Fantasie Allegra vertical seam bra review

When I first saw the design for Allegra more than a year ago, I thought that it was an old Fauve design they were integrating into Fantasie, reminiscent of both Chloe and Delphine. Sheer cups, intricate embroidery, and jewel colors. The art nouveau design charmed me, and I bought a black one from Nordstrom a while back.

Construction

Three-part cut-sew bra: one seam goes right up the middle of the cup, and the other is for the side support panels! Fantasie loves its side support panels. Full band with a bit of an arch for higher tummies. Three rows of two hooks in the back. Fully-adjustable straps with little details so the straps don’t slip. Those details also make it a pain to adjust their length.

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Fit

The band may be a bit generous, or stretches out rather quickly. After a few months I’m on the tightest hooks in a 36F, but I sometimes wear a 34. Even when the band felt tight at the beginning of the wear, it would ride up pretty quickly at the back. It may just be angled that way, because I couldn’t fit more than two fingers in.

The cups are also a little generous, since I wear between a 36F and FF these days. The top seam is elastic and cuts back into the chest, making this a suboptimal solution for tall or full-on-top breasts if they’re not firm. You can also see that the cups are more close-set than I am, so if you have splayed breasts you will see some of the breast crease.

The side support was a good idea on their part because it brings tissue in to fill the projection in front, so somewhat shallow shapes can still fill the bra out. If you have very shallow breasts this may not work for you. I have some trouble filling out the bottom of the cup.

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Looks

I like the design. The vertical seam may be a bit over-emphasized aesthetically, but I guess that’s how they get the support. The shape is rounded but not hoisted. The design looks sophisticated and can appeal to a wide age range. I assume that’s what makes it sell well, as Nordstrom carries it in black and used to in rouge (Nordstrom is probably the biggest purveyor of F+ bras in the US).

The size range on this Allegra is limited to 30-36 D-G and 38 D-FF, but it’s wider than Eveden’s other vertical-seam bra, the Freya Starlet. The four-part cup construction is more classical Fantasie and has a larger size range, sacrificing the all-over sheerness, but if you want the Swiss embroidery in swirls, that’s where you go. It’ll be out in blue this fall.

I haven’t tried any of the bottoms, I match this with my array of black underpants. The Fantasie Allegra Vertical Seam was a good everyday bra for me, lightweight but not the most supportive. It’s currently a bit loose on me, so I’m giving it a rest until/if my back muscles get bigger and buffer.

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Quick notes on some Nordstrom offerings

I tried on the following at Nordstrom. I curse myself for not taking pictures. You now get the rapid-fire brusque lowdown!

Panache Clara in black-gold

I need to size up in the cup because the bottom doesn’t have much projection. This makes the lace dominate the cup, which is not the look I want. If you are full on the bottom, you may get the fabric fold or have to size up to get something that fits.

Freya Icon

I tried this bra on in my regular Deco size and it ran large in the cup and the lace felt pretty flimsy. Since it’s stretch lace I didn’t feel supported. The bra comes up really high on the sides.

Fantasie Allegra Vertical Seam

It seems true to size in the red and black. I got more coverage than I expected, and I actually filled the cup well unlike some Fantasie bras. The cups felt pretty wide, The print is pretty, but seems oddly interrupted by the advertised vertical seam.

Quick notes on some bra/swim fits

I bought and returned the Masquerade Angie. The band is not as tight as other Masquerade bands, but I’d need to go up a cup size (from 34FF). It was quite pretty with a lovely shape, but a bit lacy for me. Did not order an exchange because of that.

I also bought and returned the Panache Talullah bikini. The fit was amazingly accurate in 34FF and the shape flattering, but the color was much duller and purple dominated (instead of rainbows) than I had anticipated. Ergo, since I don’t truly need a swimsuit I’m sending it back.

I got fit for the orange Maddie at a San Francisco Nordstrom. Go up a band and a cup for this one, I think…36FF was the closest fit for me and there might be a teensy bit of overspill. Took it home with me. Still testing it!

I also found that Fantasie’s Susanna fits me surprisingly well in 34FF. It doesn’t feel as deep a cup as most Fantasie bras. I didn’t purchase it due to being uninspired by the pattern.

