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How to Shop for Lingerie in Paris
Credit: Peter Horree / Alamy

With its romantic architecture, lose-yourself-in-them cobblestone streets, and cozy boutiques, Paris is undoubtedly a woman’s town. And nobody knows this better than Marcia DeSanctis, author of the new book 100 Places in France Every Woman Should Go. Researching the book took DeSanctis everywhere from Corsica to Brittany to Paris (where she once lived and worked), on a quest to find the best lingerie boutiques in city. Below, her advice for navigating the etiquette of these most-specialized stores.

It is a curious alchemy of coquetry, intuition and just enough vulnerability that makes even the toughest Frenchwoman a temptress without equal. She doesn’t even have to try. But she does, and the proof is in the lingerie. Underneath her suit or skinny jeans, a French woman is always perfectly turned out.

Ultra-sexy underthings are, after all, part of the country’s history. It was Herminie Cadolle, a Parisian woman who owned a lingerie workshop on the Chaussée d’Antin, who introduced the world’s first bra in 1889.

Shopping for lingerie is as Parisian a pastime as a stroll in the Jardins des Tuileries and a beautifully feminine way to find that sensuous soul we seek on a voyage to France. When visiting one of the boutiques, plan on taking some time, even spending all day. And most of your money. Don’t be surprised to see a monsieur in the shop spending hours selecting his lover’s bedroom attire.

Try not to be intimidated by the elegant saleswoman. She wants to fit you perfectly, and will not be shy to whip out the tape measure. She will be concerned about the color and style. Balconette or demi-lune? Satin or lace? Toile or mousseline? Blush pink or deep blue? These decisions are critical. Almost never will you see the exaggerated push-ups so prevalent in the U.S. French lingerie creates a more natural, clean line, and if there is padding, it’s subtle (and tasteful). Really fine Parisian lingerie, especially when it fits perfectly, will feel like nothing you have ever known. Here are a few of the best places to get your sexy on à la Parisienne.