Working in fashion for most of my life, one of the areas that gave me the greatest joy was lingerie. I’ve always adored vintage pieces, the beautiful peach satin slips and knickers from the 30s and 40s, the louche floral kimonos (think Sally Bowles in Cabaret), the Bettie Page black corsets and satin bras of the 50s.
When I worked at Vogue, the lingerie shoots were my favourite – the then-senior fashion editor would invite me into the stockroom to help her edit the best pieces from the sky-high piles that had been called in. It was my piece of heaven. So it’s a strangely inevitable twist of fate I now find myself all these years later as a partner in a new luxury lingerie retail website, Porte à Vie.
All of a sudden, I am a professional lingerie buyer. And haven’t I learnt a thing or two fast. That is, the world can divide into two distinct types – those who wear G-strings and those who don’t. I’m the nana-pant aficionado; I love a high waisted brief, even better if it has a control panel. I think they are really sexy in that sassy showgirl kind of way (put a pair of fishnet stocking with them and look out).
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Luckily I have a 20-year-old colleague who also sees the allure in a tie-at-the-side string brief. We have both discovered the joy of bodysuits, those one-piece wonders that hold everything in place, while looking incredibly provocative under a shirt. And no one interesting doesn’t like a silk kimono.
So this week, to my great delight, I found myself in Paris at the International Lingerie Exposition. Yes, the couture is also on, but I was far more excited to hop into an Uber, walk through the pouring rain and dive into the expo, with hundreds of lingerie exhibitors under one overheated fluoro-lit roof.
There are definite trends in lingerie, such as the bralette that’s been around for a while, consisting of little pieces of lace attached to dental floss, and about as useful as a nipple pasty for those bigger than a B-cup.
I don’t know what I was expecting; perhaps a bunch of Victoria’s Secret models looming towards me dressed as Aphrodite in jewelled G-strings, but what I found was a strong dose of reality. Lingerie designers seem to focus on designing for women, and not so much for the male gaze.
There was very little tacky red stuff, or over complicated corsets and bras that leave you trussed up like a rolled turkey roast. Friendly models were wandering around in bras, briefs and high heels, normal-sized women with thighs and tummies and a bit of cellulite. The great news is that the high-waisted brief is a definite thing, and not in a Bridget Jones way – they are in lace, and sheer mesh, and velvet and silk, with gorgeous matching bras.
Almost every exhibitor was quick to mention they are introducing larger sizes and bigger cups in the fashion area, something well-endowed women have been requesting for years. But don’t worry gentlemen; there was tons of sexy stuff. It’s just a lot more comfortable and realistic now. Win win.