Wednesday 26 February 2014

A Conversion Guide for Ordering Bras From Simply Be's US Site

A while back, I posted a guide to navigating ASOS’s confusing bra size conversionon their US site. I’ll never know why these UK websites invent new sizing systems for their US buyers, but ASOS is not the only one to do it. Today we’ll look into Simply Be’s bra size conversion on their US site. Simply Be has a small, but well-curated selection of Panache, Cleo, Freya, and Curvy Kate. They also have really good offers quite frequently, which is what originally tempted me to tackle their size conversion. They stock mostly 34 bands and above, but they do have a decent amount of bras starting at 30 or 32.

Simply Be, unlike ASOS, actually presents us with a size chart:

Please note that by this size chart, Simply Be’s US site does NOT sell bras in FF cup—they just skip the size for some reason. Knowing this throws off my original conversion, since I had assumed they had a FF. I can’t think of any reasonable explanation for why they do this, but I’m not totally shocked, since ASOS had a particularly odd conversion for FF as well.

Simply Be has included band sizes in their chart, which, in my opinion, makes it quite confusing visually, so I have created a simplistic cup size conversion chart as I did for ASOS. The band sizes, as with ASOS, are the same.

In my travels around the Simply Be website, I’ve noticed there is an occasional glitch that causes the size conversion to alter in 36 bands and above. This happened last night while I was preparing my post, and has corrected by this morning. If you ever see a changed cup size listing in 36 bands or above, I would recommend just waiting to order until it is fixed. If you can’t wait, I present my best attempt at a conversion for these glitchy times:

The UK D=US DD and UK C= US D issue irks me especially because ALL of these (C, D, and DD) are proper UK sizes, and they are NOT interchangeable. I’m guessing Simply Be has alienated more than a few D or DD-wearing customers who found they didn’t get what they bargained for. Furthermore, the true irony is that these UK brands are shoe-horned into a nonexistent “US Size System” to appeal to US buyers, but this invariably means the cup sizes look even BIGGER than they really are (K becomes P) which makes them more likely to alienate uneducated US buyers.

Now, despite this annoyance, I do actually have experience ordering from Simply Be and can vouch for certain size conversions…
I ordered a Tutti Rouge Liliana in 34L, which turned out to be a UK 34H.
I ordered a Freya Deco in 30K, which turned out to be a UK 30GG.
I ordered a Curvy Kate Lola and a Cleo Lucy in 32L, both of which turned out to be UK 32H.
Finally, I ordered a Tutti Rouge Betty in 32M, which is a UK 32HH.

I was correct in guessing at all of these sizes, and due to the 30% and 40% off promotions that Simply Be often offers, I was glad I took the risk. In addition to their amazing offers, they also often have exclusive colors. So I hope this post offers some guidance for those willing to step outside the safe land of Figleaves and Bravissimo. (And no—Simply Be’s UK site won’t ship to the USA, as far as I can tell.)

Wednesday 19 February 2014

A Tale of Two Babydolls: Curvy Kate "Lola" and "Ritzy" Review

Last week I posted about my tendency to wear wired bras to bed. With the recent WONDERFUL explosion of babydolls on the full bust market, it was a natural and fun transition to begin wearing these to bed. The babydoll phenomenon really did happen all at once, and suddenly I went from having zero options to having four. Curvy Kate put out two babydolls, the Lola:

and the Ritzy:

Cleo also produced a babydoll version of their Marcie bra:


Because they inexplicably decided to make this babydoll totally open in the butt, it's fairly useless for my purposes (to use as a nightgown) and therefore I'll be skipping it permanently.

The fourth option is Parfait's Alexis babydoll, which I have not yet tried:

Curvy Kate's Lola was the first to make it to my home. The structure of the cups is a padded version of their normal balconette shape, which makes it the same as the Daily Boost. Now, I knew I was taking a bit of a risk here. Curvy Kate's balconettes tend to fit me well but not give me a great shape. However, since the shape usually looks decent at first and slowly degrades throughout the day, I thought I would be totally fine with a nightwear item, which just needs to look half-decent on its own--no issues with the look under clothing. However, I thought wrong:


The cups on this bra are So. Pointy. when combined with my full-on-top shape. Now, I am sure some readers take no issue with getting this look in a bra, but I also know that I am NOT okay with it and that many of my readers join me in attempting to avoid this shape. I encourage these readers to refer to my post "Why Do Full-On-Top Boobs Look Pointy in Full-Cup Bras?" to answer the pressing question "WHY IS THIS HAPPENING??" This Lola has balconette cups, not a full-cup structure. Even so, the graphics in that post will help to explain why this bra looks like crazy sauce on me, but will likely look totally normal on ladies with less upper fullness than me. If not exactly rounded, these cups will at least probably be 'good pointy', the cute retro look, on those who don't share my shape. Anyone who has boobs as full-on-top as mine knows that the sun will rise in the west and set in the east before our boobs can ever get that shape.........