Freya Marvel and Fantasie Martina notes

I ordered these to try on. Neither worked for me, but here’s what I noticed!

Freya Marvel

Construction: Cut-sew bra with a vertical seam and a bit of side support (there’s a vertical seam near the side of the cup).

This gives a pretty minimized profile, I don’t have much projection myself so it works for that. However, I may have too little even for this. The 34FF came up a teensy bit small when I first put it on, so I assumed that after a few hours I’d be overflowing. The 34G is a little open at the top, but I experienced wrinkling at the apex of the cup. Both sizes hugged the top of the chest unevenly, so instead of a straight seam it appeared a bit oddly curved (this is true on many models I’ve seen wearing the bra). I do like what they’ve done with this bra, but I think it’s a bit incompatible with my bottom-heavy shallow breasts.

Fantasie Martina

Construction: 3 part-cut-sew bra. Vertical seam near strap for side support.

To my surprise, this didn’t fit me that badly. There’s some room in the middle or top of the cups which means it’s better suited for even fullness breasts. The reason I didn’t keep it was because the upper panel looked yucky on me and dominated the look. Since I’m fuller on the bottom, one doesn’t get to see as much of the bottom of the cup, which is a fun metallic bronze.

I’ve tried a few more things that didn’t fit as my back continues to gain muscle and fluff. Parfait and Cleo up next.

Experiences with Eveden

I was thinking of what I look for when I shop, and what I’ve discovered about various brands. I’m starting a series on Experiences With _____, which will give a general idea of what I’ve found and can hopefully be a starting point for anyone getting acquainted with the world of DD+ bras.

I’m not young at heart, and I also don’t have a ‘youthful’ profile. My tissue is not firm and will spill towards the center or out the sides if given a chance. It’s kinda wide and bottom heavy and there’s a lot of space between my breasts, so if I want cleavage I need to bring out the big guns. I also don’t have a lot of forward projection.

In any case, let’s go through what I’ve experienced with the Eveden Group of bras:

Eveden is Goddess, Elomi, Freya, Fauve, and Fantasie. Goddess and Elomi are out of my size range, so I don’t feel much qualified to comment except that I adore the shiny fabric on many Elomi bras. Fauve is Eveden’s luxury brand, with a pretty limited size range (up to GG in unpadded bras, up to G in padded, 30-38?). I’ve only tried the Bronte longline, which I’m told doesn’t fit like others.

Fantasie generally markets to women from twenty-five to forty, I think. The designs are utilitarian (lots of basic/function bras) to feminine, with lace and darker or pastel colors. The cups tend to run very full in almost all the bras I’ve tried (Ava, Jana, t-shirt unmolded, t-shirt molded, Susanna), and that doesn’t work well with shallow profiles. Many of us get shallower as we get older, so I’m not sure how much of the older market they work for. None of the basics or molded cup bras work for me, and the fabric-and-lace bras aren’t really my style but fit a bit better. The wires are about average in the bras I’ve tried, and the bands tend to run true to size.

The exception here is Rebecca, an amazingly forgiving bra that may be full but will mold to your shape instead of the other way around. I can see myself happily buying this bra or its descendants when I am seventy.

Freya is a brand targeted for younger customers. The models look younger, and there are more bright colors and whimsical prints.

The Freya bras I’ve tried (Deco, unpadded balconettes, unpadded plunges, and padded half-cups) feel like they have loose bands or are very stretchy. Freya consistently stocks those four shapes in different colors and prints, and sometimes there’s something else (this season’s Marvel looks like an actual new cut). I have trouble filling out the apices of the cups for the unpadded bras, so the cups are too deep for me.

Deco is Freya’s cash machine, and it comes out in eleventy billion colors and prints. Not all of them are alike, though! Some of them have detailing on the top of the cup that makes the cups ever so slightly smaller (Deco Flamingo, Spotlight, Taylor, Ashlee, the new fashion colors). It doesn’t work well for very shallow shapes or very soft tissue, and I’m surprised it actually does work well for me.

Freya also has a Sport line, of which I’ve only tried the underwired unpadded bra. It definitely does the heavy lifting, but it gives me a very pointed and projected shape, due to the cup construction and flat horizontal seam. Again, the cups are deeper towards the apex, so I can get some cutting in at the top and have wrinkling in the center of the cup.

