Lingerie Shopping for Beginners: A Step-By-Step Guide

What can be more intimate and personal than a piece of clothing that is the closest to your skin? Lingerie can be a support to your body, a booster to your confidence, and just a fun little secret that you carry around – as you go throughout your day, no one knows what a fancy stunning piece is hidden under your clothes.

Lingerie shopping may seem a bit overwhelming and confusing for a beginner, so this is why Empress Mimi wants to provide you with this step-by-step guide. So, read it thoughtfully and go get your first lingerie piece with confidence and excitement.

Determine your purpose


We all love multifunctional things, but not everything can be all-in-one. Even the most beautiful lingerie sets will not do their job of making you beautiful if they are worn to the wrong occasion.

Your lingerie choice should vary depending on your purpose. There are a few basic ones: everyday wear, sportswear, special occasions (like weddings), and intimate moments. For each of these purposes, your lingerie should differ in material, shape, and color.

Mixing up lingerie with their original purposes isn’t a good idea. Sometimes it’s just the aesthetics that suffer. For instance, if you put a sports bra under your wedding dress, it might be pretty noticeable, ruining the image of the dress.

But sometimes it’s your own comfort or even health. Everyday bras don’t provide enough support during active exercises which might cause breast health problems eventually. Thongs can be a great addition to a romantic date, but wearing them every day can cause infections. So, first things first: determine your purpose and see what the market’s got for you.

Understand your body

Lingerie is supposed to flatter your body and make you feel like your best self, not the other way around. And in order to choose the most suitable piece for you, you need to understand your body shape and size. Now, here are the common body shapes:

  1. Hourglass: your shoulders and hips are near of the same size, with a slim feminine waistline;
  2. Triangle: your upper body is noticeably smaller than your hips area;
  3. Inverted triangle: the exact opposite of the previous body shape – your upper body is noticeably bigger than your hips area;
  4. Rectangle: your shoulders, bust, and hips are nearly the same, and your waistline isn’t defined much;
  5. Round: you are rounded at the waist area, and your upper body is noticeably bigger than your hips.

Once you figure out your body shape, it’s time for the size. Relying on your old underwear’s size isn’t accurate most of the time, as different brands tend to use different size systems; and even within one brand, sizes may differ based on lingerie type as well. If you’re shopping offline, the shop assistant usually is able to help you out with the right size.

But what if you need to order lingerie online? The best way to know which lingerie size is for you is to take a soft tape measure (if you don’t have it, you can take a piece of string and compare it to a ruler) and write down those numbers. If you’ve never done it before, don’t worry – it’s pretty easy and we are going to tell you exactly how to do it. These are the measurements you’re looking for:

  1. Bust: take a soft tape measure around the fullest part of your breasts, bra-free;
  2. Underbust: take the tape below your breasts and around the rib cage, that’s the place for your bra’s band;
  3. Waist: take the tape around the smallest part of your midsection (to determine it, try to bend side to side – the spot where your body creases is what you’re looking for)
  4. High hip: take the tape around the upper part of your hip bones;
  5. Low hip: take the tape around the widest part of your bottom (it’s easier to see the spot if you’re standing sideways to your mirror).
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Explore different styles


Now that you know the shape and size of your body, let’s see what kind of lingerie will suit you best.

Let’s talk about breast support first: there are many bra types, for different bodies and purposes.

1. An underwire bra is a common choice for everyday life. There are many shapes and sizes, it goes well with any body type and blends with most of clothing. The main advantage of an underwire bra is the defined shape and support that it provides you with.

However, you cannot wear it for too long without getting a bit uncomfortable because of the underwires’ pressure. So, taking off your perfectly fitting underwear bra after a long day at work would still feel refreshingly amazing.

2. A push-up bra comes in handy for extra lift and support. It works best for a smaller busts, adding that extra volume to the chest and helping tight-fitting clothing, especially with a defined cleavage, make your breasts look sculpted and rounded. A push-up bra is not recommended for everyday use though, as the support that it gives you is too much for daily occasions.

3. A bralette doesn’t have any underwires and is made out of thin fabric. Which makes it a perfect choice for hotter weather and longer days out.

You should consider though, that these great features also make a bralette a bit less supportive, so if you’re a bigger size, it might not be the most convenient option for you. Bralettes work best with looser clothes, as it doesn’t give you that defined shape for tight clothing.

4. A sports bra has a pretty self-explanatory name. It’s a very supportive top designed specifically to protect your breasts during active movements and working out. It is easy to start using it even outside of sporting occasions because of the comfort level. But that is not something you should do, as your breasts require some rest from being held so tight. And of course, a sports bra design works best with sports clothes and might look strange with something fancier.

Panties are another essential part of your lingerie. Let’s see what types will become the best option for you and your needs:

5. Briefs are the basics in your wardrobe, that bring you protection, and comfort, and work well with most clothes. They are perfect for everyday wear, and for all body types. But as they give you full coverage, they might not work with tight outfits and thinner fabrics;

6. Bikinis are similar to briefs, but with less coverage. They’re also one of the most popular panty styles, possible to be worn for many occasions;

7. Hipsters will be a good option for you if you don’t like high-waisted panties, as they are low-rise, with the most coverage around the hips;

8. Thongs provide you with the least coverage, having just a string on the back. Their shape is great for tight clothes, as they won’t be showing through like other panties with regular coverage. However, many women find thongs less comfortable because of their shape too.

9. Shapewear are high-waisted panties with full coverage. They’re made of stretchy material that holds you tight and creates those beautiful feminine curves. Will work best for bigger sizes and round body shapes.

