The Middle Class, Buying Habits, and ‘Luxury’ Lingerie

I see the term luxury tossed around for pretty much everything these days, as has The Lingerie Addict. Figleaves calls its vast library of clothes and foundations luxury, when they carry some low-cost brands. Huh? What does that mean, I asked?

Economically speaking, luxury goods are high markup and high prestige. The designer label is important. Some of them are veblem goods, meaning that demand for them is proportional to a high price, which contradicts the law of demand. Humans have funny psychology concerning prestige, exclusivity, and quality, and how they relate to our self-worth. Conspicuous consumption is desired or commended in many social circles or circumstances no matter our income bracket. In the United States, both ‘luxury’ and ‘middle class’ have become stretchy terms. Several models agree that ‘middle class’ means at least some level of college. I’ve heard the term apply to adults whose personal income is anywhere between $30,000 to $200,000 annually. Cost of living varies widely across the country, but I think the idea is to indicate some financial security. However, there are many smart, college educated people working full-time or more and living month-to-month.

The Baby Boomers (and probably earlier Americans) that had lived in the United States for more than a generation tended to have material goods of consistent grade. If you had hand-me-down furniture, chances were you didn’t eat out much unless it was fast food, wore hand-me-down clothing, went to public schools, and if you had a car, drove a small Chevy, GM, or Ford (before the nineties Japanese cars had high tariffs) and kept it until it stopped working. If you were ‘comfortable’, you probably had had decent quality furniture, some technological gadgets, maybe some music or dance lessons or sports for the kids, a mid-size or minivan, and went out to dinner once a week. If you were more than comfortable, my impression is everything in your house was supposed to be expensive unless it had sentimental value.

Today, many young people are opting to ‘trade up.’ Within our budgets, we choose what’s emotionally important to us and invest proportionally more in that good or service and cut on other things. A well-to-do person can have a smartphone, a Roomba, a semi-pro camera, two computers and a tablet, a big entertainment center…and IKEA furniture and no pants that cost more than $30. Another person might take singing lessons, nice audio speakers for the home, $80 bras, and share a place with many roommates, get $20 haircuts, and always brew their own coffee which they bought at the grocery store instead of stopping in a coffee shop.

This applies to lingerie buying as well. You can buy Parfait by Affinitas, Lepel, Pour Moi? and sale lingerie most of the time (or just not have a ton of bras) to save for one Angela Friedman or Christine (often considered luxury) piece. Or like the person above, spend money on pricier bras and have roommates who may hate you. Many people who wear lingerie are on a budget. I tend to buy big brand bras, underpants from $8-20, and simple chemises, pajamas, and loungewear. I go for variety rather than mega high end garments in my bra drawer. (One could argue that the Masquerade bras are high end, but $80 rather than $60 does not seem to be super luxe to me compared to La Perla, Agent Provocateur, Lise Charmel…)

Photography by Matjaz Tancic
Photography by Matjaz Tancic

This year was the first time I indulged in made-to-measure (often considered a luxury) lingerie: pieces from Pillowbook: two dudou, a pair of pants, and slip. I’m super impressed and love the results (more on that in future posts). However, I feel like buying luxury/couture will not become a regular habit. I’m not a fashionista and regular offerings from the Eveden group, Panache, Parfait, Hanky Panky, Wacoal, and Josie satisfy me most of the time.

What are your priorities when buying lingerie? Do you get a few expensive items, or a larger quantity of economical ones? Do you put aside money in case something you dream of comes to light, or is there a special something you’re saving up for?

In Rainbows

June is Pride month. This Saturday starts Seattle PrideFest complete with rally, Trans* Pride event, Queer Art Walk, film festival, many vendors, food, and Seattle’s biggest parade. A UCC minister told me that several churches were squabbling one year about what order they went in during the Pride parade and then he snapped “why don’t we all march together, do you know how many communities in other parts of the country would love to have this problem?” Dan Savage is a local luminary. Seattle elected an openly gay mayor, Ed Murray (who put gay rights as part of his platform), a few years ago. Big corporate sponsors such as T-mobile, Microsoft, Starbucks, Walmart, Alaska Airlines, Macys, and many more show up to put their names on things and be associated with Pride. Microsoft and Starbucks are local companies who have been involved for many years, but seriously, Walmart?! The almighty dollar triumphs again.

