Wednesday, 31 October 2012

The Flirtelle "Lucy": A Cinderella Story

At the same time that I was ordering the Curvy Kate Smoothie from Brastop, I noticed that they had some new Flirtelle bras. One of them was the “Lucy” in a couple of new colors, including this Silver shade:

Now, like a lot of Flirtelle’s new releases, this bra only starts at a 32 band. I also knew it was the same design as the Flirtelle Sublime, reviewed here, which had stiff fabric that I hated. What’s more, Flirtelle and Curvy Kate unpadded balconettes just don’t give the best shape on me, especially after a few hours, so I’ve mostly given up on them. (Apparently this is called an "upside down 7" look. I'm not sure who coined this phrase but I love it! I just got it from this Bratabase question and answer.)

Those are three good reasons why I could have overlooked the Flirtelle Lucy. (I really wish ever brand ever didn’t have a bra called Lucy, but I digress…) BUT—I have been seeking an unpadded gray bra for literally years. Options were slim, including Freya’s Lucy bra, which I never found:

Kalyani’s Natural Charm bra, which I was convinced would give a bad shape:

And the Fantasie Belle in Silver, a bra which I really dislike:

And that was just about all. So I knew I couldn’t let the Flirtelle Lucy get away as long as there was any slim chance that I would be able to alter it into submission. I ordered a 32H, sister size of my normal 30HH for Curvy Kate and Flirtelle.

When the Lucy arrived, I was unsurprised to find that the shape it gave on me was not great:

It’s not horrid, but it did make my boobs have a lot more projection than I prefer, and consequently there were wrinkles along the diagonal seam across the cup. You can see some of the empty space here:

Because of this, I knew I would be able to take in the center seam to make the shape more round, as I described in the tutorialin this post, “Making a Pointy Bra Round”:

I decided to try doing the alteration on my sewing machine this time. I was a little nervous that sewing such thick fabric would be impossible, but it worked just fine.

It was also EONS faster than the agonizing, painstaking process of hand-sewing something so thick (think thimbles and tweezers—I would probably have made faster progress with an awl).

Because I was machine-sewing, I also decided to pin the seam rather than taping it this time around. I just taped the very ends of the alteration to make sure that part was smooth.

Here’s the difference in shape, Before:

And after: 

Because the band was a 32 band, and the cups were angled in a very V-neck shape, going high up towards the straps, I decided to take in the center gore as well. This serves three functions—it takes some length out of the band; it “turns” the cups so the shape is less plunge-y and more half-cup-y; and it provides a little extra openness in the top of the cups, which I needed after taking in so much fabric from the cup.

I decided to do the alteration on the center gore on my sewing machine as well, which was a mistake as I almost broke my needle by hitting the underwire accidentally. I also did it rather off-center and sloppily as it is very hard to fit the center gore of a bra under the foot of a sewing machine. I’ll probably fix that later.

The one issue I expected would be really problematic, the bulk of the altered diagonal seam, wasn't as big of a problem as I expected. It does show through tops, especially a thin t-shirt like the one I'm wearing in the photos. 

But in my day-to-day life, I always wear a tight cami underneath my tops. With the cami-top combination, the seam blends in more, and although it still shows, it doesn't look bizarre.

The center gore doesn't lay perfectly flat, but overall I’m really pleased with the results of my alterations. I expected to feel as though I was fighting a losing battle or would never wear the bra. But it’s an unpadded gray bra! I’ve worn it repeatedly and I’m pleased to report that so far, the shape stays pretty good throughout the day. I even wore it to do yoga and nothing went horribly wrong.

Owning a gray bra is all that I hoped and more. I know some people consider it a plain or neutral color, but I’m a little obsessed. I think it’s an amazingly flattering color on brunettes and redheads especially. Wearing a gray bra with matching gray undies I got from Forever21, I feel a little extra boost of cheerfulness all day. I still maintain hope that Cleo’s Lucy bra will eventually come out in a gray color, but this Flirtelle Lucy will sustain me happily until that time. 

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Curvy Kate "Smoothie" Review

After all the hoopla surrounding the release of the first J-cup (in two band sizes) molded bra, I knew I had to try it so I could review it for this blog. I don’t really wear padded or molded bras much, so it wasn’t a must-have for me, but the review does seem necessary.

