Versatile Foundations [House of Satin]

House of Satin is a small British independent label with a long and storied history of making lingerie in the UK. In recent years they’ve become most known in our online vintage-style circles for their budget-friendly bras and girdles made from their vintage patterns. This year, however, House of Satin relaunched their brand with new lines, new fabrics and new price points, the latter of which seemed to displease some of the ladies who had come to rely on them as a cheap way to kit themselves out with their vintage under kit. Like the brand itself, the revamp comes with a story, one that stretches back into the roots of the mid-century that we love. So today, in the spirit of the new year, new iterations, new resolutions, I thought it was an apt time to share with you the history and passion of this British made brand.

In 1948, following World War II, this story begins not with lingerie, but with wedding gowns, when a determined young woman started up her own bridal wear business and shop in the heart of Derby. When the tailoring and altering were done, the left over fabrics from the luxurious gowns seemed too valuable and beautiful to waste, so she decided to use the off-cuts to make bras and garter belts. The undergarments were so popular that they formed the basis of the lingerie company that still exists today.

House of Satin Black Foundation Lace Classic Bra and Braless Corselette

Family-run throughout the years and still remaining so today, the company manufactured lingerie for all of Britain’s best loved brands, both on the high street and designer labels. As we all know, though, when time moved on so did the manufacturing industry, taking many jobs and companies overseas to the places where production was cheaper, resulting in many of the thriving textile factories in the midlands closing down, making it harder for those remaining to source fabrics. For British based companies competing in the aggressive modern marketplace with its cheap mass production and dwindling quality, staying afloat is hard business. House of Satin attempted to do so by dusting off their vintage patterns and producing budget-friendly ‘cheap and cheerful’ pieces, those many of you may have bought in recent years, as did I.

Those very same pieces were actually made from cut-offs of the satin nightwear and robes the company were mainly producing at that time, used in the same thrifty ‘waste not want not’ fashion in which the company had begun back in the 40s. It was clever and resourceful of House of Satin to use these off cuts to produce items of use, but as a company who prided themselves on their quality and knowledge about lingerie, the items themselves were not up to the standard to which they liked to hold themselves. Those nightwear satins were not well suited to the lingerie they were being crafted into, nor were the vintage patterns they were using sized in the same way that modern women are used to.House of Satin Black Foundation Lace Classic Bra and Braless Corselette

House of Satin faced a dilemma. They could continue on as they were, not doing their craftsmanship and product the justice it deserved after 60+ years of experience, as UK manufacturing continued to dwindle further and further. Or they could make a change.

It was costly and difficult, with their relaunch greeted unfavorably by some disgruntled fans as mentioned at the start of this post, but it was what House of Satin needed to do to survive and, hopefully, thrive. I’ve spoken to the team many times in my research for this post and the passion and love that they have for this business is touching. House of Satin truly is a made in Britain brand, a family-lead team that does everything from designing, cutting and stitching their pieces to all of their order picking and posting, all under one roof in the midlands.

House of Satin Black Foundation Lace Classic Bra and Braless Corselette

Worn with an underbust corset

Today, post-relaunch, House of Satin pieces are made not from cut offs but from luxury laces, the best quality satins, high grade elastics and metal accessories (some gold plated,) that have all been painstakingly sourced. They had all of their vintage patterns regraded to fit modern sizing charts without compromising the vintage shapes in any way, added embroidered labels and beautiful packaging. All of these elements form a well-crafted product with a luxurious feel and an ethical history of production, and, finally, a product they could truly be proud of. It does come at the cost of, literally, a higher cost, both for the money House of Satin had to pour into the investment of a relaunch and for the customer, but it’s a cost that had to rise. Without this revamp, a company with over half a century’s worth of history, knowledge and passion would have been in great threat of disappearing altogether.

So, knowing the history now as I do, I hope that if any of you had felt confused or betrayed by the higher prices that came with the relaunch you now understand how and why they rose. This is not a case of money-grabbing for the sake of it; the new lines on offer are genuinely different, because they are improved, better quality, specially sourced versions of the vintage inspired pieces offered before. I own a bra and girdle from before the relaunch, back when House of Satin were making their cheap and cheerful offerings, and was sent a bra and braless corselette from the new range on offer, so now, with the history lesson over, I can compare and review these pieces for you, looking at the products themselves and what the new range has to offer.

