Tuesday 24 April 2012

Review: Bravissimo's Current Offerings, April Update

My past posts where I did mass reviews of various bras I tried on in Bravissimo have been really popular, so here’s one more. I went to Bravissimo with my sister, who was visiting the UK this week, so she could get re-fitted. The women working there were friendly, but they also weren’t very committed to her fitting, which was disappointing. They put her in a Deco with a 30 band, which she fastened on the tightest hooks right away, and her fitter didn’t notice. When she asked for a 28, the band was better, but the cups were far too small, and again the fitter never came back to check, so she couldn't try the cup size up. Because of that, she didn’t end up buying anything, although she was ready to buy at least one bra if the staff had been more eager to find her the right fit. It was getting near closing time, so they seemed pretty hassled and busy, but I was still annoyed because this was my sister’s only chance to have the Bravissimo fitting experience. 

On the other hand, I had pretty good luck with most of what I tried on, for once. They have a lot more things that I like in this current collection than they did back in the fall. I've also gotten better at understanding how the experience works in the Bravissimo fitting room--it seems to work best if you ask to try on three or four specific styles, and then lurk outside your fitting room to ask for other bras as the fitters go by. It also helps to point things out to them in the catalogue. Anyway, these are the things I tried.

Free Kazbar Bikini
I tried on this bikini top for a friend back at home who wanted to see if it was any good before ordering it. I thought it was a pretty nice bikini. I first tried it in a 30H, the smaller of my two normal cup sizes, and it was too small for me and cut into the top of my boobs:

 I also felt like the back was very tight, and when I asked the saleslady about it, she agreed, saying that swimwear often comes up feeling tighter in the back because of the massive amount of Lycra in it. I do also know that swimwear tends to get looser in water, so I don’t know if the tight Lycra is reason enough to get a larger back size, but in any case I tried a 32H next. The cup was a much better fit.  

It doesn’t give the most uplifted shape ever but I think it is perfectly fine-looking for a bikini top. The fabric along the cups can be ruched down if you prefer less coverage, which is good considering the fact that I fit better in the bigger of my two sizes.

My biggest annoyance with it was that the back fastening was very confusing and complicated. You had to thread a square piece of metal through a casing and then snap some little teeth into place. It took me a couple minutes to figure out the first time. I’m not sure why they didn’t use a simpler fastening.

Panache Andorra
I was curious to try the Andorra because I love this mint green color, but I figured I would hate it because it’s a full-cup construction (see here and here for more information on seam constructions and shape). To my surprise, I was actually a pretty big fan of this bra! I tried it in a 30H.

As you can see, the shape from the side is really nice. It’s not as round as some of my best balconettes, but it gives good uplift.  Most importantly, the shape is very compact and my boobs are held close to my body, totally unlike the splayed-out east-west look that is common with full-cup bras. The difference must come from the side support panel, which is just another piece of evidence that bras that have lift from the bottom and pull up the bottom sections are far superior to those that don’t.

The lace on the Andorra is very soft and the upper panel is stretchy. I like this feature because it means there is enough give that it doesn’t cut in on my full upper boobs, and it also would be less likely to gape on someone with less fullness at the top. It’s a good compromise and a smart construction.

Miss Mandalay Paige
I’d always wanted to try on this beautiful bra but never had a chance until now when Bravissimo brought it back into stock. I’m totally in love with this colorway.

I tried it in a 30H as that is the highest cup size they make (and I’m pretty sure it only went up to GG when Bravissimo had an earlier version of this bra a few years back). It was very nearly a perfect fit, but as you can see from the side view, I had the slightest bit of cutting in across the top edge:

The lace across the top is a tiny bit tighter than I need for my shape but it is not nearly as tight as the upper section on, for instance, the Freya Arabella, Bravissimo Alana, or Curvy Kate Princess. I don’t think many people will have a problem with cutting in—probably only if you are very full on top and at the top of the size range. Even with the minor cutting in that I got, I still might have bought this bra, but unfortunately it’s completely out of my price range at £36. Still, I would recommend it for those who can handle the hefty price tag.

