In my overview of Freya I wrote that their bras are easy-to-wear and a good “starter brand”. In my experience, Panache is a bit trickier to crack as a brand. When I was just starting out with well-fitted bras, my sister and I used to call Panache the “false friend” because their bras often seemed perfect in a dressing room, but became problematic with wear--rubbing, slipping, cutting in. I've since realized that this is mainly due to the fact that I didn't know how to fix small problems with bras, or needed a different size in some styles than in others. I wear different sizes in different Panache bras, I alter many of my Panache and Cleo bras to get a better fit, and some of the shapes I can’t wear at all even if they do come in my size. Generally speaking, Panache’s different styles have a lot more variation in cup design, seam location, etc than you’ll see in Freya. This means that some styles will work for a certain shape while some won’t. But fortunately, it also means that if one Panache shape didn’t work for you, others probably will. My goal here is to try to show which styles are similar and whom they might work for. In my opinion, buying Panache bras requires a bit more savvy and/or experience, but I also think it is definitely worth it as the results are stellar when it works out. Now that I've figured out what works for me in Panache, they are typically the brand that suits me best.
To start off, one of Panache’s most classic styles is the Tango balconette. There are two basic manifestations, the Tango Classic, which comes in continuity colors, and the Tango II, which has a leaf pattern and has come in many colors over the years.
|Tango Classic Balconette|
|Tango II Balconette|
Although these bras are referred to as balconettes, the seam pattern is closer to what is traditionally used in a full-cup bra. It has two lower sections and an upper section that connects to the strap, like this:
On most balconettes, the outer bottom section also connects to the strap, like this:
Because of the full-cup-esque construction, I personally find that I don’t get as much uplift as I would like in the Tango bras and the shape is a bit triangular from the side. The fabric is also fairly stiff so a poor fit can be very noticeable. However, this bra is also very popular and a favorite among loads of people I have talked to, so it is worth trying on if you can find it in a shop, or sold online with the possibility of returns.
Both Tango bras also come in plunge versions.
These are more a staple than a va-va-voom type plunge, as they tend to minimize the amount of cleavage shown. If you naturally have close-set boobs and/or lots of cleavage, you might find that these bras work against your shape. I personally find the shape I get in the Tango plunge to be very similar to what I get in the Tango balconette—a bit triangular as it pushes the upper part of my boobs down. The Tango is not ideal for full-on-top boobs. But again, I think this is a bra that is worth trying if you have reasonable access to it. The Erin plunge also has a similar shape, as well as the new Eden:
A lot of the bras Panache makes are full-cup bras such as the Melody full-cup, Ariza, Eliza (marketed as a balconette but constructed like a full-cup), Carmel, Fern, Paloma, Elsa, Loretta, and the discontinued but still widely available Harmony full-cup.
Again, these bras have the seam pattern I described with respect to the Tango balconette—the bottom section does not come up to meet the strap, so there is not as much lift from the bottom. The shape you’ll get from these bras is therefore a bit more “natural” looking and relaxed. I’m personally not a huge fan of full-cup bras in general because I like to have my boobs closer to my body and full-cup bras don’t hold them in as much. However, they are very supportive (support and lift are not precisely the same thing) and tend not to allow much cleavage to show, so they can be practical for work, etc.
Panache also makes some full-cup bras that have a side support panel included, like the Andorra and the Emily (which is marketed as a balconette).
These bras give the support of a full-cup bra but with more lift and generally a more compact shape. I haven’t tried the Emily, which is a newer style, but I can vouch for the Andorra. It’s made with very soft lace and gives a good shape—not as rounded as a balconette shape, but in between that and the more relaxed shape most people get in a full-cup bra. I would highly recommend the Andorra for people looking for a full-cup bra.
My favorite style of Panache bra is their bras with a true balconette shape, including the Harmony, Confetti, Melody, and Sienna.
You can identify these bras by the outer bottom section that comes up to meet the strap--this shape:
This allows for more uplift and a wonderful round shape. They are fairly low-cut and very open on top so they are perfectly suited to full-on-top boobs. Those with a full-on-bottom shape might need to size down to avoid gapping in the top of the cup. These bras are the Panache equivalent of the balconette construction that the majority of Freya bras have, but Panache bras are much more delicate-looking in the larger sizes and cover far less skin. I refer again to the comparison of my 28J Freya Clarissa and 28J Panache Confetti.
|Left, Freya Clarissa; Right, Panache Confetti|
I love both bras but I think this image says a lot about the differences between the two companies. I wish Panache would make more bras with this construction because they do it as well or better than anyone else.
