October 1, 2018
Last Updated on May 11, 2023 by Dominique de MerteuilHome » Vintage Fashion Tips »
In this article, you will learn from an expert how to shop for vintage lingerie.
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 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. You see, I love to mix vintage lingerie with contemporary brands inspired by the 1930s-1950s. And since I truly believe that what is underneath counts, I can never pass on yet another gorgeous piece of undergarment. What can I say except that it’s beyond my control!
How to shop for vintage lingerie. Expert advice!
The answer to the first question, how to shop for vintage lingerie, is best left to the expert. And who better to advise 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!
Dominique de Merteuil:
- What is your advice to someone new to buying vintage lingerie?
- What are the most important things to consider while shopping for vintage lingerie?
How to shop for vintage lingerie! Q & A with Letia of Daggers and Dames
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.
How to measure yourself the right way!
- 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 centre 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 1930s 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 1920s 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 colour. Flaws can even be expected for most deadstock items, which are items that have never been worn and might even have the original tags.
What to look for when shopping for vintage lingerie
- When shopping for vintage shapewear, you do want to make sure there is some mention 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 the 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 fibres 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.
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 favourite female bands wearing girdles as skirts and Edwardian chemises as dresses for a music video.
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 is as special and timeless as I had always thought. I decided that this was my confirmation that others agreed 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!
What is your favourite fashion decade?
Daggers and Dames: This is a tough one, but I would have to say the 1920s. I love the 1920s 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.
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:
- 1920s 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 1940s Jacquard Girdle, was made in France. The detail was just exquisite, with the little rose applique at the centre. 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 blush pink lace. I fell in love with the train that cascaded down the centre back of the peignoir. Such a dreamy set!
What can we find in the Daggers and Dames shop?
What can we find in the Daggers and Dames shop?
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 1970s and 80s.
There will be special pieces meant solely for the collector, and boudoir essentials to wear under your outerwear. You can always find a plethora of nightgowns, slips, girdles and peignoir sets as well as vintage and antique kimonos, which I also have a deep love for.
How long have you been collecting & 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.
And 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”.
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 that was started in the 1920s 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 its gorgeous packaging and hosiery.
Warner’s: Warner’s has been around since the late 1800s. It’s the brand that invented 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. Their merry widows and corsets are still very highly prized, and excellent collector pieces that provide a gorgeous silhouette.
Famous vintage lingerie brands
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 the utmost quality.
Fischers Heavenly Lingerie (silk or rayon): Fischers used high-quality fabrics that 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 1800s, 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 a prized treasure to find!
Are there any contemporary lingerie brands 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 favourites 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 my favourite brands without mentioning the ever-so-lovely Dita Von Teese Lingerie.
DISCLOSURE; As of October 2021 (three years after I published this article), I’m part of the Shop Style Collective affiliate program and I get a small commission for purchases made through some of the links in this post. When you purchase a product via the link in my post you are helping to keep my website alive for which I’m very grateful!
Shop For Vintage Lingerie!
The vintage-inspired Dita von Teese lingerie.
I’m also a fan of Dita von Teese lingerie as it’s well-made, pretty and affordable. I bought the Dita von Teese bra, knickers and suspender during my stay in Australia. And if you are curious about my Oz adventure, you can read all about it in The Perfect Weekend in Sydney article.
Best Detergent For Delicate Lingerie!
And once you find your perfect vintage or vintage-inspired lingerie, don’t forget to take good care of it, so it will last you for years to come. I handwash all my pieces in Eucalan Wrapture!
You can read more about Eucalan in the Best Detergent for Delicates article.
Shop My Favourite Detergent!
If you enjoy reading my posts and would like to support the It’s Beyond My Control blog, please consider donating to my book fund. Thank you!
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Tom SleiferJune 24, 2021
This is really great. I am from the Golden Age of Girdles and back then women loved being daily well girdled. The benefits are truly amazing.
Follow thishttps://toms0321.wordpress.com/ and you will experience what women did back then.
Tom SleiferMarch 14, 2020
I am from the Golden Age of Girdles 40s, 50s, 60s. Women and young girls were daily always in a vintage girdle. Contrary what is told all of us women really loved being in a vintage everyday, and for good reason the benefits are truly amazing. Your posture is really much improved, your clothes fit much much better nice and smooth, and once you can keep your stomach muscles relaxed and just rely totally on your girdle to give you stomach and back well needed control and support you find you have much more energy and you feel great.
Follow this toms0321.wordpress.com/2015/02/23/the-health-benefits-from-daily-wearing-a-vintage-girdle/ and you find in a few weeks you really will love being daily in a girdle like the women in the Golden Age of Girdles.
Dominique de MerteuilMarch 16, 2020
Tom, you are preaching to the choir.
I’ve been wearing girdles, garters and corsets for longer than I would like to admit. 🙂 I can’t imagine not wearing proper foundation garment under vintage clothes.
One thing to remember is that girdles and corsets need to be properly fitted, and sadly, that’s impossible with true vintage girdles purchased online.
Tom SleiferFebruary 15, 2021
Domnique; Thank you for a very nice response. Glad to chat with a real live girdle girl, which sadly nowadays is so rare. I am just trying to do what I can to spread the word around the internet how beneficial being daily in a vintage girdle like Rago 6210 really is as I can you are very aware of. You are also right about true vintage girdles purchased online, going to a say a Spencer Trained Professional Corsetiere is the way to go, it takes getting the right fit for your figure and some support with some girdle training on a personal level to get to experience what you know. Once you do get the right fit and get some help you will experience what women back during the Golden Age of Girdles, and like you you will be girdled for the rest of your life and love being daily well girdled, The benefits are truly amazing and needed as I can you know.
DeniJanuary 2, 2020
What a great article, love all of the beautiful examples you provided. Lingerie is not what is used to be! So beautiful, and so sexy! I am one who would love to buy it, but am afraid of the elastic….wish I was a good seamstress. Thank you so much.
Cutterstone on 21VintageStreet
Dominique de MerteuilJanuary 3, 2020
Interesting that you’ve mentioned the elastic. I have a pair of 1940s tap pants where the elastic is in top condition despite its age.
About 10 years ago, I purchased a beautiful lingerie set from Dior, it was from their very last lingerie collection. I wear it once every blue moon and yet, the elastic in the briefs is ruined. 🙁
LucyNovember 11, 2018
Very informative article! Love the All in One Girdle!
Dominique de MerteuilNovember 14, 2018
SophieOctober 3, 2018
Love, love, love vintage lingerie! The article was actually really helpful to me.
KateOctober 1, 2018
Great article and exactly what I was looking for! I love looking at pictures of beautiful vintage lingerie but I’ve never bought “the real thing.” Instead, I’ve been buying vintage-inspired bras but it’s not the same thing.
Dominique de MerteuilOctober 1, 2018
I hope the article convinced you to buy a true vintage lingerie! Letia has some incredible pieces in her shop!