Lingerie: Slip into a little piece of luxury
Treat your lady to pieces she'll want to wear, says Bairbre Power
Provocative or fantasy? Erotic or sensible pastels that go with everything? Few would question the zeal of men who are happy to venture into lingerie shops to buy Valentine's gifts of underwear.
If it's a competition between lacy smalls or flowers with chocolates, frilly underwear usually wins out!
But given that eight out of every 10 women walking around today are wearing the wrong-sized bra, you really can't expect male shoppers, virgins when it comes to lingerie-buying, to get it right all the time.
So, in the interests of navigating the Valentine's Day pitfalls -- women get really narky when men buy them too big a cup size because it can spark feelings of inadequency -- this column spotlights pretty buys and highlights problems, starting with colour.
Green and yellow lingerie are the colours most often returned, according to Ciara Donlon, proprietor of Cup Cakes Lingerie in Ranelagh, Dublin.
Raunchy reds are a favourite with male customers, and while women don't tend to buy the colour for themselves, they do like to receive it as a sexy gift, Ciara says.
Don't just guess the size -- raid her lingerie drawer, advises Soozie Jenkinson, head lingerie designer at M&S.
"Find a bra that she loves and write the size down," says Soozie. "You won't be in her good books for buying lingerie that's too small, or too big, and she's much more likely to wear it if it fits well and feels comfortable to wear.
"Every girl loves luxurious lingerie, so consider silk as her special gift. Silk lingerie will be on every woman's wish list, so treat her to something special that will feel incredibly sensual to wear."
Women appreciate the benefits of expensive, well-fitting pieces. The right-sized bra can help you drop a dress size and a balconette style coupled with a dress with the right neck- line, can totally re-orientate your night out.
Chantelle fitting expert Sue Gordon pulls no punches.
The most important thing when buying lingerie is to "remember that if she doesn't own sexy lingerie, she just won't wear it. So don't buy it as a gift for her, as that's a gift for you".
M&S is traditionally a go-to store on the high street for affordable Valentine's lingerie and its slip with suspenders (€54) plus stockings (€7) are a very good base layer for a night out.
If you want your lingerie to really work for you, the Cadolle black-satin boned waspie suspender belt (€165) is the total antithesis of the Bridget Jones knickers and is a treat from Susan Hunter, Westbury Mall.
Swimwear designs from actress Kelly Brook has been a commercial hit at New Look and her new lingerie collection has flattering cuts and expensive touches, such as the eyelash-edge lace.