Off the Rack ~ A Review of the J. Crew “Sophie” Bridesmaid Dress

For the third week in a row, I’m talking about weddings! But this time, I’ll be a bridesmaid instead of the bride, for my younger sister’s July wedding in Massachusetts. Both she and I went straight for J. Crew when we were looking for bridesmaid dresses because they offer multiple cuts in the same fabrics. I ultimately went with David’s Bridal because I wasn’t crazy about J. Crew’s colors at the time, and David’s was cheaper and had more cuts to choose from.

But my sister’s style errs on the preppy side, and J. Crew is totally her style, so when they offered a 25% off deal, she went for it (and there was another 25% off coupon this past week, so if you’re interested in these dresses, definitely sign up for the mailing list!).

The two dresses she offered the maids were the strapless, sweetheart neckline Marlie or the deep-V Sophie, in sea spray faille. They’re the exact same silhouette aside from the straps.

The Sophie.

The Sophie.

Sophie on the model.

Sophie on the model.

Sophie in profile.

Sophie in profile.

Since I never shop at J. Crew, and it takes months to get an appointment in their bridal shops, I went by the size chart and ordered online. Unfortunately, the size chart turned out to be completely incorrect. At 37”-29”-41”, I’m between their size 8 (36.5” bust and 29” waist) and 10 (37.5” bust and 30” waist). I ordered the 8, but when it arrived, I was completely swimming in it. It was just hanging off me and I could make a fist out of all the extra fabric:

Apologies for the terrible phone selfie.

Apologies for the terrible phone selfie.

Next I went to a J. Crew store to re-order it. I was hoping to just look at a smaller size on the floor to figure out if I needed a 4 or a 6, but they wouldn’t even let me in the bridal suite without an appointment. I asked if there was someone working who could advise me on sizing, and the cashier said the only people who know anything about the bridal merchandise are the bridal consultants and they were all busy.

I even tried just asking the cashier if he could advise on J. Crew’s normal dress sizes, explaining that I had technically sized slightly down with the 8 based on the chart, and it was humongous. But he didn’t know anything either! This was really aggravating. I ended up just going with the 4 and figuring I could come back and exchange it again if necessary. Two dress exchanges would literally take less time than the wait for a bridal appointment.

A few days later, the 4 arrived and it was a big improvement…but to be honest this is not a boob-friendly dress, and after trying it on again this week I don’t think it’s very flattering on me overall. It’s pretty obvious that it was designed with a straighter figure in mind, but I don’t think I could have sized up and gotten it tailored because the arm-holes are already too big and showing off my bra.

First up, the measurement discrepancies: Size 4 is supposed to fit a 34.5” bust and 27” waist, but when laid flat the waist actually measures 15.5” for a total of 31”. As for the bust, it does have three-dimensional cups, so if I allow my measuring tape to follow the boob curve while the dress is laid out, it’s about 19”, and measuring flat across the back is 17”, for a total of 36”.

So overall, the size 4 is an inch and a half bigger in the bust and four inches bigger in the waist. What the hell is J. Crew thinking?? Not only are the measurements off significantly, but the bust-to-waist ratio is also wildly off. The listed measurements have a difference of 7.5 inches (and this applies to most of the sizes), but the actual garment has a difference of only 5 inches.

Here are photos of the dress on me:

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As you can see, it fits okay, but as usual the dress is not curving under my bust. Additionally, it’s a bit small in the bust, just enough to squish my boobs together and make some cleavage. I don’t particularly mind this, but it’s something to keep in mind if you need to look conservative.

I thought the dress would look cuter if I belted it, and my sister wants me to wear a sash or something anyway, to differentiate myself as the maid of honor, so I got a couple different wide ribbons to try out. The one I like best is a 2.5-inch wide slightly stiff grosgrain. It really helps define my waist better, and to lower the waist to where mine is actually located (my long torso strikes again!).

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Unfortunately, though, the poof of the skirt in front, the shape of my tummy, and the slippery fabric of both the dress and the ribbon mean that it instantly slides up to a very unflattering position and basically outlines the roundness of my belly:

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From the side, it practically looks like a maternity dress:

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So what’s the solution? I’m hoping I can figure out some non-permanent way to make the ribbon stay in place in front. I might have to just sew a tiny stitch right in the center of my tummy and then remove it later.

Aside from all the negative comments about fit, there are some positives. The quality is really lovely. The fabric is heavy and feels nice, and the garment is fully lined. It also has pockets! And these pockets are actually big enough to hold a good amount of stuff, but thanks to the full, stiff skirt, you can’t see whatever’s in them. So I’ll be able to slip lipstick, a compact mirror, cash, and ID in the pockets, at minimum. Maybe my digital camera too . . . .

One other excellent design feature is that the straps have little loops to hold your bra straps in place. Why don’t all dresses have this??

Open.

Closed.

Closed.

I do have to note, however, that the loops are under an inch wide, so if you wear GG+ bras (which tend to have thicker straps), these may not work for you.

