Thursday, 24 January 2013

A Love Letter To Empreinte, The Brand That Changed My Life (Guest Post)

(This post is written by a very special guest writer, my sister! I hope you enjoy it.)

I'm picky about bras. Back before I knew about proper bra sizing, I refused to wear anything besides intense pushup bras in black or hot pink. So when I first got properly fitted, I tried on all the bras in my size and I hated them all passionately. Don't even get me STARTED on 582 variations I tried of the Tango, a bra that looks utterly horrendous on me. 

I hated all the bras, that is, except for one. The only problem was that the one I liked? It cost $279. It was an Empreinte.

Empreinte is a brand that I haven't seen talked about much on bra blogs. The heart attack-inducing price tag is probably the reason for that. (Believe me, I could not afford it either; I split the price with my mom and didn't buy another bra for almost two years.) The other reason is that in the US, Empreinte can only be sold by a handful of "certified retailers," so they're hard to find and nearly impossible to get for cheaper than retail. While some websites (like Figleaves) sell them, once you enter a US shipping address, it won't let you buy them. I've found a few on Ebay (around $40, much more reasonable), but I felt slightly guilty when doing so because it's not entirely "legit."

But despite the difficulty of getting ahold of them and the absurd prices, I love Empreinte bras. In fact, they're really the only bras I wear regularly. For me, Empreinte is just that good.

My boobs are full on the bottom and not at all on on the top, and they're pretty wide set. With my shape, I'm most comfortable in an unpadded, molded cup. I'm a 30E, and because I'm lazy (or live an exciting life? ha), I also prefer a versatile bra that can fit situations from everyday workwear to sexy scenarios. I've owned three Empreinte styles, which all fit the description above. From Ebay I know Empreinte also makes non-molded bras, but I've never owned or seen them in a store, so this is by no means a comprehensive brand overview; it's more like a love letter to the bra brand that changed my life. 

Since Empreinte is shrouded in mystery, I'm not sure about their size range. The bras I've seen on Ebay generally start around a C cup and go up as high as an F or FF, and range from a 30 back to a 38 or so. That's not definitive, though. I also don't know, because none of the bras I own have appeared on their bizarrely un-navigable website, what the model/style names for any of my bras are. I own (and occasionally wear!) a couple of Freya Decos, which is a fairly well-known style, so I will use the Deco as a point of comparison to my molded Empreinte bras.

The main reason I like Empreintes as an everyday bra is they give a well-supported shape that is at the same time very natural. Compared to a Deco, my Empreinte molded bras are made of a thinner foam and lack push-up properties. In a Deco, my boobs are held in close to my chest, and they're pushed up and together, giving me a TON of cleavage from the front, but making my boobs appear smaller from the side--the "purple shape".

By contrast, my cleavage in the Empreinte is subtle, and from the side my boobs look more like the size they actually are, but still have a rounded shape. Overall, it closely matches the natural state of my boobs while providing support--more like the "green shape", which I prefer. In the following photo, the left shows an Empreinte bra, while the right shows a Deco, both in a 30E. You can see the Deco gives much less projection.

I wear the same size in the Empreinte as I do in the Deco, and I don't quite fill out the top of the Empreinte cups, which means there is room for people with fuller-on-top boobs. But if you're between band sizes in the Deco and wear the tighter of two possible bands, I would go up one band size (and down one cup size) in the Empreinte.

I also think Empreinte bras are really beautiful and sexy. I've had three different designs: one that was black with a subtle pattern of black glitter; a second that was white with a pattern of black pansies:

... and a third, which I own in both black and white, is a solid colored bra with a flower detail attached to the left strap and the center gore:

I love the subtle design details that keep all three of these styles interesting and beautiful even though they are overall basic. I particularly like the straps on the third model; they are thinner than the Deco's and look delicate, but they aren't too delicate to provide support.

The place where Empreinte bras really stand out, though, is their incredibly high quality and long-lasting construction. Remember the bra I bought for $279 and couldn't afford another for two years? I wore that bra every single day for that almost-two-year period. Not only did it hold up for 600+ wears but it continued to support me surprisingly well even when I shrank a band size. What that means is the band is high enough quality to not stretch out over a period of many wears. That, or the Empreinte manufacturers made a deal with the devil to produce magical always-supportive bras.

I cringe to recommend to others a bra that costs $279 retail. That's just plain expensive, and I was incredibly lucky to be able to afford it. But if you are able to put together the cash upfront, I do think the Empreinte comes out to be a solidly cost-effective purchase, given how long it lasts. It's also versatile, going from office wear to lounging at home to a date to even low-impact exercise (yoga or low-impact dance), so it allowed me to get away with owning only one bra. Then there are the hidden costs, like back pain and low self esteem, that for me still come with other bras that aren't as well constructed. So while I've had flirtations with other bras (Freya, Panache, an ill-considered fling with a Masquerade), I always come back to the Empreinte. If you see one on Ebay in your size or if you have some cash to spare at one of the "certified retailers," definitely consider giving it a try.

Friday, 11 January 2013

Pepperberry Has Problems, Part 2

Time for some good old-fashioned hating on the biggest full-bust clothing brand! Now, Pepperberry, you know I love you and what you do, but sometimes you just frustrate me so much…

Why are there no buttons on the bottom part of this cardigan?

Cable Knit Cardigan
Really, for £39 (on sale from £49) I daresay you could at least slap some on there, even if you leave them unbuttoned for the product photo.

Is it just me or does the decoration on this top look like a line of people with very small heads holding hands? I just can’t get over it.

Slub Jersey Tunic 
And Pepperberry, why so much BLING????

