Full Bust Finds: Curve Friendly Byron Lars

 

Fox’s is a discount store that has become my go-to shopping source for one reason: they carry Byron Lars Beauty Mark. I’d heard that Byron Lars designs his clothing for women’s curves, but until I stumbled upon a rack full of his pieces at Fox’s, I’d never had the chance to try them. Wouldn’t you want to try clothes from a designer with the following philosophy:

Beauty Mark is about clothes that make you look better . . . it’s that simple.  They often accentuate the waist, perk up the bust, flatter the booty and leave a girl standing in the mirror feeling quite taken with herself.

The largest Byron Lars sizes at Fox’s tend to be a size 8 or 10.  I’ve lost weight and now fit a 32G Panache Idina, plus I’d heard that Byron Lars sizes are generous, so  I decided to see if I could fit them. Before I show you the results, I have a theory that many Byron Lars styles will work great with broad shoulders. Here are closeups of two pieces to explain why I think this.

byron lars shoulder closeup navy backless shirt dress

Notice the absence of a shoulder seam across the shoulder bone in this navy dress. Instead, he provides structure with a seam that runs along the shoulder and ends beyond the shoulder bone–or on the shoulder bone if you have wide shoulders.

byron lars white blouse shoulder detail

This is the back of a white blouse. There’s extra fabric built into the top of the arm that you can kind of see with the fold in the bottom left corner.

Now on to the fit of the dresses I tried. This navy laser cut lace shirt dress was my absolute favorite. I’m wearing it in a size 8, which I could get away with, but I would have felt more comfortable in a 10. And of course my favorite dress was the most expensive at $169, although that is nowhere near the full price.

byron lars lazer cut shirt dress full front

byron lars lazer cut shirt dress full back

byron lars closeup lazer cut shirt dress

Here’s why a size 10 would have been better, but I LOVE the set of three bust darts coming from the center front placket.

Next up is the black and ivory optical weave dress that I like to imagine Clare Underwood would wear–after all, it has an asymmetrical back and an architectural drapey knot just below the right shoulder! Speaking of politician’s wives, I only learned this week that Byron Lars is a favorite of Michelle Obama. This dress cost $79 at Fox’s, a significant difference from the $470 price at this Georgetown boutique. I’m wearing a size 8, and it felt fine.

byron lars drapey white and black front

byron lars assymetrical back detail

byron lars drapey side profile

byron lars drapey white closeupNext up, another sheath for $79. There was some underarm bra display, but I got rid of it by pulling it up at the shoulders–hence the too high shoulder straps that I would have had altered if I’d purchased it. I’m wearing a size 10.

byron lars drapey gray sheath front

Here’s a tailored shirt dress with a fun surprise–check out the back! Unfortunately, this size 10 fit everywhere except in the neckline department. With the scooped out back, I’m not even sure a Perfect Cami could help.  Otherwise, I would have had a hard time saying no to this dress. I can’t remember the price, but it definitely wasn’t $495!

navy backless shirt dress front

blurry front and back of navy backless shirt dress

Not all the dresses were streamlined, and I include a flouncy dress at the very end, but I’m including one more sheath-like dress because if you’re tempted to try the Byron Lars line at Anthropologie, this is a version of the Lana dress, which has mixed reviews from a couple of busty customers (one with a 40″ bust found the size 12 gave enough room, and one with a bra size 32E found the  size 2 too tight).  I’m wearing a size 8, and a 10 would have been better.

byron lars sequin bottom front and back

The dolman sleeves mean plenty of bust room in the top layer.

byron lars inner shell sequin bottom

Not so much room in the woven button front bottom layer. However, since the princess seams are covered by the top layer, you could add an extra panel in here for more bust room.

Now for the flouncy dress, also in size 8. Here’s a closeup of the same under-bodice as the Lana dress.

byron lars inner shell flouncy dress

byron lars flouncy dress front

This would have looked better if I’d rolled up the sleeves.

closeup of details under flouncy skirt

Incredible detail beneath the skirt–check out the scalloped slip!

