Monday 30 January 2012

Sometimes Panache Drives Me Crazy

I’m having a bad bra day today. I’m beginning to realize that I never wear my Curvy Kate bras. I don’t like the shape they give; it’s too much like the blue shape in my past post. This goes against the natural shape of my boobs, which isn't very comfortable, so I never reach for them--I usually reach for my Panache bras instead. Realizing this, I went out in search of some more Panache bras I could buy, but I hadn’t realized what a wasteland their new collection would be for me.

Here’s what they’ve got: The Sienna, a wonderful bra which I already own, which comes in just one color.

The Melody, which is an okay bra; I might buy it again in this nice pink color, but it’s not awesome.

These bras give a good shape because they have the construction shown on the left in the diagram below--the outside bottom section comes up diagonally across the cups. Because it meets the straps directly, it gives more lift from the bottom and also helps keep the boobs out of the armpits.

In the shape on the right, on the other hand, the outer bottom section does not come up to meet the strap. The result is a shape that is less compact, lower-slung, and often fairly pointy, even sometimes pointing in different directions--the east-west look. It's an older, less engineered construction, one which Panache continues to use for a dizzying number of their styles.

For instace, the dubious Tango, multiply available this season in Really Boring, A Bit Boring, and Has Cool Satin Bits On It But Still The Same Bra Really. Compare the lift and shape the black Tango Classic gives, below, to the shape the Sienna gives, at the top of the post--it's the same model.

Then there's the uncomfortable Eliza, perfectly constructed to give no uplift at all.

The Andorra, which I know is popular; it is constructed like the Eliza but with the addition of side panels which I’m not convinced would really help give any lift or shape. I’ve never tried it, though, so I can’t disparage it. There’s also this other sort of dull bra (the Emily) that’s made the same way, with the side panels.

A few molded T-shirt bras with uninspiring size ranges.

The Ariza, which I’ve never tried; I know from the Eliza-like construction, though, that it won’t give much uplift. You can even see that it’s not giving any uplift on the model.

And then everything else in the collection is constructed in that SAME way!

Carmel--This one even looks like an angry Furby face!



Paloma--a bit of flame on the pants there...

Eden--Slightly different but still no cigar!

None of them except the Melody and Sienna have bottom sections that come up to meet the strap--the essential construction to give lift and round shape in a three-section cup. It’s like Panache is phasing out the rounder shape, in favor of the old-fashioned ballistic-missile shape. Why is this happening? Who is sitting in the boardroom making these choices? Is this really what the customer demands?

Tuesday 24 January 2012

Panache "Sienna" Review

In my opinion, Panache’s Sienna bra is one of their greatest triumphs. If you’ve had success with their other bras, then this bra will seem like heaven to you. Before anyone gets excited, though, here are two things to know:

It runs small in the cup. The specialty store I go to in the US always brings this bra to their customers in a cup size bigger than their normal size. I would similarly recommend that everyone go up one cup size in this bra. 

It doesn’t come in a 28 band. Sadly, this beautiful bra, which gives me the best shape of any bra I’ve ever worn, does not come in my actual size. Since it runs one cup size small, I’d want a 28JJ instead of my normal 28J; instead, I have to be satisfied with a 30J. I don’t like to advise “sister sizing” since it can cause back pain, so if you wear a 28 band normally, I’d only recommend getting this bra if you feel comfortable with the idea of altering the band later. I’ve started on the tightest hook, and as soon as it stretches out, I’ll need to take in the band.

That said, this bra is really beautiful. It’s popped up in various colors over the years…

…but I think this recent Navy/Plum color is the best I’ve seen.

This bra gives me the shape I consider ideal.

I love the fact that the overlay is a rich navy blue, rather than black, which can look flat next to other colors. The plum underneath is a beautiful satin—I just wish I could feel the texture of it. I also love the fact that the lace continues on the band. In general, the look of this bra is very luxurious and sophisticated, in contrast to the cute/fun bras I usually wear, so wearing it makes me feel like I'm doing something special for myself.