Masquerade Rhea
This is another bra that I’d always wondered about but never had a chance to try. I’m completely in love with it—this is probably the best bra I’ve tried on in the past year, and I’ve tried LOADS.

As you can see, the 30H is absolutely ideal for my shape. Because my boobs are so full on top, it ends at exactly the right point and then the top shapes itself. It’s perfect, and very luxurious. I will look for this on sale, because it’s very steep at full price (£33) but the Rhea has a history of selling out very fast, so I might consider investing in one.

Cleo Juna
Having tried the Cleo Sadie longline earlier this year, I knew that Cleo’s two-section padded cups are a pretty good fit and shape for me in a 30H, so I tried the Juna in that size.

I hate this shade of beige on me, but I wanted to see how the fit was. As I expected, it was just about identical to the fit of the Sadie. The shape from the side is a very casual rounded shape—not in-your-face at all but more subtle and fairly minimized. This would be a good everyday bra for that reason. It’s clearly not giving as excellent a shape as the Rhea, and it has less structural integrity, but at £10 cheaper than the Rhea at full price, I still think it’s a sensible option. I have heard from some people that the band on the Juna stretches out pretty quickly, so it might be worth going down a band size if you wear below an H cup (H is sadly the largest cup size in this range, so those needing an H can’t size down in the band and up in the cup).

Cleo Olivia
This is a new style and a Bravissimo exlusive, but it’s clearly the same construction as Cleo’s Sasha and Alexa styles.

Cleo Sasha 
Cleo Alexa 
Cleo Olivia--Bravissimo Exclusive
I love the polka dots but I do wish they would have chosen slightly different colors. With the pink lace edging a blue cup, it is far too similar to Cleo’s Alexa and Ellie bras which are both also out this season—seems a bit silly when Bravissimo could have had the opportunity to offer an exclusive shade that would be truly refreshing and different.

I tried the Olivia in a 30H. It was nearly a perfect fit but I did have some cutting in along the edge. I think I would probably fit better in the 30HH, but could wear either, especially if I took in the center gore on the 30H.

The shape this bra gives is really superior and it definitely seems to be better made than some other Cleo bras. The cups are made of a double layer of mesh fused together and the band underneath the wires in front adds stability to the bra so the underwires won’t stretch or distort.

As for comparison sizing, I haven’t tried either the Sasha or Alexa, but the consensus I’ve heard from my big-boobed friends who have tried both is that Alexa runs about a cup size larger than the Sasha as well as the new Olivia bra. So although I would probably prefer a 30HH in Sasha and Olivia, I suspect I’d be totally fine in a 30H in the Alexa.

Bravissimo Primrose

I was brought this new Bravissimo style in a 30H by mistake. I wouldn’t have asked to try it in this size as I always need at least two cup sizes up to fit into Bravissimo’s own-brand Alana-style balconettes. I think it makes a hilarious and educational contrast to the Panache/Masquerade/Cleo 30Hs I’ve described above. 

Sorry for the weird photoshopping. I was getting some awkward nip-slip issues. Something I've never experienced before in Bravissimo, as above the H I'd always gotten the extra lining!

You can see that although the Panache family is cut perfectly for my full-on-top boobs, this bra (like most of Bravissimo’s own-brand bras) is cut for the opposite shape, great for people with more volume on the bottom and less on the top. On me, it drags my boobs down because it is far too tight for my shape in the top section where I need lots of space, but then it has more space than I need at the apex so it makes my boobs look pointy combined with the dragging down. But I think you can also see how it would give a far better shape to someone with teardrop shaped boobs. I’m sure this will be a lovely bra for those who like the Alana, Bubbles, etc. (It’s said to be based on the Bubbles shape.) The back band is extremely firm and tight—even in the 30 band I could only just fasten it—so I think it is a good choice for small 28s, like the Ditsy Blossom bra they had in the last collection.

Bravissimo Wild At Heart
I really wanted this cool new bra to work for me because it looks exactly like something Victoria’s Secret would make and reminds me of what I would buy from them in a perfect world where they made more than 5 cup sizes.

Unfortunately this bra wasn’t the best shape for me. I tried it in a 30HH, knowing that Bravissimo’s own-brand bras run much smaller on me than the Panache families. From the front it looks good, but the shape is odd from the side.