Finally, Panache makes molded T-shirt bras such as the Porcelain, which comes in a plunge version up to H cups and a regular version up to G cup.
Both come in black, white, and nude, as well as occasional colored manifestations and some that have lace, but unfortunately I’ve never tried them on. There is a strapless version as well. The Porcelain also comes in the slightly more decorative "Viva" version:
As you can see, Panache makes a lot of bras that are practical and sensible, so if you are looking for something a bit more wild and exciting, look to Cleo. Cleo is a really great line that makes a lot of excellent bras. My one major dislike is that all the Cleo bras have just two hooks in back, even in the high cup sizes, whereas many of the Panache bras have three, which I would prefer. Cleo bras also only go up to J cup (and some don’t make it that high) unlike some Panache bras that go up to K cup; however, most Cleo bras do come in 28 bands.
Many Cleo bras are made with a similar construction to the true balconettes I mentioned above (Panache’s Harmony, Confetti, Melody, Sienna). These include Brooke, Eleanor, Bonnie, Frances, Chloe, and the upcoming Marcie. There are small differences between the fits of these bras but in general they give a very round shape, and like the similar Panache bras they are low-cut and open on top, hence perfect for full-on-top boobs.
The Lucy (my favorite bra) is very similar to these bras.
It has a slightly tighter upper section, so full-on-tops might experience slight cutting in (I counter this by taking in the center gore, which turns the cups so there is more space at the top).
The older George and Lizzie bras are also a fairly similar shape, but with more space at the apex, so I find the shape they give has more projection but isn’t quite as round.
Cleo bras with this shape are distinguishable by the extra fabric that continues under the cups in the middle.
Another slightly different Cleo shape is found in the Sasha and Alexa bras. The cups are constructed similarly to the above balconettes, but like the George and Lizzie they have a continuation of the band underneath the cups in front, where most Cleo balconettes just have the cups connected to the gore and to the band on the sides. This is actually a really great feature, because it stops the underwires from warping with the stretch of the band and makes bras a bit more heavy-duty and well-made.
I’ve unfortunately never tried these bras, but both have received rave reviews from those who have. I was initially worried that the lace across the top might cut in on my full-on-top boobs, but the feedback I’ve heard from those who have tried it is that it actually suits that shape well, while those who have less volume in the top might experience a bit of gapping. I find myself wondering if the upcoming red Marcie bra I pictured above might also belong in this category, as like these bras it has the section under the cups that prevents the wires from warping. I'll have to try them all out before I'll know for sure.
Another strong offering from Cleo is their two-section padded bras, the Juna, Sadie, Sadie longline, Rita, Poppy, Martha, Ellie, and the upcoming Darcy.
These bras only go up to H cup but are a great option for those who fit them. The shape, in my opinion, is fairly similar to the unpadded balconettes with a lot of openness at the top so they are forgiving for full-on-top boobs, but also wearable for most other shapes. Lots of people seem to get on well with these bras. One annoying issue is that the lace tends to poke outwards rather than lying flat, but this will disappear under fitted clothes.
Cleo also offers a smooth, non-sectioned plunge bra called the Jude, which I’ve never tried due to its smaller size range.
Just from the what I can see of the shape in this photo, I feel as though it might not work for my full-on-top shape, but who knows?
Similarly, I haven’t tried out Cleo’s seamed padded plunge bras, like the Molly, Penny, Sally, Billie, and Toni, either.
The wires on Panache and Cleo bras tend to be fairly wide, particularly on the unpadded styles. If you don’t like wide underwires, you will want to either try bending the wires for comfort, or skip these bras altogether. Panache bras also tend to have wider center gores than Freya or Curvy Kate bras. This is good for wider-set boobs, but those with close-set boobs may want to perform this easy alteration to pull the cups closer together. I find the bands run fairly similar to Freya bands, and between Freya and Panache/Cleo balconettes the cup sizing is often rather similar as well (personally, I usually find I am somewhere in between a 28HH and 28J, or between a 30H and 30HH, in both brands). Panache bras nearly always have thinner straps than Freya balconettes (especially the older ones) in high cup sizes, which is something that I am really grateful for. Panache bras also tend to be a bit cheaper than other brands at full price, and Cleo bras even more so, which is definitely an appealing prospect!