In 1996 I made a website with a rainbow spectrum of triangles because I loved rainbows. An acquaintance of mine (a brave teenager who came out in what I think was Northern Florida) told me that was pretty cool and supportive. I was confused. He told me about the Pride connotations of rainbows. “Huh,” I said. I had to be honest with him- I hadn’t thought about it, but now that I knew I’d keep them up there as a message of support. At the time it could be considered daring, as I lived in a conservative Catholic town — our public high school had one openly gay student out of about eight hundred — and my website had my name on it. I considered it low-risk because my peers already thought I was ‘weird.’

Some apparel companies have shown their support in rainbows. As Jeanna of Bluestockings Boutique said, few lingerie companies have given shout-outs about Pride month, but Hanky Panky are spot on:

Image by Hanky Panky. I recommend the retail website.

I will go buy some of their underpants right now to work on making my own rainbow. They have every color I can think of. My personal experience is that they are rather comfortable and roll up well for traveling (bikini or thong, haven’t tried the other cuts). They used to have a proper rainbow colorway in and of itself, but I can’t find it anymore. Have you found any rainbow or Pride-appropriate lingerie?

American Apparel didn’t make rainbow shirts, but they do have a line called Equality Forward with the Human Rights Campaign. They partnered with GLAAD to make a lovely OUT! unisex shirt a few years ago, too. Some proceeds from these tops go to the organizations. I’ve been historically suspicious of some of AA’s ads, but these shirts look cool to me, and the OUT! one is currently $14.

Nike have also embraced the rainbows with their Be True 2015 selection. Sneakers, shoes, tanks, and hats show a rainbow, a hashtag on black. adidas counters with its Pride Pack, sneakers and a slide with rainbow paint and effects. I’m pleasantly surprised that sportswear companies are acknowledging and marketing Pride Month: athletes, especially those who play on team sports, have very few out professionals.

I think every month should be Pride month. Companies should always have inclusive ad campaigns. Our mayor is awesome and should blink more often. Things have changed in the United States, but there’s a lot more to be done in a lot of places before queer (using the term to mean non-cis non-heterosexual) people can be themselves without getting shamed, that they may be murdered at the same rate as the rest of us, and that they have all the rights of non-queer humans. I try to use P-FLAG as a starting point for how to be supportive. If you have better resources, please direct me to them.

Addendum: holy Lego Man the Supreme Court decided to time their decision on same-sex marriage. Extra Happy Pride!

Due to a move with getting out of shape, an enforced period of inactivity after surgery, medication changes, and vacation in several places, I’ve replaced muscle with fat. This means over half my bras don’t fit. Too tight or too small in the cup. I’ve been putting bras in storage (some which I was waiting on wearing until others stretched out) and had to buy a few new ones. Some of them I will give away, and some I might try reselling. It’s been a while since I measured myself anyway. The older bras will be on standby if I get into a different shape. I changed gyms since the move and now go to the Y for weights and stationary cycle at home while reading.

I made myself a new rule: anything that doesn’t fit right now goes in a suitcase. Looking at it in the drawer is just depressing. I do this monthly. The new arrivals I’m rocking include Curvy Kate’s Dita and the Masquerade Antoinette. The new arrivals that did not rock with me were two Claudette Dessous. I will review them all for you as life slows down a bit.

I received my order from Pillowbook and am floored by the lovely silks. Before I get pictures of the treasures on I recommend you check out their site for Far East lingerie with geometric flair. Their showcase garment is the dudou, an evolution of a tied top dating back to the Ming dynasty. Also, check out the Mondrian capsule collection (thanks Caro!). I never thought I’d enthuse over the use of corners in lingerie, but life has taken me stranger places.

Over vacation I went to the Taza chocolate factory and I must say I ate the chocolate covered cashews too fast. Worth it, though. They’re out of stock in the online store right now:

promo photo from tazachocolate.com

 

Eucalan wash and its applications

I don’t usually hand-wash my bras. I know, I know that it shortens their lives. I don’t have a big basin or room for one, and doing them one or two at a time in the sink is not something I want for all my bras. I do have a few bras and garments that I consider precious, though, and I use Eucalan on them because it is clumsy-proof. No rinse! No rinse makes all the difference, and it works.

