Silk Route: Isadora | Culture | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice

Arts + Life » Culture

Silk Route: Isadora


Published December 5, 2001 at 4:00 a.m.

  • Matthew Thorsen

“It looks like it’s going to be a lingerie Christmas,” a recent issue of the trade journal Women’s Wear proclaimed. That’s good news, of course, for Irene Callisto, owner of Isadora. The pretty, boudoir-ish shop on College Street in Burlington is a respite from the harsh world at any time of year, but the holidays — especially when the country’s at war — apparently send men and women alike straight to the undies. Callisto explains it this way: “Traditionally, during war times and hard times, people will still buy lingerie — it’s addressing a very basic part of people’s needs.”

It’s a known fact, too, that when the economy is in a downturn, shoppers treat themselves with affordable “small” luxuries, such as lace-edged bras, instead of big ones like sports cars or exotic vacations.

The guys are likely to go for fancier items at Christmastime, but Callisto denies that the appeal is about sex. “Men buy silk and other things that are comfortable, that feel good next to the body,” she says. “Not necessarily frivolous, but with women in mind.”

Furthermore, not all the merch in Isadora is costly. Despite the sumptuous look of the window display, panties or stockings start at around $10, and the biggest-ticket item is under $300. And sensible types shouldn’t be intimidated by the frou-frou. After all, “flannel pajamas are big this time of year,” Callisto points out. Her current selection favors Chinese or antique prints on cream-white, made by a company called Bed Head.

A petite brunette with a pageboy haircut and stylish wardrobe, Callisto also notes that some of her regular customers dress simply on the outside but wear really nice things underneath. “Women tend to work on the reward system,” she informs. “The place to start is with yourself, and lingerie is closest to the body. If a woman has done a good job at something, finished a thesis, just broke up with someone or has a new someone,” she might treat herself to lovely lingerie. Callisto’s one-on-one assistance and the good fit of the garments make for loyal repeat customers.

At times, however, a significant other takes the lead. “Some men will come in and say, ‘I hate my wife’s robe,’” she says. “Women should remember that ratty old bathrobe they’ve had since college may be the last thing their husbands see before they leave the house in the morning.”

All the more reason to cozy up to a pale green velour robe, $164, or chocolate-brown, Asian-style silk pajamas for $98. It’s just a step or two from there to a French black lace bra with rhinestones on the straps and matching thong/skirt — $160 for the set.

From roomy cotton nighties to waist-cinching bustiers, everything will be on sale come January, while Callisto prepares to move. Vacated by a travel agency, the new site is next to le petit magasin on Church Street. Though Callisto says College Street has been good to her, she thinks business will be even better around the corner, where potential customers who never stray off the Marketplace thoroughfare might venture in to discover the “unders” world.