Saturday, May 28, 2016

Why My Bras Last a Really Long Time

I'm always faintly surprised at the rule of thumb holding that a bra should last around 6-12 months. Mine last a good 3 - 4 years. At least. The spendy & the cheap brands alike. Almost without exception. In fact, the only one I can think of that died in 6 months was an ill-fitting (but incredibly comfortable) Soma I wore 8 years ago, which was clearly a quality issue.

Otherwise, my bras last a really long time. By that, I mean that after 3 years they are still supportive, with no fraying or stretched-out fabric. And I have very rarely progressed beyond the middle hooks by that time. 

Why is this? Four reasons. Fairly equal in importance:  
  • How often I wash them:  After every wear

I'm in the minority here, but I very rarely wear a bra more than once before washing it. Why? Because pretty much any amount of sweat is going to start degrading delicate and elasticated fabrics. And if you also use body moisturizer cream, deodorant, and/or bath oil, that's going to really amplify the effects. 
  • How I wash them: In a machine  

I'm firmly a fan of machine washing my bras, and I get excellent results. I use the Delicate, double-rinse cycle in a front-load washer, and a tiny amount of HE detergent (for front-loaders; it's inherently low suds). Most importantly, I use mesh bra cages, like so:


There is an arched plastic half-hoop across this top. This is pretty much an underwire for your bras to wear - which I find amusing & fitting.

There is a full circular hoop around the bottom. So the bras' cup shape will not be distorted.


I can fit 2 seamed bras, or 1 foam bra, in each bag. I wash 4 or 5 bags at a time.










Then, I dry on a rack in winter, or, on our very occasional sunny days, outdoors on the line.

Which is today! 62F & sunny. It's so perfect out here.






       Though, like myself, Reilly the Sheltie prefers shade to the direct sun.



This gives me better results than hand-washing for a couple of reasons: I avoid the twisting and wringing that occurs even when using the 'roll up in a towel & blot' method - which, coincidentally, also manhandles the lace fabric with toweling fabric. And, I avoid the 2 days it would take a bra to dry, and possibly mildew, in my cool rainforest climate.

  • I don't wear too-tight bands

This is a biggie. Wearing ultra-tight (the exact measurement of your body, or even tighter) is going to result in your bands wearing out much faster. You're causing the band to stretch to maximum tension, while holding significant weight. And if your band is tight enough to spring the wires (bend them into a wider shape) then you're adding distortion to the wires and fabric, on top of stretching the band past the moderate stretch and recovery process it's designed for. 

If you enjoy ultra-tight bands, fair enough, it's a preference, but one trade-off is bras that wear out years before they otherwise would. But that may be a valid trade-off for tight band lovers in the same way that compromising on other fit elements, to achieve greater comfort, is worth the trade-off to me.


  • Rotation:  Not wearing a bra more than twice in one week   

I never wear the same bra more than once a week, and I never wear the same style two days in a row. That is more about my sensitive skin. I have learned that continually rotating wire shapes/heights, strap placement, band styles, and fabrics is key to preventing irritation, eczema and abrasions.

A bonus effect is that it contributes to the long life of my bras. You don't need a huge bra-drobe to do this, either. I have a consistent core of around 8 wired bras and 3 bralettes that I wear & wash week after week. The oldest bra is 4 years old; the newest, 2 months. (It's hard to tell the difference between the two visually, except the older bra is softer.) You could certainly do this with 1/2 that number of bras, if you don't mind doing laundry twice a week.

So that's my bra care system. It's low maintenance & practical, keeps my sensitive skin happy, fits my laid back lifestyle - and it works. 

Now, as soon as I pour a mimosa, I'm going back to watching my bras drying on the line in this rare sunshine. 

The mimosa-sipping secret garden location where I obsess on bra issues:

 



Sunday, May 22, 2016

Ellis: the Cleo that broke my heart

The Cleo Ellis has perhaps my favorite pattern of all time. Lush roses on a pale pink background and embroidered roses across a deeper pink mesh upper cup. Unapologetically girly. It's like wrapping your boobs in a garden. Thorns included.



 Fit

Cups: Ellis is a good technical fit on me. The cups are very deep and projected, and the wires are quite narrow.

Which results in great tacking. The gore looks wide from this angle, but isn't.

The cups run large - I can actually drop from a GG to a G - and are extremely full-on-top friendly. This is one of the few UK styles that actually accommodates both my upper fullness and projection.



Wires:  They are very narrow for a UK bra; more narrow than Ewa Michalak; but wider than Comexim.



The edges of the wires follow my own shape pretty well.  They are slightly higher than I prefer, but much lower than Panache wires, which I consider a form of torture. The wires are on the rigid side, which is not a plus for me.

Band.  Very flawed. Incredibly tight - I actually have to wear an extender with this one. Also very narrow: only 2-hooks, and they are spaced quite  close together. 

