Disclosure: The lingerie in this review was either purchased by me or received as personal gifts. All opinions are my own.
One of the problems with being immersed in the lingerie industry for so long is that you get desensitized. It’s difficult to feel excited about new designs. Very little appears original or innovative once you’ve literally seen thousands of pieces of lingerie. More often than not, I get my kicks from the stitch quality of garments, rather than the actual design.
With that in mind, it’s a pretty big deal when I say Maude Nibelungen is one of the most incredible intimates designers I’ve seen during my time in the industry. Her creations turned all of my lingerie expectations on their head. This isn’t machine sewn or glued lingerie; it’s hand-knitted.
I’ve seen a few examples of knit lingerie before, but it never really caught my attention. Knitty Kitty’s designs are cute and cosy. Strumpet & Pink’s ‘Mimi Gone High & Fluffy’ knickers are an over-the-top confection of lingerie art. But I could never see myself coveting or wearing those designs.
However, when TLA posted Maude’s ‘Bleu Nuit’ lookbook, I fell in love with everything. The designs not only gel with my personal aesthetic (which I like to describe as ‘lingerie goth’), but are also incredibly versatile, working both as underwear and outerwear.
Over the last couple of years, I’ve managed to acquire a sizeable collection of Maude’s work, and I remain enamoured with it all. Normally when I review lingerie, I give a detailed breakdown of the garment’s construction, but with Maude’s creations, I find myself at odds.
These garments aren’t cut and sewn from fabric. They are knitted by hand. I still can’t get my head around that or the amount of time and care required to create these designs.
These days, it’s difficult to find any clothing in the fashion industry with this level of hand craftsmanship. It frankly blows my mind that every single garment created by the brand is literally handknit by the designer.
All garments are made to order and available in US sizes 0-14 or custom sizing upon request. Most styles are available in several colourways, with custom colors also available upon request. However, Maude Nibelungen’s online shop is currently closed (although it should be opening later this year). In the meantime, she is currently sharing projects and knit patterns through Patreon.
The ‘Alice’ crop top and knickers are probably my favourite and most worn pieces. The crop top, in particular, is perfect for layering with outerwear. It looks incredible layered over strappy bras and under silk camisoles. The set is one of the more fitted designs available.
The yarn is made from mercerised cotton, which is soft and washes well. The full set retailed at $300 CAD ($235 USD) and was available in pink or black yarn with a choice of gold, silver or black elastic.
My body measurements fall in between standard sizes, so my set was made to measure. The knit design on these pieces is particularly open and organic. It incorporates deliberate slipped stitches across the body with contrasting, tightly-knitted fitted bands at the waist and neckline. The fit is tight, without being constricting.
The body of the knit has a small amount of stretch and skims the body with elasticated bands at the neck and waist cinching in the garment. The elastic at the neckline isn’t as soft against the skin as the main cotton yarn, so is something to consider for individuals with sensitivity issues.
I was particularly impressed with how the leg line of the knicker fit tightly to the body without cutting in. In most sewn lingerie, knicker legs are elasticated and tend to be a bit too tight on my pear-shaped figure. The knicker gusset is a much tighter knit than the body of the garment, so it still feels secure to wear. Both garments have held up well to hand washing and look like new.
‘Jean’ is a knitted reimagining of the step-in, a type of all-in-one lingerie garment that gained popularity in the 1920/30s. It retailed at $535 CAD ($418 USD) and was available in black or pink cotton yarn. I love how faithful Maude’s design is to the original vintage inspiration, with its unfitted body and loose crotch.
Given so much contemporary lingerie is focused on fitting and shaping the body contours, it’s refreshing to find a garment doing precisely the opposite. It’s an incredibly comfortable piece, perfect for lounging and sleep. It’s one of the tighter knitted designs, but still has a wonderful sheerness.
It’s a seamless design with the body knitted as one piece. The shoulder straps are crocheted, and can be adjusted with bows at the shoulders. There was also an option to have a criss cross crochet side detail or additional back tie.
‘Billie’ is a body skimming babydoll in an exquisitely soft silk/bamboo yarn. It originally retailed for $195 CAD ($152 USD) and was available in black and pink. This is probably one of the more challenging Maude designs to actually wear. The cut is very side boob revealing, with an incredibly low cut at the garment sides. But the low cut gives this piece such exquisite lines around the entire body; the way it traces around the hip into a narrow racerback is so beautiful. One of the many downsides of fast fashion is designers often consider only the front of a design, as this is what’s most likely to sell the garment. It’s a rare treat to find design considering the body as a whole.
My babydoll does have a couple of skipped stitches in its body, but it doesn’t bother me as it highlights these garments are crafted by hand. It’s one of the few instances where an imperfection is actually a positive feature.
My favourite feature of this design is the tasselled hem. Maude’s work has to be worn to be truly appreciated: photos and words can’t replicate the physical sensation of wearing these garments, and the very fact that knitwear is so tactile.
The yarn is beautifully soft, and the fringe has a wonderful way of brushing lightly against the body (a detail that reminds me somewhat of Made By Niki’s famed ‘fringe’ collections). Wearing lingerie is ultimately a physical and sensual experience. I love how this design embraces that with considered choice of fabric and garment movement.
Knit lingerie won’t be everyone’s cup of tea. It’s certainly a lot higher maintenance than something like a cotton jersey pair of briefs. You have to take extra care when dressing and undressing. A stray piece of jewellery can easily snag on a piece of yarn and pull a stitch out, which although fixable, is a fiddly process. You can’t throw these pieces in the washing machine or dryer without causing serious damage. In my eyes, the designs and wearing experience certainly warrant any extra care they might need.
I could wax lyrical about the rest of my Maude Nibelungen collection for a lifetime (the silk-mohair yarn in the Lola chemise is so light and soft it makes me want to cry; the curves in the Bleu Nuit minidress are the perfect match for corsets, and the over the knee socks are basically the ultimate graphic hosiery), but it would save us all time to simply say… Maude Nibelungen’s work is a lingerie treasure. It’s so rare to find truly hand-crafted clothing these days. I feel incredibly lucky to have all of these pieces in my lingerie collection already, and hope to add many more in the future.