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?

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Spring/Summer with Panache

I think I will be buying Panache bras until they no longer come in my size, they go out of business, or I die. They often have at least a few bras that fit my shape well: full on bottom, soft, shallow, splayed, wider root. However, their deliveries often seem to be late to stores (compared to anticipated day out), and I’m not a huge fan of their fashion orders having such a narrow window so far ahead of delivery date. When your size changes before you get the new bra, well, that doesn’t encourage preordering. I haven’t found any other brand that compares in fit for me, though.

Panache Superbra

I’ve had more luck with their basics than anywhere else except Freya’s Deco. There’s enough variety here to fit most people, but here are the standouts for me in style and personal taste:

Jasmine

Ivory floral looks intriguing, it’s the first Jasmine print I’ve liked in a while. What’s more, it’s coordinated with a purple lace. If Freya did this it would be called ‘quirky’. I find it unusual and attractive. Jasmine is a bit too projected for my shape to feel supported properly on top, but the bra is popular with many because it’s so forgiving on top and supportive on the bottom.

Clara

Turkish Delight? Turkish delight (or lokum) is traditionally more of a pastel color on the outside and the inside can be colored, but I haven’t seen this color before. Regardless, it’s some awesome purples with an attractive cut involving the forgiving stretch lace.

Dahlia

Dahlia

A continuity style which I love and should buy in my new size goshdarnit.

Porcelain Plunge

A great basic in a better size range than the regular Porcelain. I know it’s due to be redesigned, so it’s worth grabbing more if it currently works for you.

 

Cleo

Normally Cleo is too projected for me, with full cups I can’t fill. Then there’s terrifying-to-me lace in places I didn’t know you could stick it. Lace ruffles? Great googly moogly. However, I have found that their molded cups do work for me.

Neve

Pink is my meh, but that big bold floral is fun without necessarily being teenage. I’ve recently found that Neve fits me, and it’s my competitor to Deco for ‘plunge that fits’ with occasional colors I like. I need to go up a band and cup size for it, though (36FF, when I wear a 34FF in many bras). Also, no lace edging at all! No bows! Just a button!

Maddie

I adore orange. Don’t adore animal print, but for sheer orangeness in my size, this can’t be beat. I know I have to go up at least a cup size with regular Maddie, we’ll see how this fits. I haven’t seen it for sale anywhere, though. Waiting waiting.

Marcie

I also love yellow. This is a wonderful cheery color the Lucy came in last year or the year before, can’t remember. I can’t fit in the Marcie myself and it’s not my style, but if you want to have some brights under your clothes, Marcie has deeper cups and wires that aren’t very long.

Masquerade

The past few seasons I have been unimpressed by most of Masquerade, feeling it rehashed and a bit too Old Europe for my tastes. However, they deliver wonderful shapes in tasty fabric at a price point below Fauve (and in more extended sizes). So I’ll keep watching and waiting, while commenting on what I like this season.

Rhea

Oh, I wish they made Rhea in fashion colors again. You can’t go wrong with black, but it feels too safe. Also, please expand your size range I know many women would love it. If we keep on saying it it could happen?

Utopia

Finally, a strapless bra that isn’t neutral. Topaz tone and vertical seams. If I ever wore strapless, this would be a definite buy.

Swim

I need an excuse to buy this new bikini. However, Seattle is not a constant-beach place. Maybe if I’m stubborn enough?

Talullah

Wow. You can get it in tankini. You can get a high waisted brief. And all with those lovely colors. Where can I order this in the US?

 

That’s my current-season Panache roundup, excepting Sculptresse, which I don’t follow because I’m still sized out. What have you liked this season so far?

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!

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!).

Between band sizes? Looking for stability.

My underbust measurement is between 30.5  and 31 inches depending on how tightly I do the tape up.  I’ve lost a kilo or so in the past three months, and my three Panache Porcelain bras are now all going on the tightest hook after two hours (bra stretches during the day), and they are about a half year old.  The newer black Deco (32)  is stretching out pretty fast, so I’m not sure how long it will last with my current measurements.  I guess I could try putting on a few pounds, but there’s no guarantee they would go to the underbust.  My 32 Curvy Kate is also stretching out a bunch after less frequent wear over five months.

Anyway, time to go shopping again!  I’m still not sure I could size down to a 32 in the Rhea, but it seems a bit late since I can no longer find a mulberry one in 32G online.  I’ve ordered a Deco in 30GG to test that, but I will probably need to buy an extender for the first few weeks.  In the past year I’ve learned a lot- I’ve found Freya bands are a bit looser than Panache, and my shape isn’t quite round enough for many Freyas/Fantasies, nor wide and shallow enough for most Curvy Kates.    I can fit into a non-molded bra, but greatly prefer shapes generally given by them.

