdles and the Eliza cincher-knicker.

Elyzzabeth met up with me at London Fashion Week some time ago because she loved our style – hurrah! She’s a “mature” student (i.e. not the 18-20 year olds that mostly start at UK universities) who had already been working in the industry – oddly enough in the early 2000′s for a company that had produced shapewear knickers from standard original 1950′s patterns! (now sadly lost). Little did she know that’s what I’d ask her for.

I wanted knickers that we could mix and match with our suspender belts, girdles and inevitable surplus of bras ( it doesn’t matter how carefully you plan, you’ll always end up with bras left over in one size and no matching pants). I also wanted to take advantage of our UK factory’s experience in shapewear, so control knickers were the way forward! Now, I’m going to admit to a huge personal bias on the design of these! Most control pants hit at the natural waist, but if you’re anything like me, thats not massively flattering – its my second squishiest part (anything that squishes the lower waist, sort of hipsterish stuff thats the squishiest bit), so I’d get a nicely held in tummy and then a bulge over the top. Nice. So, we agreed that the knickers needed to be longline. I’d also noticed a nice cut on vintage knickers on the front leg, a sort of inverted V cut into the legs; its awesome, because it means you can have a full cut rear (i.e. your bum is nicely covered in fabric) but you don’t lose the illusory leg lengthening properties of skimpier cuts in the front. Hurrah! I’m 5’1, and people, these things matter to me.

On reflection I think this is why I struggle to answer the question “what is your inspiration ” in proper fashion terms, because the answer “pulling my cake-gut in, covering bums, and pretending to be taller” isn’t really what they like to put in fashion mags, is it?

Anyway, Lyzize was fully on board with this plan, as apparently her gran used to wear this sort of thing day in day out, and toddled off to do some patterns in between a degree, paid part time employment, and having a life. I’d really recommend that you not attempt all 3 at once, but thus far, she’s still alive – just!

We ended up with the Eliza cincher knicker, which I love – we used fabrics the factory already work with, so its got a none stretch panel at the centre front, surround by stretchy-but-not-very panels that make an opaque, boned, sort of semi-corset affair. Its very effective and I can get into a medium, hurrah! Its easier to get into than most things because of the hooks and eyes, and the frill at the top is soft mesh, so it doesn’t stick out under anything, but once you take your top layer off, it does disguise any roll over effects going on. The knicker bit itself is very simple – high cut at the front, full cut at the rear, and sheer, which keeps it sexy, but makes Morgana curse me every time I want to photograph it, due to Extreme Waxing Issues. Still, I hear body hair is back in fashion, so maybe we’ll get away with it next time. Thus far, it seems to go well with many bras, and the first time we had them we sold them all to the security staff working at the Vintage Show on the South Bank. A slightly surreal, but pleasant, experience. We then sold out of the next lot, so I think we might keep bringing these back.

The other pattern is simpler in some ways – its one piece of fabric, not panelled, no boning, no hooks and eyes – but getting that one piece the right shape took some time. Plus, we had to check it in two types of fabric, one was powernet that we use for the Vargas longline, and the other was a thing that I’m fairly certain Rebecca (owner of the UK factory) calls “sleeknit” but frankly it’s very likely that I hear that wrong! It’s a sort of satin finish control fabric; she liked the bronze, and I found 10 metres of bright pink and decided we had to have it. Blame my genes; I had a great aunt whose wardrobe consisted entirely of turquoise dresses and cherry pink hats.

The pink one is plain, and the corset lace one has a plain front too, the black and bronze have a none stretch centre panel. We had dreadful problems getting the grading (patterns for different sizes) sorted out due to all sorts of issues with computers and printers, you know how they can never talk to each other? And you need special software for things like this plus a printer that can do A0, but in the end, we’re very pleased with how they’ve come out. I wore mine superhero style over a lycra catsuit at Erotica, which kept me amused. Lyzzie especially likes the corset lace back one, as she feels like it really adds something new to the shapewear genre. We shot them mostly with the Van Doren bralet, on the basis that many people who buy things from KMD now are buying them as gifts, so a bra that doesn’t need a cup size is a huge leap forward!

So, now, I guess we’d like to hear from you. How are you finding them? How’s the fit? The plan is to keep the bralet and the black version in production as part of our continuity ranges, and also maybe use them as a basis for future matching colour sets in limited runs. Do you think adding detachable or fixed suspender tabs would be a good ideas? Plus, I’d really love to see how people style them – especially what colour ribbons you put in your lace up ones!

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