Monday, December 28, 2015

Review: Triumph Amourette, a modern classic

Triumph is usually thought of as a venerable British brand, but it was founded in Germany in the 1880s, as a corset company. Today its HQ is in Switzerland. The company is famous for the Doreen bra: the iconic, wireless, 1950s pointy pyramid shape. It is still a bestseller in many countries. 

For the past 20+ years, however, they have been best known for a style that is an instantly recognizable standby in the UK: the Amourette. Ironically, in the three years I lived in the UK, I never tried it. In fact, I never took advantage of living in bra heaven, because I was still fitting fine in a 36DD then; though I was probably a 34F, I was also 22 years old, and proper fit wasn't as critical then. So  I did what my Brit friends did and grabbed whatever seamless, non-padded bra was on sale at Marks & Spencer.

A few decades later, and back in the States, I bought the first of three Amourette 300s. They come in 3 different styles: a stretch lace underwire (the most popular, by far; a padded style in a true balconette shape; and a wireless stretch lace.

Comfort & Fit:
  • Fabric.  The stretch lace is fairly soft, lying quite flat under knits. The lace is sturdy and supportive - far more so than, say, Panache's Jasmine, and has a good deal of stretch, allowing for some size fluctuation. 
  • Cups.  The Amourette uses a more traditional 2-part diagonal seam structure. I actually like this as it allows for upper fullness in a way that some 3-part seamed styles, such as Freya's, do not. 
  • Band.  Triumph bands run really snug. Think Cleo snug. Even at my thinnest, I have to go up a band size. 
I think they have a retro beauty and shape. Almost an old school European aescetic: a pointier silhouette, yet not extremely projected; lace that is practical and comfortable, and sturdy; clean lines, without a lot of 'frippery', mean that even though the style is all-lace, it is not overly girly or ornate.

Band.  Along with running tight, the wired versions have only 2-hooks. They are widely spaced, and the band is otherwise well-constructed with flat, wide elastic that spreads weight more evenly. But still, 2 hooks. However, the wireless version has 3 hooks, but runs even tighter. 

Shape.  This is purely a matter of personal preference, but mine is for a more rounded, natural shape. Not eerily orb-like, and challenging the known laws of physics, a'la Cleo, but definitely more rounded. 

Cup.  The shape is meant for a more bottom-full, or balanced boob shape. Also, a medium-shallow to slightly-projected one. I am full-on-top and moderately projected (perhaps more than that, since most of my complaints involve the need for more projection near the gore).

When Do I Wear It?
When I want a moderate amount of comfort with a moderately high level of support, and medium projection. So, more structured clothing, like a blazer or button-down. 
Sizes:  40G (wired versions) or 40F/42E (wireless
Notes:  the wireless runs a full band size smaller, and almost a cup larger. E.g. I can still wear the 40E wireless I have with an extender. 

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Reviews: Natori, In Which I Have 3 Rather Epic Fails

There was a great sale on Amazon in Natori Plus, a brand I have had some success with when it was formerly called N by Natori. So I bought 3 styles: True Decadence, both the cut-and-sew and the contour versions; and Pure Allure. I went with a 42H in all but the True Decadence contour, which was 40H. 

The well-fitting bras I have now by this brand are non-padded, all in 40H. I went up a band size hoping to gain more space in the cup, particularly the inner and top. Um, that is not what happened. At all. I was pretty shocked at how off the fit was, in all cases. 

The Pure Allure was the biggest surprise. The cup is huge; far bigger than one cup up. And, in what is a hopeful feature for full-on-tops, the lace mesh overlap is incredibly stretchy and loose. I literally cannot recall the last time I had a cup that was loose on top; I may well be able to wear a 38H (US/Euro) in this, i.e., a cup smaller than my normal size of 38GG (UK). 

See the crazy amount of loose material!

And gapping! 

The bra itself is beautiful and I like the way the thinnish foam does not completely cover the top of the cup, but leaves room for that magical stretch lace. The band runs true to size for Natori, which means it was loose on the tightest hooks for me, and I prefer a looser band, so that's saying something.

