To avoid any ‘faux-pas’ (fo-pa) when ordering underwear, we’ve put together a helpful guide to getting by when dabbling in the world of lingerie.
Lingerie might be a booming industry, but to many it’s a confusing world of lace and padding made all the more obscure by the heavy use of the French language to describe the surprising number of undergarments that are, collectively, ‘lingerie’.
Before we begin, let’s kick off with the big word itself: lingerie! Pronounced ‘lahn-zhur-ree’ in the UK, the term refers to women’s undergarments and nightwear, and is derived from the French word ‘linge’ which means linen.
Lingerie’s emergence as visually appealing undergarments only emerged in the late Victorian era at the very end of the 19th century. We have Lady Duff-Gordon of Lucile to thank for developing lingerie that freed women from the restrictive corsets that haunted fashion hunters for the past century. It was during the First World War, when women found themselves in what had been men’s roles, that the need emerged for more practical underwear. That was the beginning of a trend in reducing the size of lingerie, a trend that continued through the 20th century to today.
Appliqué (a-plee-kay): a delicate decoration technique involving applying pieces of fabric onto a larger base fabric.
Basque (bask): this item combines both a bra and garter belt and can sometimes provide shape to the waist, similar to a corset. Often worn with stockings, it can also sometimes be worn as outerwear.
Bodice (bod-iss): a bodice is the fitted section of a dress that runs from waist to shoulder. It can also be applied to the item of clothing worn over a blouse, on the waist which features laces to draw the waist tighter.
Bralette (brah-lett): an unwired, soft cupped bra similar in size to a crop top. These are also popular as nightclub wear.
Brocatelle (broh-ca-tell): a dense fabric with raised designs similar to jacquard materials, but much more raised in pattern. The designs are caused by warped threads in a satin weave.
Bustiers (bust-eeh-airs): a long-line bra with a base that extends to the waist.
Cami (kam-ee): a thin strapped and light top to be worn as an undergarment.
Camisole (kami-sole): a loose-fitting undergarment for the upper body held up by shoulder straps.
Chemise (shem-eese): a large and relatively shapeless undergarment otherwise known as a smock or shift. It has no waistline and has been transformed into the longer and looser dresses we see today.
Chantilly Lace (shan-til-ee): a floral patterned lace, created from thread and ribbon, attached onto a net background. The lace itself is named after the French town of Chantilly which is where it originates from.
Charmeuse (shar-moose): a silk fabric finished with satin.
Chenille (shen-eel): a ‘caterpillar’ like material, which is fuzzy in appearance.
Chiffon (shiff-on): a light, gauzy material made from thinly woven silk or rayon.
Cincher (sin-tche): a belt worn around the waist to make the wearer’s waist smaller (Spanish rather than French, but still tricky some to say)
Denier (den-ee-air): often seen on packets of tights, this is a unit of measurement for rayon, nylon and silk fibres.
Faille (fay-ul):a finely-ribbed and soft, glossy fabric made from cotton, silk or man made fibres.
French Knickers: usually made of silk, the modern version of french knickers involves briefs with several ruffles on the posterior.
Galloon (guh-loon): a decorative woven trim sometimes in the form of a braid.
Guipure (gay-pyurh): to make guipure an interlocking pattern is sewn onto abase fabric before this is removed chemically to leave behind a heavy lace.
Jacquard (jak-arhd): particularly popular now, this is fabric with a raised, or flocked, pattern that repeats throughout the material.
Lycra (lie-kra): the brand name for a certain spandex.
Marabou (mar-ra-boo): down taken from the marabou bird and is often used for trimming delicate negligees.
Negligee (ne-gli-zhay): undergarment or nightgown made of light, usually sheer material.
Panne (pan):a flattened material similar to velvet.
Peau de Soie (poe-duh-swah): a medium to heavy drape-able fabric with a satin weave.
Peignoir (pen-nwah): a casual dress.
Plunge: a supremely low cut bra that offers optimal cleavage.
Pongee (pon-jee): a luxurious and lightweight plain fabric, originally formed of silk.
Provencal (pro-ven-shal): petite, stylised patterns, usually of the floral variety.
Rayon (ray-on): a man-made material that keeps the body cool but is particularly absorbent.
Ruching (roo-shing): now rushing simply means the gathering and pinning into place of a clutch of material. However, it actually means to plait and is an ancient sewing technique, where material gradually gathered into a pattern will eventually make three dimensional designs on clothes and accessories.
Slip (slip): a slip is an undergarment usually worn for modesty purposes. Usually they are made from thin materials and decorated with small portions of lace.
Spandex: a synthetic material made from polyurethane, most often used in sportswear and best known as Lycra.
Stretch lace: simply, a lace construction that can stretch.
Surplice (sir-plees): a long, loose and flowing nightgown or robe.
Tricot or Satin Tricot (tree-kot): a porous and soft knit fabric with a lustrous finish. It is particularly resistant to pulls in the material.
You’re very likely to find a combination of these fabrics, cuts and finishes in your own lingerie drawer, but what’s your favourite? Let us know in the comments!
Chris is a staff writer at Sparkling Strawberry despite never having worn lingerie.
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