When former Parisian chef Sophie Legendre hung up her toque, and moved to San Francisco as a culinary and hospitality alum, she was baffled by just one thing.
In this city of free spirits, taste is dispiritingly unsexy in the lingerie department. It was as though social movements, from hippies to feminists to yuppies, had sworn an oath to serve and protect Fruit of the Loom. “Really, it was depressing. Sensible white cotton or very occasional risqué things…” The alternative was even worse! Frederick’s of Hollywood, fit for pole dancers, porn stars and drag queens.
“French women wear lace and tulle underneath their clothes, rather than on show, because they like to know they’re wearing only the best underneath.”
Sophie hunted high and low for high-end classical lingerie but found nothing inspiring. To make the women of this city feel sexy à la français, she opened Les Cent Culottes, a boutique in toney Russian Hill. Stocked with delectable dainty concoctions in every hue, Les Cent Culottes is now a happy place for feminist hippies, yuppies, porn stars, and everyone in between.
On the top rack (no pun intended) is hand-stitched Lise Charmel lingerie. Sophie’s regular male customers regularly inspect these collections for anniversary gifts, shyly muttering, “She’s about your size, maybe a bit shorter…”
Beyond the wedding wall, foamy with creamy lace, the go-to collections are Simone Perèle, Barbara, Aubade …. old reliable family firms, where every bra, garter belt, and panty is stitched from the finest fabrics. For women who’s eyes are bigger than their pocketbooks, there is a solid showing of elegant basics under $100. One extra surprise is their cozy and practical upstairs sleepwear floor — pajamas and super-fluffy robes for colder nights. “The winter months are top season for lingerie shopping,” explains Sophie.
With business blooming, Sophie recently expanded her skivvies empire to include Addictions Nouvelle Lingerie on Union Street.
It seems feeling sexy is something even high-minded San Franciscans can get behind.
Les Cent Culottes San Francisco
2200 Polk Street at Vallejo
tel. 415 614 2586
Addiction Nouvelle Lingerie San Francisco
1824 Union Street at Octavia
tel. 415 872 9151