I tried the True Decadence contour next. This time in my usual Natori sister-size of 40H. Cup was huge again! Band even looser. 

Wow. These fit unlike any other Natori I've owned. I don't believe this would have worked in a band size down either; there appears to be a shape mismatch as well. So. At this point I thought perhaps the padded Natoris simply won't work for me. Maybe they are sized completely differently. They are certainly shaped very differently in the cup. 

So, with a sense of relief, I opened the non-padded True Decadence style. And...Fail #3. I couldn't believe it. The first pic doesn't look that bad. 

Oh but wait.

There it is. The bizarre shape Bras I Hate & Love named "Elf Shoe". WTF, Natori? Really? There is a boob shape that sharply projects outward in the shape of a pointy elf foot, but only in a 2-inch area? That is an inch of empty space in a crazy angle that just makes no anatomical sense. I mean...I...just...I've got nothin'. 

Here are pics with my hand where the bra expects a lot of big projection to be:

Also, all of the cups jumped a great deal in height, rather than depth, when I went up a band size. So I'm not certain that my usual 40H would even work in these newer styles. The cups seem to be intended for a very shallow, tall shape - with a sharply angled, pointing toward the ceiling projected area right above the nipple. 

I am tempted to try the Pure Allure and the non-padded True Decadence in a 38H, to see if the cups scale correctly shape-wise in that size. The good news is that the sizing for the new Natori Plus appears to be much more generous than the N by Natori, which ran around 1/2 cup small. And I may be able to purchase my usual 38 without sister-sizing at all.  

However, I don't think I will bother trying any more of the fully padded styles; the shape is just not compatible with mine. It reminds me of the Fantasie T-Shirt bra scaled for Jessica Rabbit proportions. 

Monday, December 21, 2015

Oddball Review: Lady Anti Monkey Butt Powder

First off, why is she posting so much (I hear you thinking, if not actually asking)? And, next off, why about that?! 

Chafing, my friends. Nemesis of sensitive-skinned boobalicious folk. Also, I have an uprecedented amount of time to ponder this important life issue while I sit here on my sofa, being aggressively non-weight-bearing and waiting for my tender new knee cartilage to grow.

I bought this product last summer because....OK, because the container is awesome and I wanted it in my bathroom as the ultimate conversation starter for guests. I mean, how not?

Also because I wanted to try it out for underboob bra band irritation I sometimes experience during a rare warm and very humid summer day here. 

The product is meant for chub rub prevention and there is an original formula as well as a baby one. I've no idea how they differ, but the Lady version has a pleasant mild, non-baby or athletic scent. Yay. It has a lot of fans who use it to prevent chafing from running or working out. 

I haven't tried it for chub rub with, say, a skirt, because I trust nothing to prevent that but bike short style undies, but for bra-related chafing? 
It works
And better than I expected it to. I've always been a fan of body powder, since I hate that slightly sticky feeling when I want to get dressed after a shower. And I've always used cornstarch-based rather than talc, which I've heard may work better for chafing, as talc provides more 'slip' on the skin and doesn't melt away in heat and humidity as quickly. 

The Lady Anti Monkey Butt (LAMB) uses calamine and cornstarch as the main ingredients and it is very silky, not clumpy, like the LUSH version of a calamine powder I tried in the early '00s. A small amount goes a long way. I put it to the test after only 3 hours in my most comfy, gentle-seamed, basically chafe-resistant bra (the Anita Twin) resulted in serious chafing caused by my crutches rubbing constantly against where the outer underwire rests. It was visibly red and felt like a light sunburn. 

I was an unhappy non-weightbearing, non-camper. 

But a light dusting of the LAMB and the irritation was reduced by about 50% after 15 minutes, and the redness visibling reduced as well. By bedtime that night, the irritation was completely healed - and I had solemnly switched to wire-less bras  for the next 2 weeks until I am able to lay off the crutches. I am finding that if I dust it lightly under the band it prevents minor irritations from happening as well. And, bonus! It does prevent boob sweat. Very useful for managing the biggest drawback of wire-less bras, as well as for bedtime if you are a big-boobed side-sleeper. Ask me how I know.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Review: Just My Size Women's Comfort Lace Hidden Shapers Bra

So, in my quest to add a few more wirefree and ultra-comfy options to my hardworking Bali Comforts for my recovery period, I tried another JMS. 

