Monday 30 September 2013

Cardigan Geometry: How to Highlight or Disguise Your Boobs with a Cardigan

With September drawing to a close, we're getting into Autumn weather. I wanted to talk a bit about the various ways that cardigan sweaters (jumpers) can be worn. Cardigans are often considered to be one of the 'tricky' items for full-busted ladies, and as a result companies like Pepperberry have made them with extra boob room:

Pepperberry V-neck Cardigan
This is great if you're looking for a sweater to wear buttoned-up, but that's not how I like to wear my cardigans. I prefer to wear them open. What I'm about to suggest is a little unorthodox, but hear me out.

The key to flatter a full bust with an unbuttoned cardigan is to SIZE DOWN. You should think in terms of buying a size that would NEVER button over your boobs, and maybe wouldn't even button over your waist. The function here is to eliminate flapping, bagginess, and shapelessness that can come as a result of wearing an unbuttoned cardigan. When the size is significantly 'too small' for you, the entire body of the cardigan will sort of contract around/behind you and just gently lurk around your body without any issues of draping or hanging. I tend to be a size Medium in tops, but I favor an Extra Small in cardigans for this reason.

When sizing down this much, you can just let the cardigan hang down under your arms and it will look fine. But you can also pull the top of the cardigan over your boobs and let it sit there. Here's where things get interesting. Cardigans that have a gently tapering neckline--or in other words, what would look like a V-neck if buttoned, will play up, highlight, or create the illusion of an hourglass figure.

In this diagram, you see the lines that are created. The cardigan tapers in at the waist, and out at the neck and hips.

While some of us like to highlight an hourglass figure, others of us prefer to conceal or downplay the size of our boobs. I'm definitely one who has plenty of days where I want to balance out my boobs and disguise the comparative smallness of my waist. To achieve this look, use a square-neck or boat-neck cardigan--one where it buttons all the way up to the neckline.

Compare the different lines created by this cardigan. The smallest opening is at the bust, and it gets more open through the waist and hips. This visually tricks the eye into seeing the bust as smaller.

How do you like to wear your cardigan? Do you like to play up or camouflage your boobs? If you have any thoughts or other tips for cardigan use, let us know in the comments!

Tuesday 24 September 2013

Curvy Kate, Flirtelle, and the "Upside-Down Seven" Shape

I started this blog about two years ago with a huge pile of Curvy Kate bra reviews. At the time, the brand seemed like the best new hope for full-busted women--a fun brand with a great social media presence, cool contests, great colors, and a cheaper sister brand, Flirtelle. Yet now, even though all of those things are still true, I feel let down by Curvy Kate--particularly their unpadded balconette bras. I don't mean to suggest their unpadded balconettes don't work for anyone. That's far from true. But there are pervasive problems, which tend to intensify in the bigger cup sizes. The specific problem I want to address now is an issue of fabric tension. It is, I believe, largely responsible for the fabled "upside-down seven" shape.

What's the upside-down seven shape? It's a phrase that was coined by Bras and Body Image in this post and quickly entered the lexicon on Bratabase and other forums. It essentially refers to a shape where the upper curve of the breast takes on an extra angle where the bra ends. The profile in the bra beneath points too far down as a result.

Now, the tricky thing with the upside-down seven shape in Curvy Kate/Flirtelle is that there are two different stages where it can occur. The first stage occurs when trying a cup size that is too small in these brands. A large number of people will always get this shape if their cup is too small.

Upside-Down Seven Shape in a too-small Curvy Kate
So what's the next step? Size up and shorten the straps. And, to some extent, this works. That's why my initial reviews of Curvy Kate's unpadded bras were so positive once I found my size. I bought a ton of them and happily wore them... UNTIL...

Do you ever catch a glimpse of yourself in a mirror when you're not expecting it and suddenly realize "I NEED TO GET RID OF ALL MY BRAS"? That's what happened to me. Midway through the day, my Curvy Kate balconette had lost its lovely morning shape and my boobs were pointing at the ground.

What is behind this mysterious loss of shape throughout the day?

Bras and Body Image had it right on when she commented "It seems like the bottom section of the cup is not large enough to really give a well-rounded shape." Flipping this around, I believe the problem is that the upper section of the cups is TOO BIG. The top section is responsible for some shaping, but the bottom sections do the lion's share of the lifting. That's why bras where the bottom sections connect to the strap give better lift than bras where only the top section connects. When the bottom sections of a bra end too low, particularly if they end below the apex of the breast, the resulting vast expanse of fabric in the upper section often fails to achieve the desired lifting and shaping results.

