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What Negative Underwear is Doing Right

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Chantelle, La Perla, Free People, Handmade by Elma, For Love and Lemons and Clo Intimo are lingerie brands I constantly look at for inspiration. I could scroll for daaays on Pinterest staring admiring what they make. So beautiful. My newest obsession though is a little different. The designs are more bare bones, but that doesn’t mean they’re less considered. Have you heard of Negative Underwear? Similar to what Calvin Klein did, they’re changing the lingerie game in a good way.

Just a little history on how the brand came about – Marissa Vosper and Lauren Scwabb were a freshman in college at UPenn when they first met. About five years into the working world, they put their thinking caps on to solve a dilemma almost every woman has – underwear that sucks or underwear that’s so fancy, there is no reason to wear it. With no design background, they began taking classes at FIT and spent time in lingerie shops trying on bras and undies, assessing what worked and what didn’t. They eventually came out with a clean-lined, minimalist collection that didn’t push women into sizes they weren’t, but celebrated their chests as is.

What I admire most about their brand is their focused aesthetic. Lingerie is so personal, and as I grow my bra making hobby, skills and business, there is one thing that is very important I do, and that is to define what my bra making is all about. Will Madalynne bras be chichi or more unadorned? I receive a lot of requests to make bras for larger chested women – F, G and I cups. I might get flack for saying/writing this, but I don’t think my designs would work in those sizes either. Totally okay because I believe the same to be true for the opposite. Some bras designs wouldn’t work on my small frame. Merckwaerdigh came out with a pattern that was only for cup sizes E, F and G. If she did that for the reason stated above, I respect that. She may have lost sales, but she ensured that her designs would be worn by the woman she designed them for. When I made Mallori Lane, I only offered it in limited sizes because one, it was free, and two, I wouldn’t work on an E, F or G cup.

I feel as though my purpose in the lingerie world is to serve small chested women. I’m small chested and have struggled to find and feel good in lingerie that I can wear every day, and I want to provide others like me with patterns and bespoke pieces that work for their small frame. It would be easy to make many styles for all types of women, it would be more profitable too, but right now, I want to stay focused just like Negative Underwear. That’s not to say that will always be the case. Maybe as I get more experience, I’ll serve a wider range of women.

Do you believe that for lingerie, there are “right” styles for smaller chested and there are “right” styles for larger chested women? Is there a silhouette that’s universally flattering? Tell me in the comments below and feel free to include links to bras you’ve seen around the web! The only “perfect” bra that comes to my mind is Watson. Amy did such a good job on that pattern.

17 Comments

  1. Reply

    embroiderpiccies

    I do agree that there are different styles that suit different builds and small or large chested women. I have spent soooo many frustrated hours trying on many different bras and still not finding good shape and comfort.

  2. Reply

    maddie

    I sooo agree and have been there, but once I figured out what works for my frame, making styles because a lot easier and not to mention faster.

  3. Reply

    Aleksandra

    Ewa Michalak succeeds in making her designs work across all the sizes she offers. But what it entails is sometimes complete remodelling. She will offer the same design (=use the same fabric and lace) for sizes 65A and 100J, but the actual construction of the bra changes a few times on the way. So it’s possible but requires so much cost and effort and expertise that most companies won’t deem it worth it, I assume.
    Another factor here is that the aesthetic design does not seem to be EM’s main goal. Fit does.
    I believe you can make a specific colourway or design idea work across all sizes and shapes, but these bras will rarely be stunningly beautiful. They will be “just bras”. They can even be very pretty. But that’s just that.
    When designer pieces come into play, that’s a different story. Most aesthetic designs (bras, tables or font, you know) are dependent upon proportion and placement of certain elements and their relation to each other. And these can be achieved with all the size ranges: small, medium and plus fit, but usually only just one – the one which the certain idea has been thought out for.
    A good example for that is Marlies Dekkers. I love her designs on smaller sizes, but on me (I just fit into the largest cup of the smallest band she offers) it looks meh. It’s OK, it’s fine but my frame does not showcase the bra so beautifully. (Pus I’m really disappointed by the construction, but that’s a different story.)

    I believe there’s neither a universal silhouette, nor a design from an aesthetic perspective. Not even Watson 😉 It IS a great bra that works for many, probably most, but while it succeeds as a bralette for plus fit women and is pretty unique in that, from what I’ve seen (on the internet and from sewing it up myself) it is obviously designed by a petite chested person as it works beautifully in the smaller sizes and ‘only’ well in the bigger ones. (To be clear: I love Watson and recommended it to anyone who asks, but I wouldn’t call it perfect. The best out there – sure. Perfect – not yet 🙂 Having said that, I’m an awfully demanding perfectionist, so please take my words and opinion with a grain of salt.)

    • Reply

      maddie

      Such interesting points! I haven’t heard og Ewa or Marlies, so I’ll hold off on commenting until I look at their work more, but I will say that remodelling a silhouette for all sizes may be one of the few ways to make a bra work for everyone. Now if a designer would combine that concept with a great design. Again, time and money is probably preventing that from happening.

