Sunday, September 16, 2018

Review: Rosa Faia by Anita: Aurelia

Beauty

Aurelia is very similar in design to the Twin, but done completely in lace, and seamless inside & out. Although I am a lover of lace, I can't say the particular pattern of the lace is my favorite, but it's pretty enough. Aurelia reminds me a bit of both Empreinte Grace and Prima Donna Divine, but I find it far superior to both in every category but shape.

The color is a dark cream with a hint of blush, which is not exactly 'skin tone' but works well as a neutral for me under lighter colored clothing.

Comfort & Fit

Fabric.  Though sturdy, the lace is very soft and lays completely flat. It has a bit of stretch -but is not overly stretchy & therefore very supportive- and is very comfy against the skin and undetectable under clothing. If you find lace scratchy and uncomfortable, the Aurelia would likely be the exception you can wear. It is unlined and does snag against my fingernails a bit when I swoop & scoop, but this lace is not flimsy and won't tear. Still, I do the lean & jiggle instead, just to be safe.

Cups.  Like all Anita/Rosa Faia, they are meant for a balanced or full-on-bottom shape; though they do have quite a bit of room at the top, they don't have much space near the center to accommodate a lot of projection or inner fullness. So I was surprised when I got a nice soft tack. They do run 1/2 cup large, so if you're between sizes or very FOB, I suggest dropping down a cup. 

Band.  The usual Anita silky, stable, 3-hook hand. No power mesh; very comfy.

Wires.  These were surprising. They are on the narrow side! Anita wires generally run wide. They also run an inch taller than I prefer, but are still the usual more flexible wires in a complete 'U' shape, so they stay very close to the boob and do not poke the armpit or move around. They are designed to be supportive without resorting to a harsh rigid Panache-y or Elomi-esque style wire. I did opt to sister-size to mitigate what I suspected would be higher wires, & I'm glad I did.

Straps.  The usual wide, flat, very comfy and supportive straps you'll find in this brand. Anita straps are nice and long; I never have to extend them all the way, but they still work for petites. The straps are graded by size and are slimmer in the smaller cups; in mine, the lace cup tapers up into the strap, adding lots of support without cutting too close to the armpit and chafing UK-style. I did not get a good pic of that, but you can see it here:

Image result for rosa aurelia bra
 
Shape.  Rounded, slightly minimized, but not wide, due to the narrow wires. 
You can see how it compares to the near-perfect shape of the 1,000 times less comfy Prima Donna Divine. 
Aurelia on a rare sunny day


Divine

You can also see how Divine sits nicely below what I call my 'line of demarcation fluff in the sand'. I like wires to sit below that horizontal line of muscle 'n fluff to avoid the digging & discomfort it virtually always causes me when wires sit there. But Aurelia is an exception.

When Do I Wear It?

Aurelia is a great bra. My single quibble is the wire height, but I still find her very comfy for a full day's wear. She is a perfect choice for work: both flexible and securely non-bouncy. And a fine summertime bra, giving a rounded, non-projected T-shirt shape that is not too wide, and in a light and cool open lace fabric. The lace is very sensitive-skin friendly, but substantial enough to lend some helpful nip-camouflage. She is also very useful with empire waists and button-downs, as a not-really-minimizer, but more a 'projection softener'. And the more narrow wires actually make it more balanced and full-on-top friendly than the Twin. And, of course, this is a very comfy choice for PMS size fluctuation and tenderness. Unfortunately, I forgot to take a pic of how it looks under a blouse. 

Sizing:  42G. This fits me like a UK40G or a roomy Euro 40(90)H. I opted not to go for my usual 40H because the bands run snug and I suspected the wires would run high, so I dropped down a cup & went up a band in order to drop the wire height. Good plan. Because the cup runs a little large, I may even drop to a 42F next time. If you are full-on-bottom, you're going to need to drop a cup.

Price point: Full price runs $65, which is more than reasonable for this level of quality, which is much higher than, say, Panache or Wacoal, and obviously, much, much higher than budget brands like Delimira or Rosme. Still, I  buy a lot of bras. Clearly. =o)  And I do not have the benefit of personalized service in a local boutique (where I would happily pay full price); I have to do the research and order online. So if you do the same, I'd advise putting it in your Amazon cart and letting it sit there until it drops to $50 or so due to their super-annoying 'dynamic pricing'.

