Sunday 8 December 2013

What Tutti Rouge Has to Offer (so far)

Over the past couple of months, I've made an attempt to familiarize myself with all of Tutti Rouge's bra offerings. There are many reviews coming up, but I wanted to post a summary just to start off with to help my readers get some mental categories started on what may or may not work for them. For the most part, I've found that it's necessary to size up in the band and cup from your normal size to fit in Tutti Rouge, so I wear a 32HH in Tutti Rouge as compared with a 30HH in other brands. However, it seems (from preliminary information from those who have tried these bras) that the bands suddenly get larger around 34 and start running normally. This means that true 32 bands may be sized out, oddly enough. Exceptions are noted. Tutti Rouge's original collection contained the following shapes:

1. The Liliana, a half-padded semi-plunge balconette shape.

Though too shallow to work for some people, it is a miracle bra for anyone who is looking for a really minimized shape. I have to wear scrubs for work, so I wear the Liliana every day. Tutti Rouge is now recommending to anyone ordering from Big Cartel that the Liliana runs a size small (as in a size smaller than their other bras). They actually will email you to tell you this if you order. I personally wear the same size in the Liliana as in Tutti Rouge's other bras (and fit the same size in all of their bras, despite the huge differences in shape) but anyone with deeper boobs needing more projection might want to heed this advice to size up. If you do that, though, expect the wires to be wider as well.

2. The Betty is a padded half-cup.

The band on the Betty is by far the smallest of any of Tutti Rouge's bras as well as having pretty much no stretch in it. The 32 I have feels like a 28 and I can't even get it on without an extender. The cups give a great round shape and nice cleavage. I think Betty is a really successful bra and probably Tutti Rouge's most versatile shape currently. I wish the band had more stretch, though. Small 28s and 26s, take notice.

3. The Sophia is a half-padded balconette with a higher gore than the Liliana as well as a completely different shape.

I would say the Sophia is Tutti Rouge's most basic everyday shape. I found it to be a very good fit and give a nice rounded shape. It's not minimizing, like the Liliana, and it's a bit less cleavage-y than the Betty. The top section is an interesting mesh material with no upper seam at all--the fabric is just folded on itself at the top--which gives it an interesting quality of versatility because it can somewhat conform to different upper-breast shape needs. However, I think the upper section is a bit too loose--even I, with a lot of upper fullness, find that I get a bit of gapping in the outer corners of the top section. Those without much upper fullness might find this bra is not compatible. The Sophia's band is MUCH stretchier than any other Tutti Rouge bras, so those who typically wear a 32 or above do NOT need to size up in this one. However, I've heard from a friend that it does indeed run very small in the 30. This may mean that true 30s are sized out in the Sophia.

4. The Frankie is an unpadded balconette.

I think it's a pretty good, relatively versatile cut. The shape falls somewhere between Cleo and Freya balconettes. I'm too full-on-top for the Frankie, so it doesn't work for me, but women who are just a little less full-on-top, balanced or full-on-bottom will probably have success in this bra and get a round shape.

5. The Lottie is a fully padded plunge bra.

 This one did not work for me at ALL. It gave an extremely pointy, downward-facing shape. I suppose it might work for full-on-bottom ladies, and women who like a retro shape may appreciate this bra. However, I don't think it's Tutti Rouge's most versatile or strongest option right now.

6. The Birds of a Feather bra is a half-padded full-cup shape with side support.

Like many full-cups, it's not going to give a rounded shape for full-on-top ladies. However, full-on-bottom ladies who need more projection may like this shape.

Tutti Rouge's new collection contains the following new bras:

1.  Mae--appears to be the same cup shape as the Sophia:

2. Olivia--appears to be the same cup shape as the Lottie:

3. Queenie-- appears to possibly be a similar cup shape as the Lottie.

As you can see, however, there is some indication from the photos that this bra may have three lower sections and one upper section, making it a four-section cup overall and thus a totally different shape. It's not out yet, so it is hard to know so far.

4. Evelyn--appears to be the same cup shape as Birds of a Feather.

Which is sad for me, as it's my favorite of their prints this season and the shape won't work for me. Ah well, that's what the panties are for.

5. Pearl, an unpadded balconette.

I'm guessing this is a similar cup shape to the Frankie, though it seems vaguely different to me somehow.

The new collection also includes new colors of the Liliana and Betty.

Friday 15 November 2013

Freya "Marvel" Review

The long-awaited Freya Marvel finally arrived on my doorstep today. Ever since I saw this bra previewed on Stanikomania many months ago, I knew it was going to be great. Despite Freya's nervousness about the design, I wasn't nervous. I could see that this was a first step at bringing the innovation and genius of Freya Swim constructions into their bra collection. Well, I was right. It's great. You may all go back to your homes now, there is nothing more to see. Just kidding--here is the bra:

You may notice that this bra is slightly different from the bra that was marketed:

In this photo, the purple mesh at the top of the cups is transparent. In real life, it's sitting on top of the cups themselves. Some companies' product photos reflect this change, others don't. I like it better with the transparent mesh, but that's okay, Freya. It's a minor detail.

