I got invited to my first “toy party” (cloaked in mystery!) when I was 23 years old, new to the city, and acting in an off-Broadway show. Green as I was, I had no idea what to expect. While I was two chardonnays more relaxed in the living room when a woman with a suitcase full of vibrators came knocking at my friend’s door, I’ve just never managed to be Captain Collected in a room full of butt plugs and lube. Years later, when I spent an afternoon trolling the sex stores on Christopher Street looking for large-yet-real-looking fake boobs for a Halloween costume, I ended up making more drag queen friends than buying sex parts. What can I say? They had great makeup.
Since then, I’ve bought toys when it suited me, but for the most part I know where my strength is when it comes to all things erotic: lingerie. I really love all of it: racy black sets, frilly feminine ones, boy shorts, lacy bras, you name it — which should please my mother more than anyone, since her biggest advice for me in life was “wear clean underpants.” In the face of an ever-growing legion of new and bizarre sexy things to wear to bed (edible underwear? Ew! They’re just fruit roll-ups with ribbon ties!), lingerie remains the ne plus ultra of foreplay. A flash of lace under a dress, a big reveal at the end of a romantic evening… Nothing says “yeah, I got excited about you” in quite the same way that red satin undergarments do.
If you’re in the market (and you should be!), there are some fantastic places in the city to satisfy all your grown-and-sexy needs. La Perla and Eres remain the grand dames of upscale underpinning, especially popular with brides-to-be or that “favorite bra ever” purchase (since their lace bras often run around $250). One warning, however: they rarely have good sizes in the store, so I’d advise finding a style you like and hunting it down online.
Agent Provocateur and Kiki de Montparnasse in Soho satisfy the kinky-yet-highbrow bells-and-whistles market — Provocateur has killer corsets and Kiki has underpants with bustles and a slick gold vibrator that I’m kind of fascinated by. If you’re into dazzling colors, Deborah Marquit is my new favorite — her showroom on 15th Street is filled with hot pink and hot purple lace bras, and she’s often there herself to answer questions.
Lastly, much as the best finds are often lurking in boutiques, my favorite places to shop are usually cute little tucked-away spots like Mixona on Mott Street, Laina Jane on Christopher and La Petite Coquette on University. They pack their interiors with a mixed bag of labels and price points, and don’t be shy — the ladies who run these places really do know their stuff, and will tell you if you should be thinking Calvin Klein or Cosabella if you ask them.