[I purchased this set at the Empreinte atelier in Paris under my real name with my own money. Empreinte is not affiliated with this review, and all opinions are my own.]
I may have mentioned I went to France this summer. Once or twice. A week. For the last month. Sorry about that. I don’t go on vacation a lot, and I hadn’t been on one with my sister in ages, and I had never visited our friends’ cottage in the Loire Valley before, and it was just the best you guys. I drank a lot of wine and ate a lot of food (no one told me that the raspberries and strawberries in France are like NECTAR OF THE GODS, I’m forever changed). While planning the trip I decided to hop over to London while I was on that side of the ocean, and since I knew I’d be heading to Paris to catch the Eurostar, I planned to visit L’Atelier Lingerie, the flagship store of Empreinte, one of the major French heritage brands. Empreinte gets tons of love from fitting boutiques, but the luxury price points (especially in the US– more on this later) and slightly more mature aesthetics meant that I haven’t had much experience with the brand. Now that I’m a little older and my tastes are changing, and since I’d been saving for this trip for two years, I figured there was no time like the present to treat myself.
I had a bit of a whoopsy-daisy getting from Loches to Paris in that I overindulged during my last dinner in France and was thus A BIT hungover, but despite showing up late and sweaty after a dash through the Paris metro, I was greeted warmly at the Atelier and taken directly to a fitting room. My fitter (I can’t remember her name! She was so great! I feel terrible!) took some measurements and came back with bras in a few different sizes to find my fit in Empreinte, and once that was done she then wheeled in a MASSIVE RACK FULL OF LINGERIE ALL FOR ME. Seriously, it was divine. There was a wide assortment of classic and continuity styles, new season styles, and some older collections that were available in les soldes (nation-wide sales that are held every winter and summer). We chatted a little in French about how various styles fit, what colors I liked, and the history of different styles, and then switched to English whenever my vocabulary failed me and/or my fitter took pity on me.
I had just finished explaining that I mostly wore black lingerie, or at least darker colors, to suit my New York wardrobe, when she pulled out a peaches-and-cream confection of a sheer lingerie set, whereupon I immediately said just-kidding-I-want-the-pretty-pink-princess-underwear-now-please-thank-you-mine. Luckily for me this colorway was in les soldes, so it fit right into my vacation budget.
This set is called Pompadour, which, like, right? So perfect. While there is a regular bra style available in the collection, I lost my heart to the guêpière (French version of “basque”). It’s a bit pinker in real life than it appears in these photos, a true ballet pink, with ivory embroidery on the top cup section and ballet pink embroidery on the center front panel of the bodice and lower panels of the cup. Small pink bows and ivory embroidery trim the fully-adjustable straps, and the four detachable suspenders are also fully adjustable. The bodice is constructed of ballet pink stretch mesh and fastens in back with three columns and eleven rows of hooks and eyes, with two short pieces of flexible boning on either side of the center panel. There’s a delicate “waistband” of ivory embroidery about two inches above the very bottom edge of the guêpière, and delicate scalloped elastic trims the bottom edge. The cups are a classic three part cup (a vertical seam in the bottom of the cup with a diagonal seam cutting across the cup and connecting directly to the straps), and they’re fairly full-coverage, so not much cleavage but tons of shape and support. There are puffy ivory tulle bows at the center gore and at the center of the waistband of the matching thong.
I know. I, Sweets, bought a thong. I normally detest thongs in every shape or form, but the matching brief was sold out, and I couldn’t bear not to have a matching set. In the end, this thong actually won me over: covered with decadent embroidery, with gathered mesh over the hips and a bit more coverage than some thongs I’ve tried, this one is a beauty (and looks particularly saucy when worn with stockings).
Another reason it took me so long to try French lingerie brands is that for a while I didn’t realize that cup sizes don’t translate perfectly from the UK to EU size charts. In general, I’ve found that French cup sizes run a little deeper compared to their UK counterparts, and that the increments between different sizes are more pronounced. While I’m generally wearing a 32GG at the moment, or sometimes a 32H, in UK brands, we found that 34G (85G) was my most common size in Empreinte. The bands came up a bit big on some styles, but mostly 34G worked well for me (this is also the size I currently wear in Maison Lejaby). The Pompadour guêpière stops at an F cup, but fortunately my sister size of 36F (90F) fit beautifully! My waist is thicker than my underbust, so your mileage may vary, but I feel comfortable and well supported. The cups offer depth and projection, which means they’re a great match for my shape. Though they’re full-coverage, the center gore still tacks comfortably against my sternum and the top of the cup lies smoothly with no digging or gapping.
