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The New Rules of Lingerie: 7 Pieces of Advice for Every Woman

Maja Ogonowska

Awhile back, I did a post on the 7 Deadly Lingerie Sins. It’s become one of the most popular articles we’ve published to date (people really love sin, apparently), but I think it’s time for a bit of an update, and a new, 2012 spin.

Since I’m always around lingerie in some capacity, I hear a ton of lingerie rules everyday. And most of them, while well-intentioned, are pretty generic. You know what I mean: get a bra fitting, don’t wear the same bra more than one day in a row, have at least one bra that matches your skin tone, and so forth and so on.

It’s important stuff — there are lingerie newbies being born every single day — but it can also be a little repetitive… especially if you’ve been interested in lingerie for awhile and are already familiar with the basics.

So I felt like it might be nice to have a second set of lingerie rules that supplements the first few we always hear about. And since I love coming up with arbitrary lists of rules (don’t judge; it makes me feel wanted), I’ve put together a few things I think every Lingerie Addict should keep in mind when it comes to intimate apparel.

1) Affordability is subjective. One of the most popular questions I get is “Where can I find an affordable lingerie?” And while I understand what people are trying to ask, it’s not the best way of asking it. “Affordable” is incredibly subjective and what’s a good price to me could very well be too high (or too low!) for you. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with being on a budget. But if you have a price point in mind, it’s hard for other people to connect you with the right choices when you’re being vague about what you can afford.

(On a related note, no criticizing other people’s budgets. If you don’t spend more than $5 on a pair of tights, good for you. If you refuse to spend less than a $100 on a bra, kudos. I’m glad you have a system that works. But it doesn’t mean everyone else needs to shop the way you do.)

2) Lingerie is not just about sex. I am so tired of constantly being told that lingerie is only for women who are in heterosexual relationships to wear for their men. Don’t get me wrong… it’s great if you’ve found lacey knickers help out with your love life, but lingerie is more than just a bedroom accessory. And if your significant other isn’t into lingerie, that’s okay. Wear it for you. So many people think lingerie is only bras and garter belts, but it also includes robes and chemises and slips and loungewear and so much more. The whole point of lingerie is to make you feel good. The layer closest to your skin should help you feel comfortable and confident and amazing and awesome all day long. And if that’s not what’s happening, that’s a problem. Let’s start moving the conversation beyond the sexy sexy, and to how our intimates make us feel.

3) Be willing to look around before insisting no one makes anything in your size. At least once per day, I get an email or a Tumblr message from someone who tells me that no makes pretty bras above a D cup or below an A cup. Ladies, that is simply not true. Now, you may not be able to find those bras (they’re called “extended sizing”) in your local shopping mall, but they are out there, and part of being a proactive consumer is looking around before giving up. There have never (and I mean NEVER) been more lingerie options available for women at either size of the size spectrum than right now. Whether you’re a 28AA, a 42N, or a 50DD, I know for a fact there is at least one brand out there is making pretty bras in your size. You just have to look.

4) But avoid looking for unicorns. While being a proactive consumer is good, having unreasonable expectations is not. There is no 100% silk, handmade, quarter cup bra in a F cup that retails for less than $25. Unless it’s being made in a sweatshop. And those are not okay. Shopping for lingerie is already hard enough; don’t make it any more difficult than it has to be by setting yourself up for failure at the start. Having a sense of what’s out there is part of being an informed consumer.

5) Not verything is going to fit you perfectly. That’s okay. It’s true for everyone, and it’s not always the fault of the lingerie. If you’re an E cup, a flimsy bralette is going to look different on you than on a B cup. If you have shallow boobs,  you won’t fill out a bullet bra the same way someone with full boobs does. If you have a high waist/hip ratio, every panty brand just won’t work for you. Unless you’re the actual sample model for someone’s company, trial-and-error when it comes to what brands are best for your body should always be expected. And when you do find something that works, buy it… because that brand has already shown you that you’re their target customer.

6) Never feel ashamed of your lingerie choices. If you like really skimpy, tawdry, X-rated lingerie, embrace it. If you only wear the vintage stuff, go for it. If it’s silk 24/7 for you, fine. And if you prefer plain, organic cotton briefs, that’s great too. What you like is what you like, and that’s okay. And no one else should be making you feel like there’s a problem with your choices. If it’s being made, that means someone’s buying it. And as the saying goes, the world takes all kinds.

