Tuesday 12 August 2014

Thoughts for the Road: Full-On-Top Boobs in a World of Lower Fullness

Today I spent a long time thinking about why I stopped blogging.

Part of it was (I’ll be honest) the hurt of reading questions on forums when I’d spent hours writing up detailed posts answering those very questions. It seemed like it wouldn't matter if I disappeared.

Another part of it is my continued ambivalence about my boobs. I've never been the type to enjoy showing off cleavage; I'm all about bras that minimize and tops that smash my boobs. I have to deal with having big boobs, and I refuse to act like it's hard (it's not), but I don't necessarily have to like it. And sometimes I just want to cling to the Tutti Rouge Liliana and live it up in flowy crop tops. (At the end of that post you can read about my concern that this bra would allow me to relapse into my insecurity. I guess maybe it did.) And that doesn't really give me much to blog about. I don't want to spread my ambivalence, but right now I've retreated into it.

Part of it is that my passion faded. The bra world dealt me a few minor blows, and a few major ones, which snowballed together and everything started to seem disappointing.

Tutti Rouge abandoned their cute aesthetic in favor of this upcoming Fifty Shades of Gray foolishness. Meanwhile their shipping to the US remains so high that I can’t justify ordering the bras I love from their current collection, even as they sell out one by one, never to be replaced.

Even worse news came from Freya. The Marvel, the best bra I ever found for my shape, didn’t even make it to a third season.  They’re “replacing” it with a modified side-support full-cup which doesn’t look like it will be open on top at all. They’ve also recently added piping to the top edges of their Deco, which will reduce gapping experienced by full-on-bottom users, but will mean it no longer works for full-on-top boobs. You can see from these comparison photos the way in which the Deco has been edging away from being full-on-top friendly for years. 
Old Freya Deco (Pomegranate)

Freya Ashlee (Deco Variant) in a cup size BIGGER
The new Deco has a tighter top edge like the Ashlee pictured, but the biggest change is a deeper, smaller apex that just does not work with full-on-top boobs.

Both these moves, I must assume, are meant to correct issues encountered by buyers with lower fullness, who make up the majority of the market. I GET all this, I understand. It is not really news to me. The best bras for full-on-top boobs will always live fast and die young. I know that the majority of boobs have lower fullness and I know that companies want and need to cater to the largest sections of their audiences. Still, I wish…

…that there were more of us?

That companies were willing to produce smaller runs of bras for us and just warn off the full-on-bottom buyers?

The alienation I felt as a woman with full-on-top boobs was the biggest, most painful, and most important reason I started a blog in the first place. I guess it’s ironic that now it’s the factor that’s forcing me out. At the time, it was so hard dealing with what felt like a world of bras that wouldn’t fit me in any size due to cutting in on the top edge. It was so hard having bras that looked cute on so many people make my boobs look so sad. The hardest thing was struggling with the fact that people erroneously assume the shape is a synonym for "perky", when in reality full-on-top boobs have a lower apex and tend to point down naturally. I know now that full-on-top boobs are not something to be ashamed of, they are just different than what most people have and are familiar with. But, oh, it was SO hard back then.

I try to be more philosophical now. I try to keep in mind the expanded options. I try to forget the worst slights . I try to snap up the best bras when they come around. I try to spread knowledge so that those who share my shape can feel okay with it.

But right now, I just don’t have the love in my heart, and I'm sorry. Let’s go over it one more time, together, because I don’t know how long it will be before I come back. Here’s how we full-on-top ladies can navigate a world of bras that just won’t work for us.
Bravissimo: The Boudoir Beau is the only unpadded balconette that can work. It’s still a wiggle, but it works. Half cups are always good (Bravissimo’s run small).
Cleo: Marcie is a good bet. Avoid Meg. For other balconettes, wide gores allow you to take in the gore to make the shape more open on top—another good bet (try Lucy, but expect to take in the gore).  Half cups (Juna) are always good.
Panache: Avoid the sea of full cups. Avoid Tango like the plague. Avoid Tango knockoffs. Seek only the rarer-than-hens’-teeth balconettes (like Sienna) and the full-cups with elastic on the top (Jasmine, Envy, Andorra, Clara).
Freya: Avoid the unpadded balconettes. (I know, I know… but save yourself the grief. Avoid them all.) Marvel is perfect (wide, though, if that’s not your thing). Patsy and other padded half-cups are a great bet. That includes the longlines. Unpadded plunge swimwear is a miracle. (Wear as a swimsuit, wear as a bra, wear as a shining shield of good feelings.) Look for the oldest Decos without the trim on the top edge.
Curvy Kate: Avoid all the balconettes, especially the padded ones. Half-cups (currently Ritzy, formerly Tease Me/Thrill Me) are a good bet.
Fantasie: Most are not ideal.
Masquerade: Half-cups (Rhea, Delphi) are always a good bet.
Tutti Rouge: Liliana works for the shallow. Betty (half-cup) is a good bet. Sophia/Mae is okay. Avoid Frankie/Olivia and Birds of a Feather/Evelyn and their knockoffs.

