Is French Lingerie the Best?

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French Lingerie

French lingerie fashion show
The Lingerie Mon Amor fashion show in Paris, January 2017; hosted by Lingerie Francaise. Photo by Becky Yee

What is it about French lingerie that makes it so exquisite? Is it the glamour, the quality, the high level of design? Or maybe it's the history, the elegance, or the luxurious European materials? Maybe it's all of the above. "To say that France is synonymous with high quality, classic chic, intelligent design, and sophisticated artistry is almost an understatement," says an article on the Lingerie Francaise site - an organization dedicated to promoting French lingerie brands for being what they call, "Truly French". After all, French fashion and the women who wear it have that certain "je ne sais quoi". There is just something about French lingerie, bras, and underwear that make them great. 

Lingerie lovers have a special reverence and appreciation for French undergarments. It's easy to see why! With such a long history of innovation and fashion design, France has been a leader in the intimate apparel world. According to Lingerie Francaise, the first French patent for a bra was in 1889 - the same year the Eiffel Tower was built. This new design began to replace the corset as the more freeing, comfortable, and fashionable way to support the bust. Since then, undergarments like bras, garter belts, and stockings have undergone massive changes. And the French seem to stay ahead of the rest. 

If you're interested in trying the best of the best French lingerie, below is a list of some to try. Keep in mind, there are many French imitators - brands with a French name that are not actually connected to France. Stay away from the imitation and try out the real deal here! Decide for yourself if you like these French designs. And perhaps you can answer the question: "So, is French lingerie the best?"

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Simone Perele

Simone Perele
Simone Perele

Simone Perele: Based in Paris, this family owned French business got its start in 1948 by Madame Simone Perele. Yes - this brand name comes from the real founder! She started as an expert corset maker, and soon realized women desired and deserved a better option for bust support. It was a bold move that also supported the changing times and women's style. Her "vision to liberate women and design lingerie that embraced a woman’s natural shape" is still very alive in the company today. 

Family members like Simone's granddaughter, Stephanie, and others work hard to keep the company connected to its special roots. Now it's known for combining smooth, comfortable, and flexible materials like 3D Spacer molding, rich and exquisite color each fashion season, and stunning lace for everyday elegance. Currently the brand offers bras in size 30 band and up, and the A-H cup size range is widely popular among American and French customers. 

The demi cut bra seen here is from the Delice collection. Did you know that "Demi" is French for "half"? This kind of popular bra style is a half cup bra, with about half the coverage of a full cup bra and some may say 10 times as much sex appeal.

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Aubade

Aubade
Aubade

Aubade: Translated into English the name Aubade literally means "a morning song or poem". So it's no surprise that this company is known for light, dainty, and sweet fabrics. Then again, don't miss out on their dark and mysterious designs. 

This gorgeous French lingerie is all about seduction. In fact, Aubade is famous in France for a series of advertisements known as "Lessons in Seduction", with short tidbits of advice for living seductively set among iconic black and white images of models wearing Aubade panties, bras, garter belts, and more. The brand is also famous for exquisite detail and rich designs. Their site states: "Preserving artistry, enriching technical heritage and sharing know-how: at Aubade, technical prowess is in our DNA." 

In recent years, the brand has updated its cup size offerings to include A-G cups and started adding in band sizes in 30. As the world evolves around them, this French brand is making strides to update the way they support and cater to their customer. 

The style seen above, Passion Nocturne, is a great indication of the brands layers of detail and marriage of fashion and technical design. 

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Chantelle

Chantelle Aeria
Chantelle

Chantelle: Though this brand specifically came to be in 1949, the company actually had its roots in a previous company since 1876. That rich heritage has lead to seamstresses and designers passing along and improving upon experience for generations. Now, Chantelle is known for carrying a wide range of sizes with stellar support and gorgeous French style. They are possibly the most dominant of the French brands on the international level - including bras and lingerie in boutiques and department stores nationwide in the USA.

The Aeria Collection, seen above, is light, airy, and seductive.

Chantelle also has two sister brands, with two totally different (and extremely French) personalities. Passionata is new to the scene and captures the more youthful, flirty details of fashion with the same commitment to support and structure. Chantal Thomass is a more creative, fashion forward, and cheeky brand. Just like women of every culture, personality varies from woman to woman in France. These three brands make it possible to shop for gorgeous lingerie for every facet of the woman you are - French or not.

