Off the Rack ~ Ewa Michalak: Custom Orders and Reviews of CHP Mak & CHP Stalowka

Continuing my coverage of Polish bras, after my first Ewa Michalak bra was such a success, I did decide to place an order for two more bras. Here I’ll outline the ordering process as well as review the two bras.

The first one I tried was a CHP, so I decided to stick with that style for my first real order. CHP is sort of halfway between a plunge and a balconnet. It’s a good style for me, since I can fall out the center of plunges and the straps on balconnets are very often too far apart and painfully dig into my armpits and/or fall off my shoulders.

The two I selected were the silvery grey CHP Stalowka and the bright red (with lace wings) CHP Mak. Note that there is also a CHP Mak Nowa Koronka for ten zlotys more, but I cannot for the life of me figure out the difference between the two.

CHP Mak

CHP Stalowka

I decided I wanted to order a 28GG (or 60GG), which is a custom-made size, meaning it is non-refundable and I would have to pay a little extra. But the prices are so low and the bras so wonderful that I thought it’d be worth it. I followed instructions from Braless In Brazil (scroll down to “Ordering”) to keep emails as short and direct as possible to avoid any language miscommunication. Here are all the steps I went through, from first email to arrival at my door:

January 30: Sent an email to sklep@ewa-michalak.pl stating that I wanted to buy the two bras, the size I wanted, my Ewa Michalak account user name, and my mailing address.

January 31: I received a response from Dominik Michalak confirming that my order would be non-returnable. I responded that I knew and accepted that. Then he (she?) sent me an email stating that the order had been created for me, and that payment would be 289.38zl. I then sent a PayPal payment in that amount to the same email address I’d been using to converse. Finally, I sent Ewa another email stating that I had paid and included the PayPal transaction number. (Yes, this was all in one day!)

February 1: I received an email confirming they received payment.

February 4: I received an email telling me my order had been delayed. (Since I knew they’d be custom-making the bra, I could only assume that this was par the course. It takes time, and three days would not be enough to complete the job.)

February 21: I received an email stating that my order was being “processed” and could no longer be changed. A couple hours later, I received an email announcing that my order had shipped. It included an itemized list of garments and the breakdown of the cost.

March 8: The bras arrived at my door.

The two items I ordered cost 109zl and 119zl, plus 45zl for shipping and 6% extra to cover PayPal’s fees. This week, Ewa rolled out a new policy of charging an extra 20zl for custom orders, but that was not the case when I purchased. At the time, the total was equal to $95.99 USD. Considering that most new bras cost at minimum $50 and custom-made ones twice that, plus adding in the fact that it’s coming from a foreign country, I feel totally pleased with the price I paid.

As for the bras themselves, they feel extremely high quality. Everything about them is tough and made to last. Excellent fabric, no loose threads or wonky seams, and amazingly strong wires (more on that later).

As for fit, on my body they look more like the photo of the Mak above—balconnet-like—versus the plungier-looking fit in the Stalowka shot. It doesn’t come up as high on me, though. It’s more like a true halfcup.

I ordered 28GG because the 30FF I had first tried was one cup too small and I could comfortably close the band on the tightest hook. Ewa is known for their exceedingly tight bands, so I was a little hesitant to order 28s, but I so prefer tight, tight, tight bands and I figured I could use an extender if it was too much.

Well I need an extender–haha! I can close it on the loosest hook, but I’m literally pulling the band as far as it’ll go. I’m okay with the comfort level since I feel more secure in a vice-like bra, but I don’t want to damage the hooks by pulling them too hard, so I’ll stick with the extender until it stretches out some. As for comfort, I doubt most other women would like it so tight, so I do have to recommend ordering up if you wear a small band.

The only thing that’s uncomfortable for me is that the wires line up perfectly with a rib. It’s fine if I’m walking around, but if I’m sitting down for a long time, the wires press against the rib harder and it hurts. The first day I wore one to my office gig, I ended up stuffing my tee shirt between the bra and my skin to give me a little more padding. Amazingly, despite the insane tightness of the band, the wires aren’t being pulled or warped at all. I don’t know what kind of magical alloy they’re made of, but I am seriously impressed.

As for the cups, well they’re pretty magical, too. Like I said, they look more like a balconnet on me. That’s a bit of a shame, as I prefer more of a V-shape than a horizontal line going across my chest, but the volume and shape are perfect. They almost look small on me when I look down because I have a lot of skin visible, but then when I look in a mirror, they’re perfectly, perfectly flush with my bigger boob and just the tiniest bit loose at the top edge of the cup on my smaller boob. No quad boob or indent into my breast tissue, not even an inkling. It’s pretty awesome.

I also love the crazy lift these bras give. No underboob sweat for me this summer! It also makes my chest fill out an empire-style dress better, because they’re being hoisted above the seam.

