So you want to buy your girlfriend some lingerie, but you don't want to be the creepy guy checking out thongs at Victoria's Secret. Buying lingerie might seem intimidating, but it doesn't have to be. Plus, the payoff of seeing your lady in that little number you bought will be well worth it. Here's how to do it right.
Ease Into It
If you're not sure how risque to go, err on the side of being a little too conservative, especially for your first few purchases. It's OK to buy something that you think would be a little outside of her comfort zone, but don't push her too far! You want this to be a fun experience for both of you.
There are many types of lingerie out there, so look to your significant other's own purchases for hints. If all she has ever worn are cotton boyshorts, she may not respond too well to a lacy pair of crotchless panties. If she's a crotchless aficionado, you'll likely have a much wider array of options to choose from.
If You Can't Figure Out Her Style, Focus On What You Like
Almost all women feel uncomfortable with some aspect of their bodies (thanks mainstream media and Photoshop!), and some women feel self-conscious with the revealing nature of lingerie. It's likely that you have a far higher opinion of your lady's body than she does.
For those reasons, I recommend focusing your search on items that you want to see her in. You could drive yourself crazy trying to figure out her style, but I think your time is better spent looking for pieces that you think would look smoking hot on her. Love her legs? Try a pair of thigh-highs with a seam up the back. Love her butt? Try a skimpy pair of underwear that shows plenty of cheek. Tell her your reasons for the specific item when you give her the gift. If she hears you say, "I thought these underwear would look perfect on your perky little arse", she probably won't care that you didn't exactly nail her personal style.
...But Avoid Her Insecurities
Here's where things get a little trickier. She might feel extremely self-conscious about the body parts that you happen to most love. If she truly despises a part of her body, she's unlikely to want to show it off, and your purchase might make her feel pressured or upset.
If you suspect that may be the case, do some recon first: try giving her a compliment about that body part and see how she takes it. Many women aren't great at taking compliments, but a little embarrassment or a giggling "stop staring at me like that!" are probably fine. On the other hand, if she says something like, "are you insane? My breasts are so tiny. I've always hated them", you might want to avoid lingerie that would highlight that part of her body.
Consider Giving Her A Heads Up And Some Options
If your significant other is particularly shy or conservative, you might want to ask beforehand if she would feel comfortable with you getting her naughty lingerie. Tell her, "I'd like to buy you something that I think would look incredibly sexy on you. Would you be OK with that?" Sure, you'll ruin the surprise, but that's probably OK too -- especially the first time around. Communication always wins.
Then, if you're really nervous about making the right decision, send her ten choices and ask her which ones she likes. Pick your favourite out of the ones that get her seal of approval. You'll still have an element of surprise, but won't have to worry about her immediately returning whatever you buy.
Alternatively, trick her into giving you feedback by sending her a few links and saying something like, "Dave is asking my advice for picking something for his girlfriend. You know I'm clueless about this type of stuff; what do you think?"
Find Her Size
This might seem like an obvious step, but I'm sure lingerie salespeople could tell plenty of stories indicating otherwise. The first rule of gifting lingerie: don't buy anything unless you're confident about her size! Buy something too large and she may be insulted. Go too small and she might be embarrassed (or get stuck in the clothing itself). Either way, she won't be able to wear it. Do your homework first!
When she's out of the house (or when you're doing laundry), look at the tags of her bras, underwear, shirts and dresses. Sizes can be variable across brands and styles, so check out several items of clothing in each category and take note of every size you come across. Write them down so you don't forget.
When you're shopping, ask salespeople or online customer service reps if the items you're looking at tend to run large or small. Use the range of sizes you have to make your best guess. When you have the items in hand, you can compare them to ones she already has to make sure they look about right.
If you're a woman buying lingerie for your girlfriend, figuring out her size might be easier and more intuitive. Winning!
Don't want to spend your afternoon creeping around the edges of a lingerie store, avoiding eye contact like the plague? Do your shopping online -- problem solved.
Keep in mind, though, that polite, respectful men are more than welcome in lingerie stores. Lingerie sales associates have had far more uncomfortable interactions than you fumbling to describe what you're looking for, and are more than happy to help you find something special.
Ladies who sleep with ladies, this is another area that's easier for you!
Give Your Gift At The Right Time
Some occasions work better than others for lingerie gifts. I actually think it's a perfect "just because" gift. Surprise lingerie can be the type of much needed shake-up that most people's sex lives direly need.
Conversely, it can be a little cheesy for Valentine's Day or an anniversary, unless you're a regular Casanova. And, while you know your lady best, I'd advise not giving lingerie after a fight or as an apology (because let's face it, it's a bit of a gift for yourself too)!
On a more serious note: it's also best to avoid lingerie if your girlfriend has been struggling with serious body image issues, an eating disorder, or health or ability issues that might make her physically incapable of putting on her new gifts. Check in with her first.
Your Best Bets
Still lost? Here are some solid options:
- A matching bra and panty set like this duo from Huit is a classic combination.
- Balconette bras like this stunner from Chantelle Intimates tend to look great on most breast sizes and shapes.
- If she's insecure about her body or on the more conservative side, a chemise and short set like this one from ASOS or a babydoll like this number from Torrid are sexy without showing too much skin. Use her shirt size for the chemise, and dress size for the babydoll. Black tends to be the most flattering colour.
- A smaller gift like a pair of underwear (check out this cheeky pair from Valentine by Jonas + Brown) or thigh-highs (Hips & Curves carries some classic styles) would be a great way to ease your timid self into the wonderful world of lingerie.
Get creative! You'll get bonus points for the extra effort that goes into scouting out something unique. If your girlfriend's style is girly, check out Honeydew Intimates' line of flirty and colourful lingerie. If she likes more simple pieces, Eberjey is a great choice. If she's into indie designers, For Love And Lemons has a ton of unique options. If you want to splurge, Stella McCartney is a classic. If you're on a budget, Etsy is a surprisingly great resource for interesting and affordable lingerie. Good luck!
Vanessa Marin is a licensed psychotherapist specialising in sex therapy. It's her mission to take the intimidation out of sex therapy and bring the fun back into the bedroom.