In any case, my natural first thought was to perform the alteration described in my post "How To Make a Pointy Bra Round." To my consternation, the alteration DID NOT HELP. These cups remained stubbornly just as pointy as ever. Shortening/lengthening the straps also made no difference.

This was a tragic turn of events because the Lola babydoll is so perfect in every other way. The body is made of a soft, high-quality mesh and the hem is finished with a gorgeous wide stretch satin trim. Because it came so close to being wonderful (and yet so, so far) I decided to keep it, wear it to bed, and just avoid ever standing in direct profile in the vicinity of my boyfriend or a mirror.

For sizing reference, I got the Lola babydoll in a 32H. The cups and band run the same as other Curvy Kate balconettes. My hip measurement is about 2 inches smaller than my bust measurement, and I found that with the notch in the babydoll section where the band meets, I am able to step into it and pull it up over my hips with no difficulty. Judging from other reviews, if your hip measurement is larger than your bust, you will need to shimmy it on over your head.

Following my disappointment with the Lola babydoll, I decided to have another try with the Ritzy babydoll. This cup structure, being a half-cup, is innately much more full-on-top friendly, so I had no worries that it would work perfectly for me in the same size I'd tried in the Lola (32H). Behold:

The Ritzy is a regular old half-cup style with two vertical seams. I originally thought that Curvy Kate had experimented with a single-verticle-seam half-cup structure similar to Tutti Rouge's Betty, because you can only see one vertical seam on the cup overlay. However, the inside of the cup reveals there are two seams. This means the cup shape is the same as Curvy Kate's Tease Me and Thrill Me styles. The one difference is that the Ritzy runs larger in the cups than the later iterations of Tease Me and Thrill Me (which got smaller as the seasons went along). I only *just* squeeze into the Thrill Me in a 32H, but I get slight gapping in the Ritzy in 32H when lying down. Ladies with less upper fullness can possibly fit into a size smaller in the Ritzy than they would need in the Thrill Me and Tease Me. The band is also tighter on the Ritzy babydoll. I know some people felt that the Showgirl bands were a little too loose, so this will be good news for them.

The body section of the Ritzy babydoll was at first less to my taste than the Lola's body section. The body section is more clingy, almost as though it was static-y. It also lacks the satin trim of the Lola and is much less substantial-feeling. I prefer the Lola's body section, but I feel that Curvy Kate may have made the Ritzy's body section in this way to deal with the worries some women have about having their body swamped in a babydoll. It's a fairly classic full-bust dilemma to wish you could cut apart the sections of various items to create one that is perfect. Failing that, the Ritzy is the stronger  option for now. And it will be coming out in red for Autumn/Winter '14:

Of course, I still prefer the Lola colorway for AW14:

However, since the number of babydolls available has increased vastly from the previous zero, I'm not going to grumble too much.

Wednesday 12 February 2014

Sleeping In A Bra--Is It Right For You?

Sleeping in a bra--especially a wired bra--is a fairly controversial topic because lots of women have a pretty strong opinion one way or another. There are three main camps: 

1. Women who cannot imagine sleeping in a bra due to discomfort, or who find it most comfortable to sleep braless (the largest group).
2. Women who sleep in an underwired bra and cannot imagine sleeping without the support of a bra with wires (a minority).
3. Women who prefer to sleep with support, but desire that support to be wireless. Members of this camp are often turned off by both the other methods.

There are also some of us who switch between methods depending on mood or circumstance.

I am a member of the smaller second camp, and I suspect a decent number of readers are making a face right now and thinking "Sleeping with wires? Wouldn't that be awfully uncomfortable?" I want to talk a little bit about my preference to do this because I think it has a few potential benefits that are not well known, and perhaps there are some readers who have not tried it but would like to. I don't want to 'convert' anyone, other than perhaps women who are uncomfortable sleeping braless and want information about a different option.
"Wouldn't that be awfully uncomfortable?" The answer is, some people do find it uncomfortable and therefore it's not a good method for them. I, however, find it to be more comfortable than any other method because of various tradeoffs, and I also find there are some other benefits to it as well. All of the methods have some benefits and some drawbacks, so I will go over my personal experience in the hopes that it can enlighten others. I would love to hear about other people's experiences in the comments.

