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Valentine's Day: A Man's Guide to Buying Lingerie for Women

It's not about what looks sexy to you, but what feels sexy to her.

As Cupid’s holiday approaches, many men dream of the horizontal tango, and how hot their honeys might look in new lingerie….

Beware, dude, one false move and you might wind up in the doghouse. Most men are clueless about buying lingerie, and Internet sites favor items like open-crotch panties and peek-a-boo bras that few 19-year-olds would wear, let alone older women. But this Valentine’s Day, when she opens the box, you just might hit the erotic jackpot—if you follow Mike’s lingerie shopping advice: 

• She’s probably not an exhibitionist. Porn is full of women who appear thrilled to flaunt their assets in skimpy, see-through outfits, but surveys show that only about 2 percent of women consider themselves exhibitionists. Behind closed doors, that figure increases, but less than most men imagine. So chances are your sweetie will greet a fishnet body suit with less joy than trepidation.

• So forget skimpy. Except for the tiny number of (often surgically enhanced) lingerie models, most women feel self-conscious about their bodies, and as the years pass, their discomfort often becomes seasoned with self-loathing. If she wants to buy skimpy outfits for herself, fine. But for gift giving, go with something she’s actually likely to enjoy wearing. 

• Forget bras, panties, thongs, and G-strings. To look good, these garments must fit like a glove, which means knowing her size. Do you? I thought not. So you peek into her underwear drawer. But unlike the sensible sizing of men’s clothing—small, medium, and large—women’s sizes are a minefield of incomprehensible labels: Misses, Petites, Juniors, and Woman’s, with a raft of sizes in each, sizes that are anything but standard. 

For male shoppers, bras are particularly tricky. Professional corset fitters often chide women for buying bras that don’t fit, so even if her bras say 36C, there’s no guarantee that lingerie in that size will flatter her. Meanwhile, if you buy a bra that’s too large, she’ll believe you think she’s a whale. And if you select one that’s too small, she’ll believe you want her to lose weight. Mike’s advice: Avoid bras and panties altogether.

• It’s not about how much she reveals, but how she feels. Men get turned on visually, which is why guys can’t get enough of scantily-clad women. But women respond more to touch, for example, the feel of luxurious fabrics such as silk. If what you buy her feels sensuous and luxurious, she’s likely to radiate sexiness—and you’re more likely to get lucky.

Another problem with skimpy lingerie: It often leaves women cold, that is, shivering, even if you crank up the thermostat. Silk is insulating. It keeps her warm, which helps her feel hot.

• Go with loose-fitting, full-coverage outfits. Shop for baby dolls, negligées, and robes. Baby dolls are short nightgowns, usually thigh-high and sleeveless. Negligées are longer, calf- or ankle-length and may include sleeves. Lingerie robes resemble bathrobes, but they’re lighter weight, and usually semi-sheer. Some baby dolls and negligées include lace, ruffles, spaghetti straps, and slits up the sides. Go with what you think she’d enjoy.

• Give her control. The beauty of full- or almost-full-coverage lingerie is that the woman is in control of what she reveals how and when. You may adore her boobs, but she may not. If she sashays around the house in a negligée, she can show off what she considers her charms without baring the bits that make her cringe. “Many women choose lingerie according to how well it disguises what they consider flaws,” says Joan Price, author of Naked At Our Age, a sex guide for older lovers. “Men can’t go wrong giving a silk nightie or robe.”

• Buy more than one and invite her to model and choose. If you buy a few baby dolls, negligées, and/or robes in different colors and styles, imagine the fun you both can have at your own intimate fashion show. As she models each outfit, tell her why you selected it: “You look so hot in red.” “That semi-sheer bodice drives me wild.” “Those straps show off your neck so beautifully.” Then decide together which one(s) she’ll keep. Return the rest. Most lingerie shops and catalogs prohibit returns of panties, thongs, and G-strings, but allow returns of baby dolls, negligées, and robes.

And have a very lucky Valentine’s Day.

San Francisco journalist Michael Castleman, M.A., has written about sexuality for 36 years. more...

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