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Heavenly TasteDebi Mazar on Lingerie
Heavenly TasteDebi Mazar on Lingerie
Ouihours spoke with actress Debi Mazar about her longtime love affair with her unrivaled collection of – and her insightful views on – vintage, custom and fine lingerie. This downtown girl definitely has uptown taste.
Photography by Torkil Gudnason
Story by Anne Breza
Exclusive for oui hours gmt
Ouihours: When did you fall in love with lingerie?
Debi: My grandmother, Evelyn, introduced me to lingerie when I was very young. She was an incredibly feminine woman, dressed up for work everyday with a bra and garter and went to bed every night in a negligee and bed jacket, quilted, satin with a tie in the front. She influenced me a lot growing up as my mother had me when she was 15. We used to watch black and white movies with Carole Lombard and Marlene Dietrich in those wonderful bias gowns, or Ginger Rogers – even when she danced, it was so, so chic.
I also fell in love with cinema with her, film noir, then the 50s, the celebration of curves, Sophia Loren, all of the sudden the necklines were opening up and you would see the shape of the body, the cuts of the clothes.
Ouihours: What else do you remember?
Debi: I was never obsessed with the objectified side of lingerie, the Victoria Secret ads, and the modern stuff. Back in the day, they would do bra ads for Cross Your Heart or Playtex, the kind my grandmother wore, and show those pointy-titted bras, very tasteful, tatted and for the most part covered, and I would always notice that. She had fantastic gorgeous boobs and she would look so amazing as opposed to the unnatural shapes in bra ads today.
Also, my uncle had a collection of Playboy’s in the attic next to the National Geographic’s he saved. I remember opening a playboy and seeing those perfect big breasts right next to the Ubangi women with boobs to their knees, both totally natural. I was always turned on by those late 50’s Tina Louise shots in Technicolor, nothing scanty about them. Today’s images look trashy to me, they don’t look elegant, they have model bodies, which is not my favorite anyway, and it’s all in your face. I loved seeing all those gorgeous curves and fabric and still some mystery. I loved the very natural, touchable and soft images and I thought to myself I can’t wait until I grow up and can wear this stuff.
Ouihours: How did you start your collection?
Debi: I started going to flea markets and uncovering the jewels in the pile of junk. I got pieces for birthdays. I’ve always gone to vintage stores all over the world; I never cared if it was on the Avenue. When I lived in Los Angeles, I went to The Wear We Wore. These days, I love to shop in La Rinacente in Italy; they have a genius underwear section in the basement. Europeans don’t feel the need to have pads, and you can’t find anything but pads or more pads here. Even in TV and film, we are often asked to not only cover our nipples but erase them all together. That’s a whole other discussion. Of course, now I have most of my grandmother’s pieces, she preserved them beautifully and layer on the memories.
Ouihours: What do you look for in your own lingerie?
Debi: I’ve always liked things very feminine with an air of mystery. I don’t want to see all your business, let me imagine a little bit. I appreciate fine stitching and good work on a piece. I love hand-touched detailing.
I’ve had some of my favorite things all my life. For me, it’s about a great cut that accentuates the bust and the waist, a little loose on thighs. They’re so pretty I almost want to wear them as a dress but most of them are see-through so I can’t. My thing has always been a little more about the gowns than anything else. I was really into Greek mythology and Roman history and I always imagine myself as if I was Roman nobility, I love the use of color, drapery, I want to wear that all time.
Ouihours: What makes lingerie sexy?
Debi: Lingerie isn’t sexy until it’s on the person — it’s the person that makes it sexy. I’ve put on things that may be traditionally sexy and said, ‘oh it’s horrible, too desperate, too trashy – too nothing. Sexy has to do with whether the fit is right for the person and how it makes them feel.
It really depends on the mood, my husband even the temperature. I’m not wearing scooped out tops and short shorts, it’s about how my husband looks at me in certain things.
To me sexy can be wearing men’s pajamas, it’s not always role-playing in a silk gown. Will I wear a corset for my husband? Absolutely. A fabulous bra and panties? Always. But even my husband’s boxers and a tank top can make me feel loose and sexy in the right situation. I’m also a believer in super tight belts to keep the waist tiny and remind you to stand up straight. They really help keep posture in line, and ultimately, I really love the body silhouette.
Ouihours: What collections stand out to you?
