Monday 28 November 2011

Versace, Keep Your Size Prejudice Out of my H&M!

Once in a while I feel a need to hate on something other than frumpy bras and inept drivers/pedestrians, and when I do, it’s usually high fashion. As a disclaimer, I really am no expert on the topic. I mostly wear black, white and gray. In fact, I don’t even spend time trying to dress properly for my giant boobs. I just wear stretchy, tight clothing and throw on a cardigan if I start to feel like I’m offending people. My bra straps are usually hanging out. I like to think that I usually look vaguely normal for a college student, but I don’t think I ever look “on trend.”

Now that you know this, check out these bizarre pieces from Versace's collection for H&M! I personally do not know anyone who would feel a need to own these items for the low, low price of £99. That first one looks kinda like an apron to me (it's supposedly a shirt/skirt set). 

I kind of resent this invasion of a store I like by the mystifyingly overpriced, postmodern, mind-boggling experience that is Fashion. Fair enough, though--I'm sure there are plenty of fun, vibrant people who could pull off these pieces. I am sure there are lots of customers who won’t mind paying about five times more than what H&M clothes usually cost. In fact, people's desperation to do so has apparently led to bloodshed! So I guess I can't complain about the collection itself. My real problem is that I don’t want this normal store, which sells plenty of different sizes, to suddenly start endorsing the sizeist rhetoric of high fashion that makes women all over the world feel like crap about themselves. 

Here’s what happened: H&M, which kindly caters for more than one body type (though to be fair you wouldn’t know it from their web photos) tried to get Versace to let them model the collection on “real” women, that is, up to a size 6. Donatella Versace apparently threw a hissy fit because people that “large” cannot be allowed to represent her brand. That doesn’t exactly answer the question of why she sells her weird clothes in this size if it is so important that only size 0s wear them, but it also makes me wonder why people are still allowing her to perpetrate this idea. Please can we just be over this glorification of small women over all other women? If fashion is about pushing boundaries and celebrating extremes then why don’t we see the same number of curvy and plus size women on the runway? Who, exactly, has the self-confidence to shop a collection when they know the clothes are only “supposed” to be worn by the skinniest of supermodels?

Here’s one of the articles about Donatella’s freakout. There’s also a more scornful account, with more cursing, here.The best part is the comment pointing out that Donatella Versace really just looks like Keith Richards in a wig.  Mean but true. 

If anything, her massive amounts of plastic surgery prove that she has a great deal of body image issues of her own which might cause her to lash out at other women. But I’m still disgusted by what she stands for.

Sunday 27 November 2011

Bravissimo's Parisian Plume and Demi Diva Review

I tried Bravissimo’s half-cup Demi Diva when it first came out in black last year, and I literally thought it was the most ridiculous looking bra I had ever seen. I mean, when they said half-cup they REALLY meant half-cup—it just went completely straight across my boobs, in comparison to how it dips down in the center on this rather inaccurate website photo.

Of course, I had always suspected that I would have liked the Demi Diva more if I'd tried it in a big enough size. Having tried on the new red Demi Diva in a larger size, I can say for sure that I just tried a size too small last time. The new red Demi Diva is also marketed a bit more accurately in their online photos:

I’m still not a fan of how high the center gore is on this bra (it would show above a lot of necklines I wear) but it seems like it needs to be that high for this particular shape and cut. And the shape is really good—very rounded, and it definitely minimizes the size of one’s boobs by keeping them so contained.

I did not, however, like the way they failed to continue the texture/pattern on the side support panel. I really don't think it would have been that hard to continue the stripes, especially as this panel took up about a third of the cup. 

The Parisian Plume bra is basically the same bra as the Demi Diva, but padded. I wore the same size in both and they gave the same rounded, minimized shape, although I think the center gore was even higher on the Parisian Plume. I was happy to see that this version of the bra is marketed accurately on their website; as you can see it looks more or less the same on me as it does on the model.

My overall feelings on this bra are positive. Although the super high center gore and unpatterned side support panel sort of put me off it, the shape means it would be perfect for tight but not super-low-cut clothes. And because it does sort of put boobs more in proportion rather than emphasizing their size, it might be good for… work? I feel silly saying that since so many people would consider this a bedroom bra, but it’s definitely one of those Ninja bras that looks fancy but is also practical. And this is definitely not a bra that's going to give you extra cleavage. 

It’s awesome that Bravissimo makes one version of this half-cup padded and the other unpadded, because many people have a strong preference for one or the other and this shape and cut of bra is accessible to both. Bravissimo seems to have really put some thought and energy into designing this bra. What's more, it's actually innovative; there aren't any other bras in these sizes that are made in this style. So if you find you don't mind the look of the center gore, I'd say this is a really worthwhile bra to try out.