Saturday, September 1, 2018

Brand Breakdown: What does Anita offer?

Anita is a German brand, a family-owned company founded in 1886. And if comfort is your top priority, they are worth a look, particularly their Rosa Faia line. 

Where the Brand Excels:

  • High quality materials and construction. You are not going to find rough seams or crappy elastic in an Anita.
  • Very popular with pregnant women; many styles are also available in nursing versions.
  • Seamless styles with silky microfiber and high spandex that fit like a second skin.
  • Wide wires that are on the soft and on the flexible side, yet supportive. These are the only wide wires I have ever found to be non-irritating on me.
  • Well-designed bands that are soft, stable, and have 3 widely-spaced hooks; their support does not rely on a tight, constrictive fit as many UK brands do.

Their flagship style is the beloved Anita Twin, one of the first bras I profiled here as the most comfy I'd found. It still holds up well years later. It is an outwardly seamless bra, with a single very flat seam on the inside of the cup.

The Twin is the only style I have found to be super-comfy - and it is really comfy. 
Anita Twin   Anita.com 

It comes in other versions, including a wireless, the Twin Firm (less spandex) and the Twin Art, which is just a pattern, always on the tasteful side, that changes every few years.  
001
Anita Twin Art       Anita.com
The regular Twin and Twin Art are the comfort queens; the other styles have different fit and fabric. I do find the wireless version to be less comfy, simply because I don't like the pressure a non-stretch underband causes for me when sitting, but that's just a personal preference. If you like wireless, this is a wonderful choice due to the very generous cups (their F fit me like a G, not the case with the wired versions) and flat, wide straps.

Twin Wireless      Anita.com

 Annnnd What the Brand Does Not-so-Well

Lift and Shape.  You are not going to get a boosted, lifted shape from Anita. That is just not how they roll.

Beautiful colors or flashy patterns. They are proudly focused on basic neutrals and the occasional quietly elegant pattern.  

Seamed and balconette styles. These are pretty much all dreadful, with horizontal seams and a high frumpitude factor, especially in the larger cup sizes. See Exhibit A.  

All styles are meant for a balanced or full-on-bottom shape. The Twin can accommodate some upper fullness, but none are built for inner fullness. But if you have lots of side-boob, you're in luck; the cups are very friendly for that. 

Who/What/Where Will Anita Work For?

For me, the comfort far outweighs the shape mismatch for projected full-on-tops, but the brand will be a great fit for:
  • Wider boobs that are on the shallow side
  • Lots of size fluctuation  
  • Sensitive skin
  • Pregnancy & PMS
  • Long hours of travel or work
  • A more natural, slightly minimized shape

 Sizing & Pricing

European sizing. Bands run slightly snug. When I measured 36" and wore a 38 band in most brands, I was able to wear a 40 in Anita quite easily, on the loosest hook. Now that I'm 37-1/2", I can still wear it due to the high spandex. Cups run true to size and are forgiving due to the high stretch, supportive fabric.

The Twin has the widest size range, from 32C - 40H, and bands up to 46 going only to an F cup. The Wireless stops at an F, but runs about a cup size large, and sister-sizing works well here. The Art likewise stops at around a G.

Full price is between $70-80. They are well worth that. The high-stretch fabric is buttery soft and still lasts for years. The bands do not stretch out at all and the cups keep their shape. You will frequently find them on sale for around $50, on anita.com and amazon or eBay, but I have rarely seen them go any lower than that.

Saturday, August 11, 2018

Review: Delmira Smooth Seamless Minimizer





Yeah, so, I don't like minimizer styles. I'm just not a fan of the smooshed-down, wide, flattened look/feel they generally give. Except when I am. 

Minimizers are way more popular in the U.S. than elsewhere; I'm not sure why. Best guess: mass market clothing options are designed to fit a C-cup or so and the purpose of minimizers is to reduce bust projection, generally around 1-3". That can make the crucial difference for crowbarring yourself into, for example, a traditional button-down shirt, or a non-stretch fabric. The other time this style is useful? PMS tenderness and swelling.