Avoid anything with horizontal seams.

Seek vertical seams.

Good luck out there.

Wednesday 5 March 2014

A (Lazy) Guide to Washing Bras

The question of how to wash your bras becomes important when you find the perfect size, the perfect bra, and curate your ideal collection. I am always surprised to learn how many people throw their bras into the washer (which can be okay) and-GASP-the dryer (never okay). Conversely, it seems like people who make an effort to preserve their bras’ longevity often use expensive lingerie washes and complex drying techniques to avoid crushing cups. It came to my attention that many people are not aware that you can use normal detergent and a towel to wash and dry bras quickly with minimal damage. The perfectionists among us will, of course, want to continue with high-quality lingerie washes, which may perform better in the long run. For the lazy among us, here’s my technique. No mesh lingerie bags, special soaps, or salad spinners required.

Step One. Gather all the bras that need to be washed. Maybe it’s taken awhile to get around to it and you have a lot. Before starting, you must separate the colors. I know I said this is a lazy guide, but if you wash a red bra with a white bra you WILL finish with a red bra and a blotchy pink bra. Ruining your bras defeats the purpose of washing them, so separate them out. It’s fine to wash most pastel bras with white bras. Red goes only with red, other bright colors are best kept alone as well. You can toss navy in with black.

Step Two. Fill the sink with cold-ish water. Hot water is not awesome for the fabric of bras, but it helps avoid the issue of plunging your hands into a glacier to retrieve the bra, so I usually make the water lukewarm. Purists will want to use cold water.

Step Three. Get out your normal, regular detergent. There is no real reason why you should need a special cleanser to wash your bras unless they are extremely delicate, non-washable fabrics. Whatever you use on your normal laundry should be fine for the vast majority of normal full-bust bras, unless it contains bleach. I use fragrance free detergent due to sensitive skin, so I use that for my bras as well. If fragrance is okay with your normal laundry, it will be fine for your bras as well. It does not take much detergent. Imagine how much you would use for a regular load and picture how much smaller your bra is, then eyeball it.

Step Four. Reach into the water and swirl the detergent around a bit. Now put the bra or bras into the water and submerge, and swish them around a bit. You may see the water become slightly gray if the bra is dirty. (You might see the water become slightly red, and you'll be glad you followed my advice about keeping the colors separate!) If there are any particularly dirty areas, you can put a little more detergent on your fingers and rub it into those areas.

Step Five. Leave the bras in the sink until the water drains slowly out of the defective drain plug, or until your roommate needs to brush their teeth, whichever comes first. Drain the remaining water and hold the bra under running water until the water stops looks looking soapy. Squeeze some of the water out of the bra.

NOTE: It is also okay to wash your bras in the washing machine, and you don't need a special mesh lingerie bag to do it. You DO need to put the bra inside something, though, because in the case that an underwire should pop out in the wash, it can totally destroy your washing machine. The easiest thing to do is to pop the bra inside a pillowcase and tie the top in a single knot. The knot will tighten as it gets wet, helping keep the bra secure inside. Only wash bras on a cold cycle (which should also be fine for all your laundry, because it cleans just as well as hot and saves money and the environment). I haven't had issues with bra colors bleeding in a washing machine, but to be 100% safe, you can just keep red bras out of the machine. 

NEVER put a bra in the dryer. It will wear the elastic out hundreds of times faster than normal wear. Even if it doesn't look like the dryer destroys your bras, it causes long-term damage. Instead, proceed to:

Step Six—Drying. Some people would just hang the bra on a drying rack at this step, but with padded or molded bras, it can take days for a bra to dry like this. Instead, get out a clean towel and lay it on the floor. Place the bra on the towel. Now fold the towel around the bra. The bra itself should not get folded, so the bundle you end up with will still be the size and shape of the bra. Carefully fold this bundle in half along the gore (if you can’t find where that would be, don’t force it). Now, step and kneel on the towel bundle to crush all the water out of the bra. Unfold the towel. The bra should now be only slightly damp. Hang it to dry and it will be ready to wear in a matter of hours rather than days.

I like the towel trick because it allows you to essentially “wring out” the bra without having to twist and crush the shape and the fabric. It also helps get the water out of tricky areas, like straps, that can’t easily be wrung out. Molded bras might briefly get a tiny bit crushed this way, so again, purists may want to experiment with the salad spinner technique (pretty much what it sounds like). Or, drape a towel over your knee, place one bra cup over each knee, fold the towel over the top, and press down.

I hope my technique will help lazy women everywhere wash their bras in the quickest, easiest way possible! If anyone has any tips and tricks for washing bras, please share them in the comments.

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.

Wednesday 29 January 2014

Tutti Rouge "Betty" Review

Tutti Rouge's Betty bra is a fully padded half-cup with a single vertical seam. So far, it appears to be Tutti Rouge's most versatile cut, with the potential to work for many different shapes. It gives a very round, very compressed shape; as a result it is also slightly minimizing in terms of projection. It will tend to provide a lot of cleavage on most shapes.