I ordered the Smoothie from Brastop in size 28J. I would have preferred a 30HH rather than a 28J, as I don’t like super-tight bands, but Brastop was already sold out of that size. They have it on US Figleaves now at just $44, so I would recommend buying it from there if you're in the US to save a few bucks on shipping. Last I checked, they still have all the sizes in stock there. As to the cup size, I wanted to try either the 30HH, 28J, or 32H—those sister sizes are the same as the cup size that fits me in Curvy Kate’s unpadded balconette bras. By trying the same size that fits me in other Curvy Kate bras, I can accurately compare the differences in fit.

My first impression of the Smoothie is that it’s very different from the Freya Deco! The molding is thinner and a bit stiffer than the molding in the Deco. It is therefore less bulky, but also less soft. The center gore is also higher—the Smoothie has occasionally been listed as a plunge bra, but I wouldn’t really consider it a plunge. The center gore is neither very high nor very low.

The 28J was a perfect fit on me in the cups. The cup shape is very nice—round, but more natural than the almost-square look a lot of us get in super-round bras like the Masquerade Rhea, Cleo Juna, and Curvy Kate Tease Me/Thrill Me. I think this is a perfect shape to suit all preferences.

The cup shape is also very even. It fit my full-on-top boobs without cutting in, but it isn’t so open as to gape on boobs with less upper fullness, as the Freya Deco often does. I did have a little empty space in the bottom of the cup, as you can see here:

Likewise, those with full-on-the-bottom boobs might find they have a little extra space at the top of the cup. This is the classic issue with molded bras—they don’t have as much ability to take on the shape of the breast as non-padded bras. But I think the Smoothie has basically surmounted this issue by providing a shape that is in the middle and thus appropriate for most different shapes. Of course, this is just my guess; we will be able to see if it’s true as more and more people of different shapes try the Smoothie, but here’s Cheryl’s review at Invest in Your Chest. She has a very different shape from me and the Smoothie looks great on her. Brood at Brood’s Big Bras reviewed the Smoothie too and said that it seemed to be running big on everyone--apparently that is a consistent issue with the Australian shipments of the Smoothie, so if you're buying from an Australian retailer, you'll want to take that into account. For others, although lot of people are used to sizing up to  fit the Thrill Me and Tease Me, the Smoothie definitely is more forgiving in its shape, and has more space, than those bras. I would recommend going with your Curvy Kate unpadded size rather than your Showgirl size when trying the Smoothie.

The band felt like an average 28 band—not as loose as the Showgirl bras, nor as tight as the Angel, but about the same as the other Curvy Kate unpadded balconettes.

The print on the Smoothie is very subtle. It shows up a lot in flash photos, but when you are just looking at the bra in normal light, it’s less noticeable. That could be good or bad depending on what you’re looking for.

Although I don’t like molded bras myself, I’m really impressed by the Smoothie. It’s a big step forward for the full-bust market and I really hope that Curvy Kate brings it out in a wider range of cup sizes in the larger band sizes so it can serve the market more fully. I would whole-heartedly recommend the Smoothie for people who seek molded bras.  

Monday, 8 October 2012

Cleo "Marcie" Review

You may remember from this post that I have had my eye on the Cleo Marcie for awhile. Cleo is my favorite brand, the brand that I trust most to give a great shape, and the brand that works best for my particular boobs. So I was really excited to see that they were doing a red bra, especially one with all the cute bells and whistles and bows and buttons and polka dots. So I went ahead and ordered it, without even waiting for it to go on sale, from Figleaves. Their price was extremely reasonable, and I figured I didn't want to miss out on it.

In fact, the size I wanted to order (30H) was already sold out. Fortunately, I have a stockpile of two-hook bra extenders in a variety of colors, so I decided to order the sister size of 28HH and use my red extender. (If you want bra extenders, just head over to eBay and search "two hook bra extender" or "three hook bra extender", sort by price, and look for the color you want. They are VERY cheap.)

The 28HH with the extender was a perfect fit. Although I need a 30HH in Curvy Kate and some Freya, I can just about always fit a 30H in Cleo.

