Dear Lingerie Designers; THIS is what we want (part one of many)

Every once in a while I rant about lingerie.

Ok, I often rant about lingerie, mainly about lack of availability of my size, especially to try on in the stores in the United States. I don’t often rant about price, because good lingerie is worth it, but I occasionally sigh over how I wish I had more money to purchase more bras. Any bra for me is an investment-level purchase.

But I won’t rant about those things today. Lucky you! I’m choosing to gripe about style and choice, or lack thereof.

This post was inspired by my happening across a website called MakeBra with bra patterns available. The lovely Finnish lady who runs it, Annele, posted a recent project of hers, which she calls the Art Deco Bra.

There aren’t really words, so I’ll just post the picture here.

Art Deco Style Bra by Annele of Makebra

File this under “Are You Kidding Me That This Is Not Available For Me To Buy In 14 Colorways Right This Moment?!”

Yeah, seriously stunning. And innovative. And fun! Where is the spark even in easily available bra sizes? I don’t often see a breathtaking 36C, so breathtaking in 36J (UK) is out of the question.

Wanna be really envious? No? Then don’t look at the matching panties.

Art Deco bra and panties by Annele of MakeBra

Art Deco bra and panties by Annele of MakeBra

I realize that this is not everyone’s cup of tea, but this is so fresh! It’s not the new floral same as the old floral approach that I see so often. Color mixes are frequently either boring or garish, but nothing intriguing. Even a plain old taupe bra can look elegant and amazing if detailed properly and made in a high quality fabric. I’ve seen exactly one taupe bra and panty set that I would wear under a $500 dress as my feel-amazing lingerie, but only if it had been in my size. Of course, it came nowhere close to available in my size, but my real beef here is that you can do so much with the color taupe, and no one ever does.

A color contrast doesn’t have to be obnoxious to be striking. What I wouldn’t give for a Marie Antoinette type French light blue silk bra with partial cream venetian lace overlay, butterfly edges loose and all. Or simple pearl grey with charcoal pinstripes and a very clean grey satin trim to match, rather like an amazing Armani suit complete with tie and pocket square, but over curves.

But, back to this bra, which makes such excellent use of contrast, and the placement of the black panels would be so uplifting and slimming when worn, thanks to the strong vertical lines. Why can’t we have things like this available in stores?

Annele’s notes about this bra are here on her What’s New page. Scrolling through her news items made me absolutely purple with lust. Thank goodness there weren’t pages and pages of entries.

Oh, and if you really don’t want to be annoyed at our bra manufacturers, don’t look at Annele’s inspiration gallery. It’ll break your heart what we could have.

As I said, these designs aren’t for everyone, but they are fresh, which is sorely lacking in the industry right now. Individuals and Etsy artisans are doing adorable things like this, and I continually am lured away from mainstream fare. I give it a matter of weeks before I make my own bra for the first time, and I’m not alone. A cottage industry is building, people are beginning to make their own clothes more and more, and customers are starting to demand more. The companies that do not provide more are going to start finding themselves falling behind.

Hot Milk Nursing Bras Review – Her Tangled Web Tantalized and Luminous styles

Ok, So I had a baby in February of 2012, and being possessed of big knockers made the whole nursing bra thing a bit daunting. I was not enthused at the prospect of locating Even Bigger Bras (TM), and in specialty style to boot.

I usually start at Nordstrom or Intimacy, depending on what city I’m in. I had just moved back to Atlanta, so checked at Intimacy for my options. They completed the most recent in a long line of fails for me by not having anything in my size, or even anything within 5 cups of my size, and gave a nebulous answer of “Oh, check back in two weeks. Or four maybe.” It’ll be a long while before I try them for anything again. Again. And they held such promise years ago…

Then, I went into Nordstrom (same mall as Intimacy, so that was an easy jaunt) and the only nursing bra they had period was a taupe one that went up to a 38 F, so no amount of sister sizing and wishful thinking was going to come close to my 36H/38GG (UK sizing).

