Thursday, October 29, 2015

Review: Tutti Rouge Liliana, a unique & quirky style

I've reviewed many of my ultimate comfort go-to's, some fairly obscure. And now I'm going to review some of my comfy enough go-to's. Bras that I enjoy for their particular beauty aesthetic, that are also comfortable enough, and useful enough, to be in regular rotation. 

In this category, the most unique (in both shape and styling), and the one I have bought in three different colorways, is the Tutti Rouge Liliana



 This is how it fits me in a 38GG. Technically, it hovers perilously close to the dreaded beige. However, it's actual name is Vanilla Cream, which is accurate: it is a warm cream with darker cream ribbon along the top. This also allows me to insist it is not beige, or even 'skin tone'. Which makes me happier.


It comes in many wonderful colorways, from candy pastels to deep dual-tone jeweled hues. But Vanilla Cream was the only color on sale in my size. These are the other two colorways in my closet: Periwinkle Blue (sadly, the wire popped in this; I repaired it, 7 it popped through again. This is a very rare occurrence for me, and appears to be due to a fabric defect (casing edge unraveling) as it is not a sizing issue); and the original coral-pink shade which runs a full cup size smaller, and is more shallow, than the current version, which is true to size. 


Comfort:  

Fabric:  It's comfy. Maybe a 7.5 on a scale of 1-10. This is a padded-ish bra. One of the few I wear. I almost hesitate to call it padded; it's really something between lined and padded. It's much thinner than the Freya Deco. The cotton knit lining in the cups renders the seams and highly textured outer fabric non-irritating. I can wear it fairly comfortably for around 5 hours before it's main flaw begins to become noticeable. 

Band:  A nice soft mesh. Not Natori-soft, but soft. A good medium width, and stable.  

Cups:   Very unique shape. It's rather minimized, but this is accomplished in an unusual way. Not smooshed down and east-west - as I mention below, the wires are especially wide - but rather, held close to the chest, in a nice rounded shape by uniquely angled 3-part seams.

Tacking:  It tacks. And perfectly, too. Not too hard, not too soft. Juuuuust right. And it is a lowish gore, so nestles nicely between closer together boobs. I get no double-bubble, just a nice touch of cakes-on-a-plate cleavage, and a very secure bounce-less fit.

Wires:   I do not find them wide, but more medium; far narrower than Panache or Anita, wider than Natori. A really good width, actually. And a very nice medium height and gauge. Not too low, not too high. Not too rigid, not to soft. Kind of the Goldilocks bra. 

Beauty:

StyleA unique plunge/balcony hybrid.A semi-horizontal neckline that dips lower into a slight sweetheart shape.

Tutti touches:  the heart-shaped strap adjusters that are the brands trademark are just, well, fun. And the fact that they include pink tissue paper, plus pink rock candy, and 'Love, Tutti' card with each bra makes their frothy confection aesthetic, well, even more fun. (Love you too, Tutti.)
 
Fabric:  a quirky embroidered fabric, with the top 1/3 being a sheer, embroidered, non-padded panel. It has no stretch, perhaps just a little give, and yet it accommodates my full-on-top shape very well.The fabric is highly textured and will show under think knits, as will the seams. I don't care about this particularly, myself.

 

Compromises:   


Cup edging/underband:  There's a sharpish edging to the bottom of the cup. And without a substantial underband to soften it, this is the main flaw of the bra - the only one, actually. And because the wires dip down slightly below the underband in front, as all of my Tutti's do, this becomes a source of discomfort if you are sitting for long periods and especially if you are short-waisted. 

Shipping:   This is not related to the bra itself, but is a major factor. Frankly, I've never been gouged for shipping to this extent with any other brand (although I imagine Ewa Michalak charges might rival this because I've read they do not waive the steep Euro VAT (luxury tax) for buyers outside the EU). And since you can only purchase Tutti Rouge from the Big Cartel site, you're stuck with the pretty outrageous shipping fee of around $18. Buying several at once, at deep discount, is the only way I can justify that. 

When Do I Wear It?

Under floaty tops when I do not want a boob-tent.  Under thin knits when I would like a little extra nippie coverage.  With knit T's that don't have a lot of boob room and need a rounded shape. 
Size:  38GG or 36H

Friday, October 23, 2015

Review: Luxe, N by Natori. A favorite beauty/comfort combo.

