How to shop for vintage lingerie. Expert advice!
How to shop for vintage lingerie and what to do to make vintage clothes fit properly are two of the most frequently asked questions I receive from my readers.
Well, the answer to the latter is quite simple. Always buy clothes in the right size, mind you that it’s better if a vintage dress is a tad too big than too small, and always wear proper foundation garments!
What really does the trick for me, is a pair of high waist knickers, a longline bra and my beloved Orchard corset, which I put over a slip, be it vintage or contemporary one. You see, I love to mix vintage lingerie with contemporary brands inspired by the 1930s-1950s and since I truly believe that what underneath counts, I can never pass on yet another gorgeous piece of undergarment. What can I say except that it’s beyond my control!
The answer to the first question, how to shop for vintage lingerie, is best left to the expert and who better to give an advice on that very topic, than the owner of the extraordinary Daggers and Dames vintage shop, specializing in antique and vintage lingerie!
Without further ado, I present to you vintage lingerie expert, Letia of Daggers and Dames and I sincerely hope, that after reading her tips you will feel more confident in buying your next or perhaps the first piece of vintage undergarment!
What is your advice to someone who is new to buying vintage lingerie? What are the most important things to consider while shopping for vintage lingerie?
How to shop for vintage lingerie
Daggers and Dames: I believe every intimate clothing collection needs a good bias cut slip, a pair of tap pants, and an open bottom girdle. Even if you are not a vintage enthusiast, these items are not only extremely comfortable, but they are flattering on the figure and work very well with modern clothing. Whether you want to smooth your curves, create curves, or even just hide the lines of your brassiere and panties, these items give enough variety for whatever your needs are whether for casual or formal wear.
- First and foremost, it is imperative to know your measurements! Use a soft measuring tape to measure around the fullest part of the bust, the length of your shoulders, the smallest part of your waist, the widest part of the hips and the center thigh (if you are looking for a pant or panty). Knowing your measurements will assure you that a garment will fit comfortably without putting stress on seams and elastic, Trust me when I say there is nothing more heartbreaking than having a 1930’s silk nightgown rip as you try to squeeze yourself into it!
- Along with measurements, be mindful of how to put on the garment. You always want to be sure that your hip measurement does not exceed the bust if you are wanting to, for example, wear a 1920’s step in chemise that does not have a button crotch for closure. Also, many nightgowns are slip-on, so you want to make sure you can fit the waist of a slip or nightgown over the bust. This is especially important to note when buying online.
- Remember that vintage lingerie is not new! Know that there may be flaws and that the fabric may be delicate. Many times vintage pieces have been stored for decades, so there may be small pinholes or patinas to the color. Flaws can even be expected for most deadstock items, which are items that have never been worn and might even have the original tags.
- When shopping for vintage shapewear, you do want to make sure there is some mentioning of elastic quality, because rubber can rot and crack when stretched. Trust me, it’s a dreadful sound, and once stretched the item does not return to its original shape. This rubber rot will prevent you from being able to wear the piece comfortably, and it is likely on its way out. Also, check the rubber clasps on garter sliders. Fabric ones are usually quite durable for a very long time, but the rubber versions can stiffen and peel when stressed and bent.
- When considering a bias cut slip or nightgown, know that the cut is quite forgiving and can most often accommodate a size smaller than the given bust measurement and a size larger. The reason is that the fabric is cut on an angle, so most silk, rayon, and nylon fibers will stretch in a way that allows for drape, even if your size is a bit smaller or larger than the relaxed measurement.
- Always feel free to ask for advice from vintage sellers. We are more than happy to help you find what is right for you according to your measurements and taste. Many of us have a sincere passion and understanding of vintage lingerie so it excites us to help you. You are never a burden, and your questions are always welcome.
Dominique de Merteuil: How did you start your adventure in selling vintage lingerie?
Daggers and Dames: I had originally wanted to open a lingerie store that offered vintage-inspired styles. I hadn’t realized that I was not the only person that enjoyed wearing authentic vintage styles of lingerie until around 6 years ago when I saw one of my favorite female bands wearing girdles as skirts and Edwardian chemises as dresses for a music video. I loved the idea of wearing lingerie as daywear and mixing it with modern clothing, and the ladies of the band looked so incredibly lovely. I knew at that moment that true vintage lingerie would be my niche because it really is as special and timeless as I had always thought. I decided that this was my confirmation that others agree with this thought. It represented so perfectly my own personal romanticism with femininity throughout history (and it gave me a justifiable reason to expand my collection!). It has been a very special and rewarding journey!
Dominique de Merteuil: What is your favourite period in time and why?
Daggers and Dames: This is a tough one, but I would have to say the 1920’s. I love the 1920’s styles because they represent what was happening socially and politically for women. Women began working out of the home and enjoying a sexual revolution of sorts. Overall they had more freedom to express themselves and were able to carry on a more independent way of life. They began to resent the constricting corsets and pounds of layers of the Edwardian era. The lingerie styles were very loose and extravagant in detail. Both women and men look great in these styles, regardless of body type. The silks were often very sheer, and the details of the lace and embroidery were quite elaborate.