My trepidation and I went on a trip to Target, hoping for an alterable miracle. I was ready to forego comfort and full function just to obtain partial usefulness. I was foiled again, mainly due to length of the cups in the available nursing tanks; none of them came remotely close to covering my breasts top-to bottom. If people wonder why larger-busted women feel horrible about themselves, or are resistant to discovering their correct size, one only has to realize that if a full-busted woman can’t fit in a bra tank which is labeled XL, then she must think that she’s heifer huge. In this case, an XXXL wouldn’t have fit me, but apparently I’m the problem, not the society and manufacturers who make these preconceived notions and inferior garments.

I went on Figleaves.com to locate nursing bras, expecting my options to be huge, ugly, expensive, and perhaps available in (racist caucasian) nude. Maybe black if I were very, very lucky.

I’ve rarely been as happy to be wrong.

Meet Australian nursing bra maker Hot Milk. Even if you are not pregnant or nursing, have a look at their site and be pleasantly surprised about the awesome photo styling used to sell their lines; Hot Milk shows pregnant women as the sexy ladies they are! They’re so racy that they gained headlines earlier in 2012, and they even have a cheeky line of mens’ undies. Called “Milkman.” Because why not have a sense of humor about it?

So, I ordered two bras, the Her Tangled Web Tantalized in 36GG and the Luminous in 36G (UK sizes. In the US, that would have been a 36K and 36J, respectively).

Here’s the first:

Good god, it’s beautiful.

It’s lined in jersey knit cotton, so it’s so soft and comfortable. The straps are pretty and ruched! And lined. Lined straps. Straps lined in soft cotton. Shall I say the same thing, yet differently again? Fine – cotton lined straps as well!

It. Has. Six. Sets. Of. Hooks. Six. Talk about modifiable size and flexibility during body changes! The website is just full of useful info, and they say that they offer six sets of hooks to allow for diaphragm expansion during pregnancy. The website is sensational. Did I tell you to take a look at it yet? Did you listen? GO GO GO! But first, look at the details! The lace! The ribbon trim! The layered fabrics!

Oh, and I forgot: matching panties available too! I never would have thought that would be available to me as a pregnant woman at my size.

It looks ok on me, but I could likely have sized up in the cup. My left has always been an overachiever, though, and I expected no different from her during pregnancy and nursing.

 

The cotton lining truly does make this very comfortable. You’ll need the extra hooks to cinch in, as this stretches easily with wear – it’s designed to be more comfortable, so has less of the strong-arm elastics, and you’ll need to wash this more often to refresh the spring in the fibers.

The cons: I hate the uniboob which one gets with soft cup bras. Hate. But it’s a nursing bra, and my boobs belong to my kid for a bit, so I’ll shut up. I heard complaints that the flip-down cup does not open very far, but I found that to be a feature rather than a bug. The greater amount of fabric underneath the breast while the cup was open truly does assist with support for these damned things. The straps are stunning, strong, and comfortable, but I had to keep them covered when nursing or cuddling my baby; the ruching is rough on baby skin when the little ones root and nuzzle and rub their little faces on the straps! The large rings on the shoulder tops could be quite painful, but seeing as the weight was much more distributed with them than without, I’d rather I had them than not.

The Luminous bra in purple and white is just plain pretty!

It has all the same Hot Milk features, with matching panties, color layers, pretty lace, ribbon trims, lined cups and straps, and six sets of hooks.

It doesn’t fit me. It’s way too small in the cup, especially if I’m engorged. This is why I ordered two different sizes. This brand seems to run quite true to size, at least compared to my usual bras from Freya and Fantasie.

 

I successfully used these to hold pump suction cups hands-free while I pumped. I bought a pump bra also, but these worked just fine if I was already wearing one of them.

I cannot stress enough how amazing these are! And so very well made!

They are available on Figleaves.com (who have lovely sales from time to time – you should subscribe to their mailing list), and I also found them on Amazon. Is there anything this place doesn’t have? I’m not sure there is.

Figleaves is in the U.K., so bras ship from England. They have impeccable service, and I don’t have a bad thing to say about them. This pair of bras ran about $120, including shipping.

