Tips for buying and storing lingerie

TONY talked to Jennifer Manuel Carroll, co-author of Underneath It All: A Girl's Guide to Buying, Wearing and Loving Lingerie, about caring for underthings and what they personally look for.

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Time Out New York: I love the phrase in the book the dryer is the devil. Why do you say that?
Jennifer Manuel Carroll:
Kathy Schultz, who coauthored the book actually coined the phrase. I personally hang-dry anything that is valuable to me. The dryer ruins anything lace or anything that has elastic. It basically prematurely ages your lingerie, just as the sun would age your skin.

Lingerie can be pretty pricey. Do you have a price cap for how much you would personally spend on lingerie?
Carroll:
I do have a price cap. Sometimes you’re in the mood to spend a lot of money on lingerie; it depends on the occasion and your budget in the moment. Usually, if a bra’s under $100, that’s a no-brainer, that’s a really good deal. Two hundred dollars? I get twitchy—$150--$200 is my twitchy place. If it’s a corset or special piece, then that price is more doable. But the thing is, you definitely do feel better in a matching set. If you’re on a budget, spend the money on the bra and pick up a Hanky Panky bottom that matches. Buy a black bra or nude lace bra and you’ll have a lot of options to match with that.

What about the power of lingerie? Do you feel that it really boosts a woman’s confidence?
Carroll:
I always say feng shui your lingerie because you should be dressing for what you want. If you’re single and you want a boyfriend, don’t wear your shrubby lingerie, wear the stuff you’d want to be seen in. In the States, you don’t grow up with your mom taking you to the store to be fitted for a bra—it’s not something we’re taught. There are some women who dress in lingerie every day because they’re taught to. It becomes more of a confidence booster because we’re not taught to take care of ourselves like that necessarily. It’s like getting a brand-new pedicure and feeling better about yourself. It’s something that we need anyway—everyone wears underwear—but up your game to lingerie. People don’t think they’ve ever worn lingerie, but it’s like, Are you wearing a bra? Are you wearing underwear? You are wearing lingerie.

I like in your book when you talk about lingerie from simple to seductive. Don’t you think most people buy lingerie with seduction as the only intent? How would you wear it “simply” on a daily basis?
Carroll:
People in their twenties buy lingerie for their man—you’re spending money on your clothes and that’s the priority. In your thirties, after you’ve built up your wardrobe, it’s about how you’re feeling that day, so you put the best thing on your body because you deserve it. When you’re feeling bad, we all have those back-of-the-drawer undies you reach for, like no one’s gonna see these today. It’s really easy for me to sell sexy items for girls in their twenties. Above that, women in their thirties and forties want sexy lingerie just for themselves to feel good. You don’t have to wear a beat-up, nude Victoria Secret bra you’ve had for three years that’s dirty and fraying—you just don’t feel good in it.

I read that you can determine a bra size on sight?
Carroll:
I like to call it an occupational hazard. I remember my customers’ bra sizes not their names. Its like, “Oh hey, 34DD, welcome back.” It wasn’t my goal to become an expert. Most women are wearing the wrong size. It’s usually just a band/cup size issue. The typical thing that’s wrong with your bra size is that you have to go up a cup and down a band.

Where do you draw the line on sexy lingerie? What’s too sexy and borderline S&M?
Carroll:
It really is about your personality and your body. What looks sensational on one person could look porn star--y on another person. I’d say just wear what makes you feel good. That might not be over the line for you. Some people might not wear corsets because they think it’s too slutty, others wear it as outerwear.—Anna Brand

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