‘I want to do to you what spring does to cherry trees’, Pablo Neruda purred in his poem Every Day You Play, and with all the warm weather and long sunny evenings you might be feeling the same about your SO.
2014 marks the 20th anniversary of the opening of Agent Provocateur’s iconic Broadwick Street premises, and the 150th anniversary of John Lewis on Oxford Street. So if it’s been 20 (or 150) years since you bought new smalls, now is the time to put the snap back in your bra straps.
There are plenty of London retailers to visit over the bank holidays who can cater to any taste from latex to lace, post-break-up to post-mastectomy. Many of them are also running sales and salons, and details of these are included in each entry.
MUST-DO: Agent Provocateur now has seven outlets in the UK but its store on Broadwick Street Soho is still the chain’s oldest and best. Styles run from the virginal to the downright rude, and its classic designs are made with silk chiffons and scalloped lace — attention to detail is incredible. The Spring/Summer collection runs from sherbet-coloured babydolls to crystal-studded harnesses. Even if you’re just looking for ideas, AP is a must-do on the London lingerie list.
SEXY: Coco de Mer on Monmouth Street is a whirlwind headrush of lingerie, sex toys and unlikely-looking erotic art objects. It stocks big brands such as Stella McCartney plus indies like Marika Vera, Damaris, Chromat and Kriss Soonik, as well as bespoke bedroom furniture and eccentric toys. The shop often hosts ‘salons’ in the evening, and former Erotic Review editor Rowan Pelling is giving a reading from her book on 15 May.
VARIETY: Dolci Follie is a pink boudoir in Westbourne Grove, named one of Vogue’s top five places to get a bra fitted in its December issue. The stock is a lingerie fiend’s dream, and ranges from affordable labels like East London-based Playful Promises (bras from £20) to luxury designer ID Sarrieri (bra from £149) whose harnesses and bodies are studded and strung with crystal collars.
MAD MEN: In nearby Portobello, What Katie Did is London’s leading retro lingerie shop. Chances are they singledhandedly revived the Bullet Bra. If you love the styling on Mad Men, you’ll know it’s the underpinnings that create the silhouette: pointy satin cups under cashmere sweaters and smooth girdles under pencil skirts. And shop staff can order in bras up to a 40F, and knickers to an 18 — so even Joan Holloway would shop here.
ITALIAN: La Perla boutique currently has one shop on Sloane Street, with another due to open on New Bond Street in the old Gina shoes store (although there is no date for that yet). The Italian brand has some lower-priced bras (starting at £45) but for higher-end products, uses traditional French lace and Georgette silk to create feminine and elegant designs. Cara Delavigne has also been seen modelling their new lingerie/daywear corset with a tux.
SPORTY: Calvin Klein’s best London store is at 120 Long Acre, and it also has outlets at One New Change and Boxpark. The brand’s clean, sporty lingerie style might not be the ticket for third dates but it sits beautifully under T-shirts and silk blouses. Bras start at £32 and go to a 38D.
MASTECTOMY: Nicola Jane is a brilliant boutique in Clerkenwell which specialises in mastectomy bras. It stocks a few brands, including its own, and sells corselets and sports bras as well as lingerie and everyday bras, and prostheses. If you’re disappointed by the underwear options in high street stores, book a fitting here.
RETRO: The tiny Playful Promises in Shoreditch Boxpark is chock full of retro and small-brand lingerie, swimwear and dresses. Its own label designs comes in satin and lace with longline and open cup styles, and for retrophiles, there are corsets, waspies, seamed stockings and pasties. Best of all, it’s affordable — bras start at £20.
CULT: Petits Bisous on the King’s Road stocks cult lingerie names Fleur of England and Mimi Holiday as well as new designers such as Madame Supertrash. The shop floor is wallpapered and hung with racks of eyelash lace, and downstairs the shop offers customers the chance to invite their other half in to show off (or model) new purchases over a glass of champagne. Customer service is excellent for both men and women. Bras start at £55.
RELIABLE: John Lewis on Oxford Street was Draper’s Department Store of the Year in their 2013 awards: its range includes new Alice Temperley underwear, and some brands go up to a double G.
ROYAL: Rigby and Peller is now 75 years old and has been making the Queen’s bras since 1960 — as well as other royals, and the late Isabella Blow. The store is known for its expert fitting service and stocks bras in back sizes 30-46, and from a B cup to a J or K in some brands. It has five shops in London but the one on Conduit Street is the most central. Full price bras start at £39.
DISCOUNT: Bravissimo is a more affordable tip for bra fittings and hard-to-find sizes. It has two stores in central London — one in Covent Garden, and a larger one on Margaret Street. Bras run in sizes up to an L cup and start at £23. Note: there is are no seasonal sales in store, but the website offers discounted stock all year round.
LUXURY: Harrods in Knightsbridge look imposing but it’s not as expensive as you think — pants start at £10, bras from £30. But admittedly its stock in trade is luxury brands such as Agent Provocateur and Myla. It’s the most ostentatious place in London to buy knickers, by a long shot.
COLLECTORS: Harvey Nichols, also in Knightsbridge is the place for serious lingerie collectors. It has all the key luxury brands British women already trust: Elle Macpherson Intimates, Stella McCartney, and Agent Provocateur. Plus, there’s a Burger and Lobster restaurant on the fifth floor — perfect for the post-shop slump.
INDIE: Selfridges in Marble Arch is the best place in London to discover indie lingerie labels like Dirty Pretty Things. It’s full of surprises too: stocks up to a K cup, and also sells premium latex products by Atusko Kudo (Lady Gaga wore one of their body suits in the video for G.U.Y.).
BARGAIN: If you’ve got more dash than cash, TK Maxx sells luxury lingerie brands such as Elle Macpherson, Myla and Emporio Armani at half price — if you’re prepared to hunt for them. The Charing Cross branch has four floors, and includes a lingerie section — stock varies from day to day, though, so don’t expect to find something first time.
TOURIST: Victoria’s Secret on Bond Street is more of a destination for horny teenage tourists than lingerie shoppers, but never the less this bombastic knicker shop deserves a mention in this list, if only for its legendary window displays. Inside, there are four floors of frippery, including displays of the catwalk costumes from the brand’s ‘Angels’ show. However, much of the product is La Senza quality at Myla prices, and the fitting service is poor.
LATEX: House of Harlot on Princelet Street is a premium latex label, offering couture services too. Its designers have previously collaborated with with Louis Vuitton, Oscar de la Renta and Christian Dior. Londoners might also recognise pieces from the range of latexwear designed for the clubnight Torture Garden.
KINKY: Staff in kinky shop Honour, on Lower Marsh, are knowledgeable about their products. It’s also more affordable than the other shops mentioned for kinky lingerie in this feature — for example, a latex pencil skirt is just £39. It also sells corsets, catsuits and boots.
ADVICE: Sh! boutique on Hoxton Square is open to women only — men are only invited one night a week, or as guests of a female customer. Because of its special focus on making female customers feel comfortable, it’s a great place for women who are looking for good quality advice and customer service. It sells underwear, plus toys, and runs ‘erotic classes’ in the evenings (NSFW).
Where have we missed off the list?