I get the same problem I got with the Primrose bra (but on a much more minor scale)—too little space at the top edge, and too much space at the apex. So I bulged out of the top a bit, while still having enough fabric at the apex that I could pinch it between my fingers.

I’m not sure if a larger cup size (combined with shortening the straps a lot to take out the wrinkling) would help at all; I suspect this bra just isn’t compatible with my shape. From what I’ve heard, most people have had to size up to get the perfect fit in this bra, some even going up by two sizes.

One final note, this bra has very wide straps in my size range, some of the widest I’ve ever seen. The pattern continues on the straps, though, so I think they are still fairly cute; they just might not be the best with a strappy top.

Bravissimo Inspire Sports Bra
Finally, this is another bra that I tried on to help out a friend who is considering ordering from overseas. The size range on this new sports bra is truly amazing in comparison to what is available from other companies.

I tried it in a 30H because that is the same size I recently tried in the Panache Sports bra (don’t worry, review coming soon!) and I felt it would be more useful to compare. The cups on the Inspire were small on me, but I think that’s just because Bravissimo’s cups always run rather small on my shape.

As you can see in this photo, I had a bunch of flesh sort of smashed outside of the cups:

The cups on this bra are really aiming to hold in every part of your breast tissue, so I definitely would have needed a larger size—even then, it is very rare for a bra to cover all of my breast tissue because it ends so high. However, I think this bra would be much better for people with softer boobs or a teardrop/full-on-bottom shape.

In terms of support, this bra seems pretty promising. I’m not the sportiest of people so I don’t have a huge amount to compare this to, but when I jumped up and down the only thing that moved was the part of my boobs that was smashed outside of the cups. To me that indicates that it is succeeding as an encapsulation bra.

The shape was a bit pointy, but it wasn’t anywhere near as bad as I had feared. I wouldn’t be ashamed to be seen in a bra giving this shape, it is decent:

The straps are very wide and thick, and nicely padded, which I think is a nice feature for a sports bra.

The back band is also very firm on this bra. I don’t think I would have fit in a 28. I would recommend this sports bra to people looking for something firm and supportive without compressing. Personally, I liked that it had underwires. From what I’ve seen around the internet it seems to be a nicer shape than the underwired Freya sports bra, and the size range is also much better. It’s a bit hideous, with the exposed wires and seams in the front, but overall I would say it’s a success. 


  1. I'm always a fan of these posts!

    A few things:
    - About the backs of swimming suits in water. I haven't noticed that big of a deal when swimming laps is the back is slightly too big. Obviously, if you're jumping up and down a lot that could be an issue! But if you're staying in the water and movign around... it hasn't been a big deal for me to have a slightly too big back. BUT slightly too big cups are bad, really, really bad when you hit the pool! Definitely better to err on the side of slightly too small.
    - You didn't link to you other posts about full-cup bras when talking about the Andorra like you said you would. ;) The Andorra looks like that might be a bra that I'd be interested in...
    - How do you think the Masquerade compares to the Cleo's in sizing?
    - I still keep coming back to the Juna. I wonder if I were to sew a ribbon along the band if it would be ok? The price is about right too...
    - I have to say I like the straps on the Sports bra. Lots to think about from your post!

    1. Ah, thanks, I didn't notice I hadn't put in the links. They're there now. Hilarious that I could reread it three times and still not notice that!

      I've only tried this one Masquerade, but I think in general the cups are similar. Masquerade has tighter backs, though, from what I've heard. You might be happy in a 30.

      I think the Juna might be worth a try, as it is so inexpensive and relatively accessible. The 30 back was fine for me. And as you say, there are always alterations. It would save you having to order from Poland with all the potential complications of that.

      Glad to help! I'm sad thinking of next year when I won't be able to do these posts anymore :(

    2. Thanks for this post - I really love these reviews :) I used to live in Scotland too, but then had to move back to the Czech Rep (big-bra wasteland)... I miss the shops so much :( Anyway, just wondering, what size of the Rhea Masquerade did you try on?