Um_small

I love stuffed animals. Above is Umbreon in a pillow fort (paging Windie Gardie), who needed a bath. I submerged him in the sink with warm water and a tablespoon of Eucalan. I came back to him a half hour later, squeezed him a bunch to get the water. The results were successful enough that I gave Madame Sylveon (below) a pedicure in a similar fashion, as her paws had gotten dirty. The grime came out in the water and her feet were as pink as they should be.

sylveon

My friends who knit use Eucalan to wash their delicate fabrics. They have a host of other uses, too. I’ve been using lavender and it doesn’t irritate my allergies, but they have a fragrance free version called ‘Natural’ as well.

In the US, you can get Eucalan from Amazon as well as yarn and fabric stores. In other countries, you can use their store locator. 9-15 USD for a 17 oz bottle, which says it’s good for 95 washes. For those who like to buy in bulk, a gallon is currently $45-70 on Amazon, good for 760 hand washes.

Freya Rapture review

For years I’ve heard that Freya’s half-cups are good for full-on-bottom or shallow profile breasts. The designs, though, didn’t inspire me. Floral, polka dot, funky prints…there were some cool longlines like Pansy, but they didn’t come in the simple half-cup version. In the fall Freya debuted the Rapture, which came in a padded half-cup and a side support plunge. This review is about the half-cup. rapture_front rapture_back

Usually I wait until I’ve worn a bra for a while, but since this is a current style that will only last another six months, I’ll do this sooner rather than later. I kept the bra in storage to rotate in, but right now it’s too small for me to wear consistently.

Construction

Vertical seamed (two of those seams) padded bra. Two hooks in the back. Fully adjustable straps leotard-style with nubbly bits on the side so the adjustor doesn’t slip.

Fit

Band is pretty stretchy for a 34 (dig my ribcage flare!). It’s open on top, which is pretty forgiving. I’ve gained weight since I purchased this bra, so it’s too small in the cups, which makes it probably true to size. The bottom of the cup is not especially projected, so I don’t quite fill it. The fabric doesn’t buckle because it’s not quite shallow enough for that. In my case, it spreads my breasts across rather than projecting, so there’s less of an insecure feel than a very projected bra. I would not recommend this bra if you have very projected breasts or very firm breast tissue. I would recommend trying it for average to shallow breasts which are average-width to wider.

rapture_side2 rapture_side

Looks

Geometric lace in diamond patterns. This color is ‘neon’. Yes it is. Bright highlighter orange-pink that makes my skin look darker. I love the color so much I don’t care if it’s flattering or not. The seams offer a slight contrast, and the black on the ribbons sets the rest of the grapefruityness off well. Rapture gives me some lift and makes my breasts look shorter. This makes it more convenient for some shirts, less so for others. The seams show up under close-fitting knits but not looser t-shirts. I am sad I cannot wear it now. Maybe in the future? Maybe I give it away?

Pairing

Murchie’s Harlequin Rooibos. No caffeine, but peppery, chocolatey, with a bit of cinnamon and cardamom. A standard base with a kick, just like the color of this bra on a well-known frame. The cornflower sets it off a bit just like the black highlighting on the ribbons.

Rapture is out this spring in a terrifying bubblegum color. The side support plunge is a new frame by Freya. I like that they’re trying new styles and not just prints. Have you tried tried Rapture? What did you think?

Panache Rhapsody, Fern, and Clara fit checks

I’ve tried on a few Panache bras recently that didn’t quite work for me. I shall try to explain why and who they could work for.

Rhapsody

rhapsody_frontrhapsody_back rhapsody_side rhapsody_side2

I believe the Rhapsody is the same cut as the Tango, with an upside-down U for the bottom half of the cup. This may create lift for some, but since I’m full on the bottom and the fabric is rigid it fights my shape, resulting in in a diagonal line instead of curve at the bottom of the cup. The top of the cup has support but not lift, so it gets pulled down by the bottom of the cup, and it looks like my breasts are pointed at the floor in front of me. It runs pretty true to size, so it’s just a bit too small for me in a 34FF. I do love the rainbow embroidery though, it shimmers! If you like the tango or have some projection and breasts that are not top or bottom-heavy, this could be for you.

