by Daughter Fish

Last Monday, on a pure procrastinator’s impulse, I ended up at a Hanky Panky sample sale in Chelsea. There were many other things I should have been doing that morning, but like most women, I can’t resist the siren call of a good sale—especially when it involves my favorite brand of undies. Now, if you’ve lived in or visited New York, you probably know the nervous kind of energy that can accompany these events. It’s a little bit like a race, where the standard social rules, like being polite, are laid aside. It reminds me of a high school cross country race I once ran, when a coach at the overcrowded starting line yelled, “Use your elbows, ladies!” Useful advice (albeit totally depraved) for any high school race and any New York sample sale.

The first sign that I should have turned back was the line, stretching down the sidewalk, just to get into the sale. I stayed because I saw bins overflowing with Hanky Panky classic stretch thongs, in dozens of crazy-awesome colors, beckoning from behind the front window. After 30 minutes waiting to get to the front of the line, I figured this must be a good sale, as I could now see hundreds of women riffling through racks of lace nighties, tanks, slips, and other delicacies. I smiled smugly, imagining walking away with a huge bag of loot that might stock my lingerie drawer for years to come.

The self-congratulatory smile soon faded, though, when I actually got inside. The prices were not as low as I’d hoped ($12 to $15 for undies, half the price of retail, but not the $5 a piece I’d imagined), and some women had been waiting 40 minutes to get the signature thongs, which they’d ordered from a team of Hanky Panky elves, who fetched them from the bins near the front windows. Once I started actually handling the goods, I found the lace scratchy, the cuts a little frumpy, and the prices not quite awesome enough. Disappointment soon turned to anger over a wasted morning. I looked around the room, as if a gauze had been lifted from my eyes: what the hell was a woman with a serger and the ability to rub off a pattern doing here? I left the building, empty handed.

Now, up until this point, I’d only flirted with the idea of making my own lingerie. I’ve been lusting after Amy’s beautiful Rosy Ladyshorts, loving the creations Maddie has been cooking up, and regularly check in on Ohhh Lulu’s fun designs. But up until Monday, this seemed like a game for other girls. Now, though, I realized I wanted to make my own underroos, just to prove that I could (and hopefully do it for less than $12 a pop). I gathered the few supplies I needed, some stretch lace and cotton jersey, and pulled out a pair of Hanky Pankys I’ve had for a few years, and got to work.

On my materials gathering trip to the garment district, I’d been a bit disappointed in the variety of stretch lace I found—mostly it was just white and black, with a smattering of other, mostly unattractive colors. I figured I’d stick with white, for both the lace and jersey, in case I wanted to try dyeing them later. After actually starting to sew, I realized I had a stash of stretch lace procured from my grandmother’s sewing room, which accounts for the pink and purples up top.

I got almost the right fit on the first try, but the second pair was even better, with the flattering fit of store-bought pankies (I like how the stretch lace doesn’t bite into the flesh of my hips).

All told, the white undies probably cost about $5 a pop. The pattern takes just a sliver of jersey, but the the stretch lace was about $4.50 a yard. However, when I used Grandma’s lace, the cost came down to practically nothing but time—which wasn’t much, once I got the pattern right.

I used a scrap of stretch mesh/lace for this black-and-purple number, and finished the leg openings with the same lace as the waistband. Now I’m on the hunt for more laces, and better prices, and I think I’ll be trolling Amy’s source suggestions for the Rosy Ladyshorts to find more materials.

My big question starting out was would the time/money equation be worth it for making my own hanky knockoffs. So far, I’d say yes. I think I’ll say HELL YES if I can find more exciting laces to work with. Of course, when it comes to making one’s own lingerie, I realize I’m shooting sort of low in terms of what I could be making.  There’s a whole world of luxurious fabrics to explore, and my mind wanders to the exquisite lingerie I used to gawk at  in  shop windows when I lived in France. I already sense a dangerous kind of addiction on the horizon.

So I’m curious, how many of you out there are knocking off your favorite undies at home? And if I were to make a PDF of this pattern, would you want it?