    3. I tried the 30H. Just noticed I forgot to put that in the blog post! Haha good catch. I'll add it in.

    4. Wait, when are you moving back to the states!?!? I'm hoping to be in Europe in Sept and am planning a trip to the UK so it'd be great if we could meet then! (Not sure sure where I'm going to yet, need to see ticket prices and what not...).

    5. I keep thinking more and more about the Juna. I actually like the length of longer bands but not the stretchiness (if that makes sense...) so maybe sewing the ribbon on it would kill two birds with one stone. As much as I want to reorder from EM the shipping times and the returns issue are a real problem. Hopefully the Big Bra Bar starts carrying my size there soon and I can snatch those up instead. ;)

    6. I'm leaving in three weeks :/ I've just been here for the year to study abroad and I have to be back before June for my summer job. It's a bummer. Do you ever travel to the States?

    7. The truth is that if you are a really big cup size like an H cup none of the bras that Bravissimo have are really up to the job. The best solution is to bite the bullet and go to Rigby and Peller and then once fitted properly buy Prima Donna bras. The Deauville Comfort bra is the best support I've ever had (36 h). Forget having lots of bras and just invest in a few really well made ones. It's the only way.

  2. Great review as usual:) I've got one question. Why you couldn't help your sister with fitting??

    1. I did, actually--I basically took over her fitting. I was wondering actually if that was one reason they weren't more helpful, because they saw that I was giving her the spiel. I couldn't get things from the stockroom though so it was not that useful in the end.

    2. Sorry, I misunderstand it then...I had a image of you trying all bras and your poor sister left without any:)))

      Wild at Heart bra reminds me of my nursing bra- Freya's Kelly.

  3. I bought a new Masquerade Rhea from eBay in my normal size (30GG) and found it gave me an awful square shape, which did not get any better under clothing. It also did not give the Marie Antoinette cleavage I've seen so much. The uplift was not great and if I tightened the straps all the way, the back just rode up. Also, I had to START on the middle hook and it still rode up when I shortened the straps. I guess we just aren't meant to be...

    1. Awww, what a shame. I guess it is one of those shape things. Perhaps you could try a 28GG (down a band size and down a cup size) to see if it is any better?

  4. Masquerade: in my experience they make fabulous bras with noon-stretchy bands and cups for full on top breasts. Not all work for me ...

  5. Thank you for this post - and this blog, it has helped me to find the right bras for me, you really know your stuff!

  6. Oh, I want that mint-colored Andorra! As you know, it is one of my favorite bras. The thing about the side sling is that it centers the breasts: you can get them more front and center by tightening the straps. But really the lift comes from the cut. I know that superficially it looks like the cut is the same as other Panache bras, but if you compare it and say, a Tango side by side, you will see that it is cut much smaller (less roomy) in the bottom of the cup, and then the top of the cup being open/stretchy means there is room there. And the horizontal-ish seam actually curves more than once. It is really genius.

    I look at the Rhea a lot and think it is gorgeous, but I just hate padded bras so so much. They make me feel stiff and bulky. I wish Masquerade made unpadded demi-cups like that.

    WRT to the Olivia, I think it is actually the same cut as the Chloe, not the Sasha/Alexa. It looks more bulky on the bottom and a bit fuller on the top than those. The Sasha in real life looks nothing like the promo pics. It is cut very low and almost straight across.

    At least in the pics, the Juno makes your boobs look HUGE. Maybe good for some days, not good for others.

    1. The Olivia has the same exact lace across the top, whereas the Chloe has a mesh section, so although I think they may be similar, it is definitely in the Sasha/Alexa family. I wonder if maybe you would need a bigger size in the Sasha? The photos I've seen of people in it look a lot like how the Olivia looks on me.

      I actually felt that the Juna made my boobs look pretty minimized, especially from the side and compared to the other bras. I dislike the word "huge" :/

  7. Thanks so much for this exhaustive list! I look forward to going to England some day!

    As for the Rhea, I have a bottom-heavy shape and it still works pretty well, but you're probably right about it working better on top. I did need to size up in the band to be able to breathe, though. I buy them from eBay since I know my size, still much cheaper after shipping to the US.

