Brief notes on a Nordstrom trip

I stopped into a Nordstrom in downtown Seattle yesterday because they’re the only store I know of that reliably carries my size- I wanted to check out how the fall lines fit. The saleslady/fitter understood that I mostly wanted to deal with things myself and asked me a lot of questions but wasn’t too intrusive. She did have some suggestions that were useful- namely that Freya was running pretty loose.

Cleo Natasha

Oy. I could not fill the tops of these cups at all- I’d need far rounder breasts for it. Sizing down might help, but I didn’t like the print very much. Maybe it was mislabeled sizewise or my eyes failed me? The design seemed busy – throwing colorful lace and camo together doesn’t look bold so much as busy and mashup.

Fantasie Rebecca

I’d wanted to try this for a while, and ran into the issue that I do with most Fantasie bras- the cups are fuller on the top than I am, and the shape points a bit down. I prefer a slightly less, er, ‘relaxed’ shape. Also, the Rebecca does seem to run a cup large, as my closest fit was a 32FF. If the seam at the top of the cup weren’t so firm I’d work with it- spacer foam does mold over time, but I’m not sure I want to take the risk. Anybody have any data?

Panache Andorra Full Cup

I see now why fitters like this. It was a decent fit on me, and the stretch lace is very forgiving (great for a full coverage bra, which I generally have trouble with) and soft. The bottom reinforced panel and side slings feel supportive. However, I just do not like all that lace everywhere. True to size in cup and band for me. Basically, if someone gave one to me, I’d wear it, but I probably have way too many everyday bras for now.

Wacoal All Dressed Up

The saleslady wanted me to give this a try, so I thought ‘why not’? More stretch lace! Slings on the sides of the cup, and an extra ‘nude’ mesh layer on the bottom of the cup. I don’t know if that would work for ladies with darker skin. The stretch lace gives a very interesting look since it’s all…peek-a-boo? Is that the term? It feels pretty dressy indeed, but again the lace is really not my aesthetic and felt a bit scratchy.
The bra was a good fit, but I didn’t feel that supported (maybe the horizontal seams? the band was tight enough). The red color is lovely, though. If you can try it on in a store, give it a shot, but remember Wacoal uses American sizing in the US- I had a 32H which is a UK 32FF, but the cups were big enough. So I guess I would say the cups run generous in US sizes and the band seems pretty true to size.

Anyway, I didn’t buy anything, but it felt like a useful trip and I thought I’d share my data with you!

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Customer Experience: Breakout Bras

I’ve only ordered from Breakout Bras once, but did do a return, so I thought I’d share my experience.

The selection is influenced by its US location in that it carries Parfait by Affinitas bras. The big English standbys are also available: Panache (Superbra, Cleo, Masquerade), Curvy Kate, and Eveden (Fantasie, Freya, Elomi, and Goddess, but not Fauve). I will note that Masquerade is sold as ‘Harlequin’, which is a seeming re-branding for the US that Panache is trying to phase out. There isn’t everything under the sun available, but the stockists know their way around each bra. Breakout Bras offers some commentary on most bras that’s helpful, telling you to size up or size down, or if the bra works well for a certain shape.

There’s a selection for nursing, wire-free, and post-surgical bras as well. I admit I am not versed in these ways, but I like that it’s easy to find. The web interface has a tiny hitch for me- when I search by size, I usually want to check off my sizes and the ones near it to see what’s actually still available for me, but here I can only pick one size. Bra sizing is not consistent across shapes and measurements and brands, so that’s usually the tricky part in online orders for me.

I exchanged emails with their customer service for some sizing help and ordered the Panache Confetti, going down a band size and up one cup as recommended, and the Masquerade Anise, going up a band size. I decided I wasn’t wild about the color or lace on the Anise, and it was too large anyway, so I returned that.  Return shipping was to the US, so about $4. My return was processed pretty quickly.

I’m quite satisfied with Breakout Bras, although their interface isn’t the most friendly. I like that their communications with me regarding recommendations and returns were knowledgeable and honest. Free shipping is the icing on the cake. I have my eyes on the Cleo Karen and maybe the Curvy Kate Smoothie. Stars!

Customer Experience: Figleaves

Figleaves is the giant of mail order underwear in my mind- I know if I want to see if something’s available, I check Figleaves first. Figleaves carries almost everything I can think of in the DD+ market. All of the Eveden (Fantasie, Freya, Fauve, Elomi, swim and sport styles) and Panache (Panache and Panache Swim, Panache Sport, Masquerade, Cleo) are represented here, although they may not have all the existing models of a bra. Curvy Kate, Bestform, Lepel, Wonderbra D-G (available only in England), Gossard, Charnos, Royce, Mimi Holliday, Cake, Pour Moi?, Claudette, and I’m sure I missed a few more. The main brands I’ve heard of that I can’t find on Figleaves are Miss Mandalay and Parfait by Affinitas. The latter’s a US brand so I’m not surprised I don’t see it. Figleaves also stocks its own lines, which I haven’t tried but have heard mixed-to-meh reviews about.

