I was not a sexy 18-year-old.

At least, I didn't think I was, and I was even lucky enough to have been born with a body type that was thin enough to avoid being treated like a second-class citizen. I'm very short and small. I never did any dieting, purging, or serious exercise. I didn't crack 100 pounds until after I entered college. So, while I was "thin enough," I did not have what I considered to be a womanly body. Not by any stretch of the imagination.

This was all before I took my first Women and Gender Studies course. It was before I knew anything about heavily edited photos in magazines or inhuman proportions on fashion dolls. It was before I found out that high-school-aged characters in movies are often cast by actors in their 20s and even 30s, who have grown-up bodies and have already shed their teenage awkwardness. I didn't know any of this. So, I thought my body was simply inadequate, with not a lush curve to be found. I thought I didn't have an ass worth showing off since you couldn't bounce a quarter off it. In fact, short and skinny as I was, the only shorts I could get to fit me for years and years came from the junior boys' section. Ouch.

So, imagine awkward, 18-year-old me with bad skin, her first serious boyfriend, and a blossoming fascination with lingerie. I learned how to browse the family computer in incognito mode and spent hours crawling lingerie websites planning my first purchase - and fantasizing about the porno-shoot-perfect sexy times that were sure to follow. Yet, the longer I looked at photos, the more depressed I got. I didn't look anything like those women modeling demi-cup bras and fishnet bodystockings. I didn't have those boobs. I didn't have that ass. I didn't have those hips or that hair or that cat eyeliner or the wherewithal to stand in six-inch stilettos without ending up in the emergency room. And yet I desperately wanted to feel as sexy and irresistible and empowered as those lingerie-model women looked. (What have you got on under those clothes? Read The Lingerie of Our Lives - Why We're So Fascinated With Underclothes.)

Fishnets and Freedom

It took me another two years to order my first pair of fishnet stockings. I bummed a ride from a friend and bought my first corset at Macy's in the local mall. I loved, loved, loved finally having my own lingerie. I kept it folded neatly in a hatbox, and sprinkled it with scented talcum powder to keep it dry and smelling nice while shoved under my dorm bed. But despite how much I loved them, shopping for those pieces made me feel unsexy and inadequate because I didn't have a woman's body. In fact, I did have a woman's body (because I was a woman). I just didn't have a porn star body. At the time, I thought they were the same thing.

Well, they aren't the same thing. All bodies are sexy in their own way, and the owners of those bodies can feel sexy too. The problem is, a lot of sex shops and retailers of lingerie only sell items that fit one aesthetic. Unfortunately, that aesthetic has a lot less to do with what makes most people feel sexy and more to do with what porn stars wear in magazine spreads. That's great if you happen to have the dimensions of a porn star and really love red satin and black lace. But what about everyone else?

There's Another Way

The person who first told me that all bodies are good bodies was a friend and burlesque performer who goes by the name Lobstar Bisque. She is a delightful person, a voice for sex and body positivity, and a woman who buys a hell of a lot of lingerie. So, I picked her brain (and her closet) for the best places to start looking for lingerie that makes you feel like a goddamn bombshell instead of a pasty fraud. Here's what she had to say. (Learn more about the art of self-love in Lessons In Sexy: The Only 4 You Need.)

Shop Online

Online retailers are a have for newbie lingerie lovers. Sizes, styles and aesthetics galore are all available. Plus, if you're a bit more shy or not used to buying lingerie, there's nothing like the anonymity of a laptop screen to let you browse and explore in peace! As an added bonus, online retailers are more likely to carry lots of unique and niche items. Think retro and pin-up, Victorian and steampunk, vintage, and role-play wear galore!

"Amazon.com has been surprisingly good for me for ordering clothing lately. You absolutely must own a measuring tape and be comfortable taking your own measurements and ordering using those. The tag is honestly no indicator of size. Go by the size chart," Lobstar Bisque said. "The brown Amazon box is also very discrete for purchases you don't want anyone to know about. Etsy can be a good source for niche, handmade skivvies too - if you've got cash to burn on a custom piece."

But Consider Brick and Mortar

That doesn't mean you should stay away from physical retail shops. Stores have staff, and staff have info, guidance, and recommendations.

According to Lobstar, a really knowledgeable, body-positive staff that can be great for helping you take your measurements and pick the pieces that work best for you. They're also not shy about talking about your kinks and helping you find the clothing that fits them.

Discover Your Style

Sometimes, lingerie retailers only offer a tiny sliver of sizing options. No matter your size, there will be some styles of lingerie will make you feel like a fool. That's totally fine. It doesn't mean you need to be more liberated or less body-shaming or more comfortable with your own sexuality. You can't expect everything to look good on everyone! I learned that the hard way. What you should know is that there is something to flatter every body. After all, there are as many ways to show off your body as there are ways to express your sexuality.

"Garter belts are super tricky for plus-sized folk," Lobstar Bisque said. "You can buy a roll-on sock glue to keep thigh highs up if you don't want to wear a garter belt, but those of us who are prone to thigh-high roll-down might not have good luck with that."

Broaden Your Definition of "Lingerie"

Remember, the purpose of lingerie is to entice by strategically concealing and revealing different parts of your body. Some people use lingerie as a form of self-expression that they can't achieve with their 9-to-5 outfits. Some people, like Lobstar Bisque, use lingerie as a medium for performance. Which parts you show off and which parts you keep covered until the right moment is up to you.

Think of it as the the bow on a pretty package: It's just window dressing to make the goods look even better. It's your body, so it's up to you to wrap it however you like. In other words, your lingerie need not be limited to what you'll find in a lingerie department.

Maybe you want to try something in between lingerie and role-playing. Dressing up is all a part of it. After all, our regular, everyday underwear conceals and reveals in enticing ways, and that can be sexy as hell too. You can get a lot of mileage out of a pair of knee-high socks and a tight skirt. Or stilletos and a demi-cup bra. Or some Ugg boots, tights and a thong. I've even been known to hold on to clothes that don't fit me any more to cut up for a trashy costume or wear in for a candlelit dinner.

There's More Than One Way to Dress a Sex Kitten

There are a million and one ways to dress up when you're getting undressed. Anyone can look and feel good in lingerie if you broaden your definition of what lingerie means and visit some alternative shopping sources to find your love life's perfect fit. Just remember: all bodies are good bodies.