Fitting In: Button-Front shirts for the large bust.

In real life, when I’m not blogging  or playing music and pretending to be the re-incarnation of my idol Patsy Cline, I work in technology for a Wall Street firm.  Assertiveness, self-confidence and that quality of being self-assured is (for better or for worse) here in droves.  Most of my colleagues are men.  At least 50% of them are multilingual and hail from places around the globe.  What I have in common with all these techies is my nerdiness.  What I have that is tremendously different is another X chromosome and very large breasts.

I bring up all of these things to underscore just how important it is for me to present a professional image and how vital it is to have an impeccable foundation and well tailored, professional looking attire to fit in at my work place.  There is an unspoken uniform on Wall Street and it’s shirt that buttons.  My hunt for a well tailored button front blouse was epic.  What follows is a brief review of those I tried or considered.   All but the Front Room shirts that  I tried were purchased in my own name with my own money.

Here is what I’ve found:

Pepperberry

Wearing 36H, 38G and 40H bra various times over the past few years has had me at or slightly above the 18SC in Pepperberry’s shirts.  They were workable only underneath a sweater or with a particularly high-waisted skirt.  Why?  Too short.  I’m not opposed to others baring their midsection, and I’ll proudly sport a bikini on the beach.  But to be taken seriously in the workplace, I need the shirt to be longer.  The fit was fine across the bustline, but the fit in the arms was wonky, and they showed off a wide swath of my mid-section.   I brought a couple of these to last year’s Hourglassy clothing swap, and they found a home with someone a bit smaller than me.  It looks like from customer feedback, the newer Pepperberry shirts are a couple of centimeters longer, but until I travel across the pond and try these in person, I’m hesitant to place another order.

Carissa Rose —

I never got around to trying these, and they don’t appear to be in business any longer.  I kick myself for not trying these, because she absolutely had tunic-length shirts that I’m certain would have been plenty long enough for me.

Rebecca & Drew —

I tried these.  Back in the day, you could order via your bust size.  This was pre-2008, I was then in a 38G, and went for a 38H to give a little extra space.  Back then, I was ignorant of the difference between US & UK sizing and have no idea which R&D were using, but it was a pretty good call, fit-wise.  Even their tall option was a bit short for me, but not so bad that I didn’t keep it, as it’s fine with high-waist jeans.  R&D’s logic went to InStyle and the shirts were to be manufactured in China and a whole lot cheaper.  Has anyone tried?  Looks like they aren’t in business any longer.

BiuBiu — 

These are the shirts that made me realize the power of bloggers.  The lovely Georgina Horne modeled two of these, looked good and looked enough like my shape that I just had to try them.  Thus began a realization that anything she modeled was quick to sell out in my size, so I should not wait for a sale if I want something specific.  This is a line I want to shout to all manufacturers — My size always seems to be out of stock.  Clearly there are alot of us.  Please make more.   Powder blue & white button- downs became mine.  Better than Pepperberry, better than R&D, but not excellent.  I also ordered a fuscia shirt that I wore over the best bra I ever owned and the color ran, turning my white KrisLine bra into a bizzare greyish pink shade from which it won’t recover.  Lesson here – match the shade of the top to the bra.  Always.

Campbell & Kate — 

To be honest, I still don’t fit in an off-the-rack size from C&K and needed to go the custom route so it isn’t a perfectly fair comparison, fit-wise, to the other lines.  As expected in a custom made shirt, the fit is spot on.  But it isn’t just the fit quality that makes these stand out.  The fabric quality and tailoring are above and beyond the others I tried.  Above and beyond.  Rolled up, the sleeves look good.  The weight of the fabric is substantial, and I never have bra show-thru.  I haven’t had the color run and stain another garment.    I wash, shake out and plop onto a hanger to dry and they are ready to wear again within a day.  Because I was getting these custom made, I went for French cuffs on two of them.  I picked these cuff-links up at the airport in Rome when I had a few euros to use up before returning stateside.  Details matter.  My boss wears cuff-links every day and I feel powerful with these, like they are my secret weapon.

Campbell & Kate, with French Cuffs

Campbell & Kate, with French Cuffs

If you fit into C&K’s standard sizes, I envy you.  If you don’t, please join me in pestering her to do more custom work.  With pink, blue & white in my wardrobe now, I could use a few more colors.

 Front Room —

It was a delight to find morefrontroom.com.  Melanie Love graciously sent three tops for me to try that I will review in detail over the next few weeks.  They arrived just before the holidays and I’m in love, love, love with all of them.  So much so that I’ve gone and ordered another essential silk utility blouse plus two more tops from them.  If, like me, you are at or slightly above the largest sizes offered by most full-bust clothing manufacturers, give them a look.    In a 40H bra, the XL fits me nicely, even generously.  From their site:

Is this a plus-size line?

We have some plus-size crossover (can nobody come up with a better term than “plus”??) because so many of us have to size up to accommodate our boobage.  So someone wearing size 18 to 20 with big boobs may be able to size down and wear our XL, especially straight and hourglass shapes.  The key to fit is selecting the size that works for the largest feature of your body.