 

Fern

fern_front - Copyfern_back fern_side fern_side2

I tried this in a band size up since I was gaining weight at the time (36ff). The bottom of the cup isn’t projected enough for me and the apex is too projected, so I get another fabric fold, wrinkles in the cup, and the top of the cup cuts in. I would not recommend this to the shallow-breasted, but some of the designs have been so pretty! The fabric is very supportive.

 

Clara

clara_front clara_side1a clara_side`1b clara_side2

I mentioned this before, but now I have pictorial evidence! The bottom of the cup is not projected enough, and I have to go up a cup size to get a fit, with a bit of fabric fold on the bottom. Like Jasmine, there’s a bit more projection at the seam than my breasts normally have, so my breasts look shorter. As a result, the top of my breasts are mostly covered in the stretch lace instead of the cool pattern. I didn’t go with this because of aesthetic reasons- I can barely see the lovely print, which is what I bought it for! It does feel more supportive on top than Jasmine/Envy, but the bottom of the cup not having enough room is a bummer. Again, I think this bra would work better for women with more even fullness in their breasts and moderate projection.

Have you tried any of these Panache staples? Fern has been offered forever, Rhapsody has been out for several seasons, and Clara has caught fire and become a basic. Did you have similar issues with the fit, or did you have better luck than I did?

Bravissimo Tropic Exotic and Panache Jasmine fit checks

I purchased the Can Can from Bravissimo for Christmas, but I also bought some items from their holiday sale.

Bravissimo Tropic Exotic Half-cup

tropical_front tropical_side tropical_side2

Bravissimo Customer Service recommended me this in a 34G since I fit the Can Can in a 34FF. I initially thought this was too big when I got it, but then scooped and swept or whatever you want to call the process of getting all the tissue into the cups. Go up a cup size if you fall between them, or just go up a size. I loved the way it fit, but I didn’t keep it because I didn’t like the way the shade of pink looked on my skin. Unfortunately it’s difficult to tell these things from a catalog! The prominent embroidery on the edge of the cups will show up under knits.

Panache Jasmine, Bravissimo-exclusive color

jasmine_front jasmine_side2 jasmine_side jasmine_back

I love the paisley! It fits excellently, true to size. But…the lace is pinker than I wanted with the pictures coming out dark because I’m no lighting whiz, and more dusky instead of maroon. It seems I had a Pink Problem with this Bravissimo order! Oh well. I go back and forth on how I feel about Jasmine’s support, since I feel like the tops of my soft breasts tend to wobble in the projected cup and stretch lace more than I would like. I also feel like there’s an angle in on the underside of the cup instead of a curve.

I returned them both, and was promptly refunded. Good customer service from Bravissimo.

PSA: Bratabase giveaway

Human who wear bras (not just ladies and gentlemen),

I bought a 34FF Curvy Kate Starlet a while back and decided I just could not deal with the fabric fold at the bottom, so I’m giving it away. This bra works better for those who have less lower fullness or projection on the underside of the breasts.

starlet_front starlet_back starlet_side starlet_side2

If you have a bratabase profile and can tell me a little about what bras work for you, you can look at the listing and message me until 26 April.

Bravissimo Can Can review

I’ve been experimenting more with cut-sew bras, because they are easier to take along when traveling, and dry faster after a washing. While I’m not going to give up my padded or molded bras just yet, I like finding new options that can work for me, and ideally give you all looking for bras some help. For Christmas I ordered the Bravissimo Can Can. Why is it called the Can Can? Your guess is probably better than mine.

Construction

Three-part balconette cut-sew bra. The bottom part of the cups is a stiff fabric overlaid with a thin black mesh. The upper part of the cups is made of sheer black mesh. There is additional lining in GG-K cups, which may be a major bummer for you. Two hooks in the back, three for GG-K cups. Straps are fully adjustable with a bit of detailing on the edges so they don’t slip.

cancan_frontcancan_side

Fit

The band is a pretty generous 34, but I don’t think I’d say size down. The cups felt a bit generous, too. A 34FF, which is the smaller of the sizes I take, felt comfortable through the day.

