My Life in Paris: Material Girl

My Life in Paris: Material Girl

Theadora turns to the very best when it comes to a spot of lingerie shopping in Paris.

Oh, no, no. To take the plunge or not take the plunge was definitely not the question. Far from it! It was more along the lines of how many Cadolle bras to purchase for my upcoming round of annual routine medical exams. After all, I’ve always been one to try to dress for success, especially at the doctor’s office. So resisting the pear-shaped cups in white tulle-on-tulle created by Maison Cadolle – one of Paris’s last custom corsetières – was never, ever on the table. I was ready to pounce, plastic card in hand.

Lingerie has always been my favourite French souvenir: these sheerest of confections may raise the bosom but won’t tickle the airport baggage scale. With the right fit and price point, they’ll not only lift you back up where you belong, but they’ll also spur your buoyancy on to almighty dizzying heights. Getting to the point: I’ve always possessed a heady passion for underpinnings, and now have pieces from all over the world, each one with a story and memory attached.

While some may have said farewell to bras in this new Zoom-based world, I’ve remained faithful because for me, they’re about self-love as well as support.

Lingerie to Linger Over

That said, I was flummoxed by the wide variety of hand-stitched, vintage-inspired frothy delights in shades of noir, red, cream and champagne by Poupie and Patricia Cadolle.’Tis the prettiest lingerie that ever I did spy: high-waisted cute culottes, and shapely and softly-rounded brassieres painstakingly embellished with geometric embroidery on mesh and tulle… but how to stay within my travel writer budget?

Perhaps I should buy the less expensive, rosy, torpedo-shaped ‘Bali’ bra, a nod to Pierre-Auguste Renoir’s garden paintings. And just like that, this shopping enthusiast was caught in another retail perfect storm. What to do? I blame this mad chase for lace on my recent bingeing of my favourite music videos featuring Paris down through the decades – specifically Depeche Mode’s 1987 Strangelove and Madonna’s 1990 Justify My Love. I haven’t been able to watch either without feeling the urge to spark a little joy via some e-shopping for trenches, turbans and lingerie – that’s how my love goes.

Historic Foundations

Browsing for a bra or knickers in the City of Light is still steeped with history and classic figure lore. It was under the Eiffel Tower at the 1900 Exposition Universelle that Herminie Cadolle unveiled her lingerie innovation: Le Bien-Être (‘the well-being’), one of the first-ever corset-like bras: smooth, hand-woven straps connected the sections for support with easy breathing, and not a whalebone in sight!

Down through the years, the Cadolle family has enhanced the likes of Barbara Hutton, Catherine Deneuve and Wallis Simpson. During the First World War, exotic dancer-cum-spy Mata Hari carried secret messages in one of Cadolle’s metal filigree, custom-made sweet nothings. Today, it’s Rihanna, Nicki Minaj, and Beyoncé who ride the publicity waves while wearing bespoke bodysuits and bustiers by Cadolle.

You’ll also find Cadolle’s creations in the permanent collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco. And at the flea market, too. At Porte de Vanves, I once found a little cone-shaped Cadolle bra from the 1940s: peach lace with just a little lace in the back for support, the hand-stitched treasure flaunts 12 pieces of fabric and six hooks and fits like a glove. But now, I’m ready for something brand spanking new and, dare I say, a bit beyond my budget but not completely out of reach in a Woolworth heiress sort of way. Because I’m worth it? Nah. Although I am worth it I treat myself because, why wait? I order the flocked velvet bra, cat power pants and facemask in purple sequins.

If there’s one thing the pandemic has taught me, it’s this: Do it now. Just do it. “Because for all we know, we might not get tomorrow,” just like my fellow Francophile Pitbull often says. “Every day above ground is a great day, remember that.” And he’s not talking about the Metro.

From France Today magazine

Lead photo credit : Theadora seizes the day and treats herself to a haul of Cadolle goodies @ Theadora Brack

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After 10 years at the American Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore, Theadora moved to Montmartre in 2003 to write for the travel website She founded her own blog, "People, Places and Bling: Theadora's Field Guide to Shopping in Paris."

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