June 07, 1999 12:00 PM

Gwyneth Paltrow knows all about dressing for success. So to celebrate a coup—her December 1996 engagement to Brad Pitt—she headed straight for Trashy Lingerie. “She said, ‘I just got engaged, and I want to throw my fiancé for a loop,’ ” recalls Mary Loomis, then a sales manager at the West Hollywood store. But when the actress tried on a $100 crimson Chantilly-lace camisole with attached garter, $6 red stockings and $45 froufrou slippers, she “turned as red as the lingerie,” Loomis reports. “She said, ‘This is so not me. I always walk around in boxer shorts and a T-shirt.’ But she bought it all. I guess [Pitt] got the surprise of his life.”

Okay, so six months later the relationship crashed. But no one’s blaming Trashy. The store, which is owned by Mitchell Shrier, 58, remains a favorite Paltrow pit stop. Liv Tyler, Winona Ryder and Madonna are regulars too. Says Cher, who wore a Trashy sheer black leotard with strategically placed black spandex in her “If I Could Turn Back Time” video: “They have such beautiful clothes, and they alter everything to fit.” Even the guys are happy to drop by. “Who needs Viagra when you have Trashy?” quips Tony Curtis, 73, who tags along on wife Jill Vanden Berg’s sprees.

Shrier understands these things. “Whether it’s a celebrity or a garbage man,” he says, “they all want the same thing: to see their women in something sexy. My job is to fulfill people’s fantasies.”

Well, not everybody’s. Though Trashy’s inventory is priced for the masses (from $8 for a G-string to $125 for a satin chemise), only registered members who pay a $5 annual fee can enter its scarlet-walled inner sanctum, a policy Shrier instituted to prevent oglers from treating his store like a peep show.

In fact, it’s family fare. Shrier’s wife, Tracy, 54, helps customers with fit, son Randy, 31, manages the store, and onetime saleswoman Loomis, Randy’s fiancée, runs its new Web site. (Son Robert, 35, has a candle store next door.) Housed in a 6,000-square-foot bordello-like boutique, Trashy has grown into a seven-figure business. That’s worlds away from Shrier’s childhood home, a ranch his parents operated in Bakersfield, Calif. Shrier, the older of two children, enlisted in the Army, where he worked as a photographer for three years soon after graduating from high school in 1958. Back in mufti, he designed shoes for a Boston firm. “Something inside me told me how to create things,” he says.

Encouraged by Tracy, a friend of his sister’s whom he met and married in 1963 while she was still a college student, Shrier opened a small shoe store in West Hollywood. His racy, spike-heeled creations caught on, and he was soon designing footwear for television shows, Charlie’s Angels among them. When customers began asking for unmentionables to match, an underwear empire was born.

Customer loyalty helped the Shriers build their all-redwood, two-bedroom dream house in Los Angeles in 1995. Says Fran Drescher, a longtime devotee: “Honey, if you’re single and you want to get married, go to Trashy’s. If you’re married and you want to stay married, go to Trashy’s.” Of course, as Paltrow knows, there are no guarantees: In 1996, Drescher’s own marriage fizzled. But Shrier sees an upside. “You can wear one garment for three or four or five different boyfriends, and nobody would know,” he says. “Our clothes last longer than most relationships.”

Kim Hubbard

Ulrica Wihlborg in Los Angeles

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