If you’re concerned about ordering from overseas, I’ll put some Amazon links here: Her Tangled Web Tantalized Bra and matching French panty.

I seem to have a Luminous colorway which may no longer be available, but here are the current Luminous styles on Amazon, as far as I can tell: Bra, High Waisted Panty, and French knickers.

They also have full lines of nursing slips and postpartum shapewear. Seriously, check them out!

While you’re at it, share this post with every pregnant woman you know. We definitely deserve to look and feel nice during a very physically tumultuous time, and I guarantee the thanks you get will be endless!

Lane Bryant and the Empty-Handed Customer, Part One

So, I went to Lane Bryant. Again.

I say this with a fair amount of angst. Why, pray tell? After all, this is a plus-size shop, yes? Good things there, right?

Too bad I couldn’t find any to fit. Again.

Despite wandering in there for years, despite numerous visits, I have never actually purchased a thing from Lane Bryant. I could rant on plus size shops in general (I’m looking at you, too, Avenue), but I’m going to be specific here, and talk about my experiences with Lane Bryant.

I’ve been lured in by nice jackets in the window, lovely lingerie on display, pretty colors, nice cuts, the works. Every time, I end up disappointed.

The jackets are pinned in the back at the waist to make them appear more tailored on the display, but are actually cut far too large for me in the ribs and waist. The lingerie on display is labeled in dress sizes that cover more than one size – for instance, I noted an 18/20 and a 22/24 – but have actual formed bra cups that need to be labeled with an actual band and cup size. This also ignores the fact that a woman may be plus-sized and all boob in the chest as opposed to being plus-sized and all ribcage – this lingerie is designed for the latter, and I swear the 18/20 would have fit a 44C. Nothing wrong with that, but it certainly won’t fit my 36J/K boobs. The colors are great, but these are not accessories; I need to wear these items and have them actually function on me as garments. The nice cuts still balloon on me. I usually leave dejected, likely never to return, until my hope builds again. Then, I go into one on a whim, thinking ‘just maybe this time will be different.’

It never is different.

This time, I went for bras.

Oh, foolish, foolish girl!

I suppose you can guess how that went, but I’m not sparing details. Sorry, not sorry.

I went in specifically for the French Full Coverage bras. They’re supposed to be available in much larger sizes than your average store. In the US, that generally means topping out at a US H cup, but a 40H or 42G can work for me, provided I alter the band down to a 36.

The Lane Bryant bras are made by Cacique, so it’s a known brand. However, I’ve never found a bra of theirs in a size to try on, so I thought I’d mosey over to the Lane Bryant store and pray for a miracle. [Note: to me, a miracle is defined as: finding something lovely that fits in the cup and I won’t mind paying a$20+ premium to get the band altered down to my size.]

Oh, they’re even pretty! Blue with black dots! Black and pink tapestry design! Chevron stripes. Chevron. Stripes. And every one had a special tag which said “Available in F, G, and H cup”. Hallelujah! A miracle!

But where were those larger cup sizes? I searched the rack for the particular style, and nothing. I searched to see if there were a different rack specifically for the larger cup sizes, and still nothing. I asked the lovely saleslady where those bras might be. I was stunned by the answer.

“Oh, you have to go online for those.”

Wait, what?

The feature that is specially tagged on these bras is not available at the location of said tags? I have to go online to buy what is advertised in the store? Let’s go through that step by step.

To buy an item from this store, due to its size I must:

  • Pretend to have an understanding of how the product is sized
  • Decide that I want the item
  • Leave the store
  • Go home or go to a place with a computer and internet connection
  • Find the online store
  • Find the item I desire (which means having noted the item’s name, or else I’m just hunting endlessly in the catalog)
  • Order by that size I’m supposed to hope works.
  • Pay for delivery.
  • Wait for delivery
  • Hope it fits.
  • Deal with it if the item doesn’t fit.