In terms of sizing, the Betty runs the same as Tutti Rouge's other bras in the cup, which typically will mean 1 cup size up from what you need in other brands. It is MUCH tighter in the band than Tutti Rouge's other bras. I comfortably wear a 32HH in the Liliana as my everyday bra, but the 32 in the Betty feels more like a 28. I cannot even fasten it without an extender. Most people will probably want to size up in the band in this bra. Women looking for a small 28 band or a 26 band should take note of this option!

The details on the bra are gorgeous, with delicate lace edging the cups and a ruffle underneath. Tutti Rouge speaks to my personal aesthetic in a way that most bra brands don't. Even Cleo, my standby, has recently disappointed me by delving into a look I'd call "80s tropical nightclub chic as imagined by someone who has never been to a nightclub". (Sorry, Cleo. I still love you. I'm sure your next collection will be more to my taste.) Tutti Rouge's bras are consistently "that bra I always wished I could buy, but which never existed until now". I LOVE this exaggerated floral print, which totally turns the tired over-used floral concept on its head.

And I passionately love the shape:

The side-angle even better displays this miracle of bra engineering:

 The Betty's compact, rounded, cleavage-y shape is perfect for dresses and special occasions. Due to the lack of elastic in the band, I personally don't rely on this bra as an everyday staple, but lovers of firm bands can and will.

Wednesday 22 January 2014

Tutti Rouge "Liliana" Review

Tutti Rouge's Liliana bra has filled a massive void in my life and I can't get enough. Here's the gang:

I know, I know, I have SO many of these. So what's the secret to my great love for the Liliana? Well, it's two-fold. First off, the Liliana is THE BRA that I have been lusting after for years in terms of appearance. It's the sort of bra I bought back when my size was common and I had options. The vanilla with pink ribbon, particularly, brings me back to a simpler time when finding a bra was never hard. The Liliana's existence gives me the option to actually buy the type of bra I want.


The second reason I love the Liliana is the shape. Specifically, the very minimized shape:

I have to wear scrubs at my job, and those who have worn them know that scrubs tend to be baggy and are not very bust-friendly. Despite this, I love the concept of scrubs because they are so egalitarian and simple. The Liliana bra gives me a way to make peace between the two opposing viewpoints.

For reference, this is what my scrub tops look like with a regular bra (Cleo Lucy in this case):

My boobs look nicely uplifted, but this also creates the issue where my whole body appears to be the width of my boobs. I know not everyone shares my feeling on this, but it makes me feel that my boobs are on show in a way I'm not comfortable with, as well as making me appear larger than I am.

Here is the same scrub top with the magical Liliana bra:

In this photo you can see that my boobs are not as lifted, but they are also less noticeable. The result is a more compact overall look. You still can't see my waist, but I look like anyone else in scrubs and feel much more comfortable.

In addition to being the best 'scrubs bra', the Liliana also has this effect under drapey tops and slightly baggy t-shirts that would otherwise be unflattering. It gives me the ability to wear outfits I would have previously not chosen.

On the other hand, the Liliana does NOT look very good under fitted dresses because it just doesn't lift the boobs high enough on my short torso. It has its roles and that is not one of them.

Now, you can see by my large collection that I find the Liliana bra essential for day-to-day life. And I am delighted to have access to it. But this also makes me feel a little nervous. In certain ways, leaning so heavily on the Liliana to minimize my boobs feels regressive. It feels like I am going back to a time in my life when I had very strict standards for which bras I felt comfortable in. I occasionally fear I am relapsing to that dislike of my boobs when I regret wearing a bra other than the Liliana because I've gotten used to a smaller look. In a way, bras that minimize the boobs can be a crutch--a substitute for accepting one's own body. That said, I would NEVER deny the necessity of such a bra for people who, like me, haven't always been psyched about having larger-than-average boobs.

In terms of sizing, the Liliana is fairly small in the band. I wear a 32HH and it fits similar to a standard 30 band, or maybe in between a tight 30 and a 32. I wear the same cup size in the Liliana as I do in all Tutti Rouge's bras--one cup size up from what I normally wear in other brands. However, the Liliana is more shallow, so some people might find they need to size up from their normal Tutti Rouge size. In fact, Tutti Rouge is now emailing customers who order the Liliana to inform them that it runs small. I don't necessarily agree that it is any smaller than their other bras, but it is certainly shallower, and therefore is not suited to anyone who needs deep cups.

On another note, when I ordered my most recent round of Lilianas, the wonderful people at Tutti Rouge included a HAND-WRITTEN NOTE and a FREE PAIR OF UNDERWEAR. I don't usually get so into specific companies, but I was very touched by this--particularly because I ordered incognito, so they did not know I am a blogger when they sent me free underwear. The pair they included was the Liliana Brazilian brief, and I can vouch for the fact that it is insanely comfortable. I wouldn't have ever thought to try it if it hadn't been free, but I recommend it to those who like matching sets.