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Valentine's Day Lingerie Is Sugar, Spice and Everything Not-So Nice

This Valentine's Day is all about showing off why it's nice to be naughty ... or why it's naughty to be nice.

V-Day lingerie used to pretty much mean sheer red teddies or tacky underwear with giant hearts all over them.

But retailers have wised up to the fact that sexy can't be put into a mold, and are giving consumers options that range from delicate lace camis to sultry black bras and garters.

PHOTOS: Valentine's Day Lingerie

"It's very liberating not being pigeonholed into one look. It's nice to be able to be bad without feeling that it is taboo," said Jackie Tane, 24, of Long Island, N.Y.

So it's up to you whether you want to wear pink cotton heart briefs or a sheer black negligee.

And most guys prefer that you make the choice.

"I like something that delicately toes the boundary between [sweet and sexy], but I wouldn't dare buy lingerie for my girlfriend because she could get offended if I bought the wrong thing," said Paul Friedman, a 32-year-old lawyer from Florida.

"I prefer Mary Ann to Ginger," he added, referring to the "Gilligan's Island" gals, "but if she came home dressed to do a striptease I wouldn't mind."

The good girl/bad girl dichotomy is a recurring theme at Victoria's Secret.

From a blue and green polka dot bustier, $48, that the store calls both "darling and decadent," to a red checkered corset, $45, that looks like every farmer's fantasy, the popular retailer has gone positively cheeky.

But Victoria's Secret isn't all frills and ambiguity. Their wanton Supermodel Kissable Body Paint, $24, and leopard Mesh Babydoll, $38, scream vamp.

"Valentine's Day is an excuse for a woman to get sexier. They are the ones who buy the lingerie and they are the ones who try to create some fantasy look for the guy," said Tane.

One of the more surprisingly diverse collections of Valentine's Day skivvies can be found at Gap Body.

The retailer's Valentine's Day selections are broken up into three categories: Sexy: She loves racy lace and dramatic colors; Sweet: She loves pretty pinks and floral patterns; and Fun: She loves whimsical prints and bright shades.

If striptease is your thing, lace thongs and push-up bras are no longer your only options. This year, if you want to be really fiery, you have to channel your inner Dita Von Teese or Bettie Page.

Agent Provocateur, a company known for decadent and pricey intimates worn by Nicole Kidman and Carmen Electra, has a new collection that features rich sculpted bras, high-waisted stocking suspenders and French lace boy shorts and tulle pasties, all reminiscent of yesteryear.

A full ensemble of theirs will cost in the hundreds as the pasties alone are $65 and the suspenders are upward of $85. If you want to top off an outfit with full-arm black gloves, factor in another $335.

But if cost isn't an issue and you are headstrong on becoming a burlesque star for the night, you might want to visit Kiki De Montparnasse and pick up The Gift of Burlesque pack, $575, which includes Swarovski crystal pasties, a garter and an ostrich boa as well as several "instruments of pleasure." Giant champagne glass not included.

But retro doesn't have to be campy. Marie Antoinette-inspired lingerie like the rose-trimmed Sheer Ribbons peony pink panty, $26, and aqua and rose colored Dentelle bra, $60, from supermodel Elle Macpherson's Elle Macpherson Intimates collection appeals to the flirt who likes frills.

And achieving a sexy look doesn't have to be costly. Kmart sells faux-fur red and black baby dolls for under $20 as well as a "sultry yet comfy" tank top and pant pajama set, $11.89.

A subdued Vassarette panty and cami set, $17 for both, is very much akin to the high-end Cosabella chemise, $117, for a fraction of the price.

"I wouldn't spend a lot of money on lingerie. I mean it's going to come off anyway," said Tane. "Besides, guys don't say 'Oh, this looks really expensive … is this from Bloomingdale's?'"

For those wanting a really new look for Valentine's Day, you might want to think beyond the standard Frederick's of Hollywood's French Maid Costume, $58.

Dressing up like a pizza delivery girl or a sexy librarian could be just the Valentine's gift your guy is hoping for.

But men warn that just because an outfit seems titillating doesn't mean it won't come off as garish or overboard.

"Something too raunchy can be scary to men," said Friedman. "Anything dirty, like pasties, can be too much."