Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Learning Lingerie: The Bra in Brief

The first bra I ever had was, well... not very fun.

If you keep up with our blog and know anything about Poupee Russe, you know I've got an uncontrollable obsession with all things pretty, lacy, colorful and embellished. That obsession didn't start at adulthood, so naturally when my mother took me to buy my first bra, it was an experience ripe with disappointment and shattered hopes. Plain cotton? UGH. My very unreasonable (or so I thought at that moment) mother wasn't having her daughter swathed in satin and lace at such a young age. And at that young age, how could I comprehend the reasons?

We each have our own tales to tell about buying our first brassiere. The experience is a rite of passage for the modern female, signaling her entry into womanhood.

Early Minoan women wearing bra-like garments (via)

Surprisingly, the bra (in some form or another) has been a part of a woman's wardrobe for quite some time. Early Minoans are believed to have used a bra-like device to compress and support the breasts of female athletes. Art among the ruins of Pompeii shows women wearing bandeau style tops. Another bra-like device arose during the Ming Dynasty, and was worn by wealthier women. Later, in the 16th to 19th centuries, corsets dominated the shaping of the bustline in western cultures. The bra we know and love first became commonplace in the early 20th century and began to be mass produced in the 1930's as steel shortages encouraged the demise of the corset. Short chemises (what closest resembles a modern day bralette) were also worn in the 1920's as part of a woman's undergarment or sleepwear. Our modern concept of the cup construction became commonplace in the 1910's. (via)

A few fun tidbits:
  • According to a survey of bra size conducted by Triumph, the UK has the highest percentage of D cup sizes (57%) out of 10 other European countries.
  • In 2000, the average bra size of American women was 36C. It is now 36E. (via)
  • The idea of the cup size was invented in 1935. (via)
  • The most popular bra color is white.
  • Some bras consist of 40 or more parts (in the case of Prima Donna - 50!) to assemble.
Got questions for us about lingerie? Ask away!

Monday, March 21, 2011

Learning Lingerie: The Bottom Line

Call them what you like: panties, knickers, drawers, underpinnings... There's no doubt that a great pair of bottoms can make or break an outfit. We've come a long way from Victorian ladies, who sported open-crotch drawers under their massive skirts. While that sounds downright scandalous, the open drawers served a very useful purpose: the ability for the wearer to use the restroom without having to take off the layers of hoopskirts and petticoats dictated by fashion norms. No longer do long underwear or stiff starched drawers play a part in the average person's wardrobe. Today we bask in the glory of microfiber, stretch lace, elastic and other wonders of the modern world. You can get your bottoms seamless, tagless and embellishment-less if you so choose.

But how do you choose? There are a myriad cuts to select from when it comes to picking up your most intimate of apparel. Consider this post a little knickers decoder to help you navigate the styles in our store!

  • Thong - The thong was one of the first pieces of clothing worn by humans - believed to be mostly men. A thong bottom has a minimally covered back. The waistband and back structure usually consist of at least a 1" strap of fabric, giving more coverage than a g-string, but generally less than a tanga. Because of their backless structure, thongs, tangas and g-strings are ideal for wearing under slinkier cuts of clothing where a panty line might be seen. Lines like Hanky Panky have made the lace thong and tanga a wardrobe staple for many women.
  • Tanga - Sometimes this term is used interchangeably with thong. Tanga usually implies a larger portion of fabric at the seat. Tangas are the midpoint in coverage between a thong and a cheekier cut boyshort. This is a great style for someone who wants the look of a thong but with a little more coverage. Because many tangas don't have elastic at the seat's bottom hem, they do a great job of eliminating panty lines.
  • G-String - Sometimes this term is used interchangeably with thong. While the origins of the term g-string are not known, it's speculated that "g" may stand for groin, which was a taboo word at the g-string's inception. A g-string is exactly what it sounds like, a thong with the most minimal posterior coverage possible. The back portion can consist of as little as, well, strings, or have a small triangle of fabric at the center back.
  • Bikini - Some of our French brands refer to this style as a slip and many people simply refer to it as a panty. From higher-waisted to daringly low cuts, this category of bottoms is probably the most expansive in terms of style. Modern bikini bottoms typically sit at about hip level and are fashioned entirely in lace or fabric. Often, the leg holes and waistband are elasticized. Bikinis are a comfortable staple with a lot of room for embellishment, and a decent amount of coverage for those of us who feel a bit more modest. While bikinis are great for wear in a day-to-day situation, they're known for creating the dreaded panty line, so they're not ideal for wear under slimmer fitting garments.
  • Brief - In general, briefs offer more coverage than bikinis, but it's not uncommon to see the two terms used interchangeably. Briefs usually are cut higher on the waist and therefore have a retro feel to them. For that reason, many brands have brought briefs back after years of focusing on uber-low cuts. Hence, we've seen some very beautiful manifestations of this style in the past few years. Control brief styles are great for those who want a little bit of shaping.
  • Boxer - While boxers are most associated with men's undergarments, we have to say that we love the comfort and cozy cut of a good pair of boxer shorts! This particular style is much roomier than a bikini, and offers about as much coverage as a brief. A true boxer short is more of a loungewear piece, but we've seen a few truly beautiful lingerie boxers now and then. Because this style is intended to be worn in a more casual setting, it's not advisable to wear a pair under clothing. The roomy fit will most definitely lead to excess bunching when paired with a slim pair of jeans!
  • Boyshort - This term is sometimes used interchangeably with boxer, and it's no wonder, as the boyshort is simply a variation of the boxer style. Also referred to as tap pants, boyshorts are usually low-rise and can offer different amounts of coverage in the back. This style generally offers more posterior coverage than a bikini, but that's not always the case, as some boyshorts show more cheek than others! This style is another that helps to negate the panty line issue found with bikinis.
For each lingerie collection we receive, we get up to three different styles of bottoms. What's great about every cut listed above is that each has its own more casual incarnations, as well as fancier ones. No matter what your shape, your budget, your mood or your lingerie style, you're sure to find something you like, and as always, we're happy to help!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Learning Lingerie: Humble Beginnings

