Underwear . . . let me guess, we're off to Paris?
Yes, darling. Have you checked the fashion reports? We wouldn't want to commit a sartorial faux pas, would we?
And what are the French sporting this season?
It's more a question of what they aren't wearing. See-through chiffon, sheer tops and underwear as outerwear is the thing. With the blurring of boundaries, it has never been more important to get your undies right.
So, has there been a revival of French lingerie, then?
Indeed. The experiment with the unisex undies is over and that weird American import, the thong, is hanging on by a thread. There has been a definite swing back to more sensual silks and laces - even the gut-busting corset has taken a grip on the city.
Mon dieu! So what exactly are we looking for?
French knickers, known as culotte flottante (floating knickers) or, in the more modern shops, le boxers.
Where does the French bit come from?
In Edwardian Britain, it was fashionable to call anything risque, or saucy, "French".
French letters, French kiss, French leave, "mind your French".
But big knickers aren't risque - just think of the dental floss that passes as underwear these days.
Ah, yes, but these short culottes of the early 20th century followed enormous bloomers.
Introduced by men, no doubt?
No, by women. Their growing participation in activities such as tennis, dancing and cycling, created a demand for more practical underwear.
OK, enough social history let's shop . . .
We should head over the smart shopping streets around rue Saint Honore in the 1st arrondissement. Dotted along the main drag are a few tempting lingerie shops that are all worth a visit, but I recommend a quickstep to rue Cambon.
In among the usual mix of Chanel, four-star hotels and the Ritz Club, you will find the best of the old and new of the lingerie world.
Who represents the old?
Opposite the Polish church at number 14 is the grande dame of the parade, Alice Cadolle, established in 1889. It has an unassuming ground-floor boutique and a third-floor salon specialising in bespoke underwear.
Made-to-measure undies. How fabulous.
Yes, past the pret-a-porter window of swimsuits, corsets and slippers is a tiny lift leading to undie heaven. The last place in Paris where you can order lingerie just made for you.
Can I just pop in?
Of course not, all salon visits are strictly by appointment. Isabelle Adjani was having a fitting half an hour before I arrived. Just imagine the scene if I had barged in.
With its velvet curtains and mannequins the salon has an air of discretion and charm that stems directly from the owner, Poupie Cadolle. She is the fourth-generation female head of the firm and personally attends to the fitting of her couture clients. With a lively sense of humour, Madame has run the business for 24 years.
Are the clients demanding?
They can be - it's an intimate business and her customers expect a high level of personal service. Some are genuine enthusiasts, underwear connoisseurs (both male and female) who arrive with detailed drawings, diagrams and photographs to explain their requirements.
So how much would a pair of Cadolle French knickers cost?
Between £250 and £400 regardless of size. In the world of fancy underwear you usually pay more for less.
Yes, but besides the personal attention, and the very best materials, Cadolle's are skilled technicians who work miracles with body shapes. Haute-couture houses send along clients for help with their silhouettes difficiles.
Really, and is business good?
Like your figure after a fitting, it is in very good shape. Not only has there been a revival of interest in handmade finery, there has also been a big demand for tailored corsets after the success of the film Moulin Rouge.
Excellent. Now what about the new face of French lingerie?
Her name is Fifi Chachnil and her tiny pink shop is just up the road at 26, rue Cambon. She has created a range that is a cheeky homage to 1950s girlie underwear.
Does that include French knickers?
Of course. Among the gingham swimming costumes, pink cashmere sweaters and the odd feather-trimmed handbag you will find le boxers in classic satin with ribbon ties for £74.
Lovely, and what is the shop like?
Lots of retro fun with curly wrought-iron fittings, velvet curtained mirrors, and pink ribbons everywhere.
Is Fifi there in person?
No, but you can catch glimpses of the queen of the frou frou revival at her design studio, which is open to the public at 68, rue Jean Jacques Rousseau.
Well, that wasn't as embarrassing as I thought it was going to be.
Yes, it's remarkable how Parisians have transformed the blush-making business of underwear shopping into a sophisticated discussion of colour, sensuality and culture. Vive le culotte flottante.