What I’d been hoping for since first finding Pepperberry is that someone would make more clothing to fit my size and shape.  And my prayers were answered.   I don’t care if a line is called “Plus-sized.” I only care that it fits.  And these do.

Front Room is having a year-end sale, with 60% off and free shipping on orders over $99 CAD. 

Happy Holidays, a Hiatus, and My Commando Legwear Experience

We hope that your next two weeks are wonderful! With the holidays ahead of us, we will be posting erratically, if at all.

I have an extra celebration ahead of me–I turn 50 on December 27. What a year it’s been leading up to this! This fall I went through a couple of months of mourning my mortality; then a few weeks ago I woke up and realized that I’m thankful to be having this birthday. Plus, with a lot of scrambling at the gym and calorie counting, I’m going to reach the only goal that I set for this milestone: to be the same weight when I turn 50 that I was when I turned 49. It was close, but I’ve done it!

They always say that mid-life causes people to question their purpose, and it’s certainly done that for me. So it was a special gift to receive a Facebook message from a former student of mine. She’d written it on November 12, but I didn’t find it until yesterday. I’d given her the first C she’d ever received on a writing assignment, and because of me, she now asks her own daughters’ teachers to be sure to challenge them. You can believe I was on a cloud for the rest of the day! For a student to take the time to thank me, and for it to reach me six days before my 50th birthday, was the most affirming possible experience I could have asked for.

I don’t want to be an English teacher again, but realizing the pleasure of making a difference in others’ lives reminded me of my purpose today. There are still so many women who need the information that we write about on Hourglassy. And I’ve finally mastered the sewing skills necessary to produce my own shirts! It is such a joyful feeling to fold a shirt that I’ve carefully crafted and send it to a woman who is going to feel amazing in it because of how it fits and feels.

Speaking of fit and feel, I couldn’t believe the timing of Leah’s Commando review on Friday because I had just bought my own pair of Commando dig-free nylons! In my case, I purchased the Keeper Sheer with control top, and I wore them for the first time on Sunday.

At 136 pounds and 5’3″, I fall firmly with their medium size range, which fit me perfectly. No sagging crotch or bunching at the ankles. Unfortunately, however, the dig-free waistband wasn’t the same success for me that it was for Leah. It began rolling almost immediately, and I couldn’t find a discreet way to unroll it.

I specifically wanted these nylons to wear beneath my Paige dress from Bitter Lollipop. However, for the smoothest look, my Fraulein Annie cinching panty will continue to be my go-to solution. In the top row below, I’m wearing my regular Ralph Lauren tights. In the bottom row, I’m wearing my Commando Keeper Sheers. I don’t think there’s enough of a difference to justify the $32 price tag.

commando tights comparison 2Leah felt that the rolling problem could be fixed if the waistband was a double layer of fabric that was folded in half at the waist. My preference would be a ribbon of silicone around the waist to keep it up.

Perhaps the control top feature of my nylons played a part in the rolling. The waist of Leah’s tights are 72% nylon and 28% spandex, and the waist of my sheers is 68% nylon 32% spandex. Can 4% more spandex really make that much of a difference? My shorter waist is probably a bigger factor.

Besides needing sheers (I bought them the same day I found the polka dot set I showed you last week), I couldn’t resist the claim on the front of the packaging that they have “run resistant technology for staying power”. This was the only pair I could find with such a claim. If anything, I’m always a fan of reinforced toes, and I could easily get away with these toes with sandals. I’ve only worn the nylons for a morning so far, but there was no snagging beneath my ankle, which is always a vulnerable spot. If these can last without runs for 4-6 months, then I’ll take back what I said about the price not being worth it!

commando sheer reinforced toes

 

 

 

Off the Rack ~ Reviewing Commando Hosiery’s Dig-Free Tights

Another entry to my mini series on “fitting the bottom half of the hourglass,” this week I’m reviewing tights from Commando.

I discovered Commando at the Curve show this past July. They specialize in seamless underwear and hosiery, and I was excited to discover their opaque black tights with a raw-cut, no-dig waistband. I said I would be replacing my old worn-out tights with these, and that’s exactly what I did two weeks ago!

The tights I discovered at Curve.

The tights I discovered at Curve.

I purchased the “Ultimate Opaque” 70-denier tights, but if you need more warmth, they also come in 110 denier (the “Eclipse” tights). The 70s are completely opaque when standing and walking, but they do go a tiny bit sheer if you stretch them far when bending your knees. Still, I wear a lot of tights in the fall, and I think the 100s would be too warm so I’m perfectly fine with the 70s.