Edited to include: Having talked to a few other people who have tried these bras, I've learned that some people don't fit into both--seems like the Demi Diva is an easier fit while the Parisian Plume has a shape that's wrong for some and ran small on some shapes. I guess I just lucked out for once with the shapes of both working for me!
So I just want to note that although the styles are very similar in construction, the difference in padding can make a big difference in fit, so it's worth trying both of them to see if one or both will work.

Wednesday 23 November 2011

Bra Bands: In Which I Have A Lot Of Feelings

As we know, the band of the bra is supposed to provide the vast majority of the support, not the straps. That’s why it’s important to make sure your band isn’t too loose, and it’s the element of bra sizing that’s most important to not compromise on.

So why do I find myself gazing longingly at 30HH bras on ebay when I know I measure 27.5 inches around my underbust and should wear a 28J?

It’s because I’m so sick of my bras hurting me. And I remember that back when I wore a 30, they never hurt. But it’s the not the bras that changed, it’s me—I lost some weight around my ribcage and now there is nothing to cushion me from the underwires sitting right on my bones. These are my scars:

Not so sexy. And that's after NOT wearing a bra for a few hours. Please, bra manufacturers, do something about this! Lots of people, and not just in 28 and 30 band sizes, don’t have enough natural padding around their ribcage to protect them from the hard metal wires that are covered by nothing more than a single layer of fabric. By the end of the day, I feel like my bra is attacking me. But if I wear a band that’s too loose to avoid this, I get back pain from supporting the weight of my boobs.

Totally exposed.

This awesome blog post lists some of the features the author misses from her days of wearing Victoria’s Secret bras before she knew her size. I’m so with her. All I want right now is a super-soft, laser-cut Secret Embrace bra with the underwire completely encased in a comfortable foam channel. I just want it in my size. I truly think the cool pseudo-scientific bells and whistles Victoria's Secret uses in their bra construction are the reason lots of women are unwilling to switch to their "real" size even when they know it--because brands for D+ women don't bother to do any of that stuff (some brands do a little, but none past a G cup). 

Check out that concealed underwire!
Another problem, wonderfully documented here, is the rise of looser and looser bands. In my experience that’s how bra-hating starts: you find your 30s are riding up your back…you go down to a 28…that pushes you over the edge in cup-size suddenly find yourself relegated to a few boring styles, mostly in basic colors…you long to return to the happy land of 30 inch bands and OPTIONS.

The whole situation depresses me a lot. It's obviously something that D+ bra manufacturers put on the back burner as they think instead about fashion. Personally, I'd sacrifice a years' worth of floral patterns just to have a little more thought put into softening up the bands and underwires. It would make me so much more excited to put a bra on in the morning, and a little less excited to take it off at night.

Saturday 19 November 2011

Why Doesn't Freya Think We're Sexy?

Have you ever been looking at a cute bra for sale online and noticed these words: “Additional lining in GG-J cups for extra support”?

The phrase seems harmless, but beware those words if you’re hoping to purchase the bra you actually see in the pictures. Check out the difference the additional lining makes in the appearance of the Freya Arabella, a bra practically mythologized for its sexy sheerness:

It’s still a cute bra with the extra lining, but the fact is that the lined version looks JUST LIKE EVERY OTHER BRA made for GG-J. It loses the one feature that makes the Arabella distinct: its sheerness.

The same is true of Freya’s Eleanor bra of a few seasons back...

...and the Lyla, which I already decried here for its inadequate size range. Bravissimo is kind enough to feature a picture of the double-lined version in their catalogue, but there is NO photo of it on their website, so I dug one up.

Looks like a totally different bra, doesn't it?
I know what they’d say in their defense: the extra lining is necessary to provide the support needed by GG+ cups. Here’s why that’s bullshit:

        1. Since cup sizes change proportionally to band sizes, a 30GG (which would get the extra lining) is the SAME CUP SIZE as the 32G (which would not get the extra lining). The ONLY DIFFERENCE between those sizes is the band. If the unlined version can support a 38G, it would also be able to support up to a 28JJ. I keep waiting for bra manufacturers to pay some attention to this fact. Do they just not know about it?
        2.  Even more significantly, the extra lining does not give extra support. Want to know how I know that? Back in the day, I was the proud owner of a 30GG Arabella that had the extra lining. It bothered me that I couldn’t wear the bra as it was designed (sheer) so I simply cut out the opaque inner lining. It wasn’t too hard, I just had to cut carefully to avoid puncturing the outer mesh. When I was done, the bra looked just like the D-G sheer version--AND it still gave the exact same level of shape and support. The outer see-through mesh on the Arabella has NO STRETCH WHATSOEVER, so it can support the structure of the bra all on its own. The inner lining, on the other hand, has slight 2-directional stretch; the only function it serves is visual.