Beauty

We're skipping this category because minimizers are utilitarian, and the way they are designed to fit doesn't really lend itself to beauty of shape or form. The best you can hope for is some color.
Image result for delimira minimizer bra
Delmira Smooth Seamless Minimizer  


This is a version of the Bali Passion Minimizer, an extremely popular bra. (I know - it is hilariously misnamed.)  It also reminds me a great deal of the prettier Lilyette Keyhole Plunge Minimizer, a bra I loved 10 years ago, when I was a 36F and a 38DDD was a good fit. (However, they changed to a cheaper, scratchy fabric some years ago.) Luckily, Delmira sizing runs well beyond that.
Image result for lilyette keyhole plunge

Lilyette Plunge Into Comfort Keyhole Minimizer

Comfort

Fabric.  This is where the majority of the comfort comes from: silky nylon with a high spandex content that gives lots of stretch. Because the fabric is substantial, there is no bounce. Together, these are very comforting if you have swelling and tenderness.

Wires.  Flexible, foam-wrapped and sandwiched between the fabric layers. This style always gives a ridiculous level of comfort - & is ridiculously rare. I find it incredibly annoying that cushioned wires are not standard on bras. Especially large cup sizes.  These wires are so soothing at PMS time as they can flex and adjust to size fluctuation without any digging.

Cups.   Yep, this is really how the style is supposed to fit. You can see it on the model above, too. That space at the bottom of the cup is part of the minimizing fit.
The wires are wider than necessary, combined with a flat section just above the wire, and an elongated cup shape. All together, this acts to redistribute boob  tissue vertically while also holding the boob close to the chest. Result: reduced projection; in my case, by about 2".

Shape.  Because the wires are medium-width, not hugely wide as some minimizer styles can be, you don't get a wide, flattened shape from the front, which is a nice plus.

Gore.  I've never heard of a gore that tacks in a minimizer style. That would defeat the purpose of reducing and softening projection. It is going to float, in my case, quite a lot, and it's supposed to.

When Do I Wear It?

Specifically, under this top. That is the entire reason I bought it.

This top has an empire waist and there is a seam right below the (neither stretchy, nor especially generous) bustline. Without a minimizer bra, that seam would creep up and be sitting right across my boobs, rather than beneath them, rendering the top completely unwearable. With one, however, the top fits as it is meant to. 

Size:  40F  (this is my size in all Delmira I've tried, so they are very consistent). Fits like a UK 40G or Euro 40H. 

Price point: under $20
 

Saturday, August 4, 2018

Review: Cacique Intuition Uplift Plunge bra (another holy grail!)

So I am going to have to re-think my bias regarding foam-dome T-shirt bras. Because this thing is THAT comfortable. 

I actually forgot I was wearing a bra for part of the afternoon. There is no higher bra praise than that.

You'll recall that our recent heatwave exposed a big hole in my bra-drobe and illustrated that there are times when nothing will do but a skin-toned T-shirt bra. Thankfully, today we're back to 65F and cloudy, but during the long muggy hot spell I ordered several options, with varying success: Cacique True Embrace, Natori Hypnotic Contour, and last week's Prima Donna Divine

Nutshell: simply amazing in every way. Including the price.

Update: this review is accurate for the beige colorway only.  
See notes under Sizing and new pics below.

Beauty

Minimalist styling that truly disappears under anything. The fabric has a shimmery golden quality that is quite pretty, and so much more flattering than the sickly yellowy beige that is often called 'skin tone'. There is a tiny teardrop keyhole at the gore. It does come in other colors & prints.





Comfort

I'll admit that my expectations were set to low, especially after the comfort of the Natori Hypnotic. It's hard to beat Natori for comfort (hence why I've reviewed so many of them here) but they are often not the best for shape.

Cups.   They are memory foam. I have a memory foam mattress, and shoes with that feature - and I love both. But it had not occurred to me to apply that 'fabric' to my boobs. And when I first held the Intuition, my first thought was Wow - this bra is heavy. Like a mattress for boobs. My 2nd thought was: This weighty contraption is going to make my boobs look gargantuan & blocky

Then I put it on. 


And reassessed every opinion I'd previously held on foam domes. Because the comfort was blissful. I do not often tumble into hyperbole when it comes to comfort - because I just don't encounter it that often. Perhaps once every year or two I will talk about angels singing in relation to a bra. But I cannot overstate how comfy the Intuition is. My boobs felt cradled and secure. The gore is low, but not too low and I did not shift toward the center; it's medium width and actually tacks on me due to the low height.

