Off the Rack ~ Introducing Alisa Nicole Swimwear

This week I’m reviewing a start-up swimwear brand called Alisa Nicole Swimwear. Founder Alisa recently reached out to Darlene and me, only to realize that we all live in New York City, making it super easy and convenient for Darlene and me to try a few pieces of her swim collection without dealing with postage or shipping things back-and-forth. The three of us had brunch last weekend, followed by a try-on session.

Darlene, Alisa, and me.

Darlene, Alisa, and me.

First, some background on Alisa Nicole Swimwear: Alisa used to live in Sydney, Australia. As a busty woman and avid surfer, she couldn’t find any swimwear that suited her shape and gave the right support—so naturally she started making her own!

Here’s Alisa surfing in Australia while wearing her “Aphrodite” one-piece.

Here’s Alisa surfing in Australia while wearing her “Aphrodite” one-piece.

While Alisa reached out to us with the pitch of a busty swim brand, during our meetup she explained that she actually wants to avoid pigeon-holing her company into that niche. Rather, she designed her product to fit a range of bust sizes. I was a little skeptical of this claim at first (aren’t we all?), but check out this photo of Alisa (left) and her much less busty model (right) rocking the exact same swimsuit:


Sadly, Alisa didn’t have any samples of this “Bardot” one-piece in our size, because its features are amazing. Bardot is made of perforated white swim fabric, is fully lined, has adjustable straps, princess seams, a stretchy “flexi-bra” interior, and—get this—hidden zipper pockets on each hip that are big enough to fit a smartphone (or your keys, some cash, travel-size sunblock…)! It’s seriously genius, and looks amazing to boot.

As you might imagine, the Bardot is a more complicated and thus expensive piece to produce, so Alisa also offers two pared down swimsuit styles, the Sophie and the higher-neck Aphrodite, as well as a bikini version of each. These are the ones Darlene and I excitedly tried on (in the public bathroom of the Time Warner Center—which, I must note, has great lighting).

Both of us in the Sophie one-piece, in Deep Blue and Flamingo Pink.

Both of us in the Sophie one-piece, in Deep Blue and Flamingo Pink.

Me in the Aphrodite bikini and Darlene in the Aphrodite one-piece.

Me in the Aphrodite bikini and Darlene in the Aphrodite one-piece.

Sophie and Aphrodite feature a coordinating lining (pale blue or pale pink) that can optionally be worn folded out for a visual pop, as well as a power mesh interior lining, so three layers total. The triple layer helps maintain a smooth look overall and keeps the suits from getting saggy or stretched out while wet. Instead of the flexi-bra that Bardot has, they feature a hidden and extra tight elastic band that essentially creates a shelf-bra shape within the suit. Both the suit and the bikini feature vintage-style low-cut legs, and thick straps that alleviate shoulder pressure.

Here are some more shots of Darlene and me in our Aphrodite high-neck swimsuit and bikini:






Darlene and I both loved these suits, with seriously minimal criticism! Says Darlene:

I love that Alisa has actually surfed in her own suits. She considers functionality and has a real aesthetic (retro/minimalist). She’s designing the kind of suit you wish came in your size…and then you realize it does!

And three layers? That seems amazing to me. No wonder even the pink one-piece didn’t look too bulgy on me (although I prefer the more camouflaging teal).

As for fit, we’re both wearing Medium in all these pieces. Darlene is 41.5” at bust and 33.5” at waist (34FF-ish bra and size 10/12 in clothing), and says she feels like she’s at the outer end of what will fit the size Medium. No bulging around the back band or straps.

I measure 37” bust and 29” waist (mostly 28GG bra and size US 8). Medium is definitely the right size for me.

We were both seriously impressed by the shape we got in these non-underwire options. I think the lift is as good, if not better, than many of the big-bust bralettes I’ve tried. I’m also positively in love with the high waist and low-cut legs—finally swim bottoms that don’t give me quad-butt!

