French lingerie

An Intro to the French Lingerie Aesthetic

  |   By Estelle Puleston

I’ve been learning about lingerie for well over a decade now. One of the fascinating parts of that has been discovering how styles differ between countries. What’s popular in one place isn’t necessarily the norm elsewhere.

Certain countries have a particularly distinctive lingerie aesthetic. Not surprisingly, France is one of them. And not just because the word lingerie itself comes from the French language. France has also given us Paris, one of the world’s fashion capitals. So style is much more than just a small part of this country’s culture.

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If I had to summarise the French lingerie aesthetic in one word, I would probably say ‘refined.’ Or maybe ‘elegant.’ It’s stylish, but there is less emphasis in general on short-term trends. Instead, they are experts at designing beautifully timeless looks.

Lumineuse half-cup bra
Available in sizes 30D-38D
via Simone Pérèle

Expresso balcony bra & string
Available in sizes 32B-36D & XS-XL
via LIVY

My very favorite thing about French lingerie is that they are big on lace and embroidery. Again, this is hardly a surprise. France is well-known as the place to go for luxury laces. Lace from the cities Calais and Caudry are considered some of the finest in the world.

French lingerie often has a particular delicacy to it. Nowadays, you can find molded-cup bras anywhere, including France. But it’s the unlined cup that reigns as the quintessential French bra style. It’s the best way to show off the patterns of those laces and embroideries, after all!

Demi-cups are especially popular among French brands. Even the name is French; ‘demi’ means half. And as for the other half of a lingerie set, the French like that ‘demi’ too. A cheeky cut that’s halfway between a full-coverage brief and a thong is a staple of French lingerie design. I find it ultra-flattering, so I get the appeal.

French lingerie

Au Bal de Flore St Tropez short
Available in sizes XS-2XL
via Aubade

French lingerie

White Nights bra
Available in sizes 32C-36DD
via Passionata

French lingerie is not, however, only attractive from a style perspective. There’s also a strong focus on fit. The country is home to some of the longest-running brands in the industry. They’ve had plenty of time to perfect their sizing.

Chantelle, for example, launched in 1876. Cadolle launched in 1889. Maison Lejaby in 1930, Empreinte and Lou in 1946, and Simone Pérèle in 1948. Lise Charmel followed in the 1950s. Aubade launched in 1958, although its parent company was making corsets as far back as 1875.

All of the brands I’ve just mentioned are luxury ones. France is a country that takes its lingerie seriously! You’ll find no shortage of high-end lingerie design houses here. But for something more budget-friendly, take a look at Etam, Princesse Tam Tam, and Chantelle owned Passionata. These have a more fast-fashion take on lingerie. But the lace, embroidery, and general love of decoration are still there.

French lingerie

Room bra
Available in sizes 32B-36C
via Etam

French lingerie

Thalia underwired balconette bra by Empreinte
Available in sizes 30E-42F
via Figleaves

As to fit and size, French lingerie tends to come in a wide-ish size range. Larger plus sizes are generally lacking. Band sizes below a 32 are still a rarity. And a few brands have limited size offerings. Cadolle, for example, only makes three band sizes and B-D cups. But the majority of French lingerie brands go beyond a D cup, at least.

There’s a phrase in French, la séduction voilée. It translates to ‘the veiled seduction,’ and references having a tiny flash of your lingerie on show. A decorative bra strap is a common feature among French brands, as is a lacy bra peeking out from a slightly unbuttoned blouse.

French lingerie isn’t just foundation wear; it’s fashion. And it’s designed to be seen!

Are you a fan of the French lingerie aesthetic? What’s your favorite French lingerie brand?

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