Cups are geared toward a balanced shape; the tops lie quite flat and are unlikely to gape on full-on-bottoms (who may want to drop a cup size), while the memory foam molds itself to accommodate my full-on-top shape.

Band.  And the news just keeps getting better. This is the most comfy band I've ever felt on my body. It is two layers of thick buttery-soft microfiber. Every bit of the elastic is covered. It fits like a second skin, remaining anchored and smooth; it moves with you and does not chafe. It is not too tall, either, so that was another welcome bonus. It is a bandless style; along with the weight of the foam, I expected this bra to be a fail on me. But, amazingly, no. The weight of the foam actually supports the boob weight from below, while also cushioning the bottom edge of the wire, so although it is sitting right against your chest, it does not dig in. 


I had actually gone up a band size, since the True Embrace band was lined in power-mesh and ran surprisingly tight. As there is no dreadful power-mesh in sight, turns out I really didn't need to do that, so I wear this on the middle hooks. Still, I might have gone up a size anyway due to this next feature.

Wires.  They are low. This fills me with So. Much. Joy. I do not want side chub, back fat, or any part of my armpit involved in my bra cup. Instead, I insist that wires accommodate my own shape and not interfere with muscle or fluffy bits. These do that beautifully. 

Straps.  Padded, but not too wide or thick, they add another layer of comfort. They stay in place and move with you.

Shape. Here was the biggest surprise for me. The Intuition gives a great shape under clothing. It is actually the opposite of big and blocky. This is strange, wonderful magic.




Compromises

Heat.  The only one I can see is that you may not want to choose this bra if you live in a very hot, humid climate, say the American South. That's also the main drawback of a memory foam mattress: they can feel hot. I was very comfy in a normal air-conditioned building, but when I went to pull a few weeds on an 80F day with 80% humidity, I very quickly felt too warm. But those are not the usual conditions in which you'd be wearing this bra. 


When Do I Wear It?

Under super thin and clingy fabric, like modal or silk. You will get complete nippie camouflage, if that's important to you - personally, it's only important to me in a professional setting. More important to me: I get a very smooth line, with no double-bubble. It is actually more comfy than the Natori Hypnotic Contour which is already holy grail status for me, and gives a better shape, too. I would choose the Natori in very hot weather, if I was going to be outside, but when I want a perfect, rounder shape, and ultimate comfort, this is my go to.

Size:  42DDD/F. This is US sizing, so you just need to go with it. It fits me like a looser UK 40G or a Euro 40H. Cacique bands run tight; you do need to add +4 inches to your own measurement. Cups run generous and wires medium width. 

Update:   I bought this bra in another colorway, a pretty blue floral-on-white, and it has a completely different fit. 
This is the exact same size as the beige version, but I am basically almost tumbling out of the cups here. I would say they run a full cup size small in this colorway. The band is also about 1/2 size smaller.


I can hardly believe this is the same bra. It is definitely not as comfortable as the beige. I would expect this kind of sizing difference if it were a black bra, as the dye is known to make clothing in that color run smaller. But this...no. 

Based on the sizing differences I experienced with the True Embrace, I have to consider that Cacique sizing is very inconsistent. This is always annoying, but can make a brand impractical if you have to purchase exclusively online and cannot try each colorway, in each different style, in person.

Price Point: Full retail: $50. I paid $20 on eBay. 
And here is the perfect example of price having no correlation to comfort.

Saturday, July 28, 2018

Review: Prima Donna Divine

My sister has zero bra issues. She is a 36F, wears Prima Donna exclusively, and when she needs another bra she just picks one up like a pair of socks. Yeah. I can't imagine that either. She's also full-on-bottom and does not have sensitive skin. While we're at it, she has wavy, rather than curly, hair that is frizz-proof. And by any objective measure, I'm a nicer person, with a sense of humor about myself, so there's that. =o) Kidding not kidding. 

Anyhoo, I've long meant to give Prima Donna a try. They are, however, what I consider spendy i.e. they run $90 and up. I wish I had the option of just investing in 3 or 4 very expensive bras and calling it a day. The first problem with that plan is that I experience a lot of size fluctuation - even more as I tiptoe through the onset of perimenopause - making that a pretty poor investment. Also, I simply have not found expensive brands to be more comfortable. There is definitely an increase in fabric and construction quality at the mid-point price of around $50 compared to bras under $30. But the value quickly drops off after that. 

