I have had SO much fun planning this post, y’all! I’ve never devoted a ton of time/photography budget to “solution” pieces: nothing wrong with them, they’re just not what makes me excited about lingerie. It is, however, an undeniable fact that a lot of “special occasion” clothing merits specific undergarments, whether it’s strapless dresses, clinging silhouettes, sheer fabrics, or even a simple desire to try something new with a little shape-making corsetry. What really made me decide to do a party lingerie post, though, was the number of comments I get whenever I post strappy lingerie: “but how can you wear it out? What’s the point of a bra you can’t wear outside the bedroom?”
Oh my dear and cherished beloveds, don’t limit yourselves! With holiday party season in full swing, let’s take a peek at my closet through two different lenses:
1. Lingerie solutions for wearing under party ensembles, and
2. Lingerie to show off with party ensembles
Because this is a personal style post, most of these outfits are pretty femme, and while I’ve tried to find as many alternatives as possible, there may not be plus sizes available for every garment I’m wearing. There’s also a lot of black, because it’s easy to mix and match and because hey, I live in New York.
Let’s start with:
Solution Garments, or: strapless bras, shapewear, garter belts, slips, and corsets
aka The Sexy Getting Ready Song, aka we’re starting with the least glamorous and working our way up, aka here it finally is, my very favorite strapless bra!
Lol, this is the worst outfit I’ve ever worn for the camera, but LISTEN, I am hardly alone in having worn it or something similar. Sometimes this is what your “fancy” lingerie, or at least your lingerie for fancy outfits, actually looks like. Lots of special occasion outfits leave shoulders bare, and the number of times I’ve sadly put a dress back on the rack when I’ve realized I don’t own the right bra is a very large number. It’s helpful to have a strapless bra in your drawer!
I do not like molded cup bras as a general rule EXCEPT for strapless bras. With strapless bras, molded cups are usually the best way to go, and the very best strapless bra for my body is the Freya Deco. There are strapless bras out there with a wider size range (and I link to them below), but this one’s the best match for my shape. It is not low-backed, but honestly if we’re looking for a low-backed strapless bra in a GG cup size we’re also looking for flying unicorns to ride to work everyday.
As for the truly stunning shapewear shorts I’m wearing, let’s remind ourselves about shapewear can do for you:
It can smooth!
It can be anti-chafing!
It can provide coverage!
It can support!
It canNOT, in general, give you an hourglass waist. The shorts I’m wearing here are very light support. They smooth my tummy and create a streamlined look under my clinging black dress, but they don’t compress or re-shape my body. If you’re interested in leveling up your shaping game, come with me as we move to Advanced Placement Shapewear:
Unlike shapewear, corsets can do some fairly intense shaping, because that’s what they’re designed to do. I’ve written about both bespoke corsets and off-the-rack corsets, and I’ve found that for wearing under regular clothes, underbust corsets are the easiest to work with, as I can still wear a regular bra and I have a little more flexibility of movement.
This lingerie ensemble may look a little intense, but I promise it’s simpler than it looks. I’m wearing:
- A fun strappy bra
- A swishy fringed suspender belt
- Seamed stockings (Quick vocab reminder: Stockings are thigh-high hosiery that won’t stay up unless they’re held up with garters or a suspender belt. People can be particular about their suspender belts, but generally for all-day wear, the deeper the belt and the more suspenders it has, the more secure the hold. Hold-ups are thigh-high hosiery that have silicone bands on the inside of the tops, so they’ll stick to your skin and stay up without garters. Both stockings and hold-ups can be sheer, like the ones I’m wearing here, or opaque, like your favorite pair of winter tights. I have like eight pairs of Figleaves’ opaque hold-ups that I pretty much live in during the winter.)
- My underbust corset
And here’s the finished party outfit! I love how the corset cinches my waist under this velvet wrap dress, and I like letting the straps show under the V-neckline, like a very fancy necklace.
And that really covers a lot of “solution” pieces! We’ve got shapewear for smoothing, corsets for shaping, strapless bras for strapless garments, and suspender belts for holding up fancy hosiery. These are lingerie pieces that can be really helpful to have on hand if you want to try a variety of looks, and you don’t have to show them off if you don’t want to.
Now let’s take a look at your show-it-off lingerie accessories, or: strappy bits, chokers, harnesses, and waspies
I’ll be honest, I wouldn’t necessarily wear visible lingerie to my own family holiday dinners or work holiday party, as it’s just not appropriate for those specific events. That said, there are a host of holiday events that I would wear these pieces to without a second thought, so let’s get to it. To start off, I decided to use the black strapless cocktail dress as a blank slate, and explore how I can mix and match different lingerie pieces to create different looks.
Finally, when in doubt: PUT A ROBE ON IT! I honestly could have brought all of my robes to this shoot and they would have looked fabulous with this simple dress. There’s also something about a silk robe layered over a cocktail dress that makes me think of some terribly glamorous hostess welcoming people to a country estate for a weekend/murder, which is my #aestheticgoals.
