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6 Tips For First-Time Lingerie Shoppers

Bra Week_Rory Midhani_640

WELCOME TO BRA WEEK! This week and next, the Autostraddle writers and some special guests will be giving you the scoop on over-the-shoulder-boulder-holders and otherwise-inclined chest-covering situations — fashion, history, feelings and so much more.

Given that my blog is called The Lingerie Lesbian it should be no surprise to anyone that I think that lingerie is the loveliest, shiniest thing in the whole world and I like nothing more than acquiring much too much of it. However, the truth is that it can be more than a bit intimidating to shop for, especially if you are just starting out. To get you started, here are 6 things that I always try to think about when I’m lingerie shopping.

1. Keep an open mind.

Lingerie shopping can be hard because it’s such an intimate, personal piece of clothing that it can bring out a lot of difficult feelings. However, unless it’s way outside your budget, it never hurts to just try something on to see if you’re the kind of person who definitely needs a black lacy slip. Or ouvert knickers. Or a strappy bra. (Or you may discover that you need all of these things and you can join me on the dark side, i.e. people who care way too much about their underthings.)

Left: useless (Parfait by Affinitas). Right: excellent (Kiss Me Deadly)

Left: useless (Parfait by Affinitas). Right: excellent (Kiss Me Deadly)

2. Beware of briefs with garter attachments because they seem awesome but they can be the worst.

This may seem bizarrely specific, but I have made this mistake before and it has led to circumstances so dire that I had to remove my stockings in the middle of the street in freezing January because I couldn’t bear it any longer. It was not pleasant. This may seem like common sense, but if you buy anything that pulls downward (like a garter belt/ suspender knickers) make 100% sure that it is successfully anchored at your waist or you will regret it and your knickers will end up bunched around your knees in public.

Ewa Michalak S Pieprzyk set, 30F - 42JJ

Ewa Michalak S Pieprzyk set, 30F – 42JJ

3. Don’t assume that because something isn’t in your local boutique, it doesn’t exist.

As many of you know, the internet is a weird and wonderful place full of things you don’t even know you’ve been missing and many of those things are lingerie. If you are outside the size range you see in your nearby stores, don’t despair! Actually, if you are looking for something specific, shoot me an email and I can help. As Hamlet would put it, “There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your Victoria’s Secrets.”

4. If you are buying something to go with a certain outfit, bring that outfit with you.

This may seem like common sense, but I have made this mistake way too often to count and am left with things that are really pretty but are the wrong shape/color/texture. If you are into the whole trousseau/bridal lingerie concept, this is an especially good plan!

5. Be comfortable.

Comfort means different things to different people, so whether it’s choosing materials that feel good, shapes that make you look amazing or something that affirms your gender identity, don’t let a pushy salesperson, a partner or a shopping buddy push you into anything you don’t want to do. Underwear is a private, individual thing — so make sure it’s something that makes you feel awesome.

6. Have fun!

I know, I know, this is such a cliché thing to write. But honestly, what exactly is the point of ‘lingerie’ if not to have fun? Yes, there are utilitarian purposes to bras and briefs, but when you get into the fancy, unusual stuff, you get to be the egomaniac that you’ve always wanted to be and choose exactly what tickles your fancy.

Header by Rory Midhani

Feature images by Robin Roemer

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The Lingerie Lesbian

The has written 2 articles for us.


  1. Even thinking about shopping for underthings makes me break out in hives. I have a serious amount of anxiety surrounding the whole experience. Any advice on how to control my anxiety? Places that are easier to shop at, mantras to recite, drugs to take, etc?

    • Honestly, I looooooooove the internet. There is no one else out there to look over your shoulder, no one to tell you what to do. Then again, sometimes sizing is important to try in person. I find that bringing a friend helps a lot– but it has to be the *right* friend. I like to bring super positive underwear loving people with me because they tell me I look amazing and counter all of the evil voices inside my head.

    • I used to always worry that female cashiers were judging me for buying underwear that was either too slutty or not slutty enough. I rectified that situation by shopping at stores that only sold extremely sexy lacy panties and thongs so that my only option was slutty.

  2. I LOVE all kinds of lingerie – all kinds. Insanely difficult to find in my size though. But I always try.

  3. Serious question. Is there such a thing as sexy bras that match sexy boxers or boxer briefs. Is this a thing? I want it to be a thing so badly. I want sexy androgynous lingerie!

  4. Caro,

    Your aforementioned posts on non-girly lingerie (which by the way is a totally appropriate descriptor) showcased so much good stuff I didn’t even know was out there! I’m someone who doesn’t really dig the readily available offerings at the ends of the spectrum: the super feminine or the decidedly masculine. And pieces that fall somewhere in between them I usually find bland and uninspiring.

    At this instant I terribly want all the colorblock bras and undies from Light Years, but it frightens me that their bra sizing does not include bust measurements, and also it’s got to make the trek all the way from Australia (which makes returns pricey). I’m all about their philosophy though. Say no to fussy:

    Light Years is a boutique lingerie label designed to fill the gap between the traditional lingerie offerings of lacy, shiny sexed-up styles and utilitarian basics emblazoned with kiddie prints and giant logos. The Light Years girl craves fuss-free lingerie that is a natural extension of her own confidently cool, understated style.


    Thanks for posting here, and also on your blog!

  5. Interesting article, but I am 100% committed to my boxers and sports bras. And if I want to go for sexy, it is my belief that no lingerie can beat no-lingerie.

  6. Today i went to H&M & stared at the wall of bras & felt like an idiot (fun fact: the feeling was completed by the fact that i got stuck in a dress) & pretty silly looking at the things. Part of me really wants some pretty things (& omg those ouvert underwear), but the larger part of me feels awkward & like a walking potato when i’m even in the vicinity of bra-bras (as opposed to my usual sports ones). And for practical daily use, i don’t think a fancy bra works, yeah?

    Is there any advice for how to get over the awkwardness & feelings of general… i don’t know, “the thought of me wearing this is laughable i’m laughable i’m going to run out of this store & take refuge in a potted plant”? Especially if you’re going it alone?

    (Also i found your tumblr a day or two ago & i hope you have survived your dress project)

    • I totally wear fancy bras on the daily! I’m generally a tshirt/skinny jeans/converse person but pretty underthings make me feel good. Obviously corsets with boning are less comfy than a soft lacy bra, I just try things on and make sure nothing is sticking into me (and I am adequately supported! I’m probably on the bustier end of average size) before I buy it.

      As far as feeling weird buying fancy things, I guess my only advice is that the more you do it the less of a deal it feels like. I was mortified the first time I bought tampons/contraceptive/risque underwear, but I guess you just get used to the idea that everyone does it and no one is really paying attention to you. Maybe start with something a few shades fancier than your usual and work your way up from there?

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