Debi: I like Juel Park, it conjures those 50’s and 60’s images of Marilyn, Ava or Grace. I’m offended about spending thousands on things, but once in a blue moon I go wild. When I used to go to Paris, I would have my bras made at Maison Cadolle on Rue Cambon (made to measure is now on Rue St-Honore). They line the back of the straps in silk velvet and the cuts are genius. There’s a little shop in Florence called Oscalito where they make Guinea tees, spaghetti strap tanks in lace, silk, cashmere or cotton. They sell them here too now online. I like to wear silk as an undergarment in the winter, and if I pull off my sweater, I look hot. I love the cashmere silk blend with lace with Calvin Klein bottoms. I just noticed that Natori has some great robes.
Ouihours: Do you have a favorite piece?
Debi: A purple gown custom made for me at Loretta Caponi in Florence (illustrated here). That place is spectacular, a Renaissance building that stretches across two streets filled with old Italian women hand-stitching one after another like a Parisian couture house.
I got it the summer I met my husband; I was feeling sexy and confident and wanted something new. This is a once-in-a-lifetime piece, it looks like the works of Madame Gres — pleated, sensual, beautiful on the body, it even has my initials sewn into it on the bottom…I love that! I bring it with me when my husband and I get away, but I don’t dare wear it because I’m afraid he’s going to rip it off me!
Ouihours: Other than gowns, what else do you covet?
Debi: I love robes. I don’t’ go for hotel robes though, they are always so heavy and give me a backache. I always buy robes that are long to my ankles and have a waistline, the vintage stuff, the quality stuff. I have a seersucker one from the forties with pockets and belts, skin tight. I like them to show a little bust, a little tush, but you can still answer the Fedex guy.
Ouihours: Are you into Shapewear?
Debi: Well, after I gave birth, my mother-in law-strongly suggested ‘wear your corset.’ I thought it was great how she had a vested interest in my body for her son. So yes, I started wearing a waist cincher around the house.
Ouihours: When do you wear lingerie?
Debi: I’m not bopping around the house in a little babydoll or mini skirts. Do I have them? Yes, but I wear them as beach coverups. I like to wear my lingerie around the house, half soaked, unconsciously sexy, sort of a shipwrecked look. I like them to be utilitarian too. I don’t like to be objectified. I might surprise him with a more expected tease, but to me, sexy is about something being a second skin rather than a push-up and G-string. I’m about the everyday thing where it accentuates your shape and makes you feel good. I like the idea of layering and mystery…Then, I go to sleep naked.
Ouihours: Where do you wear lingerie? Just in the bedroom?
Debi: I wear my lingerie out sometimes but you’re not seeing it. I’m a lady. Maybe I’ll wear a transparent shirt where you might see my bra and my tattoo on my rib but it’s a moment, not a statement. I wear slips under skirts and dresses and you might see the side silhouette peaking out or bra straps but no I would never wear a slip out or just a bra. Once I wore a beautiful, heavy, silk-satin cut-on-the-bias gown with jewelry, very Lombard or 30s movie star in my home. That’s as far as I go.
The real stuff, that’s for my husband. I’m a little old fashion, okay very old fashioned.
Ouihours: Has your passion been inherited by your daughters?
Debi: I have one that might come around to it but my 8-year old is already there. I have a sweet collection of little cotton pajamas shorts and she took them all over and wears them all around. She likes the lace and the different textures; she’s already getting the idea.
Ouihours: Any other thoughts?
Debi: It’s important to remember we are feminine creatures. We should have a certain style around the house whatever it is so your not wearing sweats and T-shirts. You want to keep it interesting from head to toe. I never wear those ugly Uggs, although this winter I was tempted. I always have a shoe, Roman sandals, Moroccan slippers or something when we’re in Italy over the summer I like them with pom-poms or even Marabou, a little something you know. I’m very fearful, I’m a catastrophist and so I like to have a little rubber on the sole. In the winter, I like a good slipper that gives you a bit of support, no stilettos or gold lame. I own those stripper shoes, but I never wear them.
Ouihours: What are you wearing now?
Debi: A fantastic Triumph bra from Italy made of wonderful stretch lace with a great shape, a black super sheer cotton Oscaleti Guinea tee, a wonderful pair of vintage La Perla panties with that Italian lace embellishment, a divine skirt I got on sale at Bergdorf’s by Dries Van Noten, Prada Roman sandals and a good pedicure.