Spoiler: this style is no Satin Stretch miracle: Review: 3 Comfy Wire-free Bras

Comfort: Frankly, putting the word 'comfort' in the bra's name is a bit of an over reach. 

  • Fabric.  Meh. The lace is not soft. I wouldn't go so far as to call it harsh or scratchy, but it is definitely sturdy and not smooth against the skin. I always wash a bra before wearing it - always. And it did improve slghtly after two washes, but I would not call it soft.
  • Stretch. Simply not enough, especially in the cups. The capacity was unexpectedly small.
  • Straps.  These are good; nice and wide, non-stretch. 
Beauty: it would seem to have potential here, especially for a wire-free, but, well...the pics kind of speak for themselves as to how it looks on the boobs.

Colorways:  Exactly one. White. Which is better than beige, since you can dye it.  Which I immediately did. I always use food coloring because I have super sensitive skin, and it has never irritated me. Notes: it will work on any fabric that contains nylon or elastane, in varying degrees: the higher the nylon content, the better the dye will take. It won't work at all on cotton, and to a lesser degree on acrylic. This makes for interesting effects. For instance, you will get two-tone effects with straps and lace. I should do a post about that sometime, including my um, less successful attempts. 

I am again foiled by northern lighting conditions. However, the violet-blue color on this turned out well. And the shape doesn't appear as awful as expected, although it quickly degrades from this after 30 minutes wear. Also, since Comfort with a capital 'C' was my sole purpose for buying this, I can't consider the bra a success.

Compromises, i.e., everything. 
Band.  Runs loose, significantly reducing the possibility of sister-sizing. I prefer a 38 the vast majority of the time, which is +2 for me. I would need a 40 in this brand, as their bands run slightly snug compared to UK brands. 
Cups.  Disappointingly small. The lace fabric doesn't have enough stretch to be useful or add to the comfort much. 
Fabric. As above. Textured and nubbly against the skin, though the lace flourishes on the underband are oddly non-irritating. 
Side support.  Doesn't really work. There is a slightly padded vertical seamed section meant to bring tissue forward and give a better shape. It just really doesn't accomplish its mission.

When Do I Wear It?
Pretty much only during this recovery period where I cannot tolerate underwire because of the crutches. And even then, only when both Bali Comforts and the far superior JMS Satin Stretch are all in the laundry. 
Size:  42DD (a 40DDD may have given a better fit, but I was unable to locate any in that size)

Friday, December 18, 2015

Moment of Truth: What Made It Into My Suitcase?

So I went off on another medical adventure. This time a pretty cool, hi tech one:  after multiple injuries to my knee over the years, resulting in lots of cartilage damage, and an unacceptable level of gimpyness - especially when living in a rugged landscape - and the utter failure of a laparascopic surgery, I opted to try something different. Really different. 

Regenerative medicine. I.e., try to grow some new cartilage. Something impossible to do until recently. How is this done? By 'harvesting' some bone marrow (for the stem cells), some fat tissue, and some plasma - all from your own body - and then reinjecting this yummy cocktail into your knee joint. Then, 3 weeks of crutches while you wait for your knee to act like a petri dish and grow new stuff. So I flew to my hometown of Salt Lake City, home of amazing sports medicine and orthopedic wizardry, for this pretty incredible, relatively non-invasive, low risk 3 hour procedure. 

Why is this relevant to bras? Because when you know that you need to be comfortable, period, it really clarifies your packing. So what did I take with me, in addition to a whole wardrobe of leggings and yoga pants? 

Preview of the chewed Bali, & a portion of the adorable Sheltie puppy, I refer to below (because, annoyingly, you cannot edit too far back in Blogger when using an IPad, without it locking up the post). But first, a pic of The Reillster chewing on something that is actually appropriate, his Xmas toy from Grammy, just to show that he can:

The Bali Comfort bras proved themselves indispensible yet again. I wore them 80% of the time. And the holiday photos reflect my softer, natural shape, but as it is sweater weather, it really wasn't as noticeable as I thought it would be. 