With Curvy Kate and Flirtelle, though, there's more to it than that. The crux of the issue is their use of a fabric that DOES NOT STRETCH but CAN DISTORT. Let's get our terms straight here. When you grab the fabric in the top of a Curvy Kate balconette, you'll find that it can 'stretch' in all directions (along each grain and also diagonally to the grain). However, this isn't really stretch because there's no elastic in the fabric. That means it can change shape... but it can't change back. By contrast, the stretchy fabric in the top section of the Panache Andorra or Jasmine stretches, but it has the elastic to be able to bounce back and hold its shape even while adjusting to your shape. Other bras have no ability to stretch or distort in the top section. This tends to result in a trickier fit as it has to be perfect, but once you've found it, these bras won't change shape throughout the day. But fabric that distorts, but doesn't stretch, will embark each morning on a slow march toward loss of support. That's why you sometimes find a bra that looks great at first, but stops looking good later. It's not that you were temporarily deluded, it's that the bra actually changed.

For Curvy Kate and Flirtelle balconettes, the distorting fabric combined with the too-large top section means that these factors become a huge problem. For me, it's been enough to put me off these balconettes altogether. Let's look at how the shape changes on a Flirtelle Dahlia balconette.

At first, it's looking good:

Still looking pretty good:

Starting to look a little weird:

Not looking so good now:

By the last photo, I'm in full-on upside-down seven mode. And this is just after a few MINUTES of vigorously leaping around to simulate the effects of a day of walking and living life. In my opinion, it's really a shame that this issue with Curvy Kate and Flirtelle balconettes has persisted so long, so maybe it's time we start talking about it. These balconettes need firmer fabric that doesn't distort, or a little bit of elastic to fight those effects; or failing that, an upper section that is cut smaller. Please comment if you've had this problem with Curvy Kate. Was it solved by sizing up or did you find it persisted? I'm also curious to know if this problem is unique to full-on-top (FOT) boobs or is also experience by full-on-bottom (FOB) and balanced boobs.

Sunday 22 September 2013

Why Do Full-On-Top Boobs Look Pointy in Full-Cup Bras?

One of the most irksome aspects of the HerRoom bra shape quiz kerfuffle was their suggestion that full-on-top breast shapes would be suited to full cup bras. I've constantly asserted since starting my blog that that's not the case. But I never really explained WHY NOT, and I want to provide some visuals so people who are frustrated by this problem can grasp the central issue.

By now, you may be familiar with my "bra seam structure graphic".

The full-cup bra seam structure shown in the diagram isn't good at shaping boobs. But despite this, lots of people get a nice shape in full-cup bras and really like them. But others (hint: full-on-top ladies) tend to get a really pointy shape, and hate these bras. What's the secret behind this?

To start with, let's look at the sort of photos I usually DON'T post to this blog: my own full-on-top boobs looking really sad in a full-cup bra.

From the front, the Panache Loretta in a 30H fits well:

But from the side, you see the truth.

(Seeing this photo and keeping in mind the hefty percentage of bras that are made with this construction,   you might begin to realize why I named my blog "Bras I Hate.")

Now, in the first stages of putting this bra on and swooping/scooping, it appears to mostly fit but not suit my shape. But a few minutes of jiggling around make the problems worse...

And worse...

I know what you're thinking--you need a bigger size! In a way, yes, but largely no. Sizing up in this sort of bra WILL eliminate the bulging, but it will make the shape even worse and will create more and more extra space in the apex of the cup. Clearly this isn't a bra structure compatible with my shape. The problem? Full-cup bras provide a lot of support in the top section without enough openness. This tends to have a 'squashing' effect on those who have lots of tissue there. Combined with the lack of lift from the bottom, the shape is very downward-facing and pointy.

Why is it, though, that ladies with full-on-the-bottom boobs can still often get a nice shape in this sort of bra even though there isn't much lift from the bottom? Let's examine some graphics.

Here's what happens to full-on-top boobs in a full-cup bra.

The large amount of tissue that needs to sit outside the bra forms a really steep slope that, combined with the way the bra lies, creates this shape that most of us don't desire.

Here's what happens to boobs with lower fullness:

The gentler slope at the top of the boobs meshes well with the intended line of the bra's profile, and the result is a perky 'green shape'.

I hope this is enlightening to anyone who wonders why full-cup bras work or don't work on their shape. For those who don't like full-cup bras, don't worry, there's hope--balconettes and half-cups.