Instead of firm anchored support, you are, at best, always very aware of the band; at worst, you get a feeling of cutting in.


Shape

It gives that trademark Cleo shape: perfectly round - very jacked up - orbs. 



There's a little of my left boob sneaking in from the side, but if you ignore that, you can see the perfect orb-like shape, and that my boobs are hoisted practically to my collarbone.

I like a rounded shape, but Cleo is a little over the top for me. Literally. Many fitting tops simply won't fit over this shape, and stretchy knits will form a boob-tent. 


Comfort

There just...isn't any. Ellis is gorgeous. And she fits me very well. Yet she is the perfect example of a bra that is a good technical fit, has a beautiful aesthetic - and is simply not comfortable enough for me to enjoy wearing. Or even to put up with wearing. She is not hideously uncomfortable (like that accursed Paramour, or a stabby-wired Panache) but just moderately, constantly, relentlessly less than comfortable.


When Do I Wear It?

I don't, really. A year ago, I wore her for periods of 4 hours or less, with lower-cut, fitted dresses. They had to be stretchy, and with a defined underbust for the shape to work. This was my last attempt at Cleo. (My first was the disastrous Lucy, before I realized the huge importance of being FOT as regards to fit.)
Size: 38G  (runs a full cup large, and a band size small)

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Bralettes for comfort - & nothing but

Amended to add a couple more styles & pics.
 
No Beauty or Fit categories. This is about when comfort is paramount and you have decided to just go there with a bralette that is really not meant to handle more than a D-cup. Boobs in the air like you just don't care, if you will. Well, more like boobs off the floor, you can't ask for more. Because, I mean, really, you just can't. Because gravity.

Bali basically rules this field. They've specialized in a whole range of styles that are 'comfort first'. Very little lace or scratchy elastic. But the styles all have annoyingly similiar names - and Bali keeps changing the names slightly so that it's hard to tell which style you're getting.

This first bralette is what I reach for if I am experiencing serious PMS swelling and discomfort. Which will be the only time I actually want to sleep with some kind of support. This is the only style that I actually cannot feel while sleeping, and does not irritate in any way whatsoever. That is a huge deal for me.

Bali Comfort Revolution Bralette


Once I have turned it inside out, I cannot feel the edging at all, which is the only thing that would otherwise irritate me.


The Revolution's straps are far comfier than the Bali Comfort Revolution Wirefree bra (used to be called Devotion) which I will actually wear out of the house as a bra. That one has the much thicker double fabric & heavenly padded clasp I rhapsodized about here: The Wirefree Bali


But for soft control, and pure comfort I can sleep in, I opt for this version instead. This is not about cup capacity, coverage, and certainly not about containment or proper fit. 

What this bralette provides is very breathable comfort in an ultra thin layer of fabric. It just skims the body like a second skin, acting like a gentle shelf-sling that supports from below. It doesn't provide the slight compression of the Devotion, but just a very soft hold. Just enough to stop the painful bounce, or even the discomfort that rolling over in your sleep can cause. The sides are nice and low, so no chafing there.

I wear this in a size Large, which is 2 sizes smaller than the Devotion. But this size provides the perfect fit for what I need it to do. It is very soft and very stretchy, so I have little trouble getting it over my head if I want to, or I can step into it. I have worn this around the house under loose pj's if I have company, but this is not one I'd wear out of the house.

 Bali Comfort Revolution Wirefree







This is the definitely the bralette I wear the most. It's what I reach for as soon as I come home from work, when I'm boarding a late night flight, or when I'll ill.

The other Bali styles, such as the ones with pads (hysterically inept on large cups sizes), a floppy crop top, and a wired style (don't even try it if you're above an E cup and FOT) do not work for me. 

There are a plethora of these bralettes, all basically knock-offs of the Ahh Braby Rhonda Shear. There's almost no point in taking pics of them all because they all look pretty much alike. However, they do not feel alike. So I will just run through a few easily available styles that I've tried:

The Ahh Bra, in several iterations

Yeah, I'm not really a fan. It's unusual in that it has a very snug deep band. The 2x fits like a 36. But that just causes it to roll & bunch. 

The cups are quite thin and really stretchy, so they don't actually hold well, defeating the snug band.

Material: not very soft.

Finally, the dealbreaker:  godawful elastic edging along the high sides. The elastic doesn't stretch much either, so the combo results in irritated skin for me beneath the armpit and around the back of my shoulder.

The Divine  

This is the only one I still occasionally wear.  It suffers from the same too-tall sides in the back; you can see how it cuts upward from the armpit toward the back. But this one is wired, and surprisingly more comfy. The fabric is much smoother & silkier on this style but the wire casing is really awful. I do have to flip the bra inside-out, which renders it fairly comfy for a few hours before the elastic on the back armholes becomes an issue. You can definitely wear this one out of the house: you will get a super-round, though wide - there's quite a gore on this thing - shape.
 
