A 28G Guest at the Wedding: Searching for–and Finding–the Perfect Dress

When I’m in Milwaukee next week, I’ll get to meet Karen, the guest author behind the DIY nursing bra and Mother’s Week posts that you enjoyed last spring.  Based on those posts, you know you’re in for a major treat with today’s piece about her search for a dress to wear to a wedding last weekend.  A married mother of two (two years and nine months), Karen’s story is proof that all the hard work that it takes to look our best is entirely worth it.  You won’t believe how many dresses she tried before she found The One.

I’ve had a ridiculous time in finding clothing that fits my body. I’ve discussed this with Darlene before, as I actually started following her blog in my efforts to dress to flatter my body, instead of settling on something, anything, that covered it. I’m a very small woman, perhaps not in height at 5’4”, but definitely in body shape as a size 2. But, I’ve got these, um, mountains on my chest, and I wear a 28G bra, which is, thankfully down 3 cup sizes from 9 months ago! There’s really not much out there that’s made to fit my body type, and it can be really demoralizing to shop. So, when Darlene saw me tweet that I finally found the perfect dress for a wedding I was invited to, she asked me to share what worked and didn’t work for me.

It’s hot and humid here in Wisconsin. I’m turning towards skirts and dresses as a way to stay cool. And with the perfect dress, you can be cool, look put together, and be sexy and comfortable, too! My perfect dress has to meet at least 2 criteria besides being figure flattering: be breastfeeding friendly as I’m nursing my baby pretty regularly during the day still, and have shoulders wide enough to cover my bra straps (sorry, no strapless nursing bras!!).

The winner?? This amazingly slinky maxi dress. It’s a beautiful paisley patterned dress with brown, white, green, turquoise, and purple colors.

  • It has a v-neck that helps reduce the size of my breasts by taking away the extra fabric, but also allows me to create the perfect amount of cleavage with a plunge bra (I’m wearing the Panache Tango plunge in nude). 
  • The surplice neckline allows easy access to each side for nursing my baby, and since the fabric has spandex in it, I don’t have to worry about stretching it out. 
  • The empire waist brings the eye to the narrowest part of my body, which happens to be right under my breasts. 
  • And the pattern of the dress keeps the eye moving enough that the length isn’t too much on me.

And check out the back! Now, if I were wearing the wrong size bra, this back wouldn’t work because the V point sits right at the top of my bra clasps.

No jewelry for me, ladies. My kids love to pick at anything on my body that they can, so sometimes it has to be practicality before vanity. I did, however, finish the outfit off with a little bling on my sandals. 🙂

Now, I didn’t just grab this dress, knowing that it would fit me. In fact, when I placed it in my virtual shopping cart, I was praying it would be the one I was looking for, but my reality is that very few off-the-rack clothing fits “right.” It took me 21 other dresses to find this one absolute winner. I found a few that I’ll likely keep for other uses, and here are just 7 of those dresses.

Dress #2: This dress is in a size 4. It buttons down the front and there’s no gapping, only because it’s a little large on my frame. I could make do with it by adding a belt to the waist . . . if you ignore the pockets. Who out there really thinks that an appropriate place to put baggy pockets is on a woman’s hips? Not me.

Dress #3: This one, I immediately put on and said, “No way.” It’s just not meant for a busty lady. The empire waist doesn’t lay flat under the breasts, and the little flower that hangs from the band brings attention to that. It was also tight in the armpits, a sure signal that too much fabric is being pulled forward to cover the breasts.

Dress #4: This next one may be a keeper. It’s a true wrap style dress, which allows for a better customizable fit. Typically, I find that wrap dresses make one breast look larger by cutting across it, but in this case, there’s a ruffle across the smaller looking breast which helps balance things out. It wasn’t what I was looking for in regards to the wedding, but it will work for church or other dress needs.

Dress #5: I felt the very solid color of this dress brought too much attention to the breasts and didn’t do a good enough job of balancing their size out with my hips to give that perfect hourglass figure. It was also a little big in the armpits so it showed more bra than I could deal with.

Dress #6: This dress is a keeper. It does amazing things for my figure and the wrap front doesn’t detract or put emphasis on anything. The ruching along my left side brings in the waist nicely. It has slightly padded shoulders to give them shape. Perhaps I should wear it with black shoes instead. 🙂 Do you agree, though, that my winner was a better choice than this dress?

Dress: #7: Sometimes you try something on, and before you even look in the mirror, you know it isn’t going to work for you. That was the case with this dress. The breasts pulled too much fabric forward, and the neckline was so tight against them that it dug in to create the muffin top effect. The empire waistline didn’t sit exactly below my breasts, which made my waist look larger than it is and destroying the hourglass effect I love.

Dress #8: This last dress was debatable. In the end it lost because of the printing process used on the fabric. It’s a sublimation print, which means that they sew the dress, and then put the print on. This can create a cool effect as the folds in the fabric are left the plain, original color. However, when your breasts fill out the entire bodice and stretch those folds wide open, it’s glaringly obvious that it wasn’t made for you.

Do you agree with me? Was dress #1 my best choice for the wedding?