House of Satin Black Foundation Lace Classic Bra and Braless CorseletteHouse of Satin Black Foundation Lace Classic Bra and Braless Corselette

Starting with the Black Foundation Lace Classic Bra, I can immediately tell what a big difference there is in the new range. The expensive process of regrading all their patterns to modern sizing has paid off, because receiving this bra in the 36D I wear for unpadded soft bras produced a perfect fit. It’s comfortable, supportive, and has a subtle vintage shape that isn’t intimidating for ladies who can’t quite bring themselves to don a bullet bra. Comparatively, the white and black satin bra I own from before the relaunch which was made from the same vintage pattern but with vintage sizing never quite fit me right. It was too big in the back band for me and consequently the shoulder straps pulled the back band up towards my shoulder blades, compromising the support. Instead, this Foundation lace bra supports my bust and offers a gentle vintage shape that will look nice under sweaters especially. Plus, the sheer black lace makes it a pretty piece that will look just as good when you’re undressed as well. Wink wink, nudge nudge.

House of Satin Black Foundation Lace Classic Bra and Braless Corselette

House of Satin Black Foundation Lace Classic Bra and Braless Corselette

Next, there’s the Black Foundation Lace Braless Corselette. This is a shaping corselette made from firm control fabric to help smooth and define your figure, with adjustable shoulder straps. I have mammothly fabulous hips, measuring currently at 50 inches, so I opted for the size 18 in this piece, wanting to avoid the possibility of unsightly bulges on my hips created by fabric cutting in. Despite the fact that this size 18 is made for 46 inch hips I needn’t have worried, as this corselette doesn’t dig into me anywhere, accommodating my hips graciously. Sizing up does mean I don’t think I gain as much waist cinching from this piece as I suspect someone else might be able to gain in their true size, but it gives a nice smoothing effect all through the body that looks great under wiggle dresses, something I very much need. Plus, the braless nature of this corselette makes it incredible easy to add extra shaping elements to this piece should I wish to, resulting in a product that I can wear simply in place of a suspender belt to keep my stockings in place, or just as easily layer up with whatever undergarments are necessary to get the specific vintage shape I have in mind.

House of Satin foundation garments

The Foundation Lace Classic Bra & Braless Corsolette worn under this wiggle dress

Many a high street brand offers similar braless smoothing shapewear dresses, as they tend to call them, but the issue I have with those every single time is that they just don’t stay put. Despite my rather sizeable backside and that tacky little silicone band they stitch to the inner hem, every time I wear one the skirt works its way up my thighs, over my butt, and gathers around my stomach. This not only produces an unsightly bump at my waistline that renders the wearing of the smoothing dress completely useless, but also, I’m sorry, it hurts. If I’m at dinner and halfway through a plate of pasta, I do not want a foot’s worth of firm control fabric rolling up to dig into my stomach. No thank you. Thanks to the sturdy stocking clips on this corselette, that doesn’t happen and my stockings stay straight and in place. If you don’t have the same riding-up skirt issue that I do, though, you’ll be pleased to hear that the suspender clips are detachable, adding another touch of versatility to this piece.

What I love most about these two pieces is that aforementioned versatility, which they both offer. With the Corselette it’s obvious that you can add whatever bra you wish underneath it to best suit your undergarment needs per outfit, but you can also layer other shapewear to get your desired vintage shape. It’s easy to add a corset over or under it for extra waist cinching, as pictured below. The additional bonus to wearing this corselette over your corset is that it allows the corselette to help smooth out your corset lines and flatten your corset laces in back. Alternatively, you can wear a basque underneath it for combined bust support and waist shaping.

And in terms of the bra, while the vintage shape it offers in the bust is gentle, you can help it along a little further if you want to by adding in bullet shaped bust pads, as I have done below, for a slightly more pronounced shape.

House of Satin Black Foundation Lace Classic Bra and Braless Corselette House of Satin Black Foundation Lace Classic Bra and Braless Corselette

I can see why ladies who bought the cheaper items from House of Satin before would be disappointed that their new lines are more costly, because I understand that if something is out of your budget then it’s simply out of your budget. But honestly, as someone who bought some House of Satin pieces before the revamp and can compare them to this new range, the increase in quality and fit is not only notable but tremendous. I can absolutely see why House of Satin were so determined to revive their brand and produce the items of quality that they knew they were capable of producing. They have succeeded, now producing vintage-inspired garments that are as well-fitted and well-made as they are beautiful, something that has never been in doubt. I am truly inspired by their passion and tenacity, and I hope their hard work and care for their company pays off. I know I, at the very least, will be adding to my collection in future, surely with the Foundation Lace Waist Cincher…Oh, and probably the Foundation Lace Sheer Longline bra and suspender belt…oh, oh, and the Tea Rose Bridget bra, my goodness. Ah. Perhaps this has started something dangerous. Oh my.

