A store that has been selling sexy and saucy lingerie in Modena for as long as I can remember. I have been walking by its windows every morning for years, and each time curiosity made me stop and have a look, but it took me two decades to step in, maybe because I have never liked panties with a hole, bras that don’t cover nipples or nipple pasties and transparent suits, and maybe this is one of the reasons why my marriage ended as it ended – this is what the shop owner says and maybe she is not completely wrong – but I think it depended, above all, on the fact that I was not free to follow my curiosities. Like many people in Modena, who in front of Emmanuelle’s windows have always and only conjectured or – even worse! – judged, but without knowing the 84 years of family activity and familiarity that lie behind them. “At the beginning my grandparents, who also had a market stall, opened the store. Then it was the turn of my father, who married my mother. Then followed the third generation: my sister and I,” says Manuela, the shop owner. “It was my mother who did everything. She had enough imagination as to give a touch of modernity to this town putting corsets with stays next to Pyrenean dressing gowns, and then lycra and elastic bands, and the various laces... then she studied the famous underwear with a hole of the ‘mondine,’ rice workers that couldn’t even go to the toilet since they couldn’t stop harvesting the rice and, when she found the bloomers that my grandmother used to keep as a souvenir of when she was a rice worker, she thought ‘what if we made panties with a hole instead of bloomers?’.” Did you know that rice workers, the ones I really loved in Bitter Rice with Vittorio Gassman and Silvana Mangano, couldn’t stop working and go to the toilet? “Round and round” continues Manuela, “sexy items are normal things that come from everyday life, such as the Carioca bra that is nothing else than a nursing bra. And the suspender belt? It has been trendy for one hundred years!” She has grown up in this shop, she was born here or, as her mother used to say, “delivered behind the counter,” she doesn’t see any malice in what she does because “vulgarity and pornography do not lie in the item but in the mind of the onlooker.” “Some people used to pass by and say that they liked it, somebody raised a hue and cry, and at school I have always been the daughter of the woman who sold panties with a hole… Everybody thought it was a sexy shop, but it is actually a shop that sells saucy or sexy lingerie... call it as you like. I have got the licence for a sexy shop, but this is not that kind of shop. Let me explain the difference: a sexy shop has a screened window, you have to ring a bell if you want to get in and you have to be over eighteen. In my shop we sell sexy lingerie, so I have got a shop window, the door is open and it is up to me to decide what to sell and to whom. And I do not sell pornography. I really love my job. I love the people that come in, I love to stay with them. I want them to feel at home. I started working as soon as I could speak. I have been by my mother’s side since I was only ten, to help her I became a saleswoman around the age of twelve or thirteen. After spending twelve years with the Ursulines, because my mother believed it was important to have a serious education, I attended a commercial school and then I said ‘Enough! I want to go to the shop!’. My customers are quite ordinary people. They are neither entreneuses (they don’t have enough money) nor prostitutes (they do not have the time, the more cloths they wear the less money they earn), but very normal people: unhappy couples that want to enliven their relationship, lovers that want to stimulate their fantasy, a wife willing to keep her marriage alive, a girlfriend that wishes to spend a sinful evening, or a woman that wants to get pregnant. A woman stepped in the other day with her husband, to say thank you, and they told me ‘Madame, we will come here with our new-born baby because it all happened thanks to your lingerie...’.” Manuela laughs, she always laughs, she is a very cheerful and positive woman, full of energy and with a light shining in her eyes. “Who knows how many babies, betrayals and marriages can be attributed to my granny’s panties... and maybe this is my drama, in Modena I know everybody and all their skeletons, and I am a little inconvenient, but I mind my own business, I keep silent.”
I regret to disappoint the morbid expectations of the people in Modena that today are likely to discover that they have been daydreaming for years about a normal – though very extroverted – lingerie shop. But I am keen to point out that here panties have seen and lived the history of the town, the province and Italy through the three generations that have been working so far in this shop in corso Canalchiaro, a few steps from the Cathedral and with the windows facing those of San Paolo Bookshop – this is only to give some reference points to those that have never noticed it and would like to go there and have a coffee, to begin with. Because since the 31st October 2014, Lingerie Emmanuelle is also a wine bar, a small and comfortable Moulin Rouge of the Po valley that woul d be the perfect setting for a Fellini movie, with its typical red tapestry on the walls, mirrors and beautiful and sensual waitresses – although made of plastic. “Some people who are a bit envious and, let’s say, a bit wicked, always see evil in everything, so I have opened this bar for a very precise purpose: to help those people tear down this wall of silence, this hostility towards my shop, and invite them to step in and have a coffee, a brioche or a sandwich. In the meantime they may catch a glimpse of the small display cases where I keep all my stuff and may stop being afraid... because even if they have known me since I was born, and know that I studied with the Ursulines, and also know that I have never made a porn movie, they are still hostile… they say hello to me, give me their best wishes in the street, but never get in. Those who come to my wine bar are mostly people that don’t live in Modena. The owners of the shops nearby do not come here because they consider my wine bar as the café of perdition. A lady even stepped in to ask me if we are serving a normal coffee.” Coffee and panties will exorcise Modena against all prejudices, even if the true protagonist at Emmanuelle Lingerie Wine Bar is freedom. In a small province town like this, where everybody is careful not to be on everyone’s lips – which provokes a true hell of whispered gossip never fair towards the talked-about person – to find a central shop showing panties with a hole in its windows and where the owner is not troubled by anything because, believe me, she has heard all sort of things, and what she hasn’t heard in person she has inherited together with the shop, well, it seems like a light in the mist, a ray of sun in this winter in the Po valley. She made me taste the first frappa of the year, a typical cake of the forthcoming Carnival, reminding me to express a wish, an important one, for my and my family’s sake – and it was an excellent frappa. She also served me a good Prosecco and I will certainly be one of her new clients and will also have a sip of absinth to cheer me up, to the health of my wrecked love affairs, because I have felt at ease and had fun in this “Sexy and erotic lingerie store that can also be, night and day, a meeting point with an elegant style that is never vulgar.” Couldn’t our Emmanuelle, besides taking me out of my den, also have a positive influence on my femininity?
Emmanuelle Wine Bar Lingerie
corso Canalchiaro, 29 – Modena
Tel. 059 223213 / cell. 335 5323512
Chiuso il giovedì e la domenica