July 25 Curve Cam: Color Blocking and Camisoles

The bodice of this dress is a miracle–it covers her entire breast, and the black band falls exactly where it’s supposed to.  No spillage.  No boob bifurcation. Where did she find it? I never got to ask.  See another interesting approach to color blocking below.

Normally I’m not a fan of camis used to hide cleavage–I find they hide the line of the dress instead (as you’ll see below). But the way the neckline of the cami parallels the neckline of the dress, it almost looks like part of the dress itself.  (I realize that this woman is probably a B cup or less, but the insight applies regardless of size here.)

This dress looked amazing from behind, but the cleavage-hiding cami destroys the neckline in front.  I wonder if a V-necked black cami would be any better . . . .

Business Briefing: Next Stop, Milwaukee!

If you’re in the Milwaukee area next week, stop by my trunk show at Miss Groove on July 28.  Besides the chance to meet me and shop in this cool little boutique in an artsy neighborhood, you’ll receive:

(a)  25% off a Campbell & Kate shirt purchase, and an additional $5 off your shirt with the purchase of a bra (if you don’t feel like doing the math, that’s $90 without a bra purchase and $85 with a bra purchase); and

(b)  $5 off a full-price bra purchase, or $10 off if you also purchase a Campbell & Kate shirt.  

I am thrilled to be offering my shirts in a setting where women can receive a bra fitting at the same time.  It’s preaching to the choir, I know, but the right fitting bra makes all the difference.  Recently, a woman wearing a 36D Bali couldn’t even button the 8S Campbell & Kate shirt that she tried on.  However, once I put her in a 34F Chantelle Hedona, the shirt looked amazing on her.

One of the Good Ones: Barbara’s New Beginnings

Next Wednesday I head to Indianapolis for Under Construction, an event co-sponsored by Barbara Gilbert.  After I got off the phone with Barbara last week, I wanted to move to Indianapolis to work for her.   If you keep reading, you’ll understand why.

Wide Range of Sizes

My blog focuses on lingerie stores that are good for D+ women, but chances are, if they have the inventory that makes them good for us, then they’re also good for everyone else.  Barbara Gilbert has over 10,000 bras at her Indianapolis store and over 30,000 bras at her Ft. Wayne store.  If this is the only specialty lingerie store for miles around–as it is–isn’t this the kind of inventory you would hope it held?

There’s something for everyone, from a 28AA to a 28N and up to a 56 band.   Surprisingly, Barbara told me that it’s the 56A, B and C’s that are difficult for her to find.  However, if they don’t have what you need, guess what?  They’ll special order it.   I asked Barbara why some stores don’t do this, and she explained that it’s expensive for them.  Bra manufacturers often require minimum orders of at least $250, and the shipping cost for one bra is the same as for 10.  (Personally, I think more brick and mortar stores should be willing to do this in order to differentiate themselves from online stores, but that’s another post.

What if a customer expects to leave the store looking amazing instead of having to wait for her size to arrive in the mail? Here’s where Barbara and her team’s years of experience come in. They will work magic with alterations and extenders to make sure everything is in the right place when the customer walks out the door.

Knowledge and Experience

Not everyone in Barbara’s stores has her years of experience, but they’re getting there.  She puts new employees through a three-month training period that includes learning the sizes, styles and colors available from every manufacturer.  This means a New Beginnings fitter should know even more about what’s available than you do (don’t you hate it when you have to educate your bra fitter?).

Since good fitters are essential to a good lingerie store, I wondered what qualities Barbara looks for when hiring.

  • Passionate.  The Indianapolis store has a new employee who has fallen in love with bra fitting after only a few weeks.  According to Barbara, she’s right on schedule.  After 2-3 weeks, a new employee either loves her job or leaves it.
  • Hard Working.  A fitter has to have passion to get her through the day because Barbara’s fitters are on their feet for most of it.  Customers wait for them to unlock the doors at opening each morning.
  • Caring.  When I told Barbara that I’ve overheard fitters in some stores say things like, “I don’t think we have anything that big,” or “We don’t have anything that small,”  she was horrified.  If anyone uttered those words in her stores, they’d be strongly reprimanded.

People Skills

Barbara told me that her staff is “there to please the customer and treat her like a queen.”  Nowhere is this more evident than in the treatment of a woman who comes to Barbara’s New Beginnings for a breast prosthesis.  When this customer comes to the Fort Wayne store, no one can tell whether her needs are any different from those of anyone else who walks into the store.  Inventory is brought to her through a private door between her dressing room and the room where the inventory is held.

Barbara tells me that I wouldn’t believe the number and types of issues that arise on any given day.  What I loved was the excitement in her voice when she told me this.  Barbara and her staff “love our bra challenges” and have never come across anyone that they couldn’t fit.

Visiting the Store

Can you see why I can’t wait to visit Barbara’s New Beginnings when I get off the plane next Wednesday?  I’ll be sure to snap a few photos for Hourglassy.

If you have a store near you that scores high in my three criteria for bra shopping (wide inventory; depth of knowledge and experience; and people skills), please share with us.