Buy Some Crotchless Panties & Prove the Haters Wrong
Belle de Nuit’s bespoke and risqué lingerie promotes inclusive sizing — and respect for sex workers.
Consider it foreplay. Los Angeles-based brand Belle de Nuit doesn’t deal in instant gratification. Order a sexy lingerie set and it will take somewhere between one and five weeks to arrive. That’s because every piece is made to order — and the anticipation of waiting is all part of the appeal.
In business for just over a year, Belle de Nuit — named after the French term for a sex worker — is unabashedly at the racy end of the market. The online boutique offers strappy, delicate intimates alongside BDSM harnesses. You’ll find panties with pockets for holding crystals, lighters, or anything else you might want to keep close to the body; vintage-inspired bras in sheer lace; and cut-out one-piece teddies in silk. Even in a market where “real women” are increasingly finding their ways into mainstream lingerie campaigns, Belle de Nuit’s imagery still manages to stand out as charmingly real and unfiltered.
If Belle de Nuit is all about making “multifaceted lingerie for multifaceted women,” nobody embodies this more than the brand’s founder, Celina Kimelman. Not only does she sew every stitch herself (at least for now), packing up orders and writing the handwritten notes that accompany each one, but she’ll often step in front of the camera to model the collections, too. The Iranian-Jewish designer regularly wears what she sews and has even been known to bake challah bread in nothing but her lingerie.
For Kimelman, part of the appeal of her designs are that they reject the notion of pigeonholing women.
“This happens to all people, of course, but I think women feel the effects of it in life more often than men,” she told OK Whatever via email. “Growing up, you see and read about these archetypes — the funny girl, the smart girl, the mean girl, etc. But I think we can be full of contradictions.”
So, if you don’t think that you’re the type to wear sexy lingerie then Kimelman has a message for you. “I'm saying, ‘Fuck all the people who think that, girl. Buy some crotchless panties and prove them wrong.’ ”
With this in mind, Kimelman doesn’t design her lingerie for a specific type of person; instead, she’s solving problems many of us have come across when buying bras and panties for ourselves. You’ll find bras for women with wide-set boobs; bodysuits for longer torsos that won’t give you a camel toe; and panties with adjustable straps for your perfect fit. Kimelman has been delighted to find that her customers are turning out to be a pretty diverse bunch as a result.
“My customers are incredible,” she enthused. “They range from professional women in engineering or medical fields to college girls to strippers to working moms. It’s honestly exactly this range that I hoped for before launching. Lingerie is truly for everybody!”
We had this conversation by email because January turned out to be the brand’s busiest month to date. Much of this had to do with Valentine’s Day looming, of course, but Kimelman believed that New Year’s resolutions were at work, too, with women treating themselves to new lingerie as a form of self-care.
“I’ve been staying up ‘til 2 a.m. to 4 a.m. sewing for a week straight now to catch up,” she admitted.
Where other lingerie brands might be coy, Belle de Nuit is refreshingly honest — not least about acknowledging the aesthetic debt that the lingerie industry owes to the sex industry. While she doesn’t claim to be an expert on it, Kimelman is at pains to show her respect for sex work, and to help reduce the negative stigma.
“It's one of those things like size inclusivity that just seems like a no-brainer to me,” she said. “Because of what I do, it feels like my obligation to speak up on it to a degree. Like, you're welcome and loved and supported here.”
Belle de Nuit offers a discount to sex workers, and Kimelman is now mulling a stripper-friendly collection based on feedback from a customer who requested two pairs of panties with added hooks so that she could remove them easily on stage. As the business grows, her ultimate goal is to be able to donate a percentage of the profits to organizations that support people working in the sex industry.
Size inclusivity is another big talking point in lingerie right now, and Kimelman is upfront about this, too. Belle de Nuit currently offers sizes XS to 3XL, and while she’s hoping to extend this to XXS to 5XL, she knows how hard it can be to get the grading (industry speak for sizing) right.
While progress is being made, even Rihanna, whose Savage x Fenty lingerie line has been hailed as a market leader in inclusivity, is not immune from this criticism. The Daily Mail recently took the brand to task for tweaking some of its lingerie designs for larger sizes. “They want us to wear a more covered-up version!” fashion blogger Alysse Dalessandro pointed out on Twitter.
“I'm actually glad you asked about that,” Kimelman said when I brought it up. “Some designs, inherently, are not practical or realistic when worn by bigger, plus sizes. You definitely could make it the same, but then customers would be complaining that their nipples were constantly popping out instead of sitting perfectly in the demi-cup like the C-cup model. [Savage x Fenty] were actually making this design more accessible and wearable for their plus size customers by tweaking it for more coverage. I think that's better than lying and selling them a product that won't fit properly.”
Even so, Belle de Nuit is careful to only offer styles that do work for its full XS to 3XL size range without any design tweaks. “It’s hard!” Kimelman admitted.
Tweaking a design for different sizes is complicated and it takes work, and small brand like hers can’t necessarily afford to hire additional graders. But when it comes to bigger brands, who have the budget and the resources to offer extended size ranges, Kimelman believed “there aren’t really any excuses to be made there.”
Finally, having taken the plunge and put herself in front of the camera, did the designer have any pro tips to starring in your own lingerie shoot? She did. After learning to feel comfortable with it, Kimelman now encourages all her girlfriends to do the same.
“I recommend MacBook Photobooth for beginners (and everyone, to be honest). We love a self-timer. Play your favorite music, light some candles, put on your Belle de Nuit lingerie, practice in the mirror, then get out the camera of your choice.”