Overall impression: The dress is nice, but J. Crew really needs to sort out its sizing issues. And this design is definitely not what I would describe as “boob-friendly.”

 

Best Breasts Forward: Celebrating Color?

As we round out the school year and I prepare for countless graduation events for my son, I am being forced to go through my closet and decide if I’ll be needing to purchase dresses for any events. I will have the yellow Pepperberry dress in my hands soon to review and am hoping it will fit well.

Besides this cheery yellow beauty and a cream dress I purchased from Pepperberry a few years back, I’ve realized that most of my “event worthy” dresses are black. There was a time in my early 20’s when I could count on one hand the number of pieces in my closet that weren’t black. Black has always made me feel strong without drawing too much unwanted attention. Whenever I’m asked my favorite color I say, “Purple for crayons and black for clothing.”

As I looked at my beautiful LBDs I decided to embrace the fact that maybe Black is my color. Of course, I’m open to yellows, greens and what hot mamma doesn’t love red, but black IS a color to me. It doesn’t mean I’m bland or goth or that I lack imagination; in fact one of the things I love most about my black dresses is that depending on my hair, makeup and accessories they can show many sides of who Mia is.

Stay tuned to see the many sides of Mia ~ The Graduation Edition, where I will be showing the different events I attended, what I wore and how I wore my favorite color . . . black.

A Heartfelt Thank You

Monday’s “D+ Dressing without Stressing” workshop went GREAT. I’ve been working on it all year, but until I finalized the slides on Sunday night, I wasn’t sure I would have anything to say. That turned out not to be a problem–for two hours I shared my favorite lessons learned from blogging. Then I was hoarse yesterday!

One reason it has taken me so long to offer a workshop is that I’ve been waiting to feel like an expert. However, a few recent encounters with women who don’t obsess over dressing big breasts like I do has shown that I know a LOT about this subject. And your comments on this blog helped make some of my best points Monday night. Because of you, I could give the audience a perspective based on the experiences of many full-busted women, not just the one in front of them.

True to form, just as I’m always learning as I blog, I kept learning as I prepared for the workshop–and the learning continued during the workshop.  Here are two discoveries from the process.

1. I expected to use this Calvin Klein dress to demonstrate how to accessorize a neckline that’s higher than a high balance point, but it does a much better job of demonstrating the minimizing potential of color blocking. The two black side panels have the same effect as wearing a cardigan or jacket–they cut the visible area of our chest. This is a great option for hot weather when we don’t want to add layers, and there’s no worry about an unbuttoned cardigan flapping to either side of our chest. (Sadly, the armholes in this dress revealed way too much underarm bra.)

calvin klein color block bust minimizing

2. I thought this dress was going to demonstrate how a center panel of print elongates our torso and distracts from our chest, but I was wrong. Instead, it demonstrates once again the importance of grouping! Do you see how? If not, scroll further down to my markup.

dress print waistline boobs

dress print waistline boobs demo

The pattern divides into two sections–the top scrolls, which are grouped with the neckline, and the bottom scrolls, which are grouped with the waist. My bust gets grouped with the bottom scrolls and subsequently looks much lower than in the Calvin Klein dress, even though I’m wearing the same bra. The yellow is meant to demonstrate something that an audience member pointed out: the lighter color to each side actually widens my chest, which is the opposite effect of the black panels in the first dress.

We barely scratched the surface of all there is to know and think about dressing big busts on Monday night. As you might suspect from these photos, the emphasis was on work wear and how to create an effect of low boob prominence.

Fitting In : “Celebrate Good Times”

The Fitting-In installment for this month’s theme of Celebration Dressing must include a mention of one of my favorite designers for special occasion dresses: Tadashi Shoji.

Tadashi Shoji was once again in the news because First Lady Michelle Obama wore one of his blue dresses for a State Dinner with the Japanese Prime Minister

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First Lady Michelle Obama in Tadashi Shoji

Long a favorite of full-bust celebrities on the red-carpet, Tadashi Shoji’s designs are offered in sizes that fit those of us whose cup size forces us into the plus-sized dresses.

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Octavia Spencer

 

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Alfre Woodard

But even among smaller sizes there is a secret feature sure to be appreciated by women with a full bust.  It’s a stretch lining.  There is just enough stretch to accommodate a bust that may otherwise require you to go up a size.  It’s enough stretch to allow room for dancing, for walking the red carpet or for walking down the aisle.

Here’s what the designer said in an interview with The New York Times:

“Usually, a woven fabric doesn’t give, but we do jersey fabric, so it gives. Or Lycra, or soft chiffon. Everything is meant to stretch. Even when it’s beaded lace or embroidered, there’s give.”

and

“There’s almost a T-shirt feeling to wearing my evening dresses.”

And it’s true, his dresses are as comfortable as a T-shirt, but oh, so beautiful.

Wearing Tadashi for my 25th Anniversary vow renewal.

Wearing Tadashi for my 25th Anniversary vow renewal.

Have you tried Tadashi?  If your plans include a special occasion and you need a beautiful and comfortable dress, designs from this Japanese-born American designer are worth a look.