Today’s interview is with Norma Loehr, founder of the custom bra company Orange Lingerie. I wanted to interview Norma because I was curious about her experiences with creating custom bras and the fit issues that she tries to solve by creating custom lingerie. I hope you all enjoyed learning about her point of view as much as I did!
What got you interested in lingerie?
I have always loved lingerie. In fact one of my first sewing projects around age 9 was making bikini style underwear. My interest in lingerie was accelerated by the fact that my Wall Street career demanded conservative clothing. I basically had to wear suits and woven shirts on a daily basis. My personality was so out of sync with this “uniform”, not to mention the work, that lingerie became the way I could privately express myself and not feel oppressed by the monotony of formal business attire.
Why did you decide to found “Orange Lingerie”?
Once I took up CrossFit and become more physically developed, finding a bra or even clothing that fit me properly was difficult. Around the same time I read about Madame Cadolle and learned that a custom bra making service existed but I was unable to locate a bra maker closer to home. Since I grew up sewing and designing my own clothes I knew I had the skills to launch my own custom bra making business and I was confident other women would want this service as well.
What do you see as the main advantages of custom lingerie? Is it different between core sizes and DD+ sizes?
The main advantage of a custom bra is that you get proper fit and support from the finished garment. All of my clients fall into the hard to fit category and are truly unable to find bras that fit their body. Most commonly they have a small ribcage paired with a large cup size. My clients just want a bra that fits and don’t usually venture too far out in terms of bra styles.
I have yet to receive a commission from any of the core sizes. There are many beautiful well fitting options for that group.
What are the challenges of making your own lingerie or buying custom?
The challenge of making custom lingerie is perfecting the fit. I grew up sewing so I am very picky about how garments fit. I spend the most time working this out. Even once I have a pattern that fits, if the fabric changes the garment has to be refitted.
For the buyer of custom I think the hardest part is selecting the fabrics and trimmings. I try to present an edited selection but there are so many different components to the bra that all the choices can be overwhelming. In the end most clients select bra styles and fabrications that match my samples.
Do you have any favorite lingerie brands?
My favorite brands are Carine Gilson and Eres. I favor luxurious lingerie with simple, clean style lines. Each brand expresses that in its own unique way.
What’s your go-to source for lingerie information? Any favorite blogs, magazines or books?
Of course I follow The Lingerie Lesbian!
Seriously, I follow pretty much any serious lingerie blog I can find. I most enjoy reading candid product reviews to learn more about what women do and do not like about lingerie pieces to refine my work. I also like reading about what other lingerie designers are making and the challenges they face in producing their garments and their business.For inspiration I look at what Carine Gilson and Eres are making as well as what Journelle and Lille Boutique are stocking. They both present such a great edited collection of pieces.
You told me you were transitioning your company away from making custom bras to empowering and teaching women to make their own bras. What are the advantages of making your own bras? And what tools can you provide to help?
I have a list of the top ten reasons women should sew their own bras here, but compared to buying custom it comes down to cost savings and empowerment.
Custom bras start at $300 due largely to the labor it takes to fit the client and alter their pattern. Many women need a custom solution but simply can not afford it. Sewing your own bra can cost as little as $15. Putting the power of bra making knowledge into as many hands as possible means more women will be able to have a bra that fits and working with custom clients I have seen how a bra that fits increases a woman’s confidence and sense of her own power.