Fall in love with Toronto’s lingerie stores

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[R]yerson students study in a city that’s sprinkled with strange fashion finds and boutiques. This Valentine’s Day, students can make a date with the city and explore what it has to offer in terms of beautiful and unconventional lingerie.

Lingerie is all about discovery and excitement, so why not venture beyond La Senza and Victoria’s Secret for once? Like any other article of clothing, lingerie has evolved throughout the years. The sexy intimates many Ryerson students will be wearing this Valentine’s Day have survived the long and transformative journey through the fashion world.

These are the top five places in Toronto to discover the lingerie items with the steamiest history.

In Toronto
Avec Plaisir
537 Danforth Ave.

The Corset

The course of lingerie history could not exist without the corset and its controversies. Laced with political and sexual undertones, the corset first shaped women’s bodies to fit the expectations of a female’s figure in the Victorian era. Women laced each other into corsets to achieve desirable cinched waists and voluptuous hips. But the cost of beauty was high. Women experienced fainting spells, back aches, and ripped skin from being so tightly confined inside the mechanism. Corsets reshaped women’s bodies so dramatically to the point that their organs were believed to be displaced from the undergarment. While some people of the Victorian era saw the corset as a motif of beauty and poise, the item ultimately symbolized what it meant to be restrained by an idea of beauty.

Corset manufacturing has transformed since the 1840s, mirroring the societal expectations of beauty at the time. Designed to be stiff and slimming, corsets were constructed of whalebone strips to create smooth lines against a woman’s body. However, innovations in technology allowed the construction of the corset to transform – when the sewing machine was introduced to the fashion world in the early 1850s, the production of corsets increased with speed. The invention catapulted corset making into its own industry in fashion, allowing room for more options in colour, fit, and materials.

Now, the meaning of corsets has changed dramatically – designers are using the undergarment as pieces of lingerie and outerwear alike. Designers like Vivienne Westwood and Jean Paul Gaultier help redefine the meaning of the corset, re-introducing it to the world of lingerie. Corsets are now believed to be sexy and edgy – hardly a device of fainting spells and restraint.

What to Expect
The corsets at Avec Plaisir create smooth lines and pretty silhouettes with very minimal boning. Mostly fashioned with sheer black material, the corsets at this store leave little to the imagination by allowing skin to peek through the fabric. Particular designs at this store have gothic and retro vibes in pinks, purples, and blacks. For the Valentine’s Day theme, the store carries a pink piece that has intricate boning at the front with ruffles adorned at the bottom of the corset.

See the online catalogue: http://avecplaisir.ca/

In Toronto.
Beestung Lingerie De Femme
2504 Yonge Street

The Bra

Jean Paul Gaultier fashioned Madonna’s cone-shaped assets for her 1990 Blond Ambition tour. It was the brassier that has become an iconic image in fashion. The singer’s costume justifies every reason that the bra has evolved from a practical undergarment to an item of endless design possibilities. Bras exist to lift, shape, and redefine the very look of a woman’s breasts, to the point where the staple lingerie item has become its own multi-million dollar industry.

The design of the bra is defined by its era. Breasts are transformed not only by the brassiere, but also by evolving societal expectations of women. The importance placed upon the appearance of breasts now contrasts greatly against trends of the past. While the Flapper girls of the 1920s flattened their chests for a more boyish appearance, 1940s fashion placed emphasis on padding and push-ups. Businessman Frederick Mellinger introduced the fashion world and its women to The Rising Star, the first-ever padded brassiere, which emphasizing the idea of cleavage.

It was in 1977 that the world of lingerie was given the gift of Victoria’s Secret. The store was created by Roy Raymond, a Stratford MBA who felt awkward shopping in department stores for his wife’s lingerie. Now, Victoria’s Secret is a well-known staple in the lingerie world. Their designs, models, and fashion shows bring a whole new definition to the idea of breasts and the societal expectations placed upon them.

What to Expect
Beestung Lingerie is the hidden gem of bra shopping in Toronto. Fashioned with the prettiest of laces and sheer materials, their items have a lovely vintage-inspired vibe. The store focuses on an old-school glamour theme for this year’s Valentine’s Day, carrying lingerie of deep reds and pinks. Featured in FASHION Magazine as one of Canada’s best lingerie stores, Beestung highlights designers like Elle MacPherson and Betsey Johnson.

