A friend of mine raved to me about the Pencil Test in Portland Oregon, so I made a point to get out there while I was in town in mid-October for a work conference. I was impressed enough that I’ll have to stop back in every time I’m at all in the area.
The store is laid out in a welcoming fashion. Some colored fashion pieces hang on racks, with more in drawers. The basics have their own section of hangers, organized by size. The sports bras are on yet another rack. Light comes in from the front glass doors. The changing rooms are spacious and feel light and sunny.
The store’s real accomplishment, though, is the selection. I have never seen such a wide and fun collection of DD+ bras in any store. Freya Pansy longline, Curvy Kate Ritzy, Cleo Maddie Pop, Parfait Fiona longline, Curvy Kate Roxie, Parfait Charlotte, Panache Porcelain Viva, Curvy Kate Dare, and Cleo Jolie to start. There were more that slipped my mind. On the sale rack: Cleo Neve Floral, Cleo Marcie in yellow, Cleo Maddie in orange, Panache sport tank tops, Parfait Celine cami, and more choices. The basics presented me with Parfait Jeanie, Parfait Sophia padded, Panache Tango II, and Freya Deco, among others. There were also lovely elomi and Goddess options, though they didn’t have them in my size.
So wow. I tried on the Parfait Fiona longline, the CK Ritzy, and the beige basic Parfait bra. The saleslady was considerate and checked in with me every so often without being intrusive. She also understood a lot of my issues with shape and shallowness. The Fiona was a little too full in the cup in a 36G, as was the CK Ritzy in a 34FF. I wanted to try the Fiona one size down, but unfortunately they were out of stock. The Ritzy was just too open on top for me. The Parfait bra fit, but there was more lace on the bottom than I needed, and I wasn’t totally wowed by the color. Prices were all MSRP, which is not the practice in Seattle.
Anyway, I was bowled over by the choices I had and the knowledgeable staff, although I didn’t end up buying any bras. I bought some sale underpants, and look forward to my next visit!
Parfait Celine debuted as an Autumn/Winter 2013 model in both black and purple, in a padded and unlined version for each. I ordered one from A Sophisticated Pair since I liked the Panache Jasmine but didn’t feel it was quite supportive enough. Since Parfait are an American brand, the bra was an affordable $46. I’ve had the bra past break-in time now, and it works quite well for me!
Underwired cut-sew bra with stretch lace upper cup, cut almost like a balconette. Two hooks in the back. Fully adjustable straps. Side stays on the wings. Side support panel.
The band runs on the tight side. Go up a band size, especially if you’re between sizes, and reduce the cup size by one. I have a 36F when I usually wear a 34FF. I fill the cup with my somewhat full-on-bottom breasts, as there’s enough projection on the bottom of the fabric cup. Speaking of which, the fabric part of the bra comes up further than halfway (e.g. Panache Jasmine, Envy, Clara), which gives great support. The stretch lace fits my shallow profile, although there is a clear strip sewn in at the top that can cut in if when I raise my arms. Likewise, the side seam support can cut in when I lift my arms. This is an aesthetic and not comfort issue. I feel quite secure and supported in this bra.
I am not usually one for polka dots and little bows, but this managed to look fun and cute. I didn’t feel like I was wearing a bra patterned for a teenager. Since there’s less stretch lace than other stretch lace bras I’ve tried, it doesn’t feel intrusive or over-embellished. The profile is not lifted, but it is pretty round. Black and white are easy to match with underpants, so I usually pair this with any black brief I have around.
The cloth part of the fabric is the softest, smoothest, fabric I have felt on a bra that comes in my size. I can find it by feel in my drawer, and it always gives me a little burst of happiness.
Due to the little strip at the top of the lace and the seam between the fabric and lace almost indenting my tissue, I wouldn’t recommend this bra for those with super soft breasts. The underwires and wings are decently tall, so if you ever have problems with wires poking you on the sides, this could irritate you. Other than that, I think this bra fits a decent spread of shapes.
Parfait is discontinuing this style, so I’d suggest obtaining it while you can if it sounds like it would work for you. The Parfait Casey is due to come out in a cut that looks similar to this, but I don’t know if it will have stretch lace.
I’ve long loved the Parfait Charlotte padded bra (I like the look of the balconette/bandeau version but unfortunately it doesn’t get along with my shallow shape- the top cuts in and I can’t fill the cups). The price point in the US, the stable band and support, the side support, the smart piping. So do many others, and I’d guess it’s one of Parfait’s bestsellers. It comes out in a new color every six months and that stays current for a year. Right now the fashion colors are ‘wild pink’ and ‘purple wine’.
For my birthday I treated myself to some Parfait goodness from A Sophisticated Pair, and the results were rather pleasing. The purple is prettier than I thought it’d be. I guess more saturated/deeper than I thought it was from pictures? Anyway, a darker purple would tick all of my boxes but this color is rather nice.
On previous Parfait Charlottes in red I’d gone up two cup sizes, keeping my bigger band size for the side stays. I was advised to go with my usual size in the purple model (36F), and it actually fit great. As before, this bra seems to have narrow to medium width cups that are on the shallow side. If you’re fuller on top, go up a cup size, or the bra may just not be for you. The band may be a bit looser than the red version, but not much. This is good news in general because the bra going to a K may mean more women can wear it now. The one downside of the bra being more true to size is that I’m down to two hooks on the back. At FF they go up to three hooks, and at GG to four.
