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BY DESIGN : The Foundation of Lingerie Sales

Carol Yates has seen it all--the good, the bad and the naughty. As the district manager for four Frederick’s of Hollywood stores in Orange County and five others, she knows lingerie and the people who buy it.

This is the first in a series of first-person columns that allow people in the fashion industry to talk about their encounters.

“Every day is a new challenge,” says Yates, who has worked 10 years for Frederick’s. “Some customers want your full attention, and other customers either help themselves or help each other. In some stores, it’s like a big family.”

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I have retail in my blood. It’s not the money; it’s that I love what I do. And it’s great working here because customers are always happy--they’re here because of a special occasion, a wedding, to get a gift or something to wear on a special trip.

Gifts for bachelorette parties are bought here. Most wedding showers now are themed “personal” showers, not household or practical showers, and we have something for every bride. We sell edible body products like strawberry margarita oils and champagne bubble bath and some other fun things, but mostly we sell lingerie.

Our most popular panties are G-strings and thongs. Most women think thongs are uncomfortable, but we always encourage them to try a pair. If they’re buying a dozen panties, we say, “Try one thong, you’ll love it.” And they’ll buy thong-style panties after that because they are really comfortable.

And men love thongs.

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I don’t know why, but men also love garter belts and stockings. To them, it’s really sexy, especially in black. That has been consistent over the years.

For the most part, men are comfortable when they come in. At gift-giving holidays, like Mother’s Day and Valentine’s, we have so many men in our stores that they don’t feel at all intimidated.

We approach them and ask, “So, you’re looking for a special gift? Do you have something in mind?” And you get The Nod. They may not know the terminology, so we take them on a little tour of the store and they get ideas. We also have catalogues and fashion pictures on the wall. They know what they want, and when they see it, they point.

Some people feel sexy is more romantic, and they buy silk and satin. Other people think sexy is lacy, see-through, low cut with lots of cleavage.

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People do some confessing to us, but if they don’t want to tell us exactly what they want an outfit for, that’s OK. We can still help them as long as we know what their needs are. If we can get them into a fitting room, we can help them.

A woman doesn’t have to have the ultimate Cindy Crawford body. Lingerie flatters all body types. After all, we’re all different. Women will find what they’re comfortable in by trying on everything. A chemise with flared bottoms smoothes out lines if you’re hippy. Or you can put a garter belt under a two-piece flutter tap pant and camisole if you’re uncomfortable baring your garters.

We see a lot of brides who are looking for the right foundation for their wedding gown, and we see people who have been married a long time and want to put new flame into their marriage. People come in here for their 40th anniversary, and they want to do something special, something that they haven’t done in a while . . .

Young girls come in and a giggle and peek around. We carry cotton chemises that they enjoy wearing. Not too often, young boys come by. They get to the door and feel they’ve made it far enough. And I’m sure we’ve had men (buying for themselves), but we’re happy to serve any honest customer.

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