Here’s a photo of my knees on the subway when I’m sitting with them bent at a 90-degree angle. You can see how the color compares to the opaque black edge of my dress:

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And here’s a photo of me standing around, so you can see that they’re not sheer at all when standing:

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As for the no-dig waistband, it does exactly what it claims! In fact, here’s a photo of me wearing this exact same dress with a normal pair of tights. You can really see how much the old tights pinched in on the sides and stuck out at the front seam, compared to the complete lack of visible seams with the Commandos:

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Additionally, here is a closeup photo of the no-dig waistband, where you can see how smooth it is:

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Any tiny bumps you see on my hips are my body’s shape or from my underwear, not the tights. Here’s the same photo with the brightness turned all the way up in Photoshop, so you can see where the tights stop and the waistband begins:

IMG_3951-edited

Pardon the oh-so-attractive light-colored underwear.

There is a seam up the crotch of the tights, which gives a bit of a cameltoe impression, but as you saw in my dress photos, it’s not visible under clothes. Additionally, the waistband has a center seam up the back, but it, too, is invisible. I really like how wide the waistband is and how high up it comes. It’s made of 72% nylon and 28% spandex, while the legs are 91% nylon and 9% spandex.

My one complaint is that the waistband can roll down in certain circumstances, since the edge is raw. As with every pair of tights I’ve ever worn, throughout the day gravity and my body movement conspire to pull them down just a little, and that resulted in the top of the waistband eventually shifting onto my natural waist instead of resting above it. In that position, if I bent at the right angle, my waist would cause the band to roll just a little, and then if I didn’t correct it, it would roll further the more I moved. However, if I yanked the tights back up from ankle to the waist (as one would do upon using the restroom), then the rolling stopped.

I think this would be fixed if the waistband was a double layer of fabric that was folded in half at the waist, but that would mean the seam where it attaches to the tights would be heavier, so that might present its own issues.

I purchased size Medium, which is recommended for 5’2”–5’9” and 120–150 lbs. At 5’6” and just under 150, I fall into both the Medium and the Large sizes (Large is 5’5”–6’ and 140–170 lbs). Usually I go with the bigger size when it comes to tights because I can’t stand when the legs aren’t long enough and the crotch drops, but some of the reviews on Amazon claimed these ran big. I don’t think they run big, I just think they’re well designed so as to avoid crotch-drop. So if you’re between sizes like me, I’d suggest picking the one in which you’re closer to the middle of the size range, unless you have really muscular legs that might require the bigger size (and for the record, my legs are pretty muscular. I always have to buy wide-calf boots).

 

Homework Help from Full Bust Readers

When I showed you how the DD Atelier Samantha dress fits me a few weeks ago, I confessed that I was going through a frumpy phase. Well, it turns out that confession is not only good for the soul, it’s also good for the wardrobe. Your comments became my homework assignment, and this is the result. Four steps took me from the look on the left to the look on the right.

dd atelier before and after samantha

First, alterations. In my original post, I mentioned that I should probably hem the dress, but then I tried rolling up the sleeves and realized I should shorten them as well. This goes along with the petite issue that I mentioned last week. While I prefer waist-length sleeves because they highlight my waist, shorter sleeve and hem lengths also mean less fabric to overwhelm my frame.

Second, even though you can barely tell, I listened to what you said about patterned tights. I think I found the last pair of polka dot sheer black nylons in New York City! I had always considered opaque black tights to be a winter staple–almost like boot substitutes, but a friend set me straight in this email:

I agreed with the comments about “lighter” hosiery.  The solid dress (which was beautiful) and the opaque black tights felt “heavy”.  I liked the suggestions for patterns, but I’d keep it subtle and also consider lighter shades and something more sheer. “Fun” hosiery can look awkward on women our age–it can look like you’re trying to be too young or come off as vintage (in a not good way) or old.

Third, obviously, I changed my shoes. I also tried boots with this dress, but as with the opaque tights, they weighed everything down. I had no idea I already owned a pair that would work here (unless I wear them with opaque tights, of course!).

Fourth, I experimented with pendants. Wow! Thank you for opening my eyes to the possibilities! I often skip necklaces because mysterious metals give me a rash, but when reader Rachel wrote that she has “found a pendant chain that I like the length of, and I rotate what’s on it”, I realized I could do the same with a plain gold chain that I never wear.

For this dress, I needed something fairly prominent to break up the expanse of fabric across my chest–plus, a large pendant also helps balance–and sometimes even minimize–a large chest. However, I bet you’ll agree that anything is better than nothing, including the onyx rock pendant on the far left that came with my Rock Cotton tunic.

busty pendant size comparison

I’ll also be experimenting with length some more. For instance, I usually raise the  cluster of freshwater pearls that you see in the above center photo by a couple of inches (although I’m still not sure why the pearls don’t work as well as the disks in the photo on the right. Too vertical? Too light? Any ideas?).

Below, I tried lowering the disks, thinking this would help group my chest with my neckline. Instead, I get a disk that bounces off the cliff of my bustline! Plus, in this case it looks like balance points trump neckline grouping. (Here are links to my first post about balance points, as well as my latest post about balance points.)

busty pendant length comparison

These simple improvements to my outfit kept me so busy that I never got around to bracelets or brooches, but I’m looking forward to to trying those sometime as well.