The aesthetic in general is the most perfect combination of modern minimalism and vintage styling. The strap placement also works amazingly well for me. Aphrodite’s straps are paired together in the front while Sophie’s join in back, so there’s no chance of either of them falling off my narrow, sloping shoulders.

My only critique (and regular readers will know this is nothing new) is that I wish the one-piece and the Aphrodite top were both a little longer. My long torso strikes again! I found myself pulling up the Sophie swimsuit in an attempt to get more boob coverage; and while the higher neck of the Aphrodite bikini is an improvement, it loses that “high-neck” look on my tall boobs (compare the bikini on me and the one-piece on Darlene to see what I mean).

So now that I’ve gone on at length about aesthetics, you’re probably wondering, “Yeah, but how does it hold up while swimming?” Well, readers, I’m excited to report that I signed up for (free!) evening lap swim sessions at my local public pool. There was only one day this entire week that didn’t have projected thunderstorms, but I made it count! I swam 20 laps (1.1 kilometers total) in the Aphrodite bikini—and loved it! Nothing stretched out or got baggy, and I felt like the bust support was the same after 20 laps as it had been before I even hopped in the pool. I felt totally secure and comfortable the whole time, and literally didn’t think about my bikini at all once I hit the water.

It was a little tough to get the top off once it was wet, but I found that shrugging off the straps and rolling the top down over my boobs and then hips was a lot easier than attempting to flip it over my shoulders. Unfortunately, my pool doesn’t allow photography, so I couldn’t get any shots of the bikini while damp, but believe me when I say the only difference between wet and dry is it looks darker while wet.

As much as I love my underwired, bra-sized swimwear, I have problems with bikini bottoms falling down and bikini tops parachuting out when I get hit by a wave or make a fast swim stroke. So I’m really pleased with this Alisa Nicole bikini. I can’t wait to see her next collection! And at $98 – $159 per set, the price point is not far off from the usual bra-sized brands, except it’s ethically made right here in New York City, utilizing fabrics sourced from Italy, and you’d be supporting a small, woman-owned business.

For more information or to make a purchase, visit Or if you live in or near New York, you can try the brand in person at Musée Lingerie, a “unique lingerie and art gallery boutique” in the West Village.


Mission Accomplished: I Tried Corin at Bra Spectrum

It’s been six years since I first wrote about Polish brand Corin, and two weeks ago I finally got to try their bras–one of the perks of having a pop up shop for my big bust button-downs in an amazing lingerie store. (At my next pop up shop, I’ll finally get to try Ewa Michalek at the only brick and mortar store on the East Coast that carries them!)

Before I go into detail about the bras, here’s what I like about Bra Spectrum:

  • ALL the styles and sizes are out on the floor. This meant that I could browse to my heart’s content.
  • During each fitting, they make sure to give “scoop & swoop” instructions.
  • Owner Tatyana and store manager Kristin will run back and forth to bring whatever you request. I had created a pile of bra rejects by the time I was through, but Kristin never showed impatience or tuned out of the process, and I watched them cater to everyone the same way.
  • Ultimately they defer to what a customer wants rather than being militant about fit. This explains their giant selection for women who hate underwires, but more on that later!

I was especially excited to have a fitting because I’ve gained 10 pounds and don’t fit my 32F/FF bras anymore. Kristin began by measuring 79 cm beneath my bust and 103 cm around my bust and started with a 36F. A lot of fitters do this with me, so I let the process take its course, and eventually we found that most of the Corin bras that worked on me were around a 34F/FF . . . or a 75H if you want the Polish size. For the record, I’ve just measured myself ahead of writing this post, and I measure 33.5″ beneath my bust and 41.5″ around my bust, so a 34F/FF sounds about right.

Corin Semi-Soft Bras

I tried two semi-soft Corins in 75H, beginning with the Rosa, which I loved until I tried the Jacqueline, which I loved even more.

rosa flat final


jacqueline flat final

Maybe it’s my imagination, but I felt more contained, lifted and slimmed in the Jacqueline.