You were probably wondering when I was going to get to the beauty part. Well, I have a huge array of bras that fall at all different points along the the (mostly separate) continuums of Comfort and Beauty. But a few bras intersect both. Natori is always a good bet for this.

The Luxe is sadly discontinued - but happily, still available at steep discounts. (The larger cup size range has been renamed Natori Plus, and the styles reworked, but from the one style I've tried, it seems the good features are intact.) I own Luxe in several colorways, including a subtle shell pink with cream, and the deep burgundy with silver detailing below, which is one of the most striking.



Comfort:

  • Band.  Really well constructed: wide, with 3 hooks, well-spaced; thick, flat elastic along the edges that does not dig; and a very soft mesh material. (If you've worn Freya, you will be annoyed all over again at the thought of their narrow, biting elastic, & how ridiculously unecessary it is.)
  • Underwires.  Softer and on the flexible side. A nice medium width, more narrow than Anita. They are covered in a soft felted casing. Not cushioned, but it almost feels like it, especially if you've had the displeasure of wanting to tear a Cleo from your bosom, which may have been heaving with righteous indignation at the time. Also nice and low. I am tall, but short-waisted and high set; chin-high Panache style wires make me incredibly cranky. 
  • Straps.  Not wide, but lined with a light whisper of foam. This feature was gone from the newer version I bought, which has regular straps, and I think is slightly the poorer for it.
  • Seams.  Very subtle and can't be felt against my skin. The disappear under most knits.
  • Support Sling.  A crescent, stretchy, fabric-covered, not stitched down, that lines the bottom rim of each cup.

Beauty (yay, a new category!)

  • Lustrous silver embroidery over a deep burgundy base. It's gorgeous. And not as delicate as it appears. I have machine washed this for over a year, as I do all my bras - contained in formed mesh bra bags (with a wire that holds the cup in shape), on the hand wash, double rinse cycle, in an LG front-loader. No pilling; no tears; band is holding its stretch nicely. 
  • There is an edging of soft lace along the front 1/2 of the straps. This has the nice bonus effect of making the bra appear to be a pretty camisole should the edge of a strap peek out. 
  • Low cut, an unusual plunge/balcony hybrid shape.
  • The shape it gives is round and compact

Compromises

Cup size.  The cups run slightly small. The sizing is European/US, topping out at the usual H-cup. (UK FF) True to form, the band runs smaller, so I am able to sister size into this beauty. Ideally, I'd need one more cup size, but, it works for all but PMS swelling (I go up around 1/2 cup size) or real weight gain. I am barely fitting into this after a recent increase in my cup size of about 1/2 cup. (Who knew that would happen with impending perimenopause!? I for one was expecting some deflation! But no. Other women a few years down the road have reported the same.)

Cup shape.  It's definitely a shallow, more bottom full-friendly cup shape. But the very light, breathable and supportive soft mesh has stretch and give. It accommodates quite a bit, without showing double-bubble under clothing.

Tacking.  Nope. This floats about 1/2", which is acceptable to me. 
 
Wires.   I bend the wires slightly outward at the outer edges. I do this on many of my bras.  I have a steep taper to my torso. My above-bust measurement is a good 3-4 inches larger than my under-bust: a combo of muscle, tall roots, rib-cage shape, and extra fluffy bits. 
 
(Which also explains why that seemingly wacky above-bust measurement advocated by brands such as Victoria's Secret & Le Mystere can actually work. It basically adds +2 or +4 automatically.) 
 
Anyhoo, this greatly adds to the comfort and makes wires conform to my actual body, preventing that awful digging of wire tips.

When Do I Wear It?  Pretty much anytime. It's a great work bra, giving a low key shape and a lot of non-digging desk comfort. Ditto for weekends.
Size:  40H

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Reviews: A Couple of Hail Mary Buys That Worked Out Fairly Well

These are bras that I bought in a desperate attempt to find soft fabric that didn't irritate my skin the way that the mesh fabric used by brands such as Freya and Cleo often can, especially their bands. And I was pleasantly surprised. Neither is a good technical fit, but I have found myself reaching for them under certain tops, and on certain kind of work days.