Figleaves charges $4.95 per shipment, sometimes with a promotion for free shipping. Sending things back is cheaper and faster than it could be because they have you ship your returns to a US depot which they collect at and send to the UK. However, this could mean spending about $10USD for a garment that doesn’t work at all. I think of it as paying for the fitting experience, which has some value, but one’s mileage may vary.

I’ve made four orders from Figleaves, and have had to return/exchange something from almost every order. This seems to be my experience with mail order. I ordered a Pour Moi? bikini that just did not suit me, the Panache Geneva which ran small, a Freya Taylor which ended up not quite fitting, a Masquerade Rhea bra which I had to exchange for a larger band size at the time, a Freya Sport bra, and the Cleo Arianna. Exchanges were pretty easy to arrange over the phone, and my returns have always been processed promptly. However, I’ve come to hate having to go to the post office and getting everything priced there. I wish I could go into stores and try things on, but the selection in Boston is rather poor, with Nordstrom and Intimacy being the only places I can find that carry even the major DD+ brands.

Interestingly, prices vary wildly on Figleaves when bras are new in- they may start at full price, or a lower but not advertised as discount price. I like just browsing around and seeing what’s around in my size. I do have some issues with the web interface in Firefox, though- the checkboxes to filter the search are not alongside the option texts! As a web developer I understand that it’s really bloody annoying to do for every browser, but it is not an insignificant usability problem.

Quibbles aside, Customer Service has always treated me well, and if you want to try something you can’t find anywhere else that’s returnable, Figleaves is a great resource!

Customer Experience: Brastop

I buy almost all of my bras online (briefs are a separate story with separate engineering), because I can’t find the ones that I like in stores- my best resource is Nordstrom, but there are so many other lovely things out there! Thought I’d write up my experiences with the retailers I’ve tried.

Brastop was actually the first online retailer I’ve tried, and I don’t remember how I found them two years ago. I’d just lost a bunch of weight, dropping from a 38 to 34 band. They’re either owned by or own Curvy Kate (anybody know how that works?) and Flirtelle. I think Flirtelle is only available on Brastop and Lovebras (another site affiliated with Brastop? owned by Brastop?). They’re based in the UK, and the return address is in Harrow, which is part of London. Ergo, the shipping to the us is about 6 pounds, which is around $9.5 currently. They’ll waive the shipping fee if you spend 75 pounds, so I generally do a big order.

I’ve actually made only two orders, and they both took several weeks to arrive from the UK. I invariably returned most of the order because sizing and shape is difficult when done online. Returning the package was about 10 USD to ship back, so that’s the opportunity cost. I asked for an exchange, and it eventually arrived in the mail, although two weeks later than their 20 business day guarantee. Brastop honored that guarantee and refunded me the money when I first reported the package missing (sadly the exchange didn’t fit either, oh well!).

Selection-wise, they have a great deal of last-season’s models. There’s a ton of Freya and Curvy Kate (unsurprisingly), and a good selection of Panache, Fantasie, Fauve, and Elomi. I doff my hat, however, for their carrying Kris Line and Rosme. Rosme are a Latvian brand with some interesting designs I haven’t seen elsewhere, but their size selection is very limited in the D+ world. Kris Line are very high quality, but their larger bras are all a mesh upper panel, so they’re not a brand I’m into. Regardless, it’s hard to get those bras anywhere else with a decent return policy.

I recommend Brastop mostly for things you know fit- they have an amazing selection of fashion colors, and the prices are pretty sweet on those. It’s a great deal if you live in the UK for those. The better deal for us in the States are actually continuity things we know fit- 26 pounds for Panache Porcelain (42 USD versus 56 retail in shops here) or 30 (49 USD) for Freya Deco, which are popular ranges you can try at Nordstrom in the US. The Panache Tango is also 25 pounds for the standard shades, and sports bras are a good deal if you know your size. If you aren’t in a hurry, it’s a great option- sometimes they have sales of ‘take X amount off your order’.

I haven’t ordered for a while since I buy most of my basics on eBay, but I do always keep an eye on anything interesting popping up there!

Possibly interesting bras for fall (a wish list addendum)

I currently have around seven non-sports bras and want to acquire a few more. I’ll probably make an Ewa Michalak order, and I posted a previous wish list, but here are a few more bras that caught my eye this season.

Cleo Karen

do you like stars?

I don’t like pink or lace, but I do love stars. This looks like good fun! I haven’t seen this for sale anywhere, but I adore a t-shirt bra with a continuous band. Cleo is known to give a good shape, and the wires are on average supposedly shorter than Panache’s.

