View Full Version : To Sell Lingerie, Inhibitions, and Much More, Are Falling

November 6th, 2003, 11:38 AM
November 6, 2003


To Sell Lingerie, Inhibitions, and Much More, Are Falling


At Galeries Lafayette, Parisians at the opening of the new lingerie shop, before three mannequins dressed (or undressed) in items of chic underwear. Thongs are the specialty, and striptease performances are included.

PARIS, Nov. 5 — Underwear seduction courses in a department store?

Bien sûr.

Here in Paris, porno-chic has gone mainstream.

To inaugurate its 28,000-square-foot lingerie shop this week, Galeries Lafayette, the closest thing France has to Bloomingdale's, invited hundreds of guests on Tuesday evening to sip Champagne, stroll down a "street of temptation" named "Le Red Hot Boulevard" and examine 80 different brands of "strings" (the French word for "thongs"), brassieres, bustiers, corsets, panties and garter belts.

On Saturday, the store is offering free half-hour lessons by professional striptease artists so that "women can familiarize themselves with the art of revealing their new lingerie."

The grand opening coincides with a rash of sexually explicit advertising campaigns for lingerie that have enraged feminist groups and a few outspoken lawmakers who charge that they exploit women and potentially encourage violence against them.

"The pornographic and the idea of woman as prostitute has become universal, ordinary," said Florence Montreynaud, the head of La Meute, a feminist group. "What kind of a world are we living in when striptease artists give lessons at Galeries Lafayette? Is this the world of the chic and elegant Parisian? Is this a store I can feel comfortable shopping in with my grandmother?"

La Meute has scheduled a protest in front of the flagship store near the Opéra in the heart of Paris on Saturday.

Paul Delaoutre, Galeries Lafayette's president, is delighted by all the attention. "Seduction is important to our clientele," he said. "We want to be on the cutting edge. Your American stores are often so banal."

As for the striptease artists, Mr. Delaoutre admitted it was a publicity gimmick. "To burn in the press, that's the objective," he said.

Women's underwear has evolved into a full-fledged fashion statement, items to be shown off, not hidden under something else. The trend is particularly pronounced in France, where lingerie enjoys a lofty place in a woman's wardrobe.

Last year, French females from the age of 15 and older spent 18 percent of their clothing budget, or $2.9 billion, on lingerie, more than in any other European country, according to the French Federation of Lingerie and Beachwear.

A recent poll by the Ipsos polling agency for Galeries Lafayette concluded that 87 percent of French men and women believe that lingerie is an important part of life.

Thirty-one percent of French women say they buy lingerie to seduce their partners, according to the poll. Forty-eight percent say that a matching set of lace bra and panties is the most seductive, while 25 percent of the men and 15 percent of the women preferred a string and a demi-cup bra.

Lingerie is so important to a French woman's sexual self-esteem, it seems, that only 3 percent of French women believe they are seductive in the nude.

French public schools, already fighting a battle against Muslim girls who want to wear head scarves in violation of France's strict secular tradition, have opened a second front against girls who want to show their bellies and their strings.

The problem is so serious that Xavier Darcos, the deputy minister of education responsible for elementary and high schools, has called for a study on the wisdom of returning uniforms to public schools. "School is not a nightclub," he told French television.

The body part that seems to get the most attention these days is not the breast but the "fesse," a word that is more informal than buttock. Last summer, the weekly newsmagazine L'Express devoted a 14-page supplement to the subject, with a caption on the cover that read: "Fesses: The rising curves."

The supplement cited a poll by the BVA organization stating that only 38 percent of French men find the most fascination in a woman's breasts, whereas 50 percent prefer a woman's "fesses" and legs.

While estimates vary widely, no one doubts that sales of strings in France have exploded in the past year. "The third millennium announces the return of the full posterior as the barometer of seduction," according to L'Express.

But the supplement was tame compared with the fall advertising campaigns for strings in magazines and on giant public billboards.

A recent poster campaign for Sloggi strings, for instance, showed two long-haired women from behind, dressed in strings and red boxing gloves, their posteriors buffed and shined, playfully menacing a man in tight boxers and a smile as he defends himself. "Be sexy. Be sloggi," the caption reads.

Not to be outdone, the most recent Bolero lingerie ad campaign showed a young woman removing what appears to be pants or a skirt, revealing her string. Turning toward the camera, she announces: "I'm a virgin. Are you?"

The manufacturer says the ad is nothing but a clever play on words. "Vierge" is not only the French word for virgin; it also refers to the astrological sign Virgo. The ad is for a line of astrologically signed, hologrammed strings. The model is wearing a "Virgo."

The Advertisement Verification Bureau, the French advertising watchdog agency, agreed with appeals by feminist groups and members of Parliament that at least some of the advertisements should be withdrawn. But the agency has authority only over television, not the print media, and the French state has so far declined to step in.

At the Champagne reception at Galeries Lafayette, among the items on display were a $29 string that comes in a see-through plastic ball worn around one's neck (apparently for emergencies), a $279 Chantall Thomas bustier with rose appliqués, and a $90 string with rhinestone and gold connectors designed to be visible above low-slung pants or skirts.

In a sense, Galeries Lafayette is simply exploiting a market already being worked by others.

Last year, the fashion designer Sonia Rykiel opened an adults-only lingerie and sex boutique called Rykiel Woman. It offers, among other things, a yellow bath sponge and a purple mouse that vibrate, packaged in black satin sequined bags carrying the Sonia Rykiel label.

"I'm a virgin. Are you?" Or, it may mean: "I'm a Virgo. Are you?" The word play is part of a new promotion for thongs.

Copyright 2003 The New York Times Company

November 6th, 2003, 11:51 PM
Oui, je suis vierge!

November 6th, 2003, 11:57 PM

November 7th, 2003, 10:38 AM
On the Sloggi case:




November 7th, 2003, 11:49 AM


November 7th, 2003, 12:35 PM
Lovin' this post!


November 7th, 2003, 04:55 PM

Elle a chaud au cul. :P

Monsieur New York Times... c'est magnifique!

November 13th, 2003, 12:26 AM
jeeze...I'm glad I looked over here...