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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.

21 comments:

  1. Interesting post, I never thought about bra fabric in other categories than stretchy/not stretchy.
    I usually wear a 28J/28JJ and I've long given up on Curvy Kate.
    My breasts are balanced, soft and narrow-rooted, so I'm probably not the best match for CK to begin with. But I never even got that good shape, I sport the upside-down 7 right from the start.
    I tried sizing up and tightening the straps to get a better shape, but that just made the cups come up higher than I prefer and the whole look was unattractive because the upper section was so huge. Plus, the seams of the bra and my nipples were nowhere near each other.
    I still get tempted to try one of their bras once in a while, I love most of their designs and color choices, but unless someone reports that they introduced a model with a dramatically different construction - yeah, not going to happen.

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  2. I have fairly balanced boobs (though sometimes they can behave more like bottom heavy), and I definitely get the upside down 7 with Curvy Kate. For me I think the weight on the bottom of my breasts pushes everything down, and like you said, there isn't enough space at the bottom or stretch in the material to act as that sort of "boob sling" I need to retain the original shape.

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  3. I have full-on-the-bottom boobs and get a similar issue with Curvy Kate and Eveden bras. For me, it's not so much about tightness as it is about panel proportions.

    In most of the above bras, I find that the uppermost panel (the one that cuts in) is too deep and takes up too much space in the bra. Unless it's stretch lace, the top panel sits too heavily on my boobs and flattens them out. Cleo balconettes, on the other hand, have a narrow upper panel and very deep bottom/side panels, which scoop my boobs up into a nice rounded shape with the upper panel sitting gently on the top. (A Cleo balconette with stretch lace would sit even better).

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  4. I'm very curvy as well and need to wear plus size bras. I live in MN and found some comfortable and well-fitting plus size bras in St. Paul. If you don't live nearby you can always order them online as well!

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  5. I'm FoB, and CK runs stupidly shallow depending on fabric, so it's a game on fitting. Usual in these is a 30H-HH.

    I don't get the bad shape once the cup is big enough, but the top of my boobs aren't laughing as they prove gravity is the law of the land. However, I have to go down in band because my boobs prefer to prove gravity by shoving the bra band down.

    But, since I'm refusing to wear or buy CK/Flirtelle due to the blatant discrimination, followed by disrespect and mocking of my concerns, it's now a moot point.

    Freya unpaddeds do the same, I go to 32GG (Measurements say 32G is my size) and drastically short straps. I'm in a 32G in their padded half cups happily.

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  6. Sorry for two comments. But, another possible issue comes to mind. However, it's admittedly tainted by my experience with CK and the disrespect shown.

    Your last picture is better than what many D+ are used to from badly fitted bras. Those look worse even. So the upside down 7 is an improvement. Then, since I've seen exactly how CK works, I can see people going so what, it's better than before, stop complaining. That's what I've gotten myself.

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  7. My shape is balanced (used to think fob) and Curvy Kate unpadded balconettes give me a bad shape too. I agree about the top section being bigger than the bottom. Compared to my bras that give a good shape the top section is huge. I wish they'd change the cut because their bras are so cute.

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  8. I also get the upside-down seven shape in the Curvy Kate Emily (only one I've tried). I think it's because the upper panels are ginormous and the apex of the cup is further down than my natural apex. I've found this true with many Freya cut-sew bras as well.

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  9. The upper being too big is also in Fantastie cut and sew. I just buy what fits below my apex, then bring the excess up and under, then sew the section smaller. Nice benefit is it usually draws the straps in from my armpits.


    Now, why I accept bras I know I have to alter to wear - that's another issue.

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  10. I have this issue too. I've given up on CK bras sadly.
    I'm shaped pretty much like you, though wider.

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  11. I feel like this is a 'Curvy Kate is stupidly shallow at the bottom' issue. I'm even to full on top, but I have a ton of immediate lower projection. The apex is way high on CK bras for me, so my boobs just eat the cup and shove the band down.

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    Replies
    1. This. Only the Showgirl line fits me well. The Emily almost fits, but it's way too shallow at the bottom, so it's going on Bratabase when I have some spare time.

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    2. I agree. In the demo photos, it looks to me like there isn't enough room in the cup for BIH's boobs, so when she shifts around, her tissue starts to shift upward and out of the cup. I hate when this happens in a bra! It is definitely a good lesson on how we should do more than just stand still when we try on a bra: move around! Wave your arms!

      I think CK just isn't a good fit for BIH.