My basic understanding of the brands is currently that Freya bands run loose, and most Fantasie and Freya bras have deeper cups than fit me flatteringly. However, the Rebecca and Deco seem to be an exception and will always be in my drawer.

Zovo Lingerie visit

Hello, readers! I’m in Istanbul, Turkey, visiting family. It’s a bra wasteland here as far as I can tell because the local brands go 34-38 A-C as far as I can tell. There’s one exception- the English giant Marks and Spencer is all around and I believe they carry my size. I’ll be curious to try on their own brand although their sizing is a bit odd in that they skip the FF cup size so I’d be a GG. Hope the malls carry my size!

A little over a week ago I stopped by Zovo Lingerie at the University Village (shopping plaza near the University of Washington) in Seattle. They bill as having extended sizes, and that was true! My one dampening note about the boutique is that the prices are their own- things aren’t MSRP and the original tags aren’t attached to garments. I understand that it’s a nice atmosphere and the attendant was great and the rent may be high but…I feel it’s one thing to comparison shop online vs. store, and another to take off the tag on the bra when I know how much it costs at the local Nordstrom and that there’s a recommended ‘retail’ price. This is also true at Bellefleur. The boutiques do offer some bras I can’t find at Nordstrom but it does leave me with a bad taste in my mouth that the original tag (not just the price) is gone.

I came into Zovo with no intention of buying a bra but just checking things out, and I told the saleslady this a bit apologetically. She was understanding and asked what size I usually took so I could try things on anyway. I saw the Fauve Delphine but they didn’t have it in my size. Zovo carries Prima Donna, but I don’t really like the look of the Prima Donna/Marie Jo bras that come in my size. Instead they had a heap of bras for me to try on- the Deco and its Flamingo and Charm versions, the Fantasie Jana, Freya’s Hello Dolly, the Porcelain Viva, and Curvy Kate Emily.

First up, Fantasie Jana molded version. I love the black and purple, I love molded cups, but I’ve had trouble with Fantasie’s cups because they’re fuller than I am and don’t contour to my profile (except Rebecca, which is made of spacer foam), and unfortunately Jana follows this trend. Lots of extra room in the cup, and sizing down made it cut in. Oh well! I enjoyed chatting with the fitter about the differences between brands and we agreed that I’m generally a Panache girl.

I used to wear the Deco a ton in 30GG until I got tired of the fabric buckling and the overspill. However, I’ve gained some muscle mass around the rib cage (hello back resistance training) so I tried it in a 32G. Results were actually great in the plain version- the Deco Charm felt a little small. I’m so glad I get to wear it again, since the fabric doesn’t buckle in the 32 band (less lateral stress on the cups?). The fitter was quite impressed, she said it’s less common for the Deco to work in G-GG cup sizes. I guess I’m shallow but not enough to have trouble with the top of the cups, and still not too soft that I spill overmuch. I got a wonderful side profile, no seams or visible embroidery on my shirt. Full marks!

Curvy Kate Emily, midnight version, in 30GG. Fitter said it ran loose, and I knew that was true with my prior Emily. However, the bra cut in the center seam and the upper panel looked enormous. We agreed that it wasn’t the bra for me but the black and gold/tan are beautiful.

Unfortunately but predictably, Freya’s Hello Dolly wasn’t comfortable and gave me a pointy torpedo shape. I have this problem with most of their balconettes, so no real surprises. Finally, I tried to Porcelain Viva in 32G and it was a tiny bit small and I experienced fabric buckling at the bottom. This and age are why I threw out my old Porcelains. Perhaps going up a cup size would work, but the range only goes to G. I was impressed enough with the selection and the help that I bought a bottle of Forever New, which I’d been meaning to try.

Flatteringly, the lady told me she was sure they would take me as a part-time worker if I wanted because I seemed to know so much. I’ll be back to try and buy other things since I really want to be able to try things on in a store and will pay to keep them around. They also carry LELO products which add to the semi-luxe feel of the store. Very tasteful. I also saw some Elomi bras on display as well as Mimi Holliday.

