Trying to choose the best lingerie item of the past year is like walking into Jacques Torres and buying just a single truffle. It could be done, I suppose, but why? With so much to choose from, self-denial seems pointless.
And so it goes with the rapidly evolving world of fashion lingerie, loungewear and accessories.
Once again, Lingerie Talk offers a curated selection of the year’s most memorable designs and innovations from the world’s most exciting labels. You’ll find big brands and one-person indie labels on our list, and a product range that includes classically romantic silks and laces, sinister-looking belts and chains and hallucinatory, out-of-the-box inventions that will take your breath away.
We call our best-of list “Lasting Impressions” because, ultimately, that’s what a great lingerie ensemble does: leaves behind a glowing imprint on the soul of both the wearer and anyone fortunate enough to see her this way. These aren’t just undergarments, they’re transformational fashions. Just imagine what any one of these piece would do for you.
This list is the first in a series of articles we will be posting over the next week that looks at developments in lingerie design, marketing and culture over the past year. Some memorable pieces that you don’t see on this list will appear later in the series.
The criteria for choosing the 30+ pieces below were strictly subjective, although we tend to favor the imaginative over the predictable. Otherwise, lingerie, like beauty itself, is in the eye of the beholder.
Finally, today’s list omits one name — our choice for the most memorable lingerie creation of the year. We’ll profile that designer and that item — can you guess? — in a special feature tomorrow.
The reinvention of the iconic Italian brand was THE big story of the past year, and La Perla delivered with a stunning parade of new collections that ranged from vintage to modern, elegant to casual and everything in between. This set, from the Femmes Fatales series, uses Chantilly lace and silk satin to create a look that marries the past and the future. Bring it on!
Ignore the girl in the photo, the real winners here are those oyster pink silk sheets. AP offered the year’s biggest surprise with its Home collection of sumptuous bed linens which, fittingly, look great as a backdrop for the rest of your AP wardrobe.
Ladies, take it from a guy: those hook-and-eye front closures are crazysexy. The Bright Lights bralet is from Zinke’s gem-packed Souvenir collection, 2011’s most memorable and complete range from an American indie label.
How remarkable is this? The small Scottish label produced one of the year’s masterpieces — the see-through Lorelei kimono in gold French leavers lace and satin. Yes, gold! Must be seen and touched to be believed. Available in chartreuse and azalea pink colorways. Take a bow, G&P!
New Rule: Italy must send one of its great lingerie labels to North America as compensation for what they did to Amanda Knox. We pick Intimissimi. This lacy gem is from the new SS2012 collection which, alas, you still can’t buy over here.
Gaultier’s second collection for La Perla was endlessly amusing, with one memorable style after another, plus an equally dazzling swimwear line. This cabaret-style chemise shows JPG’s sense of humor as much as his unerring fashion chops.
The trendsetting New York label is pushing into RTW fashion and accessories in a big way, but they’re taking their graphic, color-blocked power-underwear signatures along for the ride. This bodysuit is from VPL’s fall line, which showed the label evolving brilliantly.
The consistently imaginative New Zealand label creates fashion-forward lingerie looks that are meant to be shown off in layers with the brand’s clothing pieces. This is from last spring’s Time Bandits series, featuring a Lonely cutout body perfectly paired with a sheer lace shift dress.
The year’s biggest hit for this UK independent wasn’t one of their fashion-forward lingerie pieces, it was the Morocco Maxi dress with the jeweled, deep-V neckline. One of the year’s most beautiful prints.
The Irene Gardening floral print longline bra was one of Stella’s prettiest items of the year. Stella says she’s coming out with “near-invisible” lingerie next year. I hope that doesn’t mean the end of charming looks like this.
Parisian designer Pôm Sevestre had hands-down the year’s best debut collection, marrying classical French style with some very modern and daring silhouettes like the devilish Lily high-waisted brief/cincher shown here. As the saying goes, this is one to watch.
The directional UK label had a wildly inventive year that included delicate ecru undies, a 60s-inspired suede fringe poncho and this human-hair-and-harness ensemble.
This German label ignores trends, and produced collections this year in bronze, brown and gray colorways with distinctive, futuristic silhouettes. This is their silk jersey Stardust Jumpsuit with dramatic plunging neckline.
How does this clever New York label promote its message of individuality and self-expression? With a wonderful, limited edition series of tanks and undies from their spring collection, imprinted with the designers’ own fingerprints. A point well made.