Finally, I actually purchased one item–a white blouse for $35 in size 8. I’m not in love with how high the waist/knot sits, but the little details are AMAZING.

byron lars knot front shirt front

Just inside the neckline, there’s an inverted button to keep everything in place. Below that, there’s a hook to be sure it stays together.

byron lars blouse back

Princess seams in back. A side zipper up the right side.

byron lars blouse gusset detail

As with the white blouse above, there’s an added gusset under the arm. And although there is a traditional shoulder seam, there’s also a seam coming out of it (as with the navy dress in the first photo above), causing the sleeve to stand away from the shoulder.

byron lars blouse elbow detail

With the extra space for the shoulders, Byron Lars takes it in at the elbows with a little tuck.

There’s also a Byron Byron Lars line on HSN! However, I’ve studied the video, and this twist front blouse is definitely NOT the same as the one I bought, so you’ve been warned. I’m VERY tempted to try one of the chambray fit and flare shirt dresses that are on clearance for only $29.95, especially since some of the reviewers have complained about there being too much room in the bust!

Corporate Curves Report (Holiday Edition): In the Big Apple – Top Tips for Shopping?

 

I’ve just landed at JFK this late afternoon, and I’m heading towards my Tudor City hotel on Manhattan. This is not my first visit to New York, as some of you readers might remember, but I’m looking for a different perspective this time instead of what I always do. I’ve already gotten some excellent restaurant recommendations from our very own Off the Rack Leah, but let’s talk about shopping now :)

What are your go to places on Manhattan, Brooklyn or elsewhere close to Manhattan? Clothes, shoes, lingerie? I’ve avoided going to the Century 21 on Manhattan as I’ve heard it’s always crowded with tourists and I get really anxious in very crowded places. Is it a visit though?

It’s also my friend’s first visit to NYC, so what would you recommend as must sees? Off the beaten track or just something one must see?

We’ll be going for drinks at the Marriott Marquis tonight so we can tick off a skyline view at night off our list + Times Square.

And on Saturday it’s time for the Big Bust Clothing Swap! I’ve brought a LOT of goodies for the swap, pretty much unused Kris Line & Freya bras and Bravissimo and Pepperberry clothes that I’ve ended up only wearing once or twice.

Katie’s Family-Friendly, Wave-Resistant Full Bust Swimsuit Reviews

 

Hooray for reader Katie’s response to my July 4th request for swimsuit reviews! And boy did she ever respond–in today’s guest post, you can read her reviews of two tankinis, two bikini tops, two one pieces and three different bottoms.

A week at the beach with my extended family and losing a good amount of weight between us meant DH and I both needed new swimsuits this year. He was happy with cheap board shorts from Kmart, but needless to say, that doesn’t quite work for me. After a good number of returns, I finally ended up with a couple of suits I was happy with . . .

I’m framing my reviews around the following criteria:

  • The top needed to support and contain enough that I wouldn’t have too many worries body surfing. Where we swim in Delaware can get pretty rough, especially since we were there right before Hurricane Arthur.
  • Fuller rear coverage
  • Enough overall coverage that I wouldn’t completely scandalize my PK/MK relatives
  • Fit–I normally wear a 28FF in Freya/28G in Panache, could definitely wear a 26 if they made them. Bottoms are usually a US 4, occasionally 2.
  • No particularly weird lines–while I don’t sunbathe, I do burn easily so I try to keep my lines consistent (and wear lots of high spf physical protection sunscreen)

Glide Performance Tankini Top, Blue, 30F

Glide Performance Tankini Short, Blue, 8 (UK) (Figleaves)

review glide tankini

This was utterly hopeless. I don’t know how it can be billed as athletic, or even in a 30 band. The 30 band felt more like a 34+, if not larger and so offered zero support. Also the non-adjustable bands were so long, I felt I had better shape from a camisole with a shelf-bra. The bottoms were nothing spectacular. I certainly didn’t like them enough to keep them and try and find a top to match. Run, don’t walk away from this set.

For a sporty swimsuit in a smaller band size, I would just spend the money and get the Freya or Panache athletic suits, they actually look supportive.

