Sunday, July 15, 2018

My Favorite Bra Comfort Hacks

If you read this blog, you'll know that comfort is my priority. And comfort and 'proper' fit often are not found together in the same bra. Not everyone has the time, energy, or money to make an obsessive quest hobby out of the search for holy grail bras. Sometimes, you simply have to make do with what you can find at an affordable price. The brand Delmira is a particularly good bet for this. Their bras are all versions of very popular bras from many different brands. So, if you liked a specific style, that gives you a starting place. 

Now, how do you go about bra-hacking your way to more comfort?

Determine exactly what is making you uncomfortable

  •  Wires digging in at the sides
If neither band or cup are too tight, then this is likely the result of a 2-dimensional flat wire meeting 3-dimensional curvy, fluffy bits. 

Hack:   Bend the tips of the outer wire slightly outward, away from your body. It's best to do this while actually wearing the bra so you can feel exactly when you've reached the right angle. I do this on maybe 70% of my bras.

  • Wires poking you in the armpit
You will often read that this means your band is too loose. Yeah, I strongly disagree. It's more likely that the wires are just too damn tall for comfort, and the result of a design philosophy that prioritizes containment. Hello, Panache. Wacoal is also a repeat offender.

Hack:  There's nothing you can do to fix an actual bra you already own, save remove the underwires and turn it into a wireless bra. This works best when it has wide, non-stretchy straps, and a firm band, since that's where much of the support will be. 

However, if you're in the try-on stage, sister-sizing is the hack to try. Go UP a band and down a cup. Although the cup volume is the same, this will often drop the wire height. It isn't true across all brands, but it meets the rule-of-thumb criteria: it is true 80% of the time.

Consider Polish and other Euro brands. Rosme in particular, shines with its lower-height wires. Anita is another brand that has some lower-height wire styles like the Pure Allure.
  • Wires are digging into your chest/solar plexus
This is often caused by three things, sometimes combined in an unholy trifecta:  the bra has no underband, cups are shallow at the bottom, and you are short-waisted. I experienced this issue with these bandless Glamorise and Comexim styles.

Hack:  If you otherwise love the bra, try a bra-liner; the soft, padded fabric will provide cushioning and substitute for an underband. 

In terms of future shopping, you'll now know to avoid bandless, shallow-cupped styles. You also may want to try designs that dip up beneath the gore and put less pressure there.

  • Bra fits well but the wires are just uncomfy in general
This is usually due to the wire type and shape of that specific bra brand being a total mismatch for your shape. 

Hack:  You cannot make these wires more comfy. Focus on avoiding the issue in the future: If the wire is super thick, sturdy and rigid, like Elomi, Panache, and Felina Paramour, then you know to strike those brands from your comfort list and look for softer, gentler wires. If you are getting chafing on your side/underarm area, check to see if the wire has the Nike swoop shape, as many UK brands do. If so, look for an upright U-shaped wire that stays close to the boob and does not wing back toward your side. Polish brands, and Euro brands in general, are a good bet for this. Even most US brands tend toward the U-shape.

  • Harsh seams that are irritating
Hack:  If it is a bralette: flip it inside out. I do this on most of mine if they are crop top style. If it is cup seams that are irritating, that's non-fixable. 

  • Bra has those mini-vampire stakes, also known as side-stays
These just suck as a life philosophy. There are very few that I can tolerate, and these are very soft and flexible, such as Empriente's. More often, you get get something like this:

  


Hack:  You do not have to put up with that. Rip them the fuck out. However you have to. Most of the time, I use scissors to make the tiniest snip I can in the bottom of the casing (that vertical strip of fabric that covers the little plastic torture device) where it meets the band and just slide them right out. Victory for Comfort: Achieved.

However, there are a couple of brands -Freya being the worst I've seen- where those nasty little suckers are actually sewn into the band. When, after a prolonged and bloody battle, you succeed in getting them out, you will see that they have three tiny holes -at each end!- where the thread attaches. Back when I still put up with brands that do this, I would make two small snips, then take a seam-ripper and blindly saw it back and forth at each end of the stay until I cut through all the threads. The only bra that ever was worth going into combat like that was the Freya Jolie.

  • Scratchy lace
Hack:  First, always, always, always, wash a new bra before you wear it. You want to remove any fabric starch and processing chemicals. If it's still scratchy:
Do a loooong soak in fabric softener or hair conditioner. I add 1/2 capful to just enough warm water to cover the bra, then leave it there for at least 2 or 3 hours. Rinse. This is successful about 50% of the time for me. it's always worth a try before tossing a bra. That worked for the La Isla.

  • Back Clasp is irritating/scratchy
Figure out which of these two things it is: the edges of the fabric are sharp and stiff, or, the fabric of the hook portion does not extend enough to completely cover the hooks, allowing them to scrape your back.

Hack:  For stiff clasp fabric, the fabric softener soak is not usually effective, and I resort to tucking a folded tissue beneath it. However, for the 2nd problem, the easiest fix is to simply fasten your bra on the middle hooks. If the band is too snug for that, then, after you wash the bra - while it is still wet - gently stretch the band out a bit. Do this one side at a time, so you don't distort the wires. This works best on a non-mesh band, though I have used this hack successfully on them too. It worked perfectly on the Rosme Rosabel

  • Straps are irritating
I find this is usually due to a cheap, scratchy elastic being used and was a problem with almost every Curvy Kate I've ever had. 

Hack:  You really can't fix this. But you can mitigate it, to varying degrees, by loosening the straps. I'm not a fan of wearing straps super-tight for 'lift'. It creates a lot of discomfort, and, if your band fits, it is generally just a sign that you need to drop a cup size. 

