Fashion: Lingerie chosen with love

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It’s tempting to go for lingerie as a personal Christmas gift, but it’s not the easy option. Stephanie Smith advises on getting it right.

A male colleague once asked me to go shopping with him to help pick out some lingerie for his girlfriend (also a friend and colleague), intended as a Christmas present.

It was an interesting experience, but an alarming one, too. What would she make of my choice? Would I get her size right and, if not, would she feel insulted or flattered or pleased or just irritated that the darned stuff didn’t fit her properly, and she was lumbered with yet another expensive but useless piece of frippery? (Actually, that’s a good description for the boyfriend too. Did he have the slightest idea of her size or preferences? Not at all).

Anyway, I do have sympathy for those men who have taken it upon themselves to buy lingerie for their wife/partner/significant other or whatever, because getting it right is no mean feat. And, as with anything difficult and worth doing well, it requires forward planning, determination, flexibility – and a flash of genius.

Rule No 1: Don’t go for the obvious (unless the wearer really loves the obvious).

“Clearly, there is so much to choose from, but it’s not all about red lingerie,” says Soozie Jenkinson, head of lingerie design at Marks & Spencer, adding: “Although, I have to say, that is quite on-trend this season so, if you buy red, you can’t go wrong with that.”

OK, so you can buy red this season – but don’t go mad. Soozie says: “I would suggest that, if you are a guy buying fabulous lingerie for your partner or wife, don’t think just about sexy bras, lacy looks. There’s so much more to choose from.”

Such as beautiful lounge wear, she suggests, perhaps silky soft and luxurious camis, slips, all-in-ones, robes and and loose trousers (check out the M&S Rosie for Autograph collection).

Rule No 2: Do your research. Soozie says: “Whether it’s just treating her to some stocking fillers, such as a whole array of great knickers, which would make a fabulous gift, or whether it’s a more glamorous, intimate purchase such as a bra and knicker, make sure you get her size right. So go and have a sneaky peek in her underwear drawer and find out the size of something she just loves to wear.”

Good advice, whether you buy from the High Street or online, from Figleaves or a brand specialising in retro styles (fabulous for the young and curvy).

If it’s all too scary, go for a lovely little box containing a pair of silk knickers – and a gift card for a lingerie boutique. Rigby & Peller has a store in Harrogate (the only one in the North). A gift voucher for £100 means she will have an appointment with an expert fitter who judges by eye and offers lots of styles to choose from. The whole experience is pampering and luxurious as well as practical and helpful. So everyone is happy.

TAKE CARE WHEN PICKING COLOUR

Consider nude or flesh coloured lingerie, especially for a bra and knicker set.

It works under all clothes (white and black can both show through) and looks sophisticated and elegant.

Shell pink or gold silk will always look luxurious and expensive and not tacky.

The new shape is the long-line bra, which has a broader band – it combines fun and sportiness with retro elegance, so ticks all the right boxes.

19 August 2017......  Sarah Yates in period costume at the vintage fair at Lotherton Hall.  Picture Tony Johnson.

Vintage fair at Lotherton Hall draws colourful crowd for weekend of events