Corin Semi Soft Profile Collage

Corin Semi Soft Front Collage

Here’s a comparison of the two bra diagrams from the Corin lookbook. Can the angle of the seams down the front of each cup make such a difference?

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Off the Rack ~ Freya “Pinup” Longline Bustier Reviewed

I’ve mentioned the Freya “Pinup” set twice before, most recently when I attended an Eveden marketing event a year ago. In that post, I called it the “standout” piece of the season. Then I sort of forgot about it…until it appeared in a Zulily sale a month ago! I snagged the longline strapless bustier and the high-waisted panties for a steal.

Lately, I’ve been wearing a 28GG or 30G pretty consistently. In fact, Freya is the lone holdout among brands that still fit me in 28G, but even then, it depends on the cut. For example, my Freya Hero and the Deco still fit at 28G, but the Deco strapless requires a cup size up. For the Pinup, I went with 30G (it doesn’t come in 28GG, and I often size up in the band with strapless bras anyway since they tend to run tighter to stay up). Luckily, 30G was the right size.

I originally purchased this set thinking it would be more of a “boudoir” piece, but after I got a nasty sunburn on my first beach day of the season (despite reapplying sunblock!), I couldn’t bear bra straps, and ended up wearing the Pinup bustier several times in one week. It turns out to be the most comfortable strapless bra I’ve ever tried!

The bustier features relatively stiff molded cups, mesh band and wings, semi-shiny black trim, side-stays, two pieces of boning on the front, two strips of silicon at the top of the band, removable straps with two attachment positions on cup and band, and five rows of two columns of hook-and-eyes.

On my long torso, the high-waisted panties (which I bought in size medium) just barely reach my belly button, so they’re not terribly vintage-looking. They’re more like granny-panties, but of course that wouldn’t be the case for a more petite wearer. Additionally, they don’t fully cover my backside, which is another common feature for me. However, for once in my life they don’t ride up into my buttcrack with every step, so they’re still pretty comfy.

IMG_5203 [Read more…]

Mandarin Shirt Sew-a-long: Day 4


Find the rest of the Sew-a-Long series here!

Are you ready for the 4th installment of the Mandarin top?! Fitting can be intimidating. Just remember to go slow, take it one step at a time, and do tiny adjustments until you get it where you want it to be! And don’t over-fit! If you try to get a garment to lie completely flat with zero wrinkles, chances are you won’t have enough wearing ease left and it’ll be terribly uncomfortable. There are many great articles on the internet that can help you learn how to fit! Even if you’re nervous, go ahead and give it a try. Hands on experience is the best teacher 🙂

For this step you will need:

  • Mandarin pattern instructions
  • Both fabric AND paper pattern pieces
  • Sewing machine + thread + scissors + pencil
  • Pins or Wonder clips (my favorite!)
  • Seam gauge, measuring tape
  • Full length mirror or camera w/self timer to check the fit
  • Seam ripper!

First, assemble your shirt according to pattern instructions. They are really terrific! I love the illustrations of each step. And I was pleasantly surprised by how easily and quickly the top came together! Truly the most time consuming part of this pattern is the fitting. But that’s the whole point of sewing for yourself, isn’t it?
It was a dream working with all of these pattern pieces – they aligned perfectly. I imagine this is why quilting is satisfying for so many people….everything fitting together so nicely! I am an extremely sub-par quilter, so quilts don’t really do it for me, but I LOVE a well-cut, non-slippery woven clothing pattern!

As mentioned before, for the muslin I omitted the collar and cuffs. I even omitted the buttons and buttonholes at first, but I did add them in later.

Once it’s together, try the top on. I pinned together the buttonhole markings for the initial fittings.

IMG_0080 IMG_0081 IMG_0082

If you need fitting adjustments, take note, and fix one at a time. From this fitting, I could see that I needed to: [Read more…]