The Marcie is similar in cup shape to the Lucy (see my review here), but the structure is different. The Marcie has a full band that extends underneath the cups--this part:

Full band
The Lucy, on the other hand, doesn't have a band that continues under the cups, but rather the underwires form the bottom of the band, like so:

Partial band
The purpose of the full band on the Marcie is to stop the underwires from stretching and distorting with the band. Although I personally don't really care if this full band is present or not, those people who prefer narrower underwires will appreciate it.

The Marcie is also, for related reasons, a lot narrower in the center gore than the Lucy. I take in the center gore on my Lucy, and with a taken-in center gore, the Lucy is the same as the Marcie. But if you have a Lucy and haven't taken in the gore, keep in mind that the Marcie is narrower there. Pull the cups closer together, and you'll get a good idea of how the Marcie would fit on you.

Because of the closer center gore and the lack of a tight lace detail on the top edge of the cup, the Marcie also runs a little bigger than the Lucy. Those with boobs that are fuller on the bottom and less full on top may want to consider sizing down in this bra to avoid gaping at the top edge. You can see here that even I had some gaping if I pushed my shoulders way forward.

Normally, I'm fighting to avoid quadraboob, which is the opposite of gaping. So my point is that this bra is extremely open on the top, even more so than most of Cleo's bras. Although I haven't tried the floral Cleo Chloe, I  am convinced that this bra was equally open on top, which is why I heard a lot of people saying they needed to size down in it.

The straps have an interesting texture.

The shape from the side is very round:

 It's also a little bit strange, though. You can see that the front of my boob looks almost flattened, like it is pushed against a window. This isn't very noticeable under clothing, but was part of the reason why I was just a little bit underwhelmed by the Marcie, especially after having waited so long to buy it. Don't get me wrong, it's still a much better fit on me than the red Freya Antoinette, reviewed here, which I was replacing, and which is better suited for boobs that are fuller on the bottom than mine. Yet, I was expecting the Marcie to become my new favorite bra, one that I would continue to buy in every available color. But because of the slightly flattened shape, I have to say that I still prefer the Lucy for its perfectly round shape, even though the Marcie has a narrower center gore and the full band in front. It would be great to have some sort of hybrid of the two.

In general, though, I continue to be really impressed by Cleo's progress as a brand and I have very high hopes for what they bring out in future seasons. I'm never afraid of getting a pointy shape in Cleo bras, which is such a relief. When I was first fitted into the right size bra, Cleo didn't even exist yet. My first Cleo bra, the Frances, was a revelation, and I've loved and trusted their bras ever since. I really recommend Cleo bras, especially for those with a full-on-top shape.

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

HerRoom Punches Back

You might remember my post from a few weeks back’s bra shape quiz. I was offended and bothered by several features of the quiz—the lack of diversity of skin color in their illustrations; the use of loaded language to discuss body features that could be discussed neutrally; and their recommendations for my shape, which I felt were misleading and inaccurate based on my own knowledge and experience.

I recently received an email from a representative of HerRoom requesting that I take down the images from their site as my use of them was a violation of their copyright. Not being sure of who was in the right, and not wanting to put myself or my blog at risk, I quickly complied, removing the images and sending an email of apology to the representative.

However, I then took the time to become more familiar with the laws surrounding copyright infringement. My understanding now is that my use of their images was not an infringement of their copyright, as criticism falls under Fair Use.

However, I am a college student and I do not have time to be sued by online retailers, and so I find it prudent to choose my battles and attempt to create my own images that will get my point across without putting myself at risk. I also, and perhaps this may not be apparent, honestly do not want to hurt anyone’s feelings, and I do not enjoy doing so. Although I stand by every word in my original post, I don’t take pleasure in spreading hatred, nor was that the original point of my post. That is why I chose to be polite in my response to the representative, even though it is my opinion that she was not as polite as she could have been in her original communication with me. I am torn on whether or not it would be appropriate to reproduce the email I received here. Although I don’t believe I could be legally attacked for publishing her words, I do think that it would mean crossing my own ethical boundaries because the message was sent to me privately. Suffice it to say that the email criticized my blog for taking a harsh and negative tone in general, a view which I feel may have been formed more from my (somewhat ill-advised) blog title rather than the actual content. The representative also seemed to believe that I was struggling to find bras that fit me, which is not the case.

