Big-Bust-Fitting White Shirts: An Affordable Option from InStyle Essentials

As you know, I’m passionate about classic white shirts that fit full-busted women, and today on the Campbell & Kate blog, I rail against baggy shoulders that make us look like we’re playing dress up. When a classic white shirt fits, it can take us anywhere–store, beach, airport, conference, or office. Fortunately, we’re getting more options, and the latest comes from InStyle Essentials.

InStyle Essentials is actually a new incarnation of Rebecca & Drew, whose shirts I began to write about in 2009. (At the bottom of this page, you’ll find links to those earlier posts if you want to see how things have developed.) Back then, I paid $195 for a button front. Now they’re only $60!

The size chart said to go by band and cup, but I knew better. My current bra size is a 34GG. My bust measures 46″, my underbust 36″, and my waist 39″. So instead of merely ordering a shirt in size 34H, I also ordered a 36H, 38H, 38G and 40G. You can see what they looked like below. I began with the largest and skipped the smallest.

big bust instyle essentials white shirt 40G

I found the 40G to be pretty loose fitting everywhere but above my bustline. In the photo on the right, I’m arching my shoulders to show the pulls where the princess seam intersects with the armhole. My theory is that the armscye is too big for me in this size because this didn’t occur with the 38’s and 36.
I took these measurements of the 40G for anyone who may want to order it:
Bust: 52″
Waist: 38.75″
Hips: 44.5″

big bust 38H instyle essentials white shirt

I think this 38H is my favorite fit of the five, even though there’s a little Strum Strum going on at my bustline. I even liked the sleeve length on me. The only negative is the extra fold of fabric in the back, which occurred on me in every size. Here are the measurements:
Bust 51.5″
Waist 43.5″
Hips 46″

big bust 38G instyle essentials white shirt

The 38G looks pretty good, too. The measurements are:
Bust 49.5″
Waist 41.25″
Hips 46.5″

big bust white shirt 36H instyle essentials white shirt

The 36H was too snug on me, but here are its measurements for those of you who are smaller than I am:
Bust 48″
Waist 38.75″
Hips 44.5″
I didn’t even try the 34H, but I did measure it:
Bust 47.25
Waist 38.5″
Hips 41.5

For $60, you’re probably wondering about the quality, and I think it’s really nice. Granted, I’m not keeping any of these shirts, so I can’t tell you how they stand up to frequent wears and washings, but here’s what I like about them:

  • The seam finishing is flat-felled, which you’ll usually find in men’s shirting. It’s neat and durable.
  • The hidden placket hides the extra buttons placed at the chest. Hooray! I couldn’t stand the way Rebecca & Drew used to keep them visible.
  • They’re also generous with buttons on the sleeve–two on the cuff and one on the placket.
  • There’s a yoke in back. I love yokes.
  • The princess seams don’t create a bubble above my apex like they did in my past Rebecca & Drew experiences. It could be that I was finally wearing a more lifting bra, although certainly not my most lifted.
  • I like the way the seams down the back give shaping.
  • It has shirttails instead of going straight across–way more flattering when it’s untucked.

As far as I can tell, here’s why the shirt doesn’t cost more:

  • It’s made in China, so InStyle Essentials likely got a great price for placing a giant order.
  • The fabric feels good and crisp, but it couldn’t hide the beige lace of my Prima Donna Deauville. The lace didn’t look bad underneath, but it was definitely visible. Stretch woven fabrics that are also opaque tend to cost a lot.
  • The collar is pretty narrow–not sure what that has to do with price, but it struck me as kind of skimpy.
  • There seem to be 15 stitches per inch, which makes it faster to sew. (That’s fine; higher quality shirts tend to be at least 18 stitches per inch.)

This is a great functional shirt, and for the price, you won’t cry if you spill something on your shelf. I was very tempted to keep the 38H, but in the end decided to return it because it felt like wearing a uniform. However, that’s the great thing about a white shirt–it’s so easy to individualize that it won’t look like a uniform for long. If you buy one, I’d love to see what you do with it!


Pictures of my Rebecca & Drew shirt in 2009

More pictures of my Rebecca & Drew shirt in 2009

Review of my Rebecca & Drew shirt in 2009

When Rebecca & Drew expanded to H cups in 2010



Off the Rack ~ Wedding Lingerie Shopping: Masquerade Hestia Basque

After having a laughable time trying the provided bustier at David’s Bridal earlier this month, I decided I should get my bridal lingerie now so I can use it while trying on more wedding dresses. In “unusual” sizes, it’s a lot easier to pick (or alter) a dress to suit the undergarments than the other way around.

So when Figleaves put the Masquerade Hestia basque on sale for half off, I jumped at it, especially since the only sizes left were (and still are) 30FF and 30G. I knew that if the basque was successful, it would be in one of these two sizes; I would either take 30FF as the sister size to 28G since there are no basques in 28 band as far as I know, or 30G since often I need to size up with half-cup, vertical-seamed bras.

I was going to order both and return the one that doesn’t fit, but as funds are a little low right now, I really preferred to order just one. After consulting a forum on Facebook, I got answers about fit that were literally all over the place—some people said it runs big in the cups, some said small; some said it runs tiny in the band and that they sized up two numbers, others said it was true to size or big. So I ended up ordering 30FF and crossing my fingers.

