Don’t want to make Valentine’s Day predictable with the usual box of chocolates and flowers? Consider transforming your wife or girlfriend into a temptress.
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Buying lingerie for the romantic holiday may sound like a cliché, but it’s also a surefire way to spice up any relationship, all while giving your significant other a boost of confidence with a sizzling new look that only you two will see. However, getting the perfect undergarment isn’t as easy as visiting any boutique. And guys, we know it's already intimidating enough enterting a store filled with frilly things and persistent salespeople.
“Lingerie is now more popular than ever before,” says Cora Harrington, founder and chief editor of The Lingerie Addict. “It’s a legitimate, fully-fledged part of a fashionable woman’s wardrobe, and it’s a great way to show your partner you’ve been paying attention and appreciating her impeccable style, as well as you think she deserves the very best.”
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“Beautiful lingerie made from gorgeous materials is the best gift,” she adds. “It’s the ultimate indulgence. The layer closest to your skin should be as luxurious as you can afford.”
Fortunately buying lingerie for your sweetie doesn’t have to be a daunting task.
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We asked several lingerie designers, boutique owners, and experts to share their must-have tricks and tips.
Do Your Homework
Want to make your lingerie shopping experience super easy? Simple: do your homework and come prepared. “Sneak a peak in your partner’s underwear drawer before you set out shopping,” says Dan Koch, owner of New York City’s Town Shop. “See the size of her bra. There are two things to find: a number, which will be something like 32, 34, etc., as well as a letter, which is the cup size, like A, DD, H, etc. Take a picture of the size. Also take note of the bra’s style. Is it lacey or plain?” Koch suggests looking at several bra sizes to ensure you’re getting the right fit. Also, photograph the size with your phone and bring it with you to the shop so you won’t forget it. And finally, don’t forget to check out the underwear as well for a complete set. “Scope the size on that too, which should be a letter or standard small, medium, etc,” says Koch.
Think About Colors and Fabrics
Knowing your significant other’s size should be a priority, but don’t forget to also think about what colors and fabrics will best enhance her features. Sure, anything sheer and black is a safe and flattering choice, but you can do better than that. “You want to consider her eyes, hair color, and skin tone,” advises Rebecca Apsan, owner of La Petite Coquette in New York City. “Do you want the virginal look or something vampy? Do you want her to feel like a queen in jewel tones or more free spirited in pastels? Think about what she usually wears and fantasize about what might bring out another side. The beauty of lingerie is its ability to transform.”
There's Also the Easy Route
If you’re looking for a gift that stands out from the norm, consider buying your significant other a curve-hugging silky slip, which can be worn in a variety of ways to enhance her personal style. “Slips are a favorite of mine to give this year,” says Christina Remenyi, founder and designer of Fortnight. “The bonus of giving a slip as a gift is that they are easy to fit and very versatile. They can be worn as sleepwear, under clothing to enhance the way the garment fits, and sometimes it can even be worn as outerwear with a blazer or cardigan sweater.”
Just because you’re going to a lingerie boutique, it doesn’t mean you have to splurge on the obvious pieces for your sweetie. Put effort into your gift and look for an item she actually needs. “Try to go the more thoughtful route,” advise Helena and Kaya Stuart, the mother/daughter team behind Only Hearts. “What is her favorite color? What fabrics does she like? Go for something classy over something trashy. It doesn’t have to be racy to be romantic.” Instead of looking for a costume, these ladies suggest getting something more practical. “Think about how and where does she spend her time around the house,” they say. “Does she need a new robe for lounging? A sweet chemise to sleep in? Take this opportunity to make the woman you love feel luxurious and looked after.”
Know Her Style
“Always purchase something that will fit her style,” says Erin McLaughlin, who represents online lingerie retailer BareNecessities.com. “If she’s more of a sassy girl, then sheer lacey chemises or babydolls in light colors will probably suit her style best. You want to buy something that will make her feel comfortable to slip into, nothing that will be intimidating. Lingerie should always make a woman feel sexy and confident. But if your lady has more of a risqué taste, then have at it with the peek-a-boo bra and panty set. Hanky Panky has some great options, and L’Agent is a very sexy brand that offers great sets, chemises, and garters.”