So if the additional lining doesn’t provide any extra support in GG-J cups, why do they put it in? Well, I suspect it’s because Freya thinks women with GG-J cup boobs wouldn’t want a sheer bra—for the same reason they refuse to make longline bras, padded plunges, and most of their cuter designs in those cup sizes even though every other similar company does. They just seem to think that boobs that big wouldn’t look nice in their fancier designs—that boobs that big shouldn’t need anything other than the basics. Well, I think they’re wrong. As a J-cup, I do want a sheer bra; I think it would look just as good on me as it would on an F-cup. The upper cup sizes really do deserve to have the same cute options as the lower cup sizes, even if there is a slightly smaller group of customers that needs those sizes.  Shouldn’t we all get to be a little impractical with our lingerie once in a while?

Friday 18 November 2011

Bravissimo's Lola Luxe Basque and My No-Good Day

So there’s this thing that happens to me a lot. I go into a shop. I try on a bunch of things that make me look weird and feel like crap. Then I’ll manage to find one thing that makes me look good. Filled with gratitude and relief, I’ll buy this one item at any price, without even considering whether I really want or need it.

It happened to me the first time I went to Bravissimo, when I bought the only thing that fit me, the Panache Melody. It’s a comfortable bra and gives good shape under clothes, but frankly I think it looks extremely hideous on me. The worst part? I could have bought three bras I’d really love on for the price of this one mediocre bra at Bravissimo.

Yesterday, I went to Bravissimo again, because I wanted to try on the Lola Luxe basque

I’ve never seen a basque that came in a 28J before and the whole idea kind of excited me; it seemed sexy and fun. But I couldn’t really think of anything that I would USE a basque for. So when I went to try it on, I really just wanted to satisfy my curiosity, and see if it was any good.

Well, it IS good! It’s great. It looked awesome on me. I felt awesome. I reminded myself I didn’t need to own it, snapped a few photos, and went to try on the rest of the bras they brought me.

Some were okay. Most were quite hideous. I’ll share my feelings on those bras in later posts.

My disgust with how I looked in the hideous bras made me reconsider the Lola Luxe basque. I felt so pretty when I had it on! It made me feel good! I needed to feel good! I brought it out to the women working in the dressing rooms and said “I really like this, but I just don’t know when I would wear it.” Partly, I wanted them to talk me out of it. But partly, I wanted them to REALLY TALK ME INTO IT—make me realize how many uses I could get out of the product, inspire me. They didn’t really do that. They said stuff about how some people use it as shapewear, how I could wear it under a shirt, how it would last for years. I tuned them out. I figured at this point it would be rude to refuse to buy it. I bought it.

On my budget, this basque is NOT something that I can comfortably afford. So instead of feeling happy, like I’d treated myself to something luxurious, I felt stressed out, desperate to reassure myself that I hadn’t stupidly wasted my money. At the same time, I wanted to think of a reason to keep it, because I wish I had the sort of budget that would allow me to own this just because it looked good on me, and for no reason other than that.

Instead I keep trying to think of practical uses for it. I thought it might be good under tight shirts because it wouldn’t leave any bulges from the back band. Nope—the boning shows under shirts. Then, in a fit of insanity, I decided to CUT THE BONING OUT. I tried it on again with a shirt. The channels where the boning went showed up just as much as they had before. What’s more, the non-removable suspender clips hang down far enough to show under the skirts I wear, and they look lumpy because ALL MY CLOTHES ARE TIGHT.

I started to really, really regret cutting the boning out. If I hadn’t cut it, if I could just have thought ahead a little, and been sensible, I could have just returned the basque, admitted my mistake, and saved myself the money I couldn’t afford to spend. But once again I thought it would be rude and awkward, that they’d be sad if I returned it, that they’d go out of business because of customers like me. GO OUT OF BUSINESS?? Bravissimo is a HUGE company. I’m too used to tiny boutiques in America that actually WILL go out of business if their customers are too finicky.

Now I’m being forced to face the fact that I can’t return the basque. I own it forever now. And I can’t wear it under my clothes; I can’t wear it to class. I still don’t know when I could wear it, and it’s really difficult for me to get used to the idea of owning a product with such limited uses. But that’s what I’m going to have to do. I’m feeling grumpy, annoyed with myself. The basque does look good on me. I felt so good that first time I saw myself in it. Now I just feel guilty when I put it on. I’ve shoved it into a dark corner of my closet until a time when I’m ready to face owning it. 