Cleo Lucille Bandeau Top, 28G (Bravissimo)

Cleo Lucille review

I normally do not wear Cleo bras so I was guessing on band size. It ended up being *very* snug. I’m not sure if it is this style that runs so snug or the brand since my other Cleo suit is much more comfortable. I also did not trust it not to slide down when hit by a well-placed wave. There was a good bit of tissue exposed up top, apparently by design. It’s not a half-cup shape, but the way it pushes up the tissue felt like it. Definitely not my-family-friendly or wave-friendly.

AquaLuxe High Waisted Bottom, Mint Green, Small (Athleta)

High waist should be in quotes. I used to wear their standard swim short, and I felt that came just as high. It felt like good material and the color went with the piping on the Lucille, but it came 2” below my navel, at just the wrong place to be flattering. I wanted something with a higher rise, so it went back. I know I should have known better since it doesn’t reach the model’s waist, but I thought being short would make a difference. (Aside, has anyone else noticed that even Modcloth’s high waisteds are usually hitting the same place on their models? Maybe this is a more wide-spread definition of high waist . . . .) Note, the fabric is a bit shimmery.

Ocean Park Swimsuit, Red, 4 (Shabby Apple)

shabby apple ocean park 2

I ordered this to make DH happy since I was skeptical it would be flattering. Unfortunately, it offered zero support since it just had liner cups and not enough coverage to even sit around (for me). It’s a shame because it is a *really* cute suit. No complaints on the construction, and I recommended it to a friend. All of Shabby Apple’s suits seam to either to have a shelf bra or, more commonly, two molded cup-like things (not much actual shaping, more for coverage). If you can find a non-obtrusive swim bra/bikini top in a coordinating color, they may be worth a look if you like that aesthetic or want a more conservative but still cute suit. I really wish this one and their Coastline would work. They are a completely different style than you normally see in the market.

Panache Nancy Tankini Top, Nautical Print, 30G (Figleaves/purchased Summer 2013)

Panache Nancy tankini review front and side

Loved this last year. It fit fine then but since then I’ve changed size and shape and it’s just okay. It was my back-up this year if I couldn’t find another suit to work a little better. Properly fitted, it holds up great in the waves and I got compliments on it. I wore old bottoms so not really worth commenting more on that. The rings do give a funny tanline if you aren’t careful with the sunscreen, something to keep in mind.

Bravissimo Santorini 30F (Bravissimo)

Bravissimo Santorini review

 It was definitely not my normal shape, and the original fit was even worse than it is now. The cups looked both too small and too large at the same time. I ended up stitching the cups together another 1-1.25” above the wires to give me better shape and support. Even now that I altered it, I’m not super thrilled but DH says it looks fine. I may ended up passing this one off to my mom since it is likely wave-friendly and it fit her well. The Santorini didn’t actually make it into the water since I liked the Pippa and Revival so much and we avoided swimming once Arthur got close enough to have a real effect on the waves.

Revival Underwired Sweetheart Padded Bikini Top, Black, 28FF (Figleaves)

Fables by Barrie Frannie Super High Waisted bottoms, Black and White, Small (etsy)

(Note how much the band rides up.)

(Note how much the band rides up.)

This was a compromise. I hate that almost all swimsuits that come in a 28 band are plunge or else like the Lucille. I simply do not trust that shape to keep everything contained. Ideally, I’d like the cups of the Revival to cover a little more than they do, but it was enough that I was reasonably comfortable. The gore is wider that I expected with Freya, not excessively wide but definitely wider than the Gem/Luisa/Loretta/etc. that I normally wear. There’s something vaguely midcentury to the design that I really liked. I mostly bobbed around and dove under waves in this, and it held up just fine. I’m not sure I would be confident actually riding any waves. My main complaints are that the band is even stretchier than the standard Freya band and I had to shorten the straps all the way (which admittedly, is only 1-2” more than I normally do).

I *love* the Fables bottoms by Barrie Franny–they are incredibly flattering and comfortable. I’m not sure it’s really super high waisted since it hits right at my natural waist, and I’m on the petite side already. The white does get a bit sheer when wet, but the band is high enough that it’s not indecent. The construction is good. The bow came partially untacked after being battered by waves but it’s an easy fix with a ball point hand needle. Fables sells through their own site and through Etsy. They also sell through Modcloth and Unique-Vintage, but you are going to spend more and neither carry the full line. Next time, I would rinse the bottoms well in cold water before wearing since I think the white looks a little darker now, possibly from dye, but that could be my imagination.

