Friday, 5 March 2010

Inside Out

‘The wise woman with a limited dress allowance will invest a great deal of it in underwear’ (from The Cult of Chiffon, 1902)

Airing your underwear in public is de rigeur right now, it seems. From structured corsets at Bottega Veneta to lacy slips at Dior and, naturally, bra straps sexily on show at D&G, there was plenty of slinking down the catwalks for spring/summer 2010. As underpinnings come once again to the fore, the idea is to be seductive and sexy, without being slutty….

The latest season of the ever-seductive ‘Mad Men’ (Wednesdays, BBC4, 10pm) adds fuel to this fire – all those curvaceous women peeling off their twin-sets to reveal the most perfect satin slips and coral-pink bras. Though as Madonna revealed in the 1980s in Gaultier’s iconic conical bras, it’s a trend to be picked up only by the most fearsomely confident/exhibitionist.

There are some glorious bits of retro underwear around – so satin-smooth and beautiful it seems rude not to show it off. Take a peek at What Katie Did, specialists in vintage-style undies. There’s everything from surprisingly glamorous shapewear through to super-sexy corsets (from £125) that scoop you in and lift you up for a real Jessica Rabbit silhouette. The Harlow Bullet Bra (£27.50) and 1940s-style Dolly Mixture bra (£30) are wonderfully authentic, at high-street prices.

Boudiche in Edinburgh (with a sister store in Glasgow) is one of the prettiest lingerie boutiques I’ve seen, a lush little boudoir decked with the best labels, from La Perla and Stella McCartney to their best-selling range, the weirdly named but very sleek New York label, The Lake & Stars Curveball (prices from £32). The ‘Franklin Romper’ (worn by Carrie, with jeans, in the first Sex and the City film, if you care about such things) is madly pretty in rose and mocha. The champagne-coloured chemise (£135) is bang on trend for this season, and really nails that subtle-sexy look. The website’s excellent, though we’d love a bit more information on fabrics: you don’t want to spend this much on underwear and then discover it’s 100 per cent polyester. This chemise is silk, though. Order online; free delivery for orders over £35.

Also modern in outlook is young English designer Clare Tough, stocked at Browns in South Molton Street, London. Inspired by vintage embroidery she found at Clignancourt market in Paris, her collection features classic modern underwear in nudes and oysters, teamed with transparent tops and light cardigans. Love her pretty lace slips (from £305) and sculpted bra tops.

Another store worth knowing about is Susan Hunter, just off Grafton Street in Dublin. Her silk lingerie and kimono dressing gowns have an elegant vintage look. (Free returns and free delivery on orders over £35). I’ll add more details when I go back to the store in Dublin in a few weeks’ time.

I’m really not convinced by Marc Jacobs and Cavalli’s take on this trend though – satin bras worn over vests (a string vest, in Cavalli’s case) and T-shirts. Can this ever be a good look? Sure, it’s cold at the moment, but if you’re going to do the ‘underwear as outerwear’ trend, shouldn’t you just go for it? Magazines can plug this look all they like, but it won’t be one I’m trying out any time soon…


  1. Great advice and good to see some good 'Northern' sense applied to a tricky subject.
    Christine, North Yorkshire

  2. Sarah
    Love the blog! Looking forward to your next installment! Not sure Northcote road could cope with the underwear as outerwear look!
    Pls come down soon. Suzy x

  3. Sarah - this blog is brilliant - will be sending the link to lots of my stylish friends!

    Totally agree re the outerwear/underwear debate. My friend texted me the other day to say she'd bought a nude lace body but realised she had no idea how she'd wear it!
    Mary, Leeds (used to be Newcastle and miss it!)