What really matters is the most important photo, the side view!

YUP, THOUGHT SO! This bra gets a solid gold A+ for shape. It combines a few features of 'good shape' that are rarely found together: it is simultaneously

a. very rounded and slightly minimizing
b. very uplifting
c. 'perky' in shape (that tiniest touch of elf shoe)

Most bras that are very rounded and slightly minimizing tend to sit a little lower on the chest, while most bras that have extreme uplift tend to give a different, more projected shape. The elusive but delightful 'perky' shape is hardly ever found on a bra that is also slightly minimizing. The subtle mix (elements of each) is enchanting.

This bra is very open on the top, which makes it well suited for full-on-top ladies who need space there. I am convinced that it will also work well for full-on-bottom boobs. The shape is not stiff or tight/closed in any area, which is a good sign of potential versatility. The fact that it has that little hint of a 'green shape'--the perkiness--is another clue that it may be FOB-friendly as well as FOT-friendly. I really encourage anyone with that shape who tries it to comment and let me know if this is the case.

I got the Marvel in a 32H, which is pretty much my size in everything right now.

The band on this bra is great. It has a healthy level of stretch, which means it won't feel too stiff for those of us who like looser bands, and it won't feel too loose for those who like firmness. It's made of a lovely thick material, not the crappy mesh you find in most bra bands.

Who is this bra NOT suited for? Anyone who hates wide wires. The patterned part is ALL cup, so you can see that the wires do go pretty far around. (That's what bending them is for.) It will also not work for ladies who need a lot of projection and depth in the cup. It's not as shallow as the padded half-cups, though. A mid-level of projection should still be okay to try this bra.

In the photo above, you can see the feature that makes this construction a little unusual: a side-sling, typically found on some full-cup bras to add uplifted. I know these photos suck, but the feature I'm referring to is the seam that goes straight down the side of the cup. It's my professional opinion that this seam functions fairly similarly to the vertical seams in a half-cup and, as such, doesn't put this bra in a separate category from your standard half-cup construction. I don't mean that as an insult, though. There is very little selection in the unpadded half-cup category, and this is a really strong contribution to it--likely the best that currently exists. 

I want to note that I am aware this review is more 'gushing' than what is typical for this blog. That tone comes from a place of long-standing frustration with Freya's nervousness regarding newer, better styles. They always tread carefully with innovative, exciting designs, while continuing to thoughtlessly produce their generally weak GG-K balconies with flimsy wires, weird bands, extremely full coverage, and disappointing appearances. They have no fear about releasing something that is known to be not-great, but they always tremble with terror at the release of something that is practically guaranteed to work better. Their expansion of the padded half-cups to H ended up taking on the tone of some sort of cover-up, it was so little marketed. The Marvel also doesn't go above an H, though it would work well past that. There have been times recently when I've gotten the sense that Freya is being run by the underpants gnomes:

...that or they have just grown too big and bureaucratic to allow new ideas to have their moment in the sun. To be fair, I feel the same way about Panache (though the Jasmine was a big breakthrough for them). It seems like there is a lot of red tape to get through and playing it safe has become the norm. That's why I'm writing such a gushing review of this new, excellent design. I want people to be able to benefit from bras like this--first because I think a lot of people will like it, and second because I want THIS kind of design to become the norm.

Anyway, I'll get off my soapbox now. Please, anyone who tries this, comment to let us all know how it goes--whether good or bad. Every piece of information helps!

Thursday 31 October 2013

Full Bust “Greatest Hits”: Bras I Hate & Love Gives Out Some Awards

A couple of clever readers have suggested that I do some sort of round-up of the best bras available and I thought it was a really great idea. I think it will be helpful for anyone who isn’t sure where to start with properly fitted bras or new knowledge of their shape, or for anyone struggling to build a basic collection. I’m trying to cover all the bases here. Let me know what I missed!

I’ve distinguished in some categories between bras that give a ‘purple shape’

and bras that give a ‘green shape’.

I’ve also tried to distinguish between bras for full-on-top boobs and full-on-bottom boobs wherever relevant. Bras I’ve honored for shapes other than my own are based on the experiences of bloggers, forum members, and friends with different shapes than mine. Bras lost points for things like crappy band construction and problems that plague almost everyone. (That’s why you don’t see the Cleo Lucy on here, even though it’s a personal favorite—the band is at a stupidly high angle and the gore is too wide for most people.) I also pretty much ignored bras with smaller cup size ranges because I just don’t have a personal experience of them. Please note that this list is based on fit and shape, NOT fashion. 