Beaded Flapper Dress
Embellished Check Top
Beaded Detail Tunic
Jewel Neck Top
Deco Beaded Silk Dress
Embellished Tie Back Dress
Bling layered on other bling:

Beaded Knit Shrug
Petal Trim Dress
Lurex Swing Dress
The Border Print Cotton Dress, otherwise demure, features sneaky surprise sequins woven into the skirt:

Border Print Cotton Dress
Quoted from reviews of the Stripe Sun Top: "There's too much bling on the front and it's just big and fluffy!" "Also not a huge fan of all the spanglies around the collar, but that's just my personal taste."

Stripe Sun Top
Now, I like a little sparkle as much as the next girl, but the vast proportion of blinged-out Pepperberry clothing continues to alarm me. I’m surprised they haven’t yet started to weave sequins into their collared shirts. But somehow, still no sequined bras from sister company Bravissimo! This is just reversed and wrong and I would like a sequined bra, please. Bras are sequins’ natural home.

Finally, Pepperberry, WHY this print? Why?

Abstract Print Kimono Dress
And make sure to notice that this top features a fake cami to make up for the too-low-cut construction!

Saturday, 5 January 2013

Ewa Michalak "HM Gold" Review

You might remember my review of Ewa Michalak’s HM Granatowy Motyl. That was my first Ewa bra, and I was impressed with the uplift of the vertical seam structure, which suits my shape well, and the technical brilliance of the band. But the 30GG I tried was too small in the cup, not surprising considering that’s a cup size smaller than I normally wear. I also felt the band was very firm even though the bra had been heavily used by its first owner, so I figured a 32GG (70GG) would be the best fit for me in the HM style from Ewa.

I didn’t order the HM Gold directly from Poland, but rather secondhand from an acquaintance, so I can’t report on the direct ordering process. I was excited to be able to get this bra for a reduced price and, in fact, to be able to get it at all, because the HM styles are fairly few and far between.

The fit of the cups is great. I also like the shape from the side. It's a classic half-cup bra shape, the same shape I get in the Cleo Juna-style bras (like the Rihanna, reviewed here and the Sadie, reviewed here) as well as the Curvy Kate Showgirl bras (reviewed here). It's very rounded, with not much forward projection. This shape tends to look like it is pointing down a bit on boobs that have a lot of upper fullness and not much lower fullness. I don't mind this very much because this mirrors the actual shape of my breasts.

As a vertical-seamed half-cup bra, it does tend to enhance center heaviness, uplifting the boobs so dramatically that they end up pushed to the middle with a very bulky cleavage. You can see that happening in the front view, but the effect is not nearly as dramatic here as with the Curvy Kate Showgirl bras, so I feel more comfortable using this one as an everyday bra. I believe the reason for the diminished center-heaviness is the triangular panel that connects the straps to the cup. 

Widening the strap at the point where it connects to the cup allows the strap to provide some lift that pulls outwards, away from the center and toward the shoulders. It helps to balance the shape of the cups.

As someone who can’t stand to wear padded bras, the sheer lace cups are really nice. I imagine I would feel very overexposed if I was used to a greater level of coverage, but I really like the fact that it feels very light and insignificant in the cups, like I’m barely wearing anything. And because the fabric is very lightweight and has the slightest stretch, it forms to my shape rather than cutting in.

On to the negatives… unfortunately, the band on the HM Gold has utterly lost all the technical genius that the band on the HM Granatowy Motyl has. The Motyl’s band sits at a lower angle, wonderfully eliminating discomfort and bulges:

It is also thick (3 hooks) and made of a heavy, extremely stretchy material. It’s the best bra band I’ve ever experienced.

I was really disappointed that the HM Gold (a later bra) no longer features this glorious band. Instead, it has a band that’s basically the equivalent of a Cleo band—2 hooks, too thin, and sitting at too high of an angle. It’s made of a scratchy mesh instead of the wonderful soft material of the Motyl’s band.

The HM Gold’s band also runs very tight. The 70 band (theoretically the equivalent of a UK 32 band) measures 25 inches unstretched, and stretches to 32.5 inches. For comparison, a Cleo Lucy with a 30 band (one size 'smaller') measures 25.5 inches unstretched and 34 inches stretched.  So the HM Gold is both tighter (even though it’s a 32) and less stretchy than my usual bras. Running small isn’t a huge issue because I could always just try a larger size, but I hate bra bands with so little stretch. Whether they are too big, too small, or just right, they never feel good, and they always cut in and cause unattractive bulging. So far, I haven’t made a final decision on whether this (and the narrowness and bad angle of the band) ruin the bra for me. I wore it a few days in a row before Christmas and ended up in such pain and frustration that I started to hate my boobs again. When I stopped wearing it, everything felt better. I am going to try it with an extender and see if that helps; otherwise it may be best to avoid wearing it two days in a row.

The HM Gold is definitely a great bra cups-wise, but the band is a serious drawback, and I’m not ultimately sure whether I feel positive or negative about it. Of course, bras tend to be a situation where a draw is the same as a loss. I personally wouldn’t buy another HM bra unless I was sure it had the nice, thick, stretchy kind of band that the HM Motyl has, and not the thin, rigid kind that the HM Gold has. If readers are looking to buy it, I would definitely recommend sizing up in the band unless you like a really tight, firm band without much stretch, in which case this bra may be your dream come true. Cups-wise, I wear the equivalent of the same cup size in the HM bras by Ewa Michalak that I wear in Cleo (32GG for Ewa, 30H for Cleo; I wear a cup size bigger than that in Curvy Kate and Bravissimo bras). The HM style is very open on top and so it's well suited to those who struggle to find bras that don't cut in on the top edge.