Now, as we have covered the two essential parts of your lingerie, let’s talk about additional options, like corsets and chemises.

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10. Corsets have a similar function to shapewear, but look way sexier and give you more extreme results. They can come with or without bras attached to them, giving you that snatched figure. Even within one size, they are highly adjustable so you can be sure that your corset will fit your body perfectly. It might be a great lingerie piece if you have a bigger chest – a corset will relieve that pressure from your back. On the other hand, corsets lack the pragmatism of modern shapewear: it takes longer to get used to putting them on and they’re pretty visible through tight and thin-fabric clothes.

11. Chemises used to be wildly popular as everyday underwear, protecting the outer clothes from body oils, but today they are mostly used for romantic purposes. Apart from that, you can also use them for your daily outfits, as the base for some fun transparent dresses. Or, if you’re feeling particularly nostalgic, nothing stops you from using a chemise as they used to do in the olden days.

Choose the right material


When you come up with the type of lingerie you would like to try, it’s time to consider the fabric. The material of your lingerie is another essential part that will secure you the best experience with your underwear. Your fabric choice may vary depending on your purpose (everyday or special occasion), but the rule of thumb is to stick to natural fabrics.

You want to avoid synthetic materials like lycra and nylon, as they aren’t breathable and can cause irritation, rash, and even infection sometimes. Your go-to fabric for everyday wear is cotton – natural and breathable, which makes it safe and comfortable for you to use throughout your day. The only disadvantage is that cotton isn’t as durable as synthetic fabric.

But what if you need something fancier? Take a look at silk and lace – they’re more fragile than cotton, but also safe for your skin, and they look absolutely stunning.

Silk is a cool, light fabric that makes it a wonderful choice for summer. It’s also very breathable too, and it absorbs moisture well. There are several disadvantages, though: taking care of silk lingerie is more difficult and time-consuming, as it’s very fragile. Silk is also more expensive compared to other natural fabrics.

Lace is also quite a thin material that blends well with your clothing and feels great on the skin in general. Its cons would be similar to silk – it’s fragile and a bit more difficult to take care of.

Consider the details

Now you know the essential components when it comes to choosing lingerie, but there are also so many more details that influence the way your lingerie looks and feels.

Color, for instance, is not only about personal preferences, but also about pragmatic teamwork with your clothes: let’s say, if you wear a white or light-colored top, and don’t want your bra to be noticeable, you should go not for a white bra, but for a neutral one. It will blend with your skin and won’t be visible under your clothes. Black color is also very popular due to its durability and classic look. The rest of the occasions are absolutely up to your imagination and preference.

Lingerie pattern is another thing that is mostly aesthetic. Thus there are no particular rules. Here you just experience which patterns you personally like, the way they look and feel. Just keep in mind that patterns might not work well with tight clothes and thin fabrics.

If two previous points do contain some pragmatic features, embellishments are about aesthetics only. Bows, chains, and various prints are there to make a lingerie piece more attractive and unique. It’s a nice opportunity for you to embrace your creativity through your lingerie pieces.

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Try it on

When you’re shopping for a dress or a new pair of jeans, you go and try them on to make sure they’re the right fit for you. It is the same with lingerie – although the process is a bit more delicate, of course.

Most stores will let you try lingerie in their dressing rooms. For panties, many stores provide their customers with pantyliners or just ask you to keep your own panties on, when you’re trying the new set. If you bought lingerie online and you’re trying it on at home for the first time – it’s also better to keep your own underwear on, as a precaution.

Now, whether you’re at the store’s dressing room or at your own home – take a careful look at the mirror. How does this lingerie piece sit on you? It shouldn’t be too tight or too loose. You shouldn’t have any difficulties breathing or any discomfort from lingerie touching your skin. And, of course, you should like the reflection in the mirror.

Purchase and care


The final step before purchasing is checking the store’s return policy. It may vary, although the general rule is that intimate items that contain a crotch (like panties) are on final sale and cannot be returned. Always make sure to check the return policy, especially if you buy online. For the sake of practice and double safety, consider going for your first lingerie offline, as that way, you will have a great opportunity to try it on and make sure that it is really for you.

Once you purchase your lingerie, check those labels on it – they contain some useful information about how to take proper care of your new items. Ideally, it’s better to give your lingerie a hand wash. But realistically speaking, none of us have time (or desire) for that nowadays. And that’s okay – most lingerie pieces are suitable for machine washing quite alright. Usually, it’s suggested to wash them not over 30 degrees, in cold water. But it is better to check the labels with every new lingerie that you get anyway – just in case.

With more fragile fabrics, like silk and lace, it’s better to avoid machine wash, as you don’t want to destroy your beautiful lingerie set after 1-2 uses. Remember, how gorgeous that lingerie makes you feel, and give it a proper hand wash – it shouldn’t take much time and effort, as the fabric is very thin to begin with.

And regardless of the fabric of your lingerie, please, never put it in the dryer. It is already pretty damaging to any clothes in general, not to mention something as delicate as lingerie.


Now you know everything you need to choose the best lingerie for yourself. Remember, that a lot depends on your purpose (casual or special) – the style, the material, even the color and embellishments. Rely on your measurements and not on the brand sizes, as those differ from brand to brand or even from model to model. Make sure to check the return policy before purchasing and read the labels on how to take proper care of your lingerie (and no dryer machines, please!). And just have fun with the process, experiment and try out different styles – it might surprise you what actually suits you and make you feel good.

At the end of the day, this is the whole point of lingerie – to make you feel comfortable, confident, and beautiful.