I like a round, compact shape to my boobs, and Panache is the brand that really knows how to deliver this. Sadly, they are also the brand that makes bras that are bewilderingly, almost criminally uncomfortable. The Sienna, like most Panache bras, has very wide underwires. After bending them into the shape of my body, I found the bra comfortable, except for one problem—the casing of the underwire is very stiff at the center gore, and since my boobs are close-set, it tends to poke a lot right at the top corners. This painful problem has lessened a lot with wear, but during an unfortunate incident when I slipped down some steps wearing my brand-new Sienna, the wire actually cut me a little. I know this wouldn’t have happened if not for the fall, but again, I have to ask if it is really necessary to make bras with materials that could draw blood in any situation.

Let’s just say, the Sienna is great enough that I’m willing to overlook the fact that it literally stabbed me. I can promise there is just about no other bra I would say that about. 

Thursday 19 January 2012

If Your Boobs Are Bigger Than Your Budget...

This is just part of my bra collection—as you can tell, I own way more bras than just the basics. Since I’m obsessed with lingerie, I tend to buy a lot of it, order a lot of it, return a lot of it, and keep a lot of it.

Unfortunately, as a student, I don’t have the biggest of budgets for this activity. And as you might have noticed, bras in bigger cup sizes have a nasty habit of being quite expensive at full price. So I sustain my lingerie buying partly by budgeting more in other areas, and partly by shopping around obsessively for the best available bargains. Here are my tips to get as much as you can of what you want while spending as little as possible. I've listed most of the prices in UK pounds, but my tips include what to do in the US. is a great source for bargains, especially if you just want a bra and don’t really care which bra. They have a range of prices, but everything is always discounted, and there are always at least a few bras under £10. The best thing about Brastop is that they have a huge number of styles and colors available even in very high cup sizes and very low back sizes.  Brastop is best for fashion colors of Curvy Kate bras from past seasons--the continuity colors don’t make it onto Brastop. If you want black, white, and nude, try their own brand, Flirtelle, which has the same fit as Curvy Kate. There are also some options from Panache, Freya, etc. They don’t sell out of sizes quickly, so you can really mull it over. And to get the most out of Brastop, you should wait for periodic free shipping or half-price international shipping. Unfortunately, you will have to pay your own return shipping costs, which is a major drag especially if you’re not in the UK. is a good source for discounted prices on current-season Curvy Kate bras and some sale prices on past-season bras, including Panache and Cleo. For some reason, the current collections of Curvy Kate always seem to be marked down to £18-£20, so if you can’t wait to have a new color or model, check here. They also have some crazy bargains on older stock, which will occasionally beat out Brastop—it’s worth comparing both. The best thing about Amazon is that they usually have free shipping and free returns on bras for UK addresses. But sadly, if you’re in the US, you can’t buy bras from Amazon even if you log onto their UK site—I don’t fully understand why, but some legal issue prevents them from shipping to the US. is another decent source for random sales on current lines. They don’t have a huge number of items in the upper size ranges, but there are a few, and I’ve found some good bargains on Cleo bras from them. They also offer free shipping in the UK. They do ship to the US too, but that will cost £10, which will probably cancel out any bargain you find. is always a great place to check. If you’re in the US, this is the site that will save you the most money on bras, even though most of the time you’ll still have to ship from the UK. Ebay sellers nearly always offer cheaper international shipping than you’ll find anywhere else—often just about £3. To get started, just search “bra” and your size—for instance, “bra 28J”. If you don’t want something used, look for items with “BNWT” (brand new with tags) in the title. You’ll usually find a selection of Panache, Cleo, Freya, and Fantasie bras, occasionally with some Curvy Kate thrown in there. These are generally sold by well-rated, established sellers and are either overstock, styles that never ended up getting produced, or factory seconds (bras that are slightly inconsistent in some way, but not damaged or useless). Keep in mind that certain bras seem to cycle through, so you might come up with six sellers stocking a red Freya Estelle but none stocking a purple Jolie, and then if you check a month later there will be nine purple Jolies. If you have a very small back/large cup, you will probably find mostly boring Panache styles in uninspired colors. But if you are willing to put up with this and keep searching, you can usually get bras for around £12-£15. There are also sellers who are just regular women like you, selling bras that don’t fit them right. These bras more often require bidding rather than Buy It Now, so I personally steer clear of them, but if you like bidding on eBay you can sometimes get a great bargain this way.

Edited to add: Leia Lingerie's Outlet section is usually the best place to buy Freya bras, often at really amazing discounts--some are under £10. Sometimes you can even find the matching panties for £3-£4, meaning you can ignore my warning below. Leia Lingerie also has Fantasie and Fauve items. Unfortunately, they only ship to the UK and because of the form you have to fill out with your billing address, it can be tricky to use a US credit card even if you're living in the UK, so it's best to have a UK card along with your UK address.

