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UK Lingerie: A Travel Diary, pt. 2

By Marianne:

Part 2 of my travel diary is all about London… and a little bit of Brighton! There’s quite a bit of ground to cover so I’ll jump right into things. But if you’d like to read Part 1 again, just click here.

Day 7/8 – Brighton
In Brighton, my sister took me on a tour of boutiques and vintage shops. On our second day there, I spent an inordinate amount of time in Ouh La La lingerie boutique, trying on beautiful bras from Aubade, Simone Perele, Elle MacPherson, Stella McCartney, and Lise Charmel. They also stocked corsets from What Katie Did and French corsetiere Cadolle.

My customer experience there was polar opposite to every other shop I’d been to in the UK. The shop attendant was extremely nice, bringing me bra after bra in various styles and not pressuring me in the slightest to buy any of them. Bras started at about £65 (roughly $110), and while Aubade had the widest range of styles available, the Simone Perelle bra I tried on fit me by far the best. I also fell madly in love with a £99 Lise Charmel panty which I can’t remotely fathom being able to afford. I wasn’t particularly impressed with Cadolle; while their designs were quite pretty, they were clearly fashion/bedroom corsets, and useless for actually reducing the waist.

The only downsides to this shop were the inconsistent range of sizes available, and the fact that most of their items were intended to be sold as sets. Of course it’s a challenge for small shops to keep such a broad range of stock on hand, so the problem is relatively understandable, but it was a bit frustrating that the smallest corset in stock was a 22, when I normally wear an 18 or 20. In the end, I just went home with a pair of stockings. Though I didn’t make it there, apparently Brighton is home to another lovely lingerie shop by the name of She Said.

Day 9, 12 – London
You were waiting for it, weren’t you? You knew I couldn’t go to England without going to London, and I couldn’t go to London without going to FairyGothMother, aka Lulu and Lush. I also checked out What Katie Did and Camden.

I was quite eager to finally see Lulu and Lush’s boutique, and luckily it was geographically logical to visit it first. Return of the British customer service here, although the older woman who rung me up at the end was quite friendly and helpful. Anyway, as to the shop itself, it’s quite large and there was a lot to take in. Oh, and nowhere near enough dressing rooms, as I found out the hard way. The quality of garments was a bit of a range, some of the fabrications were cheaper synthetics but then there were also nice silky pieces as well. I think the Kiss Me Deadly line was my favorite that they carried.

The corsets were from a variety of makers, and I was impressed with the range of styles and sizes offered. The construction all looked good quality, though I was surprised that the lacing on the house brand was a stretchy type, which makes the procedure more of a challenge. My big disappointment was that the corsets, lovely as they were, weren’t close to curvy enough for me. However, most of their clients probably don’t have my dramatic hip spring and waist training experience, so I think it’s just a difference in their market rather than an actual flaw in the products.

In the end, I came home with… a lot of stuff, including a very cute new bathing suit. Most of it was pulled from their extensive sale rack. As an aside, all of the Lulu & Lush purchases looked way better before they got crumpled in my suitcase.

What Katie Did is tucked off of Portobello Road. The shop space is small without feeling crowded, despite the quantity of items there. The shop girls are friendly and helpful when it comes to assisting you with the merchandise and assessing the fit. All of the designs were very pretty (with the sole exception of a synthetic satin that I thought was cheap-looking), but I had the same problem with the corsets as at Lulu and Lush. They were gorgeous, and the hipline was lovely, but the ribs and hips weren’t spacious enough for the waist reductions I’m used to in my Pop Antique and Dark Garden corsets.

The bras were what really impressed me, and in the end I bought two of them. The previous collection was marked down 75%, and by pure luck I was drawn to those designs anyway. Do note that as you cross the pond, your bra size will probably change – Americans purchasing internationally, add a letter to your cup size; Brits, subtract. As mentioned, in the states, I am a 30C, but I generally buy 32Bs because it’s easier and cheaper (yes, I’m bad). Because WKD is cut from vintage styles, the 32 band is a snugger fit which worked well on me. In one style, I even ended up taking home a perfectly fitting 32D. No matter what the garment, I think it’s a good idea to use your “normal” size only as a launching point, and not fixate on the numbers and letters on the tag. If it fits, it fits.

My purchases from WKD were tidily wrapped in tissue paper, then slipped into a reusable What Katie Did cotton tote bag. Below you can see it with my blue satin lingerie bags from Lulu and Lush. I think the reusable branded packaging is a nice touch.

My last stop on this first London trip was to Camden, where I bought fancy tights. Flirt is a brand that sells fun tights with prints made from photographs and comic book panels. I also picked up some lacy fishnet tights. Lily J is another shop Lingerie Addicts may find worth visiting; while the stock is regular apparel, the look is built on the layering of lacy feminine pieces with soft drapes, very much in the lingerie ethos. Most of the colors are very soft and classic, ivory and grey and some black. I picked up a simple sheer black slip from there, since I’d been wanting one. Later I also found a fitted black slip from H&M, which featured lace trim and zig-zag stitch detail. You can see the slips together below.

On our second day trip to London, I didn’t do any shopping. I did, however, do some modeling and styled two lovely lingerie looks. First, I did a boudoir-esque shoot with portrait photographer Karolina Marek, wearing a Pop Antique corset and embroidered-top mesh stockings. I also shot on location with Yun Ki, and got to see more of historic London. The below look features a barely-visible Pop Antique ribbon corset, double-backseam stockings, and one of my new What Katie Did bras.

PS: Americans, save yourself some embarrassment and awkward moments: don’t forget that in the UK, garters are suspenders, panties are pants, and pants are trousers.

All in all, it was a lovely trip. It was my first time really trying on high-quality bras, and I even brought a few nice ones home with me. I spent some quality time with some wonderful colleagues. I got to see beautiful corsets, new and old.

What were your experiences with the shops I visited? What shops and experiences did I miss out on? Would you be interested in a (shorter) write-up of a few must-see shops in San Francisco? Let me know in the comments!

Cora Harrington

Founder and Editor in Chief of The Lingerie Addict. Author of In Intimate Detail: How to Choose, Wear, and Love Lingerie. I believe lingerie is fashion too, and that everyone who wants it deserves gorgeous lingerie.

3 Comments on this post

  1. Marianne Faulkner says:

    Frantic About Frances – The staff at What Katie Did recommended She Said, but unfortunately that happened AFTER I went to Brighton. It was in the opposite direction from my sister's car at the end of a long day and, to be quite honest, I rather had to pee. In hindsight, I feel a bit silly for not going when I had the chance, but at that moment I didn't know it as anything except "another lingerie shop in Brighton."

    Annmarie – thanks for reading and commenting again! Glad you liked the bridge shot, it was a bit challenging because of the rain and I was coming down with a cold, but it was all worth it in the end. Now I keep doing bridges just to prove that I can…

  2. Annmarie says:

    Thanks for another well-written and interesting report.
    My impression of visiting the UK many years ago, as well as the different designs I still see in local stores and on the web, is that this country has deep roots and appreciation for lingerie. As I wrote in my comment to your part 1 posting, I only wish they could devote at least half of the same passion and talent to their traditional food (sorry British readers, just couldn't pass the opportunity…)

    In regards to your questions, I'll be happy to read your review of the "must-see shops in San Francisco". I also live on the west coast, some 807 miles north, and get to the bay area every other year or so.
    And that last picture of you under the bridge- absolutely sunning!

  3. Frantic About Frances says:

    Would love to know what you thought of She Said in Brighton, I used to work there (many moons ago) and I have my lingerie stocked there.

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