How to Buy Lingerie: A Complete Guide to Fit, Trends, and Proper Care

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Since 2009, the name Jenna Leigh has been synonymous with lingerie that manages to be both sexy and chic—no easy feat when it comes to the world of bras, underwear and other unmentionables. Founded by New York-based designer Jenna Leigh, each collection—notably affordable at  $38-$115—draws its inspiration from Jenna’s own travels, Slim Arons photography, and of-the-moment runway trends, resulting in well-designed pieces that fuse vintage elements with modern cuts.

For many of us, the world of lingerie has always been shrouded in mystery—just the word alone often sends an oddly mixed message that luxe underpinning should be reserved for special occasions or not purchased at all (it should only be given as a gift, some believe! ). This is a line of thinking that—according to Leigh—needs to be altered.

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“Lingerie is the first thing you put on and the last thing you take off, every single day,” she said, adding that she hopes more women will learn to embrace lingerie as part of their everyday wardrobes. Here, the designer fills us in how to shop for lingerie, how to care for it, trends to try, and how others (ahem, guys) can best shop for their ladies.

StyleCaster: What are a few lingerie staples every woman should have?

Jenna Leigh: Every woman should have a strapless bra, a T-shirt bra, a sexy non-padded lace bra, a push-up bra. At least one garter for dress up. Also thong, bikini and boyshort-style underwear.

What’s the deal with garters? Do they have a purpose other than sex appeal?

A garter’s function is to hold up knee or thigh-high stockings. Many people don’t use it for this anymore, because now you can buy thigh highs with adhesive gel strips on top to keep it on your leg. So these days, garters are mostly used as a sexy dress up piece. But you can, of course, still use them for their original purpose, too.

Are there any particular lingerie trends we’re seeing this year? 

Mesh is very popular now because it gives off a sporty yet sexy look. It’s extremely lightweight and comfortable, so it’s functional yet subtly seductive. Mesh is a more modern take on lingerie in lieu of traditional lace, allowing women to feel more casual, but still beautiful. Eyelash lace is a huge trend right now because it is meant to show outside of clothing a little bit and gives a hint of elegance. It’s funky when work with casual wear, but also really subtle and sophisticated when paired with more formal wear.

How should women best care for lingerie to ensure it holds its shape and lasts? 

I believe all lingerie should be hand washed and left out to dry. Machines can damage small bits of high-quality fabric easily. For bras and tops, don’t throw them in a messy drawer—keep them organized and folded properly to maintain the cups.

Lingerie often has a misconception of being “special occasion sexy.” In your opinion, can women wear it every day?

I hope women wear everyday lingerie. There’s no need to only buy beautiful lingerie for a special occasion—you should wear it all the time! It’ll make you feel better to have a beautiful [bra or pair of underwear] on daily under your clothes—as long as they’re comfortable—and it will make you feel extra-special when you’re taking off your clothes, too.

What’s a good item for a lingerie neophyte to start out with? 

She should start with one beautiful all-lace bra—something with a scalloped edge, very feminine and sexy. She can wear that every day and on special occasions. I’d say starting with black or nude is a good idea.

What’s a great splurge piece? 

Bodysuits! They’re so big right now. They’re more expensive because they utilize extra fabric, but they’re so beautiful. Bodysuits can be used as part of an outfit, worn under a blazer, or a crop top. They can also be used for dress-up occasions, and they’re very flattering! There are so many options—you can get a thong bodysuit, a more full-coverage back, strapless, push-up, or non padded. It’s well worth the splurge.

Okay, we have to ask: What are some tips for guys when shopping for lingerie for their girlfriends or wives?

They should always know the [women’s] size—look in their underwear drawer, or take a quick peek when her bra is on the floor—and seek out something sexy but not too over the top—keep it a little classy! An all-lace bra is a great option because it’s sheer without being too see-through, and it’s versatile. Choose a color that you know your girl wears often, or a color that looks good with her skin tone or eyes. Don’t pick anything nude because that’s too basic—she can buy that herself. Some items to stay away from: panties that are crotchless, completely see-through lingerie, things with strange nipple tassels.

Jenna Leigh Lingerie is available online at Jenna Leigh Lingerie, which is relaunching this spring, as well as at specialty retailers including Anthropologie, Barneys New York, Derriere De Soie, Urban Outfitters Bloomingdale’s, Journelle and Shopbop.com.

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