When it comes to French lingerie, there is only one over-arching rule: find what makes you feel good. Because when it comes to that certain “je ne sais quoi” mystique, it doesn’t get any better than feeling comfortable and elegant in your own skin.
It is all about creating that positive energy internally and finding the confidence to prioritize oneself, instead of putting everyone else first. That self-confidence will bring with it a style and allure that is unbeatable.
As with all clothing, finding a chic piece of lingerie that makes you feel luxurious means looking for quality. You are not going to feel fabulous if you are in lingerie that is itchy or uncomfortable.
And while it may be an investment, classic timeless pieces will last much longer than cheap knockoffs. Statistics show that French women spend around 20% of their clothing budget on underwear (link in French).
That might sound like a lot, but I’ve been at friends’ homes often enough to see their laundry (obviously very good friends!), to know anecdotally that those statistics ring true. The price may be expensive but it is worth it. So give yourself permission to buy something just for yourself.
Now, even if you are not in Paris to rush off to the Bon Marché and purchase a suitcase full of lingerie, you can still pick up a few good items with a few tips on how to shape your wardrobe. So allons-y!
1. Wear matching underwear
The alpha and omega of french lingerie is that it should match. Or at least somewhat go together. No ratty pink cotton underwear with a green silk bra. You never know when someone might see you undressed!
Ok, not really. This rule is actually not for the off-chance that other people may see you naked, but for yourself. It is that feeling of cultivating one’s own sensuality, that you are taking that extra moment in the morning as you are getting ready, to care of yourself.
And your Other Half might appreciate the look as well.
2. No push-up bras
Anyone who has walked around Paris will notice that Parisennes simply don’t do big boobies. In the fashion capital of the world, the locals have gotten used to seeing tiny models wear clothes that hang straight.
I will never recommend going against what you were blessed with, but the same goes the other way: push-up bras look a bit fake. It is better to stick to what you were naturally endowed with.
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And if you walk around a French lingerie store, you will notice that French women tend to share that opinion. You will not find many push-up bra styles at Galerie Lafayette in Paris.
It may sound silly but “boob job or push-up?” is not a game that you want passersby to play with your outfits. A good bra should enhance what is there, not add something artificial.
3. No uncomfortable stockings
Thigh-high stockings and garters are interesting and all, but are you really going to wear them the whole day?
A typical day for that “young and hip Parisienne” will be taking the metro to work, running around the office all-day, gym at lunchtime, going out for an apéro with friends, before finally heading home late in the evening. And with all that, who has time for uncomfortable underwear?
Stick to something comfortable, and you’ll feel more confident and self-assured.
4. Avoid boring beige and white
Now there is nothing wrong with beige, and there are certainly times when it is called for. However, as easy as it may be to throw on a beige bra and panty set, a bit of color now and again will liven things up. (White underwear on the other hand, is almost always unflattering. Even on Victoria Secret models.)
Why not some teal or a flowery print? Navy blue polka dots maybe? It goes back to the first point of having that secret that only you know what you are wearing, and that feeling of confidence.
And if there is a bit of peek-a-boo of that lipstick red bra? Ooh là là! (I couldn’t resist.)
5. Try some lace
Lace has been hand-crafted in France for centuries. Made from silk or nylon, it has been a mainstay of aristocrats and royalty since the 17th century. With the French royals leading the way, dentelle became de rigeur with its elaborate swirls and delicate flowers.
One of the most famous types of lace is the chantilly from the town of Chantilly, just 35km (22 miles) north of Paris. (If you visit the Château of Chantilly, be sure to stop by the lace museum in the town, just yards away.)
There are many lace pieces that you can add to your wardrobe, so don’t afraid to experiment. For those days when you want that “oh-so-sophisticated” feeling, try a bit of lace.
6. Leggings are not pants
I had to include this under “French lingerie rules” because it goes without saying in France: leggings are not pants, they were meant to be underwear. Your French grand-mère (grandma) will be horrified if you show up in leggings and a t-shirt.
And that is not to say you can’t wear leggings in France, it just depends on whether you are on your way to the gym or not. (And even in that case, most French women will change there!)
7. Black bra under a white shirt
And a final tip, to break all those style rules: put on a black bra under a classic white shirt.
This is one of those rules like wearing white after Labor Day in September. It is one of those vague rules that nobody is quite sure why it exists. (I should precise that I’m referring to the North American Labor day, since the Labor day in France is in May!)
Anyway, back to the underwear, on the streets of Paris you will not miss seeing a ton of women wearing a black bra under a white shirt or t-shirt. Sophisticated without being too busy, it reveals a hint of something, but not too much. Black as the new beige. Or rather, the original beige!
8. Don’t forget the Pyjamas
And finally, there’s no reason to stop now, just because it is bedtime. Put away that ripped cotton t-shirt and keep that luxurious feeling. We spend over 30% of our lives in bed, so why not enjoy?