By Laurie Jo Miller Farr

Ladies, Valentine’s Day is a lovely excuse to indulge yourself or drop a hint. If lovely, lacy lingerie is on your wish list, shop small at independent retailers around the city where the shopping experience is as intimate as the undergarments themselves. When you have a bridal gown or special occasion dress in mind, bring it with you. You’ll likely find just what you’re looking for, as well as getting professional fitting advice and having an enjoyable time in the process.

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Places where you can get assistance without feeling super awkward are harder to find these days, but San Francisco has a handful of established players. Word to the wise and their Valentine’s: Check the return and exchange policy on undergarments and keep tags on purchases until you’re sure about the items. Happy shopping!

Alla Prima Lingerie
539 Hayes St.
San Francisco, CA 94102
(415) 864-8180

Love for fine lingerie points straight to the heart of Hayes Valley, where Alla Prima has been a destination for select European collections for a decade. In an online video for the Wall Street Journal, owner Yolaida Duran provides a handful of hints for men on how to successfully buy lingerie, including size, style, color, comfort zones. The shop on two levels carries brands such as La Perla, Wolford, Samatha Chang, Bordelle, and Prima Donna. Heading for an island holiday this winter? Alla Prima also stocks swimwear In addition to basic foundation items, bustiers and teddies.

Dark Garden
321 Linden St.
San Francisco, CA 94102
(415) 431-7684

Honestly, it’s a cruel world when handmade genuine steel-boned corsets are sold in a shop that’s located within a stone’s throw of a handmade ice cream shop called Smitten. Yet, little Linden Street in Hayes Valley delivers both. Dark Garden makes the case that “a well-fitted corset can reduce your waist, smooth your hips and lift your bust,” which sounds as delicious as ice cream. You can buy off the rack or get measured up. Since 1989, they’ve been producing made-to-order corsets locally, trimmed in your choice of silk, satin, leather or brocade. They’ll even show you how to properly get in and out of the garment without a struggle.

Toujours Lingerie
2848 Sacramento St.
San Francisco, CA 94115
(415) 346-3988

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Don’t blink or you’ll miss it. Just off Fillmore Street in Pacific Heights, the ladies who lunch know about this tiny boutique which has been in business for more than 30 years. They enjoy the value added of personal time in generous amounts to get the very best possible fit. Toujours carries a spectrum of styles and a rainbow of colors in bra sizes that range from a hard-to-find 30″ up to 40″ in cup sizes A through G. Well-known luxury lingerie brands include Chantelle, Hanro, Lise Charmel, Calida, Cosabella, and others not typically found in a department store.

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Pink Bunny
1772 Union St.
San Francisco, CA 94123
(415) 441-7399

Owner Serene Martinez is so easy to talk to…she listens. The pretty, well-presented shop in the Marina District sells quality lines of lingerie, moderately priced, to help you show off your assets without draining your wallet. She says the look she best appreciates is “beautiful, unique and just a bit irreverent.” More than bras and panties, you’ll find bodysuits and teddies, baby dolls and slips, corsets and bustiers. Remember garter belts? They’re here, too. Your welcome is a warm one; individual customer service gets high marks for being confidential and impeccable.

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Les Cent Culottes
2200 Polk St.
San Francisco, CA 94109
(415) 614-2586

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Why not take a tip from les Parisiennes, who know their lingerie, right? Valentine’s Day aside, you can feel both chic and feminine every day knowing that you’re wearing sexy straps, lacy trims or a low cut balconette cup next to the skin. Sophie Legendre’s Russian Hill shop provides personal consultations for bra fittings and stocks quality French brands like Simone Perele, Maison Lejaby, Lou, Dim, Rosy and Aubade with a range of panty styles from boy shorts to thongs. Les Cent Culottes has become established as a favorite among San Francisco lingerie specialists since 1997.