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Putting women at ease in ‘Knickers’ in Yountville

Putting women at ease in ‘Knickers’ in Yountville

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In late August, the doors to the valley’s new lingerie boutique, Knickers & Pearls, opened inside Yountville’s V Marketplace. Owner Shawnie Elwell Hoogendoorn said she hopes the location will feel central to locals from Napa to Calistoga, whom she is looking forward to serving.

The idea for the shop blossomed from her own frustration over having to drive at least 40 miles to get good lingerie, she explained. Whether a woman is looking for everyday basics, something for her wedding or a weekend away, a bridal gift, or simply a pair of pajamas, Elwell Hoogendoorn is excited to help.

Beyond just offering the items customers are looking for, the owner is focusing on creating an atmosphere that puts women at ease and makes them feel pretty.

“We can’t find what’s right with us,” she observed of the female population when it comes to their bodies. “We can only find what’s wrong. But men think we are beautiful as we are.”

She is passionate about the topic, and has used it to guide her in setting the tone in the store.

“If someone walked out of here and didn’t feel better than when they walked in, I would die,” she exclaimed. “It’s a sensitive area for women.”

Citing badly lit dressing rooms at other stores, as inspiration for what not to do, Elwell Hoogendoorn said she worked very hard on the lighting in the Knickers & Pearls dressing room to make sure it is very flattering.

She also carries bra sizes from A to G and can order anything she may not have for a customer.

“I really sought out a lot of great brands,” Elwell Hoogendoorn assured. “I did a lot of research and hand-picked each one.”

With sensitive skin herself, she offers a boutique full of soft fabrics, real silks and the most comfortable thong she said she’s ever worn. Designers include L’Agent by Agent Provocateur, Eberjey, Samantha Chang, Only Hearts, Heidi Klum Intimates, Christine Lingerie and Else Lingerie.

The owner said she wants to keep prices reasonable with averages ranging from $45-$50 for bras and bralettes, $20 for panties, $80 for a chemise and $69 for the most popular loungewear pieces. She also carries more expensive items for special occasions. The overall style of the lingerie is very feminine, often with delicate lace detailing and sophisticated color palettes.

When speaking about the feel of the boutique, Elwell Hoogendoorn explained she created it to be an upscale place – somewhere that a mom will feel comfortable bringing her daughter for her first bra fitting.

A mother of three college-age boys herself, the owner said she had a lot of fun making the shop as girly as possible. She described the setting as warm, inviting and French provincial. The walls are painted a pale pink and she laughed when she pointed out that she had managed to pack nine chandeliers into under 600 square feet of space.

The majority of customers, she said, have been visitors looking to buy things for themselves or as gifts. However, she is beginning to see more and more locals now that the word is spreading about the boutique’s existence.

Elwell Hoogendoorn credits an article in the Yountville paper and her presence on social media for letting people know Knickers & Pearls is there. One of the aspects of the shop she is most excited about is their ability to keep wish lists for customers.

If a woman wants to come in, try things on, and add them to her wish list, the boutique will send her significant other the information so that person can come in and buy the items without ruining the surprise.

Elwell Hoogendoorn has also opened an online store. Thanks to buyable social media posts, like the ones on Pinterest, she anticipates building a clientele beyond just the valley and its visitors.

The business owner would also like to begin providing hotels, inns and bed-and-breakfasts the opportunity to offer their customers the chance to pre-order lingerie to be delivered to the guest’s room before she even arrives. Elwell Hoogendoorn thinks visitors will like the idea of being able to purchase something for themselves or for their significant other ahead of time as a surprise.

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