7) Be a conscious consumer. There are tons of different ways of being conscious, and I’m not here to say one kind is better than another. We all have limitations on our time, but it’s worth looking at where your undergarments are made, who made them, and what conditions the people who made them work in. I know how overwhelming that kind of research can be, but if it helps, think of the thing that matters most to you (organic or fair trade or locally made, etc. etc.) and start from there. When it comes to making things better within the lingerie industry, consumers have the ultimate power… we just have to exercise it.

As always, I love to hear what you think, so if you’ve got a rule of your own or disagree with what I’ve listed here, let’s talk about it in the comments!

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Cora Harrington

Founder and Editor in Chief of The Lingerie Addict. Author of In Intimate Detail: How to Choose, Wear, and Love Lingerie. I believe lingerie is fashion too, and that everyone who wants it deserves gorgeous lingerie.

39 Comments on this post

  1. Rebecca says:

    I am so glad I have discovered this site! I am trying to make smart choices and investments in my lingerie shopping. I don’t have a lot of experience and certainly not high end. While I bought a few chemise pieces and sets over the years and the odd piece that was “adventurous” (but made me feel silly!), I’m trying to build up something that I love and look forward to wearing. I have a small collection of vintage lingerie including slips, gowns, bras, underwear, and a girdle. I feel pretty in these… I never ever feel that way when I wear anything. I never bought them for my partner (now husband), but just me. I don’t even know if he finds those items attractive or not as I have never asked. I am trying to add to my lingerie collection but that happy balance of quality and affordability puts me in a more research mode! Which is what led me here. I’m glad that many brands and sites I’ve already been on are mentioned. I take very very good care with everything I own and can even make inexpensive stockings last a decent time! I just love that someone has scoured the Internet and openly put out there for the public an open critique and suggestions for every woman to have to help with their own research. Also, Thank you for positively reinforcing, in the most eloquent and feminine manner, that wearing something soft and sensuous is for the wearer and no one else. I have spent far too much time always concerned with how other people view my choices and even shopping in public can be awkward in a way when you live somewhere with limited shops and the probability of someone you know seeing you is high. That doesn’t matter for most but for some of us it is unfortunately uncomfortable. Your site is laid out beautifully and I’m looking forward to exploring it more. Thank you again for making lingerie no different than the love of a cozy sweater.

  2. M says:

    Hi! I just bought my first corset online, although I have tried them on before I never actually purchased one. Your website is amazing! I do have a question though, the place I bought the corset from had size 32 & 34, when it comes to bras, I can wear either band size so I ended up going with the 34, I’m afraid it isn’t going to fit correctly in which case I can return it, but is there a rule of thumb about going with the smaller or bigger size if you’re not 100% sure which one to buy??

    • Cora Cora says:

      Hi! Please take a look at the articles we’ve written on corsets here. Real corsets are not sized by your bra size. They use your waist size. You can also contact the corset dealer directly re: sizing questions as I don’t know who you bought from and they may have their own instructions as far as sizing.

  3. Joanne Fitzpatrick says:

    Cora, any suggestions on a red & black and/or pink & black bra in a 44C? My friends at Rago are now offering the 1294 girdle in those colours (YAY!), but the bras only go up to 38 band :-(

  4. Sara says:

    #2 is so right. My husband could care less about lingerie. But it gives me confidence so I like to wear pretty things.
    I have always believed if you feel sexy under your clothes you will feel sexy in your clothes. Love both ‘deadly sins’ blogs…and am guilty of many :) but working on it ;)

  5. Hillary says:

    I absolutely love your strong opinions of lingerie. All of your guidelines deserve the highest praise. I work for Change Lingerie (Scandinavian brand) omg sometimes I wish I could slap our clients when they shit all over our company for zillions of outlandish reasons. I should print out your blog posts and tape them all over the fitting rooms preaching consumer sensibility. Thank you so much for creating such a level minded blog.

  6. Rubaya Binte Siraj says:

    Finally, an article in your blog that I agree with 100%. Kudos to you!

  7. firelizard19 says:

    I know this post has been up for a while, but I only discovered TLA this past year, and I totally identify with this:

    “when you do find something that works, buy it…because that brand has already shown you that you’re their target customer.”

    I have totally had that magic moment in the fitting room- it led to my one big splurge bra, a lovely yellow/gold satin and lace overlay bra by fauve with underwire and light lining that fits like a dream and has this magical push-up effect without actually being a push-up (I used to wear VS pushups that just crowded my breasts out of the cups, and got uncomfortable after wearing all day- never again!). And I wear this bra under my clothes three times a week or so. Honestly- fun bras can hide under most clothes you wear, especially work clothes that can’t be tight or revealing anyway! Have fun with it!