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Maison Close

Maison Close lingerie set
Maison Close

Maison Close: Get ready for some flirty, French fun! This brand is newer to the scene than some of the older design houses. However, its seductive range of bras and underwear, slips and dresses, open front or quarter cup cuts, and playful accessories are made from the same French mindset as the others. What sets it apart from the rest is the slightly more dark and kinky offerings, and a more modern look and feel. 

Though it was birthed in France and run by a French staff, this brand opened its first retail shop in New York City. It's eager to bring the French esthetic to the USA, and share its message of being a muse with American lingerie fans. According to the website, its designer and founder says: "My leading intention is to dress up nudity, to adorn the gem that is the body with a jewel-case like lingerie, to arouse seduction and to instill freedoms." Ooh la la, indeed!

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Lise Charmel

Lise Charmel
Lise Charmel

Lise Charmel: If you want glamour and elegance, this French lingerie brand is for you. This company was founded near Lyon, France - known for its silk - in the 1950's. Since then, they've grown a reputation for creating decorative, sometimes over the top lingerie creations. This brand does not shy away from details, color, and lace. 

Like many of the best French brands, they've updated their approach with the times and created several sub brands for different style and size needs, as well as swimsuits. Made with the sophisticated lady in mind, this brand is luxurious and French design to the max!

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Lou

Lou Lingerie
Lou

Lou: This chic Parisian brand got its start in 1946 when a young gymnast and an entrepreneur met on The Orient Express train line. The gymnast, Lucienne, was nicknamed Lou. And the entrepreneur, Andrés Faller, let his muse inspire him to create the lingerie brand. The passion is clear here! Also, this brand has a more exclusive feel in the USA, as it's mostly found in small boutiques with fashion savvy bra fitters, or online boutiques. It's best known for modern touches, chic designs, and pops of color. Far from stuffy, this French lingerie brand is for the fashion forward woman who is bold and takes risks! 

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Empreinte

Empreinte
Empreinte

Empreinte: Have a full bust and feeling left out by French brands? You're in luck! This French company specifically caters to lingerie lovers with a fuller bust size. Staring at a C cup, the bras in this brand often reach up to H cup. Since 1946, they've been perfecting a silhouette that gives the bust a more "projected" look. Before you think "pointy", give this European look a shot. The more forward the bust, the less full it is on the side - a silhouette that the brand claims is not just attractive, but more even and balanced, too.

The Melody Bra, seen here, is an example of Empreinte's smooth cup styling with gorgeous details. "The brand was the first in the world to make a completely seamless molded rigid lace bra up to a G cup (that shortly became the best-seller of the brand!)" says Josie-Ann Le Diouron, Marketing Coordinator at Empreinte Lingerie.

You'll find lots of innovation and forward thinking at Empreinte, and hardly ever find a basic, boring bra. It's the kind of everyday luxury that French women have mastered, and many American woman desire.

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Maison Lejaby

Maison Lejaby

Maison Lejaby: This fashionable French lingerie company was founded in 1930 near Lyon, France thanks to a little sister. You see, movie stars like Marlene Dietrich appeared on camera wearing a garter belt and sexy lingerie in The Blue Angel. This intrigued Marcel and Marguerite Blanchard, owners of a small cinema in France, along with Marguerite's sister, Gabrielle, known as "Gaby". Gaby started to sew lingerie like the glamorous styles she'd seen at the movies, and her brother-in-law put them into production. Throughout the region, "La Gaby's bras" caught on so much that in 1930, Gabrielle's nickname became the name of the company: Lejaby. 

In recent years, this lingerie powerhouse design company created new options with their Elixir line for fuller busts, and sophisticated swimwear like bikinis, one pieces, and beachwear. It's best known for attention to detail, high quality materials, and sophisticated designs. 

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Cadolle

Cadolle
Cadolle

Cadolle: This brand was founded by Herminie Cadolle in the late 1800's in France. Her presentation of a feminine corset cut into two parts in 1889 has some calling her the inventor of the modern bra, though others disagree. Either way, her major contributions to French lingerie can not be contested! 

Throughout the years, this design house has continued to make innovative new designs in all types of lingerie. The Underpinnings Museum has several vintage Cadolle items on display in its online exhibitions, including a 1950's Strapless Black Lace Structured bra that is a design and fashion masterpiece. 

Today, Cadolle is known for its dedication to luxury and creates sensual styles of bodysuits, bras and underwear, corsets, and other fine undergarments. It even provides made to measure custom bras and lingerie garments in its gorgeous Paris studio and shop. A true luxury!