The bodice fastens comfortably on the loosest set of hooks and smooths my waist, although I don’t think I’ll wear it much without the suspenders; it likes to roll up unless it’s anchored by stockings. I’ll also note that the shape through the bodice is not super curvaceous. It’s more straight up-and-down than the Bravissimo basques I’ve tried, so I get more of a streamlined shape and less of a nipped-in waist. This isn’t a criticism, more of an observation in case you’re particular about creating or emphasizing an hourglass silhouette.
My fitter looked askance at me when I said I normally wear a Large in underwear and insisted I try a Medium. I was annoyed at first, but then she explained that (A) Empreinte underwear is cut a little generously and (B) the size Large was sold out. Much to my surprise, the Medium fits well without pinching, riding down, or digging in. Thank you, lovely fitter!
Without boning all around the bodice, just short pieces in front (they stop at about my natural waist, so there’s less structure over the lower belly), this isn’t a piece I’d choose for a day when I wanted more intense shaping. That said, my basques don’t always get a lot of wear, since in my current job I move around a lot during the day, but I could definitely see myself wearing this set with no discomfort through a full work day. As I mentioned above, it tends to ride up to my waist unless I’m wearing stockings, but other than that it feels light, comfortable, flexible, and supportive. Even the thong is comfortable, and coming from me that means it’s something special.
So, Empreinte lingerie, especially in the United States after tariffs and fees, is quite expensive. Bras typically retail for $175+ over here, and as a result many US retailers only order styles they know will sell, like the super-popular molded lace Melody collection in basic colors. I had never seen anything like the Pompadour collection before, which is part of why it bowled me over. My fitter explained that many of the more ornate, embellished, and colorful collections rarely make it to the US, and it’s true that the collections I saw at the Atelier felt richer, a little more playful, and much more special than my previous sense of the brand would have led me to believe. Empreinte is generally a bit more affordable if purchased in the EU (my fitter told me that some loyal customers make a point of stopping in Paris once or twice a year to stock up on new styles), and with the lower retail price plus les soldes, my full set came to about $220, which I think is kind of an amazing price for a luxury set that’s this beautiful and that fits this well.
One of the last points of my visit was a trip to the main level of the showroom to personalize my lingerie set, a service that’s available exclusively at Atelier locations. There customers can select from a range of extra trims and embellishments, from oversized bows to charms to pearls, even monograms and embroidery! The Pompadour set is already so perfectly lavish I decided not to add embroidery, but I did have small diamanté charms added at the center gore and waistband of the thong, just below the tulle bows. Obviously pink princess underwear needs just a bit of sparkle.
I’m so happy I decided to make the stop in Paris (and power through my hangover) to get to know Empreinte a little better. Every single bra I tried on felt incredibly comfortable and exquisitely crafted, and getting to see so many styles in a huge range of shapes and colors, rather than the same one bra in black and beige that I see most often in the US, has radically changed my opinion of the brand. The brand has a much richer portfolio than I realized; I didn’t even get a chance to look at some of the swim collections! I made a point of stopping by the Empreinte booth at Curve this season, where I got a peek at two new colorways for Pompadour (above) that will be available for the Spring/Summer 2017 season. I love how different this set looks in the different colors; my Poudre colorway is pure Marie Antoinette delicacy in sheer vintage pink, while the dark aubergine/gold is regal and the lilac more playful. If you ever have the opportunity to stop in Paris (or at the Lille or Strasbourg locations) and you’re in a lingerie shopping mood, I highly recommend a visit to the Atelier.
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Guêpière and Thong: Pompadour in Poudre by Empreinte, sizes 80-90 (32-36) C-F, knickers in 38-48 (XS-XXL). All sizes are EU, so the cup size progression goes C, D, E, F. While the Poudre colorway is from a past season and therefore may not be widely available, I found this guêpière set available here (€196/50), the bra and knickers on sale here (black guêpière available here), and the bra and brief available on the (UK version only, sadly) Figleaves website (£52.20/20.25). The lovely blue ciel colorway of the bra (30-42 D-G) and brief are currently on sale at Bare Necessities. The black version of Pompadour should be more widely available as we head into the Autumn/Winter seasons.
Photos: Studio Rezin