I did wear my Curvy Kate Gia once, pre-procedure, with a form-fitting long sleeve knit shirt and skirt. And my Anita Twin twice, once before, once after. But   most of the time, I automatically reached for the Bali Comforts. I tried to buy a few more, but the single department store in the island, Fred Meyer, had only a single XXL in stock. Guess what 'color'? That's right: the dreaded beige, a non-color, IMHO. So I made do with the two I have. Upon unpacking, I made the hysterically funny discovery that Reilly, my 7 month old Shetland Sheepdog puppy, had apparently made the aquaintence of the gray one at some unknown secret assignation in the laundry room, with these results:

Naturally, I did what any dog lover would: I shrugged, and wore it anyway. 

I did bring my Tutti Rouge Liliana as well, but never wore it. For the trip down, I wore my JMS Stretch Satin wireless, but went with the Bali on way home. I made another discovery re: underwires and crutches: they're a Don't. The crutches - even with added microfleece pads - still create a lot of movement against your sides, right below the armpit. Which coincidentally is right where the tip of the outer wires rest. Only a couple hours of this resulted in severe chafing and the retiring of any wired bras, no matter how soft, for the remainder of the next 2 weeks I will be on crutches letting the fluffy new cartilage grow. 

So I am all about wire-free, and chafe-free, until then. I'm wishing I'd stopped waffling over that Breast Nest that's been sitting in my amazon cart for 6 months. Sure, it's hideous and makes your boobs look like bizarrely seamed footballs, but no one would see it now, besides Reilly the Sheltie. And it isn't like he can judge me after shredding one strap of my Bali. 

Monday, December 7, 2015

Freya Bikini Tops as Bras: Not a Bad Option At All

So yeah, I do this. Wear bikini tops as bras. Though it never occurred to me that others did until I read the fabulous Bras I Hate & Love; her contributions to determining your shape, and just how big an impact being full-on-top makes to bra fit, remains without parallel. In her farewell post she advised avoiding all Freya unpadded bras, but embracing the swimwear as 'swimwear, bra, or shining shield of good feelings.'

I have 3 different styles: a non-padded, 3-part balconette similar to Tropicana, which I have worn the most over the last 3 years, and a padded style, Samba, which I've worn as a t-shirt bra for the last year. I also have the Copacabana Plunge, in a gorgeous yellow floral watercolor print. Sadly, the plunge style - though it gave the most amazing shape - did not work for me due to the bizarrely narrow and stretchy staps: Dig-tastic. They were already digging just trying it on.  In order, here they are:

                       Tropicana style non-padded, 3-part balconette:

                           Samba, padded balconette/half cup style:

                                    Copacabana Plunge style

                             (Whoa, that's a whole lotta pattern crazy!)
                      Showing the difference in straps: plunge vs balcony

If you want to give it a go, here is a breakdown of the options:

Comfort - of which there is lots!
  • Stretch. Around triple of the average Freya bra, notably the cups. This is what renders them full-on-top friendly, unlike the standard balconettes. This has become more and more important to me, as I experience ever more size fluctuation. 
  • Sizing flexibilityDue to the stretchy construction, and the way they mold to your body, the sizing is quite forgiving, easily allowing for up to a cup size either direction. (I have gone up a band size since I bought these, and about 1/2 cup size, so in effect, a good 2 cup sizes, so I'm really pushing the limits of that forgiveness.)
  • Band. Normally, I prefer 3-hooks and a broader, flatter, softer, non-mesh band. This only meets that last criteria. Otherwise, it is the usual bikini top style consisting of a single sturdy plastic puzzle-clasp. (This will also be a drawback, as we shall learn below.) It lacks the irritating narrow biting Freya signature elastic edging, so it's worth the trade-off. Note: the swimwear bands run a size tighter than the bras and have a lot of stretch, and there is only one possible setting. I went up a band size from my usual 36 at the time, and down a cup.
  • Shape.  Ten times better than an actual Freya bra. Can you say Roundy McRounderson? The unpadded balconette gives a rounded, fairly lifted shape; a bit like Curvy Kate if it had stretch. The padded version has a single vertical seam, more like a 1/2 cup shape, and is very boosted, rounded and low-cut. The plunge is unpadded, with a single vertical seam and gives a super-round, very slightly minimized shape, much like Chantelle C-Chic; it has a narrow gore, which is awesome.
  • Fabric.  Also listed as a compromise below, since a lot of it is due to your personal preference, and also the climate conditions. The fabric is naturally thicker and sturdier than a regular mesh bra, and not designed to let air flow through it, but rather, water; so it's useful for active, sweaty outdoor pursuits. I do not overheat in them, and in any case they are far lighter than a padded bra. 
Beauty - So many gorgeous, fun prints, and deep-toned solids; mainly clean lines, with a button or subtle ruffle here or there. Most everyone will find a match.

