Lingerie shops lure in men for Valentine's Day


With a little detective work and a lot of courage, men can succeed at perhaps the most daunting Valentine's Day task: slogging through the wide world of chemises, bras and panties for that perfect little something. For her. That SHE would like.

Boutiques and retail chains have set up "boyfriend corners" with PlayStations and found other ways to entertain bored dudes dragged lingerie shopping by their wives or girlfriends. But this is the time of year that more men strike out on their own to make holiday purchases without a clue about sizes and styles.

"There's usually a bit of shyness," said Jessica Hlavac, manager of the hip, one-room shop Panty Raid in the Los Feliz section of Los Angeles. "With the name of our store, men think it's going to be a little crazier than it is. ... But they can relax. We say to them: 'It's just smaller clothing. There's nothing to be afraid of.'"

Hlavac, though, is used to looking at the shop's bras by Cosabella, Jezebel and other brands priced up to $85. And the racks of turquoise boyshorts next to zebra-striped bras edged in pink trim. Mannequins wrapped in black corsets, sporting huge, cutout hearts for faces, stand in the front window.

Normally, one or two men come into the shop on their own. Around the sweetheart holiday, there are a dozen a day. Hlavac, who has been helping male customers for years, asks them pointed questions about the individual tastes of each woman.

"I see people in the neighborhood. I get to know them, and they know me," she said.

Another Los Angeles lingerie shop, Sugar Lilie, has a group-oriented approach to luring in men: a nighttime "Men-Clave" series with live models wearing the dos and don'ts of potential lingerie gifts. The boutique, which opened in November, recently hosted one of the nights for four men, treating them to beers and styling tips as they learned the difference between trashy and sexy.

"Our illustration of trashy was a little two-piece set that was pink and blue polka dots, that came with the panties, and was made of polyester," said owner Stacy Shakoor. "The guy may think, 'Oh my god, that is so cute.' But the model put it on, and she goes, 'I don't like it. I wouldn't wear it. It's just gross.'"

The boutique specializes in retro, classic looks, from red silk lace-up corsets by Corset Creations to pink-trimmed chemises by couture designer John Galliano. Black and white shots by erotic photographer Steve Diet Goedde line the walls. Like Panty Raid, the shop also has a hangout corner just for men.

Pointing to Shakoor, "Men-Clave" attendee Toddius Maximus said he learned some helpful lessons.

"I know that she stressed it's good to do research, with knowing the right size," he said. "I also think it's good to not assume the woman is going to like something."

Buying something classy for Valentine's Day doesn't mean spending a lot of money, Shakoor said.

"Getting a panty and bra set, or even a really nice pair of panties," she said. "The colors are based on what your woman likes, and that's where paying attention comes in."

There's always buying a gift certificate as another option, she said.

National lingerie chain Frederick's of Hollywood, known for sexy, slinky outfits, lures in men by mailing out an exclusive Valentine's Day gift guide to regular male customers. Best sellers for the holiday include a three-piece heart print satin pajama set, retailing online for $29, and a teddy with a plunging neckline, said Linda LoRe, president of Frederick's of Hollywood Group Inc.

Victoria's Secret spokeswoman Jennifer Fahey said that getting men to the stores or online for the holiday starts with women. The mass retail chain has been promoting a holiday campaign featuring animal prints, lace and bright colors.

"We have some fun online tools to help women drop hints for men. On our Victoria's Secret Facebook Fan Page, women can fill out a flirty 'love note' and post it to their sweetheart's wall," Fahey said.

Like Shakoor, Fahey also suggested that a man do some investigative work first and take a look in his girlfriend's or wife's lingerie drawer to see what size she is.

"The three things men need to know: You're buying it for her. You're not buying for yourself. You have to know sizing, and you've got to shop where you're comfortable," Shakoor said.

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