2013-09-27 hestia angle

2013-09-27 hestia front

2013-09-27 hestia back

Well for once I got lucky! It fits just about perfectly. It’s not too shallow in the cups or too wide in the wires. As usual, the wires are a little wider than I really need, but the only brand in which that isn’t the case is Comexim, so I take what I can get otherwise. The point is, there is no stabbing, no rubbing in my armpit, and the cups don’t wrap all the way around to my back, so the wire width is totally acceptable.

I do wish the far corner of the wires was a touch shorter, but that’s just because I’m concerned it may prove to be visible under a dress, not a comfort issue. (Though I suspect it wouldn’t be as supportive if that were the case.)

Speaking of support, I am so impressed! It really hoists me up, and in fact gives much more lift on me than it does the model in the above photos. It provides a bit of Ren Faire-style uplift, but without the extreme “cakes on a platter” look of a real corset.

It certainly does run quite small in the band, so I’m glad I ended up with a 30. With it being so tight and with so many hooks and eyes (I think there were 12?) and the lacing, you do need a second person to close it all. One problem to note with the lacing is that the lace hole panels are placed over the tightest set of hooks while the basque is not being worn. This means that when you’re wearing it on the loosest hooks (as you should when it’s new) and it’s being stretched on your body, there’s about 3 inches of space between each side of the laces and all the hooks are fully visible.

As I didn’t bother with the lacing when I tried the basque on, I’m concerned that the ribbon may actually prove to be too short with such a large gap. That’s easily remedied by simply buying a new piece of satin ribbon, but it’s something to keep in mind if you don’t have any craft stores in your area.

Now as for comfort, I basically want to wear this thing every single day. In a conversation with Darlene and Mia, I compared it to Thundershirts, the shirts for dogs that supposedly control their anxiety by exerting constant, gentle pressure. I feel so contained and comfortable—it’s like I’m getting a full-torso hug from my bra. (Maybe I should invest in some light corsets!)

The quality, too, is stellar. The front panels second from the center and the adjacent back panels are your standard polyamide/elastane mesh mix, but the rest of the panels include cotton (cotton!) and silk (silk!), two things that are rare among full-bust bras in my experience. Overall it feels and looks like moderately shiny satin. The boning seems to be made of similar material to underwires, so it maintains its shape well yet is flexible enough to not dig into your ribs.

As for the boning, the angled pieces are genius. They really enhance an hourglass silhouette and I bet would help create an hourglass shape on ladies with a more straight shape. They also look modern and sleek. While this garment does provide some shaping, it’s in no way “shapewear” like Spanx. It minimizes my tummy a little, but the part that extrudes the most, the area under my belly button, is pushing the basque out more than the basque is pushing me in. If I really wanted the appearance of a flat stomach, I would need to wear Spanx under the basque. And I think we all know I don’t care enough to do that. I want the freedom to eat and sit and dance on my wedding day!

The basque is quite long; even on my freakishly long torso it just reaches the top of my mid-rise bikini underwear, so I’ll have to carefully select panties to go with it. I don’t want bulk around the base of the basque, but I also don’t want to wear a thong or anything that will ride up in the back or be uncomfortable. I do not need to be extricating underwear from my butt while wearing a wedding dress!

One last note: Much to my pleasure, the color in real life is darker and more yellow-y than it appears in Figleaves’ photos. I think it looks very close to white online, but is more of a true ivory in real life. And thank goodness for that, because I do not find white flattering on my ghostly pallor at all!

Best Breast Forward: Dressed Up Breasts

I have to attend a Masonic “ball” with my husband in November and will be celebrating my 37th birthday on New Years Eve, so once again, it’s time to shop for special occasion dresses. The Masonic event is dressy but does not call for a ball gown. I have to wear black.

I had such good luck at Bettie Page that I will definitely keep them on my short list. I’d like to gather all of my ideas and then spend a weekend actually trying things on.

I am completely in love with the Ava dress by Pin Up Couture. The draping of the skirt and sexy neckline make it perfect for NYE, but it may be too boobalicious for the ball. However, I feel like it would be best to go ahead and buy it. If its as fabulous on as it is in my head, I can worry about where to wear it later.

big bust ava dress

big bust ava dress black

Being that I am a sucker for a circle skirt, the Tie Me Up dress by Deadly Dames immediately caught my eye. It is simple and with the right accessories (perhaps a pair of gloves) could be a winner. The only drawback is that I am not a fan of sleeveless dresses, especially in the Fall/Winter. I need to feel as good as I look, which means not having to worry about my jiggly arms.

big bust deadly dames dress

It seems as though I keep running into the same problem. How much sexy is too sexy? How much of our breasts can we expose without crossing to the other side of the tracks?

I’m sure I will add other options as my search continues. I hope that I can count on my savvy readers to share your opinions, ideas and suggestions.

Side note: I came across the Splendor dress by Bettie Page. Now this will not work for my birthday or the Masonic event but, just look at it. How could I not post a photo of this jewel? This would be a sure show stopper at cocktail party. I will not walk out of the store without trying this one on.

big bust bettie page splendor 1big bust bettie page splendor 2big bust bettie page splendor 3

New Clothes for Big Busts–Doing Whatever It Takes

Here’s the progress I’m making on my sweater! This is the back, going from the bottom up.

big bust sweater knitting starting at the back

For background on my struggles to get this far, you can check out my Ravelry project page. I’m trying to document everything so that other adventurous big-busted women who can’t find a sweater in the right color, style and fit, might be encouraged to try knitting their own.

If you’re not into something this complicated, I have another great way that you can add something new to you to your wardrobe:  come to the 2nd Annual Big Bust Clothing Swap in less than two weeks!