The French do underwear so well that the English adopted their word for it: lingerie. And with Fifty Shades of Grey a runaway best seller soon to hit the silver screen, it’s safe to say that sexy is “in.” Sounds like the perfect time for some serious Paris shopping—the kind that involves looking for souvenirs you won’t want to share with just anyone.
The city is rich with lingerie stores for every budget, in every neighborhood. Some shops feature just one brand, while others are what the French call multi-marques. There is a particularly rich selection of worthwhile addresses in the Saint-Germain neighborhood, straddling the 6th and 7th Arrondissements.
A word of caution about lingerie shopping in Paris: the French really get the importance of starting with the right foundation, which translates to the right size. The bra must fit! It is for this reason that you should not be surprised if a saleswoman grabs your breasts trying to estimate you cup size. Yes, they are your breasts and you’ve been living with them for quite some time, and you think you know your size, but this is France so just go with it. You may end up pleasantly surprised, and with a flattering new fit.
Starting on the rue de Rennes, Oysho is a great stop for fun, easy-to-wear options that follow the latest trends while respecting your pocketbook. Oysho has solutions that are sexy yet practical. Teens love the brand’s affordable prices (bras at 23 euros) and commitment to sustainability, which is evident in its choice of natural tones and bamboo fabrics.
A bit farther up the same street, Etam may be the largest lingerie chain in France, with 4,500 shops in 40 countries, selling everything from grandmotherly fleece bathrobes to lacy wear fit for a mistress, pleasing women (and their partners) of every generation (bras at 30 euros). This is the perfect one-stop shop with something for absolutely everyone.
Around the corner, on the rue de Sèvres, the slightly more expensive (bras at 45 euros) Princesse Tam-Tam has very feminine yet modern designs in fabrics that imitate silk. Its collections change dramatically with every season, featuring young yet elegant styles that make a girl feel sexy, while still being all about comfort. When shopping here, keep in mind how an item will look under clothing, as bold stripes or gathered silk may look great in the bedroom but could cause an awkward silhouette once you’re dressed.
When Inès de la Fressange, author of Parisian Chic, recommends wearing a cardigan with a barely visible lace bra for that discreet, sexy look, I imagine her wearing one of the luxurious silk-and-lace designs from the historic brand Eres, which is around yet another corner on the rue du Cherche Midi. The brand’s underwear (bras at 130 euros) is absolutely gorgeous, incredibly feminine while steadfastly contemporary. And, I have to say, it is the only brand of lingerie whose bras are so comfortable that I am able to forget for the day that I am wearing one!
Just a few doors down is the remarkably original Dutch brand Marlies Dekkers. Famous for supporting bustier gals, like Fergie of the Black Eyed Peas, the lingerie here (bras at 90 euros) is so sexy it is meant to be seen. There’s no lace on these very modern, high-tech designs, but silver chains or medallions are likely to be strategically placed like jewelry, to remind admirers there is a there under there, without being vulgar.
There are two more incredibly sumptuous, luxurious shops just around the corner. One is the haute couture Carine Gilson (bras at 200 euros), a Belgian designer who finds the most exquisite laces and applies them to impeccable silk, dyed in rich jewel tones. The other is Sabbia Rosa (bras at 160 euros), the society girl’s one-stop address for silk underthings for the past 30 years. With more than a dozen different styles in more than 30 tones of silk, you’re sure to find your pleasure. Stars like George Clooney, Madonna and Nicole Kidman certainly have!
Related Links/Info (See websites for locations unless otherwise noted)
73, rue des Saints-Pères, in the 6th Arrondissement. 01 45 48 88 37.
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