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Idiot's guide to lingerie

Marchelle Hermanus iafrica
Idiot's guide to lingerie

With a glint in her eye she says that she would like nothing more than to slip into her little red number and thank you personally for her gift. You sigh with pleasure… after all the delay and anxiety you realise you've bought her the best present she could wish for — and now you're about to cash in on it.

Something to make you both feel sexy is the way to go on Valentine's Day. Forget flowers and corny mugs — seductive lingerie is the ticket.


But there's one problem: the intimidation men feel about browsing in a lingerie boutique — why does it happen, and how do you get over it?

"I think it has something to do with feeling uncomfortable in a place mostly reserved for women," says Reyan Abrahams (25), a Cape Town student.

"Initially I'm nervous because I'm worried about what people may say, but then afterwards when a sales assistant comes over to help and I explain what I'm looking for, the anxiety gradually disappears."

Shannon Delporte, owner of Kink Erotic Boutique in Cape Town, says that these days more men are definitely buying their women sexy underwear, but the anxiety may come into play because of the setting.

"Men feel uncomfortable with their surroundings because of the environment where lingerie is sold – it's very feminine. It's an intimate thing and men automatically start thinking naughty things."

But whether the sales assistants may or may not be able to read your mind shouldn't matter. Just thinking of the pay-off should be enough to get you through the initial embarrassment.

Makes her feel wanted

"If a boyfriend or a friend gives me undies he thinks I'm sexy and it means he honestly, sincerely bought it because he saw it and thought I'd look hot in it. It would make me feel attractive and sexy — I'd without a doubt want to show it off," admits 23-year-old web developer Anthea Overmeyer.

Shannon says that at the end of the day, men are more willing to shop for sexy bits when they know that they will also be reaping the benefits.

Underwear and swimwear designer Tracy B agrees: "There are so many lingerie stores opening up at the moment where you can get personal advice on what to buy, and we have so much to choose from which makes it easier for men to buy lingerie for their partners."

Tips for success

As the owner of a lingerie store, Shannon sees lots of men struggling and she can spot the first-time buyers because of some common mistakes. Here's how to avoid them:

  • Always know your partner's size beforehand. You could always sneak a peak at her size when she's in the shower or taking a nap. If this proves fruitless, check the link on page 2 of this article to determine her size.
  • Make sure that the boutique does exchanges.
  • Know the lingo. If you think 'basque' is what you do with a beer around the pool, then it's time to brush up on your lingerie knowledge. Here are a few terms to remember:

    Baby Doll — a short gown with matching panties
    Basque — combines the bra and garter belt, and may provide shaping of the waist
    Camisole — a short lingerie top, fitted over the bust, and ends at the waistline
    Garter belt — used with stockings and is worn around the waist and clipped to the top of stockings to keep the stockings in place.
    Teddy — a camisole and panties in one piece that may be fitted (body briefer) or loose. When the teddy includes detachable garters, it's called a teddiette.

  • Most of the time the sales ladies are quite friendly, and once you explain to them exactly what it is you want (using the right terminology is bound to impress them into brilliant service), you should be walking out a happy customer.

Colour her lovely

If all the silk, lace and satin still baffles you into indecision, then keep it simple. Shannon suggests you invest in a matching pair of bra and knickers that appeal to you too.

Tracy B suggests full panties as opposed to briefs: "Full panties are making a big comeback but with lots of detail like bows and frills and lace-up detail."

"The more sexy Brazilian type bottom is far more appealing than the g-string at the moment — and matching cammies."

Or if you're intent on going saucier, how about a little outfit like a teddy to wear to bed, instead of the oversized sweater she normally puts on before saying nighty-night?

Apparently if she's a bit of a sensual girl, she'll love you for it: "Flimsy, lacy and red lingerie as a gift is the ultimate way of saying, 'I want you'," quips writer Beryl Botha.

When choosing the colour, it's important to keep in mind what her favourites are – if she thinks racy reds and blacks are tacky, steer clear (no matter what your fantasies are).

Try to match the colour of the underwear to her complexion and eyes, as you’d want to complement these features.

And bear in mind her personality — some girls like feathers, other's don't. You should know by now what type of woman yours is.

It's all about love

What is it about sexy underwear that sets men's tongues wagging? Is it the anticipation of what lies beneath, or does it up the sexy factor a few more notches?

"I think lingerie is sexy because first of all it compliments a women's assets, but it is also the last layer of clothing before revealing all. This drives us crazy because it's all about what's underneath and the promise of things to come," admits freelance writer and part-time model Carlo Petersen (25).

But lingerie, despite its "eye candy" value, is not just about the physical allure. To her it means so much more.

"My husband loves buying sexy lingerie for me but the one that I loved the most was a beautiful pale pink bra and panty set from La Perla which I still have 10 years later!" says Tracy B.

"I feel so lucky to have such a wonderful and generous man in my life, and that he cares so much to take the time to purchase such an amazing gift," declares self-confessed party animal Samantha Kay.

It's a fact: lingerie is a gift that will appeal to your woman's physical and emotional pleasure (and yours too!). So ditch the teddy bear and flowers and head down to your nearest boutique.

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