Best ‘purple shape’ balconette bra for full-on-top boobs: Cleo Marcie. 

This one wins over the Lucy, etc because the band is better constructed and more stable, and the gore is narrower. The Marcie is pretty much a miracle constructed with magic, and gives the roundest of round shapes without pushing your boobs into your armpits. It needs to come out in black and beige, like, yesterday.
Honorable mention: Panache Sienna. 

Despite the lovely shape, I couldn’t let this one win because it comes out in dismally few colors and even those colors are boring repeats of colors it’s already come out in. It also lost points for confusing sizing--you ned to go up a cup size in the Sienna! This one runs a full cup size small.

Best ‘purple shape’ balconette bra for full-on-bottom boobs: Cleo Meg (and, I’m hoping, the new Lily—a slightly altered but ostensibly similar design). 

This bra is different from the Marcie’s construction. The top edge curves in more steeply and there’s more space at the diagonal seam. It works well for full-on-bottom ladies who want a really round shape but experience gapping in the Marcie.

Best ‘green shape’ balconette bra for full-on-bottom boobs: Bravissimo Alana. 

This is one of those ‘old faithful’ bras that you can buy in a ton of cute or useful colors if it fits. It’s loved for its perky shape and firm support.
Sizing: Runs a little bit small. Go up if you’re between sizes. This one will not work for full-on-top boobs.

Best full-cup bra: Panache Jasmine. 

This bra exploded on the scene a couple seasons back and has been really popular. Its genius comes from the uplifting side panel, the supportive firm fabric on the bottom, and the stretch lace in the top. That stretch allows the Jasmine to work for loads of people who tend to be a tricky fit. It expands to deal with bountiful upper breast fullness that tends to overwhelm most full-cup bras. It stretches back in to deal with breast with less upper fullness who tend to experience gapping. It provides a good fit to those with asymmetrical boobs who may struggle to find ANYTHING that works for both sides.  See also: The new Envy and Clara bras are based on the Jasmine, though with little tweaks.


Honorable mention: Panache Andorra. 

This ancestor of Jasmine has the same stretchy lace in the top, but it’s not as crazy-well-loved as the Jasmine and is, I think, a little less supportive.

Best bra for a retro shape: Bravissimo Dotty Spot. 

This bra gives an extreme green shape, what I call “good pointy”. It’s a cult classic, beloved by a committed fan base. The shape is definitely not for everyone, but I couldn’t not mention it!
Sizing: Works better for those without too much upper fullness, but can work for various shapes.

Best bra for a round but minimized shape: Tutti Rouge Liliana. 

If you prefer to blend in rather than stand out, if you’re not at an emotionally stable place about having larger boobs, if you have to wear scrubs for work, if you have your eye on a drapy top, or if you just prefer a minimized look, try this one. 
Sizing: Go up a band size and a cup size. (E.g. If you normally wear a 30HH, try a 32HH.) Also, works better for shallower breasts.

Best plunge bra for firm breasts: Panache Andorra Plunge. 

This one benefits from the same stretchy material as the full-cup, which makes it really comfortable and helps it fit stubbornly shaped firm boobs. It provides the best subtle cleavage I’ve experienced.

Best plunge for soft breasts: Cleo Molly. 

I’ve heard this from a few people. Many women with softer breast tissue find they fall into the center in a plunge bra. Anecdotally, the Cleo Molly is genius for fixing this issue.

Best padded plunge overall: Bravissimo Satine. 

This one works for a lot of different shapes. It fits my full-on-top boobs perfectly and also perfectly fits my friend who is full-on-bottom. It gives a really nice balanced shape.

Best plunge for higher cup sizes: Ewa Michalak PL bras. 

Ewa’s PL bras go up to higher sizes than British plunge bras, and the expert construction provides the necessary stability even for heavy boobs.

Best strapless: HAHAHAHAHAHA funny joke. Errbody needs to go back to the drawing board on this one. Hint: Vertical seams. For instance, I have my eye on the Curvy Kate strapless that is slowly inching towards production.

Best unpadded half cup: Ewa Michalak’s HM styles. 

There are not a lot of options for unpadded half cups out there, but of those available, the HM is the most stable. Half cups can sometimes get a little jiggly and weak in the center, but the HM’s gore tends to sit flat. Some HM styles require going up in the band. Check Bratabase to verify for individual styles.

Best padded half cup: Masquerade Coco. 

I know this seems obscure. The Rhea and Delphi by rights belong here, but I took points off because the Rhea’s padding is a little too stiff and the Delphi’s straps are too thick to be practical. So although the Coco seems a strange choice, I believe it combines the best features of Rhea and Delphi.



Honorable mention: Tutti Rouge Betty. 

