Undie overhaul

Photographs by Lindsay Ralph

Some makeovers start with foundation garments which, when fitted properly, can breathe new life into a tired dress

Even a basic black bra can sparkle. Wrap it up in a shimmering floral robe and this everyday attire instantly conveys a soft romanticism. Pleasure State Carmen Balconette Bra, $66, and panties, $31, and La Fée Verte Gypsy Rose kimono, $156, available at Lilac Lingerie.

Red, a colour often associated with passion and mystery, can be liberating. Elle Macpherson Intimates Fly Butterfly Fly Plunge Bra, $78, panties, $38, and garter belt, $38, available at Lilac Lingerie. Jenny Bird Hear Me Roar ring, from viens avec moi.

There is a reason the fashion industry dubs bra-sets “foundation garments.” When properly fitted, they can set the tone for an entire outfit, enhance the feminine figure, improve health and help boost confidence as well as breasts. So ladies, it’s time to banish the granny panties and those shameful bras we insist are ‘just fine’ despite the tears and errant threads in favour of  an undergarment overhaul.

Marianne Hassan, owner of BraChic, a bra-fitting boutique in Westboro that carries European styles in cups A to N, says a high-quality bra is an investment that can shape an entire wardrobe. “A bra can affect how a dress or other clothing option looks,” she says. “You can buy a $200 bra, wear it with a $5 T-shirt and it makes all the difference.” Meanwhile, a poor-quality bra can leave an expensive dress looking awful.

There is no reason why an undergarment cannot be pretty and practical, but when it comes to sizing, perfection is the only option. “We would never fit our feet into shoes that are two sizes too small,” continues Hassan. “So why do that with our breasts?”

Embrace shades of grey with this pumped-up little number that boasts a subtle pinstripe and a no-nonsense attitude. Change Grey Pin-Stripe Bra set, $76, available at Lilac Lingerie. Jenny Bird Chain Fringe Cuff, $150, from viens avec moi.

Delicate and pretty, this set offers a beautiful reminder of feminine poise. Marie Jo Juliette bra, $154, and panties, $98, BraChic. Jenny Bird Chain Link Cuff, $150, from viens avec moi.

Many women are running around the city in bras that are either too small or too large, and knickers that leave a lot to be desired. This less-than-tailored approach to what we wear “under there”  has a tendency to have unflattering side effects, from backaches to lower self-esteem, and although beauty inevitably lies in the eye of the beholder, wearing a little couture sumthin’ sumthin’ beneath your everyday clothes can inspire comfort and confidence.

Lilac Lingerie, also located in Westboro, specializes in empowering women with elegant intimate wear. “It’s amazing the effect that lingerie can have on a client,” says owner Emilia Kutrovska. “It can make her feel pretty and powerful, while reinforcing her sensuality. The average Ottawa woman is very practical, but most of the time, once she has her basics covered, she (ventures) out of her shell.”

Kutrovska insists that body type should never be an excuse not to try something on in her store. “We have options for all sorts of shapes and sizes,” she says proudly. “Whether you are a lady with curves or somebody who needs a smaller cup, we have something flirty and feminine that will suit you.”

Whisk yourself away to a dreamy exotic state of mind in this beauty. Andre Sarda Macba bra, $325, and panties, $140, BraChic. Jenny Bird Leather and Coin necklace, $145, from viens avec moi.

“Sleek, sophisticated and striking” are words that come to mind with this powerful design destined for adventure. The look: Marlies Dekkers Triangle bra, $99.75, and panties, $49, available at BraChic. Jenny Bird Two Tone Coin ring, $95, from viens avec moi.

Rather than treating underwear as something that should be discussed in hushed tones, Kutrovska encourages women to celebrate their bodies. She recently launched a Lilac Boudoir Photography Package to help clients appreciate themselves. “The boudoir packages are a way for women to tastefully connect with their bodies and feel good about who they are,” says Kutrovska, adding that each boudoir session is customized to suit the client’s tastes.

Heather Farmer, a makeup artist and hair stylist, has worked in Ottawa with Bella Stella Photography and Voulez-Vous Boudoir Photography for the past four years and agrees that dressing up underneath, either for the camera or in private, can transform a woman. “With the right undergarments, aside from your clothes hanging better, you will also be improving your overall silhouette,” she says. “When you look and feel great, you will project that confidence.”

So what can we expect from the underwear world this season? “Get ready for lots of oranges, yellows and royal colours like blue,” hints Hassan, who also suggests that shape-wear is becoming even more popular than it has been.

Another trend, illustrated by brands such as the Netherlands’ Marlies Dekkers, is that of intricate bra straps that make the underwear a part of the outerwear by resembling a necklace pendant.

“It’s interesting to hear women say that buying a really nice bra is a treat,” says Hassan. “We easily spend $200 on our hair or a meal, which doesn’t last, while a bra will last for years. It’s a funny rationalization.”

Ultimately, an investment in intimate wear is an investment in yourself and, for many women, a fabulous pair of panties and an exquisitely fitted bra can lead to a new form of self-discovery.

WHERE TO BUY

viens avec moi: 1388 Wellington St.,viensavecmoi.ca
Lilac Lingerie: 307B Richmond Rd., lilaclingerie.ca
BraChic: 433 Richmond Rd., brachic.ca

Styling by Laura Benn, Makeup and hair by Heather Farmer, Models Alicia Angus and Sandra Vieira from MIM International

Connect with Laura Benn |laura.lou.benn@gmail.com