Going forward, I’ll definitely be ordering Ewa bras one cup size up and one band size up (so 30G/65G instead of my standard 28G), since the 60 bands are just a bit too tight and I’d prefer to avoid paying the extra fee and waiting for a custom-made bra anyways. But I would still call this order a rousing success.

Next week I’ll be writing about another Polish bra brand, Comexim, which I’ve actually decided I like even better than Ewa.

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For more background on bras from Poland, be sure to check out Miss Underpinnings’ series about her recent trip there.

“Lean In” to Being Busty?

Forgive me for being trite–I really do have serious opinions about Sheryl Sandberg’s book–but today’s post stems from her statement in the preface that “This book makes the case for leaning in, for being ambitious in any pursuit.” What I took from it was, “I need to embrace my busty-ness even more! I’m going to learn to knit!

So last Sunday I purchased needles and a skein of yarn and signed up for this class on Craftsy. My goal is to get from this scarf. . .

The Craftsy instructor told us to keep our first scarf because it will be a “cute” reminder of how far we’ve come later.

to this sweater.

In her pattern notes, Amy writes, “This [sweater] is designed to look fantastic on the bustier, curvier gals among us. The 3/4-length sleeves look great on many figures and the scoop neck is flattering on a variety of body types.”

I have held myself back from sewing and knitting because I’m not good with my hands and have a serious shortage of patience, but thanks to Azzy introducing me to Fit to Flatter, I am going to ambitiously pursue sweaters that are perfect for me. Does anyone want to join me?

Or what else do you have going on in your life that has nothing to do with big boobs?*  In the end, it’s always a matter of time and priorities, isn’t it? After all, how many things can we lean in to? I’m motivated to lean in to being busty because I blog about it and have a business making dress shirts for women who are busty, but it helps that this new goal coincides with a more important priority: spending time with my husband. It will be a nice way to be with him while he’s on his laptop and we’re listening to the radio. (Plus, I have a hard time sitting still but am tired of obsessively checking my smartphone or playing Tetris on it.)

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*This gets to the crux of my issue with the book itself–what else do you have going on in your life that has nothing to do with your career? Former Facebook executive Kate Losse expresses this concern beautifully:

At this point in the text, what could become a critique of the new economy’s round-the-clock work imperative becomes its opposite: resignation to work’s all-consuming nature. “Facebook is available 24/7 and for the most part, so am I. The days when I even think of unplugging for a weekend or a vacation are long gone.”

For someone with fewer family demands than Sandberg, freedom is depicted not as a pleasure but a problem to be resolved by getting a family. The single woman goes out to a bar goes not to have fun or be with friends (the main reason most women I know attend a bar), but to find a husband with whom to procreate. “My coworkers should understand that I need to go to a party tonight…because going to a party is the only way I might meet someone and start a family!” Astonishingly for a book published in 2013, there are no self-identified lesbians, gay men, or even intentionally unmarried or child-free people in Lean In’s vision of the workplace. It’s not clear why Sandberg thinks that everyone should be in the business of getting a family, since the book argues that family gets in the way of work. But it seems that Sandberg can only imagine the dreaded “leaning back” as a product of family demands. Who would take a vacation voluntarily?

Life, in Sandberg’s vision of work, has gone entirely missing, at the linguistic as well as the polemical level. Except, of course, when one is at work. “I fully believe in bringing our whole selves to work,” Sandberg writes. Since her vision of work involves working all the time, it follows that work must be the place where one can be one’s full self.

Full Bust Designer Clothes Aren’t an Oxymoron with Saint Bustier

Listening to a podcast called Social Triggers Insider recently, I discovered that most of us have a natural tendency to think we don’t belong and to self-exclude. Large-busted women tend to do this during Fashion Week. That’s when we watch small-chested models stride the catwalk in clothing that either won’t fit our chests or won’t cover our bras. It’s very easy to jump from thinking, “I don’t belong in that designer’s tops and dresses,” to thinking, “I don’t belong in designer clothes.” Ironically, I even went so far as to exclude myself from Saint Bustier, a store whose only purpose is to bring designer clothing to large-busted women.

This changed when I met Sarah McGiven for coffee last Thursday. Sarah is the “PR, marketing & social media maven” for Saint Bustier, and I first met her via email when I was researching how full-bust brands and stores are covering this spring’s trends. Amazingly, she was going to be in New York City for part of March, and it worked out for us to get together. Until we began talking, the most I planned to write about Saint Bustier (if at all) was a little blurb about our encounter and a reminder that Saint Bustier may be a good option for some readers. However, by the time we parted a good three hours later, I no longer excluded myself from Saint Bustier’s customer base.

Here’s the before-and-after of my thinking.

SIZE RANGE BEFORE

When Saint Bustier announced their launch date last October, their newsletter said, “We’re launching with a small selection of fantastic pieces by a range of designers, which look stunning on busty women from D-H cups and in clothing sizes 8-16 (we also have a few 18s!)” (emphasis added). A UK size 16 is a US size 12, and I can’t fit a US size 12 right now.

