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?

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My Christmas Lingerie

I don’t celebrate Christmas myself, but my partner’s family does. As a result, I get a bit of the holiday spirit! I’ll be traveling as per usual for the winter. Here are some things in my drawer I’m considering bringing:

Bravissimo Can Can

I got this in the mail yesterday, no time to photograph. It’s beautiful. I love the little embroidery touches (tildes!), they feel very Art Nouveau. It doesn’t work quite as well for me as it does for the model since it’s a bit fuller on the top than I am and the gore is pretty narrow, so I’ll get a second opinion before I decide whether to keep it.

Parfait Natalia

The colors on this are very candy cane (darker red than the picture)- the stripes are pink instead of white. I got the babydoll and padded bra to see how they fit. The padded bra is actually molded and feels a bit too much lace overlay (though I love the keyhole-in-gore detail). The babydoll is fun, though, I haven’t had one before.

Freya Deco Honey in Jade

Classic, slight frills, the Deco shape most everyone knows. I adore the color, it’s darker than my experience with most jade…more of a malachite perhaps? This bra works under anything. It’s a bit less Christmas-pine green than the Can Can, but it’ll do!

Parfait Charlotte in Red

It slices, it dices, it…wait, it’s a bra, not a kitchen tool. That said, I can’t think of an occasion this bra doesn’t work for. The red is quite festive! I review it often, it seems.

I don’t have time for a photo shoot (or ‘here’s my torso with too much or too little flash’ before I head off, so these are professional models and photos. Do you like the idea of ‘Christmas’ lingerie? Or just like red or green? What’s your favorite?

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.

Parfait Charlotte purple wine notes

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.

IMG_20140906_174733

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…

Status update, and some customer service

Blogging, I can’t quit you…

Or at least it seems that way! I love to read and write and gather data. I’m looking at my most-read posts and they seem to be Ewa Michalak and Masquerade. The Parfait Charlotte posts were pretty popular too (should I even bother reviewing a bra a third time, though this is the third size I’ve had?). Unfortunately, I doubt I’ll order again from EM because I’m quite shallow and their cups are deep. The good news is I’ve ordered the Masquerade Angie so should be able to review that. I spent some time neuroticizing about it, because I have a bunch of Masquerade bras. Unfortunately, they won’t fit anytime soon and some of them don’t fit even with an extender. I will work on finding better homes for those.

In progress for review: photos for Freya Active top, Cleo Neve.

I didn’t mention previously that I ordered through Beau T Full Bras and found the transaction pleasant. I ordered the Charlotte bandeau but it didn’t work for me, so I exchanged it for the padded. Email transactions were quick, and Rene was quick to notify me that she didn’t have my size immediately in stock for the exchange, but would get it to me next week (which she did). There’s a restocking fee with this store of 10% for returns (I didn’t see one for exchanges), and a shipping fee for initial orders and exchanges which is quite low for the US. If you’re looking for a Parfait by Affinitas gallery, they have an extensive catalog.

Balancing purchases, or things I’ve bought

Amazon’s another source of bras for me now- with free shipping and returns for several bras, the only barrier to me trying more stuff is my annoyance at sending stuff back (repackaging and going to the PO which is a bit of a walk from work). I also feel far less weird about sending a bra back to Amazon than to a smaller retailer who needs to restock and evaluate with slimmer margin for error. My policy these days is to look for a smaller retailer if they have stuff I know I love or that I can try on in store, and look to the big distributors for purchases I am not sure will work.

Anyway, since I outgrew my Charlotte I ordered another one but had to futz with the size somewhat. Tried the balcony style but it didn’t fit my shape (was more projected), and am now happy in the 36G padded style. The cups are ever-so-slightly too tall, but it fits well on my shallow shape. No empty space at bottom or sides. I am happy that an American brand works for me, and will see about other colors once I break this one in. What if my back measurement grows more? I doubt it…

I also nabbed a Deco Honey in jade as it was being phased out. When I find a color I like in a shape I like, I take it. That’s my new philosophy. Also I finally found my proper Neve size since it runs tight and small, so there’s another awesome under-tank top option in lots of colors. I’m looking at amazing posts from Sweets and Miss Underpinnings and The Lingerie Lesbian for upcoming Autumn excitement. Time to update my Pinterest!

Parfait by Affinitas Charlotte GG+ redesign review

I ordered the Parfait by Affinitas Charlotte a little over a year ago but resold it because it was just a smidge too small and I was sized out. I did love it though- a nice deep red, bold stripes, matte/shiny contrast, and round profile. When A Sophisticated Pair let me know that Parfait was vastly extending their size range for the Charlotte with a redesign, I jumped on the pre-order bandwagon. Although the first order didn’t fit, exchanging it for a size up worked wonders.