      It's possible that they also use cheap fabric. Fabric with a little give but not stretch is the industry standard for a good fit; many higher-end bras are made of or lined with Simplex, and they don't get that mid-day sag. CK might be using really poor fabric.

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  12. I'm not entirely sure what shape I am, but I get this problem too. I can only tighten so much because I'm 5' and the fabric already cuts into my armpits.

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  13. It's cool to see that it's not only me who's still puzzling over Why-oh-why doesn't CK work for me?!

    I regularily forget about the issues with the fit and fall in love again - because their designs are so pretty. But whatever I tried to fit into the styles (larger cup sizes, center gore alteration...) - it never really worked.

    My latest guess is that, apart from the issue with the lower-cup-upper-cup-proportions, the bras tend to push my boobs to the side; probably the idea is to make the bra more supportive by separating the breasts very distinctly. When I put the bra on I can just push the breast tissue where it's meant to be and everything looks great, but after a while it wanders back to its usual place - my boobs like to point to the front. ;) So once they're roughly in their usual position I get the upside-down-seven-shape which is a mild form of quadroboob - I agree that this might be due to the fact that while upsizing means that the bottom cup is large enough to fit my breast perfectly, the upper section is too big to hold my boobs in place.

    It's just overall wrong for me and I guess I simply have to get over it... :(

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  14. I found your blog via my stats - I run Pinterest Fail - and I wanted to comment and let you know how much I LOVE your site. Thanks so much for creating this great resource.

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  15. I have been trying to figure out my new size, (thanks to your blog!) and bought several CK. At first they fit, like you mention. But later in the day, I am definitely falling out and experiencing the upside down 7. My breasts are two different size, so I feel like the smaller one is having a better fit and the larger is definitely not. I have wondered if going up a cup size would help, but now I am thinking it may just be the fabric. I used to wear seamless cups, but am having a hard time finding that in my new size.

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  16. So I happened across your post while researching CK bras - I'd found a major steal on them online and wanted to be sure to get the right size. I measure at a 28H for the brand, but was sure to order a 28HH too in order to avoid the upside down 7. I've got soft, full on bottom breasts.
    I literally just received and tried on the bras I ordered 10mins ago. The Romance in 28HH was still laughably too small and gave me the weirdest shape I've ever seen - the bottom portion of the cup was so small it was as if my breast tissue stretched it completely flat...I'd say it was like a "plateau on the bottom" shape. So weird. The Romance in 28H was even worse.
    The Emily in 28HH, however, seems to actually fit! The shape is decent. I'm testing it out today to see if that holds true at the end of the day!
    I'm definitely disappointed, because although the shape from the side is awful they look fantastic from the front and the band is so comfy! Glad I'm not the only one with problems though. Thanks for this post!

    ReplyDelete
  17. So I happened across your post while researching CK bras - I'd found a major steal on them online and wanted to be sure to get the right size. I measure at a 28H for the brand, but was sure to order a 28HH too in order to avoid the upside down 7. I've got soft, full on bottom breasts.
    I literally just received and tried on the bras I ordered 10mins ago. The Romance in 28HH was still laughably too small and gave me the weirdest shape I've ever seen - the bottom portion of the cup was so small it was as if my breast tissue stretched it completely flat...I'd say it was like a "plateau on the bottom" shape. So weird. The Romance in 28H was even worse.
    The Emily in 28HH, however, seems to actually fit! The shape is decent. I'm testing it out today to see if that holds true at the end of the day!
    I'm definitely disappointed, because although the shape from the side is awful they look fantastic from the front and the band is so comfy! Glad I'm not the only one with problems though. Thanks for this post!

    ReplyDelete
  18. So I happened across your post while researching CK bras - I'd found a major steal on them online and wanted to be sure to get the right size. I measure at a 28H for the brand, but was sure to order a 28HH too in order to avoid the upside down 7. I've got soft, full on bottom breasts.
    I literally just received and tried on the bras I ordered 10mins ago. The Romance in 28HH was still laughably too small and gave me the weirdest shape I've ever seen - the bottom portion of the cup was so small it was as if my breast tissue stretched it completely flat...I'd say it was like a "plateau on the bottom" shape. So weird. The Romance in 28H was even worse.
    The Emily in 28HH, however, seems to actually fit! The shape is decent. I'm testing it out today to see if that holds true at the end of the day!
    I'm definitely disappointed, because although the shape from the side is awful they look fantastic from the front and the band is so comfy! Glad I'm not the only one with problems though. Thanks for this post!

    ReplyDelete
  19. I have posted a link to this review on my site as it is wonderfully honest. Hope that is ok? If not please e-mail me and I will remove it.

    ReplyDelete