See the online catalogue: http://beestunglingerie.blogspot.com/

In Toronto
Victoria’s Secret

The Garter Belt

It’s hard to believe that the garter belt only served one purpose when it first graced the fashion world. Women used garter belts simply to hold up their stockings underneath skirts and dresses. The item was a direct response to the girdle, a device that could also hold up stockings but caused great discomfort in the process.

Unfortunately with the creation of nylons, the garter belt became rather useless. While stockings were two separate items that covered each leg, nylons reached women’s waists and did not have to be held up by any device. With this invention, the purpose of the garter belt changed from functionality to being a piece of lingerie that adds drama and excitement to a woman’s wardrobe.

Now, garter belts have made their comeback and are increasingly popular for bedroom escapades. Although it’s hard to pinpoint what makes garter belts so incredibly attractive, this piece of lingerie excites both men and women. The garter belt has become a staple because it has that retro, pin-up girl look that people lust after. Burlesque performer Dita Von Teese is a hero in this realm of the industry, and has helped keep the garter belt relevant in fashion. Now, women wear garter belts because they add drama and mystery to an otherwise boring outfit – people are excited by the sight of a woman’s thigh laced with straps, and are treated to this sight with the acceptance of low-cut skirts and dresses. Naked legs are embraced and accepted in today’s fashion, and many pairs of them are wearing garter belts.

What to Expect
The garter belts at Victoria’s Secret are surprisingly inexpensive considering how beautiful and intricate they are. The store features mostly black garter belts made with detailed lace and tiny matching bows. Keeping with the Valentine’s Day theme, bright-red garter slips and matching bra-garter sets are available at Victoria’s Secret. However, adventurous types can pick up garter belt sets in animal prints, nudes, and unique tulle garter thongs.

See the online catalogue: http://search2.victoriassecret.com/?q=garter+belt

In Toronto
Nearly Naked Lingerie
920 Queen St W.

The Fishnet Stocking

Drew Barrymore’s 2009 film “Whip It” put the fishnet craze back in the spotlight by having her rollerblading babes incorporate them into their uniforms. Fishnets are an accepted item in roller derby, however this piece of lingerie has, in a sense, been owned by different subgroups in fashion throughout time.

Fishnets were once viewed in a negative light – the harsh phrase “loose woman” was associated with the fishnet trend as it was believed to be a prostitute’s article of clothing. But both punks and Goths alike began to own the fashion item during the 1970s, providing their own social commentary on the article of clothing. Female punks dressed themselves in fishnets beneath mini-skirts as a form of mockery toward the piece of lingerie. They took something seen as conventionally sexual and transformed it into something unappealing and crass.

Now a part of mainstream fashion, fishnet stockings play a huge role in fetishism. People are aroused by the mere sight of fishnets because they pull the skin tightly and can be easily taken off. Designers are now experimenting with colours and materials used to make this item of lingerie. Toronto based design company Ego Assassin recently excited followers of the fetish culture with their new latex-cut fishnet stockings.

What to Expect
Nearly Naked Lingerie stockings and fishnets are for the funky and adventurous. The storefront is decorated with bright and brilliant stockings of different colours. Nearly Naked will make your lingerie a little more exciting for Valentine’s Day as their coloured stocking burst through the conventions of the red and pink theme. From this Toronto store, legs can be dressed in light green, baby blue, and even yellow. For lovers of more traditional looks, Nearly Naked carries black stockings with unique floral and polka-dot patterns to add excitement.

See the online catalogue: http://nearlynakedlingerie.com/Nearly_Naked_Lingerie/Home.html

In Toronto
Linea Intima
1925 Avenue Road

The Thong

C-strings, G-strings, V-strings, and all kinds of strings, let people bare their bums for all to see both on the beach and in the bedroom. The thong is not only an undergarment that celebrates the cheekiest body part, but it is also an item that people claim provide comfort .

Fun Fact: the first people to wear thongs were men. The undergarment is believed to have been one of the earliest forms of clothing designed to protect and cover male genitals. Over time, the item became a swimsuit trend in South America, which began a wide acceptance of the exposed bum. By the 90s, both males and females sported thongs as swimwear and underwear. The thong now has its own variations from heart-shaped strings on the lower back, to no strings at all. Thongs are for definitely for the daring.

What to Expect
Feautring Hanky Panky thongs for Valentine’s Day, Linea Intima offers bum-bearing undies in reds, pinks, and purples. These particular thongs have the love theme down, as this month they feature styles with heart-shaped patterns. The Hanky Panky thongs also come with lace trims to add a slightly vintage feel.

See the online catalogue: http://lineaintima.com/

Illustrations by Susana Gomez Baez