Maybe some people are born with a native talent for undergirding the backless and strapless, slinky or streamlined. But for most facing a fancy gown for the first time, a guide to the terms and conditions of tactical lingerie is in order.
The Town Crier asked Revelation in Fit founder Robynne Winchester for a few pointers – her shop at 386 State St. stocks lingerie for all occasions, but she also has an ace up her sleeve: a background in bespoke corsetry. Elements of both specialties come into play when a bride plans for the gown of a lifetime or a groom seeks to streamline his shape.
Fitting tricky silhouettes
Bridal gowns plunge in front, plunge in back or jettison straps and sleeves entirely to suspend from the torso, foiling traditional bras in every way possible. Just about every size and shape of body can find a comfortable bra that accommodates a steep descent into the décolletage. Backless styling presents a more serious situation for women who seek bust support.
“Backless is tough – the options are 90 percent stick-on,” Winchester said.
She’s planning to start carrying NuBra, a silicone-based self-adhesive bra with a decent size range, but it still won’t serve every shape.
“Even if you consider yourself busty, strapless is not out of the question – but it is very hard to get both strapless and backless (if you’re) busty,” she said.
Planning for the look you want, and the comfort you need, may require asking design questions early in the process.
“Maybe you really like the look of a backless gown, but you need a traditional bra – you could always have your tailor add details to cover the bra band,” she suggested, noting that lace, draped pearls or other embellishments to swoop across an open back are limited only by the imagination.
One common strapless bridal solution, a longline bra, hugs the torso. It looks like a bustier but skips any structured boning. Longline bras can require a lot of hooks to close, and be hot to wear – Winchester prefers a more traditional strapless bra, well fitted. Though they’re notorious for tugging and slipping, she swears the much-maligned strapless styles don’t have to be written off if you find the right one.
“A good size range is hard to get, but Curvy Kate goes up to a UK K-cup,” she said. “I was at a lingerie trade show in New York a few weeks ago and they had their model doing cartwheels in a strapless bra – and she was probably a 30 GG.”
Shape from below
Structured or poufy bridal gowns may not require a great deal of subterranean streamlining, but slinky styles can show indents everywhere fabric pushes on flesh. Some brides wear high-cut thongs, or go commando, or try out shapewear. The elastic-y, compressive underwear that stretches across tummy and thighs can be unwieldy, but Winchester offered a few pro tips.
She carries a compressive slip that fits just under the bra line, shaping from ribs to thighs, and carries two key details: a panel that runs between the legs to prevent riding up, and snaps that release that panel. Even brides have to pee, not that bridalwear facilitates the process. That logic of a quick release applies to garter belts, too – panties can go over a belt rather than under while maintaining a sultry look. Pro tip: Practice with a garter and stockings before the wedding day.
“The fastening can be a little fiddly if you’re not used to it,” Winchester said.
Winchester recently opened her third Revelation in Fit location nested inside Dark Garden, a specialty corset shop in San Francisco. Many under-bust corsets pair with bras for a complete look, making Winchester’s bra shop a natural fit.
Winchester said brides come to Dark Garden in search of hand-designed, custom pieces that capture a personal aesthetic as well as individual body shape. Risqué styles, with panels of transparent netting or lace, might go under a modern bridal gown. Others Dark Garden creations are designed to stand alone as bodices in and of themselves.
“And they work with the grooms as well,” she noted.
Tailored styling for masculine looks
Wedding-goers who favor a dandy look – masculine styles that might include vests, jackets, trousers or even tails – plan undergarments that work with tailored structure.
Some men and women interested in suiting use a corset-like vest to provide an angular, V-shaped look to their midsection. Dark Garden’s “Beau Brummel” – named in tribute to a Regency-era male fashion icon – looks like a single- or double-breasted waistcoat from the front, with a corset built up the back. It can be cinched to create a dramatic look, or styled to firm up a midsection while giving fewer hints of the vest’s kinship to corsetry.
The same pointers apply to structured undergarments whether they skew masculine or feminine.
“In a good corset, it’s made to your body – it feels supportive and structured and it does amazing things for your posture,” Winchester said. “And shoes before corset – put shoes on first, because in a corset you can’t bend.”
For more information, visit revelationinfit.com.