My final tip for a low-budget lingerie obsession is to not buy the matching underwear. Even on deep discount, these undies are usually never less than £6. If you’re willing to poke around you can get at least 2 or 3 pairs for that price. In the US, Victoria’s Secret 5 for $25.50 panties are amazing, especially the ones with lace around the waist. You can save even more if you buy single pairs at Marshall’s, TJ Maxx (that’s TK Maxx for you UK ladies), and those somewhat trashy-looking mall clothing stores with neon lighting. I know some people like to have sets that match perfectly, but if you don’t mind trying something new, it can be quite fun to do some shopping around for fun colors and patterns that coordinate and nearly match. Since underwear is a wear-once-before-washing type of item, you might find that it’s more fun to favor quantity over quality here.

Tuesday 17 January 2012

Curvy Kate "Portia" Review (Again)

When I tried Curvy Kate's Portia bra last time, I was dissatisfied with the shape it gave and how much of my chest it covered. But since I had tried it in a 28JJ and 28K, I decided to have a go at a few smaller sizes. I ordered a 28J, my regular Curvy Kate size, and also a 28HH since the Portia is more stretchy than the Angel or Princess bras.

The difference between the two sizes was startling and hilarious. One friend who saw the difference suggested that this image should be put up on the wall of lingerie fitting rooms everywhere! What a difference a cup size makes!

Left, 28HH, Right, 28J
The 28HH was much too small, but the 28J was a good fit on me, so I guess Curvy Kate is right when they suggest that most people can wear the same size across the board in all their styles—the more I try their bras, the more I realize it’s mostly true. (I still ought to size up in the Angel, but I don’t HAVE to, and the Princess runs a little smaller too.)

The Portia has more of a V-neck appearance from the front, especially compared to the Cleo Lucy that I got around the same time. So the center gores are about the same, but the Portia has more fabric coming up across the boobs. This bothers me less and less as I get more used to my boobs, but as little as a few months ago, this extra fabric would have been the bane of my existence, so if you dislike “a lot of bra”, Panache is still a better bet than Curvy Kate:

Curvy Kate Portia versus...

...Cleo Lucy.
I also found the shape couldn’t beat my Cleo bras. 

Curvy Kate Portia versus...

...Cleo Lucy.
The Portia gives a fairly rounded shape, but doesn't lift as much as the Lucy, and more of the weight is remaining at the bottom of the bra--you can see how the Portia's cup hangs over the underwire the tiniest bit. But it isn't an awful or embarrassing shape, quite decent really, and the bra itself is beautiful, a lot more attractive than my white Cleo Lucy, and much prettier than the Portia in black.

I think the third photo is the best evidence of both my likes and dislikes regarding this bra. You can really see the pretty colors and delicate embroidery, and the thin but well-made straps. But you can also see how large the upper section looks, and how the bra isn't lifting as much as I'd like. I wasn’t exactly blown away by this bra, but now that I’ve found my correct size, I want to withdraw the negative review I gave the Portia before. Now I’d say, if you like Curvy Kate bras or want to give them a try, this is one of the prettier ones. It's worth a shot if you like the look of it. 

Sunday 15 January 2012

What To Do With Those Pesky Wide Underwires

When I talked about breast/bra shapes, I mentioned that wider underwires can be used to create an hourglass shape from the front that looks more minimized from the side. Not everyone seeks this shape, but for those who do, wider underwires are a pretty easy way to achieve it. They’re also good to wear if some of your breast tissue has gotten squashed into your armpit through years of wearing poorly-fitted bras. What's more, if you wear a very high cup size, you may find that ALL bras have wide underwires whether you want them or not.

But you may be left disappointed because wide underwires can be SO PAINFUL! When you buy a bra, the underwires are flat—you may have read articles expressing frustration with the fact that women aren’t shaped like this:

The thing is, although women are not triangular, they also aren’t flat across the front:

 The flat shape of underwires is all wrong for the curved shape of a human torso. If you find your underwires cut into your sides or the front of your ribs, there’s a miracle fix—just bend your underwires into the shape of your body. You’ll probably experience amazing relief in the way your bra feels around your body. You also may become enraged that bra manufacturers never thought of doing this simple favor for their customers.

