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Before you buy your wife lingerie, snoop in her drawers and write down her sizes.Getty Images

I want to buy some lingerie for my wife, but I would hate to buy the wrong size. She is a voluptuous woman and a bit self-conscious. Can you suggest a sexy garment for a full-bodied gal - and how to make sure it will fit?

Dear Husband of the Year,

First, I commend your initiative. Second, let's ensure its flawless execution.

I know it pains you, but watch your wife undress. Closely yet casually, i.e. drop the binoculars. This, HOTY, is what we in the field call reconnaissance. Aside from her supreme Joan Holloway-ness, take careful note of two things: the colour and styling of her undergarments.

But, you say, we have been married for years; this makes for a certain practicality (like the permanent sports bra). Then hark back to your early, flush-cheeked days or take a cue from your nights out together. When she dresses up - and down - what is her style? PVC-modern or Bettie-Page-pinup? While we love the art of the gesture, we love it more when it answers to our tastes.

Alone, pen and paper in hand, open her top drawers. Snoop. This is your wife's miniature boudoir and where you will find your hard data, e.g. her cup and panty sizes. Write it all down. Correctly.

Now for the fun part: Hit a lingerie shop that offers service the old-fashioned way - personal and discreet - or a chain that caters to women of every shape, such as La Vie En Rose. With your wife's measurements in hand, describe her style to the doyenne.

Blushing? If this scenario is too daunting, dear HOTY, visit the website of British lingerie purveyor Joanna's Wardrobe. I know. Lingerie comes across as an impenetrable lexicon. What is a basque? What is a cincher? This site's fulsome pictorials - a kind of Lee Valley catalogue of lingerie rather than leaf blowers - will allow you to navigate it with ease.

What to choose? Bras and corsets can be tricky to size (and a gift is ruined if it has to be squeezed into). Aim for simplicity. Stay away from girdles or any garment with these words: "control top." Instead, start with the classic and winning peignoir, panties and garter belt combination. Or err on the side of luxurious sleepwear with a camisole set or slip.

Now lay it all out on your bed. Alongside yourself, of course.

Claudia Dey is the author of the novel Stunt and the forthcoming How to be a Bush Pilot: A Guide to Getting Luckier.

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