South of the Border, North of the Bra Strap: Lingerie Shopping in Mexico City

Womens Secret Bandeau and Shorts

Obviously, the first thing I do after arriving in a gorgeous foreign city is look for lingerie. As a lingerie designer, Im naturally fascinated by the stuff and part of this interest is in the way it can reveal so much about a culture. Some people do food tourism, others music or art, but I am a lingerie tourist.

I left New York for a weeklong bop around Mexico City, where I expected to visit some shops, look at folk art, and generally try to understand what drives Mexican ladies negligee choices. Lingerie choices can say a lot about a cultures attitudes about what femininity means, the dynamics of flirtation, practical concerns are about proper clothing foundations, female empowerment, individualism, body image what DOESNT lingerie have the ability to communicate?

As tourists, of course we are limited to just a sliver of whats observable about a place, and it can be presumptuous to try to derive too much insight from passing impressions. So I didnt make too much of the nocturnally louche Zona Rosa neighborhood near my hotel, where I seemed to see nothing but adult stores full of the same inflatable mannequins and crotchless underwear youd find in adult stores everywhere. Luckily, I ran into a woman who has recently opened a chic boutique in the Roma neighborhood and she gave me the lowdown on shopping, bra choices, and what fashion means to girls like her.

Adult Shop in Zona Rosa

Claudia Gutierrez is a cool girl. She lived abroad for nine years and her fluency in English, as well as her international perspective on fashion, made her the perfect interview subject and insight provider. After working at Nylon Mexico and elsewhere in fashion PR, she opened a fashion forward boutique, Sioux, about eight months ago. She didnt know of any independent lingerie boutiques in Mexico City but was able to shed some (verbal) light on her compatriots skivvies.

Claudia Guiterrez and Lakshmi at Sioux, Mexico City

Sioux, Mexico City

Laura Mehlinger: Why did you open Sioux and what does the name mean?

Claudia Gutierrez: In Sioux culture, women make the teepees and choose the ceremonial clothing for everyone. They play an important role in their communities. I opened this shop because I want Sioux to bring innovative fashion to the Roma district of Mexico City. I carry independent brands like APC, BLK denim, and Clu, and some of them are impossible to find here. I want to give Mexican women more choice in what they wear.

LM: Was it challenging to start your own store?

CG: It was a huge risk but I feel like women have to be the first to change a fashion culture. This was my dream and I wanted to choose my own career and life.

LM:В  How is lingerie perceived in Mexico?

CG: Lingerie is not such a big thing here. This is a macho culture and people still see lingerie as related to sex and prostitution, so everyday women wouldnt want to wear very sexy lingerie. Its mostly just seen as something practical for most women.

LM: Are there big lingerie or nightwear gift-giving holidays like Valentines Day or Christmas?

CG: No, lingerie is not considered appropriate for gift giving.

LM: Where do most women in Mexico City buy their lingerie?

CG: We would shop at international stores in big malls, like Womens Secret or Oysho. Theres also Victorias Secret, which is considered quite sexy. But I think the culture is changing now a bit. People are becoming more open-minded. I dont see lingerie as something to wear to look sexy, but to feel good about myself. Also there are some new trends that draw attention to lingerie, like sheer tops. A bright bra under a sheer blouse can be modern and not overly sexy.

LM: What do you like to sleep in?

CG: Usually a t-shirt and shorts, but it depends on my mood and the weather it doesnt depend on a man!

Based on Claudias advice, I visited Womens Secret and Oysho to check out their lingerie. Both are Spanish companies with stores worldwide.

Oysho was modern if somewhat antiseptic inside, with white walls and middle of the road designs. Pastel colors dominated, and I thought were at their most compelling in a ruffled matte pastel swim collection in the window. There was a focus on soft cup bras and tanga panties rather than the whole range of underwire and various structured options that Americans might expect. The boxed basics displayed on a wall appeared to be a strength of the brand, as fashion-forward pieces did not have a presence.

Oysho Bra and Panty

Oysho Slip

Womens Secret was upbeat in mood and fairly similar to Oysho. Molded cup bras with prints were nice everyday choices. Like Oysho, there was a good wall of basics, well-packaged single bras or panties, and a nearby section of solutions products. A few quirks of the store: the only sexy pieces I could find were a dusty mauve demure bra and panty but the panty was open crotch and there were garters. There was also a huge presence of licensed juvenile graphics, like Disney and Miffi, which to my American eyes jarred against the rest of the stores lace lingerie.

Womens Secret Underwired Bra

Womens Secret Miffi Pajama

I would love to hear from you about your thoughts on Mexican lingerie. Are you a fan of Oysho and Womens Secret? Do you know of any independent lingerie brands?

Author: Laura a.k.a. Lola Haze