  8. Lahnna says:

    Love this, especially #7. As a woman who sells lingerie for a living, I urge all my customers to really do their research. I take my time educating them on what certain styles were designed to do, lingerie care, and so forth. “Informed consumer” is such a perfect phrase for today’s world. You have to be in order to get what you want!

    All too often I get customers wanting a unicorn. The latest was Unlined. Front close. Nothing else. She kept asking me why we didn’t carry that specific style and was unsatisfied with every answer I gave. It’s very disheartening when you know there is very little you can do for those customers that refuse to open the door to other possibilities.

  9. Liz says:

    My absolute number one rule, is take your damn time. look for lingerie that makes you smile big time.

    being being 32 G, GG and H depending on the brands most of my old bras bore the hell out of me. But just looking at my Curvy Kate and Fantasie sets makes me happy

    so set aside a couple of hours (seems excessive but if you love lingerie it’s so worth it) go round to your favorite boutiques, or you know google some new ones knowledge is power after all. try on everything that makes you go ohhh, ahhh and awwwe. ask about other colours and matching items. But above all only buy it if you love it and it fits well.
    also only do this alone or with other lingerie addicts even bff sisters will get pissed otherwise.

  10. Lady says:

    I love this article. LOVE IT.

    Expanding on your “never be ashamed” rule, I want to say that people need to talk about lingerie more. People get awkward and fussy when bras come into the conversation and I think that’s the reason the majority of people wear the wrong size. Now, I know how subjective size is (my size varies based on brand, I am not one exact size) but most women are wearing something completely ill fitting and have no idea that they are doing so. I feel as though if we stopped making underwear such a shameful topic and made it more fun (like talking about purses or accessories!) people would be less shy about finding their size.

    Underwear is quite possibly the most important choice you can make about your wardrobe. Depending on what you’re doing it can change everything. For example, I ride horses all day and I can’t exactly do that in certain material panties. However people shy away from discussion about this because they feel as though they’re supposed to be ashamed, like underwear is somehow sexual. I was explaining bra sizes to a guy friend when another guy friend overheard and was like “ugh aren’t you married, we shouldn’t be knowing this”. It’s not like a size MEANS anything. It’s not like I’m telling you anything you can’t tell about my chest from seeing it covered up. People are so awkward about it.

    I’ve stopped caring and I’ve had some people thank me for it. I’ve helped male friends learn about these foreign objects so they seemed less scary and made more sense. To me there isn’t anything sexual about underwear. The most important thing about it is how it makes YOU feel. Doesn’t matter if you’re wearing racy, lacy see-through bras or a plain vomit colored cotton nursing bra. It’s about what makes you feel good, and most people don’t feel great in their lingerie. They feel “okay”.

  11. […] her post “The 7 New Rules of Lingerie,” Harrington moves beyond mainstream lingerie advice for beginners. Instead she offers some […]

  12. Lisa says:

    You know, reading this made me smile. I most definitely have to agree with rule #3. As a woman who rocks a (very “perky”) 30GG, my best advice to all other women of any size is “LOOK”! You’ll never find your pot of gold or silver lining if you don’t look. It took me YEARS to find beautiful bras in my size, and weeks after that to take the plunge and buy them (in part due to price, and in part due having to order online), but once I did I never went back. There is nothing like putting on a bra (or panties, or anything else) that makes you feel like You 3.0, and you should never stop looking for that feeling, even if it is a “unicorn”. After all, unicorns are just horses with seashells glued on their foreheads, and if you can find them separately and you have a bit of glue, then I guess you have yourself a unicorn, now don’t you?

  13. I love your emphasis on finding what works for you. Everyone has different tastes, budgets, bodies, and lifestyles, and they should all be accepted and embraced. Also, I love how you expand lingerie from just the obvious choices. Chemises, robes, hosiery, and shapewear are lingerie too and can all be found in sexier alternatives for those interested!

  14. We are loving Rule #7 ! So few think about it, but it’s now the first thing we ask brands and are having a huge shift in the brands we stock, focussing on local manufacturing a lot too- downside is, costs prices go up – so RRP goes up x

  15. Ludovic says:

    Love rule #2. I too am a male who appreciate wearing lingerie. Kudos to Treacle, Julian and Annmarie.

  16. layla says:

    Amen to #2, I feel like I talk about this point WAY too often and usually it falls on deaf ears.

    Oh, and I laughed out loud, literally, at #4. As a designer I have sought an elegant way of explaining this and you summed it up perfectly.

    And all 7 new rules are just spot on!

