A Man's Guide to Lingerie

ThinkStockEvery Valentine's Day boyfriends and husbands struggle with an age-old dilemma when it comes to gift-giving: "Is buying lingerie cheesy or romantic?"

It's a conundrum. If the recipient is a long-term love, she'll worry he's bored with their sex life. If it's a new relationship, the gesture seems awkward and pervy. Shop too high-end and she'll feel obligated to wear it. Aim too cheap and she'll feel like a hooker. It's no wonder men just give up and run to Hallmark. 

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"For men, buying lingerie on Valentine's Day is fraught with confusion," says Scott Haltzman, M.D., psychiatrist and author of "The Secrets of Surviving Infidelity." "On the one hand, guys are visual creatures and love to see their partners in sexy underwear but they're usually self-conscious of the message it sends to women."

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It came as no surprise that the men Shine asked unanimously agreed that lingerie is a romantic gift for a woman on Valentine's Day and for the most part women agreed—with some caveats. Buying it for your lady friend on February 14th? Follow these rules.

Put some thought into it: Before stepping foot in a department store, ask yourself three questions: Are we officially dating? Have we slept together? Does she already own lingerie? If the answer to all three is "Yes", proceed.

Have a plan: "When a man buys lingerie for a woman, what he's really doing is buying himself a gift so he should at least try to match her style," says Laura, 34, New York City. Consider what she wears on a daily basis. If she's a jeans and T-shirt gal, go with cheeky boy shorts and a cami. Does she wear dresses? She'd probably love a silky chemise. Is she body shy? Buy lace, a material that both covers up and exposes. 

Stay classy: "I don't care so much about brand-names but cheap fabric is harsh and itchy," says Kate, 33, Stamford, CT. But you don't need to run to Agent Provocateur. Just make sure you buy garments made with comfortable, airy fabrics such as cotton or silk and has support (underwire). When it comes to bells and whistles—anything sparkly that comes with fur-lined stilettos—the golden rule is: Don't assume. "However, if you're going to buy me something trashy, make sure we've discussed it beforehand," says Catherine, 32, Brookline, MA. "I might feel like dressing up but if you surprise me with a French maid outfit, you'll be sleeping on the couch."

Do the math: Not knowing her size will have an unfortunate two-pronged effect. You'll freak out the sales staff by creepily lingering in the underwear aisle and you risk offending your partner by buying the wrong size. "If lingerie is too small or makes me look fat, I won't even come out of the bathroom to model it for you," says Liz, 36, Boston, MA.  Sneak a peek in her dresser drawer and write down her sizes. If you don't have the opportunity, buy in the smallest size they have, then let her decide whether she wants to exchange it. And if you remember anything, let it be this: 36B is the same thing as 34C. Lather, rinse, repeat.

Pamper her: Buying lingerie for a woman will seem a lot more romantic if it's a luxe experience. One recent study conducted by Cornell University found that people are more satisfied with gifts that offer an experience (weekend getaways, the theater, etc.) than material items. Tell her you want to surprise her, then take her to the store and let her choose her own items. Pay for them, then treat her to a romantic dinner.

The bottom line: Women just want to feel sexy and comfortable in lingerie (and ideally be able to sleep in it) so as long as it makes her feel confident, it will be the gift that keeps on giving. And whatever you do, please don't be these guys:

"My ex boyfriend kept dropping hints that I needed to buy new bras which was strange because I only owned La Perla and Eres. It was really snobby." —Susan, 40, Los Angeles.

"One well-meaning guy was very proud of the fact that he picked out lingerie all by himself. Problem is, he didn't realize that he actually bought me shapewear. I only wore it on fat days." —Cara, 28, NYC, NY.

"I got a bra and underwear set from Target with the labels ripped off from a guy who was later caught shoplifting from Best Buy. I think he stole the lingerie. Is it weird that I still wear the bra?" —Anna, 29, Savannah, GA.

"My ex once bought me a black, head-to-toe fishnet body sock. It was ridiculous and clearly not something I would ever wear. I gamely wore it once, then threw it in the trash where it belonged." —Judith, 40, Brooklyn NY. 

"A friend of mine had two dates with a guy and had kissed him once. On their third date he presented her with a beautifully wrapped package that contained a teddy. Come on!" —Amy, 41 Austin, TX.

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