School For Scandal: Why Men Need Lingerie 101

The kind of lingerie a guy likes to buy for a woman and the kind of underwear a woman likes to buy for herself are totally different:

Remember in Working Girl when Alec Baldwin gives Tess sexy lingerie for her birthday and she says, "Mick, just once it would be nice to get something I could wear outside the house."

And apparently men are so crap at buying underwear for the dames in their lives that London's John Lewis store has set up a "lingerie academy" to prevent the purchase of Pussycat Dolls-esque monstrosities in random sizes. But seriously, is it really that hard? Apparently so!

According to the academy's mastermind, Maria Walker, men's problems fall into a few categories: buying for themselves rather than their recipients; cluelessness as to size; and generally being intimidated by the setup of the creepily-named "Intimates" departments and Victoria's Secret bordellos, and the fear of looking pervy. Then too, the mechanics of fit and hoist, or underwire and cuppage, are a language that's mysterious even to women.

So, in a panic, guys go with what they've been told is "sexy," almost never what we'd choose. Think red, black, thongs, and a lot of teddies. Says Walker,

I saw a programme recently called Britain's Worst Husband and these men were sent into a high street shop to buy lingerie and they all came back with red and black lace. Every one. We have some beautiful things in red and black, but you have to make sure of the quality and you have got to look at your partner's colouring. Someone with dark hair and olive skin would look wonderful in red but if you're blonde...

Rather than guessing at sizes (which I can tell you from my time in retail, men never know even if they think they do) the academy recs that guys get camisoles and panties and stay completely away from thongs, however much they want them. They also have to coax some guys out of the weird virgin/whore complex that presupposes that racy lingerie suggests "mistress." I would personally add to this: if there is any danger of receiving lingerie, ever, beat into the buyer's brain the brand you wear: it's so hard to find stuff that works with the vagaries of individual breasts there's no point taking a chance on a line that cuts small through the back (ahem, Elle MacPherson) or inconsistently in the cup (yes, looking at you, Gap Body.) Because the thing about lingerie gifts is, even if they kind of suck, most of us will wear them just to be good sports. Like faking orgasms, this kind of white lying runs the risk of fooling a guy into thinking he's done an awesome job and repeating the error but I do feel it's one of those occasions where prevarication is kind. Unless, you know, we're talking about a raccoon suit or some other outlier - which disciplines the academy does not appear to address.

How To Buy Underwear For Women [Times of London]