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An expensive lingerie top shown in pink

Step into any lingerie department, and you’ll be met with a dazzling array of expensive lingerie. The delicate fabrics and intricate designs come with equally eye-catching price tags. But have you ever wondered, “Why is lingerie so expensive?” Most people assume it’s the brand that’s taking all that extra money. But, it goes beyond the obvious factors like brand names and marketing. Let’s take a peek inside the intricate world of lingerie manufacturing and uncover the hidden costs that contribute to its often hefty price tag. Let’s go!

Marvelous (or Maddening) Materials

Unlike your average article of clothing, lingerie often demands the finest fabrics. Imagine delicate silks sourced from sustainable farms in China, where mulberry leaves are hand-picked for their quality. Consider luxurious French laces, crafted by centuries-old techniques that prioritize both beauty and strength. Breathable organic cottons, meticulously chosen for their comfort and hypoallergenic properties, complete the picture. These premium materials require rigorous selection processes, specialized handling throughout production, and often come from geographically dispersed sources, all contributing to their cost.

This all sounds wonderful, of course, but not all lingerie is made with these marvelous materials. The customer often has those expectations, but much of todays lingerie is made with junk fabric. Cheap polyester-based silks and satins that don’t have the luxurious look and feel that customers expect at all. You might see an incredibly sexy (and probably airbrushed!) model wearing a silky-looking piece and think, “Oh baby, I’m gonna look good in that!” Then it arrives in the mail and you’re thinking, “Wait, what!?”. It’s frustrating! (Also, don’t buy lingerie without trying it on first!)

If you’re buying expensive lingerie, the quality of the materials absolutely SHOULD be fabulous. If they’re not, don’t support that brand. It’s misleading and adds to the general impression that lingerie is too expensive.

Craftsmanship: A Cut Above

Lingerie construction is complicated! Like REALLY complicated. For the size of the item, it has more stitches and seams and finicky little bits and pieces than just about anything else you could possible make. Combine that with delicate materials, like silk and lace, and you have one seriously difficult thing to produce. The best lingerie requires skilled artisans, often trained for years, to meticulously assemble these garments.

Often, people assume that there are machines that create most apparel. Nope! The workers do use machines of course (hence the term sewing machine) but they all require human operators with a high degree of skill and training. These are not just the run-of-the-mill machines and operators. These are generally the best of the best. Even cheap lingerie is difficult to create as compared with most other types of garments. This level of expertise translates to higher labor costs compared to mass-produced garments, reflecting the value of human skill and dedication.

An expensive minimalist lingerie top

Lingerie Design & Development

Behind every piece of expensive lingerie lies a team of unsung heroes – the designers and patternmakers. Their creativity and technical knowledge breathe life into concepts, catering to diverse needs and body types. This design process, from initial sketches to final prototypes, involves time, talent, and specialized software, each element adding to the overall cost. Again, as with the craftsmanship, it takes a design & development with specialty experience in working with lingerie. There aren’t many of them around, so they are able to command a higher price point for their services.

Size Matters, Literally

Unlike the standardized sizing of mass-produced clothing, lingerie offers a massive array of sizes. Intimate apparel is meant to fit the body well and closely, but there are a very wide variety of bodies out there. Whereas a shirt might be offered in a handful of sizes — XS to XXL perhaps — a bra offers an array of cup sizes — say A to F — AND a variety of band sizes. Understance brand, for example, offers sizes 28-48 in band and A-K in cups! Over 100 fit combinations. Daaaaamn, that’s a HUGE variety to manufacture and stock!

Offering such a diverse range of sizes, cups, and styles to cater to various body types necessitates additional production processes, pattern adjustments, and inventory management. This makes lingerie wildly more complicated — and expensive — to manage and produce.

The Green Thread: Innovation and Sustainability

Consumers are increasingly demanding sustainable practices and innovative technologies in their lingerie. Brands are responding by investing in eco-friendly fabrics, recycled materials, and ethical manufacturing processes. Innovative fibers like mint, rose & lavender are woven into soft yet durable fabrics. Recycled nylon is transformed into sleek and supportive sports bras. These responsible choices, while commendable, often come at a premium compared to traditional methods, increasing the investment required in the research, development, and responsible sourcing, and racking up the costs of expensive lingerie.

Global Logistics and Import Fees

As you can imagine, the detailed craftsmanship required by lingerie means that it’s labor-intensive. And time equals money. For this reason, many expensive lingerie brands source materials and manufacture their garments globally, seeking the best quality, skilled labor, and competitive prices. Manufacturing globally means some costs are reduced, but this global footprint involves navigating import taxes, logistics costs, and fluctuating exchange rates. Each shipment across borders adds another layer to the final price tag.

Four pricey lingerie tops shown in different colors

Building a Lingerie Brand

Here’s something you definitely didn’t think about: Starting an intimates brand can be more expensive than other fashion brands. One of the biggest reasons is photography. Because of the wide variety of sizes, you’ll need fit models throughout the development process and one or two isn’t going to cut it! Then, when you shoot your campaigns, you’ll need a wider variety of models than a comparable apparel brand. You may also find that the costs of hiring models will be somewhat more expensive as well. That might seem like an inconsequential cost increase, but it does add some level of complexity. Which adds time and moolah. Then, of course, each element — from advertising and customer service to influencer collaborations and social media engagement — which contributes to building brand value and recognition, is ultimately reflected in the final price.

Shopping Smart for Lingerie

So, now I bet you’ve got an entirely different perspective on lingerie, right?! In fact, you might even start to have the same reaction I have when I look at expensive lingerie. I often find myself thinking, “Wow! That’s good value! How can they offer it so cheaply?”

In order to be a good lingerie consumer, we need to learn to choose wisely and learn to value and properly care for what we buy. Here are some final thoughts about what to look for when you’re shopping for lingerie:

  • Durability: Price is not a good indicator of quality. Instead, trust your head and your hands. Lingerie should be crafted with premium materials and meticulous construction. It should survive careful washing for many cycles.
  • Fit & Support: Don’t tolerate a bad fit and poor support. Because of the wide variety of body types, a brand you love might still not be the right fit for you. There are plenty of other options out there that may serve you better.
  • Quality Over Quantity: Invest in fewer, well-made pieces that will last longer, rather than accumulating trendy items that quickly lose their appeal.
  • Support Ethical Brands: Choose brands committed to fair labor practices, sustainable materials, and responsible manufacturing. This ensures the well-being of the people who make your lingerie and minimizes your environmental impact.
  • Explore Diverse Options: From independent designers to established brands, explore various options to find pieces that align with your budget, values, and style.

Is Expensive Lingerie Worth It?

Lingerie is so much more than just clothing or sex appeal. It’s an expression of self-love, confidence, and a passion for fine quality craftsmanship and artistry. By appreciating the complex story behind each garment, you can make informed choices that align with your values and support sustainable, ethical practices in the industry. So, the next time you step into the shop and peep those price tags on the expensive lingerie, remember this: you’re not just buying a garment; you’re investing in a story, a commitment to quality, and ultimately, your own confidence and well-being.

About the author 

Skye Della Santa

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