The minefield of lingerie shopping for lovers can be avoided this Valentine's Day with a new Web site that lets you visit a virtual dressing room and ask models to try on underwear.
"Valentine's Day is a perfect opportunity to buy lingerie for your wife or girlfriend, but can turn into a nightmare for many of us," said KnickerPicker co-founder Jason Talbot. "The majority of guys are not great at buying underwear for their lovers and it can be a pretty nerve-wracking experience."
Rather than skulking around a lingerie department like a naughty schoolboy, men can browse for sexy smalls online by getting a woman of their choice to model them.
"I dread shopping for lingerie for my girlfriend because I've got it wrong so many times," said shopper Tom Bucknell, 27. "Plus, there's always that awkward feeling of being the only guy in the lingerie department, sneaking about and shyly picking items off the racks."
At the click of a mouse, shoppers can ask the model to change outfits or sashay towards them along a catwalk for a closer inspection of the goods.
Buyers can even click on a button asking their model to turn around and give them a peek at how the lingerie looks from behind.
"Most women like the idea of receiving lingerie as a gift from their husband or boyfriend, but it normally ends in disaster," said student Poppy Smith, 21. "Nine times out of 10, I have to take back the underwear my boyfriend buys me."
The Web site offers buying tips for guys to help them sidestep the shopping blunders which could spoil the romance of Valentine's Day.
"The whole thing makes you feel like some kind of pervert," Bucknell added. "Being able to get a model to try on items online would be a great weight off my shoulders."
Men who need a second opinion on potential gifts can also forward pictures of the models wearing their chosen undies, bras or garter belts by e-mail to a friend.
"I think men choose the things they want to see us in rather than the things we want or need," said Smith. "If I actually wore the items my boyfriend buys me, then I'd look like a prostitute."
Visitors to KnickerPicker can choose anything from G-strings to corsets from a range of around 20 brands including Calvin Klein, Passionata and Playful Promises.
"A lot of blokes find it embarrassing going into a lingerie shop and being surrounded by lots of women who are judging them on every item they pick up," said Talbot. "Shopping online can be even more risky because you cannot get a good idea of how underwear will actually look when you get it out of the box."
The first step in the virtual dressing room is to select one of the three models — a petite brunette, a slender blonde or a curvier fair-haired woman.
Buyers can then filter underwear for them to try on by brand, product type or price.
"We are trying to take the guesswork and embarrassment out of underwear shopping and make it more fun," Talbot said. "With an online dressing room, you can interact with the models and see how the items actually look on women with realistic body shapes. I think it would be near on impossible to get a sales assistant in a shop to try on underwear for you to look at."
You can then pick from a list of sexy garments and get your model to don them by clicking on each item and dragging them towards them.
For a closer look you can beckon the model towards you or ask them to spin round and show off the rear view.
Details, prices and sizes of each piece of underwear appear on a screen next to the model, so you can add them to your shopping basket.
KnickerPicker then connects you to the relevant retailer's Web site to make your purchase.
The site has attracted more than 1 million hits since it was launched in late December with sales soaring.
"A Web site to train men in the art of lingerie shopping is long overdue," said Smith.