Ahead of Valentine’s Day, we consulted with Agent Provocateur’s Creative Director, Sarah Shotton; Journelle CEO and founder, Claire Chambers and the shop girls at Azaeleas boutique, to get insider tips on how to pick out the lingerie she’ll love.

Valentine’s Day is just around the corner. If she’s been dropping hints about something sheer and lacy, or you’d like to take the initiative and surprise her with a few pieces you’ll (hopefully) get to see her in, there are a few things you need to know before making any buys. To simplify the ins and outs of the undergarment world, we’ve asked a few women who know lingerie like the back of their hand to share some tips.


1. Know Her Size

The general consensus is that you probably shouldn’t even step into a store without her sizing information. Claire Chambers, CEO and founder of Journelle says, “Lingerie is like architecture for the body – precision is important, and there are dozens of sizes that she might be. If you don’t know her bra size, don’t try to guess. Choose a bra and a pair of underwear she wears often and note the brand and size on both.”

Sarah Shotton, creative director of Agent Provocateur shares, “My number one rule when shopping for lingerie is to be sure you know your partner’s size before you begin. This avoids embarrassment and ensures the lingerie fits properly. Opting for a baby doll, kimono or robe is often a fail-safe option. Agent Provocateur has some incredibly sexy nightwear pieces in our collection this season, such as the Shirley Kimono and Slip, and the Axis baby doll.”

“All lingerie stores carry bras in small, medium and large, which allows for much more wiggle room with regard to size. But please, please, please have some idea of sizing — this isn’t a t-shirt,” say the shop girls at Azaleas, a small lingerie boutique in New York City’s East Village.

2. Keep Her Taste and Comfort in Mind

Knowing her taste can help tremendously when deciding where to shop. Some stores specialize in the risqué while others tend to stock more practical choices. Your choice will depend on her preference. You want her to look great, but you also want her to feel great about what she’s wearing.

“Take a cue from what she wears currently and ratchet things up a bit at a time,” Chambers advises. “For example, if she’s new to structured lingerie, try something playful but soft like a Hanky Panky peek-a-boo set. If she typically wears boxers and a tank top to bed, consider something that’s sheer in some places but soft and cozy in others. Eberjey consistently makes great chemises that fit this bill. The Piper is a current favorite.”

If you’re unsure, your best bet is to choose something sexy and wearable. Chambers suggests pieces like the Felicitia set from L’Agent, or for something slightly more daring, she cites L’Agent’s lingerie version of a three-piece suit, the Iana bra with a matching thong and suspenders.

3. Consult the Sales Associates

“There are dozens of great independent lingerie stores scattered around the country, and it’s in these stores that you will have the best chance of getting personalized service from lingerie experts,” Chambers tells us. “A great sales associate can show you the best and newest pieces, consult with you on sizes and make recommendations based on your information and their experience.”

“Staff are trained to know which items suit specific colorings and characters. Describing your partner helps them offer the best possible advice,” says Shotton.

4. Be Ready to Spend

“Stay focused on what she likes and invest in classy, high-quality pieces. If you start to buy her lingerie often, you’ll find that both of you are appreciating more and more sophisticated pieces as time passes,” says Chambers. Expect to budget $100 for a high-quality entry level lingerie set, $150 for an intermediate level one and $300 and up for something really special.

5. Make the Call

Lingerie is so personal that it’s hard to generalize and nearly impossible to give a hard set of rules for making a final selection. But a Valentine’s Day gift isn’t going to be her everyday underwear — while you should think about her preferences, you should also think about what will make your jaw drop. “Most men know what they want to see on their lady,” says Azaleas NYC. “Trust your instinct.”

Words by Stephanie Smith-Strickland
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