Saturday, December 01, 2007

French Men Talk about Lingerie

In anticipation of holiday gift-giving, this week's Madame Figaro is dedicated almost entirely to jewels: gems, gold, pearls, rings, necklaces, watches, you name it. Then, in the middle of the issue there is a one-page editorial break from the stream of bauble promotion. To celebrate the 100th anniversary of the bra, the Madame Figaro staff polled six of France's most famed séducteurs -- ladies' men -- to scout out their preferences in lingerie on the bodies of the women they adore. Clearly when it comes to lingerie, one size doesn't fit all French male libidos.

As Madame Figaro advises, "Ladies, take notes!" (Men, too, I might add.) PG-13.

1. Pascal Elbé, Actor
"Even though I'm among men who love lingerie, I am more of a fan of Calvin Klein bikini bottoms than the lace-and-French-cancan mode. On the other hand, however, I do have one unforgettable memory of a science professor I once had who wore a garter belt; I can tell you that I switched my class seat immediately from the balcony to the front row. Unfortunately, I didn't make strides in the subject matter. But I had a perfect attendance record in class all year."

2. Samuel Etienne, Journalist
"At 15 years old, I liked lingerie that exposed as much as possible, since I was young and curious about the female body. At 20, I preferred lingerie that covered as much as possible, giving me the desire to remove it -- quick quick quick. At 25, lace scared me; it was too evocative of the mysteries of a woman. I preferred women in cotton, which was more reassuring. Since hitting my 30s, I don't have preferences anymore. I listen, to to hear what this or that lingerie is saying to me about the woman who is wearing it. But, well, sometimes my ears don't hear anything, so I let my eyes roam over the curves of her body. Promises of heaven in a world of hell."

3. Pascal Bruckner, Writer
"The only shops that make me stop in my tracks are the lingerie boutiques. Inside, everything is set up to put the female body to its best advantage. Sexuality is transformed into eroticism. I like La Perla, Sabbia Rosa, and even Princesse Tam-Tam. I often give lingerie as a gift -- of course, it is above all a present to oneself. I like the bordello antechamber style, old-fashioned prostitute: lots of lace, bustiers that lace up -- even if they're complicated to untie -- silk, satin... everything that gives to the act of lovemaking the refinement that it otherwise lacks. Lingerie defines and isolates certain parts of the body, just as desire does. For me, that immediately stirs up fantasy."

4. Pierre Arditi, Actor
"No lingerie means no eroticism -- or at least very little. A naked female body, as beautiful as it may be, is not very erotic. One must create the fantasy, inspire desire, and thus not show everything all at once. I remember as an adolescent the way my whole body heated up when my then-girlfriends let a bit of their garter be seen... Magnifique. For me, there's is nothing uglier than pantyhose. Same goes for thongs: I'm not swayed by them. I remain an ardent admirer of little underpants."

5. Frederic Taddei, Journalist and television commentator
"To me, lingerie is a piece of clothing like anything else. I have neither a taboo nor a fetish about it. When a woman wears fancy lingerie, that seems normal to me; when she doesn't, that doesn't seem like a big deal either. What excites me is the woman herself. The way she works with what she's got. I'm not turned off by any one thing. On the woman in my life, I like everything."

6. André, Artist, owner of the Hotel Amour and the Baron.
"Lingerie is like putting a matte around a painting: it frames the subject. I like garter belts, couture stockings, the nostalgic side of lingerie -- classic and timeless -- a bit like Betty Page. It has to stay light. In fact, I prefer when there isn't any underwear at all. It gives a feeling of freedom."

Okay, ladies, the Gods have spoken. Get out those Christmas wish lists. Are you sure you really want a diamond under the tree this year?

Madame Figaro article compiled by Peggy Frey, Morgane Miel, and Astrid Taupin.

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