  • Bra fits well enough, but you're drooping
This is often an issue when you're between sizes, so you've gone up one, or, you've opted for the cup size that fits your bigger boob - which conventional wisdom advises you to do. 

Hack:  Yeah I'd advise doing the opposite: try fitting your smaller boob. Sometimes putting up with a little double-bubble is totally worth the trade-off in increased comfort. That was the case for me with the Delmira Floral Lace bra:

40G




In this case, dropping a cup gave me much better lift and significantly dropped the wire height. 




40F      




The 40G might, arguably, be a better 'technical' fit, but that's irrelevant to what is the comfy, and therefore, the right fit, for me. 







  • You are forced to settle for a white bra in your size
I realllly hate white bras. They are just useless in my wardrobe. They absorb color-rub from bright cotton fabrics, and don't even work for white blouses, which require a skin-tone bra to disappear. But if that's your only option in the style you want....

Hack:  Dye it. And if you are too lazy to dye it properly, with RIT, or, you have sensitive skin and that's a no-go, then use food coloring along with a squirt of lime juice or vinegar. Pretty much as you would with Easter eggs. I've done this many times and particularly liked the results of the pastel food dyes. 

Note: this won't work on cotton or all-polyester. The fabric needs to be have some blend of nylon to absorb the food coloring. Blends result in tonal effects, which are fun. I have a few old pics of this, such as this muted violet from mixing pink/blue, this once-bright blue (that is also a cautionary tale on why you cannot dry them in sunlight) and this pale pink, faded after 4 years. Basically, embrace your inner finger-painter and release any need for perfection, and this is a lot of fun. Plus, no matter how badly it turns out, it will still be better than a blinding granny-white bra.

There are many more advanced hacks you can do, some that practically re-make the bra, if you are seamstress inclined - which I am not, at all. If you have any simple comfort hacks I've missed, by all means, share them!


Saturday, July 7, 2018

Review: Cacique True Embrace Unlined Full Coverage Bra

We've had a rare heatwave - hey, 80F is actually pretty hot in a humid rainforest where summer averages 60F and A/C doesn't exist. So I dug out the three very thin cotton T-shirts I own, which exposed a big fat, skin-toned, T-shirt bra shaped hole in my bra-drobe. The Rosme Delicate Lace Misterious Rose works beautifully as my T-shirt bra under medium-to-dark colored tops, but not under light hues. At all. As I found out when I walked into the Ladies' at my office, with its helpfully blazing fluorescent lighting, and realized it was completely visible under the coral top I was wearing. Luckily, I have no contact with the public, so my co-worker & I just had a good laugh.

Cacique is a brand by Lane Bryant and they've really expanded their offerings in recent years, so I decided to give them a try. Although they are a 'plus' size range, unlike say, Elomi, their fit is actually more oriented to big boobs than plus sized. Their sizing runs from 36-46 C-H. However, bands run snug, cups large, so the effective size range is 32-42 D-I. 

 Cacique True Embrace  
(I opted for the non-T-shirt, 'unlined' style, which actually is lined).

Lane Bryant Women's True Embrace Unlined Full Coverage Bra 44DDD Black Marl


 Beauty

Simple, sleek, pretty. 
The fabric has an interesting heathery shimmer. The bra completely disappears under thin knits. There is a nice bronzy-beige, but my size was not in stock, so I opted for this graphite gray. So, technically, that skin-tone hole is still in my wardrobe. 

Comfort & Fit

CupsThis bra has the same cup construction as my previous favorite T-shirt bra. Like that bra, made (& sadly discontinued) by Triumph, the cups are a thick, 2-layer, knit fabric that is slightly stretchy and very supportive. This provides plenty of nippie camouflage for me and is much lighter than a foam-dome style. The cups are intended for balanced shapes but are only lightly molded and will conform well to all shapes. The top edge is smooth and not restricted, so it effortlessly shaped to my full-on-tops. On me, the medium-width gore soft tacks; on other shapes it will likely fit flush.

Wires.  I'm not as thrilled with these. They are a heavier gauge than I prefer -less thick & rigid than Elomi or Panache, but more so than Polish brands. They are also higher than I like. The thick casing does provide slight cushioning, but unfortunately, they did not continue the soft microfiber fabric on the inside so after a few hours, the thicker wire casing at the gore caused irritation. Wires are medium width, definitely not wide, which was a nice surprise, and another indicator that the brand is more full-bust than plus-size friendly. 

Band.  There's good and bad news here, and all of it comes down to personal preference. Some will love the very features that I don't care for. Such as the way the soft microfiber fabric of the band is lined with power-mesh, making it very stable (this thing will never stretch out). Together with the tall height of the band, it makes for a more restrictive fit than I like, especially when sitting. But if you like that type of support it does give a very smooth, lump 'n bump free line. But for me, a tall, firm band often equals chafing and irritation. I was comfy for the first 6 hours of my day, but then I was very ready to take it off. Next time, I will consider going up a band size (& down a cup) which will also drop the wire height slightly.

Shape.  Definitely T-shirt style, i.e. round and wide-ish. Shirts drape nicely, with only moderate projection.

Straps.  Nicely done. Very light padding, but on the narrow side, and I had plenty of room, so they are tall-friendly.

When Do I Wear It?

Under very thin, clingy knits when a disappearing T-shirt bra is truly called for. It does cause less boob-tenting than the less-round, more boosted, thin-foam Natori Pure Allure. And far less projection than the oblong shape of the thick-foamed Parfait Casey

Sizing40G (US)  This fits me like a (very snug) UK 38GG. This is my usual size in US brands, where, as I've mentioned many times, it's a reliable rule that bands run tight, and cups large. Rather than converting your size from UK to US, I'd suggest taking your usual UK size and sister-sizing one. E.g. If you are a UK 34H, then a 36G would likely be your size in this brand.

