How to buy lingerie: The idea is to make recipient, not buyer, blush

Models don their lingerie during the International Lingerie Fair in Paris, France, February 5, 2007.
Models don their lingerie during the International Lingerie Fair in Paris, France, February 5, 2007. MCT

FROM THE ARCHIVES: This story was originally published in February 2009.

When it comes to Valentine's Day gifts, men and lingerie have a history of confusion. Through the years, husbands and boyfriends have searched for something sexy for the women in their lives only to end up with unmentionables that are unbearable to wear more than once.

That's because, for many men, details like the size or a cut of the garment are an afterthought, said Janice Moore, regional lingerie manager for Dillard's.

"Men don't care about comfort or fit," she said. "They are looking for something they don't normally see their wife in." Women, on the other hand, most often ask, "What doesn't show panty lines?"

So is there such a gift as underwear that is attractive to men and comfortable for women? Sure there is. With today's array of choices in fabrics, prints and styles, "easy to wear" doesn't mean "granny panties." Sexy, well-fitting lingerie is easier to find than ever, with something out there for every age and body.

For novice lingerie buyers, the most error-free piece to buy a woman probably is a pretty panty. (Bra-buying is best left to the woman who will be wearing it and an appointment with the store's professional fitter.)

And for men who can't tell a hipster from a thong, here's the No. 1 tip: Ask a sales associate for help. That is the key to finding the perfect piece for your lady love.

A knowledgeable staffer will ask a shopper about everything from a woman's hair color to a favorite pastime to find the right fit. Is she fond of nylon or cotton (microfiber is a popular pick these days, Moore says), golf or formal galas?

"The more I find out about their significant other, the more it helps me," Moore says.

So don't worry, guys, a trip to the lingerie department of your local store isn't that painful. More often than not, the staff will recognize the look of a man in need of a little shopping advice.

"They really want help," Moore said of the men who haunt lingerie aisles this time of year. "Sometimes they look like a lost puppy."

Guys: Five points to keep in mind when shopping for panties

1. What kind of woman is your significant other? Is she an athletic golfer or more a fan of quiet evenings on the sofa with a good book?

2. What colors does she like? Granted, the general public will never lay eyes on her lingerie, but a woman still wants to wear her favorite hues.

3. Is she tall or petite, plus-size or model-slim? Sneak a quick peek (no excess snooping allowed) in her dresser or closet to find your lady's size.

4. Is she traditional? Maybe a cotton brief with a solid color will do. If she's modern or adventurous, try sheer lace or a thong with a crazy cupid print.

5. Ask the sales clerk for an opinion on something that's both comfy and looks great. You'd be surprised at all the styles out there that offer women a fabulous fit and a sexy look.

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