It's hard to be a man in a lingerie shop, so here are the basics for anxious gentleman shoppers
It's my wife’s 30th birthday next week and she has said she'd like some proper posh lingerie. Where should I, as your average, useless 32-year-old bloke, go that won't make me look or feel too pervy or weird?
Ahh, the awkward man in the lingerie shop: there are few shopping cliches I enjoy more upon encountering them in the flesh. As a frequent consumer of lingerie myself (in the sense that I am fond of buying the stuff, not eating it: just thought I needed to clarify that), many's the time I have seen your ilk, Name withheld, furtively ducking into the shop, lurking about the babydoll nightdress section, pretending not to stare at the shop assistants trussed up like strip-o-grams, stumbling over the straddling mannequins only to have to clutch onto the rail of G-strings for support: oh yes, I know ye. And, of course, as is so often the case, the more you try to avoid the danger, the more you run towards it, in this case, looking like a thigh-rubbing lech. All that stealthy creeping, those embarrassed side-glances, the blushes when confronted by a sales assistant. To paraphrase Ashish, sometimes it's hard to be a man – in a lingerie shop.
Then there is the issue of the lingerie itself. You do not clarify, Name withheld, whether your fears of looking or feeling "too pervy" are in relation to the shop, or the lingerie itself – and the latter is an equally legitimate concern. Without wishing to presume too much, I assume from your email that you are a neophyte to the world of lingerie shopping and are therefore concerned that you might end up, in your panic, purchasing something for your girlfriend that says less, "You are a gorgeous, irresistible goddess – grrrr!", and more, "I LIKE PORN."
Fortunately, dear boy, you have come to the right place. Come, shelter under my chiffon-clad arm as I walk you through the basics, like Great Aunt Alicia tutoring her grand niece in the ways of femininity in the film Gigi, albeit with fewer lessons about how to eat ortolans. But don't walk too fast, OK? I'm wearing my marabou high-heeled slippers.
First, you need to know her size. Forgive me if this statement of the obvious comes across as condescension but ever since I was once in a lingerie shop and a gentleman shopper described his lady partner's size as "I dunno – a handful?" I have learned to take nothing for granted in this department.
Next, I often hear lingerie salesladies asking the gentleman whether their female friend prefers "girly or sexy things". This, in my opinion, is something of a canard – and a confusing and distracting one at that. First, rare is the man, I suspect, who can tell the difference, particularly under the brutal, pressured spotlight in a lingerie shop. Second, can't a gal like both? So don't worry too much about style. Unless your lady love has specifically asked for rotating nipple tassels, just get something that is, quite simply, beautiful. So now we can get to the nub of the matter: where to find the beautiful things?
I used to love Agent Provocateur but it's gone a bit La Senza of late and, while I appreciate that probably won't mean much to my correspondent, I suspect his partner would understand and will appreciate the warning. Now, Myla is my favourite lingerie brand, selling things that are girly, sexy, beautiful and all these combined. It's not cheap, although heaven knows it's cheaper than some labels out there, but it really is worth it: great quality and gorgeous. Plus, you can order it over the web to save yourself Store Unpleasantness, but it's not a bad idea to go to the shop to see the bits in person before getting them for your spouse.
Stella McCartney is another good bet (and I can guarantee your girlfriend or wife will be almost as delighted to see a Stella McCartney box as she will be to see what's in the box), as is the somewhat lesser known. On the high street, the best bet is probably Cos for chic, non-itchy, non-scratchy things.
So there you go, noble soldier. Consider yourself armed to the teeth with lingerie guidance and, if you choose well, as you surely will with such advice, you shall soon be taking the lingerie off with your teeth. Sorry, I totally did not just write that.