  8. Great post! Loads of those blue Rheas have been popping up on ebay lately - I just got one last week for £11 including shipping :)

    1. So jealous! There are none available in my size.

    2. There's a 32h on ebay atm, under "monkunderwear" probably wouldn't do though?
      Cheers, Tineca

    3. There's a 32h on ebay atm, under "monkunderwear" probably wouldn't do though?
      Cheers, Tineca

  9. I'm confused. Didn't you gave the Panache Andorra your whole hearted endorsement in this post:


    I thought that meant you'd already tried this model on?

    Love today's mass review, though!

    1. You're too clever for me! I had already tried it at that point--I don't always put posts up in the order they happened as I've found sometimes it makes more sense to do it in a different order to sort of build up to things.

      I tried on the Andorra, Paige and Kazbar a week or so before trying on the others bras in this post, but again it seemed to make the most sense to put them in the same post.

  10. Thanks for another informative post! Your note on the relative proportions of the upper and lower sections of the Wild at Heart bra suddenly explains so much about why some bras give me such a weird shape and fit so oddly.

    I recently bought a Cleo Juna and had pretty much the same results as you -- very rounded, but a little bit lacking in uplift. For £23, though, I think it's brilliant. Very tempted to order a Masquerade Rhea now, too!

  11. Thank you so much for this review. I wish we had a Bravissimo store here — so jealous!

  12. You've reviewed three of the bras in my Bravissimo catalogue that made me pout and sulk because I can't afford them; the Miss Mandalay, the Primrose and the leopard one. All interesting reviews, thanks :) x

  13. Gosh I'm still dithering about what size to order in the Inspire Sports Bra. Never had a Bravissimo bra before so I've no idea how the shape is going to work on me! I can wear both a 28 and 30 band so if you found the 30 wasn't too tight I might go for that...


    I'll bet it's going to pinch into on the top towards the center gore :( The Freya Active underwired one does that on me too no matter what size I try.

  14. I googled specifically to decide how the Bravissimo brands fit compared to Panache (which I love). I'll order a size up based on this post, which I was pretty sure was the right answer to begin with. :) I'm in Canada, so no physical store here.

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  16. I use Bravissmo and both the Brighton and Reading shops the fitters have always been very helpful as I've been losing wait and now fit the Panache 30HH but started at 38HH also used the Alana Cup at 34HH when the shape changed and the Panache was either too tight or too loose.

  17. Do you have a page somewhere here with nothing but your recommended bras? A greatest Hits (said outloud it's kind of funny) of sorts? A quick reference guide, with a column of pros and cons, true sizing (should order a cup size up, band size down, etc) would be great!


    1. That's a really good idea. I would just have to figure out if it would be MY favorite bras, or the best bras for a certain shape, or bras that work for all shapes...

    2. Please do this!! We would all appreciate you for it. :)

  18. I've really enjoyed your review I'd just say that from the sounds of this experience your sister seems to be trying on rather than having a fitting. During a fitting you would have the consultant in the room constantly bringing different bras rather than popping in to check when asked.

  19. I love the rhea on you. I have the same colorway. My problem is with the Rhea is I get a very small empty space at the bottom as I think the cups are not deep enough for me. Also the gore does not tack and the top of my arreolas want to peak out at the top. I got it in a 34GG as that was the only size that was available and I truly needed atleast a 32H. Do you think the band can be altered to make it tighter an then maybe the gore would tack down? I love the bra too much to part with it. :/

  20. Bit late to the party, but I'd like to give my two cents. My boobs are also fuller on top rather than the bottom, and it's not unusual for me to have a bra that is too wide in the bottom of the cups, but then it cuts into my boobs at the top. I have found a style that suits me very well, and possibly you too, curvy kate. Most of the curvy kates I've tried are very comfy. They have a bit of a balkonette shape, so more room at the top. I'm very happy with the ones I have. I was sad to find only one bra from curvy kate on the site though, I hope they're not done with selling the curvy kate. :(

    Re: busy fitting ladies, in my experience the ladies in the changing area are almost always very busy, and have very little time, every time I was there, there were at least 5 customers waiting for an appoinment and as far as I could see, all the ladies were booked. For a proper fitting I always make an appointment so there's time enough for me, and someone with access to the stockroom. :)