Intenzioni is still the new kid on the lingerie block in Italy, but you know the big labels are watching them closely, and jealously. This peach gem is from their fall line Dolce Vita.
We could have put a dozen amusing inventions from the erotic superbrand on our best-of list — that’s how good a year AP has had. We’ll settle for just one that shows their flair for the unpredictable: the flesh-tone Lucienne babydoll and pinafore. Yes, they made a freakin’ pinafore!
These beautifully cut, high-waisted silk chiffon Alex knickers come in a color called “passion red” and are meant to give your legs an elongated look. So you’ll look taller lying down? Whatever, this gorgeous new label from Mexico is red-hot in every way imaginable.
VB, the design head for luxury handbag label Delvaux, created this superb, structured emerald/black range for Marie Jo after studying Renaissance nudes. But don’t be fooled by that: with its sharp tailoring and subtle use of control panels, you’re looking at the future of foundations, not the past.
Many labels released vintage-inspired collections this year. The decadent art deco, Broadway Empire-inspired Smoke and Mirrors range from UK designer Michelle Blenkinsopp was easily our favorite.
The Estonian designer gave us many fun, colorful and super-original pieces this year. But we keep coming back to the Diana patent wrap and matching Liisi velour bloomers.
Seems every lingerie label had a lace bodysuit this year, not that we’re complaining. These were two of the most memorable, from two of the world’s most gifted and artistic indie designers: the long-sleeved Ava from Romanian Sarrieri (left) and the sweet Blossom with floral pattern from Lithuania’s Sonata.
Can a light, open-weave linen garment really work as underwear? Of course not. But as a layering piece it looks awesome, as the recent Santa Fe-inspired range from this smart NYC indie label proved.
The French swim and lingerie giant is a trendsetter in both modern fabric use and simple, structured design. The V-cut décolletage on the lace Pandora body, from their spring collection, is a great example of how Eres transforms an ordinary garment into a contemporary classic.
If every woman in the world wore Mimi’s delectable confections, there would be no war, no poverty, no hunger and no recession; we would all be eternally in love. This is the new fluorescent colorway in Mimi’s Panna Cotta series. Try to ignore the brutal photoshopping on the cleavage.
This collaboration between the award-winning UK directional label and the German purveyor of erotic accessories was a thrilling surprise. It combines a playsuit/dress by Lascivious with an ornamental chain, belt and cuffs set from FKink. (Lascivious’ lemony NSFW Tuuli range was another of the year’s highlights, but there’s only so many prizes to go around!)
Canada’s unstoppable indie darling makes lifestyle lingerie that looks and fits like your favorite swimsuit. Which is a shame, because no one will ever want to go skinny dipping again. This buttery beauty is the Mary Jane body from Fortnight’s second collection.
The artistry of the Spanish corset maker seems to have no limits. Among several startling, original collections this year was her Queens of Spain series of corsets and dresses digitally imprinted with Renaissance portraits, and worn famously by Lady Gaga. An exceptional artistic statement.
Always full of surprises, Damaris brought out the jeweled, silk tulle Pannetoni line in poppy pink this fall. Bright, simple, unforgettable.
The tireless Fleur is a wizard with color and produced several memorable silk ranges in 2011, including the Iconic collection, which made black silk seem new. This image shows another side of Fleur, the very contemporary Electric blue range.
The unlined wireless Tremblant bra offers a fetching eyelet pattern and a tiny mint bow in front. From the New York designer’s spring collection of styles inspired by foreign destinations.
The Italian luxury label produced a wonderful set of very romantic wraps and coverups, including the lovely Fargo poncho shown here. The fingerless Providence gloves make for nice matched set.
This big, billowing tulle skirt added to Myla’s popular Nicole range reminds us that a boudoir can also be a performance space. At least it should be.
And now for something completely different: a lingerie collection inspired by traditional chef’s uniforms, courtesy of the Brazilian brand best known for its erotic offerings. Funny, clever and (dare we say it?) saucy.
This DIY indie label is growing like crazy and winning hearts around the world. Colorful and kittenish looks in some very original silhouettes. This is the sheer chiffon Poppy English Rose silk cami and briefs with pompoms. Meow!
The Rue des Desmoiselles catsuit was just one of many shocking erotic gems from this unabashed French label. Is it just me, or is getting really hot in here?