Full price for the Divine runs between $125 - 150. I found one on eBay (new with tags) for $50. I do not think the full price is justified.

Beauty

PrimaDonna DIVINE Underwired bra

Prima Donna Divine



A pretty pattern in molded lace with a 'heart-shaped' neckline. It comes in several colors and because I was still trying to fill that T-shirt bra shaped hole in my bra-drobe I opted for Venus, which is a lovely pale blush. On my skin, it functions as a neutral and is a better match as a skin-tone bra than a yellowy beige. 

The Divine reminds me a great deal of the Empreinte Grace, which I like very much. 

Comfort

Spoiler: the waters are about to get rough

Fabric.   Shockingly harsh, rough 'lace'. I wouldn't even consider this to be lace, actually. The closest comparison is the starched lace doily that adorned my grandmother's coffee table. I'm pretty sure that thing could've supported a small bowling ball, and not just peppermint candies. I suppose that's the idea here: rugged support. Yeah. It is not comfy. At all. 

The Divine is not lined and, unlike the Grace, the inner side is not smooth; the cup fabric is much, much rougher. When I took the bra off at the end of the day I could actually see -and definitely feel- the entire pattern imprinted on my boobs. My husband found this highly amusing. Direct quote "It's like reading Braille on your boobs."

Band.  Surprisingly, it has only two hooks. Since the band is fairly tall at the sides, I'm not sure of the purpose of having it taper in the back to only two hooks, but it is not a plus for comfort. The fabric of the band is soft-ish on the outside, but a rougher mesh on the inside. Again, why? If it's for strength and fabric retention, then reversing that so the softness is on the inside would be a no-brainer. The picot trim edging the entire band, top & bottom, does no favors to the cause of comfort. Additionally, the band runs very tight. I actually added an extender, which increased the comfort enough to make it wearable.

Straps.  Wide and great fabric. A slightly spongey texture that is soft. However, they are very wide-set. As I have very broad shoulders, it is incredibly rare to have the experience of a strap sliding off my shoulder, but these did. Since the band is tight on me, going up a band would actually make the straps sit even wider, which would be unwearable for me.

Fit & Shape

Cups.  That wrinkling toward the bottom you can see above is actually a dart. This gives the cups a great shape and adds depth to accommodate some projection. On my larger side, the darts do not lay as flat. The molded cup shape is meant for a balanced shape. Those darts would have done me a lot more good had they been an inch higher, since my fullness is on the top. However, I can't blame brands for designing for the majority. And full-on-bottoms are, by far, the majority shape, with balanced coming in second, and full-on-tops....well, we're clearly a distant 3rd. 

The only brand I have found that is designed for full-on-tops is Gorsenia. And unfortunately, they have changed their designs, removing most of the features that made the now-discontinued Solange so comfortable. 

Gore.  Very narrow, which I love. Also much lower than the Grace, which I really love. The lower the gore, the better a bra will fit my full-on-top shape. I don't get even a soft tack, but an acceptable 1/2" float.

Shape.  Really beautiful; round and slightly less boosted than Grace, the Divine gives a perfect T-shirt shape. 

There is no denying that the Divine looks great under clothing. I wore it under a T-shirt:
 

And, here, with a very fitted modal top. You can see that rugged lace right through the fabric, which is fine with me, as it's quite pretty.





That's basically how my boobs looked when I took it off. They retained a faint imprint of this pattern.









When Do I Wear It?

When I want a round T-shirt friendly shape, without overly boosted projection, and I don't want any foam involved. For me, that means the very specific situation of a hot muggy day and thin fabric. The shape is pretty much perfection, but the comfort leaves much to be desired. I mean, a lot. If the fabric was actually comfy and the band and strap issues were not present, then yes, I would happily pay $125 for this bra. But as it is, even the $50 I paid is a stretch. Actually, any stretch in the cups would have have been welcome. I have no doubt the Divine will wear like iron (& feel like it) but I just don't care that the bra will last into the next generation if I don't want it on my boobs.

Size.  40G
I did a lot of research on the sizing of Prima Donna and in the end I went with my Empreinte size. The bands run a full size smaller than Empreinte, which I find true to size. And the cups run around 1/2 cup large, also true for Empreinte. So the 40G is a cup size smaller than my usual Euro size, and more similar to my US size.