I used to sleep braless, mostly because it was what I did when I was young and I continued to do it even once I was wearing bras every day. I was never very happy with the braless approach because I disliked the feeling of being unsupported. I especially hated waking up in the morning and either needing to put a bra on right away, or having to walk down the stairs gingerly clutching my chest. Eventually I began to experiment with various wireless options but was even more unsatisfied with them due to their tendency to push my boobs together so they touched in the center. Finally I started leaving my bra on all night out of pure laziness. I must say that it was a bit of an adjustment and in the first days, I would wake up wondering what had gotten into me that convinced me to sleep in a (new, non-broken-in) wired bra. After about a week and a switch to some better-broken-in bras, it started to seem totally normal and I have never looked back.

Since I began sleeping in a bra, I have noticed certain benefits. The shape of my boobs has actually changed somewhat. My theory is that since my boobs are rarely unsupported by a bra, the weight puts less stress on the skin, causing less loss of elasticity. My boobs are slightly more self-supporting now as the skin seems to have stretched back to a smaller shape. I believe this process was aided by my religious use of lotion and my youth, but that is not to say it could not happen to others as well. In addition to this small reversal of the work of gravity, I have a theory that sleeping in a bra (either wired or wire-free) could potentially reduce or delay changes in shape that come with age.

Obviously, all breasts will change over time, and that is fine and normal. According to most theories, the major factor supporting breasts naturally is your Cooper's ligaments. Your skin has some elasticity, which in some cases can cause very tiny shape changes, as I've described above. However, Cooper's ligaments don't have any way to bounce back from shape changes, which is why boobs usually lose elasticity as we age. This is a normal, inevitable process. Other factors can also cause shape changes--the most common being significant weight gains or losses, which is often something we cannot control for.

It does seem to be the case that relying on bras for support, rather than the Cooper's ligaments, causes less 'wear and tear' on them--many of us already rely on this during the day by wearing supportive, well-fitting bras. Good support matters most during the day, when you are moving around and standing/sitting upright. Depending on other factors like breast size, breast weight, and sleeping position, support during the night may also contribute. This theory is based on my personal experience and will be hard to prove, even over time due to the lack of a control group with identical breasts to mine. I've chosen to share my thoughts and experiences in case it is of interest to some women. I recognize others will disagree or have different experiences and I'm also looking to gather information about that from my readers.

What Kind of Bra Is Best for Sleeping?

If you are interested in trying out sleeping in a bra, don't just grab whatever bra you see in front of you. There are certain types of bras that are best suited to the practice. 

Wireless Bras
  A good option to start with is the wireless support style that I mentioned above. The upside is that you will never experience discomfort from poking wires. The downside is that good wireless bras can be nigh-impossible to find in large cup sizes. Unfortunately, a wireless bra, even while providing lift and support, will never be able to separate large heavy breasts unless it has a VERY firm structure—think all-over molding—which would possibly defeat the comfort purpose. You can check out Curvy Wordy's "Quest for a Sleep Bra" (links to other attempts at the bottom of this post) to see how difficult this search can be. If you don't mind your boobs touching, then this will not be an issue for you.
For those seeking out wireless options, there are several different categories you can check out. Several brands make wireless bras specifically for this purpose. From what I have heard, Panache's Sophie bra is one of the better options--I know two people who swear by it.

You can also check out sports bras without wires--Royce's Impact Free is one with which I have seen people have success as a sleep bra.

There are also nightwear items, likes those from Bravissimo, that provide a certain level of support. 

I personally find these to be less than ideal because they smoosh my boobs together and provide an unfathomable level of cleavage above the cup section, which for me nullifies the feeling of support. Part of the problem is, as a poster child for full-on-top boobs, I just have way too much breast tissue above where Bravissimo thinks I do. However, their nightwear line certainly has its fans and if you get along with Bravissimo's own-brand Alana-type bras, you most likely will have better luck with the nightwear items than I do.

A final option is just using a regular t-shirt or camisole that is tight enough to provide some level of support. In some size ranges, regular old camis with built-in bras might work surprisingly well for this.

Wired Bras
Although wireless bras are a good option for those craving a balance of support and comfort, an underwired bra will provide more separation, which is the major difference between wired and non-wired bras. My personal pet peeve is having my boobs touch in the middle all night, which makes it impossible for me to get comfortable, so wireless options are no good for me. I do NOT recommend wearing an underwired bra at night to those who find it uncomfortable--don't put yourself through pain; it's not for everyone. 