The Intimate Britney Spears Begonia Balconnette

Yeah I know. But I learned that her line is based on the Change of Scandinavia line, which is decent quality, and uses a high stretch, supportive microfiber fabric. The brand goes up to a European I-cup, which is about a UK G cup, and a US H/I. Keep in mind these are the equivalents that I have found to be the case for me. YMMV. I actually quite like the look of the bra: clean-lined, with subtle polka dots on the top mesh, and low key lace; the rich charcoal color is a really welcome alternative to black.







Comfort Profile:
  • That buttery microfiber fabric I'm always going on about. Sense a comfort theme here? 
  • Narrow wires, with a U-shape. They do come up fairly high, but do not stab the armpit because of this.
  • The shape is quite rounded and lifted due to the 3-part seams, which are not irritating. It is not specifically full-on-top friendly, but it accommodates my upper fullness quite well and does not cause double-bubble.
Compromises:

Cup depth.  It is quite shallow, especially near the gore, which is not a match for my own moderately projected shape. Naturally, the gore does not tack, and floats about an inch.

Straps.  This is the bra's biggest negative for me. The straps are fairly thin, not in width but actual thickness; they are also not 'restricted stretch', which allows them to take more weight than they should and cut in after a few hours. 

Band.  It actually runs a little loose, so because I have to sister-size to wiggle into the upper cup range, it means I am wearing this on the middle hooks to start. 

When Do I Wear It?  At work, when I want to wear a knit top that does not have a lot of boob room, and I need a rounded, slightly minimized shape and profile. Also, when I will be sitting a lot and the strap issue will be less of a factor. Also, I bought this bra on 50% markdown from Bare Necessities, for around $30; I definitely would not pay full price for it. If you like the fit the Change brand version it is based on is called the Shaper.
Size: 40H

Maidenform Comfort Devotion

I purchased this one from amazon, and did not expect much as I am not at all in this brand's size range. The DDD is a newer size option for them. At the time, I was experiencing increased tenderness and swelling at PMS time, and so I was looking for something that could accommodate that, and not cause irritation.



Comfort Profile:
  • Say it with me: buttery soft microfiber fabric. Both cup and band are made of this smooth, oh-so-soft, forms a second skin, fabric.
  • The cup is slightly triangular in shape, not really full-on-top friendly, but stretchy and accommodating
  • Wires are low and very soft & flexible, more just a suggestion really. 
  • Band runs snug and is comfortable.
  • Shape is rounded and compact. 
Compromises:

Wires.  The downside of the softness and flexibility is that they actually can flip outward slightly, poking into the inner arm flesh a bit.  

Tacking.  Hahaha. Not even a little bit. This is the least tacking bra I wear.

Straps.  On the thin side.  They do dig a bit after a full day of wear, but they are center-pull so this is not a huge drawback.

Hooks.  This is a snug 40 that fits like a Fantasie 38 - which is a snug 38. I wear it on the loosest hooks. And unfortunately, the soft, lightly padded hook closer does not extend enough to cover the actual hooks themselves. So on the loosest hooks, I feel a scratchiness that is the main negative of this bra for me.  

When Do I Wear It?  Weekends, mostly. Nonactive ones. Running to the store; Netflixing; Puttering. I have also found it useful under work clothes with non-generous bust room. 
Size: 40DDD  

Monday, October 5, 2015

Reviews: 3 Comfy Wire-free Bras You Can Wear Outside the House

Although comfort is always a priority, I haven't found wire-free bras to necessarily be more comfortable than wired bras. Often, I find that the band - which will be more substantial as it is the main support - can be stiffer and less stretchy; I actually find a constrictive, more rigid band around my body to be less comfortable than most underwire. Of course, that is a personal preference and greatly influenced by shape and body type, skin sensitivity, and other issues. 

I wear wired bras 80% of the time; and 90% of the time for my desk-intensive work day. But for times when I find even soft, flexible underwire isn't comfy - for instance, PMS swelling, or when I'm coming down with a cold - I have found a couple of wire-free bras that I feel OK about actually leaving the house in. This means the shape they provide under clothing is not hideous. No uni-boob; no undefined boob-loaf. 

These are bras that give a reasonable amount of separation (by wire-free standards, of course) and an acceptable amount of lift, and in two cases, quite a good shape. And most important: If you're uncomfortable, and just need something that works - right now - they can be found at your local Wally's, for around $15. Even when you're on the edge of the wilderness, like me.