Though new on the scene, this half-cup is a blogger favorite. I think it's Tutti Rouge's most versatile fit, and as such, probably their best bra so far. Go up a band size and a cup size in this one (if you normally wear a 32F, try a 34F). 

Best Swimwear in General: FREYA!!!!!!! Hands down, no one else can even compete.

Best padded Swimwear: Freya’s padded sweetheart cut
Lindy Hop
Best unpadded swimwear: Freya’s plunge cut. 

In particular, the Fever bikini is their best. The construction changes slightly starting with H cups but it is still great.

Best molded (purple shape): Freya Deco. 

This bra also wins the category for “Best Bra to Feel Normal if You’re Used to Victoria’s Secret”. It wins this category by a sweep because it’s one of the few bras to come in TONS of colors, it has a low gore, and it has a comfy band. Some full-on-bottom ladies may struggle with gapping in this style.
Honorable Mention: Curvy Kate Smoothie. 

I can’t let this one win because preliminary reports indicate that these bras have already shrunk a full cup size in the new colors since my positive review.

Best molded (green shape): Fantasie 4510 Smoothing Molded T-Shirt Bra. 

This one gives a lovely perky, projected shape. I think it’s pretty underrated.

Best for deep cups with narrow wires: Ewa Michalak S and SM, and Comexim.

Ewa Michalak S Bambino

Ewa Michalak SM Trefl
Comexim Green Velvet
Ewa Michalak’s S and SM bras offer tons of projection and suit deep boobs that don’t get along with shallow British styles. The narrow wires make them especially good for small-framed women who can’t wear wide wires, or for anyone with narrow breast roots. 
Comexim bras also win in the deep cup/narrow wire category, and are even narrower in the wires than Ewa Michalak.

Most attractive sports bra: Panache Sports Bra. 

This one definitely gives the best shape of any sports bra out there. It also comes in cute colors, and I like the use of underwire as well as the racerback clip. I recommend sizing down in the band to increase stability.

Most effective sports bra: Bravissimo Inspire. 

It’s a LITTLE less ugly than the Freya Sports bra, and it immobilizes the boobs. It’s underwired, so it keeps everything separated and in place.
Honorable Mention: Shock Absorber Max Sports Top. 

I didn’t give the category to this one because I feel the lack of underwire can cause breasts to rub against each other unless you wear another bra underneath. However, this one will completely eliminate bounce.

That's all I've got for now... Did your favorite make the cut? If I missed something important, let me know in the comments!

Tuesday 29 October 2013

Fantasie 'Esme' Review

The Fantasie Esme’s claim to fame is its ‘center-pull straps’—essentially, the location of the straps has been modified so they are closer together in the back. This is useful for women with narrow shoulders who find straps usually slide off. It’s also a nice alternative to having straps sit in the exact same place every day. The Esme is also part of a small group of molded Fantasie bras which are, in my opinion, rather underrated and under-reviewed. So when I got a chance to try the Esme in a store, I snapped a couple photos so I could review it.

Like the Fantasie Smoothing (4520), the Esme is MOLDED but NOT PADDED. The concept of this confused me before I had tried it, but it essentially just means that the fabric itself has been molded into a seamless shape. A molded AND padded bra would have foam as well as fabric molded into the shape; however, although they’re often synonymous, padding doesn’t need to be part of a molded bra.

I tried the Esme in a 30H. I’d say it runs fairly true to size, though a little larger in the cups than Bravissimo balconettes.

Like the Smoothing 4520, it came up a little bit higher than I’d like in the cups (which was the ultimate reason I didn’t buy it). I tend to wear some fairly low-cut tops, though, so if you wear tops with more coverage, this won’t be an issue. It also won’t be an issue if you’re considering this bra, as I was, as something to wear under button-down shirts for work.

I loved the feeling of the modified straps. Since most straps sit in the same tender groove on my shoulders, I loved the fact that these were pulled in closer to my neck. This is what it looked like from the back:

The shape from the side was quite good:

 I often have a knee-jerk fear that Fantasie bras will be pointy, but frankly this is undeserved. Though they do still produce some clunkers like the Belle full-cup, they also make a lot of really nice basic bras that give nice shapes. The Esme is similar to the unpadded Smoothing 4520 in its somewhat minimized, nicely rounded shape. The padded Smoothing T-Shirt Bra (4510) gives a different, but still lovely, shape—perky and projected. Another benefit of these bras is that they reliably come out in basic colors. I know, it seems odd that I get excited by boring black and beige bras, but I feel like a lot of brands have gone too far in the other direction, while Fantasie still understands that plenty of customers need something practical or have simple tastes.

If you’re looking for a seamless bra, and especially if you have problems with wide straps falling off your shoulders, give the Esme a try. It’s one of Fantasie’s ‘good ones.’