  17. Julian says:

    Annmarie I just read your post on a previous blog and I thought it was great and being a male that does wear and appreciates lingerie I would praise the day when society puts a stop to such bigotry about men that wear and/or appreciate lingerie! Wearing lingerie does not make a man any less of a man!
    It was a pleasure to raise this topic and hopefully bring awareness

  18. Julian says:

    Firstly I must say thanks to Annmarie for such a lovely comment, and secondly Annmarie you are correct! Men that do either wear lingerie or appreciate it are labelled in such a negative way and often discriminated against by society for what? Being different? Embracing their feminine side? Comfort? At the end of the day it is only material/lingerie

  19. Julian says:

    A rule that I would follow and strongly believe in is that lingerie is just not something for women to enjoy and appreciate. As a male I embrace lingerie for both women and men to wear

    • Annmarie says:

      Just wanted to second Julian’s comment. Men wear and appreciate lingerie is a phenomenon that is hardly ever discussed, and if it does then in a negative way, but it does exist and should be acknowledged!

    • Thursday says:

      Yes, lingerie for everyone who wants it. If it makes you happy, then embrace it.

      I’m tempted to add, “You can never have too much sheer black lingerie” but that might just be me. Or sheer peach lingerie…So really, if you love it and it suits you to own it, then so be it:)

  20. pinup lover says:

    Rule #2 Rule #2 Rule #2! Wear what makes you feel good!

  21. Annmarie says:

    Thank you for this wholesome, inclusive, thoughtful and inspiring “meditation on lingerie” piece.

    I would add one rule though, my apology if it was brought up before, and that is to take good care of your lingerie and follow the recommended cleaning instructions. Unfortunately I had to learn the hard way to do just that.

  22. This is an exceptional article and list like always Treacle! Like everyone else, I especially love #2-you REALLY need to learn to love yourself and I’m big a proponent of things that help do that! Whether that means buying lingerie for yourself, I say have at it :)

    Awesome, awesome, awesome ^.^

  23. Jewel says:

    Awesome post! I feel like some really really need to read this, to clear and assumptions and/or confusion about lingerie.

  24. Love this! Great post. Think #7 is very important. Here’s a link that makes some of that research easier, although they don’t (yet) rate lingerie. http://www.goodguide.com/categories/277459-apparel##products

  25. Marilyn says:

    I don’t know if should be a rule but it should be stated that you are never too old or too young to wear the lingerie that makes you feel good.

    • I totally agree – this reminds me of a debate started last year, when are you too old for a bikini?

      Top and bottom, we wear lingerie for ourselves and our own comfort and confidence, first and foremost x

    • Lex says:

      Yes! Also, you know a quarter cup bra that comes in an F? Really? I’m digging in your archives now.

      However, I think this is the best starter list I’ve ever heard! Yes people should start here. Too often people (women, men, couples) put the cart before the horse with lingerie both with expectations for fit and price. I’ve certainly regretted making many recommendations I have made once I realized the person asking didn’t really know what they wanted.

  26. Great post (I, also, am a sucker for rules posts). Basically all the things on here I think every day! I feel like this deals with all the stuff I hate that people complain about when it come to lingerie.

  27. denocte says:

    This is an awesome post Treacle.

    A big big YES to rule 2!

    I can just agree with everything you just said. perfect, perfect, perfect!

    xoxo denocte

  28. Amaryllis says:

    Sort of slips between the lines here into several of those points, but I would say with great emphasis “Don’t feel guilty about lingerie!” Whether it’s guilt about the price of a bra that isn’t going to be seen by anyone but you, or spending 5 hours compairing to get something that’s just right… or choosing a comfortable unsexy set of lingerie, or giving up on suspender belts because they just don’t work for you… NEVER feel guilty about your lingerie choices. They’re definately worth taking time over, and there isn’t a cost/quantity of material ratio – there’s no reason your coat has to cost more than a corselette, as long as you’re happy with both, go for it. I often buy second hand clothes both for the love of finding unusual and lovely things, and because it means I have far more budget for pretty lingerie. I have met so many women who feel guilty and somehow vain or shallow for spending time and/or money on lingerie… don’t! The first thing you put on and the last thing you take off, what sits against your skin all day – it’s special and it deserves to be.

  29. KathTea says:

    Thank you for this! Some ask me for corset advice and I have to wake them up a bit when they ask for “something not expensive” around me.


  30. June says:

    I loved this but an especially big YES to 2 & 3. My husband couldn’t care less about lingerie but it’s transformed my image and gives me so much more confidence as well as preventing back pain once I figured out lingerie that works best for my body. Also, I can definitely say with confidence that there really are amazing brands (and even ones that won’t break the bank!!) if you’re in an extremely hard to find size.

    That being said, I’m still lusting after my “unicorn” a longline bra in 28JJ… sigh…

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