couture sewing

Luxury Lingerie

I am on a ready-to wear fast for 2015, (hosted by Goodbye Valentino) participating in another year of refraining from buying manufactured clothing. Although underwear is allowed, I delved into the world of luxury lingerie.

Carine Gilson creates the most exquisite lingerie in Belgium. Pieces are made one at a time by artisans with prices to match. The Carine Gilson site has a button on the right for either French or English. Look under the “News” section and on the far right will be a video of her working in the atelier.

The line can be purchased at Nancy Meyer or you can just drool over the selections. Purchasing these creations would probably blow anyone’s clothing budget for years.

My first clone is a simple bias cut chemise which can be either a slip or nightgown. Bias techniques are from those used by Madeline Vionnet and explained in the book by Betty Kirk. The fabric is silk charmeuse and the lace is a French chantilly, both from B&J Fabrics.

Cut garment sections on the true bias allowing generous side seam allowances. The sections will stretch in length so don’t worry about extra at the hem. The side seams will narrow considerably, so allow at least 2 inches for seams.  I stay stitched the neck and armholes and draped on the dress form.

The secret to Voinnet’s garments holding their shape over the years was in allowing the bias to fully hang out before construction. She frequently weighted bias sections by hanging weights at intervals along the hem to accomplish this. I was concerned that the fabric might not hang evenly.  I created a weight which distributed the weight evenly along the bottom.

Take 1 inch bias tape and cut in about 18 inch lengths. Put two lengths together. Sew along the top edge. Sew along the middle. Then insert drapery weights along the bottom edge at both ends and about every 4 inches in-between. Slip a length of spiral steel boning in the bottom channel. I made 4 of these which will be enough to weight most garments.  The spiral steel distributes the weight evenly.


Pin the weights along the hem. Allow to stretch for a day or two. You are encouraging the bias to fully stretch. As Voinnet said “the bias has done its work.”


Difficult to see in the photo are silk thread tacks along the center front and back lines. This ensures that the bias stays centered on the form. Don’t be surprised when the right and left sides stretch differently and you wind up with a 3/4 inch seam on one side and 1/2 inch on the other. This is because the warp and weft threads have different tensions. Remember, couture sewing focuses on the stitching line, not the cut edge.

After your fabric has had a chance to stretch, baste the side seams and remove from the form. I used narrow French seams. Now the fun of embellishing with lace. I cut around the scalloped hem and medallions, allowing extra fabric. Stitching the lace is done with a zig-zag stitch, about 1.4mm wide and 0.8 mm long. I tried two methods. One is using the Bernina BSR foot which allows you to move the fabric in any direction since the feed dogs are lowered. You can also use any free motion technique. I also tried leaving the feed dogs up and stitching with an open toe foot. All methods worked well, so choose the one you are comfortable with. Trim the excess netting after stitching is completed. Dovo lace scissors have a nub on one blade and are wonderful for this. They allow you to slip the scissors under the lace without snagging. Notice how the lace pattern is mirrored at the neck line. I noticed this detail on most of the designs.


Luxury at a fraction of the cost!