I’ve done a lot of retail work, and if you want a customer to do this when you already had them in the store, ready to buy, you’re just about guaranteed to lose the sale. Personally, it makes me feel like this:

I don't have enough Middle Fingers

Because your larger-busted customers wouldn’t actually want to, y’know, try those bras on before buying, would they?

The last time I dealt with this was at Abercrombie; They used to have some amazing low-rise flare leg jeans and cords, but the last time I set foot in the store, the corresponding rack had a little sign on it which stated that size 12’s could only be purchased online. It might as well have said “WE HATE FATTIES!” and certainly delivered the impression that they did not care to have women who were at the top end of the available sizes but still smaller than the average American woman wear their items.

I can expect that sort of opinion and treatment from an elitist and sizeist chain whose signature ad look includes buff boys and teeny girls, all white of course. But from a store for plus-sized women? Sizeism has no place there. None.

The salesperson was lovely, and also helpfully said that I could purchase in-store, that they would ship to my house for free, and I could return items to the store directly. I thought I’d go online and have a look at a size chart, select my best sister size option and order the next time I was in the area.

Surprise! I find that my two favorite prints – the pink and black tapestry and the blue with black polka dots – are not available in F, G, and H. The size chart is grayed in those sizes for these items.

Apparently, this bears repeating:

I don't have enough Middle Fingers

I don’t have enough Middle Fingers

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lane Bryant has failed to make me their customer. Again.

One day, I’ll learn…

I’ll learn not to go bra shopping when I’m about to start menstruating. Eventually. Hell, maybe I’ll learn not to clothes shop in that time frame, either. I’m just so much more sensitive about my figure than usual. I didn’t even snap shots of the two bras I tried because I felt so awful.

For the record, I went to Nordstrom in Atlanta on the strength of this post by Obsessed with Breasts, just to have a look at the Freya Piper in person. It’s gorgeous, and I am so upset that it doesn’t come in my size (when I’m not swollen/bloated/plumped via menses). It’s possible that I could have worn the 38G before I started lactating, had I paid for alterations down to a 34 band. I’m praying that I go back down to my pre-pregnancy breast size when this breast milk gig is done. I’ve been excited to find longlines coming available in so many of the brands which run realistic sizes; now if they’d cease with making them only just a bit too small. One more cup size, Freya! That’s all I ask! (and in the Deco, too!)

I tried this particular Elomi bra – the Caitlin. I think I’ve tried this one several times in several colors, and I am always disappointed. This Nordstrom doesn’t seem to carry too much variety in the way of the prettier, color Elomi bras, but they get this style every season. That’s great, but it’s a shame that I can’t wear it. The smooth satiny section that runs alongside the cup and up the strap creates a boob overflow reservoir, and it’s not lovely to behold. It makes my bust bulge oddly on the side. I thought that it was a too-wide underwire issue, but when studying the design, I’m getting a better sense of the real problem. Women with firmer breasts than mine wouldn’t likely have this trouble. Looking at photos of other styles by Elomi, I think other bras by the brand could work – I may have given up too easily. Will report back on that, eventually. Have to find some to try on first.

So, this makes my current record for this Nordstrom as six visits and one thing purchased across all of them. That one thing was a too-small in the cup, too big in the band Deco. On sale. In beige. Not a great streak, in other words. This is in great contrast to the Nordstrom that I first went to in Woodland Hills, CA, where I once dropped $500 on bras in one go. That one had an actual selection of Freya and Fantasie bras, as opposed to one Fantasie and three Freya (one on the clearance rack). This is my closest Nordstrom, and I have to drive 170 miles to get here.

The Intimacy in the same mall is where I got my first matching set and several subsequent ones, but their on-hand stock has declined dramatically, and I barely even go in any more. That store has changed for the worse in the past eight years in terms of selection. The store I got my first properly sized bra is closed, but since they only carried the horrific-looking Goddess bras, I wouldn’t have gone there anyway.

Looks like it’s back to the web and considering surgery again. I hate this part; I just loathe myself for hours.

Which is why I need to stop shopping for bras when I’m pre-menstrual. Or else find a place with actual stock in my size. The first thing is much easier to accomplish.