When it comes to my personal lingerie stash, my basics are not basic and my simple everyday bottoms are anything but. Instead of plain white, I revel in pinks and reds. Instead of modesty, I covet peek-a-boo cuts. Cotton jersey is an endangered species in my lingerie drawer, and while that may not be the case for every woman, it's just fine with me.

All that considered, it's hard to imagine a time when lingerie was considered strictly utilitarian. The term lingerie comes from the french word linge, meaning linen or washables. Hundreds of years ago, it was rare to wash ones outer clothes, so undergarments (commonly made of linen) were an easy-to-launder protective layer both for the wearer and the clothing.

Typical Chemise, English, 1851 from V&A Museum

Such pragmatic applications may not seem all that fun, but consider this: In times that lacked today's technology and germaphobic sensibilities, staying clean was the best way to avoid illness. As regular bathing and laundering fell more into practice, lingerie's emphasis shifted, first to the fashionable shaping of the body (through, for example, corsetry), and then to seduction. To this day, we continue to don undergarments for protection, but the divide between utility and beauty has been bridged.

Today lingerie is not only utilitarian, but beautiful. At times it's even avant garde! We've been proud to carry some truly edgy pieces from designers like Andres Sarda, while still stocking our shop with the feminine simplicity of brands like Nina Ricci and Huit.

We're excited to bring a new facet to our blog: Learning Lingerie. Each week we'll bring you stories from the land of lace and loveliness, teaching precious bits of knowledge about fit, construction and history.

Got questions about anything lingerie related? Let us know here!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Big or Small, We've Got It All

Just as certain cuts of a similar dress will look vastly different on two separate body types, certain styles of underpinnings will cater differently to two varying shapes. We've fitted just about every body shape there is, so we know firsthand that a bra designed for an A cup will not do wonders for someone who has an E cup. The same logic applies in reverse as well.

There is no such thing as an unusual size in our neck of the woods, so just because you're a chesty or need an additional boost, it doesn't mean you're relegated to tee shirt bras or have to settle for something that pinches, puckers or bunches. Come take a look at what's in store - some of our favorite brands have ushered in some lovely spring collections. We're sure you won't be disappointed!

Prima Donna Twist White Night Balconnet (Mistral Blue), $117

Twist is Prima Donna's diffusion line. It has all the support and construction of a traditional Prima Donna bra at a lower cost. Twist's colors and cuts are youthful, flirtatious and fun, as evidenced by their newest addition to our store, the White Night collection. The beautiful balconnet cut is perky and uplifting and the microfiber cups are smooth and soft. The beautiful embroidery adds a touch of decadence to a bra that is sure to be your uber-supportive everyday go-to.

Prima Donna Twist White Night Thong (Mistral Blue), $44

The White Night collection also features a coordinating thong and boxer. Both feature the bra's lovely embroidery and make a gorgeous eye-catching set.

Little Bra Company Mercedes Padded Bra & Thong (Blush), $87 & $29

For those among you who want a little extra boost, there's The Little Bra Company. Their motto "Good things DO come in small packages!" is spot on. Every bra they make has been a massive hit with our more petite clientele, and it's no wonder. A LBC bra is specifically designed for girls who need a little oomph and no other aspect (not construction, style or durability) is sacrificed. Their newest collection, the Mercedes, is a perfect springtime addition to our store.

Little Bra Company Mercedes Thong (Blush), $29

The Mercedes bra features padded seamed cups and a stretch lace that's silky soft. The coordinating thong has a sweet corset detail on the back - a reminder that the little things really do matter!

Long story short, chers amis, big or small, we've got it all! Come visit us and bring some brights to your underwear wardrobe!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

A Pop of Papaya!

Did you hear that San Francisco actually got snow last week? Yes, amis, it's true! The city saw its first flurries since the 70's! With that news, we couldn't help but sink lower into our coziest pajamas. The weather has everyone feeling a little blue, but that doesn't mean tropical vacations can't be had right here on the home front.

Selmark Noelia Molded Cup & Thong (Papaya), $97 & $42

Here's what I'm proposing: crank up the thermostat, break out the blender and pina colada mix, and pop your favorite 60's beach movie in your DVD player. Why not pick up Selmark's new Noelia collection while you're at it? It's the perfect distraction from the grey days, and the ideal vacation we've all been yearning for!

Selmark Noelia Brief (Papaya), $57

The Noelia collection is basic by design, fancy by embellishment! It features Selmark's coveted molded cup bra, whose embroidery is low relief so you can wear it easily under thinner tops. The collection also boasts a sweetly embroidered brief and thong. The rich papaya color looks great on everyone, so don't be shy about letting a bra strap peek out from underneath a black tank.

Come check out this anticipated new arrival before it's all gone! And if you do decide to wear it around your toasty house, tropical drink in hand, you might want to throw on some cozy wool socks for good measure. Don't worry. We won't tell anyone!