"I want to do to you what spring does to cherry trees" Pablo Neruda purred in his poem, Every Day You Play. Perhaps you feel the same about your significant other, or "subtle visitor".
Agent Provocateur's iconic Broadwick Street store, the first premises by the luxury British lingerie brand, has been keeping Londoners well stocked in tulle bras, silk slips and embroidered briefs since 1994. So if it's been 25 years since you treated yourself to new smalls, now's the time to put the snap back into your bra straps.
Whether a treat for yourself or for someone else, there are plenty of London lingerie retailers who can cater to tastes from latex to lace, low-key to lavish, post-break up to post-mastectomy. Plus, many of them deliver, so if you're feeling feeling shy you can simply browse and buy from the comfort of your own home.
The must-do lingerie: Agent Provocateur
Agent Provocateur now has five outlets in London, but its original store on Broadwick Street in Soho is still the chain’s best. Styles run from dainty and virginal to the downright rude, while the more classic designs tend to be made with silk chiffons and scalloped lace. The attention to detail is incredible. The Spring/Summer 2020 collection gives lingerie an athletic twist with peekaboo swimsuits and retro fishnet tanks alongside the more traditional laced lovelies. Even if you’re just looking for ideas, Agent Provocateur is a must-do on the London lingerie list.
Sexy lingerie: Coco de Mer
Coco de Mer on Monmouth Street is a whirlwind head-rush of lingerie, sex toys and unlikely-looking erotic art objects. It stocks its own range of thongs, bras, body suits, suspender belts and the like, but is also home to a sizeable array of designer brands such as Dita Von Teese, Bordelle and Womanizer. It's pretty much your one-stop-sexy-shop as bespoke bedroom furniture, kink accessories and eccentric toys also get a look-in. Need a starter for ten? Check out their range of 'salons', where experts in field share their knowledge on topics from female pleasure to spanking.
Hollywood glamour lingerie: What Katie Did
In Portobello, What Katie Did is London’s leading retro lingerie shop. Chances are they single-handedly revived the Bullet Bra. If you love the styling on Mad Men, you’ll know it’s the underpinnings that create that classic hourglass silhouette: pointy satin cups under cashmere sweaters and smooth girdles under pencil skirts. And shop staff can order in bras up to a 40F, knickers to an 18 and dress size up to 26 — so even Joan Holloway would shop here.
Italian lingerie: La Perla
La Perla currently has one boutique on Sloane Street, plus concessions in Harrods and Selfridges. The high-end Italian brand deals in traditional, feminine products with white, black and nude colours featured highly. You might find a couple of frivolous florals thrown in for good measure. While some bras can be found for £80, the abundance of traditional French lace and Georgette silk creates elegant, luxurious pieces that are more comfortable in the £200-£400 mark. Fun fact: La Perla is one of the only historic fashion houses with a female founder – Italian corset-maker Ada Masotti.
Sporty lingerie: Calvin Klein
Calvin Klein’s best London store is at 120 Long Acre, but outlets can be found in shopping centres around the capital, like One New Change and Westfield. The brand’s clean, classic lingerie style is simpler than others on this list, but who says sporty can't be sexy? Cotton briefs, thongs and bralettes are staples and sit beautifully under T-shirts, jeans and silk blouses. It's more affordable too – bras start at £30 (look out for sales where you can bag a bargain) and go up to a 40D.
Mastectomy lingerie: Nicola Jane
Nicola Jane is a brilliant online boutique which specialises in mastectomy bras. It stocks a few brands, including its own, and sells corsets, camisoles, swimwear and sports bras as well as lingerie and everyday bras. A good selection of prostheses can also be bought. If you’re disappointed by the underwear options in high street stores, book an expert fitting. They have fitters across the country, including London, who can advise on anything from size to style.
Reliable lingerie: John Lewis
Good old reliable John Lewis may not scream seduction, but don't discount it just yet. There's a decent range of lingerie in the flagship Oxford Street store from award-winning brands like Bluebella and Calvin Klein, plus some own-brand pieces that actually stray towards naughty from nice. As you'd expect with a ginormous department store there's a good range of sizes (some brands go up to double G) and you can pick up some thermal undies while you're there too. Hey, we all need an off day!
Royal lingerie: Rigby and Peller
Rigby and Peller is over 80 years old, founded in 1939 and has been making the Queen’s (and other royals') bras since 1960. As you might expect from such a renowned brand the craftsmanship is second to none and options range from practical to provocative. The store is known for its expert fitting service, stocking bras in back sizes 30-50 and from a A to J cup in some brands. It has five shops in London but the one on Conduit Street is the most central. Full price bras start at £36.
Bigger-boobed lingerie: Bravissimo
Bravissimo is a more affordable tip for bigger-boobed customers on the hunt for pretty options in hard-to-find sizes. It has two stores in central London - one in Covent Garden and a larger one on Margaret Street - plus another two out west. Bras run in sizes from D up to an L cup and start at £23. Note: there is are no seasonal sales in store, but the website offers discounted stock all year round.
Collectors lingerie: Harvey Nichols
Harvey Nichols in Knightsbridge is the place for serious lingerie collectors. It has over 30 luxury brands British women already trust: Simone Pérèle, Fleur of England and Wacoal. Plus high-end designer brands like Burberry and Gucci for those extra special treats. All that browsing built your appetite? There’s a Burger and Lobster restaurant on the fifth floor that's perfect for the post-shop slump.
Independent brand lingerie: Selfridges
Selfridges in Marble Arch is the best place in London to discover indie lingerie labels like Katherine Hamilton, Kiki de Montparnasse and Private Liaison. You'll also find couture brands like La Perla and Stella McCartney.
Tourist lingerie: Victoria's Secret
Victoria’s Secret on Bond Street is more of a destination for horny teenage tourists than bonafide lingerie shoppers, but never the less this bombastic knicker shop deserves a mention in this list, if only for its legendary window displays. Inside, there are four floors of frippery, including displays of the catwalk costumes from the brand’s ‘Angels’ show. However, much of the product is La Senza quality at Myla prices, and the fitting service is poor.
Latex lingerie: House of Harlot
House of Harlot, with its Docklands workshop and Chalk Farm stockist, may require a journey to acquire. But the premium latex label is worth travelling for and its designers have previously collaborated with with the likes of Louis Vuitton, Oscar de la Renta and Christian Dior. Londoners might also recognise pieces from the range of latex wear designed for the club night, Torture Garden.
Kinky lingerie: Honour
Staff in fetish-based shop Honour, located on Lower Marsh near Waterloo, are knowledgeable about their products. It’s more fetish fashion that straight-forward lingerie — think latex stockings, PVC pencil skirts, leather corsets and crotchless catsuits. Also a good pit stop for men's lingerie, BDSM gear and role-play costumes.
Lingerie with advice: Sh!
Sh! boutique on Pitfield Street is a female-focused sex shop which focuses on women's sexuality. A place to browse and buy - they have lingerie, erotic literature, toys and all sorts - but also a place to seek recommendations from the friendly staff. It’s a great place for women who are looking for good quality advice and customer service.
Where have we missed off the list? Let us know in the comments below.