The Black Foundation Lace Classic Bra is available in sizes 32A to 42F and costs £30 also available in white and nude. The Black Foundation Lace Braless Corsolette is available in sizes 6-18 and costs £47.50, also available in white and nude. House of Satin ship tracked internationally and are releasing new styles each week, so if you follow them on their social media platforms (Instagram, Facebook, Twitter) you’ll be sure to know what new pretties are on offer.

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Some of my favourite House of Satin offerings

Both House of Satin pieces featured above were sent to me courtesy of House of Satin so I could provide an honest review in context of their relaunched ranges.

That Waist Tho’ – My Favourite Longline Options

I’ve been meaning to write a longline/shapewear post for a while, but after recently sharing the below picture on Instagram, resulting in a flurry of comments asking what I was wearing (wink wink,) I knew it was time.

Wearing Dominque bra & Rago 821 Cincher, Details below

The struggle to find a vintage style longline bra or basque that works for you can be expensive, frustrating and time consuming.

There are products I’ve heard good things about which didn’t work for me. I’ve tried the House of Satin longline bra but felt it was too soft to offer any real nipping-in, as well as not being long enough to hit my true waist. A friend of mine espoused the cinching virtues of the Triumph Doreen longline, but I made the mistake of choosing too small a backband and finding it unbearably tight because of this. I suspect the Doreen will be a good option if I take the time to find it somewhere in store to try it on, but while I want the cinching powers it offers I’m not crazy about the thick-strapped, high cup-line visibility is has, as a lot of my dresses are thin strapped or strapless. So considering that, you might find Doreen is a good option for you, but I’ve find two cinching bra options that work well for me and I’m happy to share them both.

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What Katie Did Gwendoline Merry Widow

The first is the What Katie Did Gwendoline Merrywidow. This isn’t technically a longline bra, more of a basque, but as it ends at a point where it comfortably cups the top of my hips rather than than being as restrictive as a corselette that finishes under my butt, I happily wear it in place of a bra to get a nipped in waist. As it’s a basque, the back of it follows the same height as a typical bra backband, something I appreciate since low-backed strapless longline bras never give me quite as much support as needed in the front and can often great a back-fat overspill around my waist in the back where the full weight of the cinching falls to the low backband.

This Merry Widow has 8 spiral steel bones throughout and an internal elastic waist tape that work together to add the much-desired definition to your waist. The gently vintage-shaped cups create a subtle vintage shape somewhere between a bullet and a modern rounded cup, so it’s a great option for ladies who’re a bit too gun-shy to opt for a full bullet bra silhouette. It closes with hook and eye fastenings that run down the centre front of the basque, the outline of which can show through some kinds of clothing, but they’re much less noticeable than the busk of a corset. When this happens, if it bothers you you can layer in a slip or control shorts to help hide the outline. It has 4 detachable suspenders, which I typically remove when wearing this in place of a longline bra, but I do love that they’re there should I need or want them.

The WKD Merry Widow’s are sized by bra size but since they enclose your entire torso as well, making it tricky to choose the right size if you have substantial differences between your bust size and waist, they list that their bra sizes roughly co-ordinate with the following dress sizes in order to help you choose the correct size for your basque:

32″ – WKD dress size 10
34″ – WKD dress size 12
36″ – WKD dress size 14
38″ – WKD dress size 16

At the time of purchasing, I was a 36C and a size 16, so I opted for the 38C. It was the perfect fit for a while until I continued to gain more weight, a lot of it going to my bust. I remeasured and realised I’m actually a 36DD currently, so as of now my merry widow still fits me wonderfully in the waist but I’m testing the limits of the cups noticeably.

Despite needing to size up into a 38D most likely, of all the longline options I’ve tested in trying to achieve a cinched waist without the commitment of a corset, this Merry Widow is my absolute favourite solution. It takes 3 inches off waist and I also feel comfortable wearing it for long periods of time, much more so than I feel with other shapewear solutions at present.

Now, don’t be mad at me, but unfortunately the Gwendoline Merrywidow specifically is out of stock. However, What Katie Did offer a similar product in their Glamour Nouveau Merry Widow and comparing it to my Gwendoline, I believe will give the same results.

The other option I regularly utilize is a combination of two pieces which I can wear alone, but most like when worn together for maximum results.

