If the holiday marketing campaigns are any indicator, lingerie is a go-to gift for Valentine’s day. And yet, despite how glorious shopping is made to seem in ads, it’s not always that glorious on the ground for the male shopper. As a friend recently told me: “My experience of how to buy lingerie for a woman is: don’t buy it.” He’s not alone; shopping for lingerie, no matter how well-intentioned, can be a daunting task. A cadre of factors — fit, style, and even intention — work against the gifter, not to mention the chance that lingerie is not welcome at all.

But don’t let the intimidating nature of lingerie shopping deter you. For Allison Beale, who has been working in lingerie for seven years and directed marketing for three years at NYC-based Journelle, Valentine’s season — one of the busiest times of the year — is “a pretty incredible time to be on the floor. There’s so much excitement, anticipation, love.” So to prep for store entry, or to guide you while shopping from home, we consulted two insiders to get your lady what she may, actually, want. We’ve come up with six practical tips to help you shop, and a comprehensive gift guide to help narrow down your choices.

1
Make sure the gift is welcome. Lingerie preferences are intimate and personal. Beale recommends, “best to know your partner before venturing out under the assumption this ranks high on her Valentine’s list.” And always remember, you’re buying for her, not for you.

2
Make the gift personal and spontaneous. You’ll want to make it clear that you weren’t driven by an advertisement, and that the gift is personal. But, on predictable Valentine’s Day, another way to be spontaneous is to go “above and beyond,” as Beale says, like buying a three-piece set in black lace.

3
Know her style. According to Beale, nailing the style “shows you observe, listen and know what your partner is into.” Look at what she already has, or better yet, ask. Don’t forget stage of life, like pregnancy or new motherhood.

4
Know her size before you buy. Fit is integral to confidence in lingerie, but it isn’t always easy to determine. See if your local lingerie store has her size on record, or even ask. If you’re trying to surprise her, it’s okay to secretly check the drawer.

5
When in doubt, start small. If you’ve never bought her lingerie before, start with something approachable. And if you don’t feel like you can decide on something she would like, buy her a gift card and shop together.

6
Don’t be cheap. A good bra will last for years, but a cheap one will have to be replaced quickly. Like many other products, you get what you pay for. Think of lingerie as an investment, something she’ll take care of and enjoy.

Chemises and Rompers

When You’re Not Sure What She Wants

Flora Nikrooz Fou Fou Romper $88
Only Hearts Venice Long Sleeve Playsuit $97
Flora Nikrooz Nirvelli Chemise $112
Fleur Du Mal Silk Satin Slip $295

Bodysuits and Teddys

A Level Up from Chemises
Hanky Panky After Midnight Teddy $78
Fortnight Willow Bodysuit $79+
Hanky Panky Ariel Lace Bodysuit $102
La Perla Shape Allure Bodysuit $524

Sets

The Stuff That’s Impossible to Pick Out

Ongossamer Bare Illusion Unlined Bra $42, Bottom $16
Lonely Harper Mid Line Bra $98, Bottom $60
Heidi Klum Intimates Odette Corset $110, Bottom 22+
Agent Provocateur Vanessa Basque Corset $198, Bottom $50, Garter $40

Loungewear and Sleepwear

You Can’t Go Wrong with Something Comfortable

Journelle Laure Cami $64 Bottom $44
Eberjey Noor Cami $83 Bottom $56
Calvin Klein Tulle-Trimmed Silk-Satin Playsuit $165
Journelle Narcissus Robe $168