First, women wore animal hides to cloak their sexy, naked bodies. Then came corsets, those tightly-laced 18th century undergarments that gave birth to the hourglass ideal. Bras were big for a while, until we burnt said bras, then bought new, nicer bras. And now there is Angela Friedman, a designer who represents the pinnacle of lingerie’s evolution. But while the design of a woman’s intimates has always been a hyper-feminine facet of fashion, it’s cyclical. With Angela Friedman’s recently-launched Versailles Collection, we’re seeing a modern take on great underwear of the past. Think Marie Antoinette, but with a lot more skin.
Friedman honors style as much as she does history. “I do focus a lot on trends, even though my work is primarily inspired by vintage styles,” she says. The Versailles Collection, launched in June, is a silky, lacy, ruffled line of vintage-inspired corsets, slips, robes, bras, panties, and more, all made by hand in New York’s garment district.
“My love for lingerie comes from a lifelong interest in vintage clothing and the way the right clothing can make a woman feel confident and strong,” says Friedman. “I really want to offer women the chance to feel like they’re living the fairytale romance of the ballet.” And, as the head of the ladies’ department of the New York City Ballet costume shop for the past several years, she’s capable of doing just that. But while it’s every little girl’s dream to be Clara from The Nutcracker, the idea of wearing a historically-accurate whalebone corset is slightly less thrilling.
“It can be a delicate balance,” she says. “But in the end, most modern women want to wear something that has the elegance of vintage clothing without the exact replication.” To strike this happy medium, Friedman incorporates modern silk fabrications that contain Lycra and spandex for movability into her designs, maintaining the desired aesthetic while enhancing comfort and durability. “All of my lingerie pieces are built to last,” she says. “If a ballerina can put it through the abuse of eight shows a week, then it will definitely withstand day-to-day wearing.”
Creations from The Versailles Collection can be found on Friedman’s website or in Greenwich Village’s high end lingerie boutique, La Petite Coquette. And be sure to save some space in the top drawer for a few Valentine’s Day delicates this February, when Friedman plans to show her upcoming line, which features an emphasis on steel grey, European pink, and metallic hues.