Tuesday 15 November 2011

Taking My Boobs to France

       When I went on a school trip to France in 11th grade, the (rather strict, and not at all French) French teacher who led the trip felt a need to relentlessly prepare us for the world of thievery and judgment that was supposedly France. Among her vendettas? “I don’t want to see any cleavage! Cleavage is not acceptable in French culture! Not an inch of skin!”
              Frankly I still have no idea if this is true or not; I suspect not, and I’m pretty sure there are prudes in every culture who dislike seeing cleavage on total strangers. But at the time, I didn’t want to make waves or send the wrong impression, so I packed my most hideous, frumpy clothes. I simply didn’t own anything that I felt cute in where I could guarantee NO glimpse of cleavage. Even in a well fitted, FULL-CUP bra, there always seemed to be a few inches escaping. So I only packed clothes in which I felt uncomfortable and unattractive.

                 I also brought a selection of hideous scarves, which I tied around my neck to hide any errant cleavage that might escape. I love scarves now, but back then I didn’t know what kind to buy or how to tie them, so the overall effect was quite unfashionable. Now I look back and regret taking the teacher so seriously; no one else took her seriously. I wish I’d had the courage to pack the clothes I felt the happiest in, even if my boobs were hanging out, because it would have felt extra-nice to feel beautiful in France.

             My flatmates and I just booked tickets for a trip to Paris in January. As we did, I felt a thrill of excitement knowing that this time around I'm old enough to make my own choices about how I present myself. I'm going to pack the clothes I feel the most comfortable in, and yeah, that's probably going to include a little bit of cleavage.

Friday 11 November 2011

Panache "Confetti" Review

Panache's Confetti bra is discontinued and has been for a couple of years. But I decided to do a review of it for two reasons—first, it is still widely available on eBay, and second, it’s the bra against which I judge all other bras.

When I first ordered the Confetti, I had been wearing exclusively the Panache Harmony, which I’ll review in a later post, for about a year. Although the Harmony is a reasonably good fit on me, I was much more impressed by the fit and shape of the Confetti. Even my boyfriend declared that it suited me much better than the Harmony. You know you’re obsessed with bras when the males in your life can rattle off the specifics of a good fit!

I love the rounded shape the Confetti gives me. I have found very few non-molded/non-padded bras that give a shape this good, and since I prefer non-padded bras, it immediately became a favorite. It gives me the same shape as the legendary Freya Deco, but with a better fit in my size. I also love the fact that the Confetti isn’t “a lot of bra.” It looks really good even in the highest cup sizes. The Confetti is very low cut--the center gore is an inch shorter than the one on the Curvy Kate Ella. And because there is no seam or ribbon across the top of the cup, I still fit well into a 28HH in the Confetti, despite needing a 28J in nearly all Cleo and Curvy Kate bras.

Unfortunately, there is one big problem with the Confetti which is the only reason I haven’t kept ordering more and more of them—it doesn’t have a very tight band. Part of the reason for this is that I wore it so often over the summer and wore it out, but that was only a few months. For the sake of wanting the bra to last longer, I would go down a band size if I could.

I really believe the Panache Confetti is one of the best bras for larger cup sizes that’s ever been produced. The wires aren’t quite as wide as on the Harmony or Melody, so even if you don’t normally get on well with Panache, this might be a great bra to try out, especially if you find it for a good price on eBay.

Thursday 10 November 2011

Some Repetition from Cleo

I might be going crazy, but doesn’t the new Cleo “Bonnie”…

…look strangely similar to the recent Cleo “Lucy”?

I mean, they’re both really cute but... they couldn't make a green bra or something?

Monday 7 November 2011

Freya "Lyla": Another Sad Sizing Story

I was just enjoying looking through blog posts on some of my favorite blogs Invest In Your Chest and Fuller Figure Fuller Bust about a lingerie show featuring Freya bras, among other brands. As I made overly clear in my earlier post Why I Hate Freya, I am not the biggest fan of Freya bras overall . But when I caught a glimpse of the new version of the Lyla in this Hazelnut shade, I fell in love.

Something about this color just sings to me—it’s so warm and unusual. I love the idea of sheer bras, they’re sexy and elegant at the same time. And the design on this bra looks like POPPIES and SNOWFLAKES. I have wanted a snowflake bra since the tender age of fourteen.

