Lingerie, a topic that elicits strong opinions from both men and women. Some love it–the sultriness, the seduction, the surprise. Some hate it–a sign that a woman is trying too hard, the silken chain of the patriarchy. And some just wonder why anyone would spend money on a garment whose primary function is to entice its hasty removal.
I adore lingerie. But buying the right lingerie is about more than playing eenie-meenie in the Victoria’s Secret catalog. It’s about giving a woman the ability to feel beautiful, confident, and desirable. Here are my rules for buying lingerie you’ll want to wear, so that it isn’t banished to the back of a drawer on February 15th.
Rule No. One: Lingerie Is About You; Buy Something You Actually Want to Wear.
The biggest lie about lingerie is that you wear it for someone else. Don’t buy what your partner likes unless you like it, too. Nothing is less sexy than feeling exposed, uncomfortable, or objectified.
A cotton or silk chemise is a nice option for ladies who prefer something demure. This cotton and lace chemise from Fleurt is as comfortable as it is pretty. For something more affordable, try this silky chemise from Pour Moi. Natori offers a simple chemise in plus-size. For something a bit more daring, try an off-the-shoulder lace chemise or flyaway babydoll.
Rule No. Two: Color is Not Dirty a Word.
Ask any lingerie salesperson for her opinion and she’s likely to steer you toward black lace, the safest of the safe choices (the Volvo of lingerie). Yes, a lot of men like black lace, but this isn’t about them (see Rule No. One). So let’s branch out a bit.
I love this bright fuchsia Presage Demi Set from Chantelle. Talk about a pop of color. I’m also deeply in love with this ruby red Veronique Balconet Bra (if you want to lift the girls without padding, a balconet is the only way to go). On the affordable side, this jade-green Coco de Mer set is a lot of fun. And I can’t get enough of the sparkle on this L’Agent Odessa Bra.
Rule No. Three: Variety Is The Spice of Life.
If you’re shopping for a special occasion piece (Valentine’s, birthday, anniversary, etc.), think outside the box a bit. You wouldn’t just buy the same dress in five colors and call it a day, so why buy nothing but bra and panty sets? There is so much beautiful lingerie out there, you deserve something special.
This Natalia Teddy has a bit of old Hollywood glam with a flirty silk ribbon tie. This Isabella corset is a wonderful option, try it with a pair of thigh-high stockings and lace suspenders. Or if you want to go all in, a pair of tassled nipple covers or an open-cup bra (NSFW) never hurt anybody (unless they were into that sort of thing).
Rule No. Four: If You’re Only Wearing It Once, Don’t Break the Bank.
One of the dumbest financial decisions I ever made was buying an Agent Provocateur Corset. It was for a very special occasion, and when my paramour and I stopped seeing each other, I could never bring myself to wear it again. I might as well have lit the money on fire.
If you’re not going wear a piece more than once, or you’re just not into lingerie, may I suggest shopping at ASOS. The UK retailer has wide selection, from this plunging lace bodysuit to this charming vintage-inspired satin set. They also carry plus and petite sizes, and nearly everything is under-$75.
Rule No. Five: Time for an Upgrade, Because You Can Wear Lingerie for Every Day.
The reason why so many women get lingerie wrong is because they don’t see it as something to wear, they see it as something to take off. I wear my lingerie for special occasions, big meetings or job interviews, and any time I need a pick me up. It’s the French way of doing things, or so the ladies at Coup de Foudre on E Street, tell me.
Last week, I wore this funky Harper Mid-Line Bra with leggings and a white tunic top. Why? Because I felt like it, and because this is America, where if a woman wants to clean house in a sexy bra, no one can stop her.
To upgrade your every day lingerie, start with something simple. This Natori Feathers set takes basic lingerie and kicks it up two notches. I also like this strapless balconet set from Calvin Klein. Or just trade out your basic briefs for a lace tanga.
So what are your thoughts on lingerie? Do you wear it often or only on special occasions?
I loved the tone of this piece (and the advice). I tried the Natori Feathers bra for the first time at the Nordstrom Anniversary sale and even though it was the first time I went for a non-push up bra, I couldn’t have felt better. Highly recommend them.
Same, M. Love the Natori Feathers. Hands down my favorite bra – and now brand.
Any recommendations from you two for other bras that fit you well?? The Natori Feathers fits me like a glove in a 30DD but I would love to diversify my lingerie drawer!
I looove Chantelle. Any of their basic styles. They go on sale at Nordstrom reasonably often.
So true about the color! My bf likes me in bright blue- who knew?
x0x0 Caroline https://thecarolove.com/
Agreed to the Natori lovers above. I used to work at VS and as a result, was loyal to their bras. Once I tried the Natori Feathers, I will never go back.
My constant lingerie question… for pieces that aren’t just bra and panty sets, when do I put them on? Under my clothes before the date, excuse myself upon return from the date to change? I’ve purchased pieces for special occasions only to find that the uh, “moment” passes before I remember to go excuse myself for the dramatic reveal. Hoping this is an issue/question for other women and not just common sense that I have managed to not grasp over the last 30 years.
Oh, it is definitely an issue. I’ve found the only work around, if you can’t wear it underneath, is to simply say, “I have a surprise for you, wait here” in your best Marilyn Monroe, walk into the bedroom solo, change, hastily shove clothes in the closet, and come back out.