How do to it:

Put on your bra and find the point on the bottom of the underwire where your torso begins to curve back around.

Take off the bra, and bend the wire at that point. You do have to use a bit of force to bend it so the metal will keep the shape, but be slow and gentle—you don’t want to bend too much at one point. Keep moving along the wire and bending, so the curve will be gentle. You don't actually have to curve the underwire very much to make a difference. Only about this much:

Now, try on the bra again. If the front section now feels unnaturally flat, you can add a slight curve to that by gently bending it. If the underwires now cut in between your boobs or on your sides, you can also very slightly bend out the last inch or two, so it will no longer poke you.

Now your bra is shaped like a person!

A few words of caution: I do this to all my bras and I have never had any problems with underwires breaking or slipping out. But it is definitely an alteration that you do at your own risk; make sure you are totally set on keeping the bra before bending the underwires, since you may not be able to bend them back if you change your mind and want to return it. Also, there may be some bras out there that have underwires that wouldn’t bend, but would break. According to my experience, you should be fine doing this with any Curvy Kate, Panache, and Freya bras, at least. Finally, although I think it MIGHT be possible to bend the underwires on a molded bra (I’ve never tried it), this fix is best suited to non-padded styles.

Friday 13 January 2012

Cleo "Lucy" Review

I’m planning to do more reviews of bras in the new year. I’ll focus, of course, on bras available in small band sizes and up to the highest cup sizes, since that’s what I have to wear. I’ll start with one of the few bras I like enough to own in multiple colors, the Cleo Lucy. It's a bra that I really appreciate while still having some grievances with it. I still consider the Cleo Lucy to be the closest I’ve come to that elusive "perfect bra", but I also want to draw attention to its flaws.

The Lucy is a bit of a hybrid shape-wise. It has the wider underwires typical of Panache and Cleo bras, but the fabric structure of the cup bears more similarities to Bravissimo’s Alana bra. While many Panache and Cleo bras have a softer upper section that isn’t meant to do any shaping, the Lucy’s upper section is tighter and has stiff lace along the top. Because of this, I had to take in the center gore to avoid major quadraboob. Fortunately, the Lucy has a rather wide center gore to start with, so there is lots of room for this alteration. As you can see, on my older-season coral Lucy in 28HH, the alteration I had to do was so severe that it made the bra look a little ridiculous from the front:

However, I didn’t have to take in as much of the center gore on my white or black Lucy bras. The newer ones seem to not be as tight at the top as the older coral version.

I have the pink and the white in 28HH, and the black in a 28J. I normally wear a 28J, but I feel a bit like I’m swimming in this 28J—the cup fits perfectly, but the underwire goes back MUCH further, which is totally unnecessary and obnoxious. Plus, I still needed to alter the center gore. The 28HH versions fit better and have much narrower underwires, but I would prefer if they were a bit bigger in the cup, so I think I’m between sizes in this bra. If you’re between cup sizes normally, I would recommend choosing the smaller size to avoid the underwires of Doom. However, as you can see, the Lucy gives a very round shape in either size. The black 28J is clearly giving less uplift in the middle photo, but since the cup is bigger, I can tighten the straps to improve the shape without cutting in.

The Lucy also only has two hooks in the back, which bothers me. 

I find that this tends to cause the back band to cut in more because it is so narrow. If you like two-hook fastenings, you’ll be pleased to know that the Lucy has just two hooks all the way up to a J cup. Personally, I think it’s a stupid design choice because the back band is supposed to be providing so much support, and I wish they would update the design to have three hooks.

I'm not the world's hugest fan of the flower embroidery on the top of the cups. I do, however, love the little dots along the top of the cup, and I think they look really cute peeking out from under a loose, low-cut top. 

One more flaw I want to highlight is that the Lucy is a tough bra to break in. My pink one was pretty uncomfortable for the first month or so that I had it—the section of band right where it meets the bottom of the cup has a sharp edging that tends to rub a lot. After owning it for a few months, though, it’s become one of my most comfortable bras and the back band hasn’t loosened up much, unlike most bras I have. I’m assuming my newer Lucy bras will undergo a similar process but I’m bummed at the thought of the discomfort I’ll have to go through until then. No matter what you believe about breaking in bras, I still don’t think it’s necessary to make them with materials that can cause pain.