I got all excited, thinking I would buy this bra when it comes out, since I knew the Lyla goes up to a J cup and I would need a 28J. But then suddenly I got a nagging feeling that I was getting my hopes up only to be let down…

Well, I was right! Here’s the size range. I literally did a double take of unpleasant shock when I saw it. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a size range so inclusive in most band sizes while being so severely limited in a 28. Hats off to you, Freya, for once more making me feel like I don’t exist.

Thursday 3 November 2011

Curvy Kate Conclusions

Curvy Kate says in their press that all their bras are sized the same—that once you know your size in one, you can just buy that size in all the others. This is partly true. Their unpadded bras all have the same three-piece design, so it’s not the same crapshoot you’ll sometimes experience navigating the disparate styles offered by other brands. But from trying on most of the styles they sell, I can report that the different bras Curvy Kate sells do differ in terms of the fit. I expect this is based on the different amount of stretch in the different fabrics.

I don’t think this is a bad thing at all, though! I’m glad that the bras vary slightly because if they all fit exactly like the Princess or the Portia, I wouldn’t be able to wear them. If they all fit like the Ella or the Angel, someone who fits better in the Princess might not be able to wear them. So even if you’re one of those people who, like me, didn’t have any luck with your first Curvy Kate attempt, I would recommend another try. Curvy Kate is definitely the most progressive lingerie brand for bigger boobs, and I’m happy to support them by buying their bras. Although not all of their styles fit me, I know they’ll never leave me out in the cold by refusing to produce my size. There isn’t any other brand I can say that about.

That said, there are some other bras that I truly love, as well as some other bras that I truly hate. Now that I’ve finished my Curvy Kate reviews for the moment, I’m going to start reviewing the Panache and Cleo bras that I own, and other bras (including Freya and Fantasie) that I’ve owned in the past or have tried on but never bought. I’m hoping this can be a resource for people ordering bras from the US and hoping to get the right size/style the first time. I’m also planning some posts on body image and the ups and downs of living with big boobs. Feel free to contact me if you've ever hated a bra and want to rant about it :)

Wednesday 2 November 2011

Curvy Kate "Princess" Review

This is going to be a depressing review because the “Princess” is one of the most beautiful bras I’ve ever seen. I wanted so badly for it to fit me. I love all the colors it’s come in, I love the velvet polka dots, I love the floral details.

Unfortunately, I’d had bad luck with the “Princess” previously and had more bad luck with my recent orders. The first time I tried the “Princess,” I went for a 28HH, which is the size I wear in the Panache “Harmony” and “Confetti.” It was literally the tightest bra I’d ever attempted to attach to my body. I like a tighter band, but combined with the too-small cups, I could barely breathe in the thing. It also looked pointy and downward-pointing on the part of my boobs it did cover. I figured there was no way I could alter it to fit me, so I sadly sent it back.

On my next attempt, I tried a 28J and 28JJ. Both had a band that felt like an average 28 band, not painfully tight like the first one I’d ordered. The 28JJ, in white, fit better in the cups, but looked a little more full-coverage than I wanted. It also didn’t give a good shape because I couldn’t tighten the straps as much as I needed to. Something to know about the “Princess” before ordering is that the straps are only half adjustable—the floral detailing is too thick to go through the metal bit. So although the 28JJ had the better fit in the cup, it didn't matter because I couldn't tighten the straps enough to get the proper lift.

The 28J basically fit me in the same red I’d failed with previously in a smaller size. I quickly realized, though, that it wasn’t going to work out between us. Though it seemed to fit when I first put it on, within minutes the 28J would slip down and start cutting into the top of my boobs, giving me quadraboob. After this shifting happened, the “Princess” started giving me a really pointy shape and I just knew that no matter how pretty it looked, I would never wear it because it ultimately wouldn’t make me feel good. Although there is nothing quite like the self-esteem boost that comes from putting on a beautiful bra, the feeling fades very quickly when the bra doesn’t suit your body.

The Princess clearly can give a great fit and shape on many people—I’ve read a lot of positive reviews where it looked brilliant on the reviewer—but here’s some depressing proof that it’s not for everyone. Specifically, I’d say to beware the “Princess” if your boobs are full on top. It has very little “give” in it, and the line of stiff floral lace across the top of the cup is especially challenging. I would also suggest that someone who usually needs to tighten their straps more than halfway should pick a different Curvy Kate bra. This is the only Curvy Kate bra that doesn’t have fully adjustable straps.

But then again, it’s so pretty… maybe you will want to try it for yourself anyway. I certainly did.

Check out the alterations I did on the Princess to make it fit me in this post.