Bounce.  You'll get a little more of this, though less than expected, due to the substantial fabric.

Sizing.  Some styles, such as the plunges stop at a G-cup. However, the much higher spandex content means that sister-sizing is very doable. Both mine are in 38G, which fit the same as my 36GG's at the time, while still retaining the far superior shape of Freya before they matron it up starting at GG.

Seams.  They are highly visible on the cups of the non-padded styles, and the balconette is a bit more ruggedly finished than the bras, so I don't often choose them for a full day of wear. The padded version & plunge do not suffer from this issue.

Straps Some plunge styles straps are ridiculously narrow, and not restricted stretch. The two balconettes I have are both slightly narrower than the bra version straps, but all have a spongey feel and are doubled into a tubular shape, so quite comfy. 

Band.  I just learned about this issue yesterday when I was at the store and bending & contorting in an awkward manner to try to retrieve the last item on a very low shelf (which I did - win!) I twisted to stand back up & - for the first time ever - felt an unmistakable Sprrroiiiiing!  Yep - the clasp had popped right open. I toughed it out Alaska-style, i.e., zipped up my fleece jacket to my neck and brazened my way through the checkout line. So be aware that could happen, albeit rarely. Though it's a lot less worrisome than if I had actually been wearing it as a swimsuit.

Tacking.  The unpadded balconette style tacks perfectly, even now; the plunge floats 1/2" on me, but would soft tack in a cup larger; the padded 1/2 cup style really doesn't tack at all for me, even in a larger size

Fabric.  This is both a plus and a minus, depending on your preference. The fabric is swimsuit fabric, and does have a fine mesh lining, designed to let water flow away from your skin; however, the outer fabric is not designed to be breathable, but to hug you like a 2nd skin for coverage.

When Do I Wear Them?
When I want comfort and a good shape, typically under a thinner T-shirt in summer (which means 65-70F to me). If I'm doing a lot of gardening and want to be able to wash & dry it quickly - and know that a few stray dirt clods or plant sap won't faze the fabric at all
Size:  38G (which fit me well at a 36GG). These days, I really need to go up to a 38GG or 40G, with the exception of the unpadded balconette, which still fits perfectly

If anyone else does this, I would love to hear the tales.
In some styles 38G is the cut off.

I found all of these on belle-lingerie, a UK outlet store that also sells through eBay, where I came across them. I have bought from many others, with really variable results, but this one has great prices, and consistently gets my order right. Shipping does take a good few weeks, but is highly reasonable. 

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Review: Biustonosz SM Summer Time, Ewa Michalak

Like most boobalicious folk with some projection and a need for lower, narrower wires than UK bras cater to, I have wanted to try the Polish brands, particularly Ewa M, with their moderate wire width. And when I saw this on eBay for $30, it was a great chance to try the brand at minimal $$ risk. 

Like everyone else, I have read extensively to try to crack their sizing system to avoid the exasperating process of long distance returns. Because my shape and size are similar to Georgina's of FullerFigureFullerBust (though she is a cup or so larger, and enamored of much, much tighter bands than I myself prefer) I pored over her Ewa M reviews. Her conclusion: go for one band larger, and stick with your UK cup size. This turned out to be excellent advice, and very accurate for my shape and size. Ewa's calculator would have put me in a 40F. The bra I tried was a 40G. Since I am now at the upper end of a 38GG, I was concerned that the cup size might not be adequate, but thought I might get close. And, indeed, if I found the style more comfy, I would opt for a cup bigger next time.

