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What’s the Best Lingerie for a Grown-Up Woman?


Lingerie has been an especially fraught subject ever since the #MeToo movement, a lightning rod in the debate over objectification and the empowerment of women — how exactly that gets expressed and who gets to decide how it looks. See, for example, the travails of Victoria’s Secret, the onetime embodiment of lingerie dreams. At least old stereotypes of male lingerie dreams.

Yet, if real empowerment is, as I believe, in the emotions of the individual — in wearing what makes you feel good — then it starts with the first and last things you wear: lingerie. As Christian Dior once said: “Real elegance is everywhere. Especially in the things that don’t show.”

How you define elegance in that context is up to you and shouldn’t have anything to do with birthdays, size or shape. “If you enjoy wearing garter belts, sheer babydolls, thongs and bikini underwear, you should keep wearing those things!” Cora Harrington, the author of “In Intimate Detail: How to Choose, Wear and Love Lingerie,” said when I asked. “There’s no age limit, and it’s not in the least bit ridiculous to still enjoy those items.”

When it comes to lingerie, however, there is a universe of other options from which to choose, she noted. Simply consider the concept of the “slip dress,” which is having a renaissance on designer catwalks everywhere. It’s a garment essentially lifted straight from the glamour of the bedroom — where it really never goes out of style.

Think of Elizabeth Taylor in “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” and “BUtterfield 8.” Those white silk chemises look as alluring today as they did when the films were released.

Indeed, Ms. Harrington said, “I love a long, silk nightgown with a deep V-neck and lush lace details.” She suggests you check out Christine Lingerie, “a Canadian brand famous for their silk nightgowns,” and Julianna Rae. On the more affordable level, there is this mid-length gown by SilkSilky and this chemise from Dita Von Teese.

Josie Natori, a lingerie guru and the founder of Natori, recommends a bralette and pajama pants, as Gwyneth Paltrow recently wore at an event for her Goop beauty line. Look for bras without underwire (Intimissimi has some good options, as does Cosabella) and match them with some comfy but still slinky bottoms.

Finally, it is impossible not to feel chic lounging around in (or stepping out of) a silk robe. These steamy days, they provide an alternative meaning to the whole concept of “hot.”

Every week on Open Thread, Vanessa will answer a reader’s fashion-related question, which you can send to her anytime via email or Twitter. Questions are edited and condensed.

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