“I can have an ordinary day or an extraordinary one.” Author Kathryn Kemp-Griffin said about what seeing her first French bra reminds her of.
When do you buy lingerie? For Valentine’s Day? A romantic getaway? A big date with a new lover? Your birthday, or even for your man’s birthday? We splurge on lingerie for special occasions. But the point made in Paris Undressed is that French women purchase and wear lingerie any and every old day, no special occasion (read: sex) required. Just as the French have a joie de vivre with food & drink, they do too with lingerie. It’s about being enveloped in luxury all the time, appreciating top quality against your skin, and loving yourself enough to feel pampered everyday.
Although in her comparisons, she refers to American women/consumers, I’d like to think Canadian born Kemp-Griffin meant to include Canadians too, so I will say North American women. We’re all about the huge lingerie chains in North America, with the BOGO way of shopping. Personally, I don’t shop at “big box stores” for bras, because I don’t care for all those flimsy uncomfortable materials, and see the quality isn’t meant to last. But I admit to being too intimidated to walk into a small upscale shop. The happy medium I choose is department stores, and occasionally, online.
When you buy a new bra, do you also pick up the matching panty? Right – there is no matching panty. So many bras in North America are sold on their own. We don’t (can’t?) match our underwear all the time. (Unless, of course, it’s a “special occasion” ) The French not only insist on matching, but consider it an art. French women wouldn’t dépareillé, mismatch, unless it’s purposeful and with great flair, as Kemp-Griffin explained.
I enjoyed contemplating what effect the advent of feminism may have had on women’s underwear. Did we stop succumbing to the trappings of seduction at the cost of denying ourselves the pleasure of lovely lingerie? Simplicity took over in the 1970’s, and froufrou was frowned upon. Modern day boy shorts and granny panties are certainly non sensual names for underwear. Being so used to having no details or extras on tshirt bras, and keeping it simple & casual with seamless panties, it was interesting to read about fibres and lace, and their impact on the wearer.
I learned about sister sizes, and know now why my very good quality Calvin Klein bra that I bought in my usual size doesn’t fit. The idea of going through your collection and saying au revoir or bonjour is right up my alley. I’m one for, at the beginning of the year, clearing out. I have purged 8 bras! Now, to replenish with proper fitting beauties…
You have to love the French way of silhouette defining. They took away referring to our shapes as fruit like pears and apples, and instead gave us visually appealing names such as O for ooh la la and V for va va voom. It is helpful to read lingerie suggestions for every figure accompanied by Paloma Casile’s pretty illustrations in the aptly titled chapter Hide & Peek. There’s even a panty pattern for the creative design types, as well as a chapter on creating your own lingerie journal. To close the book, you’ve got a helpful expanded glossary, a French brands listing, and a guide to Parisian boutiques.
I felt like I was there on the walk Kemp-Griffin described in her first month in Paris, and could understand how she became involved in the world of lingerie. Kemp-Griffin’s company Paris Lingerie Tours provides tours of French lingerie boutiques to help women receive a “renewed sense of femininity, confidence and elegance.”
Give yourself a Valentine of Paris Undressed, and I’ll bet, the next thing you know, you’ll be revamping your lingerie drawer.
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Until next time,