I respect the right of HerRoom to defend their work, and therefore I will respect their request that I not use their images. I also believe that the company meant the quiz to be helpful. However, I want to also mention that I still find a couple of the implications of our communication upsetting.

One is the fact that the representative did not respond to my comment in my original blog post that all the many images in their quiz are of white women. I would have expected that once this fact had been drawn to her attention, they would alter those images to reflect more diversity. To me, that seems the only reasonable response. I don’t like to think that the whitewashing was purposeful, and I can’t image that Herroom would want us to think that it was. I believe this is something that could use work.

Second, I find myself wondering if HerRoom, or any other site for that matter, would never have cared about my use of their images if I had posted a glowing review of their content. I accept that it was legally ambiguous and ill-advised to use the images without their permission, even if it turns out that I am correct that it fell under Fair Use. In fact, I was unsure about using the images at the time. But, if I am right that they would not have asked me to take the images down if my post had promoted their site, then that DOES amount to the suppression of negative feedback. I find that morally wrong. I am not directly or specifically accusing HerRoom of this, as I have no proof that this is the case. However, I would like to examine these ideas further.

There seems to be a growing sense among companies that bloggers exist to provide free advertisement for them. I have witnessed repeated incidents of outrage from companies when they feel they are being unfairly criticized and having their sales damaged by bloggers expressing their opinions. On the other hand, these same companies often publish links on their social media pages to positive reviews. So if they believe that the positive reviews by bloggers are credible, why should they shame and attack the same bloggers when they speak a truth that is simply less palatable to these companies? I view blogging as an offshoot of the press, and I believe that the press should be neutral. I see no legal or ethical reason why bloggers should not feel free to share their opinions and honest experiences with their readers. Using others’ images is of questionable morality, and I will not make that mistake again. But even beyond this, receiving an email with a threatening tone from a company I have negatively reviewed, even if I am legally in the right, makes me hesitant to do such a post again. But it would be wrong not to continue to do negative or critical reviews where I find they are warranted. Blogs and reviews exist for this very reason—they are not driven by the companies’ own advertising and marketing. In the end I do not care if sales of a product increase or decrease because of what I write. Rather, I believe that companies will succeed by producing products (and a public image) that are to the liking of their customers, not by suppressing any negative feedback. Good press will naturally follow good products and services. It does not need to be any more complicated than that. 

Monday, 1 October 2012

Busting Some Busty Myths

Warning--I don't really WANT to link to this absurdly stupid article on Jezebel because it's, well, absurdly stupid and also INCREDIBLY triggering for anyone with big boobs who has struggled with body image. But, if you want to see it, there it is.

The reason I feel compelled to post about this is that the internet is still chock full of unpleasant and inaccurate stereotypes about having big boobs. These myths are not only damaging and upsetting, but they also really frustrate me because they have such simple solutions. Yes, having big boobs is possibly, but not certainly, a little bit more complicated than having small or average-sized boobs. But every body type has its own challenges and I absolutely do not believe that a busty body type is any harder to dress or live with than any other body type.

If you disagree, or if you want something to link to when you read 126 comments on an article saying how weird and horrible big boobs are, here is a list of the most common complaints about big boobs, and the reasons that I don't buy into them.

"The only thing big boobs get you is unwanted attention from men." 

Sadly, just about everybody will find they get unwanted attention at some point in their life due to some feature or other, or due to absolutely nothing at all. This is an unacceptable phenomenon that we should fight against. And it does not have much to do with breast size. Some women with big boobs get lots of negative attention, others never get any attention (negative or positive) for it. Claiming that harassment follows from bust size is insulting to everyone of every bust size and clouds the real problem--which is harassment.

Big boobs are also not a guarantee of positive attention or any attention at all. They're a single part of a body. Perhaps you have received a lot of attention for having a big bust, or a small bust, but that is not the case for everyone.

"Bras for big boobs are SO EXPENSIVE! It's so annoying!" 