Sunday, July 1, 2018

Review: Knix Luxe V-neck bra

As Knix was founded via Kickstarter, I hoped their bras might actually be a true innovation and a more workable option than the Cake Sugar Candy wirefree bra. 
Spoiler: yeahhhh, not so much. 

The idea: a seamless wirefree bra that fits like a second skin.  
The construction: one continuous piece of very thin, laser-cut microfiber with semi-molded cups. You can see all the styles here: Knix


Image result for knix luxe 

Beauty

Very sleek; very, very plain. 

 Comfort & Fit

Fabric. Paper thin -not especially soft- sheet of microfiber that is surprisingly non-stretchy.

Cups.  Very underwhelming capacity. The fabric doesn't have enough stretch to conform to different shapes, and the way the cup is molded really flattens the top of the boob into an unfortunate downward sloping shape. This shape is kryptonite to full-on-tops and gives a far worse shape than going braless. That makes them suitable for only one shape: (completely, totally) full-on-bottom. And not especially flattering on that shape, since the cup does not round the boobs upward.
Dear-mother-of-god. FOT kryptonite.

Band.  Here comes more bad news. It is incredibly rare for me to complain about the sides or band being too low. But....
 ....this is insanely low. (Also, here is my upper boob trying -and almost succeeding- in defeating the awful top-flattening shape of the molded cups.)

The band (& all of the bra, which is a single piece) is extremely thin. This does not result in the intended greater comfort, since the fabric just sits oddly on the body, threatening to roll up or shift sideways, rather than conforming as a softer, thicker, more stretchy fabric would.

Straps.  While nice and wide, they are a very thin fabric, and so have no cushiony feel to them. Also, they have mega-stretch. While this would have been welcome in the cups, it is disastrous in the straps, negating all support. Particularly when combined with the crazy-low sides & thin band.

Who Might the Knix bra work for?

Though the sizes are 1-8 (supposedly going up to a 42DDD) I really can't see this being a viable option for anything above a C-cup, and definitely not for any but the most full-on-bottom shape. 

I tried an 8, which sister-sizes to a 40G (US) which is normally plenty big enough in the cup for me. While the band was true to size, the cups run very, very small. Because a good 1/3 of the cup capacity is basically wasted with that flat ski-slope upper cup, sizing up won't really help much unless you are completely FOB. 

Price: $55   Size: 8

Lone bright spot:  the company has great customer service. I completed their online return form and was told my card would be credited, and to just keep the bra and pass it along to someone who could use it. Nice. Now, I just need to figure out who that might be. I know exactly one person who is a B-cup...
 
 

Saturday, May 5, 2018

Review: ROSME Delicate Lace Misterious Rose bra

Nutshell: a great bra and under $35. 
And a real find if you're petite with some projection.

Beauty


Misterious Rose (that's the actual spelling) is elegant. Sheer black lace and a deep crimson and black pattern. The colors are very deep, functioning as a black bra alternative. It's a beautiful bra, with enough practicality and comfort features to make it a good everyday choice. Quality is fairly high.

As always, getting decent pics is a bit of a non-starter. So here's a better look at the colorway:
Image result for rosme misterious rose bra

Comfort & Fit

Cups.  Narrow and projected. Less so than Gorsenia, more so than UK brands. Though in many ways, they remind me of a far more comfy (& non-jiggly) Panache Jasmine. The lace is thin and stretchy, which is something that always makes me happy, and there is no strip of elastic to defeat the ability of the upper cup to expand for a full-on-top shape like mine. But, since it is stretchy, it will also conform well to full-on-bottom shapes. The unique feature is the thin vertical foam that forms the outer 1/3 of the cup, giving a very forward shape. There is zero east-west wideness going on here.

Note the vertical foam outer cup

Wires.  Perfect. Low and on the soft side. There is no digging or poking as they come nowhere near your armpit. If you are under 5'5", or just tall but short-waisted as I am, this is cause for rejoicing. They conform to my body without me having to bend the outer tips at all. I find this to be the case on all the Rosmes I've tried. Their wires are lower than Gorsenia, and together with the stretch lace, this makes them a far more universal fit.

Band.  I like Rosme bands. The outer band is soft microfiber, but it is lined with a very fine mesh that is non-irritating. They keep their shape and do not stretch out over time. They also lack that awful tiny, biting elastic edging found in Freya and other UK brands. They have only two hooks, which is just not a problem due to the other good design features. 

Shape.  Rounded and lifted, but not orb-like. It reminds me of the Fantasie T-shirt bra shape that is also narrow and centered from the front and little projected from the side. 


Compromises

There's really only one - & it probably only affects me and other tall peeps.

Straps.  There is that hated ring-connector and, unlike my other Rosmes, in this style it sits perilously close to the top of my shoulder, rather than down over my back. It doesn't cause serious discomfort, but it keeps the Misterious Rose from what would otherwise be holy grail status for me. But again, if you're petite, this will be a non-issue. And on the plus side, the front part of the strap is lightly padded, while still being quite narrow. 

When Do I Wear It?

Surprisingly, as a T-shirt bra. It is unexpectedly perfect in that regard. Though only the outer 1/3 is foam-lined, the seams lie completely flat and disappear under knits, while also falling at just the right spot to provide a little extra nip camouflage. And the non-wide shape is slimming and makes T-shirts drape nicely, reducing the blocky look.  
Size: 40H (Euro) Fits true to size. This equates to a 38GG UK. With Rosme, it's important to determine whether a style contains stretch lace or not. Several styles are rigid lace and those are for full-on-bottoms only. 