Note: The oddball angle that makes my boobs appear a little, er, imbalanced is due to my contorting my arm and shoulder to try to get the stunning embroidery in the pix. There is actually no gaping in the top, and my boobs do align at a normal level in the cups. :-)

Beauty:  Wow, is this thing ever gorgeous. Just...really, deeply lovely in person. Delicate, ethereal embroidery floating over gossamer appearing fine mesh. If beauty were all that mattered, I would only ever wear this confection and its ilk.

Fit:  Hmmmm. Wellll....Also, there are no comfort features to speak of, so I am conflating the categories:
  • Wires.  Higher than I expected or prefer. Also, there is a distinctly odd sharp angle that reminds me of an airline seat in the reclined position. Coincidentally, it provides about that degree of comfort.
  • Cups.  A nice depth, especially in the upper cup, where so often I do not get enough room. However, the bottom of the cups do not have quite enough space for me to settle in comfortably. Tutti Rouge often gives me the same issue. The lack of any kind of stretch or give also makes this a tricky fit. I would likely need a cup larger for my best fit.
  • Band.  Average comfort and quality. And it does indeed run snug. The 40 fits like a 36 (which is my snug band measurement). They are not kidding about the +4 being built into their sizing system. Ignore this and insist upon your UK band size at your peril. In future purchases, I will go with a 42G in the SM style. Most reviews have singled this style out for especiall tight bands, so I may opt for a 40 in PL or S styles.
When Do I Wear It?  Not often, frankly. When I want to look and feel alluring, and don't expect to have it on more than an hour or two. Ahem. It just doesn't have the features I need for true comfort, such as shorter wires - preferably with some cushioning; soft material for the band and straps; some stretch in at least the top 1/2 of the cup (which makes me curious to try the BM style, though it is not as gorgeous).
Size:  40G (a cup too small)

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Review: Natori Plus Elegant Effect (i.e., the new Luxe)

*Note: When I first posted this, I specified that it was one of the new styles under Natori Plus, as that is how it was marked when I purchased it. However, it turns it is actually one of the later styles in N by Natori, and it's correctly marked as such on amazon. This explains why it fits so well in my usual Natori sister-size of 40H. I found the newer range runs a good deal larger. However, there were still fit changes from the earlier N by Natori, and these are noted below.

* This will be a short and sweet review because most of the comfort and beauty factors from the now discontinued Luxe (when the line was called 'N by Natori') also hold true for the Elegant Effect. There are some comfort factors that are different, however.

First, here is a photo that may explain why my photo quality is so crap. This is the natural light at 9am in my part of the world, as observed by my unimpressed Sheltie. And, since the sun sets at 3pm, and I am too cheap thrifty to purchase a new phone just for a better camera, there ya go.

For comparison, here is the Luxe:

What's different:  Fit *

Slightly deeper cups. A big plus for me, since the slightly increased depth is in the upper cup and near the gore. 

Sides.  The side is slightly higher. In this case, that's a good thing (something I rarely say), as the Luxe could occasionally dig into the fluffy bits during size fluctuations.

What's different:  Comfort

Straps.  The (very lightly) padded, wider straps are gone. Along with the pretty lace edging that gave a cami effect. They have been replaced with regular, normal width straps. While comfortable enough, this is not an improvement

What's different:  Beauty

Colorways.  Sadly, there are fewer of them. Just the cafe au lait shade I have, and coral and pink. That appears to be it thus far. 

Lace. The pattern is more subtle, and is lace, rather than embroidery.


Still a fantastic bra, with great quality. That wonderfully comfortable, stable band remains the same, and the improvement to the cup pretty much balances out the non-improvement of the straps. 
Size:  40H, Euro sizing. 
(I would ideally need an I cup, or a 42 band, but the excellent construction and comfort features overcome the not ideal fit for me.)