Dominique de Merteuil: What are the three favourite items that you have ever sold?
Daggers and Dames: Another tough one! Here are the top three that I most often think about:
- 1920’s Silk Chemise with Lace. This slip truly shows how elaborate the lace detail could be of the era. It had a loose fit and showed bits of skin. It was a hard one to let go of!
2. This 1940’s Jacquard Girdle, which was made in France. The detail was just exquisite, with the little rose applique at the center. It fit beautifully and the boning was in all the right places. I think this piece shows just how special French lingerie is and has been.
3. And finally, this 1940’s peignoir set by Juel Park. The set was made entirely of silk and chiffon and had the most beautiful blushy pink lace. I fell in love with the train that cascaded down the center back of the peignoir. Such a dreamy set!
Dominique de Merteuil: What can we find in Daggers and Dames?
Daggers and Dames: Basically, if I believe a garment will enable a person to fall in love and feel like a Goddess, I will sell it! Daggers & Dames has everything from Edwardian corsets and petticoats to sassy babydoll sets and teddies from the 1970’s and 80’s. There will be special pieces meant solely for the collector, and boudoir essentials to wear under your outerwear. You can always find plethora of nightgowns, slips, girdles and peignoir sets as well as vintage and antique kimonos, which I also have a deep love for.
Dominique de Merteuil: How long have you been collecting and selling vintage lingerie?
Daggers and Dames: I have been collecting vintage lingerie since I was very young, probably around the age of 14. I grew up around vintage and antiques and would fall in love with the embroidery and lace details on the slips and nightgowns specifically, so I would keep them and use them for display in my bedroom and wear them to school under my skirts and dresses. I remember wearing camisoles as tank tops and half slips as skirts with my platform tennis shoes. I didn’t start selling until 2017. It is funny now to hear relatives and family friends say “I am not at all shocked that this is what you want to do, you always liked wearing Grandma clothes”.
Dominique de Merteuil: What are the most sought-after vintage labels?
Daggers and Dames: There are so many incredible vintage brands, but here are several to choose from that I find to be both rare and highly prized:
Juel Park: She was an independent stylist to Hollywood’s elite. Juel Park made one of a kind pieces inspired by her clients. Some of her clients were Marilyn Monroe and Elizabeth Taylor. I have seen a few of her pieces in vintage archives and was lucky enough to acquire a 1940s peignoir set from an auction which has since sold. If you find a Juel Park piece, especially pre-1950, consider yourself extremely lucky!
Kestos: Kestos is a vintage brand which started in the 1920’s by Rosaline Kiln. The iconic Kestos bra is still a staple design that has been adopted by many modern designers. Kestos is also known for their gorgeous packaging and hosiery.
Warner’s: Warner’s has been around since the late 1800’s, and can be thanked for the ‘alphabet’ sizing of the modern brassiere. Warner’s decided that the old time ‘one size fits all’ sizing of bras was unrealistic (could you imagine bra shopping without cup sizes!) and created the A, B, C, and D cups. Warner’s merrywidows and corsets are still very highly prized, and excellent collector pieces that provide a gorgeous silhouette.
Lady Marlene, pre-1960: Lady Marlene used to be a name for luxury. Primarily shapewear, with very unique and elaborate styles. Look for the labels which read “Made in USA” for utmost quality.
Fischers Heavenly Lingerie (silk or rayon): Fischers used high-quality fabrics and are often quite durable due to excellent craftsmanship. Fischers slips and nightgowns are always very flattering and accentuate the form with gorgeous bias cuts and draped fabric. They also have very wide sweeps which create beautiful folds and movement.
Scandale: Scandale is a French lingerie brand that specialized in shapewear. Again they were known for superb craftsmanship and quality. Scandale pieces are relatively hard to find, especially in the USA, so when they are available, consider it gold!
Vanity Fair (pre 1970): Vanity fair started in the 1800’s, and it is becoming exceedingly rare to find anything prior to 1950. Vanity Fair introduced leopard print to the lingerie and lounge attire market and is known for making very beautiful nightgowns, teddies and peignoir sets. It is not hard to find a good Vanity Fair nightgown, slip, girdle or set, but nonetheless each piece is prized treasure to find!
Dominique de Merteiol: Are there any contemporary lingerie brands, perhaps vintage-inspired, that you like?
Daggers and Dames: Oh absolutely! I think we are finally moving in a direction where the mainstream market is once again excited to wear pretty intimates. A few favorites include Karolina Laskowska and Kiss Me Deadly, Solstice Intimates, who beautifully create retro velvet styles with a flattering and comfortable modern twist. What Katie Did holds true to the vintage styles of foundation wear, as does Dottie’s Delights. And of course I can’t list favorite brands without mentioning the ever so lovely Dita Von Teese Lingerie.