  4. Reply

    Sara @ Sew Sweetness

    I think I agree that there are styles better suited for large or small chests; I think this can apply to clothing too. I’ve made so many dresses or tops with elastic casings at or close to the waist, and even though I feel I fitted them well, the end garment was just really disappointing. I think it is just a style that doesn’t look very attractive on my small chest. I think this can be the case for lingerie as well (I haven’t made any yet, but I’m just assuming!).

  5. Reply

    Amelia

    I completely agree with you. There isn’t a universal style for everyone. Now to find someone who will design beautiful underwear for older women! We have bodies that most wouldn’t consider sexy anymore but we still want to feel beautiful.

  6. Reply

    Keck

    Though they be but little, they be fierce! I am so happy to have a found bra-maker sympathetic to the small chested among us! Last fall I participated in a bra-making class and, while I learned a lot, I was asked several times, point-blank “why are you even here?”. The attitude was, if I could find a RTW bra in my size (or – gasp! – get away with not wearing one at all), why would I want to spend time making my own? It was a little discouraging. The instructor just couldn’t seem to wrap her mind around that fact that EVERYONE deserves well-fitted and well-made lingerie. That doesn’t really answer your question, but I really just wanted to say keep up the good work! I’ve got a Mallori Lane all queued up and ready to sew 🙂

    • Reply

      maddie

      Discouraging indeed! I’m sorry the teacher made you feel that way. Every woman deserves a well fitted bra and it is my mission to provide it for the small boobs club 🙂

  7. Reply

    colormusing

    It’s so ironic that some of the women who come to bra-making because they’re tired of trying to fit into cookie-cutter RTW bras, are now the same women who are complaining that every bra pattern doesn’t come in every size! Newsflash: Bras are like any other garments: not all shapes and silhouettes are appropriate, well-fitting, and flattering on every body.

    Maddie, I have the opposite issue from you: I’m large-busted but on a fairly small rib cage, so making my own bras enables me to tweak commercial patterns to exactly the right proportions for my own body. Do I sometimes wish I could pull off the beautiful bralettes I’m seeing everywhere? Sure I do. But I know for a fact that they don’t work on my body. And that’s not the fault of the pattern designers. There’s no fault involved at all— we’re all different (thankfully!), and the beauty of making our own bras is that we do, indeed, make them our own.

    • Reply

      maddie

      Well said!

  8. Reply

    colormusing

    P.S. Maddie, the link to your last post (the Guest Post with Caitlin) is giving me an error message, FYI.

    • Reply

      maddie

      The post was scheduled incorrectly. It should ho up tomorrow, but went up yesterday. Ill put it back up tomorrow so stay tuned!

  9. Reply

    tailormadeblog

    I’m in complete agreement with you that there isn’t a single bra style that is universally flattering for all body types. But isn’t that the beauty of sewing our own bras? So that we could make bras that work for our physique and cater to our personal style.

    I am small chested as well, but my frame is actually quite broad given my measurements. I find that soft bras with a flatter fit tend to work best for me. This is why I am really excited that you have decided to make it a mission to give small chested ladies such as myself pretty bra options!

  10. Reply

    Brenda Goodale

    I have issues with uncomfortable clothing so therefore I do not wear under garments ever! But as I have aged I realize that the cheap clothing That I do wear is showing my exposed parts a little more than I find appealing for the public! I have fibromyalgia and just about all things cause me a level of discomfort. My question is do you or another have any ideas where I could order bras or lace style or cotton without any and all hooks or plastic or metal and not sown with uncomfortable nylon threads? I also find all styles of panties are either to tight around the legs or JUST DO NOT STAY IN PLACE! I am average in chest size A cup and large upper frame so 38 around, hips used to have but due to my age and loss of weight (not trying) just is happing. I don’t have a shape just straight with no rear. I cannot afford to buy good clothing or expensive so I stick to what is comfortable and cotton. Please help!
    FYI hot flashes so not to thrilled with a lot of poly or itchy fabrics. Thanks for reading.

  11. Reply

    Amy Nicole

    Hooray for the small boobs club!!! As someone who really struggled growing up when my friends were all shopping at Victoria’s secret and I was in “training bras” from target …. I’m more than thrilled at the new trend for bralettes and soft bras geared toward us smaller chested gals … And even more pleased at the onset of sewing patterns for them. Can’t wait to see what you got cookin Maddie!

  12. Reply

    L

    I completely agree – different designs are more suited to different sizes. For example, the cup structure needed for a large volume cup requires more seams to maximize support. The same number of seams and structure in a small cup is neither needed nor attractive on a smaller scale. I personally feel that bra sewing is a way to “support” each woman’s unique needs for comfort, health and personal style… recognizing that there is no “one pattern fits all” any more than there is “one size fits all”. Creating a bra for a woman who has been tormented mentally or physically by unsuitable RTW is a wonderful thing. And making it beautiful to boot… well, that makes it even more wonderful!

  13. Reply

    Amy

    Thanks, Maddie! That’s such a high compliment. I think it’s really great to focus on limited things at a time while you develop your ideas. If I didn’t make so much of my own I’d be buying from indie lingerie brands almost exclusively because I love how focused small brands are–the design is so tight. And I love that Negative bodysuit!

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