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Review: Bali Comfort Revolution: Feel the Unapologetic Joy

This is the one. The one I turn to when I need to be 100% comfortable and I give zero f*cks about fit. Because, I just cannot. Just.Can.Not. I found this bralette when I underwent emergency surgery and was facing a 3 week recovery, most of which was spent in bed, or sitting on my sofa in a fleece bathrobe. Even after that period I still had tender scar tissue, inconveniently located right at my waist, to contend with. It was for this reason that I embraced the low-rise jeans era, as high waists hit right on the scar. OK, I really mean the mid-rise, because the depths to which the low-rise sunk got, well, crazy. 

Anyhoo, ultimate comfort was imperative during this time, and although I was lean & buff then, I was still a 36FF. Luckily, I had just bought the Bali Comfort on an impulse while shopping for towels one day. A very serendipitous impulse, it turned out. And in the years following I whip this one out when I want ultra-soft, comforting support that I can sleep in if required. Note: there is virtually nothing I can sleep in without tweaking. E.g., I must turn my already soft sleep T's inside out or the seams will leave welts by morning.

My salvation: 

And, the very first version I bought, still going strong after 4 years, that I bought in white & dyed lilac with food coloring. I accidentally left it drying outside in the garden on what turned into a rare sunny day, & the result was a tie-dyed effect:

Honestly, the shape is really not bad. This is basically my natural shape, but better, i.e., a bit more lifted, centered, and supported. My boyfriend actually mentioned that he preferred it to the jacked-up shape of my Cleo Ellis. I know, right? A surprise to me, too.


  • Fabric:  This bra is allllll about comfort. Soft, soft, soft. Stretchy, stretchy, stretchy. Softer, thicker, and far more substantial than say, the Rhonda Shear Ahhh Bra. Ahhhhh. It wraps you in a cloud of comfort that conforms gently to your body and feels soothing if you have boob swelling or skin irritation. It does not provide compression, but hold.
  • Band:  3 hooks, with a padded clasp. I almost fainted from the sheer joy of the pillowy padding protecting my skin from the hooks, while I was laying in bed for weeks. Sheer. Joy. WTF don't more brands do this simple thing that adds so much comfort?
  • Cup capacity:  Surprisingly decent. I am a 38GG and I think this size could reasonably accommodate between a 36FF - 40GG.
  • Support:  Better than expected, due to the fabric and the more substantial band than other pull-over types of  'leisure bra'. I actually wore this to work, out of necessity, when I was healing, and I felt comfortable. The lift was acceptable, and the shape softer and pretty natural. It was especially good under button-downs and sweaters. I'm not sure I would wear this to work under a fitted knit top, but I certainly do at home on weekends. 
  • OK, it might be a stretch applying this category, but this bra has been so uber-successful for Bali that it comes in a plethora of colors and subtle textures. I have no need to buy white and dye it anymore.  I have it in the steel gray above, and will purchase a bright navy next.


 Straps.  This is a fairly minor quibble, but the edged banding on the straps is not my favorite construction. They don't dig, but I would have preferred a softer, flatter design. Still, they are wide and pretty comfortable, so this may just be a 'me' thing, and my own dislike of non-flat seams.

Note: there is a wired version, and it sucks. At least for full-on-top or projected shapes.  It has a steeply angled neckline and more triangular cup shape that cuts into upper tissue, greatly reducing the cup capacity. I removed the wires, and it still fits 2 cup sizes smaller than the wire-free. Can't recommend it for above a DD cup.

When Do I Wear It?  

After I whip off my wired bra at home following a tiring day at work. To bed, when I have PMS swelling. On a plane trip that's longer than 4 hours. On weekends when I'm just wallowing in chocolate & Netflix. When I have house guests and want to feel comfortable, not awkward, during that morning bumbling around for coffee in the kitchen part of the day.
Size:  XXL

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Review: Freya Jolie, an old faithful

Along with the Pollyanna, the Freya Jolie was my first truly well-fitting bra, and these are the only Freya's that have worked for me since I passed the G barrier, when the styling changes to become almost unrecognizable as the same style in G-and-under. 