A friend of mine used to carry the lingerie in her purse and change into it before leaving the last stop of the night, but this just creates too many problems for my microphobic self.
Hide it under your bathroom sink! I’ve done this at home or on vacation–before you go out for the night, stash your lingerie in a secret spot in the bathroom. When you come back to your home/hotel room, excuse yourself to the bathroom and come out for a big reveal.
I have no practical advice but same question so solidarity in the confusion!
My friend and I once planned a brief ceremony to sage some gorgeous lingerie she had bought in a previous relationship, so she could wear it again! We danced around it in the living room. It worked : )
Great post, Belle! I love the variety of lingerie sources you’ve provided! I think it’s important to take a step back and stop shopping at VS. Not that one should be banned from shopping there. To each her own. But there are so many brands with designs and quality that far exceed VS’ for the same price.
I stopped going to VS after I saw two sub-16 year old girls in there talking about what their boyfriends liked to see them in. I was like, “Nope, no sir. La Perla, here I come.”
They also aren’t the greatest at measuring and fitting. They ultimately carry a limited number of sizes and will recommend you go with something that might not be ideal. Nordstrom is great for proper fittings.
Anon for this says:
I’ve only had one former buy me lingerie… it was a very uncomfortable experience because the cups were way too small for my oversized chest! He kept wanting to see me in it, and I kept explaining it wouldn’t work!
So many good points about buying lingerie in this article. I never really got the whole lingerie thing and then I went to work in Paris this summer… At the time I had just switched out of my terribly ugly nursing bras and back into the boring nude t-shirt bras I pretty much exclusively owned before baby, but I told myself I was going to splurge a bit – I mean, I was in Paris, right? WOW WOW WOW it is amazing how much better a (couple) beautiful set(s) of lingerie can make you feel! Even being there without my husband, and hence, no one to show everything off to, I felt so much sexier and more powerful every day. I went from feeling ok about myself, with a few baby pounds to lose still, to feeling like a bombshell getting dressed every morning (even if I just put a t-shirt and jeans on over it all). There is definitely still a place for the comfy stuff in my life (aka weekend mornings), but I can’t recommend enough that every woman should get a pair of truly correct fitting, sexy lingerie for herself. It really is life-changing.
Preach it, sister.
As a huge fan of lingerie, I love this post and agree with your comment, Belle, about wearing it on the regular and especially for whenever you need an extra confidence boost.
Question though, has anyone tried those lingerie subscriptions? Curious how the quality/fit/variety is.
I have not, but I like to shop for it, especially in the sale section, so I’m not their target market.
Mrs. M says:
I’ve become a big fan of AdoreMe… not really a subscription, but a monthly charge to pick whatever you’d like (skips are easy, if you’re not feeling it that month). They have a good selection, the sizing is consistent and on point, and the quality is on-par with anything I’ve bought at a department store.
Dina Chavez says:
This makes me feel so comfortable about buying lingerie. Thank you!
Question on online shopping for lingerie – I live in a smaller town with department stores that have a less than stellar selection of lingerie, so I’m only familiar with my size in one or two brands. Is there some way to compare how a bunch of different bras will fit without having to order each one in two or three sizes and return? (Because, IMO bras are just not that consistently sized across brands, no matter what that number and letter say)
You could probably call a Nordstrom and ask. I would just ask for the lingerie department, say that you usually wear a X brand, and does she know how the sizing compares to this other brand.
Slightly OT but can anyone recommend a resource for some decent nursing bras that aren’t sports-bra like? I’m in the market, and I’d like something that does a little more (and looks better under professional clothing) than most of the current options. Slightly sexy (at least flattering) would be a huge boost to me as I feel better about myself when I’m wearing lingerie that fits properly!
Rebecca, I don’t have personal experience with nursing bras, but I happen to see some quite nice nursing bras on AdoreMe the other day. You might check them out!
Soma has some pretty good ones, including some lace detail, and they sell extended sizes.
I’m in the nursing bra market myself and Nordstrom has a great selection online.
From my good friend who has a 2-yr-old and is pregnant with her second.
1. The destination or motherhood maternity ones are great. Lots of styles and options in store. Department stores don’t carry hardly any maternity/nursing inventory these days.
2. Ingrid & Isabel makes them but some don’t have adjustable back, and the brand tends to run small.
3. Cantaloop – again has finicky clips but otherwise fine.
4. Natori makes nursing bras – can get at Bloomingdales or Nordstrom. These are the most attractive of the bunch, expensive, and more specific fit.
I had the best luck purchasing an excellent fitting bra and having it altered to a nursing bra. There is a local lingerie store that I regularly visit that has an onsite alterations person. It was amazing!
Belle’s lingerie posts are always the highlight of my year.
Thanks. It’s one of my favorites, too.
Love this! I worked at a lingerie store when I was in undergrad, and I spent (and still spend!) a lot of time trying to convince women that the point of lingerie is to make you feel good, not to impress anyone else. Because nothing will cheer you up on a sweatpants day like knowing you’ve got something pretty on underneath! ?
I’m so excited to check out the Asos ones. It never would have occurred to me they carried a 36G. Thanks!