Just My Size Satin Wirefree Bra

Although the size range is technically only up to a DDD, while the band sizes continue on up into the heavens, in practice, the band runs tight and the cup runs huge. Making this a very viable option for much larger cup sizes. I am a 38GG and I own this in a 40DDD, which actually fits like a 38H. When I buy this again, & I will, because it is indispensable for  certain situations, I will buy it in 40DD. The cup capacity is really that vast. 
What makes it Princess & the Pea friendly?
  • Fabric. It is a smooth satin with a lot of stretch. 
  • Cup capacity. It can accommodate vast lower fullness, and a lot of upper fullness as well; that diagonal fabric along the top of the cups is very smooth and lies flat, adjusting to full on top boobs really well.
  • Straps.  Center-pull and wide, so weight is distributed on your shoulders more evenly. The strap material is not padded or especially soft compared to the satin simplex cup fabric, but it is decent.
  • Shape. The diagonal seam on the cup gives surprising lift and a very rounded shape. It also accommodates upper fullness better than other seam shapes and it is not visible under knits. Here is a pix (with my trademark bad photo quality) that shows this really well. You can see that it gives a very nice, rounded shape. And how the top of the cup adjusts to my natural, full-on-top shape:

Compromises:

Separation.  As with the great majority of wire-less bras, you are not going to get much. However, it's better than most because the cups are quite deep. Still, I rearrange a couple of times throughout the day. 

Band.  The seaming/edging on the front underband is not the softest. It's not enough to make it uncomfy for me, but enough to mention as a slight flaw.

When Do I Wear It? Overall, I reach for this bra for travel, or PMS time. It's especially good under knits that don't have open necklines, as it does not cause a boob-tent. As the lift is quite good, it looks nice under clothing.
Size:  40DDD or 40DD

Just My Size Cotton Comfort Bra

This is a very comfortable cotton bra. There is similar sizing leeway as the bra above, however in this case, the band runs even snugger, while the cup is about right. So in this bra, I can actually go up to a 42 band, which fits like a loose 38 or a snug 40.


Comfort Profile:
  • Fabric:  It's soft cotton. And seamless. Not easy to find.
  • Unstructured:  It's literally a single piece of cotton (with a seam down the center); it resembles a sports bra, but there is depth.
  • Band:  Very low sides. Which I like. But some may not. For me, it means zero chance of cutting at the side or underarm. Also, the band has a slightly grippy silicone feel, so it anchors well.
  • Straps:  Built-up slightly, but not particularly wide. They do not dig.
Compromises:
Lift.  'Uhhh, what lift?' I hear you asking. Well, there isn't much, as you can see in the pix. But there is lots of bottom cup depth, so your boobs are kept completely away from your chest and encased in nice soft cotton.
Low Sides.  You can't see in the pix, but they are quite low. Not much containment on the side-boob, if you're into that. I enjoy it for the range of motion and tank-top friendliness.
Edging.  You can see that rolled-seam edging that runs along the sides of the cup. That will actually irritate me after quite a few hours, especially if I'm actively moving a lot. 
Non-color.  It only comes in white, of which I am a non-fan.  And it can get grainy-grubby looking. I line dry on the rare sunny days here, so the bleaching effect of the sun helps.


When Do I Wear It?   When I need really free range of motion (those wonderfully low sides) or, it's very hot, or, I need breathable fabric. So, for gardening, or a hot day, or  because I'm recovering from surgery and laying in bed. 
Size:  42DDD

Gemm Microfibre Non-Wired Embroidered Bra

This one you will have to head over to eBay for. I'm not actually certain of where the brand originates. Eastern Europe is my best guess. This also has a very snug band. The 40 fits like my Freya 36s, and the cup runs quite large, so this is another one that, although it stops at a European F cup, in reality, you have a lot of sister-sizing leeway here. 



Comfort Rundown:
  • Fabric.  Luscious, buttery-soft microfiber, with a high level of spandex. It feels wonderful on the skin. 
  • Cup. Also nice & low sides. Not specifically full-on-top shape friendly, but low enough to allow expansion, and the edge is smooth and stretchy enough for there to be no pillowing.
  • Keyhole. It's pretty, but it's actually there to provide ventilation.
  • Separation.  For a softcup, it's quite good.
Compromises:

Lift.  Yeah. Pretty much as above. That is not this bra's strong suit. However, it looks fine under clothing.

