ATLANTA — Linda Lewis, owner of L’Image de la Femme, has been known to go out and drag reluctant window shoppers off the sidewalk to convince them there’s something for everybody in her luxury lingerie boutique.

“Women, often plus-size customers, walk right by us. They think there’s nothing here for them,” said Lewis, herself a plus-size connoisseur of beautiful lingerie. “I tell them to look at me. We carry things that I wear, so come on in.”

Plus-size lingerie is less than half the product in the 2,000-square-foot boutique in the heart of Buckhead, Atlanta’s ritziest neighborhood. Around 10 plus-size resources are among 25 lines offered in the store and online at

Along with bra sizes that go to a G cup in some lines, L’Image offers regular and special sizes for small or full-figure customers. Among the boutique’s high-end European resources and exclusive lines not found in department stores are detailed lace bra and panty sets by Lise Charmel, which can retail up to $350.

Key resources also include Aubade, Le Mystere and Arianne, which appeal to a younger customer, with an array of colors and trendy silhouettes priced $80 and higher for a set. A few lines, such as Aubade and Le Mystere, are carried in Saks Fifth Avenue and Neiman Marcus, which helps build brand recognition, Lewis said.

With no prior retail experience, Lewis left a job as a senior financial analyst at Coca-Cola in the mid-Nineties to help women like herself find pretty lingerie. Concentrating on plus sizes, she launched the boutique’s Web site in 1998, before opening the store. Shipping globally, the Web site sells 40 percent more than the store, but customers like the touch-and-feel quality of a boutique, said Lewis. The business generates annual sales of between $250,000 and $300,000.

As an independent retailer in the over-stored Atlanta market, Lewis has carved a niche, backed up by creative marketing. She has held more than 100 in-home parties across the Southeast. Typically attended by between 20 and 30 women, each party generates thousands of dollars in sales and attracts new customers. Hostesses get the added incentive of the outfit of their choice.When Oprah Winfrey touted the Tisha T-shirt bra by Le Mystere as one of her favorite things for spring on her TV show in May, sales skyrocketed. The seamless bra, which retails for $56 in average sizes, also featuresplus sizes up to a G cup for $62. The item was moved to a prominent position on the Web site, with banner advertising. The NuBra, a self-adhesive, strapless, backless bra, has also been a bestseller, though the product requires a little more consumer education, she said.

Lewis said that plus-size lingerie offerings are becoming more accessible, but a promising opportunity is sleepwear and loungewear for fuller figures. Next spring, Lewis will launch a private label line called L’Image, which she will design.

“When I got married last year, I couldn’t find any nice sleepwear for my trousseau and had to have something made,” she said. “Manufacturers don’t realize the opportunity there.”

Her current Buckhead location, a side street surrounded by high-end hair salons and spas, is a destination shop and is closed on Monday and Tuesday for appointments and custom fittings only.

While the store attracts a tony crowd, walk-in traffic has been lacking. Reluctantly, she will close the location and move in October to a new high-end center, The Avenue at West Cobb. For her new customer base, she will add more basics, such as plain camisoles in a wide color range and more midpriced product, while still keeping L’Image’s special approach.

“I love the aesthetics of this store, with its luscious cream-colored fixtures and hardwood floors, but we need to get our message out to more people,” Lewis said.

To access this article, click here to subscribe or to log in.

load comments
blog comments powered by Disqus