Hope Chest Lingerie, in Rittenhouse. Photo by Courtney Apple
If you’re like most girls, you wouldn’t even call the undergarments you’ve been wearing most of your life lingerie—let alone have a solid idea of where to buy such a thing.
But now you find yourself in a position where you have to get some tricky contraption to smooth and support and camouflage and lift, well, everything underneath your wedding dress—and also score a few special items to take along on your honeymoon.
Luckily, the Philadelphia area doesn’t lack for treasure-chest-like lingerie shops, or experts who know how to find and fit exactly what you need. You simply have to know where to look.
Sweet Blossoms Lingerie, Doylestown
THE SHOP: You’ll breathe a sigh of relief whenyou walk into this intimate boutique’s pretty dressing rooms and their soft lighting. After all, says owner Patty Tilney, “You wear lingerie in dim to no lighting!” Tilney opened the cozy lavender-hued shop 10 years ago, and zeroed her focus in on fit. “Being in the right bra makes a difference in how your clothes look,” she says. “You just feel better about yourself.”
THE GOODS: Pieces here range from basic shapewear and comfy PJs to honeymoon- perfect sets from brands like Eberjey and Mary Green. There’s an entire rack dedicated to white nightgowns for brides—or mothers-of who are shopping for their daughters’ peignoir sets—plus some extra bridal goodies (think Hanky Panky “I Do” panties and structured bustiers) and hosiery. Tilney makes it a point to try and keep the majority of her inventory under $100.
THE SERVICE: Tilney offers an after-hours Girls’ Night Out shopping option—though she also tells brides they’re welcome to come in with their ’maids during store hours, bring their own champagne, and pick out what they’ll pack for their honeymoon, with their best buds there for support.
Coeur Lingerie, Rittenhouse
THE SHOP: To reach Mona Lisa Jackson’s petite boutique, you’ve got to hop up a few steps from the street and ring a bell. Once inside, says Jackson, customers often remark that they feel as if they’re in a little jewel box. The walls are painted a rich navy blue—“To give it a bit of a self-indulgent feel,” says Jackson—and the two fitting rooms in the back of the store are located on opposite sides, to give each shopper her own space and allow for privacy during fittings.
THE GOODS: If you’re looking to get something extra special—or fancy—for your wedding
night or honeymoon, this might be your spot. “We specialize in fine, well-made, carefully fitted items, mostly from Europe, and especially high-end brands,” says Jackson. Look for bra-and-underwear sets, slips, teddies and sleepwear, from brands such as Christine Vancouver, Chantelle and Les Jupons de Tess—and it’s the only spot in the city to carry La Perla. Also keep an eye out for extras like pretty candles and, of course, that infamous toy closet.
THE SERVICE: Backless? Strapless? Sheer? No matter what your dress requires of undergarments in terms of invisibility, Jackson can find offerings that not only disappear under your dress, but are also highly functional: “The bride’s going to be dancing and entertaining—she won’t have time to be fussing with a loose bra.” She’s hosted many a party in the store, so if you’ve been considering a lingerie shower, talk to her about hostessing.
Hope Chest, Haverford
THE SHOP: Owner Donna Goetz originally debuted this charming boutique more than 20 years ago in Center City, and moved it to its current location in Haverford Square eight years ago. The tiny space, with a black marble floor, an armoire that houses stacks of goodies, and an entire wall of bras, packs a big punch for its size.
THE GOODS: Goetz strives for a sense of “everyday luxury” in her inventory’s quality and variety: “You can buy comfy PJs, and three feet away you’ll find a sheer negligee.” For underneath the dress, she’s got shapewear from Spanx and strapless support from Le Mystère, and for the honeymoon, silky, lacy pieces from Cosabella and Frances Smily. Bonus: You’ll find accoutrements that could come in handy for tricky gowns or rehearsal-dinner dresses: stick-on bras, reusable petal-top nipple covers, gels, fashion tape, and all sorts of magic tricks.
THE SERVICE: Bring in a picture of your dress, and Goetz will help you figure out what undergarments to take to your fitting. Bring in your bridesmaids, and she’ll help you have a little lingerie shower or pre-bachelorette-party get-together right there. If you know you’re having such a party off-site, Goetz will keep a wish list for your potential gift-givers—your own little lingerie registry.
Hope Chest, Rittenhouse
THE SHOP: After managing the Haverford location of Hope Chest under Donna Goetz for five years, Hope Chest Philly owner Jennifer Rosen decided to open a second outpost of the shop downtown. (Each location is independently owned.) The store, outfitted in ivories and light pinks, feels like a girly bedroom; the vast selection of lingerie is housed in vintage-inspired furniture.
THE GOODS: The pieces Rosen carries—from the bras and underwear and chemises and
sleepwear to the bodysuits and cami-and-boyshort sets—range from comfy to sexy, and a portion of the store is devoted to bridal, including the much-needed bustier. You’ll find names like Simone Perele and Mimi Holiday next to more unusual brands like Brulée and Damaris, as well as extra goodies like glass-jarred Voluspa candles and lingerie novelty items. (Perhaps a pearl thong for your wedding night?)
THE SERVICE: “We like to have fun with our brides because they’re so often nervous!” says Rosen, who will work to make sure your under-the-dress undergarments fit like a dream, and will organize an after-hours visit for you and your girls—serving wine and cheese, helping you choose your honeymoon trousseau, and giving each lady her own bra fitting—with many customers wearing their choices right out of the store.
Intimacy, King of Prussia
THE SHOP: Intimacy was founded more than 20 years ago by Susan Nethero, who was once dubbed the “bra whisperer” by Oprah Winfrey—and the nickname stuck. The three-year-old local outpost is a light-filled space where pretty bra-and-underwear sets are displayed on the walls, with drawers containing sizes between A and K cups right underneath each one. Racks hold slips, nighties, shapewear, loungewear and bathing suits, and the roomy dressing rooms are designed for serious shopping.
