Every year from November through February, I get sent links to gift guides; "Men! How to buy lingerie for your girlfriend" and the like, all of which seem to be based on the idea that men have no idea about knickers and are incapable of having an adult conversation about such things. Let's run through some of the truly genius ideas they come up with:
1) Look in her underwear drawer to check her size.
Yes, that won't make you look like a creepy pervert stalker AT ALL. There is literally nothing that can go wrong with this plan apart from that, excepting possibly that most women, if not all, have a drawer full of undies in varying sizes and styles, because between hope, reality, hormones, sales, and the ineffable nature of bra sizing, the one thing you can pretty much guarantee is that there's unlikely to be 100% consistency in sizes. Have you considered just asking her instead? It's a radical notion, but communicating with the important people in your life can help things.
2) Check what she usually wears, so you get a feel for similar styles you could buy her.
Yes, because if she mostly wears beige T-Shirt bras for work, both of you will be deeply, deeply excited and thrilled by the very special joy of opening yet another beige T-Shirt bra in spangly wrapping paper, plus also, you are totally going to learn the difference between 8 different bra shapes that you have zero investment in outside of this in the run-up to Christmas. Or - you could ask her what she would wear if budget and practical considerations were not an issue?
3) Look at her general fashion choices.
Because literally all major fashion trends are accurately reflected in lingerie, which is why no-one has ever worn a modern dress over a retro suspender belt and neon bras never end up in the sales. (They always end up in the sale)
4) Buy the accessories
Yes, a pair of fluffy high-heeled mules, eye mask and hold-ups have universal appeal and there are absolutely no women who will laugh at any of those.
5) Buy silk
God help me, I love silk. It's a gorgeous, lustrous, lovely feeling fabric and natural to boot. You know what it also is? REALLY HIGH MAINTENANCE. Does your giftee have the time, enthusiasm, or physical capacity to carefully hand wash this garment in a sink of cold water and special handwash soap, then in just cold water, then in cold water with softener, carefully drip dry it away from anything that could get colour transfer, and then steam or press it? If yes, can they come and do mine please? Or you can send it to good laundrettes.
If they don't, and you are still adoring silk, then silk jersey or silk mixed with a little elastane is easier, or buy garments that have small panels of silk rather than acres. It's also fair to say that even if you don't go for silk, it's wise to test the fabrics - scratchy fabrics of any sort (lace is notoriously the issue) make people sad.
6) Choose for her, not for you
There's a part of me really likes this idea... and generally, I think gifts should be for the recipient... but this advice is really predicated on the idea that what men and women like in lingerie is radically different and that women won't want anything new or different. Is that really true? Have you tried talking to her about it? Or maybe an afternoon together in a place (or website) with lots of different styles?
7) Keep it classy
The minute you use the word classy you a) have a problem, because no-one agrees on what that is and that conversation can only go downhill, and b) you're in the grip of an advertorial from people who want to upsell you from a bra and knicker set to a lace applique silk slip with matching robe.
8) Buy pyjamas
I know a large number of women who might well kill you if you buy them pyjamas. I only wear them for blogging. We have a problem if you think that's a great gift, unless what you've got is some amazing loungewear piece in fabulous fabric.
9) Buy it in the sale of when a discount is on, thus almost guaranteeing that it is late and not being able to exchange the size.
OK, so this is not a tip you ever see, but it is something Rose has to deal with every year. And there is nothing wrong with being budget conscious - don't mess up your life for pants! Half the things in my wardrobe were bought on sale.
But, I know that when I buy on a sale, even if the brand wants to give me the same level of service as usual, the practicalities mean they probably can't; think about the difference between visiting a lovely calm boutique with a staff member just for you, versus the rummage-in-the-bargain-boxes-on-fold-up-tables-for-maybe-your-size scrum that is sample sales! Exactly the same thing happens online. If you want the best service and to meet your deadline and to be able to exchange sizes - planning is awesome.
Do you want to know how lingerie designers do lingerie gifts?
This year and last we've been doing a lingerie secret Santa. Plenty of us have really enjoyed it, precisely because we get something that we wouldn't necessarily have chosen for ourselves. Like pastel pink for me, for example.
Here's the info we ask for to help make it work well!
Top and bottom dress sizes - sometimes people aren't the same size above the waist as below, and these are used a rough guide; always check size charts for a brand.
Bra size - again, used as a rough guide, and each country and sometimes each brand uses a different system, sorry.
Bust, waist, and hip measurements - these are ideal for finding the right size, though some people can be uncomfortable giving them. Sometimes in our stores, if people are happier, we measure but don't tell them the actual numbers, if that's something that can get them in a headpsin.
Thigh measurements - sounds strange but some of the nicest accessories out there are garters. You wouldn't think you can go wrong with these as they are stretchy and usually one size fits most, but there are always plenty of people who aren't quite a standard fit for whatever reason.
Do you have any preferences on garment styles, shapes or colours? (e.g. no thongs, no pink, no strappy details) - this helps us rule out products or brands that really don't suit each other!
Where do you trade from, and are your products made to order or custom sized? - we need to know this for that all important planning malarky! If you want a custom made corset for someone for Valentines from the other side of the world, for example, then you'd need to start now!