The gore is very narrow, so may work for persons who have breasts very close together, or at least not splayed like mine (I can easily put two fingers between my breasts, and they point outwards to boot). See the empty space in the cup and the line of the breasts? I can’t fill the cup near the gore, but the gore does lie flat. Near the gore the bottom of the cups do not have enough projection for me, so my breasts are lifted and there’s a trapped fold in the center. This is not true out towards my shoulder, though.

cancan_side2cancan_back

Looks

The green is a dark forest or hunter green, a little darker than I thought from the online store. The leaf embroidery on the top of the cups There’s a little charm at the gore which I usually don’t notice but the camera caught the flare of. I get a lifted shape close to my own, even if I’m fighting the cups towards the center.

I bought the bikini to coordinate, which has more of the green and black detailing on the sides and sheer black mesh on the back. The bikini ran a little large, especially in the back for me since I have no butt.

I don’t like how the unfilled space at the gore looks (and some others have reported the same thing on the Bravissimo website), but the bra’s comfort of all things had me keeping it. This is my first Bravissimo brand bra, and I’m impressed. Bravissimo are one of the champions of actually having GG+ bras in the 28-34 band range, even if they add extra lining. 28 F-J, 30-38 DD-K. 34 GBP ($50.50) plus eight dollars shipping. My two experiences with Bravissimo say that they ship quickly to America and handle returns promptly as well.

Have you tried Bravissimo? What are your favorites?

Pairing

Chocolate: Divine Mint Dark Chocolate. Has a crunchy mint crisp. Retails around $4 for a 3oz bar in grocery stores. Somewhat Christmasy, but good anytime.

elomi Caitlyn underwire side support bra review

Caitlyn by elomi is the company’s best-selling bra, according to HerRoom. So why are there so few blog reviews out there? I am guessing it’s a demographics issue: elomi’s models look older than Cleo’s or Freya’s. Many bloggers are not in the 36+ band group, or 36+ age group, and most elomi bras start at a 36 band. Additionally, elomi had a reputation for being matronly-looking. They have made some amazing designs in recent years, but this is a review of a classic that has a new colorway every season.

caitlyn_front

Construction

Four-part fabric cup with side support panel (no sling, just reinforced satin like the bottom of the cup). Continuous band with a medium-high gore. Two hooks in some sizes, three hooks in 44DD-48DD, 42E-46E, 40G-44G, 38H-42H, 36I-46I, 34GG-44GG, 34H-42H, 34HH-40HH. Tall wings on the side, leotard back, and fully adjustable straps.

caitlyn_side

Fit

The cups run large, and I sized down to 34F, which worked rather smashingly (yes I know that’s not a real word). I don’t always quite fill the apex of the cup, but it’s a better fit than many Eveden cut-sew bras are on me. The band seems a slightly loose 34. I didn’t have an issue with strap width. There’s enough projection at the bottom of the cup that I don’t get an upside-down seven or torpedo shape from my body fighting the bra. So comfortable.

caitlyn_side2

Looks

I like shiny, and I love jewel tones. The Ink color is both. Lots of other colors are simply shiny enough to require SPF 30, like this season’s Camellia Pink, but I think sheen spices up a basic bra nicely. Swiss embroidery on the top semi-sheer panel. I think Swiss embroidery is Eveden’s ‘whoops we are out of ideas/aren’t sure what to do designwise’ default. I like it on this one, though.

The shape given is lifted and contained. The seams don’t show through most of my t-shirts and tanks, and I can wear medium to low necklines if I feel like it.

caitlyn_back

Additional Comments

Caitlyn is the most comfortable and supportive cut-sew bra I’ve tried. I had surgery yesterday and this bra and Panache Sport are the only ones I can tolerate. I’m a convert. Size range is 34-36 E-K, 38-42 DD-K, 44-46 DD-H. Maybe that’s why it sells so well and is so hard to find on sale! It’s $55, reasonable compared to other DD+ bras. There’s also a wireless version sizes 36DD-44G which has side boning. That seems to miss the point in my mind, but I guess sternum issues aren’t the same as side issues?

If you are looking for a less expensive alternative, Goddess’ Keira has a similar frame for $44. It’s the Swiss embroidery that cost $11, you know! Keira has a less inclusive size range, starting at higher cup sizes, and may fit you differently. Still worth a shot for the savings, though.

Caitlyn will be discontinued this fall and replaced by Cate, so there’s a limited time to stock up.

Pairings (comestibles compatible with this bra)

Trader Joe’s Pound Plus 72% bar and Twinings Earl Grey. My favorite value for money and classics I always keep stocked.