Freya Deco Soft Cup

Freya have figured out that lots of women, self included, adore the Deco line. They’re starting a shapewear line for it, introducing more crazy colors and prints (which fit differently sometimes, grrr…). I’ve never worn a soft cup bra, so I’m curious as to how they can shape, and it sounds like good loungewear to me. It only comes C-G, sadly, so we will see if the band runs too loose to wear a 32G.

Fantasie Rebecca

Purple fashion!

Spacer foam is a nice light foam that molds well to body shape. I haven’t really found a spacer foam bra in my size yet. This purple looks very plum-like to me, but I haven’t seen it live. Fantasie tends to run a bit full in the cup for my shallow profile. I don’t know if spacer foam would mitigate that at all. Must try on to find out. I hear that one should size down in the cup, does anyone have corroboration for this?

Fauve Dominique

Vertical seams tend to give me a better shape. Abstract flowers = yes. I’m not sure what the second layer of fabric (the patterned one) is on black satin, but I think it’s worth a look. I’d ditch the bows, but I like how the bottom of the band is very well demarcated.

Claudette Dessous Sucre

orange orange!

I have a favorite color, and it’s neon orange. For that I’d overlook the mesh structure. However, I think I’m just barely sized out because the cups apparently run small and don’t go past a G. If Claudette ever make this bra in a 32GG I’m on it!

Ewa Michalak models and sizing

I’ve never tried an Ewa Michalak bra, but I keep hearing rave reviews of them. Why?

  • The price plus shipping is cheaper than a full price bra from Freya or Panache, but not cheaper than a sale bra, and that’s what I tend to buy.
  • International buyers are to pay by PayPal or bank transfer. Paypal is easier, but costs an extra 6%. I need to figure out if my bank will do the transfer.
  • Return policy is ten days. Returns are also shipped to Poland, so expensive enough that one may just be better off reselling in the US.
  • Fit can be tricky. The EM size calculator gives me one size, but I’m advised to start with my UK bra size. So there’s an element of financial risk to ordering.

That said, I think it’s time to give them a try. I’ll start with a 32G and look on Bratabase to see if any of them I’m interested in run large or small in band or cup.

Here are the models I’m looking at:

CHP Stalowka– The CHP style is a compromise between lift and projection, it seems. I like the gray color, it seems almost silvery!

CH Karmelki– my skin tone is darker than any nude bra I’ve worn. The CH style is lauded for soft, shallow profile breasts, and I do have those characteristics. Plus, it’s discounted.

PL Toffik/Karmelki– I could be concerned with spillage, but some other plunge styles such as the Freya Deco work great on me, so it might be worth a shot. Again, the price is 120zl instead of 150 in black. However, the black ones have additional/convertible straps (I don’t need padding for asymmetry, there’s some but it’s not a full cup size), which could make them more attractive.

HP Nina or Kobalt– I love the colorful ribbon, but I’m not really a lace person on the Nina. The Kobalt is an interesting dark blue/gray with a pattern.

So! After figuring out sizing, the next question is how to place the order! I’m going to scour the web to check if Paypal or bank transfers work better, and if I should send email to customer service or just order via the web interface. I will wait until the fall collection is out, though: it looks too lacy for me so far but there may be some models I like there that I haven’t seen yet!

Do any of you lovely readers have advice on ordering or sizing from Ewa Michalak? Has anyone had any luck reselling EM bras? I thank you for any advice you can give.

Masquerade Anise

I’d read good things about Breakout Bras, and I love their fit advice on most bras, so I thought I’d give them a try. The Masquerade Anise is deeply discounted, and I was curious as to the coral color. Masquerade bras tend to give me a good shape while feeling pretty glam. The sizing advice was to go up a band size and keep the cup, so I ordered a 34G.

Construction:

Anise is a padded half-cup bra with two hooks. The band is on the thin side like most of Masquerade’s offerings. I think I’d prefer a thicker band, but it’s not a huge concern. Each cup has one seam which will push the breasts to the front.
Here’s something I haven’t seen before: the gore is not filled in. There’s no fabric between the cups until the band! Engineering-wise, does this present a problem? Would fabric there stabilize the bra better?

Looks:

The coral color was more pink than I expected. I love orange and dislike pink, so I wasn’t thrilled. The pink added to the floral embroidery felt overly soft and feminine to me. The lace ends in eyelash lace, which seems a bit delicate for washing. However, I do like the look of the ‘hollow’ gore.

