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By Theadora Brack in Paris—
Cozy up because this week we’re going lingerie shopping in Paris. Lightweight and affordable, they’re my favorite souvenirs. Truth be bold, if buying dozens of French slips and strings is wrong, I don’t want to be right!
But first things first, let’s prepare for our voluptuous quest. Looking for discounts? Schedule your trip during either the big January or July sale periods. Also, know your European size numbers. Upon your arrival, start looking for lingerie billboards. It’s an easy, breezy way to figure out what you like and don’t like. Plus, it’s free.
So without further ado, here are six of my favorite hunting grounds for lingerie. From the grand magasins to the bargain bins of Montmartre, all budgets are covered here. Plus, I’ve asked a few of my Parisian friends to drop the names of their pet brands and shops, along with a few tips.
1. Department stores
Shake the jetlag blues away with a little browsing at Galeries Lafayette. Its entire third floor, a.k.a. “Seductive Fashion” is dedicated to lingerie and hosiery, and yes, it’s got the goods to back up its name. With a dazzling slew of French brands, you’ll be able to cover a lot of ground without a great deal of wear’n’tear on your heels. I personally like shopping here because the no-pressure staff gives me space to browse and dream.
Every once in a while, I’ll treat myself to an exquisite piece by century–old Aubade and Galeries Lafayette’s very own alluring house brand. Here you’ll also find Erès—my friend Anne’s favorite brand. “Cozy,” is how the discerning book designer succinctly described her decades-old French staple. Erès’ bathing suits also boast all-natural construction. You won’t find any uncomfortable high wire acts here, Cheapos.
2. Old-school lingerie shops
Are you in need of individual attention or a bra fitting? Well then, trek it to one of the independently owned lingerie and hosiery shops. My former beau (and now my husband) purchases special little sweet-nothing gifts at the Corsetry boutique Claverie at 234 rue du Faubourg Saint-Martin, near Metro Louis-Blanc.
In business since 1860, Josephine Baker and Mistinguett are just a few of the starlets who frequented the former corset showroom. Art Nouveau stained glass and curved staircases abound! These small classic French institutions are slowly becoming extinct, so while the sheer fun of it lasts, take a browse!
3. Chain, chain, chain
Trendy French chains also stock tantalizing collections. Musician Cat Masson didn’t miss a beat when I quizzed her about her favorite lingerie lines. “I love Etam and Oysho, too! Princesse Tam Tam is really nice—a little pricy but worth it! Here’s my secret. After I wash them in the machine inside a little lingerie bag at 30 to 40 degrees maximum, I hang them until they’re dry. Don’t forget the bag! They’ll last longer.”
4. Like Target?
Well, then you’ll love its French cousin Monoprix. Affordable and hip, the trusty chain also commissions designers to create their collections. My clothes designer friend Ghislaine swears by Monoprix’s house brand of lingerie. “It’s affordable and good quality. And pretty too! Some I have had for ages! So long that the tags have become unreadable.”
Rue de Rennes is a prime Cheapo hunting ground for lingerie. Here the brands to spy for are Monoprix (50), Valege (146) and Darjeeling (152), along with Cat’s picks: Etam (135-139), and Princesse Tam Tam at 53 rue Bonaparte, located just a hop, slip and jump from the Rennes Metro stop.
5. Bargain bin bliss
And squeaking of historic buildings, don’t leave Paris without experiencing the bargain bins of Sympa at 62 Boulevard de Rochechouart. A Cheapo haven, it now occupies a part of “le bal de l’Elysée Montmartre,” where the famed Can Can star (and favorite muse of Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec) La Goulue made her racy debut!
Here at Sympa, Etam, Petit Bateau, and Unzies sit pretty on the outside, while Chantelle and Huit hold court inside. My book editor friend Annelise recommends Petit Bateau. A century-old institution, she said, “For me, the “touch” of the clothes is pure cotton, simple looks, and a sweet taste of childhood.”
Located near Sympa you’ll find the shops of Pigalle. Whether you’re in the market for false eyelashes, custom-made corsets, or Nancy Sinatra-worthy go-go latex boots, they’ve got you covered both night and day. I’d kick off my search at either Secrets Pigalle on 62 Boulevard de Clichy or Rebecca Rils at 76 Boulevard de Clichy. Kitty corner to the pair of shops is the Moulin Rouge. There are lots of distractions, so look both ways before crossing!
Cheapos, do you have a favorite lingerie shop in Paris?