Wednesday, March 5, 2014

"Behind the Seams of French Lingerie" with Paris Lingerie Tours

Photo credit: Simone Pérèle

Let's start with a quick survey. Raise your hand if you think that lingerie is a rather silly subject, something that doesn't merit your attention. Even though I'm ashamed to admit it, that's exactly how I felt before the start of Kate Kemp-Griffin's highly informative "Behind the Seams of French Lingerie" tour yesterday morning. When Kate, The Lingerie Journal's Associate Editor for France,  asked why we had signed up for the two-hour tour, I quickly denied any personal interest in the subject by explaining that I was planning to write a blog post about lingerie. It was a misguided attempt to distance myself from what I incorrectly considered to be a frivolous topic.

Lacy panties and frilly bras were part of my twenties and thirties. Not my fifties. Over the past twenty years, boy shorts and sensible skin-toned bras have gradually invaded the front of my underwear drawer while the more alluring undergarments have been consigned to the back. Sure, my black lacy push-up bra with matching panties still makes an appearance on special occasions, but it's no longer what I reach for on a regular basis.

Thanks to Kate's infectious enthusiasm for French lingerie, there has been a seismic shift in my thinking. And, I'm not ashamed to admit it!

Our tour started in the lingerie department of Le Bon Marché, where one of the department store's lingerie buyers demystified the process of shopping for lingerie by introducing us to different brands and styles. We marveled at "2014 Designer of the Year" Andrés Sardá's sophisticated yet sensual collection, Princess Tam Tam's bright, sassy colors and Ysé's seductive lingerie for women with small breasts.

Photo credit: Simone Pérèle

When Simone Pérèle's Creative Director presented the Spring 2014 collection, I knew that I had found my lingerie match. We were invited to feel the woven 3-D fabric that accentuates breasts without adding extra volume while learning about the many components of a bra and all the work that goes into designing one. The 35 bras chosen from amongst the 380 prototypes for each seasonal collection combine comfort, "The best bra is the bra we can't feel", with Parisian style, "Is it elegant enough to be a Simone Pérèle?" The clincher came when Kate showed us the pretty floral embroidery on the Simone Pérèle bra that she was wearing and promised that it's as comfortable as a second skin.

The final stop on our tour was Implicite, a boutique around the corner from Le Bon Marché. It was a real thrill to meet the brand's Creative Director because the vibrant jewel toned colors and exquisite lace designs of the lingerie featured in the window displays always catch my eye whenever I pass by the boutique. Imagine coming up with the idea for a sexy new bra strap while flipping through magazines on a beach in the Caribbean. That's just one of the many stories that the Creative Director shared while talking about the inspiration behind the exciting new collection.

After my intial foray into the intimate world of embroidery and lace, I'm already looking forward to Kate's next "Behind the Seams" tour with WICE.

Kate Kemp-Griffin, the founder of Paris Lingerie Tours, has been living in Paris and working in the lingerie industry since 1990. She is the Associate Editor, France for The Lingerie Journal. She is also the co-founder of Pink Bra Bazaar, a charity dedicated to promoting breast health education and supporting women diagnosed with breast cancer. Passionate about French lingerie, Kate enjoys sharing insights and secrets of the clandestine world of silk and lace. 

Photo credit: Simone Pérèle

6 comments:

  1. Did I ever tell you that I did a speech piece in undergrad all about ladies undergarments? It was awesome. My mom wasn't all that pleased with my topic choice, but then, starting an eight minute talk with a line about a leopard-print thong, well, not very lady-like of me.

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    1. Yes, I remember that you did a speech about undergarments ... but not that it started with a leopard-print thong! ;) I thought of you during the lingerie tour because I remembered that you went for a bra fitting, which was very wise of you. I only determined my bra size by hit and miss purchases.

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  2. Mary Kay, I don't think we have the French soul! Interesting post. I'll include it in my weekly blogger round-up.

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    1. There does seem to be something we're missing, Rosemary. I read the following in Jamie Cat Callan's "Ooh, La, La! French Women's Secrets to Feeling Beautiful Every Day" that perhaps explains our lack of "French soul":

      "So what happened in America? I ask. Why don't we seem to appreciate good lingerie, just for ourselves the way French do? And she [a Frenchwoman who makes made-to-measure lingerie] tells me that she believes that when Europeans immigrated to the New World - a rugged, unsettled place - they had to forget their European roots to survive.

      For a moment, I imagine the first settlers in Plymouth and how the niceties of lingerie and perfume must have seemed so frivolous in the face of frigid winters and starvation..."

      Thanks for including the post in your weekly blogger round-up!

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  3. I am soooo envious. I would love to do this tour and will check it out. I've made a bit of lingerie in my time, including corsets for historical costume, but never a bra. I love the textiles themselves and all the techie details of making a difficult garment fit. I have a friend who's just arrived in Paris, so I will alert her too. I wrote a blog post on bras, using my own lingerie for the photo. Probably tmi.

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