Fit:

I took Breakout Bras’ advice and they were correct about the band- a 34 on the loosest hook was still decently tight. Band runs large here. I actually didn’t need to size up in the cup, though, as I couldn’t fill the tops of it. I wasn’t sure whether sizing down would be useful, so I asked Customer Service, who said the following:

“You should get more volume in the 34FF if you just aren’t filling up the tops of the G cup, but you may end up looking super plump on top instead of just supported and full. (It will look great with open neckline tops, but you may not want to wear it with fuller coverage shirts with a higher neckline.) This style is just a really tricky one to fit, and it’s definitely designed for a more open clothing. If you really like it, it’s worth the try for the 34FF. Remember to pull anything on the side forward and into the cups well so that you fill up the cups more.”

I appreciate her honesty. Since I wasn’t too enamored of the eyelash lace, floral pattern, and pinkness, I’m sending it back.

Conclusion:

Anise is a better bra for those who are fuller on top (I’m not). Size up in the band, definitely, and perhaps size up in the cup. The look is very girly, but I do like the construction otherwise.

A doctor’s appointment triggers a reflection

Warning: this post contains actual numbers about my body and possible weight trigger language!

 

*** *** ***

I had a yearly physical Monday which irked me for several reasons. I’m somewhere between 67″ and 68″, and this time I came out to 67.5″ in height. Weight was 163lb. I’ve gained about 5lb in the past three months due to eating sloppily…and going to the gym? I can definitely lift/press more and that could be involved in the weight gain as well. Anyway, this puts my BMI above 25, so the doctor told me ‘not to gain any more weight.’ This was pretty annoying, because I look at the doctor and my first thought was “I’ve cut regular pasta and white rice and bread and cheese and red meat out of my allowed foods, cardio/weight lift three times a week, and you’ve the nerve to…*sputter*…*sputter*…”

BMI is one of the weirder measures of health since it doesn’t take muscle into account. I’ve traditionally been sensitive about it because I have wide shoulders and a larger frame, and my mom has habitually worried about my “chunkiness”.  I gained 40lb in college (from 150 to 190lb) and then had a diabetes scare- I was insulin resistant, a common problem in my family. I had to change what I ate and begin exercising to reverse the blood sugar problem, because all my doctors told me to lose weight and that would help. The weight didn’t come off, but the blood sugar normalized. Several years later, after my doctors told me to lose some weight to lessen my sleep apnea, I finally asked my psychiatrist to tinker with my medications because they could be involved in my general fatigue. I’m still a pretty sleepy person, but I lost a lot of weight. My mom was overjoyed (although freaked out that my breasts retained the same volume), and that hurt a bit. So I watch my weight for health reasons, because I’m not cool with sleeping problems or possible diabetes. I think there’s still some baggage there on being told I’m not doing enough, though.

Another possible issue she mentioned was varicose veins- the veins on my legs are more prominent since weightlifting began! Whoops! I can’t find a consensus on leg press and varicose veins being linked, and my doctor bit her lip and told me to keep lifting weights but to put my feet up for a while every few hours. I think it was really her manner that made me worry.

Anyway, that’s some uneasy thoughts about my body. In the meantime, I tell myself, keep exercising, and don’t eat everything, especially baked goods, quite as casually. I’ve been lucky that my bra fit hasn’t really changed in half a year.

 

Inventory turnover, a look at intriguing fall selections

It’s a sad thing that bras only last less than a year- gravity fights wires and seams, and bands stretch out. Thus the contents of my drawer change every six months or so.

I have eight bras I wear consistently, five of which are Freya Decos. Another is a sports bra (also Freya underwire), and I have two Masquerade bras (Delphi, Rhea) as well. The rest of my drawer is wearing out (CK Emily, Panache Porcelains) or I’ve had trouble fitting the cup (Freya Taylor, CK Tempt Me, Parfait Jeanie). I’m in the process of donating/listing all of those.

What does this say to me? It tells me I have more than enough enough Decos (I got them all on eBay or through exchange) and that I don’t like fabric bras. I haven’t given up, though: I ordered the Panache Confetti from Breakout Bras to try on. How many fancy bras does a woman need? My Masquerades are in good condition but I still want more- I find them beautiful and give amazing shape. They are not the most practical under clothes, though.

Eight isn’t too many, right? Right? Here’s my Most Wanted list for pretty stuff- I tend to keep a new bra every six weeks, so it’s a little above replacement level.

Masquerade Rosetti

Contrast satin leads to interesting geometrics, and I love red.

 

Masquerade Amor

I’m a bit concerned that the model doesn’t appear to fill the bottom of the cup here. However, I love myself some jewel tones. Sweetheart neckline plus dart and V-shape is not something I’ve seen appearance-wise before.

Panache Sport

My Freya Sport will give out in a while as it is well-used. I’ve been curious to try the Panache sport for a while- I love molded cups and encapsulation-type bras, so I should get this before my other sport bra dies!

 

Cleo Leila

Absurdly girly for me, but I do like that shade of purple and that shape (vertical seams for the win!).