Randomly, I’ll have to miss Sinners and Saints, which bills itself as Seattle’s Premier Lingerie Event, because I’ll still be in Turkey. Now that I know about it, I’ll want to go next year!

Fantasie Rebecca Review

I’ve loved spacer foam since I tried on some Simone Pereles several years ago, and Fantasie’s Rebecca was the first bra to come in my size that made use of the technology. Historically, Fantasie hasn’t worked for me since, like Freya, they seem to leave a bit extra in the apices of the cups so that they wrinkle in the middle when I wear them. They seem to work best if one doesn’t have shallow breasts. In any case, I’ve tried on the Rebecca and liked the comfort but wasn’t immediately wowed by the look.

However, recently I’ve had to purge my collection due to sizing and wearing out, so I thought I’d give Rebecca a try (there was one on eBay for about $20). I was pleasantly surprised!

Construction:

Spacer foam molded cup. What’s spacer foam? Think corrugated cardboard fabric. It means there’s more thread and more time to construct and calibrate the knit (which is probably why these bras are more expensive). It’s pretty lightweight. Two hooks in the back, partially adjustable straps, continuous band.

Fit:

The general wisdom of the internet has imparted upon me the need to go down a cup size for this bra, and I went down a cup size and a half to 32FF. This was the right thing to do, and the fit is as advertised- intensely comfy and forgiving. There’s little bounce when I hop or skip around. At the end of the day I sometimes feel that the wires are a bit narrow, but this is not consistent.

Looks:

I give the geometric embroidery a solid meh on this bra. It’s thank goodness not lace, and it’s not too fussy, but I can’t get excited about it in the beige color. It looks better in navy and red and such- they’ve generally picked beautiful jewel-tone colors for each season. Additionally, if they got rid of the embroidery on the straps they could be fully adjustable. The wing mesh is slightly peek-a-boo with the embroidery design, which is neat but something I didn’t notice at first.

The shape is a bit more natural than many t-shirt bras, since it doesn’t do heavy lifting. It holds the breasts up some, but not a great deal, and keeps them there. It is a pretty rounded one, and a few months I thought it looked a bit droopy, but under clothes (and down a size) it looked just fine. The cups come up pretty high, so I shouldn’t wear it under anything low cut.

Additional Thoughts:

Based on the new colors coming out all the time, I’d say the bra’s been quite a success for Fantasie, and that makes me happy. I’m curious as to how it compares to Elomi’s Hermione in larger band sizes (supposedly the inspiration for Rebecca). The Rebecca Nouveau is coming out this winter, and I’m intrigued by its supposedly less-coverage cups. If you live in the US, Nordstrom carries them in store for trying on.

Something I’ve appreciated this summer is the way the fabric ‘breathes’- the airflow is a good deal better in it than in heavily padded or laminated cups. Less sternum sweat = more comfort. On the other hand, the foam doesn’t hide headlights too well in cold rooms/weather, if that’s a concern.

Fit/sizing for Bella, Charlotte, and Rebecca

I don’t feel comfortable giving an entire review with bras I’ve tried on/had less than a week, but I think the following information might be timely for some.

Cleo Bella: I think I’m getting too old for Cleo, but I try them on anyway. This design is quite generous in the cup and I had trouble filling out the top of a 32G. I didn’t feel secure and tended to jiggle around walking about the fitting room, especially out the sides near my armpits.

Parfait by Affinitas Charlotte: Runs at least one cup size small (in the redesign size range). I was quad-boobing near the center gore. The four hooks on the back of a 32GG made me sing with delight, though!

Fantasie Rebecca: Pleasantly surprised this time around! The band runs a little loose. The spacer fabric means no empty space on the bottom! I went down one and a half cup sizes (32FF) and it fits wonderfully so far. However, I did have a headlight incident (nipple show-through), so if that’s a big deal for you you may need more padding.

Spring and Summer collections = winter confusion!

Warning: this post came about when trying to do a roundup of Panache’s Spring/Summer 2013 collections…

Once upon a time, I believed bra manufacturers had two discrete times when ‘new’ designs would come out- some nebulous date in September, and another in March. Nothing’s actually that simple in the fashion world, I guess! It seems, despite the terms Spring/Summer and Autumn/Winter, companies introduce new bras each month for a period of three to four months in the amorphous Spring/Summer and Fall/Winter seasons. What’s more, different companies have different times they start releasing their bras.

