By  on May 7, 2007

For many London lingerie aficionados, spring is another excuse to stock up on the season's latest frilly offerings. Here's an account of two shopping experiences at local boutiques.

MISS LALA

Miss LaLa is a small boutique in London's hip Primrose Hill. I decided if anything could offer change from fusty Knightsbridge, this could. I was right.

As I walked in, disco music was playing and laughing customers were exiting with shopping bags. I was immediately offered help, explained what I was looking for and was allowed to browse with the assistance available if needed. The shop was merchandised creatively, with panties in bowls amid jewelry, accessories and scarves. It also carried a range of smaller, independent labels such as Frankly Darling and Buttress and Snatch, alongside luxury labels as Fifi Chachnil.

Though expensive, I was pleasantly surprised to see that prices ran the gamut from brands like Damaris' secondary line Mimi Holiday at $73 by the current exchange rate, to the high-end Damaris brand at $198 to $297. I asked advice about fitting, and the assistant said each brand was very different, so she liked to work with customers on a case-by-case, trial-and-error basis. I picked a style, and from that she was able to select which size would fit, asking informed questions about what brands and sizes I already wore. The interior was cozy and bohemian-looking, and the vibe was like hanging out with friends.

Miss LaLa is not the sort of place that you would go to for practical underwear. Everything it sells is indulgent, frilly and delicate.

RIGBY & PELLER

Rigby & Peller make the bras for Queen Elizabeth II. I decided that anything good enough for Her Royal Highness would certainly do for me. With that, I visited the Rigby and Peller boutique, opposite Harrods. The small shop was crowded and several people were sitting along the back wall.

No one greeted me or explained anything, but eventually I noticed a sign telling me to take a ticket and wait for a fitting. No seats were available, so I took a number and checked the underwear on display, but there was little to see. The racks were devoted largely to swimwear with only one section devoted to lingerie. After 20 minutes, I managed to get a seat.There were two changing rooms, each devoted to fittings only.

"Would it be long?" I asked the assistant. "Ten minutes," she replied, so I stuck it out. After a 35-minute wait, I was called in to the back where an assistant asked what I was looking for and fitted me. She was professional, but it was frustrating not to be able to choose the bras myself or have some visual reference. I had no idea about the range of lines that Rigby and Peller carried, and was entirely reliant upon her selection.

The shop also had the feel of a doctor's office. The bra styles were old-fashioned and I did not purchase any. As I left, I was handed a fitting card with the styles I had tried on. If I had liked any of them this would have been useful for future reference.

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