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Review: Tata Towel knockoff

I know. I can't believe I actually tried this, either. In a whimsical moment of late night Amazoning, I thought Huh....well, maybe this might be comfy...? Also, did I mention ganja is legal in my state. Hah. Kidding. Well, I mean, it is, but I can't blame this poor consumer choice on that. 

So. I tried it, so you don't have to. You're welcome.

There are many knock-offs of the Tata Towel and after reading reviews extensively, and examining many pics, there seems to be no real difference in construction or material quality, so I went with a knock-off that had equally high ratings. 

And let me just summarize right now: this thing is a ridiculous idea.

Beauty


 
Hahaha! Psych! Totally not a category this time. 

So, the basic idea here was to solve the 'problem' of boob sweat while you blowdry your hair. Not. Even. Kidding. Let me count the ways this is super silly:

1)  It's way too cold here for this to be a problem. People generally huddle into their hairdryers for heat here.

2)   I don't actually blowdry my long curly hair. Nope. I wash it at night and give it the 4+ hours it needs to dry into nice happy spirals.

3)  If this is a 'solution' to that 'problem' then WTF is the fabric so overwhelmingly thick and heavy?!

Construction

in which the news is mostly all bad...

Fabric.   One side is a heavy cotton toweling. That's this side:
The other side is that deeply Joan Collins-y leopard microfiber. And together they equal: a super-duper level of bulky

'Cups'.  Elastic runs around the edges of the whole thing, so it forms a literal boob sling. There is actually plenty of room and it technically goes up to H+. In the side view, you can see the vast bulk of the thing, and how it kind of wraps to each boob. It does stay put fairly well.

Fatal Flaw

Neck strap.  Now of course, by the nature of the design, your neck is going to carry the full weight of your boobs, as there is zero band. With that in mind, you'd assume that the neck portion would be padded, or at least more substantial. And....you would be wrong. It is a thin 2" piece of the same fabric and -wait for it- there is an adjustor (think: the oblong plastic thingie that tightens the drawstring waist of a parka) sitting right at the center of your neck. Wait for it #2: against your skin. I mean, did the maker of this thing ever have a basic high school physics class? Take 5-10 lbs of weight, put it on top of a hard plastic thingie, then hang it all off a vertebra in the neck. Genius! Not.

When Would Any Sane Person Wear This Thing?

I can't imagine. I saw several reviews where people wore it under pj's to lounge in. Yeahhh. No. It would have to be a huge tent of a sleep T that would fit over this apparatus, and even then your boobs would look exactly like a toddler in old school cloth diapers and plastic pants - the original recipe for 'bulky'.

And if you're in a hot, humid place like say, Florida, where using a hairdryer probably would make you start to sweat, then this huge, bulky, non-breathable contraption on your boobs would hardly be a great solution. You'd be far better off tucking a soft bra liner under them and carrying on. Especially if you have neck or back pain, this thing is a complete no-go.

If it was a better design: thin modal fabric, with a padded neck strap -& lose that silly fastener; it's pointless- this thing could conceivably be useful to some, likely those on the smaller end of the big boob spectrum, say, 32E - 36DD or so.

Sizing.  It's basically M-XXL and I chose XL, which had plenty of room for my 38GG boobs.

 

Sunday, April 1, 2018

Travel Moment of Truth: What's REALLY Comfy?

So I have to travel. Something I dread more each year, as planes grow more crowded - while the seats and leg room shrink. It's part of the trade-off of living in such a beautiful, but remote, place, where the only way out involves a 4 day ferry trip (just to get to Seattle) or a 2 hour plane ride (just to get to Seattle). Basically, it takes a full day to get anywhere south of that. 

And travel does something else: clarifies which bras are truly comfortable vs. which are comfy enough for a day at work, or part of a weekend. And I'm a little surprised at what actually landed in my (very small) suitcase this trip.

This is my Sheltie's face while he watches me pack. He is not fooled by my trying to act casual and space out the process. And he is not pleased. Even though he knows full well that Mr. ComfyCurvy is going to bribe him with way too many treats in my absence.


 

For the Actual Travel

 From arriving at the airport through the shuttle ride to my destination: 9 hours

I have two, no, three issues:
  • Swelling & Size Fluctuation
  • Underwire is Out: Because TSA & Sitting So Long
  • I'm going from 40F to 85F temps
Normally, I would opt for one of my ultra-comfy Bali bralettes like I talked about here.  But this time, I'm wearing the Leading Lady Cami Bralette:



Because I've put on 20 lbs, deep bands tend to roll more and I just want the least constriction possible, which means wearing the least amount of band possible. And that's definitely this bralette. 

Other big pluses: it will cause no issues at airport screening time, it is cotton and very breathable, and the high neckline gives me lots of options for wearing a lower cut blouse and light layers, as I go from one extreme climate to another. 

The only drawback is that, as cotton, it won't wash & dry quickly. So this is not a good option if you need to wash it in a hotel bathroom sink & have it dry by morning. Since I will have a washer - & 85F desert sun - that is a non-issue this trip. 

For the destination

The heat is the main consideration. I am fully acclimated to the northern climes. Specifically to this 'temperate' part of Alaska, where I have spent the last 12 years in a cool rainforest climate. The highs range from 30-40F in winter to 55-68F in summer. Before that, I lived in WA, and prior to that, the UK. So, yeah...I don't do well in the heat. Even though I grew up in Rocky Mountain high desert country, that was long ago and far away, and now I wilt and am miserable if I have to be in the direct sun. 

I am that person slathered in SPF 50 with sunglasses and hat practically stapled onto me. But I'm fine sitting in the shade with a book and a margarita. I'm not a total killjoy. I spend lots of time here, on rare sunny days. In that spot of shade.