Curvy Kate, for example, released their Romance in Charcoal/Seafoam and new Entice in white/gold in December 2012. These are labeled Spring/Summer bras. It seems a bit…early? I guess the idea is that they will get the most wear then? The last major release I see for Curvy Kate is in March, and includes the Enchant. I guess the second half of March is technically spring?

Freya seem to have a similar schedule, but their website doesn’t clearly label bras as S/S or A/W, which is less misleading. It just has a Coming Soon section with the next few bras due for release and when. The other Eveden brands seem to have a similar approach, with Fantasie releasing bras into May. The Wacoal site (since Wacoal bought Eveden) didn’t have a Coming Soon section that I could find. An aside: Wacoal has a terrible fitting guide, by the way…I put in two measurements and it put me in a 36D. That’s a ways away from a 32G/US 32I any way you slice it.

Panache (and Cleo and Masquerade) are confusing in that I can’t find their Spring/Summer collection online. Their official website still has all their Autumn/Winter (labeled as such) collections and brochures. I know some of their bras are already out, so I’m surprised they’re not hyping them. I’m no marketer, but I do know that up-to-date information on products should help them sell.

Anyway, in the end it seems rather confusing to me, and since I’m not exactly sure what’s in the new Masquerade collection, I’m not going to do a Panache brand roundup yet. Erica of a Sophisticated Pair has the details from Cleo, Superbra, and the new Sculptresse line. Any other insight you ladies can offer? Has anyone else been as confused as I?

Where do bras come from?

I became curious as to where my money goes if I buy a bra new. A share goes to the retailer, but some also goes to the brand. Most bras I own say ‘Made in China’ on them, so I assume some also goes to the the Chinese factories to the (presumably) Chinese laborers. My impression is that most clothing companies do their manufacturing in Asia (American Apparel is the only American zaibatsu, or vertically integrated company I can think of).  To make things more confusing, many brands have names that are not suggestive of their origin. I thought I’d do some research to find out where bra companies are headquartered.

Here’s what my investigation turned up so far-

  • Wacoal may sound like an English (British or American) word, but it’s interestingly enough a Japanese company! I assumed that they were American due to their market penetration (the brand is the only D-FF brand I see in most US department stores, but do they carry the plus sizes? ).
  • Freya, Fantasie, Fauve, Elomi, Goddess, and Huit form the Eveden group, which I thought were British companies (except for Huit, who were recently acquired from France). Wacoal acquired them last year. My Freya Decos say ‘Made in Sri Lanka,’ so some money is going to Sri Lanka, some to England, and I assume some to Japan.
  • Ewa Michalak is based in Lodz, Poland. They are a small business and ship from Poland. Where is the sewing done? The tags say ‘Product of Poland’. Ewa Michalak is the designer herself, so yes, the money I pay goes to Ewa and her employees who probably live in Poland.
  • All of the Panache/Masquerade bras I own say Made in China, but the company is headquartered in England. Panache is a loanword from the French, as is Masquerade. I guess it evokes French haute couture?
  • Curvy Kate are English, English, English! I’m reminded of Kate Winslet’s quote, were they founded for this?
  • Triumph International are a German company, but their East Asian branch is the one I’m familiar with. When I went to go visit my mother’s family in Taiwan almost all of the bras were Triumph ones. I didn’t see a single non-padded one while I was there. I believe the average bustline in East Asia is smaller. This could be influencing Triumph’s investment in making pretty padded bras that don’t come in plus sizes.
  • When I was growing up, I always assumed Victoria’s Secret was an English brand because of Queen Victoria! Nope, they’re American and headquartered in Ohio. The manufacturing is done overseas.
  • I will mention Fredericks of Hollywood because they have the most transparent name! They were founded by Frederick, and were headquartered in Hollywood! In 2006 they moved to New York City. Their clothing is usually imported. I love their corset designs, shame none of them fit me.

Please let me know if I made any mistakes! I’m curious as to the names behind the brand names, too- what is an ‘elomi’?