How to Shop For Lingerie With Your Partner

Ah, Valentine’s Day. It’s probably the most cringe-worthy holiday ever. If you’re not being single-shamed by chalky candy hearts, you’re probably getting a box of crappy chocolate from your significant other. While you could cross your fingers and hope that this year, your partner will magically present you with THE MOST ROMANTIC GIFT EVER, here’s a better idea: Why not just go shopping for something sexy together? 

“A couple of years ago, my partner and I went to La Perla on Valentine’s Day and picked out a semi-scandalous nightie,” recalls Laura Nokes, 26. “It was totally sheer and kind of joke at first, but we ended up having so much fun with it that now we go lingerie shopping together every year. It’s sort of a tradition.”

Nokes and her significant other might be on to something. According to Sabitha Pillai-Friedman, PhD, LCSW, CST — a psychotherapist who specializes in relationships and sexuality and serves as assistant professor in the Human Sexuality Program at Widener University — shopping for racy presents with your partner can be an extremely rewarding experience. Not only does picking out a sexy thong or see-through slip have the obvious benefit of building positive sexual anticipation; the communication it requires can be a huge boost to your bond as a couple.

"Lingerie is not just about looking good; it's also about fantasy," says Cameron Datz, a 28-year-old publicist who regularly hits up adult stores with her partner. “Fantasy can be very elusive, but taking the time to figure out what turns you both on is incredibly intimate.” Not to mention way more fun. After all, lingerie is a gift you both can enjoy — and it will last way longer than that cheesy bouquet from the deli or a prix-fixe dinner at some random, crowded restaurant. Plus, as Monica Mito, executive VP of communications at Victoria’s Secret says, “Valentine’s Day is a special occasion, and a great excuse to take a risk.”

Since even the liberated among us can become suddenly shy when it comes to browsing for crotchless panties and balconette bras, here are a few tips on how to make it happen seamlessly.   
Illustrated by Mary Galloway.
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Be vocal
Your sweetie isn’t a mind reader, so don’t be afraid to drop a few not-so-subtle hints. “After my partner gave me a camouflage bra set that didn’t come close to covering my double Ds, I made a little ‘Let’s Get Busy’ business card with my sizes printed on it,” laughs Janet, 31. “It wasn’t long before we were shopping for goodies together — and this time, they actually fit me.” Datz agrees: "If you act like shopping for lingerie is a perfectly normal thing to be doing, your partner will follow suit. Once he or she knows you’re game for a steamy shopping trip, they’ll 100% be on board.”    

Honesty is the best policy
Before you hit the nearest Agent Provocateur, be sure to have a discussion about your favorite styles. “Each partner should ask their significant other what kind of lingerie makes them feel sexiest,” Dr. Pillai-Friedman advises. Be specific about your likes and dislikes—especially if there are body parts you feel sensitive about showing off.    

You should be up-front about your preferred level of kinkiness, too. “Partners need to be on the same page when it comes to more risque items,” Claire Chambers, who owns the popular Manhattan lingerie boutique Journelle, says. “Not making it a guessing game will really reduce the level of stress you both feel when shopping. Lingerie is super-personal, so it really is best to give clear guidance on your preferences — all of them.”

Feel it out
If you’ve never shopped together, remember that your partner might be taking a big step out of their comfort zone. You may love the personal attention you receive at a tiny boutique, but your partner might feel way too conspicuous with a ton of sales clerks hovering nearby — no matter how well-meaning they are. “Choose places that appeal to both of you,” Dr. Pillai-Friedman advises. Rebecca Lee, a buyer at Azaleas, recommends doing a little reconnaissance beforehand. “Browse online ahead of time to get a sense of what you’re looking for, but don’t get too wrapped up in a particular item — keep an open mind. 

Confidence is key
It may sound cliche, but the old saying that confidence is the best accessory is especially true when it comes to sexy shopping. “Try not to push your taste on your partner,” Dr. Pillai-Friedman advises. “The lingerie that features in your fantasies may not be the same as [that of] your partner’s fantasies. It is very important for partners to avoid coercing their significant other to buy and wear lingerie that makes them feel unattractive.”

To that end, it’s perfectly fine to start slowly. If you’re unsure about what to get, Chambers recommends picking out something that skews more wearable than racy. “Stay focused on what you like,” she says. “Sleepwear, slips, and chemises are great introductory pieces.” Adds Dr. Pillai-Friedman, “Always follow the cue of the partner who is the recipient of the gift, since ultimately, they’ll be the one wearing it. Lingerie can enhance the sexual experience when it’s considered attractive by both partners — and a comfortable partner is a sexy partner.”

Above all, remember that if all goes well, you probably won’t be wearing whatever you pick out for very long anyway. As Lee says, “The anticipation of what’s to come after the shopping is what makes the whole experience all the more fun.”   
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