Band.  The front underband is rigid, non-stretch microfiber. Very soft, but I find it not all that comfy when I'm sitting. It's obviously supposed to add to the support, but because the cups have a lot of stretch, that's a bit pointless. It's enough of a factor that I reach for this bra less often that I otherwise would.
Breathability.  The fabric basically is not breathable. But the low cut, and the keyhole offset this for all but really muggy, humid days. 

When Do I Wear It?   When I will mostly be doing a lot of standing or walking. For sitting a desk, or long drives or plane rides, I find it less comfy than I need, due solely to the underband issue.
Size:  40F

Friday, October 2, 2015

The Most Comfy Bra I've Found So Far

Over the last 5 odd years, through 3 different size changes, I realize there is one bra I have purchased multiple times. One bra that I reach for automatically when I have to fly, or am facing a 10+ hour work day, or have PMS tenderness, or my skin has been irritated by another bra.

The Anita Twin.

And, on me. Excuse the awful photo quality; I have northern gray light to contend with, plus a mediocre camera phone. But I wanted to give an idea of how it looks on a larger cup size, and the fit compromises I discuss below. 




It is quite plain, but comes in several soft colors.  I own it in Twin Art, a special edition, 
which is the above, but white on black, as well as an unusual coral adobe type color. It does come in the dreaded beige, and this is that rare bra th I would close my eyes, grit my teeth, and wear the beige. But I have instead combed the Interwebs to find the rare colors on sale.

Anita is a German company, founded in the 1880s. It as well-engineered as a Volkswagen and almost as quirky. There is also a  wirefree version, but I find the wired more comfy; and a Twin Firm version. But I love this one, the Twin. Sometimes you see the name Rosa Faia used with Anita as well. It says it is seamless, and it is - on the outside. I side, there is an unusually placed curved seam with very flat, almost invisible, stitching. That quirky engineering.

What makes it meet even Princess and the Pea standard for comfort?
  • Fabric.  Simply amazing. A buttery soft microfiber with a high spandex content that means it really stretches and fits like a second skin, while being very supportive. It is not thin, and does not allow a lot of bounce.
  • Band.  The same soft, firm fabric as the cups. No crappy, scratchy harsh Freya-esque mesh here. Also, unlike Freya, there is a smooth wider band of elastic; no thin elastic edging to bite in tighter than the rest of the band. 
  • Straps.  These are wide, soft, and lie very flat, as do the adjusters.
  • Wires.  Softer and more flexible, they conform very well to the sides of my breasts and allow for some fluctuation. At PMS time, that is incredibly important for comfort. The shape is also more of a U; it does not wing back at a slant like Panache, so does not stab the armpits but stays close to the body even when you move around a lot.
Now for the compromises:

Size range:  It tops out at an H cup. That's a European H, so a British FF, or an American G. I wear this in a 40H. Because the band runs more snug than many UK brands - closer to an American brand, say, Bali or Playtex, so the 40 is actually more like a 38. And the band is so well-constructed it provides plenty of support, even when it's looser.

Shape:  Not the shape under clothing, which is pretty good: rounded, natural, not overly boosted a'la Cleo, but rounder, more compact shape that fits well under button downs or dresses with limited bust room. 

No, the shape I mean is my own full-on-top, fairly projected shape. The cup is meant more for a balanced-to-full on bottom shape, and is on the shallow side. It's also a wider shape than I need. Not Elomi wide, but a good 1/2" wider than I need. 

Tacking:  It doesn't. For some, that's a deal-breaker. For me, meh. I find it is just not that important in terms of support for me, and it certainly does not add to the comfort. My personal preference is for a 'soft tack'; I like the gore to touch my chest lightly, or to float 1/4" or so. Think European brands like Comexim or Chantelle. 

Now I don't mean I don't care if the gore cantilevers from my chest, with the gore tilting 2" away like it would if I tried to crowbar myself into a DDD cup - but a 1/2", or even 1", is OK with me if the cup is not cutting in and otherwise fits well. It just means there's not enough immediate projection in the cup near the gore, i.e., the cup is not quite deep enough for me, and isn't meant for my own specific shape. But it does not disqualify a bra for me.

So this is go my go to comfort bra, the Anita Twin. I've bought all three of mine on amazon and eBay, for under $40. Full price is $65 or so. They have other styles which look as comfy as this one, but aren't: the Twin Firm is very different, as is the Alisha (higher wires, less stretchy cups, but wonderful straps); their seamed bras are less successful for me also.