The Jolie is deeply surprising in its ability to accommodate serious size fluctuation. Despite an increase of one full cup size and around 1/2 a band size in the last year, I am still comfortably wearing the same 36GG Jolie I bought 4 years ago! (They also hold up very well.) More surprising still is that it contains no stretch fabric in the upper cup, and yet is one of the few full-on-top friendly styles from Freya (the other is the Marvel, which was short-lived, and a very wide 1/2-cup).

Jolie once came in fashion colors like a cheery bubblegum pink that was flattering on many skin tones, a deep purple, and more. Now, however, she is sadly only available in the continuity colors of black and white, having been replaced by Gemm, which Freya considers their Jolie successor (sorry, she is anything but; very full-on-top unfriendly, with a non-tacking gore and an edging along the band that is sharp and irritating). So, I bought a white one and dyed it bubblegum pink with food coloring and lime juice. After 3 years, it has faded to a pale pink which is still waaaay preferable to white for me. I also managed to buy one in red, the last colorway that was available. (An aside: I've just noticed the preponderance of red bras I have reviewed. What we can conclude from this is that when a style otherwise only available in neutrals decides to finally offer a single color option, it's usually red. Corporate imagination run wild, people.)

Here she is:

Comfort Profile:

  • Straps.  I love them. I know some folks find them too wide - I've even seen them called 'industrial' - but I find them heavenly. They are wide, spreading the pressure so perfectly, my shoulders never even feel it; with diamond stitching and the barest soft embroidered edging; they do not move, but stay exactly where you want them. And they are pretty, with tiny rosebuds and looped ribbon at the base. I care not at all when they peek out.
  • Cup depth. More than any other Freya I've tried, the Jolie accommodates projection and size fluctuation. Lots of room near the gore for immediate projection, which is fairly difficult to find. This is great for a balanced or full-on-top shape, but can cause gaping on a full-on-bottom shape. 
  • Fabric.  Light, semi-sheer, but sturdy. The inner side is flat and soft, while the outer has an embossed, quirky, subtle lacy pattern of stylized flowers; very slightly raised, but doesn't show through clothing. Extremely breathable and great for summer. Not that I have much call for that here. But when I visited California wine country in the 95F summer, I packed both my Jolies. They hand-washed and dried very easily and quickly. 


Shape.  I find all Freya balconettes a bit pointy. Jolie is less so than many other styles, but still, I prefer a rounder shape. Some call it a 'natural' shape, and for some, certainly it is. But, though moderately projected, my own natural shape is quite rounded. Not eerily orb-like, a'la Cleo, but a still a rounded shape with a softer peak. Naturally, that is what I'm seeking when I want a natural shape. It's not horrible under clothing, but is noticeable in photos where I am wearing a loose, thicker T-shirt: a rather projected, slightly pointy, matronly shape. 

Band.  Annnnnd here we are. We've arrived at the bane of all Freya's: their dreadful bands. Harsh mesh, which, while endurable after many washings, is not the problem that cannot be solved. That would be the oddly narrow - read: 'biting, cutting' - tiny, edge of elastic that runs all along the top & bottom of the band - and is tighter than the otherwise normally proportioned 3-hook band. Why, Freya? For the love of all that is holy, why? It runs very loose. I prefer a 38 virtually always, and have no problem sister-sizing to a 40, especially in snugger-running US brands. But the Jolie really does run a size big. All other Freya's I've tried run much tighter.

Wires.  They are actually quite comfortable and fall at a nice height under the arm for me. Rather it's that winging back Nike swoop shape that many UK brands embrace. The wires are not particularly wide, but this shape makes them wider than I need on the side. I do bend them very slightly away from my body at the sides, which makes them fit much better and they do not dig in once I've done this.

Side Stays.  I despise these. Their sole purpose seems to be digging into your flesh from both ends, above and below, as soon as you attempt to it down. This is not the kind of 'support' I need from any garment. I remove them immediately from any Freya, using a seam-ripper to dig out these harsh, plastic, vampire-stake shaped little nightmares. And they are sown in really well; it's a battle I have to be determined to win.

When Do I Wear It?  When I need a 'locked & loaded', contained but not minimized type of support, with perfect separation. And I need a very lightweight fabric & construction when it's hot and I need to travel light. 
Size:  36GG