THE GOODS: Bras and undies are the focus here, and they’ve got gorgeous ones, from designers such as Aubade, Marie Jo, Empreinte and lots more. They’ve also got enough sleepwear for you to dream in something different each night of your ’moon (“we find most brides are looking for lacy black to wear on their wedding night,” says assistant manager Helen Eilert), as well as shapewear from Prima Donna and both bikini and one-piece swimsuits.
THE SERVICE: The shop has a reservation policy in place to make sure you get a good amount of one-on-one time with an expert fitter who can steer you toward pieces that will work well on you. (They literally go into the dressing room with you to show you how pieces are supposed to fit.) And when it comes to pre-wedding lingerie prep, brides and their attendants are welcome to come in together for 20-to-30-minute styling sessions for all.
Neiman Marcus, King of Prussia
THE SHOP: The lingerie department, tucked away in a corner on the store’s second floor to give it a boutique feel, is well-designed for a bride shopping with her support team: There are old-fashioned velvet chairs, and the dressing rooms are big enough for second opinions—or for you to get into with your wedding dress.
THE GOODS: Tommi Elzey, who heads up the department, says the slinky nude Commando thong is a huge seller with brides for donning underneath the Dress. There’s an assortment of white lingerie, though Elzey says it’s the mothers who lean toward that, while brides go for pale pinks and other pastels when it comes to the selection of Chantelle, Hanky Panky, Natori and more. (Honeymoon tip from Elzey: “Many of the Cosabella nightgowns can double as dresses during the day.”) There’s also comfy loungewear.
THE SERVICE: Champagne is a given, and if you call ahead of time, personal shoppers can be on hand to assist. They’ll source items from other stores; alterations are available on-site; and if you click with your shopper, she can help you out in other departments of the store, whether to find your wedding-day shoes or pick out a rehearsal-dinner dress. And don’t forget to ask for the little personal tips the stylists here have gathered over years of working with brides: “One of our stylists came up with this ‘hatbox’ idea,” says Elzey. “Someone in the bridal party purchases seven floral craft boxes, and the bridesmaids buy different lingerie for the bride to wear each day the week of her wedding.”
Posh Lingerie & Bra Boutique, Cherry Hill
THE SHOP: You’ll want to set aside a good amount of time to work your way through Denise Magaziner’s spacious store (she has a degree in fashion and a background as a certified sexologist), which features four dressing rooms tucked in the back, one of which is large enough for the mother of the bride or a few friends to get in there with you. (“Fitting is a spectator sport!” Magaziner says.)
THE GOODS: Brides love the selection of Marlies Dekkers, Va Bien, Natori and lise Charmel—plus the undies, garters and tanks adorned with “I Do” and “Just Married.” A portion of the store is dedicated to medical undergarments, so Magaziner and her staff can outfit women in your life who are affected by breast cancer with silicone prosthetics and pocketed bras; there’s a seamstress on call who can sew them in right after a fitting.
THE SERVICE: Magaziner encourages brides to bring in their dresses for an undergarment test run, having them sit to see if they’re comfortable and even shining a flashlight on them to make sure no underpinnings are visible. When it comes to your honeymoon selections, she’ll urge you to pick out two things for yourself—and then suggest two for you: “We want you to get out of your comfort zone—every bride needs to try new things.” And if you’d like to have a few girlfriends help you choose, she’ll bring you all in after-hours for a champagne-filled shopping party.
THE SHOP: Although BHLDN (pronounced “beholden”), the bridal-focused sister brand of Anthropologie (from parent company URBN), is based in Philly, the city doesn’t yet have a brick-and-mortar store, making shopping here all about the mouse click. Everything on the site—from the party frocks to the jewelry and especially the lingerie—is made explicitly for brides, with stylists on hand to chat about sizing and coordinating and accessorizing your entire bridal look.
THE GOODS: Because the lingerie here is curated just for the bride, BHLDN offers the Simone Perele Celeste bustier, a favorite for wearing underneath your dress—but the rest of the pieces are strictly meant for show, not function (read: the wedding night), with lots of softness, romance and lace, not a lot of structure. Many designs—satin cami and boyshort sets, lace chemises, beautiful robes—are made exclusively for BHLDN by brands such as Fleur of England, Flora Nikrooz and Frances Smily, so you’ll also find unique specialty pieces, like garters adorned with strands of vintage jewels.
THE SERVICE: Lingerie is a very particular kind of purchase, and because so many customers are shopping online, BHLDN offers a live styling team available during the week from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., for you to chat with over the phone or email about sizing, fit and styling, and to get any recommendations. (Each product page also makes a note if the fit strays from the provided guide by running large or small.) Returns are free and accepted within 30 days on all lingerie that is unwashed, unworn and unaltered.
- “Wear colors or pastels on your wedding night. Step out of the box.” —Patty Tilney, Sweet Blossoms Lingerie
- “Men like a surprise, and men are visual. they like flirty, ruffles, bells, whistles—and colors.” —Denise Magaziner, Posh Lingerie and Bra Boutique
- “Don’t wait until the last minute to find the underpinnings for your dress. Bridalwear is more specific than just your average lingerie and usually requires specially ordered items.” —Mona Lisa Jackson, Coeur Lingerie
- “Buy beautiful robes or short kimonos for you and your bridesmaids to wear on the morning of your wedding while you’re getting ready and pictures are being taken.” —Tommi Elzey, Neiman Marcus
This article originally appeared in the spring/summer 2014 issue of Philadelphia Wedding. All photography with the exception of provided photos from Neiman Marcus and BHLDN by Courtney Apple.
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