I think if you’re used to the shape Panache and Cleo bras give, you will probably have to alter this bra to get that same shape, but once you do, it’s one of the best. And if you’re suited to the shape the Lucy gives without alteration—a shape more common with certain Freya and Bravissimo bras—you probably won’t like the Lucy’s wider underwires. That said, it’s still a bit of a compromise between the purple and green types of shapes I talked about in my last post, so for people between the extremes, this could definitely be a crowd-pleaser. I would recommend this bra to a friend, but only with several stipulations.

Thursday 5 January 2012

What Exactly is a "Good" Shape?

The more I interact with others interested in lingerie, the more I realize that even the most basic concepts are subject to opinion. One of these concepts is what defines a “good shape.” I feel like I spend a lot of time talking about that on this blog without having ever defined what I mean by that. There are a lot of different shapes that could be considered “good shapes” for a bra to give you:

The shape that I personally prefer as my “best” shape is rounded and a bit lower, even slightly minimized.

I find I get this shape in low-cut bras with somewhat looser upper sections. They don’t give as much support to the top half of the boobs but are often an easier fit on people with full-on-top boobs (like me) because the bra isn’t even messing with the top of the boobs. In fact, people with full-on-top boobs might even find they can size down in these bras. Another kind of bra that often gives this shape is the bra with vertical seams, like Curvy Kate’s Tease Me and Thrill Me bras. However, in my experience people with full-on-top boobs usually can’t size down in these.

Bras fitting this description include: Panache Harmony, Sienna and Confetti, Cleo Brooke and Frances, Bravissimo Demi Diva, Curvy Kate Tease Me and Thrill Me. I have not tried the following, but would venture to add the Cleo Eleanor and Bonnie. Also, according to Curvy Wordy's reviews, I feel comfortable adding Ewa Michalak’s “HP” bras.
Bras fitting this description somewhat include: Panache Melody, Curvy Kate Ella.

If you’re shopping online, you can usually recognize these bras by the lack of a ribbon or tight detail along the top of the cup. They also tend to appear to have a more round or horizontal shape across the neckline if you are just looking at it on a model online:

Bras with this shape can be good for anyone, even those without full-on-top boobs, and are an easier transition from poorly-fitted “normal” looking bras to the world of well fitted bras, especially for people who were used to Victoria’s Secret, as the shape is more similar.
Drawbacks to this shape include the fact that it often comes hand in hand with wider underwires which can tend to put your boobs in your armpits. Personally I prefer this because it balances my visual shape from the front and minimizes my boobs from the side:

However, lots of people find wider underwires very uncomfortable, while others dislike the lower, rounded shape and prefer an upfront look with more lift and projection:

This shape puts the boobs front and center. The look can be achieved by slightly higher-cut bras where the top section actually curves back in, and is meant to cover and support a greater proportion of the boobs. These bras can be a nightmare for anyone with full-on-top boobs as they curve back in right where the most stubborn part of the boob is and can cause epic quadraboob. However, they can also be more supportive and if well-fitted, are often LESS likely to shift under clothes and start to cut in and leave a line. These bras are more likely to give a fuller-coverage but lower-cut appearance when seen on a model—a V-neck shape:

People with full-on-top boobs can sometimes still wear bras like this but may need to size up and/or alter the center gore to get a better fit if they are seeking this shape. I know many people who prefer this shape as the gold standard of a well-fitted bra. Other bras giving this shape include the carefully structured Ewa Michalak padded bras, again according to Curvy Wordy (I have no experience of Ewa Michalak bras).

Bras fitting this description include: Bravissimo Alana and Dotty Spot, Freya Arabella, Lyla, Eleanor etc, Ewa Michalak’s “PL” bras.
Bras fitting this description somewhat include: Bravissimo Boudoir Beau, Cleo Lucy.

This shape makes the boobs look much more streamlined from the front, because it pulls them to the center and up. They look more dramatic from the side:

Although I think these two shapes tend to be the ones most sought out by women, there are a lot of other shapes, and many bras seem to give a shape that falls in between. There is this more relaxed, natural look, which is often achieved with full-coverage bras:

There are also a thousand shapes in between these extremes. I’m becoming more and more interested in what other women want and what shape they search for in a bra. If you like a shape that I haven’t mentioned, let me know in the comments!