To review: Panache Geneva bikini, Curvy Kate Emily, Freya Deco in several sizes once I get the 30, Curvy Kate Tempt Me, Freya Mystere bikini set once I actually wear it.

To finally get my hands on: Masquerade Delphi, Affinitas Charlotte and Jeanie.  I know the Charlotte comes up tight and small, but would a 34G be too loose?

What bands have you found to be most stable?  I hear good things about Ewa Michalak but am leery of the sizing/return issues.  On the other hand, I just moved and rent is several hundred dollars lower a month…but I need to pay off moving costs!

Masquerade Rhea

This is my first Masquerade bra- I’ve been pretty gaga about their designs (lots of pretty molded cups) for a good while, but didn’t want to break the bank until I felt like treating myself when Figleaves had a sale.

Fit:

Wow, the band is tight!  Order up a band size and down a cup size!  A 32, which is my regular band size, fit, but I could not take a deep breath without it hurting.  This band hasn’t stretched after several months yet.  At first I wasn’t sure if the cups fit properly (the top is pretty open), but after doing the scoop-and-set the lift was pretty divine, with a beautiful round shape (I attribute this to the vertical seams).  I have some migrated breast tissue (to the sides), so I needed to adjust that every so often.

The straps felt on the loose end, but there wasn’t much stretch to them, if that makes any sense- I had the bra adjusted to almost the shortest strap length.  They are also pretty far apart, so if your shoulders are narrow, be advised.  The center gore on this bra comes up high, so it can be problematic for some sternums and won’t work with deep v-neck tops.  Additionally, it’s wide (like most Panache bras), so if you have close-set breasts it won’t work as well.

The shorts run from 8-18 and are a bit on the large side, and the bra runs 28-36 D-H, 38 D-GG.

Looks:

     

The design is comparable to the Curvy Kate Tease Me- a more horizontal cut at the top with some ribbon/embroidery that shows through some tops.  I find the Tease Me a bit more showgirl/flirty and the Rhea a bit more sophisticated, but the Tease Me is a lot nicer on one’s wallet, especially at Brastop.  The Rhea currently comes in Black and Antique, which are mostly one color, but my set was in mulberry/slate, a lovely contrast colorway.  There are also sets on eBay in cream/pink.  If they come out with more contrasting colorways I will snap those up- the detail work is superb and the fabric looks amazing (cotton lined on the inside).

Verdict:

This isn’t a t-shirt bra, and after about eight hours it gets a bit uncomfortable.  That said, it’s my favorite when I’m not wearing a t-shirt- it makes me feel very glamorous.  Up goes my front!  May not be for you if you have close-set or narrow breasts, or have had wires dig into your sternum.  I recommend converting to a bigger band, as noted earlier.

In review

I’ve been preoccupied with job and personal things recently, so it means I have reviews overdue- Panache Porcelain, Curvy Kate Tempt Me, and Masquerade Rhea.  I’ve made a few notes on Bratabase, which I hope to expound on in the days to come, now that I have free time again!

My Freya Taylor has begun to stretch, but I really think they use stiffer fabric for it than for the standard Deco.  There’s still a little bit at the bottom that seems unused and it’s a bit too small in a 32G- interesting because the Deco is supposed to run generously.  By contrast, the Rhea 34FF and 32G encase everything they are supposed to.

Current wish list: Masquerade Delphi and Capella, Parfait by Affinitas Charlotte and Jeanie, Wonderbra D-G T-shirt bra, and maybe something by Ewa Michalak.  I’ll have to figure out the budget next, but I guess those are my purchase plans for the year.

Figleaves has me served

I ordered a lovely Masquerade Rhea bra, but the band was too tight at a 32.  Panache is known to run a bit tight, and I thought, I generally like a tight band, it will stretch.  I was unprepared- although this bra gave a smashing shape, the band was indeed too tight.  I could close it, put two fingers in it, but I couldn’t take a deep breath without it causing pain.  And that, ladies and gentlemen, meant I needed to exchange it.

I’m a strong advocate for a tight band, but phew!  Breaking a bra in is necessary (as I’m doing with the Deco), but I need to breathe in the meantime, and probably not make the hooks as crooked as they got after a several hour trial period (with tags still on).  So I called Figleaves Customer Service, because the sister size (34FF) was ‘low on stock.’  Well, I was greeted by a nice English lady (why we Americans think these accents are delightful, I’m not sure) who told me it was not an all-purpose bra.  I agree, it isn’t a t-shirt bra, but being able to take a deep breath without worry of popping something would be useful.  She said she’d ship the sister size immediately at the sale price I got, charging my card now, and when they received my return they would credit me the amount.  I am lucky that I can do this.

I’ve had good luck with Figleaves customer service before.  May they so continue!  They even have an American shipping address!  Now I just need to buy something to return the Rhea in that’s not a shoebox…or shall it be one?  I’m reluctant to send it in an unpadded envelope.