This spring Charlotte will come out in a powdery/icy blue, which I’ll be getting in line for. I am not sure if they are discontinuing the peach colorway since I see it on zulily, anybody know? I bought one just in case…
My cut-sew bras were all worn with extenders, so I wanted an option when I just don’t feel like dealing with an extender. I tend to get on with many of the Panache frames. When I saw Loretta, I decided to finally give it a spin, since it gives me mad Spirograph nostalgia.
Three-part balconette. There’s also a plunge version, which I have not tried. Medium to full coverage on this one. The bottom of the cups, which are the part reinforced through GG cups, are upside down Us and joined on both sides to the middle of the cups. The rest of the cup is a plain mesh with some detail. In larger cup sizes, the cup is a heavier mesh on the upper cup, too. The straps are scalloped on the sides and fully adjustable. Two hooks in the back at my size, three in GG-K sizes.
True to size. I had no wrinkling at 34FF and I could fit two fingers under the band when it was new. There’s a point/line/seam in the cup through the geometric swirls where it cuts in if I shrug or raise my shoulders, and on some days it just cuts in in general. The wires are quite wide on me, and the top of the cup shallow. If you’re full on top or have front projection I wouldn’t recommend this bra.
Not too fussy. I do like the geometrics on the top on the cup and along the bottom front of the band. Half of the cup is sheer on me, and I’m ambivalent about that. I loved it with Dahlia, but Loretta leaves a lot more plain mesh around somehow. The shape is a bit east-west because it doesn’t have a side support (which has become popular in the last few years). The black and caramel are basics, but the cobalt blue version is a beautiful shade.
I’ve had this bra several months and worn it a handful of times. Sometimes the gore pushes against my sternum too much, or the wires are uncomfortable because my rib cage is flared and the wires somehow feel like they are pointing into my sides and putting pressure there. Would an extender help while it stretches out? Perhaps the plunge version would have been a better idea than the balconette? I’m considering donating it since I’ve recently binged on bra buying and this doesn’t tick all my boxes. Loretta is often for sale on zulily and other discount websites, so you can probably get it for less than $20 in the US.
Just boosting signal here:
Due to the ‘I’m not wearing it because it really doesn’t fit’ problem, I’m giving away my once-or-twice worn 32G Fauve Bronte on Bratabase. If you think it would fit you, please go through the Bratabase listing.
I’d heard that Fauve and Masquerade are being discontinued by Spring 2015. I wasn’t quite sure how and what to believe there or exactly what was going on, but I thought I’d buy myself a black Rhea just in case…and sure enough, the style was listed as Discontinued on HerRoom, as were other Masquerade styles. Several other sites are running low on stock.
I should also add that I tried on the Orla and found it ran a band size small and at least one cup size small. Scooping in a 34G left me with overspill, so I’d need two cup sizes up. Otherwise it seemed suited to me, but I wasn’t sure how I felt about the color.
Panache Black is apparently a follow-up to Masquerade and I’m guessing will contain very few styles. Maybe they’ll reissue the Rhea, maybe they won’t. On the chance that they won’t, I bought a Rhea from Amazon and will buy an Amor in my current band size shortly. Zulily even had a few Masquerade styles like Harem and Athena for sale yesterday. So, long story short is buy Masquerade while you can. My assumption is that luxury full-bust lingerie is difficult to sell, so there’s risk in producing a lot of styles. I know I have a hard time spending $90 on a bra plus $35 on the brief unless the bra blows my mind.
I thought I’d shout out to my favorite Masquerade styles over the years:
Dreamy vertical seam shape, I had the graphite version and missed out on the black (more fool me), but it was also offered in white-and-berry.
I’m still not sure whether this bra technically works for me because I’m bottom-heavy, and it probably doesn’t quite get two-cakes-on-a-plate, but I love the way it looks on me. My favorite version was the mulberry and graphite color.
This bra works for most shapes, I believe. Subtle, sophisticated, rich colors. I think this is the best use of shiny and matte I’ve seen together.
Many Masquerade styles seemed too lacy or fussy for me, but sometimes they hit the nail on the head. Dear readers, what have been your favorite Masquerade styles over the years?
Boudoir photo shoots seem to be all the rage these days. On one hand, it would be a fun look in the future at who I was in my thirties. However, thinking about it, I realize that none of my personas, even fantasy ones, seem to have anything to do with the boudoir aesthetics I’ve seen in any other shoot. My bedroom is not really a boudoir. I wouldn’t be expressing myself, I’d be acting.
I wear makeup once or twice a year. Once on Halloween, the second time maybe if I’m attending a formal wedding. My hair at most a few inches long and kind of spiky. I am figuratively allergic to lace. I don’t strive for soft, sultry, or sensual. I am a woman who would only choose to have born later than she was, not in any past time in history. What I want to have photographed and expressed, what parts of myself I can see exaggerating, are action cyberpunk and stark postmodernism. Me in a robe and bright colors sitting on an IKEA Vilmar, or in a duster wearing a longline and leggings underneath, but not intended to be seductive.
Are there postmodern or sci-fi lingerie photographers out there? Or am I getting the wrong idea of boudoir shoots from the brocade/sheer curtains, soft lighting, and plush bedlinens I’ve seen?