Crossing the panty line
It’s safe to assume that most people can rattle off the name of a fashion designer/house that’s known for its ready to wear or couture. That’s because when it comes to appreciating fashion, that’s the kind of design that’s most acknowledged. Notions of “fashion design” immediately link to thoughts of eveningwear, dresses and wearable “looks.”
But underneath it all lies another, less acknowledged realm of clothing design entirely: underwear. Dominating this craft locally is couturier Sarah White, whose up-and-coming company, Jagress Intimates, provides a glance into the delicate world of lingerie.
“It’s a less tread path as far as design goes,” White said. “But it’s really beautiful work. There’s no reason why what goes underneath can’t be as important as what’s underneath.”
Where White most differs from a trip to the local Victoria’s Secret is in her interactive process of design. Though she does design lines whose styles are replicated for public sale, the bulk of her work centers around individual consignments — something that’s of great importance to the designer.
“I want women to feel sexy and confident in the lingerie designed by me,” White said. “So I always prefer the opportunity to meet with them in person, to get measurements and to discuss design options. Intimates are just that: intimate. So it makes sense for the customer to be somewhat involved.”
As far as the actual sewing of bras and panties goes, it’s all about detail. Silks and lace — some of the primary fabrics used in their crafting — are notoriously difficult to work with. Combined with the subtle and finicky shapes of the garments themselves, it’s a trade that requires patience and skill.
“I love intricate work, and I love working with high-quality fabrics,” White said. “Combined with my desire to help women, this is essentially why I started designing intimates in the first place. It’s very technical, but it’s capable of meeting the needs of all kinds of different women.”
Showing a line of ’60s-inspired separates in last Spring’s “RetroRama,” White does make an effort to stay active within the local fashion community. Though, it’s not always as accessible for a designer with such a specific focus. While ready-to-wear trends change seasonally, intimates are more timeless.
When it comes down to it, sometimes an underwear line doesn’t necessarily mesh with the cohesive feel of a runway show. But White doesn’t feel left in her designer peers’ shadows. She’s kept busy with consignment work and some of her own ready-to-wear material as well. She remains perfectly content trimming silks, measuring lace and — like the made-up superhero her company’s name references — combating the widespread ill of poor fitting bras.
“It’s amazing,” White said. “Most women — I think that I’ve read statistics as high as 85 percent — are off by at least two bra sizes. The wrong size bra can throw off everything and totally change the way your outfit sits on you. It’s a simple matter of correct measurement.”
White’s immediate plans for the future are somewhat vague. As a trailblazer in her realm of work, she hopes to focus on continuing to build her line and company, pushing local fashion to new, exposed heights.