Next up in our Local Alternatives series is Victoria’s Secret, the underwear and lingerie brand that has grown from selling only bras and panties to offering a full body care and fragrance collection, swimwear, and even a make-up line. In the world of pop culture, Victoria’s Secret is best known for having ridiculously good-looking spokeswomen (Heidi Klum, Gisele Bündchen, and Adrianna Lima, to name a few), its annual runway show involving oversized angel wings, and for that bizarre commercial featuring Bob Dylan circa 2004. The company, which began in 1977 in California, has expanded to a global powerhouse boasting over 1,000 retail stores worldwide, a number that helps to explain why seemingly every mall has a Victoria’s Secret.
For many women, undergarments are—and always have been—a very important part of everyday attire. The inaugural “first bra” is an event marked by experiences of trauma, delight, and/or shock, depending on which woman you ask. This milestone is so significant in the life of a young woman because it signals the beginning of a transition that cannot be reversed: growing up.
Later in life, another milestone in support attire will be reached: a woman’s first well-fitting bra. Not a sports bra, not a rib-cage-piercing under wire, not the same one you got on that first trip, but one that makes you want to buy a whole shelf of v-necks and walk ever so slightly more upright. Sparked by Oprah episodes entirely focused around the notion that wearing the correct cup size could and would change your life, millions of women sought properly fitting brassieres, and Victoria’s Secret was there to welcome them with every size, color, and strap variation of bra imaginable.
Thus far, our style features have focused on the exterior: coats, dresses, shirts, pants, and various accessories including bags and jewelry. But what about what we have going on underneath all that local love? In an age of nip-slips and vehicle-exiting crotch shots, it is more important than ever to ensure the proper coverage of your lady bits, preferably without having to sport “PINK” across your mons pubis (yeah... no thanks). These locally owned and operated undergarment and lingerie shops are suggested as your local alternatives to Victoria’s Secret.
The fact that you have to walk down a few steps to enter Oh Baby’s store on NW 23rd Avenue only emphasizes the notion that you are about to enter a sweet, slightly naughty respite from the hustle and bustle of the crowded sidewalk above. Having recently downsized to one location, Oh Baby is a bra and panty lover’s paradise. Not only does a giant bed greet you upon entry, but this symbol of rest and romp also serves as a display area for a variety of lacy undergarments that are intricate yet practical. Keep an eye out for items from Sofada’s Hotcakes line, which are designed and manufactured right here in Portland. Oh Baby played hostess to the U.S. debut of the line in August and currently carries multiple items from the brand. Intent on catering to all shapes and sizes, Oh Baby also features a sleepwear line out of San Francisco called Two Figs, which is specifically designed for women with cup sizes D through G. Unsure of where to begin among so many luxurious choices? Oh Baby staff will gladly assist with fittings during operating hours. No appointment necessary.
Oh Baby, 722 NW 23rd Ave, 503.274.4190
Lille Trousseau & Lille Boutique
Yes, Lille has two Portland locations, but this is nothing like visiting the Victoria’s Secret in Lloyd Center and the one at Pioneer Place downtown, where you are essentially getting the exact same experience from different points on a map. Think of the pair of elegant lingerie shops as sisters. Ultimately they come from the same origin, but they have very distinct personalities. Lille Trousseau (the word ‘trousseau’ meaning “the personal possessions of a bride”) offers a carefully selected variety of special occasion pieces, perfect for the bride seeking a soft yet still sexy look to fulfill her “something new” requirement. The color palette at Lille Trousseau is light and airy, epitomized by lacy items from domestically-made brands Zinke and Only Hearts. Conversely, Lille Boutique on E Burnside is the sassy, single sister that is focused on emphasizing her assets in a playful and flirty way. The colors at the Boutique are more vibrant and eye-catching, and a rack of swimsuits—including ones from NYC-made line Malia Mills—in the middle of the store begs us to hold on to summer for a few more weeks. Bonus: Lille Boutique sells earrings by Portland designer Courtney Roby Sage, who also happens to work at that location. Both shops offer shoes from Remix Vintage and—because something about smelling sweet and lingerie just go together—organic body care products from Red Flower.
Lille Trousseau, 1124 SW Alder, 503.222.2702 and Lille Boutique, 1007 E Burnside, 503.232.0333
Stepping into the small space inhabited by Jane’s Vanity on SW Broadway must surely be what it is like to have the lucky privilege of peeking into Dita Von Teese’s boudoir (if you don’t know who that is, you clearly haven’t been keeping up with the shop’s delightfully NSFW Tumblr, The Vanity Enchantment, tsk tsk!). Since “travel the world in search of fabulous lingerie” is probably not a category in your budget, Jane’s carries only the highest caliber garments from places near and far, ensuring that the utmost quality and style is accessible right here in Portland. In addition to all the exotic imports, you’ll also find some lovely items made closer to home such as bejeweled pasties (!!!!!) made in Vancouver, WA by Gothfox, and charming garters made in Portland by Piper Ewan. Because you’ll obviously want some jewels to go with your sexy skivvies, Jane’s features delicate accessory items from Bruer Tate, made by “shopgirl extraordinaire” and Portland native, Emily Tate. Are we sensing a pattern here? Local boutique + multi-talented sales associate(s)= must-have jewelry. Shoo, that is one foxy equation!
Something to start saving for now: fall will bring more items from Toad Lillie, a Seattle lingerie line that is handmade-to-order. Following the success of the trunk show in August, Jane’s expects a large order of Toad Lillie bras and panties in November. Fall forecast: hott with two t’s.
Jane’s Vanity, 521 SW Broadway, 503.241.3860
Most of us cannot afford to build an entire undergarment wardrobe from any of these places—although we will NOT stop dreaming—but consider saving up for a few pieces for a special occasion such as a honeymoon or anniversary. The mark of a great undergarment is that it looks just as great on your hot bod as it does strewn about the bedroom floor, and hopefully these suggestions will help you in your quest to become a walking, talking, booty shakin’ local lover in all layers of life.
Writer’s Note: This installment revealed (ahem) a void in undergarment production in the Northwest. Are we destined to rely on outside sources to provide the utmost quality and design, or is it only a matter of time before this untapped market is produced more commonly in our region of the country? Please share your thoughts in the comments.