F or a lot of guys, lingerie is like food. You enjoy it at home, but you're not keen on going out to get it. You avert your eyes from the scantily-clad mannequins in shop windows. When your lady needs to go bra shopping, you drop her off at Victoria's Secret and tell her to meet you in the food court when she's done. Those stores are just so ... lacy. This Valentine's Day, it's time to man up. You know what your girl feels comfortable in. And you definitely know what you'd like to see her in. It doesn't take a degree from the University of Pantyland to pick out lingerie. Just keep these pointers in mind. — Dalia Colón firstname.lastname@example.org
• Size matters. Buy too small and you're in trouble. Buy too big and you'll really end up in the dog house. Don't just eye the saleslady and say, "She's about your size." Check your sweetie's drawers and jot down her bra and panty sizes. For corsets and nighties with built-in bras, you'll need her exact numbers. Also note her shirt size, dress size and, for longer nightgowns, her height. If she's like most women, she probably has clothes in a range of sizes — fat clothes, skinny clothes — but focus on the stuff she actually wears for the most accurate data.
• Allow leeway. If you're not sure of her exact sizing, get something that comes in a small, medium or large. A safe bet is a teddy or nightgown without a built-in bra. If possible, opt for an item with adjustable straps, removable garters and other customizable features.
• Push the envelope ... "Usually around Valentine's Day, the woman is willing to step a little bit out of her comfort zone, wear something a little more revealing," said Trip Sanborn, who does customer service at The Todd in Tampa.
• ... but not too much. "It's about the comfort of the woman," Sanborn added. "To me, that is the most important." Lesley Geyer, owner of The Pink Petticoat in Hyde Park, hears from married men all the time, "She would never wear that." You know what your lady feels comfortable wearing, both physically and emotionally. Buy accordingly.
• It's all in the presentation. Red and pink are no-brainers for Valentine's Day, but you'll hit a home run if you pick out something in her favorite color. Wrap the present or, if you're all thumbs, have it gift-wrapped. And yes, you have to fill out the card. Girls like that stuff.
• Remove the guesswork. Buy her a gift card instead.
• Do your part. Intimacy is a two-way street. You don't expect her to prance around in some tight-fitting, wedgie-inducing garment while you're in your sweats, to you? While you're lingerie shopping, pick up a pair of silk boxers and some cologne for yourself. Take a shower. Shave. While you're at it, unload the dishwasher. Now there's a turn-on.
Sources: Marie Crane of Shear Enterprises and Maison Rouge, Trip Sanborn of The Todd, Lesley Geyer of The Pink Petticoat