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A lover’s guide to buying lingerie for your lady

Posted by Alex Pearlman  February 21, 2012 09:04 AM

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white lacy chemise lingerie.jpgBy Bethany O'Meara

If you’re in a well-established relationship and looking to switch things up in the bedroom, buying some new lingerie for your ladyfriend may be a great way to add a little spice to your life.

“It would be easier to buy her a pair of earrings,” you might be thinking. “At least one size fits all!” I get it: You’re concerned you’ll buy something wildly inappropriate (or not inappropriate enough) or in the wrong size and offend her.

Stop freaking out! This basic lingerie-buying guide, compiled with help from Meredith Donaldson and Rachel Wentworth, owners of the Harvard Square boutique Forty Winks, will help make the task a little easier and more partner-friendly.

Not surprisingly, size matters; knowing your significant other’s size information is the vital starting point. If you’re smooth, you can find that out pretty easily -- but be forewarned that your findings may not always be correct. There’s always a chance she’s wearing the wrong size and doesn’t know it. Also, a range of sizes exists beyond what you can find at your local Victoria’s Secret, and not every brand is created equal.

“It’s amazing how many women don’t know their true size,” said Donaldson.

When in doubt about sizing, it helps to be able to describe her. Wentworth and Donaldson said they usually ask questions about shirt size, height, and weight to help determine proper sizing. If you’re worried, snap a photo on your cell phone (clothed, please!) to bring with you.

“If you say she’s a 36 B and we can clearly tell that she’s not, we can recommend a better fit,” Donaldson said of the picture trick.

A photo can also help the salesperson assess what colors will complement the woman’s coloring. “If she’s really pale, you don’t want to put her in something that washes her out,” said Wentworth, “and if she’s really dark, you don’t want to make her look yellow.”

Beyond basic colors, you also have to recognize style. Getting your wife, girlfriend, lover, etc. a leopard-print thong when she prefers boy shorts with polka dots, or vice versa, may leave her doubting how much you actually pay attention to her. Does she prefer lace and bows or simple, sleek lines? Is she unconventional like New Girl or more seductive à la True Blood? Which Spice Girl does she identify with most?

Once you’ve got the little details down, it helps to have an idea of what you’re looking for. After all, lingerie is a gift for both parties. “It’s okay for a guy to pick out something really sexy…if you know your partner and if they like to go a little crazier,” Wentworth said, but if you’re worried about sending the wrong message, you may want to stick with “pretty” things.

But both crazy and pretty come in different shapes and sizes, and this time, we’re not talking A, B, C or 32, 34, 36 and so on. Bras can have soft cups, molded cups, full cups, plunge cups, demi cups -- and let’s not even get started with the types of underwear! Donaldson and Wentworth recommend sticking with something similar to what your S.O. already has, but with a sexy twist; familiarity is comfortable, so she’ll be less worried about looking funny and more eager to show it off.

If an outfit is more what you have in mind, consider a chemise or any type of one-piece, or a camisole with matching bottoms. If your ladyfriend has a history degree -- or a thing for period dramas like Downton Abbey -- check out a corset. For a little added ooh la la, try garter belts and stockings.

Personal comfort matters when it comes to wearing women’s undergarments, but as the shopper, your personal comfort is equally important. Go to a store where you feel comfortable and confident. Donaldson and Wentworth recommend “somewhere that will provide individualized help from knowledgeable staff who will ask questions,” whether it’s a large department store or a small, trendy boutique. Don’t forget to give feedback so you can narrow down your options a lot faster.

Or, assuming your relationship is built on open communication and enjoyment of shared experiences, why not try browsing lingerie together? Rolling your eyes at outrageous neon underwear or exchanging mischievous grins at a romantic lacy ensemble could be quite the funny bonding experience (or maybe that’s just wishful thinking on this shopaholic’s part).

For more bashful significant others who still want to ensure a good fit, look for stores that have customer wish list programs, like Forty Winks. “Women come in and try stuff on, and we write it in their customer profile. Then the significant other comes in, and they can pick what they like that they know will fit,” said Wentworth. “Everyone’s happy!”

Of course, if you think you’re a pro at lingerie shopping and you prefer to shop in your underwear, there’s always the internet.

Now that you’ve (hopefully) managed to find something that strikes your and your lady's fancies, there’s only one thing left to do: enjoy it! She will undoubtedly appreciate the effort you went through to pick out something special, but in return, you should make an effort to appreciate her in all her sexy glory. We know it’s hard, but resist the urge to tear off the fruits of your labor; instead, take it all in for at least five minutes. Ten to 15 minutes would be ideal, but hey, this is a guide to buying lingerie, not foreplay!

Do you have any tips for buying lingerie?

Welcome to TNGG’s third annual Sex Week! Check back to TNGG Boston all week for more stories about sex, love, relationships, and dating in Boston, and visit our main site for more material from the rest of our community.

Photo by (Flickr)

About Bethany -- I graduated from Northeastern not too long ago and decided to stick around Boston, but I'd like to continue traveling the world. In the meantime, I'll be checking out local bars, markets, and festivals. My expertise lies in Trader Joe's products and MBTA survival skills, among other things. Plaid catches my eye, French catches my ear, and videos of baby animals capture my heart. Twitter: @bethopolis

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