My top choice for the heatRosme Mona
 

Over the last few months, I've realized that the Mona is now my most comfy bra. The overall lightness of the frame and the open stretchy-lace upper cup is a great match for the heat and the size fluctuations I'll experience from travel and temp changes. There is lots of airflow with this fabric, plus the low wires will avoid chafing, especially in sleeveless tops where there is less fabric to protect the skin. The non-mesh band will make for especially happy times. Some might opt for mesh for its supposed cooling properties, but I find those are far outweighed by its skin abrasion properties. A lightweight microfiber or nylon band is far more comfy to me.

2nd Choice:  Empreinte Grace (Low Neck style)


Although the lace is completely different - very sturdy, far more opaque, and completely non-stretchy - the Grace gives a rounded, lifted, non-wide, T-shirt friendly shape. With ventilation from the lace and a silky, non-mesh band. The wires are a little higher than Rosme's but the straps are amazingly comfy. This is what I'll opt for to avoid a boob tent under floaty modal tops.


For Houseguest Socializing in my Jim-Jams

Again, I am surprised not to opt for the awesome Bali Comfort Revolution Wirefree Bra (really a bralette with hooks), but I'm going with the ultra lightweight Comfort Revolution Bralette (seriously, they need more creative names to distinguis what are very different styles):

 

The fabric is very thin and light, and quite breathable, whereas the other style is much thicker and therefore more supportive - but that's not what I'm going for here. Because the fabric is super thin and stretchy, I wear this in a Large, rather than an XXL. In larger sizes, the straps get oddly long and there is zero support. By dropping two sizes, I'm basically getting a comfy 'boob sling' effect, rather than a bralette. Just some soft containment that is perfect for underneath jammies when you are hanging out with other people. In this case, one's elderly relatives. There are no hooks, so I just step into it like a bathing suit. This is the only bralette I would ever contemplate sleeping in, flipped inside out, of course.

I'm curious to hear if anyone has favorite travel bras you swear by - or, travel horror stories of profound bra regret. Those would also be good.

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Review: Comfort Choice Wireless Lace Bra(lette)

Nutshell:  a bralette with the actual structure for big boobs.

 Beauty


Cotton fabric with a sheer lace overlay and deeply pretty lace from the neckline all the way up the front of the straps.

The straps really look good peeking out, which they will often do because they are very center-pull.




It's harder to see the lace on this deep green colorway, in one band size larger.

Also, the fabric is thick enough to minimize show-through about on par with spacer foam. 





Comfort & Fit

Cups.   Plenty of capacity. They are soft, heavy-weight cotton knit, and have just a moderate amount of stretch. Though V-shaped, they do not cut into my upper boob. They are meant for a balanced shape, though.



Straps.   Flawless! How often do you hear me say that? They really got these right. The straps are obviously expecting big boobs, so they are wide, flat, well-centered, with some stretch. And they are extremely pretty. When they peek out, it looks like you're wearing a camisole with a gorgeous V-neck.

BandNot impressed. It consists of a 1" strip of elastic. That's it. The same kind you find in the waistband of some brands of men's boxer-briefs. But just....bare elastic; without even that softish flocking on the inside. WTW? My husband won't buy men's brands with this feature; he dislikes it for the same reason I do. Why they did not cover this in fabric, for both comfort and looks, I have no clue. It's really out of place with the rest of the design, which has great detailing with the straps & lace overlay. 

Shape.   Surprisingly minimized. The cotton fabric is not super-stretchy, so you do get quite a bit of rounded flattening.
40DDD
 
42DDD

 
Minimized!

Compromises

Side Seams.  I did not except these unwelcome seams -but not as much as I did not expect that bizarre band. They are large and very raised. Not as horrific as the honkers in the Target Curvy Studio Bralette but they are the same type, and in 2nd place. The sides are quite tall and after 4-6 hours, this seam is starting to annoy me. Before that, I'm aware of it. This is the biggest issue for me, far more so than the poorly designed bare elastic band.

Band.  The design is just silly. Not really supportive, just annoying. There are 3 hooks, at least.

Uniboob.  It might look like I'm getting a little separation here. Uh, no. There is zero. Less than the other wireless bras I've mentioned, though separation is quite minimal in any wirefree bra. But this is definitely more bralette than bra. Your boobs will be in very close company. And the bralette kinda creeps down over time, so there will be a whole lot more cleavage then. The shape you get is not really wide, though, as the cups are thick. And oddly, the shape you see under clothing is not at all a boob loaf. So it won't look like you have a uniboob - but it will definitely feel like it.

When Do I Wear It?

I'm more likely to wear this to work than for lounging at home. The minimized shape is really useful for tops with structure and limited boob room. It is not my holy grail for bralette comfort, but it is certainly one you can wear out of the house because it gives a very acceptable shape. The irritating side seams keep this from being a truly comfy bra/lette for me. If you don't have sensitive skin, or are not bothered by thick, raised seams, this is a great choice for some actual support and comfort during travel. 

Sizing. 40DDD(F)  Sizing runs very large (even for the brand) in both band and cup, but especially band. 

I first tried a 42DDD because that is usually my size in Comfort Choice. Since their bands run tight (even when you allow for their +4 system of adding 4" to your own measurement) this size fits me like a 38GG. However, in this style the band runs very, very large. I dropped one band size, which gave me the correct cup size, but the band is still quite loose, even on the middle hook. It really doesn't affect support, which demonstrates how silly that flimsy bare elastic band is; clearly, most of your support is coming from the thicker cup fabric and those beautifully designed straps. 

