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Shopped: Madame Foner

We lift and separate facts you need to know about the famous lingerie store where "size isn't important but the right fit is"

Published on June 4th 2009.


Shopped: Madame Foner

Where is it again?
The elegant little shop called Madame Foner’s is tucked away between an emporium that sells funny accessories for hippies and a Christian bookshop. The swooping maroon lettering of its sign distinguishes it from the rest of modern Bold Street.

History please
Bold Street, in its heyday, was one of the most graceful and exclusive shopping streets in the country. The oft-quoted Bond Street of the North.

Just like the Northern Quarter in Manchester is the Bold Street of the East Lancs?
Quite, but there were no “pound shops” along there, back in the well-heeled day, nor any short-lived charity outlets. Bold Street was the destination of ladies and gentlemen of Liverpool who required their finery to be tailored and their shoes made to measure.

What and who?
Madame Foner has been here for nearly a century. Its eponymous founder was a lady of Russian/French origins, who brought her mysterious corsetry skills from Europe, and opened a shop near the Anglican Cathedral. As word spread of the marvels she was able to contrive for the female form with her whalebones, lacing, and ingenuity, she moved to the centre of all things modish, Bold Street.

In the 1950s, there were only three sources of proper underwear in the city of Liverpool. Mrs Whitehead’s emporium was one, the department stores were another, and Madame Foner’s was the third and arguably the most select. Titled ladies would sweep in for delicately embroidered slips in silk and lawn, and for robust stays, one –piece garments in “tea rose” pink, with a sturdy zip down the front and a plethora of hooks and eyes along the side.

Made to make your eyes water?
Madame would make some of these garments herself, carefully customising them to the often frankly improbable measurements of her ladies. These were not confections of ribbon and lace with a bit of a token “control panel”; these were serious constructions that Isambard Kingdom Brunel would respect.

They took a while to get on, and even longer to get off.

Shall we go and have a poke about in their stock of stockings?
We already did, to discover Trudy, the 70-year-old assistant who was trained

by Madame herself. And Trudy revealed that even today there is still a call for stays” and “roll-ons” among more mature customers.

Who goes there?
Trudy, manager Lesley and her colleagues have taken their tape measures to a good few famous ladies, down the decades, but were reluctant to name-check, as they felt, quite correctly, that discretion is an essential foundation of a business supplying essential foundations.

Something for everyone?
Literally, as it happens. The Madame Foner staff indicated that they often cater for ladies who have not, strictly speaking, started off “that way”, or were “temping”, rather than permanently female. Nevertheless, these customers are treated with the utmost professional care and sensitivity.

“They need a proper fit, just like anyone else,” declared Trudy.

Why shop there?
Madame Foner still has the lovely shelf fittings and glass-topped counters of the 1950s, and retains an atmosphere of calm, but the trade is far from declining. It specialises in fitting the more challenging bust, and has lots of mouth-watering underwear for “special occasions”.

All the major events of the Liverpolitan social calendar, like The Grand National, bring out the more discerning customer. It also has glamorous corsets for the new wave of burlesque fans.

A scarlet-lipped young platinum blonde arrived while Liverpool Confidential was there, wanting a waspie to set off her rockabilly frock.

So a thwack from the past?
No way. Swimwear is a relatively new addition to the stock, and there were several examples of “A “list brands on display, which were perhaps more suited to parading along the Croisette in Cannes than doing 30 lengths in New Brighton baths. /p>

Madame Foner's is bouncing along then?
Yes, encouraging during these economically, Lycra-stretched times, when sales of luxury undies might be expected to take a tumble.

Not a bit of it, though, Liverpool women have been keeping their ends up spectacularly well, as, indeed, they have always done.

We should give local businesses like Madame F’s our full support
Indeed. It is certain to be reciprocated. With French lace, and an underwired cup.

Madame Foner,
84 Bold Street
Liverpool L1 4HR
0151 709 4757

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7 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

sam wilsonJune 4th 2009.

Undertakers will need to use hoists and mini-cranes (similar to hospitals) to raise the obese persons coffin for burial or cremation.It is a health and safety issue for undertaking staff and likewise they need to be provided for under shaky NHS services.

toniJune 4th 2009.

NOT FUNNY! Obesity is an illness and needs researching. The NHS is not even trying to help women who are being discriminated against because they are disabled by obesity.More money must be urgently diverted to obesity research before even more British women are struck dead by this awful plague.

BondJune 4th 2009.

Adjacent to Foners there used to be a very high class French Hairdressers and beautyculturist called Marcels, with whom, in the 1940s, my sister served a FIVE YEAR apprentiship.Enjoyable slavery she calls it.

DigJune 4th 2009.

Do they do fashion shows? My mother in law etc.......

polly millerJune 4th 2009.

Lingerie for fat birds is what they sell. Get Jo Brand and Dawn French down for the day and this little shop will clean up.Obesity amongst women is an unexplored market niche and sure to rake in the cash if they can be properly exploited.

NadiaJune 4th 2009.

Why anyone thinks Madame Foner is for fat woman I do not know. I have got a 34b chest and a 24 inch waist and man who I clean for is very appreciate it with bra and knickers always from Madame Foner and bend over backwards to polish properly.

AnonymousJune 4th 2009.

Trudy fitted my grandmother, mother and me. She is the customer service queen

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