We have long had a low-key lingerie dispute; he would give me delicate pieces that were unsupportive and—how to say this—shifted. He eventually granted my request for brands like Hanro, in practical black and nude, but every so often I'd receive a gift of his true preference, lacy, silky, lushly coloured, French.
I knew what to expect at Sokol, so at first said I would not even window shop. But in Paris, just as you might eat a butter-fragrant croissant that you'd pass up at home, a woman gets caught up in a glow of indulgence. I had already swooned over couture lingerie in Carine Gilson's window, where, I learned, George Clooney shops. (I briefly entertained an image of Clooney in a silk jacquard negligée.)
Sabbia Rosa are next door; several of their signature silk camisoles are in my drawer.
On the aptly-named Rue des Dames, we walked past the atelier of Louise Feuillère, whose bespoke lingerie, including corsets, offer a world antithetical to Spanxy shapewear. It is open by appointment only, and I demurred, saying that if I entered, I'd inevitably order, and the pieces did not suit everyday life.
Mme. Feuillère offers a number of lingerie workshops for sewists, and that would interest me. Imagine building a trip to Paris around learning to make such confections!
One morning, hooking my plain beige Olga, I had a change of heart. A poll of two French girlfriends I saw on the trip confirmed that I was lingerie-dowdy. One wears Aubade, Simone Perele, and Princesse Tam-Tam (she is very small-busted); the other is devoted to Ères.
I was (at that point) decidedly under budget for the trip, so decided to up my game, went to Sokol, received expert, efficient fitting, and returned home with a Conturelle bra and slip, setting me back about $200 because you simply must match. But I have to say, that beautiful, supportive bra lifts not only my bosom but my spirits.
It is not for nothing that Paris has lingerie shops on nearly every corner, and even department stores carry prestige brands. There are three distinct levels: Plenty of inexpensive foam-formed bras at Etam and at Monoprix; then the boutiques, with better-to-high-end brands (Empreinte, Simone Perele, Lise Charmel, Rosy, etc.), and at the seductive summit, the luxury bespoke boutiques mentioned above.
Mid-priced is harder to find; department stores offer a smattering of brands like Calvin Klein, but not once did I see a floor with a sea of Olga, Bali or Warners like I'm used to here.
I also looked for a branch of Change, the Danish lingerie brand whose shop offers pretty pieces for less than French or other European makers. But they have no boutiques in France, which may mean they know competition when they see it.