It's difficult to give sizing advice that is not confusing, so the simplest way: Take your US/Euro size, in my case, 40H, and then drop 2 cup sizes, e.g. to a 40DDD/F which will give you a looser, comfy bralette fit. For a more supportive bra-type fit, try dropping 1 band size & 1 cup size, e.g from a 40H to a 38G.

In UK sizing:  Keep your band and drop a cup. (Straight across; don't try to convert back and forth between US/UK or use 1/2 cups). E.g. From 40G to 38G.

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Review: Delmira Floral Sheer Lace Unlined Bra

I liked the first Delmira I tried enough to try a 2nd style. That was the Floral Lace - yes, the names are, unhelpfully, all similar, though the styles completely different. As with that style, The Floral Sheer Lace seems to be meant to mimic the style -though luckily for me, not the harsh structure- of another well-known bra; in this case, Panache's Envy.

Image result for panache envy
Panache Envy  
Delmira Floral Sheer Lace  

Beauty

 

I've always liked the look of the Envy and this bra echoes it with the subtle checkerboard pattern. The lace on the cups is much more plain, but then this is a $15 bra. The lavender colorway is muted and very pretty. 

Comfort & Fit

Band.   A firm, silky non-mesh with 3 hooks. Nice. 

Cups.   The fabrics are soft and conform well. A moderate amount of stretch, both top & bottom, though the lace is less stretchy/flimsy than Panache. Also, there is a thin strip sewn along the upper cup to prevent gaping on FOB shapes. When I saw this, I was not happy, but it turns out to not be particularly tight, and to still have some stretch, so it doesn't cause cutting in for me. Though it does cause a slight line on my larger boob.

Wires.   As with the other Delmira, they are slightly higher at the sides than I like, say, 1/2" so. But the wires are softer than UK wires, so they do not dig. Also, this style does not have the standard winging-back UK shape as the other style did. These wires are more U-shaped and narrow and stay very close to the boob. Huge pluses for me. I did bend the outer wire tips outward very slightly, to better conform to my muscle 'n fluff in that area.

Shape.   Rounded and moderate; a bit more projected than the 1st Delmira style I tried. Part of the improved lift I'm getting here is due to dropping a cup size, which I knew I'd need to do, and the rest to a slightly less stretchy fabric and the addition of a vertical seam in the bottom of the cup. 

Compromises

Straps.  They're on the thin side, but that's not the problem. They do not lay flat near the adjusters, and kind of bunch up underneath:
Also, say hello to my 1930s old clawfoot tub
This did not turn out to be as irritating as I expected, and I really only felt it towards the end of the day. Straps are otherwise comfy.

Seams.   They are quite comfy and non-irritating, but the horizontal seam shows through clothing to an unusual degree. I don't usually care much about seams and a completely smooth look is not a goal of mine. However, I was surprised to find that these showed through a heavy-weight, non-clingy cotton knit.
The seams don't appear especially heavy duty, and they do lie flat, so perhaps it is simply where they happen to fall on the boob that makes them so noticeable.

Overall, this is a good choice for striking a balance of comfort, moderate support, beauty and quality - at a crazy low pricepoint. I do find that I slightly prefer the first Delmira I tried. I love that lace pattern and the rounder shape.


When Do I Wear It?

To work, mainly. It's comfy enough for a full day of wear, and gives me moderate control and lift. I do tend opt for it when I'm wearing a pattern, or a cardigan, that will camouflage the seam show-through. 

Sizing: 40F   Clearly, the cups run huge. I can't even recall the last time I fit into an F. This fits me like a 38GG, and the cup volume is a very good fit for me. The band runs a bit snug, so is a good candidate for sister sizing. I'd suggest that non-lovers of tight bands consider going up a band size. And FOT and balanced shapes will need to drop a cup size; FOB might even need to drop 2. Which means you're unlikely to be sized out. E.g.  FOB 34H would fit fine in a 36F/G in this brand.

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Review: Glamorise Elegance Underwire Lace Bra

Although I've had mixed results with this brand, I hate to give up on it because the cushioned wires (Wonderwire) is such a wonderful -& inexplicably rare- feature in large cup bras. This Elegance is a completely different style to the Front-Close Elegance I tried, which had a very pointy shape and a very different fit.

Beauty

I think this is my favorite look of the Glamorise styles I've tried. The colorway is Lilac, which is a muted periwinkle/gray -much less gray than it appears here- that works beautifully as a softer alternative to black.
 
The 'lace' in the name is not accurate. The fabric is a double-layer trellis patterned mesh that is semi-sheer; together with the sheer gore it reads lighter on the body and allows your skin tone to show through a bit. The periwinkle trim and bows give a subtle splash of color. The quality is moderately high, especially for $35.

Comfort

Overall, it is a moderately comfy bra. But the fabric choices keep it from being a very comfy bra.

Fabric.  Double-mesh cups. Mesh is never a fave choice for me as I just find that it is more prone to chafing issues than other fabrics. However, this is a very soft mesh and so that didn't cause problems, but I would have preferred a single layer mesh in the top cup, which would allow for a bit of stretch. Better still, some actual stretch lace would have been welcome.

Band.  A lovely soft microfiber fabric. I wish the cups had been made of this fabric. The difference in comfort between this and a crappy power mesh is really evident. This is one of the comfier bands I've tried lately. Standard 3-hooks, well spaced. There is also picot trim, which is almost always simply irritating & I wish designers would just knock it off already. Freya and Fantasie do this a lot. Luckily, the picot edging beneath the cups flips up almost immediately and stays that way. See pic below.

Wires.  The Wonderwire is a great idea, but not very well executed. Instead of the (extremely comfy) foam-wrapped wires completely encased in soft fabric, such as Wacoal uses, Glamorise uses a padded flap that covers the wire. 