(Courtesy of Kaaren Bedi.)
Make it an Enjoyable Experience
Sure the lingerie is for her, but what do you want to get out of it? Look for a piece that you will both thoroughly enjoy. According to designer Kaaren Bedi of luxe lingerie line Layneau, the most common issue she hears from male shoppers is this: “It’s only going to be on her for a few minutes!” Fortunately, this year can be different. “Do you want a quickie or long, slow seduction? I thought so,” says Bedi. “Look for something she will want to inhabit. What will she keep wearing after V-day? It’s fine for one night, but it’s better if she wants to keep putting it on–and letting you take it off.” When asked which of her pieces would she recommend to her clientele, Bedi recommended the splurge-worthy Alla robe, which “shows off the best.” “I recommend leaving the box on the bed in the morning with instructions to put it on and greet you at the door with a bottle of champagne that evening,” she says. And guys, it goes without saying that bottles and flutes should already be accessible in the fridge!
Don't Know the Word? No Problem
Don’t know the difference between a waist cincher and a bustier? There’s no need to study lingerie terminology to find something your partner will love. “If you’re not sure of what you’re looking at or not confident that you’ll remember the name, take a picture and show it to the sales staff where you’re shopping,” suggests Harrington. “This also applies for colors and styles you and your partner like. Don’t rely on memory to bring words, like ‘letherette frame bra’ to mind when you need them. Just take a photo.” If you really want to make your present extra decadent, you could even consider investing in a full-custom piece. “The Clair de Lune corset by New York City-based designer Angela Friedman is a work of art,” says Harrington.
Ask the Girls
There’s no need to go on the lingerie hunt solo. Don’t forget your lady has friends, too. You can reach out to them for clarity on what you should spend on for options. Plus, her friends will have a better understanding of your significant other’s personal tastes, as opposed to a salesperson at a boutique. “If you’re going to try to go shopping alone, I suggest asking her friends first to get some ideas from them on what she’d like from a woman’s perspective,” says Jene Luciani, author of “The Bra Book.” “But the biggest thing to remember is to buy quality,” she adds. “You don’t want to skimp when it comes to lingerie.” While those deeply discounted final sale items may be tempting, you’ll also run the risk of buying something she won’t instantly love, getting stuck with a bad gift that will never see the light of day.
Consider Other Glamorous Designs
Want to transform your partner into a tantalizing pinup? Fortunately, bombshell-inspired lingerie is now widely available in stores and online. Even burlesque star Dita Von Teese is getting in on the act with her own collection. When visiting a lingerie boutique, bring photos of your favorite looks to create a sinfully seductive set she’ll adore for years to come. Can’t find what you’re looking for in person? Know her exact size and browse online lingerie shops. “Secrets in Lace is one of my favorite lingerie brands because I love the fit, comfort, and sexiness of their pieces,” says Jasmin Rodriguez, a vintage fashion stylist and expert who recently compiled a list of some of her favorite online retailers to look out for. “I also love to wear their stockings 24/7 because they last me the longest of any brand I have ever wore. My favorite is their Bettie Page Collection that features a variety of styles you can mix and match to your personal taste.” Rodriguez also points out that the Bettie Page Leopard sets, in particular, come in a variety of jeweled-hued shades, along with classic garter belts.
Remember Who the Gift is For
“Remember you’re buying something primarily for her,” stresses Harrington. “What she needs, wants, and likes come first, even if it doesn’t necessarily overlap completely with your preferences. Nothing ruins the mood faster than buying your partner lingerie that she’d never wear in a million years. Not only does it give the impression that you don’t really know her, it also makes it seem like this was a gift primarily for you, not for her. And we know that’s not really what gift giving is about. Ideally, you should both like it, but if there’s any hesitation, always err on the side of what you know she’ll love.”