Sarah Wizemann: Lingerie Lady

Name: Sarah Wizemann
Home town: La Crosse, WI
Where do you currently live: Portland, OR
Occupation: Owner of Lille Boutique

Sarah in her store, wearing the Eva Sandals

Isobel: Sarah, you own the amazing lingerie store, Lille Boutique, in Portland OR. Can you talk a little about how you came to open a shop and why you focused on lingerie?

Sarah: I opened Lille a little over 6 years ago after moving to Portland from New York and not finding any lingerie store that catered to my aesthetic sensibilities.  I was looking for some place tasteful, elegant, fashion-forward yet simultaneously vintage-inspired, with a good selection of natural fibers and non-padded options that offered a range of prices, and that just didn't exist here (or anywhere really), so I decided to fill that niche.
Gorgeous lingerie at Lille Boutique

Isobel: One of the things I really love about your store is that it has a very playful point of view about how women are sexy. What inspires you in terms of women, beauty and lingerie?

Sarah:  I have always been inspired by good design, owing to the fact that my mother was a seamstress and designer who made all the costumes for my dance company (I studied ballet, modern, tap, jazz, etc. for nearly 20 years before retiring after college due to injuries.)  There are so many similarities between lingerie and dance costumes--both are cut so close to the body that any flaw is immediately noticeable. Obviously, my years as a dancer and my art-school education had a profound impact on my design sensibility. I think my view of what is necessarily "sexy" is different from a lot of other lingerie store owners because I'm a bit of an eccentric, and I don't like to follow the rules. 
You won't ever hear a Lille employee telling a customer that "this is the one bra you have to own" because it's different for every single person. And we also carry a lot of unconventional styles that wouldn't normally appear in a lingerie store, like the hand silk-screened tights by Les Queues de Sardines, or the eclectic pieces from Unforeseen Circumstances. What makes a woman feel sexiest is being confident and comfortable, so my best advice is always to be true to yourself, and never to dress up in a costume that doesn't feel genuine.

More goodies to lust over.

Isobel: You are soon to be a mum, and we were joking about your carrying more maternity bras in the store. How do you think women can keep connected to their femininity and sexiness during pregnancy and after the baby is born?

Sarah: This is a brand new world for me, but I can say with certainty that my sensitivity to fibers has never been higher, so I'm buying more and more organic pima cotton, bamboo, alpaca, and the like. I've always bought merchandise for Lille that had a softer, more natural feel to it than most lingerie stores--we will never pick something made out of an itchy, synthetic lace that is mass-produced in China.  It's so important to be comfortable during pregnancy, so that has dictated my own personal sartorial choices these past 7 months.  Moving into the postpartum phase, when I'll be nursing, I will be sure to opt for natural fibers from loungewear brands like Skin, and also for modern design elements that new moms look for like the subtle shaping of Yummie shapewear  products, the innovative closures on Amoralia, Belabumbum and Elle Macpherson Nursing bras.
The Annabella in neon and natural, exclusively at Lille Boutique.

Isobel: I personally love the pairing of clogs and lingerie. How do you choose which merchandise and designers to carry in the store?

Sarah:  The store has evolved beyond lingerie, hosiery and loungewear to include swimwear, shoes, jewelry and a small selection of ready-to-wear, all of which just has to adhere to one basic rule: I have to love it.  It was a natural evolution that came from years of travel to markets where I fell in love with merchandise other than lingerie that still made sense to carry in the context of the shops. I am always encouraged by the many young female designers who are taking the lingerie industry by storm, creating garments that are truly made with modern women's needs in mind.  We support many independent designers who manufacture locally, employing ethical business practices and treading lightly on the environment.  I also really love when fine techniques like French Seams, Pintucks, Box Pleats, etc., find their way into the lingerie world.  I think my years as a dancer put me so in tune with fit, since leotards epitomize the form follows function rule--I'm very pragmatic in that sense and I tend to be hyper-critical of garments with superfluous design elements.  Comfort is a key factor, not only with lingerie, but also with shoes. I worked in shoe stores for nearly 8 years, all throughout college and beyond, so I have a lot of experience in that world and love finding new brands that fit my rigid requirements.


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