Unfortunately, the edging of the fabric -which is satin, and therefore soft- creates a seamed piped edging where there really doesn't need to be one; this sits directly against the sensitive underboob and is simply not as comfy as a fully encased wire. Also, 'padded' is not the same as foam; it's nice, but it's not blissful, and much of the comfort is off-set by that piped edging on the flaps and the picot edging beneath.

Fit & Shape


Cups.   These fit quite well, and though they are meant for a balanced shape they do not cut in on top. They are little higher at the sides than I prefer, so sometimes I am aware of the extra fabric there. 

Sizing.  This runs a little larger in cup & band than their bandless styles. I originally tried a 42G, which should equate to a UK 38GG, but actually fit me like a 40GG/H. I even had extra room in the top of the cup, which is unusual for me; a FOB shape would definitely need to size down.


Shape.   Profile shape is not the greatest, especially in the larger size, 42G. You can also see the extra armpit fabric, which is usually a UK style problem.



 And in the 40G.

Some of this is due to the non-stretch fabric and the fact that I'm FOT. But the top seam placement also does not promote a rounded shape.

When Do I Wear It?

Under clothing, the shape is better than you'd expect, especially from the front. It also gives a 'locked & loaded' feel that is not constrictive; it does not feel like a lotta bra, and is fairly comfy for a full day. So this is a good work bra when I want a secure, bounceless fit. I often reach for it when I want to wear a flowy sleeveless top with a cardigan, a combo which will soften the profile shape anyway. 
Size:  40G
 

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Heavy Periods? Yeah, You Can Change That

I received a couple of questions in response to my post about Menstrual Cups for the Sensitive  relating to heavy menstrual flow and cup capacity. It is true that the heavier your flow, the more often you will need to empty your cup, and/or go with a larger sized cup - defeating the comfort of a smaller cup. While I myself have always had a four day period of light-to-medium flow, I completely understand the heavy flow problem. Let me explain.

I had always been accustomed to pretty regular periods, never lasting longer than four days, and fairly cramp-free. In fact, the only real symptoms I experienced were boob swelling and salty cravings. I always opted for OB Regular, or better yet, Slender Junior if I could find them, and a thin liner. I have never had any need for those crazy-absorbent super 'overnight' pads or tampons. Before menstrual cups became widely available, I used to use an old, small (size 65) diaphragm left over from the late-'80s when I suddenly became unable to tolerate the pill. When I moved to the UK and got the far better cervical cap, I ditched it immediately. But I hung onto it for years because it worked beautifully for use at night during periods. (Cervical caps don't work for that because they are so awesomely teeny.)

Just for fun, here's a cervical cap (hello, old friend!) & a diaphragm, pic courtesy of the awesome British National Health Service (NHS) where you can go to a Family Planning Centre and get free contraceptive care (at least you could c.1991):
Image result for small  ortho diaphragm

I remember this period fondly, before I found the Copper-T IUD, which lasts 12 years, is 99+% effective and is oddly unknown in the US. They were my BFF's for 20 years; I can't believe I ever put up with the Pill's side effects in my 20s. That was before I had met Iudia. (just like menstrual products, we are ridiculously far behind)
 
When the SoftCup came out, I thought: Great! Because that's basically all it is: a disposable diaphragm for period use. Yeah, not great. Not at all. The thing is basically shaped like a huge clunky diaphragm - much bigger than I would ever have been able to use - and worst of all, it has a thick, clunky square-edged(!) hard plastic rim. Not the soft, rounded spring of a diaphragm. Again: you might as well just put in your special order for a UTI. 

Here's an idea of different sizes; the SoftCup resembles that frisbee-sized option in the back:
 
Image result for small  ortho diaphragm

I digress. (Anyone who reads this blog will not be surprised by that.) Anyhoo. After 25 years of having easily predictable and manageable periods, a year ago my period didn't come. Since I'm 51, I thought: this is it! Menopause is here. Yeah, no. Perimenopause was here. When my period returned, after a 3-month hiatus, it did so with a vengeance. Lasting for 20 days, 10 of which were heavy bleeding. 

Yeah. That's what I thought: W....T....F?! Although my B.S. is in Women's Studies (now called Gender Studies, but whatevs) and my specific area of emphasis was women's reproductive health [irony alert] that means I knew a great deal about contraceptive options...and precious little about perimenopause. Because, I dunno, I figured I'd get to that later, you know, when it applied to me. So. I was shocked by the level of blood loss, which amounted to 7 times my usual amount. (I actually got a test for anemia afterward). Worst of all, I had to get up in the middle of the night because even the medium menstrual cup, normally enough for a full 8 hours, could not cope with the amount of flow. I instantly had So.Much.Empathy for my heavy flow friends. 

I very quickly did a huge amount of research into this whole issue of heavy flow. In my case, it's called 'flooding' and many women will have at least one episode of it when they reach perimenopause, and it tends to worsen. Or, it can just be a onetime thing. I was hoping it was that. I came across so many desperate women online who were at the point of surgical intervention. I tend to be a little crunchy, but also very pragmatic. I research naturopathic and conventional approaches, then take the best and leave the rest. While I hoped that 20 day apocalyptic adventure was a one-off, because I tend to be a pessimist, I immediately ordered two herbal supplements (in liquid extract form) on Amazon:
  • Lady's Mantle and Shepherd's Purse
These are time-honored plants for reducing blood flow, both menstruation and post-partum; they are usually used in tandem, with Shepherd's Purse being the stronger and faster-acting. There is lots of fascinating history. For example, Lady's Mantle is so-named for it's resemblance to the cloak worn by medieval women, which fell in graceful pleats; the leaves are fuzzy and hold dewdrops, which then catch refracted light and sparkle like jewels, hence its other name, Dewcup. I happen to have an English-style cottage garden and Lady's Mantle was used to edge the borders. So I made my own tincture by soaking the dried leaves in vodka, but while I waited the month for this to be ready, I bought some on Amazon. 
 Image result for Lady's Mantle

Shepherd's Purse is aimed more toward reducing blood loss quickly, and it tastes pretty astringent. So named because the shape is reminiscent of the bags traditionally carried by shepherds.