Cleo Pippa Bandeau Swimsuit, 28FF (Ebay/Summer 2013)

Cleo Pippa one piece review

This was an Ebay gamble. The seller said she only wore it twice in a pool so I at least knew it could survive getting wet. It’s a snug band, but nowhere near as bad as the Lucille. The sailboat print is cute, but farther away the detail is lost and just looks geometric. Not a problem, just something to be aware of. I do need the straps for assurance in the waves, but I think swimming around a pool would mean they are unnecessary. I’m not sure how much the straps really do, they are pretty thin and only attach to small loops in the front. It would be nice if they crossed and hooked in the back, just for more security. No real complaints otherwise. It held up fine in the ocean which was my main concern. The torso does feel a little on the long side to me, but I do have a short torso.

Off the Rack ~ A Pinch Under the Bust for a Better Shape

 

I recently discovered the online retailer Unique Vintage. They carry loads of pinup brands like Bettie Page, Sourpuss, and so forth, and also have their own in-house brand whose prices are, I think, a little on the high side. However, they have frequent sales and recently had a selection on sale for a mere $25.

I own a ’50s-style, full-skirted green and white striped dress that I got at H&M years ago and totally love. But it doesn’t fit quite right any more. It’s a little too tight in the bust and too short in the torso. So I’ve been looking for a replacement for some time, and UV’s green “Seeing Stripes” dress was a perfect replacement, especially at $25.

Green_Seeing_Stripes

At 37”-29”-41”, I am exactly between the brand’s Medium (36” bust and 28” waist) and Large (38” bust and 30” waist) on the size chart for this garment. I ordered a large to be on the safe side—and it’s a good thing I did because the bust just closed without squishing me. Unfortunately, though, the waist and underbust were really unflattering and basically erased my shape. At such a low price, though, it was totally worth the experiment of taking apart part of the bodice and tailoring it to my body. Here is how I did it:

First up, the original dress and the difference when I pulled it taut:

IMG_1475 IMG_1476

IMG_1477 IMG_1478

Some closeups of the construction:

IMG_1480

The bodice has two layers of fabric. The inner layer has boning along two seams on the front and two seams on the back. Thankfully, the outer (visible) layer is just plain fabric, making it easy to alter. I wouldn’t really want to tackle altering boning.

The back seam.

The back seam.

The front seams. You can really see how square the bodice is when laid flat. It doesn’t taper in at the waist at all.

The front seams. You can really see how square the bodice is when laid flat. It doesn’t taper in at the waist at all.

Overall, I determined that I needed to take in the seams under the bust in a dart shape to make the bodice curve under my boobs and fit tightly around the rest of my torso and waist.

The first thing I did was shorten the straps. Even though I have a long torso, apparently I have squat shoulders because straps are always too long on me and I’m forever shortening them.

All I did was fold over the strap on the inside of the dress and sew it to itself along the top of the dress. I need to tack that extra loop down, though, because it likes to sneak out.

All I did was fold over the strap on the inside of the dress and sew it to itself along the top of the dress. I need to tack that extra loop down, though, because it likes to sneak out.

Next I pulled the bust up under my boob to assess where I would need to start sewing the top of the dart.

Next I pulled the bust up under my boobs to assess where I would need to start sewing the top of the dart.

I pinned the spot where my finger was. As you can see, the pins are quite a bit lower than where the breasts actually stop.

I pinned the spot where my finger was. As you can see, the pins are quite a bit lower than where the breasts actually stop when the fabric hangs straight down.

On the inside of the dress, I marked the pin spot with chalk.

On the inside of the dress, I marked the pin spot with chalk.

Next, I unsewed the bodice from the skirt. Since this skirt is very gathered, you can take out as many inches from the bodice as you want and still be able to easily reattach the skirt with it looking the same in the end (more on this later).

Next, I unsewed the bodice from the skirt. Since this skirt is very gathered, you can take out as many inches from the bodice as you want and still be able to easily reattach the skirt with it looking the same in the end (more on this later).