With that disclaimer out of the way, if you DO want to sleep in an underwired bra to get that separation, here is what to look for:

1. A high center gore to provide separation, especially if you sleep on your side or belly.
2.  A cup with a very round shape or a very well-fitted shape. It's tempting to sleep in a bra that doesn't suit your shape, since you won't be wearing it during the day, but that's not the best method. A cup that has more projection than your boobs--that is, empty space in the apex--won’t provide the same support while you are lying down as a bra that fits your boobs perfectly. It's also important to avoid bras that are too small or too tight in sections like the top. Any bra cup that smashes you down where you don't want to be squished could damage your boobs, whether it's during the day or night, so don't just jump to using your worst-fitting bras as sleep bras. However, it's fine to use bras that fall short in other ways--like displaying too much or too little cleavage, or having thick seams that show under shirts--as sleep bras.
3. The band should be looser than what you’d wear during the day. You don’t need nearly as much horizontal support while sleeping, and it’s important to allow your back a little break from that compression, especially if your boobs are heavy. An everyday bra that is past its prime due to lost elasticity in the band could be a good option. Personally, I buy bras in a band size up to use specifically as sleep bras.

My favorite sleep bras:

That's right--Curvy Kate's Thrill Me and Tease Me styles. These bras tick all the boxes for a perfect sleep bra--a high gore, a compact rounded shape that supports but doesn't smash me anywhere, too much cleavage for my preference during the day, and a nice comfortably stretchy band. 

When it comes to sleeping, you should do what makes you happy. Sleeping in a bra is certainly not for everyone, but if you're uncomfortable sleeping braless and have never tried sleeping in a bra, I recommend giving it a shot. You might be surprised at how comfy you find it...Or you might hate it and go straight back to bralessness. There’s only one way to find out.

Wednesday 5 February 2014

Tutti Rouge "Sophia" Review

The Sophia bra from Tutti Rouge's first season was the bra that originally caught my eye in their collection, because it comes in a lovely pale pink shade that has been hard to find in the large-cup lingerie world in recent years. This is a shade that works well as a nude for my skin tone, but also one that I find very attractive. Pastels are like catnip to me and the Sophia was therefore a object of lust.

In terms of the sizing, I went with the same size I've fit in every Tutti Rouge bra--32HH, which I guessed at from my initial try-on of several Tutti Rouge styles. I usually wear a 32H in most other bras these days. Tutti Rouge bands run small in most of their bras, especially in the lower band sizes, so I could wear a 34 happily in most of their bras. However, the 32 band in the Sophia is true to size and feels similar to a 32 band in other brands. So if you're figuring out your size in Sophia based on your size in Tutti Rouge's Liliana or Betty, keep in mind you'll probably suit a smaller band size in Sophia than in those others.

(By the way, if anyone was wondering, I'm wearing a 32 rather than the 30 I'd favored in the past because I gained some weight and the 32 suits me better now. I do also love looser bands, but I'm still using +2 from my measurement in inches to get my band size.)

Here is the Sophia from the front:

You can see straight away from this photo the minor issue that I have with the Sophia (and I suspect most users will experience the same). The upper tulle section has the interesting feature of having no seam at the top. It is folded over on itself, which gives it the ability to flex or move a certain amount to suit different shapes, despite not being particularly stretchy. Unfortunately, it is SO open and flexible that it actually gaps in the upper corner. Since my boobs are so full on top, this is a very rare occurrence for me. Since it is just in the upper corner, it does not bother me much and is hidden under clothing. However, those with less upper volume will probably find this to be more of an issue and may even need to consider sizing down or skipping this model.

The little bit of gapping in the corner also makes it hard to get an accurate photo of the shape from the side:

In both these photos, the fabric that sticks up makes the shape look kind of square or artificial. But since that fabric would be held down under clothing, it doesn't affect the shape once I'm dressed. You can see the shape slightly better here:

However, that little loose bit of fabric STILL creates a look of bulging that isn't really there. Because it's hard to photograph the shape this bra gives, I'll have to just describe it: rounded, fairly casual and not super in-your-face or perky. It's a shape I like, while women who prefer a ton of uplift and projection may not like it as much.

Despite the gapping, I do think this bra can also work well for full-on-the-bottom ladies. I have very little lower volume and this bra has more room than I need in the bottom of the cups. Because of this, it has a tendency to move slightly downward while I'm wearing it as the bottom of the cups begins to function as part of the band. This is something I have experienced to varying degrees in lots of bras--in fact, I have never had a bra that does not do this to some extent due to my lack of lower volume. So if you haven't experienced this effect with other bras, you likely won't experience it with the Sophia either. But if you do find that this happens, look for a bra with less depth in the bottom of the cups, like Tutti Rouge's Liliana.