Thursday 19 September 2013

Bras I Hate & Love Tries Tutti Rouge!

I've been dying to try the new brand, Tutti Rouge, ever since I first saw the product photos. Recently, I was fortunate enough to be loaned a few of the styles by the lovely Erica over at A Sophisticated Pair. I tried the Liliana in 30HH, the Betty in 30HH, and the Birds of a Feather in 32HH. My immediate thoughts are really positive. I figured I was going to love this brand, and I did. The bras are lovely in person and are really well-made, which is nice because they are also fairly affordable. I expected that I would need a larger cup size and band size in this brand, and I did. My conclusion is that I would fit a 32HH in all the styles I tried. Since I usually wear a 30H in Cleo and a 30HH in other brands, that's 1 band size up and 1-2 cups sizes up. I would recommend most people try a size up from their normal size in this brand. From what I have heard, the bands run tight in the smaller size region and start to run larger in the upper band sizes due to increased stretch, so if you wear a 34/36 band or above, you likely won't need to size up in the band.

Now let's see the bras...

Here's the Liliana in 30HH. Liliana has a three-piece balconette construction with padding in the lower two sections.

It's too small, but the shape is perfect for my boobs. This bra gives a very rounded shape. It keeps the girls really close to the chest, and as such is pretty minimizing. This bra is going to be GREAT for anyone who wants their boobs to look a bit more subtle but still really rounded.

I actually liked the partially-padded cup construction. I don't dislike padding as much as I once did, but having the top section unpadded really helps minimize that bulk that some of us dislike in padded bras. I had heard that this top section was stretchy, but I didn't find that it had much stretch to it.

The Liliana won't work for those who need deep cups and a lot of projection. It's just cut too shallow for that shape. If you have shallower boobs and like the 'purple shape', try the Liliana.

Next up, the Betty in 30HH. This bra has a half-cup construction with vertical seams--a shape guaranteed to give lots of uplift and never look pointy. Unlike most half-cups that have two seams, the Betty just has one:

Apologies about the antique mirror.
Again, this bra is one cup size too small, but the shape works for me.

It's so uplifting that it almost works as a strapless (and no, my boobs aren't self-supporting):

Half-cups typically work best for full-on-top boobs because the upper tissue can sit outside the cup. Those with full-on-bottom boobs can still get awesome cleavage in half-cups but might need to size up. I think the Betty will work for both types.

Like the Liliana, it is somewhat minimizing, so it's good for those of us who like that. Because of the nice cleavage it gives, though, this one will also appeal to those who like to give their boobs more visual oomph. In terms of size I think it runs about the same as Curvy Kate's Thrill Me and Tease Me half-cups--in other words, a little small.

It's cuter in person than it looks online, with the ruffle detail and cool modern-looking flowers. In this colorway, it's almost a little too twee for my tastes, but it's going to be coming out in red/black and a blue shade next season. I think I'll find myself tempted by the blue.

Next, I tried the Birds of a Feather bra in 32HH.

This one was the perfect size and fit, but didn't work for my shape. It has a full-cup construction with a side support panel, and like the Liliana the bottom sections are padded. Full-cup constructions usually don't work for full-on-top boobs because the upper tissue tends to make them look pointy (a topic I'll be posting about later this week), but sometimes they can succeed with a side-support panel. This one didn't have quite enough lift to avoid the pointy look on me, and also had some extra space I couldn't fill at the bottom:

I need this much lift.

If I had less upper tissue, though, my boobs would curve back in a different place, which would eliminate the pointy look. This bra will likely work better for full-on-the-bottom ladies. It also has a little too much depth for me, so there's a bit of empty space where my boobs are too shallow to fill the cups. So women who have more depth and projection to their boob will fare better with the Birds of a Feather bra, even though the Liliana probably won't work for them.

Overall I'm really happy with Tutti Rouge's launch. They started right off going up to a HH cup in all their bras, which fills my heart with joy. Since they run a little small in the cups, I hope to see them expand up to K or higher in the future, and with their clear enthusiasm to go to higher cup sizes straight off, I'm guessing they probably will at some point. I also like the fact that Tutti Rouge offers a range of different constructions and cuts so that different shapes will be able to wear the brand. Trying this brand felt sort of like the way I WANTED to feel trying Curvy Kate for the first time (sorry, Curvy Kate--expect a post about THAT next week!). I'd recommend Tutti Rouge (in a cup size up!) to fans of Cleo and Freya who want to expand their horizons.