This size is, technically, the right fit for me, and if you like snug bands, you'd be fine keeping your usual band size. I like a more moderate +2 fit (2" larger than my actual band measurement) and if you do, too, then you'll want to go up a band size. I have no idea how the strap placement scales in smaller sizes, so keep that possible issue in mind in you are narrow-shouldered.

Sunday, July 22, 2018

Review: Natori Hypnotic Contour bra

Nutshell:  a holy grail T-shirt bra!

 Beauty

As it is designed to disappear under thin knits, the styling of the cups is sleek and understated, but this is offset by a touch of lace at the gore - and a gorgeous full lace band. It only comes in two colors: Cameo Rose (non-yellowy beige) and black.
Image result for Natori Women's Hypnotic Full Figure Contour lace band
Natori.com

 Comfort

Impressive. This bra has the rather magical quality of actually growing more comfy throughout the day, which is highly unusual.

Band(less).  I can't remember the last time I saw a full lace band. And this one is very soft and comfy. The lace is high quality and unlikely to tear or stretch out too quickly. It is also very, very pretty.



This is actually a bandless style, i.e. there is no band under the cups themselves. This usually is far less comfy for me as the wires sit right on your chest, and too much weight can be concentrated there. This bra is rather magical in that it simply does not suffer from this issue. My best guess is that it is down to the shape of the cups and straps and the superior way in which they distribute the weight so that it is not all concentrated on the bottom of the wires. Again, impressive.

Cups.  Very thin foam, 1/8" as compared to the 1/4" of most traditional foam-dome T-shirt bras. This makes them very light, breathable, and flexible and I imagine these properties is what make the bra grow more comfy as the day wears on: your body heat causes the cups to actually adjust and mold to your own boob shape. They are extremely full-on-top friendly. The tops of the cups are not closed-in and there are no restrictive elastic strips or rigid bands of fabric. If you're full-on-bottom you are very likely to have gaping. Balanced shapes, probably not, but you may consider dropping a cup size if you have softer tissue or a less projected shape. 

Straps.  Very comfy. They have a soft, velvety texture and are fully adjustable. They are also uniquely angled: in the front they are at a very nice spot - not too far out on the shoulder, but not too close-in either - and in the back, they angle in steeply toward the center. This makes them unlikely to slip or to show under any but the widest necklines, while also distributing weight more evenly over your shoulders. It's going to be a happy design for those with narrow shoulders or those who get really sick of the super-widely spaced UK style straps that rub close to the underarm.

Wires.   I find Natori wires to be comfy: on the narrow side and soft-to-medium gauge. Flexible enough to conform to your shape and easy to bend if you need to. The height of the wires does vary a bit, with the Pure Allure having quite low wires and the Satin Fleur being on the higher side. Sister-sizing (going up a band and dropping a cup) does work with Natori if you want a lower wire and I opted to do that here. The wires actually feel lower than they appear in the pics. 

Fit

Shape.  All the foam Natori styles I've tried have a similar shape. It is not completely round, but boosted with a defined apex.


The positives: it gives a perky shape that is moderately projected and not at all wide. The lone negative: you do run more risk of boob-tenting with flowy tops. 

I do think the Hypnotic gives a much better shape under a flowy modal top than the Pure Allure, though I'm not certain exactly why. 
Hypnotic


Pure Allure


 Compromises

 Yeah....there really are none. Whaaat?!
This is a holy grail T-shirt bra for me and I am going to snap up several more.

When Do I Wear It?

Under thin clingy knits or fabrics that tend to be on the transparent side. Any time I want a little extra coverage that also feels light and almost weightless. Under clothing that requires a high bust line to drape well, such as dresses with an empire waist. And when I want a full day of comfort, either sitting or standing, especially when I will be going out directly after work.

Size:  40H (US sizing)


My usual size in Natori is 38H, but with a foam cup I sometimes need a little extra room due to my full-on-top shape. Since the brand stops at an H cup, I went up a band and this is a great fit for me. I do have slight extra room on my smaller side, but it is a perfect fit on my larger side. In this case, it works well because any double-bubble with a T-shirt bra is highly visible. In a seamed bra, I would be more likely to fit my smaller side.


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.