 Image result for Ahh bra by rhonda divine

Just My Size Pure Comfort bra

Another one that looks really similar, but doesn't feel it. Fits similarly to the original Ahh Bra: tight band that rolls & bunches, but larger, stretchier cups. Not much lift there. I had no trouble getting good coverage in a 2x, but the very high sides and back, and smaller armholes, cause the same chafing issues.

Image result for jms pure comfort



Genie bra

I found this one to be fairly awful and the worst of the bralettes I've tried. It had the roughly stitched edging, plus the thin elastic had little stretch, so a recipe for cutting into sensitive skin. Plus the ultra-high side issue again. Really underwhelming cup capacity, coupled with a slightly abrasive fabric, and really, why bother.
https://geniebra.com/images/products/cl_bp_powder_blue_pi.jpg


Leading Lady Cami Bralette

This one surprised me. I liked it more than expected and found the fabric very soft. Unexpected at a price point of $15. This is the only bralette among the group that 1) has actual normal bra straps, and 2) covers cleavage instead of creating it. I also has 4 hooks in the back. I reviewed it here: here:


So, the Leading Lady & the Balis are the only two bralettes I have in regular rotation, and the only two that can act as actual bra replacements. I love the Revolution 'bra' style (used to be Devotion, in my original review) for its hooks and how easy it is to whip on/off, and the quite acceptable (to me) look under clothing. 

Personally, I'm fine going to the grocery store on a Sunday with this relaxed level of support under a comfy sweater.
I have not tried any of the newer lacy bralette styles such as those from Torrid, because for me bralettes are where I go when I want complete comfort, and cheap, scratchy doesn't do it for me. 

But I'm of a mind to try the Cosabella Never Say Never, which is supposedly very soft, but on the spendy side.

 

I'd love to hear if any fellow boobilicous folk have had success with bralettes that are beautiful, as opposed to my utilitarian go-tos.  


Saturday, May 7, 2016

Review: N by Natori Truly Soft Bra

I've been buying up some of the old N by Natori styles that will never come again. While I've found two of the new styles that I like very much,  Satin Fleur and Pure Allure, and they will definitely become staples, I still like much about the 'less bra' aesthetic of the old iteration of Natori.

The truly soft bra is a wire-free cami-bra. A very useful style for tops that would simply be a lowish neckline on a B-cup, but on a GG bust - and high set, at that - are basically indecent. Seriously, I find that annoying. My roots begin only 2" below my collarbone; I can show cleavage in anything but a turtleneck. Not that there's anything wrong with that. But for work, especially in my former job when I was often the only woman present, I prefer to be able to remove cleavage from the equation.

Beauty 


Here is how it looks under a top that would have otherwise been completely unwearable for me. 

That line down the center that I thought was an odd design choice is actually pretty genius. It's there to hide the line of cleavage that would otherwise be totally visible
  

And close up, you can see just how high my cleavage actually begins, right at the top of the bra.

The lace is a rose pattern, but the center line detracts from it quite a bit. But it was quite effective at camouflaging the cleavage shadow. You'd have to be pretty close up - and staring from this height - to see it.




Comfort

Not bad, but not as comfy as I'd hoped, either. 

Fabric.  It is indeed very soft. I experienced no irritation at all on that front.


 The sides come up quite high, but the fabric is non-mesh, so it is smooth against the skin.

The lace is a V-shape so it doesn't cut across the boob and the seam that joins it is flat.

There is no side sling; the sides are molded and the fabric here is thicker. It does a good job of keeping the shape forward and centered.


Compromises

 There are quite a few, I'm afraid.

Side Stays.  I dislike them at the best of times, but these really did not work for me. 
 
They are fairly soft, but very, very tall. 
  
You can see the beginning of what is going to happen a few hours later:  they are going to end up bent into a 'J' shape, with the bottom of the stay flipping up and out, away from my body. Which was far more comfortable, but ridiculous. There is no need for 5" side stays in the first place in a band this tall and stable.

I will be removing the side stays before the next wearing of this bra.  

Straps.  Another style that is not restricted stretch.  While not as wide as they should be, they do have an interesting feature: the underside has a polka dot velvety pattern, making shoulder slip a non-issue. Not really necessary, as these are not wide-set straps at all.

Coverage.  As with virtually all wire-free bras, you are not going to get any separation, and over the course of the day, I do get cleavage-creep. Being full-on-top increases that, so I do need to re-arrange several times a day when I feel the rise of double-bubble.

When Will I Wear It?

With lower cut tops where I would otherwise need to wear a 1/2 cami. Sometimes, you just don't want even a partial additional layer. Though for complete comfort and coverage, I'd opt for the 1/2 cami with a non-padded wired bra instead.  

Size:  40H   This is the old Natori sizing, so the band is plenty snug, and runs a full size smaller than the new styles.