I love how many different outfits you can get out of a single dress, just by layering different lingerie pieces. Let’s move away from the strapless ensemble, however, and circle back to one of the biggest trends in lingerie this decade: the strappy bra. In addition to the Playful Promises bra I’m wearing above with my corset, here are some of my favorite strappy full-bust bras currently on the market.
Without fail, every single time I review a strappy bra, I get the “but how can you wear this outside the bedroom?” comments. And look, I get it: there can be a time and a place for visible lingerie. But one of the things I value about my lingerie is that even if I have to present a specific face to the world, my lingerie can be an opportunity to express how I’m really feeling on a given day. So wear your strappy bras! Wear them with higher necklines if you prefer, cover them up with scarves, or let them peek out if you like! We shot a few outfits based around a simple silhouette: black skinny jeans, camisole tops, and either a blazer or a dramatic robe.
Finally, let’s talk about starting with a statement lingerie piece and building an outfit around it, rather than adding a lingerie piece as a final accessory.
I’ve had this stunning Fleur of England ‘Margaux’ silk harness for about a year, and apart from black lingerie, haven’t really been able to coordinate it with anything, since I’m too big to fit into Fleur of England’s bras and knickers. The wine red shade is my power color, the silk is soft and smooth, the stunning bespoke embroidery looks great against my skin, but I wasn’t sure how to wear it, you know, out.
I commissioned a special colorway of the gorgeous Viola longline bra from Harlow & Fox for the Circe editorial, along with the matching slip already available in the Eleanor Damson collection. The Damson silk isn’t a perfect match to the Margaux silk, since both lingerie brands are incredibly precise and particular about their colors, but I think they go together well and allow the harness to “pop” a little against the silk on the longline bra band.
Because I’m short-waisted, the Viola longline bra almost works as a bustier top on me. Wearing just a bustier to a party isn’t for me, but what about layered under a jacket? I decided to build an outfit with a slightly old-fashioned feel that played with texture and volume: a long dotted tulle skirt for twirling, a three-quarter sleeve velvet blazer, cinched with a patent belt at the waist, and comfortable low-heeled boots for a slightly Victorian touch.
Finally, add a faux fur wrap and some gloves to keep out the chill, and you’re ready to party!
I hope you all have fun celebrating, whether it’s during the holiday season or anytime. For more party lingerie, keep reading for my recommendations!
WHERE TO BUY
Strapless bras for fuller busts
Pictured: Playful Promises Adira (32-38 D-H, wearing 34H), Freya Taboo (28-38 C-HH, wearing 32H), Elomi Sachi (32-46 DD-JJ, wearing 32H), Tutti Rouge Sukki (28-38 D-H, wearing 32H with an extender), Elomi Nicole (32-46 DD-JJ, wearing 32H). More of my favorites strappy full-bust bras for this season: Elomi Tori, Scantilly Heart Throb (my size sold out before I could buy this one and I am BEREFT), Playful Promises Sky, Sculptresse Dionne
Longline Bras and Basques (Bustiers)
Pictured: Figleaves shaping shorts (sold out), What Katie Did Mae Corset (wearing 30″, no longer appears to be in production, but Zita is a good alternative), Peek and Beau Kendalle waspie (XS-XL, wearing XL). Also recommended: Maidenform, Rago, Spanx
Pictured: What Katie Did (older style, wearing UK 18/US 14), Peek and Beau Elvira (XS-XXL, wearing XL), Freya Taboo (XS-XL, wearing L). Also recommended: Harlow & Fox, Dottie’s Delights, Elila (up to size 5X), Ellesmere, Kiss Me Deadly
Slips & Petticoats
Pictured: Harlow & Fox Eleanor Damson Half-Slip (XS-XL, wearing XL), Dottie’s Delights Elsa Petticoat (wearing 3X). Also recommended: Unique Vintage petticoat, Angela Friedman, Halogen x Atlantic Pacific one, two, and three, Natori, Farr West
Dear Bowie Sheba Snow Robe (wearing M/L). 40% off with code BOWIE
Peek and Beau Elvira Cape (US sizes 4-14, wearing 14)
Also recommended: Dottie’s Delights Short Sheer Dressing Robe (sizes 1 and 2, I wear size 2, comes in multiple colors!)
Harnesses and Lingerie Chokers
Barbie x Unique Vintage Black Magic Sheath Dress (XS-4X). Wearing a 2X, but should have gone with XL, as the fabric is super stretchy.
Pilcro High Rise Denim Leggings (24-33 Regular, Petite, Tall). Wearing 31 Tall.
Bravissimo Woven Cami Top (4-14 Curvy, Really Curvy, and Super Curvy, wearing a 12 Super Curvy, lots of colors available)
Jewelry, shoes, hair accessories, belt, bag, and gloves: Old and vintage
PHOTOGRAPHY: Tessa Flannery