A certain reviewer of French Life Blogs suggested that his idea of the perfect blog would contain posts about 2CVs, mushrooms and lingerie. As I am allergic to mushrooms (and, I suspect, 2CVs) I am left with just one area of expertise - and the subject does seem to tie in nicely with my last post.
The Times newspaper states that the English are now buying more underwear than the French. Incroyable I thought at first, but then realised it could very well be true. It is so easy to go into Marks & Spencers and stock up on your 5-pair pack of tried & trusted pants and to grab a couple of bras in the size you have been wearing for the past 5 years. Not so easy in France. In the Department stores the lingerie departments often have a whole floor to themselves and the displays can be bewildering – but so beautiful. Two impossibly stylish assistants (dressed in black) will be pretending to have a conversation but will be keeping an eye on you. After 30 seconds one of them will offer assistance and suggest that Monsieur relaxes in a chair. (Monsieur would usually prefer to stick pencils in his eyes rather than go shopping but always seems amenable to these trips). I will then be quizzed as to what I am looking for, the purpose (business or pleasure), and then asked what size I am looking for. My response brings a snort of derision and she will eye me up before choosing a selection in a size I have not worn since I was 12 years old. She will then accompany me into the changing room and, despite the fact that I have been able to dress myself unassisted since I was a toddler, she will then take a very hands on approach, adjusting straps, checking the fit (I have to admit that she was right about the size) and generally tweaking until she is perfectly satisfied. She then flings open the curtain to ask Monsieur for his opinion. He seems to approve – as do several other shoppers passing by! She then trusts me to get dressed by myself and I am then led to the counter where I pay before my husband sees the price.
Most towns in France, whatever their size, have small independent lingerie shops and these are even scarier. One amusing experience occurred in a shop in Montpellier where I discovered that there wasn’t even a changing room. At the back of the shop an attractive blonde woman had stripped to the waist and was trying on bikini tops while her husband vainly attempted to protect her modesty. Armed with my newly acquired knowledge regarding my size I decided to buy without trying and hurried my husband out before she decided to try on the bikini bottoms. We are still not speaking!