It is no secret that I try to buy as ethically as possible at least when it comes to lingerie. Considering how much of it I consume, it makes sense to me to try and reduce the impact my many purchases may have. However, I appreciate that shopping with smaller, independent brands might be intimidating to most people, which is why I am writing this guide to help you getting started with making more ethical lingerie choices. I hope you will find it helpful!
Everything is handmade to order in North Wales by Molly herself. Her typical size range is 30-34 A-D but she can make pretty much any size on custom orders. Bralettes typically cost around £35, while bottoms are all under £30. Expect lots of pretty florals with an edge!
1/ Find your own definition of “ethical”
Without getting into too much philosophy, “ethical” is quite a contested term. While I tend to consider ethical everything that is not made in a sweatshop nor has a ‘problematic’ marketing, your definition can be more demanding and include environmental concerns, for instance.
Playful Promises produce their retro-inspired, fashion-orientated lingerie in Chinese factories that have to meet strict ethical criteria. Their current size range goes from 30 (28 bands had to be dropped for lack of demand) to 44 and from A to H cups. Most bras are priced between £35 and £45, with a few cheaper ones in the Peek and Beau range. Add to that some amazing and inclusive campaigns and you have one of my current favourites!
2/ Know your best-fitting size and your measurements
Many ethical lingerie brands make their items to your own measurements, so your first step might be to buy a measuring tape. Bra-fitting is about as contentious as the definition of ethics but a good place to start is A Bra That Fits. If you want to get fitted professionally, just know that independent stores are a bit of a hit and miss, especially in France. In UK, Bravissimo is usually a safe bet while in the US, Nordstrom is not too bad. Also, do not forget to check brands’ individual size charts as they can vary quite widely, especially for bralettes.
Most Polish Lingerie is made in Poland (surprising, right?) with better working conditions than in Asia or in Northern Africa. Polish brands also have a very wide size range and typically fit best narrow-rooted and projected busts.
3/ Have realistic expectations
Ethical lingerie is the opposite of fast-fashion, so you might have to wait quite a bit before receiving your order and the prices are usually higher, especially for underwired bras, which are the most complex item of clothing to design and produce. Designers will usually offer small reductions for some special occasions but don’t be the person who complains about their pricing and asks for over 50% off. Similarly, bigger cup sizes are expensive to develop and not all brands can afford to introduce them, so there is no need to pressure them into it, a polite e-mail asking them if they have plans for size expansion will get the message across perfectly.
For the lover of all things harnesses and bondage-inspiration, the Latvian brand Flash You and Me is the perfect destination. Their size range is decent (XS to XL on a lot of pieces), their designs are cool and striking, and many of their items retail for less than 50€.
4/ Budget, budget, budget
Ethical lingerie has a cost, so my advice would be to plan your purchases in advance. New releases are not as frequent as with fast fashion so long-term thinking is easier. Personally, I go with buying plans I update every 6 months and I even draw little lookbooks to encourage myself to stick to them and not be lured by sales from bigger, unethical brands.
If you really cannot afford ethical lingerie, do not feel guilty, our economic system relies on exploitation so you are not at fault. You can venture into thrifting in person or on apps such as Depop or Vinted or into buying older stock on Ebay or secret sales websites (I am preparing an article on the subject).
One of the first ethical labels I discovered, Ohhh Lulu and her whimsical floral designs will always have a special place in my heart. Her sets can be made in pretty much any size and usually retail for less than 80€. Sarah has a strict “No-Underwire” policy and uses organic, sustainable materials whenever possible.
5/ Explore the world of indie labels
My favourite place to discover new brands is Instagram, but I regularly find some cool ones while looking for something specific on Etsy. You can start with the labels featured in this article and in the following selection!
If you’re after edgy designs with a cute side to them, the Portuguese brand ColieCo might be a good place to start. With all designs priced under 50€ and interesting prints and cutouts, it is a brand I definitely want to try for myself this year!
Handmade with love in Leicester, in the UK, Leda By Night’s beautiful undergarments come in a rather impressive size range of XXS to 3XL. And at a maximum of 76€ for a full set, they will not break the bank!
Having tried and loved Queen of Suburbia’s gorgeous lingerie for myself, I cannot recommend Megan’s work enough. While my review is due soon, be aware that it is one of the only small brands to offer underwired bras in an extensive size range (28-36 B-G + custom sizes) and at a very reasonable price. You can turn any unwired set into an underwired one and vice-versa, and it will only cost you around 90€.
Minimalism lovers are not left out with the sleek offering of the new Bulgarian brand 05 Studio! While the size range is still somewhat limited (S-L) at the moment, the pricing is a no brainer: less than 50€ for a set at full price, you cannot go much lower than that with ethical lingerie. Their lovely imagery does not hurt either!
Fear not, my Goth friends, thou have not been forgotten! Lacegrenade is the cool Australian kid of the crew, with a “Dark and Dreamy” range accommodating sizes XXS to XXL (and probably more on custom orders). Straps, fishnet, mesh and dinosaurs (!) are all there to fulfill your lingerie dreams, at the reasonable cost of around 50€ for a top and 40€ for a bralette or for more sophisticated knickers.
Underneath Lingerie is one of the pricier options of this selection, at around 100€ for a set at full price but this is easily justified : you can design your own pieces, there is a new set every month and the size range covers smaller bra sizes very well (28-44 A-E). All the more reasons to add them to this list!
The last brand of this selection will give your undies drawer a serious upgrade. Egretta Garzetta offers a wide selection of knickers, most but not all of them being high waisted. While I have not purchased their creations myself, I am seriously considering some of them to match with my lonely bras. A rather generous size range (XS-XXL) and very fair pricing with all pairs at around 20€.
I hope this guide helped you getting started with your ethical lingerie purchases!