I sandwiched the bodice fabric along the seam and pinned it from the chalk mark down to the skirt. I then sewed along the pin line, starting at the chalk mark.

I sandwiched the bodice fabric along the seam and pinned it from the chalk mark down to the skirt. I then sewed along the pin line, starting at the chalk mark.

When you first start sewing, I’d recommend starting about a centimeter above your dart and sew along the existing seam, then carefully move to the pin line at a smooth angle. This way, you’re guaranteed that the new seam will match up with the old one.

Additionally, I didn’t actually measure how much fabric to take in, I just pinched it and estimated. As such, I didn’t take out quite enough fabric the first time. But it’s very easy to make the bodice even tighter by simply sewing it again, further in, and perpendicular to the first line I sewed. No need to remove the first sewn line.

Okay, next:

Here’s the new bodice still unattached from the skirt in the two spots. I also placed pins in the spot where I want to sew all the layers of the bodice together, to keep them smooth and in place when the dress is being worn.

Here’s the new bodice still unattached from the skirt in the two spots. I also placed pins in the spot where I want to sew all the layers of the bodice together, to keep them smooth and in place when the dress is being worn.

It’s fitting better already!

It’s fitting better already!

The next step is to reattach the bodice to the skirt. I decided to first remove more of the skirt from the bodice. I used a seam-ripper to remove everything in between the two bodice seams. Then I had to re-gather the fabric evenly and sew it back on.

Gathering fabric is really easy. You start by taking a flat piece of fabric and bringing a needle and single thread back and forth through it at wide distance. This is called a basting stitch.

Gathering fabric is really easy. You start by taking a flat piece of fabric and bringing a needle and single thread back and forth through it at wide distance. This is called a basting stitch.

Once you’ve sewn all the way across the entire piece of fabric, you pull the thread from each end and it will create the gathers. You can slide the fabric back and forth across the thread to get it evenly spaced or to make it the same length as the flat piece of fabric to which it’ll be attached.

Once you’ve sewn all the way across the entire piece of fabric, you pull the thread from each end and it will create the gathers. You can slide the fabric back and forth across the thread to get it evenly spaced or to make it the same length as the flat piece of fabric to which it’ll be attached.

Once I got my gathers evenly spaced, I pinned it to the bodice using a lot of pins. I wanted to be sure the gathers would stay in place and not un-even themselves while being sewn to the bodice.

Once I got my gathers evenly spaced, I pinned it to the bodice using a lot of pins. I wanted to be sure the gathers would stay in place and not un-even themselves while being sewn to the bodice.

A view of the pins from the gathered side.

A view of the pins from the gathered side.

This is a step that would best be done with a serger—the machine that sews three rows at once. Look at the inner seam of the bottom of a tee shirt. That’s what a serger does. The serger’s stitches look nice, keep fabric from rolling, and allow for stretch.

Since I don’t have a serger, I’ll sometimes sew a straight stitch, then sew a zig-zag stitch along it, and then another straight stitch along the other side of the zig-zag. It doesn’t allow for stretch, but otherwise it gives almost the same effect. Since I wanted the gathered seam to match the rest of the pre-existing gathers as much as possible, and I wanted extra strength to hold the gathers together, this is what I did here.

The three stitches from the flat bodice side.

The three stitches from the flat bodice side.

The three stitches from the gathered side. It looks a little messy since my sewing machine is ancient and has a hard time with many layers of fabric, but with such a poofy skirt it’s invisible from the front.

The three stitches from the gathered side. It looks a little messy since my sewing machine is ancient and has a hard time with many layers of fabric, but with such a poofy skirt it’s invisible from the front.

After finishing with the skirt, I tacked the bust in place in the two spots I had pinned before. I also removed the bow because I thought it looked stupid and was ruining the nice effect of the gathered bust. I might attach it to the back of the skirt, though. Here’s the final product:

IMG_1501

IMG_1502

IMG_1505

It may not look like that much of a difference from the way the dress started, but it feels completely different and looks much more flattering, in my opinion. Clothes that are tailored to my body really feel great!

By the way, that H&M dress that I replaced will be at the Busty Swap Darlene is hosting August 2, in case anyone wants it!