SIZE RANGE AFTER

Thanks to customer demand, Saint Bustier now offers its clothing in sizes UK 8-18, and even though they can’t promise it in advertisements, several of their styles fit cup sizes higher than an H. They search for pieces that will look good across the spectrum of their sizes, so if a manufacturer’s sample only looks good in smaller sizes, they won’t buy it for the store.  Because their clothing is so generously cut for the bust (especially from the Scandinavian brands), many of their customers have discovered that they can actually go down a dress size.Sarah brought a dress for me to examine, and it happened to be the one dress I was most interested in–the Pitot Zig Zag Dress in size 18. I whisked it away to the bathroom to try it on, and . . . IT FIT!!!!!

I probably didn’t need my Perfect Cami with this dress, but I forgot to take it off before trying it.

Later I emailed Sarah to find out what other pieces I could wear from their site. See her suggestions at the end of this post.

MODELS BEFORE

When the site actually launched, I couldn’t relate to the tall, seemingly small-busted models. My head knew that they only looked small because of their narrow backs, but my psyche felt confirmed in my suspicion that the clothes would never fit me.

MODELS AFTER

As I suspected, the models on their website are indeed large-busted. In addition to Saint Bustier’s editorial models, they have fit models going across the cup sizes for each dress size. The fit model they use the most to test everything initially is a 32GG, and she typically wears a UK12. Simply knowing they aren’t all E cups makes a big difference to me. I’m also looking forward to more Real Life Style blog posts that show what their actual customers look like in Saint Bustier clothes.

The model in this photo from the Saint Bustier website wears a 30GG and is a qualified bra fitter!

STYLES BEFORE

Several of the styles don’t follow the “busty rules”. There are high necks and blouse-y waists. These features may be fine for women who look like the models, but they can be problematic on short-waisted, 5’3″ me.

STYLES AFTER

I’m going to continue to gravitate to V-necks, scoop necks and fitted waists, but I’m willing to experiment with other styles that fit, especially if I can see them working on women with a similar shape to mine. One new feature coming to Saint Bustier’s website is video. This will really help to see the drape of the fabrics that look slightly stiff in the current photos. I’m also looking forward to upcoming blog posts about using accessories to work with different necklines.

BEHIND THE SCENES BEFORE

I didn’t feel like I knew the people behind the brand. It was nice that someone was trying to find clothes that fit up to an H cup, but could the founder and buyer and other employees actually relate to my struggles? There’s a big difference between style advice from someone who understands large busts in theory and someone who has actually lived in an H cup.

BEHIND THE SCENES AFTER

We’ve all had a discouraging shopping day, but imagine having one day after day, and you’ve got the job description of the Saint Bustier buyer. She wears a 30/32F and keeps going back for more. Anything that fits her (and looks good) is then tried by all of the Saint Bustier fit models, but it’s not only the fit models who give their opinions. Except for one employee who wears an A cup, every woman at Saint Bustier wears at least an E cup, and everyone has an opinion. I absolutely love the idea of a full-busted sisterhood of fashion-conscious women doing the leg work to find things that fit and look good on us and then actually bringing it to market.

Sarah especially enjoys the customers who ask for fashion advice because they tend to follow it. Based on her own recommendations for me, I think I would, too. See her follow-up suggestions after the jump.

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Corporate Curves Report: Home Office Day in Style

Modern technology has brought us the luxury of being able to work from home. For people who work in open office environments, it’s an especially welcome option when you need to really focus on details or just have a breather from the office noise.

One morning a few weeks ago, I woke up and just did not feel like driving to the hectic office as I was extremely stressed out at the time. So I checked my calendar and was relieved to see that I could just as well work from home that day. This inspired me to write a few words on how I approach home office style.

I treat these days as pajama days more or less. I don’t wear makeup or put on office clothes. However, I don’t want to cramp my style because I just feel better and more efficient when I look nice even if I am just sitting on the sofa working on my laptop all day.  This is my solution: Put on a bra (essential) and wear nice loungewear!

Nanso has a wide selection of lounging dresses (or pajama dresses if you wish to call them that). Here’s a little Finland fact: despite this being a very cold place during the winter, we tend to not to wear anything to bed, so these dresses are designed for relaxing at home. They are made of nice and thick cotton modal fabric so they are warm and not clingy at all. They’re also quite roomy so I don’t need to size up due to my bigger bosom.

Nanso night & leisure dress

My winter favorite and what I wore to write this post.

On of my favorite color combinations.

Usually I don’t like flowers, but I don’t mind them in a big bold pattern like this.

To be honest, some of these patterns and colors could possibly be worn as outside clothing with a belt and boots! Unfortunately, this brand is so well known here that everyone would recognize that you were wearing a strictly at-home garment outside.