This makes my head explode with frustration. I usually pay about $30-$40 for a bra. When I wore smaller cup sizes, I paid about...wait for it... $30-$40 for a bra. Victoria's Secret bras (which larger-busted women usually avoid like the plague) cost about $40-$50 typically. Yes, if you buy a Freya or Panache or Curvy Kate bra at full price from certain American retailers, it may run you about $70. In a boutique, maybe up to $120 or even more. But that's generally the case for EVERY size.

Brand new bras are widely available on eBay; all you have to do is search "bra" and your size and filter the results to Worldwide. If you're not sure of your size, make sure that returns are accepted and all you're risking is about $10-$15 in shipping costs--still well below the markup you'll pay at a boutique.

Brastop offers many bras at sale prices that convert to about $15-$20, shipping to the US is about $12. They occasionally offer half price international shipping.

What's more, the US Figleaves site has been offering a good number of Panache, Cleo, etc bras at prices no higher, occasionally even lower, than the equivalent UK price. I just bought a brand-new Cleo Marcie for $38. That's the most expensive bra I've bought in a year. Doesn't really hold up to the myth--does it?

For more tips on finding bargain bras in large cup sizes, check out my post "If Your Boobs Are Bigger Than Your Budget".

"Big boobs are hideous/grotesque/absurd/disgusting." 

This commonly repeated trope really, really saddens me. It is simply body dysmorphia, but it is generally not identified as this. One of the worst offenders I've seen is this abhorrent article on The Hairpin (MAJOR TRIGGER WARNING). I could link to more articles like that, but I really don't want to give them more traffic. The only reason I'm mentioning that Hairpin article at all is because a lot of the outraged comments were quite eloquent:

'This totally bugged me too. My breasts look like that, and I'm tired of things like this that make me feel like I'm not supposed to like them or there is something wrong with them that needs correcting.'

'Yeah, this made made me really sad as well. I hated my breasts for years, and it's only been in the past few years that I realized that they're actually kind of awesome and the only reason I thought they looked so shitty was that I was wearing minimizers and sports bras that were two sizes too small. Yeah, it sucks when Cheerios fall into my cleavage at breakfast, and it does mean shopping is a pain, and sometimes I wish they were perkier, but I don't think chopping them off would make me happier. I don't know.'

'Different strokes for different folks - my bf loves my breasts as they are. Does that mean he is weird or abnormal?'

'I don't mind one woman sharing her obviously painful journey of self-acceptance. The body dysmorphia screams out through every line, though, and that is unfortunate. I would think Hairpin might know a little better than to perpetuate the idea that X, Y or C cup is 'normal' and preferable.'

'I too had a woman's body when I was too young to know how to deal with it. I had to deal with boys/men thinking they could treat me in a certain way because I looked like some kind of female fertility goddess when I was 12. I was self conscious and hunched over and hoped no one would notice me. But I'm not so sure that 90% of the girls in my middle and high schools weren't feeling the same way for one reason or another.'

I think those women said it about as well as anyone ever could.

Finally, the last myth I'd like to bust:

"My boobs are a 34E/36DDD/28H/etc and they are SO HUGE!!!!!!"

The reason this upsets me is not necessarily that it's not true (some people in the world do have larger breasts than others, factually speaking) but because of the assumptions it makes about other people. If a women with a particular size finds her size to be large or challenging, I would never deny her right to discuss that feeling, but I question the decision to include a size as though the shock factor of the number or letter will help to get the point across. If a woman of so-and-so size expresses her disgust with the "hugeness" of her boobs, how is a woman with a larger bust size supposed to interpret that? If a woman of so-and-so size expresses her disgust with the "smallness" of her boobs, how is a woman with smaller boobs supposed to interpret that? I understand the impulse to vent about body insecurities, which we all most certainly have, but statements like those just spread misery; they do not diminish it. 

And THAT, my friends, is why I write a blog on lingerie and clothing for bustier women. I would like to think that there will be a growing number of blogs focusing on particular body types and each one's individual joys and challenges. Big boobs, like ANY other body type, are not "normal" or "abnormal", they are simply a fact of life. They need not cause anyone undue physical, emotional, or financial strain.  I hope my blog, and the blogs in my blogroll to the right, will help us all to move towards that goal.