Charlotte, side and strap view

What’s Different

The old Charlotte had a more horizontal top of the cup, and the redesign has made it less bandeau-like: the cups are quite tall on the sides and the neckline is more U-shaped. Also changed is the cup depth- the 34G did not feel shallow to my recollection, and the redesign does. Finally, they have added lots to the wing height and back band- it measures almost three inches tall in the back, and there’s a four hook closure. Sturdy scaffolding on a pretty bra!

Construction

Three-part padded bra. There is something that looks like a shiny side support panel in the front, but I don’t know how effective it is, since it’s plain fabric and the bra is padded otherwise. There’s a side bone for support. The cups feel on the narrow side.

Fully adjustable inch-wide straps. Mondo comfy.

Charlotte, front view

Fit

This bra is quite comfortable for my back, the extra wing height and big band keeping it stable and anchored. However, my sides have a few issues because Parfait kept a design concept the same: “it feels like the top and bottom elastic of the band are markedly tighter than the rest of it.” At present the elastic sometimes feels uncomfortable on the bottom sides of my ribs behind the side stays.

Go up at least one cup size in this bra. A 32GG didn’t fit me, so I went to 32H.  The cup width seems narrow to medium to me, so I have to readjust once every four hours or so since I’m more medium/wide. Some days of the month I also spill a bit out the middle in the center. The wires are long for the high wings, so I get no escapee tissue on the sides. I’m going to rave again about the comfortable back- why don’t more non-strapless/convertible bras do this? The band seems reasonably true to size. I’ve ordered an extender, though.

If you often need deeper cups, this bra is not for you. If you find wires often poke you in the armpit because they are too long, this bra is not for you. If you are full on top or need wide wires, this bra may not work for you. So the fit can be tricky, but if it works, you will want to do a little dance in it! At least, I did! Minimal bounce, too!

Charlotte detailing

Looks

I get very slight cleavage in this bra. I’m not sure whether they were going for more pushed-together or pushed-up cleavage, and the result is something in between. The side profile is quite round and I feel nicely lifted. As before, I find the deep red color striking and it works well with my skin tone, and the contrast piping makes it look rather smart.

Charlotte, inside view

What Stands Out

The price? $38 in the US. That’s about half of some bras out there, and at least $20 off a bunch of others. I attribute that to Parfait being an American brand (Eveden/Panache bras are sold in England for less than they are here after you adjust for the exchange rate, blame duties I guess). The materials feel durable, and it’s a rare chance for the busty woman to patronize an American company (even if the bra was made in China). Full marks for value!

If the elastic stretches out and is more comfy after some time, I’ll go for the peach color (the rose and upcoming pink don’t really work for my yellow-olive skin). I ordered mine from A Sophisticated Pair by emailing the shop, but sellers that do transactions online include Breakout Bras and Beauty Full Bras. I want to boost the signal to let Parfait know that their risk can pay great dividends. I do hope they redesign and make the cups a little wider or deeper so the sizing is more consistent and that the shape works for more people.

Other reviews in many sizes: A Sophisticated Pair, Bras and Body Image, The Fuller Figured Chest, Miss Underpinnings, Boosaurus!Quest for the Perfect Bra, Petite and Plentiful

Parfait by Affinitas Jeanie

Affinitas Intimates is an American company boasting the D-G Parfait line. I love their designs and enjoy supporting American businesses without the price conversion, but they seem to run just a bit too small for my size range. Here’s my experience with Jeanie:

Construction:
Jeanie compares to the Freya Deco as a seamless molded plunge bra. However, the curve across the top line of the bra seems steeper. There’s also side boning in this model for side support. The fabric is more cottony than that of Deco.

Fit:
Runs true to size in band, and perhaps a bit small or true to size in cup, Shapewise, they do fit a bit differently, as well. I get quad-boob towards the middle  in Jeanie and the cup is pretty tall, so I can’t quite fill it and have some empty space up near the strap. My tissue is rather soft, so that contributes to the spillage. I am sure if the black version is tighter than the nude version. Additionally, the side boning can get irritating after a while and probably needs to be ‘broken in.’ At this point, not a replacement for the Deco, more’s the pity- I’d size up in the cup but have hit the end of the size range.

Looks:
Plain, simple, basic, and goes with my three black tank tops and under any t-shirt. There’s a little heart charm at the bow which is a bit much for me. The shape under clothes is round and smooth.

Conclusion:
I’d pick the Deco over Jeanie for bottom-heavy breasts, but I love the price of the Jeanie.  I’ve listed the bra on Bratabase (32G, worn twice, hand washed once).