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Dominique Backless Satin Longline Bra

The first is the ‘Dominique’ backless satin longline bra. I bought this bra in both black and white through Pinup Girl Clothing but it’s available through other stockists if it suits you better to search them out (a quick search showed me it’s available through Amazon.) This bra is a backless strapless longline, with 7 flexible bones placed throughout the front of the bra to support and cinch. The thick waistband pulls you in at the waist and fastens low on your back with 3 hooks, available with 3 tightness settings. That low back makes this a perfect bra for any top, dress or gown that has a low or interesting back detail that you don’t want to ruin with a visible bra band on display. I originally bought this bra specifically for this purpose more so than for it’s waist cinching properties and I’m very happy using it in this fashion.

Now, if you’re squidgy like me you’ll probably find you get a bit of backfat overspill happening where the back band sits so low and tight on you, but if you’re squidgy that’s kind of unavoidable with any item that cinches but isn’t full coverage. The bra is underwired and the cups have that kind of single-layered padding that stops the outline of your nipples being visible but doesn’t provide any push-up effects.

Getting the right size is the most important factor in getting this bra to work for you. I have this bra in a 38B and it fit me well when I first purchased it, but as mentioned above, my bra size has now changed so there’s a huge amount of overspill threatening to happen in the cups. Because it’s backless that mostly means my boobs push the bra away from my upper chest, the underwire no longer sitting flush against my body, rather than creating the ‘double-boob’ effect that a normal bra would create when the cups are too small. I need to size up but until then I’ll advise you on how I determined the right size to buy when I made my original purchase.

Reviews said this bra was a very tight fit but large in the cups. I knew that my waist, which is squidgy and plus size, would have to comfortably take all the weight and pressure of the thick waistband in order to support the backless aspect of the bra, so I sized up into 38 and down in the cups into a B, since 38B should be a sister size to my then-36C. This size worked for me at the time. I think I need a 38C now, but I haven’t got round to ordering one yet.

The Dominique bra alone takes 2.5 inches off my waist. Because it’s a strapless, backless style its power comes from only pulling you in actively in the waist, not also in the ribs or upper hips, so it’s not as uniform a cinch as the WKD Merrywidow gives me, which is why I prefer the WKD. Because of this limited cinching, sometimes I like to layer the Rago 821 Firm Control Waist Cincher over the Dominique bra to give me a more streamlined look. Together they take 3 inches off my waist and the Cincher helps to counteract any backfat issues caused by the backless style of the Dominique cinching so tightly in the waist.

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Rago 821 Firm Control Waist Cincher

I actually don’t particularly like the 821 Cincher by itself, as I don’t feel it really lives up to its ‘firm control’ name. It closes with front hook and eye fastenings and has ‘power circle inner contour bands,’ as well as 6 flexible bones throughout, but altogether it just doesn’t cinch me that much. Worn alone, it only has enough firm control to suck me in by 2 inches right in the dip of my waist, but at the cost of creating strange bulges in other places. 

I bought it in a size 2X/34 as a compromise between my waist and hip measurements but it still creates a bulge where the bottom of it sits on my hips when I fasten it fully. If I sit down the bottom section also flips up to fold back on itself, presumably because it may also be too long for me as well as too tight in that area. In addition to the hips bulge, it actually gives me a bit of a bulge under my bra where it meets my bra band. Basically, it’s pretty useless for me personally unless I double it up with the Dominique longline bra so that the two pieces smooth out different areas together more effectively than alone: The Dominique cinches my waist, and the Rago then offers support in the back and ribs that the Dominique doesn’t have alone. 

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Wearing the What Katie Did Gwendoline Merry Widow

Overall, while my Rago and Dominique combination give me the same inch-loss in the waist as my WKD Merrywidow, I still prefer my Merrywidow for multiple reasons. It’s easier to put on than layering the other two pieces together, I find it more comfortable, and it’s a lot prettier. Saying that, however, the Dominique bra does offer versatility because of its backless structure, the rounded cups give a more modern silhouette which might be preferable to some ladies, and it’s cheaper than the WKD. It’s not necessary to layer the Rago Cincher over it like I did, but if you’re able to try the Rago on before purchase and find both pieces work well for you then you’ll have two pieces that can be worn alone or together for maximum versatility. Really, it’s all about what you’re looking to achieve and what will make you more comfortable.

That’s it, those are my longline secrets. As you can tell, I need to buy new pieces in sizes that’ll fit my recently increased bust, but the bras themselves work wonderfully so I’ll simply be repurchasing in a different size, rather than looking for new solutions altogether.

If you’ve had any experience with these items or want to share what underpinnings you’ve found that work best for you, please feel free to leave a comment.