Image result for Shepherd's PurseImage result for traditional Shepherd's bag
 
Good thing too, because just 3 weeks later, the same thing happened. This time I used the Lady's Mantle and Shepherd's Purse, multiple doses a day, and after 5 days the bleeding reduced and slowed, finally ending after 10 days. OK, so they cut the flow by 1/3, and the duration in half - 10 days is better than 20 days - but still, not acceptable. 

Also, while I usually prefer liquid tinctures, in this case, the amount required is a lot, and the cost would become higher. So I found a capsule formula that worked even better and is more cost effective. I took 2 capsules, twice a day for the first couple of days. You can take much higher doses if you're really trying to get the bleeding under control. It has the uninspiring name of Menstrual Reg. The first two ingredients are Lady's Mantle and Shepherd's Purse. There's also Yarrow, Chasteberry, and False Unicorn, all herbs with a long, honorable history as remedies for women.
 
I did more research. And learned two very simple, and inexpensive, options:
  • Ibuprofen. For reals. Several studies have been done showing that this alone can reduce your flow by 30-50%. That's huge. It appears you're likely to get the best results if you start taking it right when your period begins, or better yet, a day or two before it starts. And if you take the Rx level dose of 600-800mg a couple times a day, which is 3 or 4 Advil, or 1 or 2 Aleve. The 2nd article describes just taking the low OTC dose of 200mg, and a resulting reduction of 25%. So, you can try either. (Usual disclaimers of "I'm not a health professional, do your own research, use common sense, & make your own decisions, yadda yadda" apply.) 
Specifics here
And here

Personally, I found this did work to reduce flow by about 25%, however I only used the low dose because I have one kidney and NSAIDs are one of the few things I need to use very conservatively; otherwise, I would have opted for the higher dose. But in the end, I decided to simply address the root reason that my flow was so heavy in the first place, with:
  • Progesterone cream. For me, this completely resolved the heavy flow, restoring my normal, light 4-day period, within just one cycle. 
Basically, when flow is heavy it very often means there is an imbalance in the hormone ratio, with estrogen being high, and progesterone low. Not that either of those hormone levels are too high/low in & of themselves, but rather that their ratio to one another is out of balance. 

In real (as opposed to highly scientific)  terms, here's how it plays out: estrogen is what encourages the uterine lining to grow rich and fluffy, but fragile. Progesterone is what turns off the switch and says 'OK, lining, you're fluffy enough: stop and stabilize'. But when estrogen steamrolls over progesterone, the lining gets pretty over-the-top (like a house of cards, the bigger it gets, the more unstable) and then there's no smoothing out, no gradual easing into the shedding process. Result: lining releases chaotically, and because it grew needlessly fluffy, its got a lot to release. Hello, heavy, long period. But if you can steady that teeter-totter between estrogen and progesterone....Yahtzee! You can restore moderate, efficient bleeding.

Other good indicators that your estrogen level is too high in relation to your progesterone? You're approaching perimenopause (ages 35-50) or you've had issues with PCOS, or you know you have a short post-luteal phase (often concurrent with PCOS). That means that the time between ovulation and menstruation is too short. So, if the average period is 28 days, then ovulation is usually around day 14. But if your post-luteal phase is short, that means ovulation is happening around day 18 or 20, with you period starting 8-10 days later, due to that shortage in progresterone. Restoring that balance does all kinds of other good things for PMS, fertility, mood swings, etc, but that's all beyond our scope, here. This post is already in danger of becoming a novel.

So how did I use the progesterone cream? I just applied around a 1/4 - 1/2 tsp alternating areas with thinner skin (insides of wrists, belly, tops of feet) every day for 10 days out of the month, specifically that post-luteal phase above, so day 15-25. It sounds complicated, but it really isn't. I was pretty lackadaisical about it; I didn't measure exactly, just glopped some out and eyeballed it. And I wasn't too exact about the days either, just aiming for 1/2way into my cycle. 

Didn't matter. The results were fast and everything I'd hoped for. The first cycle I did this, my period was normal. And has been every month since. I occasionally still use Lady's Mantle tincture or some Advil on the first day of my period, if it seems to be on heavy side, but most often, I don't even need that. It's pretty incredible that a $15 cream so effectively stopped the escalating pattern of heavy periods coming every 3 weeks and lasting 10-20 days.

The brand of cream isn't as important as that it contains actual progesterone (not just yams). I've used a few different brands I've had good results with, and they are not the most spendy, either.

NOW products have always been reliable for me, and very reasonably priced. 
Smoky Mountain Naturals is also a decent choice. LifeFlo, too. The best is probably Ona's Naturals. More spendy, but also 30% more concentrated. Plus I like supporting small, woman-owned companies.
(No, there are no affiliate links; this is just what I use myself.)  

So, this was the result of all my desperate research, and what worked for me.  The important thing is that you don't have to put up with needlessly heavy bleeding that disrupts your life. I've never minded my periods, and as I've grown older -without getting too feminist goddess-worshippy here- I've come to kind of, not exactly enjoy them, but to appreciate them. 

Bottom line: It always feels great to realize that you can gather knowledge, consider all of the choices, and then take control of your own health.