Bespoke. Personalised. Made to measure.
I just love everything about those words. It conjures up images of unparalleled luxury, of couture gowns, Savile Row tailors, tape measures, fabric swatches. Until relatively recently in history, all clothes were pretty much made-to-measure and tailored for the wearer. Then came mass production and then fast fashion. Now you buy something from a shop where the thing comes in different standard sizes so it fits you around the hips, but less so around the bust. You have no idea who designed it or made it but it was probably a person in a developing country who gets paid $5 a day and may or may not be a child. I prefer to take things slow – to know exactly who makes my clothes and to be sure that they are people being paid a decent wage. Also, to bring it back to hard practicalities, I have such small boobs that most lingerie brands don’t do the styles I like in small enough sizes!
For my upcoming 45th birthday, I decided that I had no need to celebrate it in grand style with an alcoholic bash and where I don’t get to have proper conversations with my friends. Instead, I wanted to experience the bespoke luxury lingerie treatment. I canvassed a few people who would be in the know – my lovely lingerie friends on Instagram – and decided to take my business to Nichole de Carle.
At the first fitting, I met Nichole herself and Anna, the Commercial Manager who showed me around their studio and work room where the magic happens. They talked to me about what I wanted and the fact that I like slightly padded bra styles to give me more of a shape. I tried on a couple of their signature styles and decided that I loved the strap and harness details on one style but the long line bodice style of another. Nichole’s final design for me was a combination of the Black Label Onyx Basque Bra and the Black Label Onyx Plunge Bra. To boost my cups, we decided on a different kind of padding which is thicker on the bottom and tapers away at the top.
Then came the difficult task of choosing the fabric. After much agonising, I plumped for ‘Moondust’, a grey silk satin which has hints of lilac under certain lighting. I also decided to go for a high-waisted knicker but to add detachable suspenders. You can’t wear high-waisted knickers for every situation and it’s always sensible to have more than one pair of bottoms per bra, so I got a pair of briefs as well in the same fabric. To take into account my low C-section scar, we changed the design of the brief so that there is more fabric. Measurements were taken, final details sketched, and my design was complete!
In the 3 weeks that it took for my lingerie to be made, I got updates and photographs from Nichole and Anna to show me the progress of construction. The excitement was mounting!
It is truly gratifying to know that 5 separate women were involved in the making of my final set.
Maximum kudos to:
Nichole – Design
Ewa – Head tailor
Jadzia – Pattern Development
Steff – Production Manager
Dani – Pattern Cutting & Quality Control
When I went for my final fitting, there were a few adjustments that needed to be made. Nichole added some boning to the bra, changed the design of the brief, moved the front neck straps so that the sliders were not pressing on my collar bone, and attached the suspender straps in the location I wanted them. The changes were made by 3 or 4 people while I waited. What a privilege it was to be hovering over their shoulders and see the process of creating a handmade piece of couture.
And here is the birthday gift to myself. I paid just over £550 for the bra, the high-waisted knicker and the briefs. Yes it’s not a small sum of money, but when you consider that it took about 30 woman-hours to make this garment, this is the true cost of quality tailoring by skilled professionals. Every time I wear this piece, I will remember the fact that it was made with care and love by these amazing women. One to treasure for as long as I can fit into it!
Thank you to the whole team at Nichole de Carle London for giving me the best birthday experience I could hope for!