Cleo by Panache Kali (quick thoughts)

Although I’ve started to wear more cut-and-sew bras, they are still in the minority on my drawer. I ordered the Kali in Burnt Orange in 36FF, and the results were something I’ve seen on several bras with me: a narrow gore and not-projected bottom of the cup leaves gaps in the bottom and center of the bra.

kali_back kali_front

Kali’s design is very girly: cute hearts on the mesh. The neon color drew my eye, though, so I tried it on. It’s a three-part balcony bra with the seam across the apexes of the cups joining the straps. The band is not continuous, so it may feel less stable but be more compatible with short torsos. Two hooks in the leotard back.

kali_side2kali_side

I found the straps wide-set, and that could be problematic for longer wear. A size down would be too small. My main complaint was the pronounced orange-in-a-glass effect I got (I also had this issue with the Freya Vixen and several other bras). No amount of swooping and scooping or repositioning the band seemed to help: the bra would migrate after half an hour to the way it looks in the photos, and felt unsupportive like that.

The top of the cups lay flat, so that was compatible with my shape. I was unhappy about the empty spaces, so I returned it. Kali comes in a new fashion color every few months. If it does work for you (not very projected at the bottom of the cup), you can build a rather extensive collection. It’s available 28-38 D-J. I can’t argue with that size range!

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?

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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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.

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.

Customer experience: Pencil Test

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 Wire Bra review

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!

Construction:

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.

celine_side_down

Fit:

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.

celine_front

Looks:

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.

celine_side_raised

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.

celine_back

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.

Panache Loretta balconette review

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.

Construction

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.

Fit

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.

Looks

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.

 Further Thoughts

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.

Goodbye Masquerade

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:

Delphi

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.

Rhea

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.

Amor

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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?

Panache Cami mini-review

Panache camis were on closeout in a khaki color. I was curious to have a cami with support for even more layering options, or to lounge around the house in.

Construction:

Cotton fabric over a bra section. The bra is made of heavy shaped foam ‘cups’ with underwires and two part seams at six o’clock and eight o’clock. By part seams, I mean they go part of the way to the center of the cup. Haven’t seen anything like that before. The back is a two hook and eye band closure under the cami.

Fit:

Wow, this cami is short. I am five foot eight (173CM) and it doesn’t hit most of my pants. As for the bra part, I felt like the band ran a tad loose, but a 34FF fit in the cup, a bit generously. If you’re between cup sizes I’d take the lower. It’s not as supportive as most of my bras, but it’s fine for walking and biking.

Looks:

Simple color with a rounded but not very lifted shape.

Overall, it’s a nice option to have in my drawer. If you have a long torso it’ll show some skin at the waist. It’s also not the most supportive out there, but works for most days.