Off the Rack ~ Autumn/Winter 2016 Curve Expo Part I

It’s that time of year again—the Curve Expo lingerie and swimwear trade show! Normally I write two posts about it, but this year I’m splitting it into four posts instead (plus however many Darlene writes). It’s exhausting trying to cram all the photos and news into just two posts! This week I’m sharing three brands I’ve not discussed much previously—Nubian Skin, Miss Mandalay, and Simone Perele—then the following weeks will cover Claudette, Curvy Kate, the Eveden family, Gossard, Le Mystere, Panache, Parfait, Passionata, and Tutti Rouge.


Nubian Skin

First up is Nubian Skin. Mia introduced readers to them after the February 2015 Curve show. As she mentioned, since the last Curve they’ve expanded from 30-36 B-DD up to 40 bands in the same cups. And now I’m happy to report that they’ll be adding up to size 38G in the Essential T-Shirt Bra by summer 2016.

Left to right in the bras: Berry, Cinnamon, Caramel, Café Au Lait.

Left to right in the bras: Berry, Cinnamon, Caramel, Café Au Lait.

Further, Nubian Skin has added curvy tights to their hosiery collection, offering matte 15 denier tights in sizes XL, 2X, and 3X. The tights are extra long and exceedingly stretchy, but they bounce back like a champ!

Curve tights being stretched way out.

Curve tights being stretched way out.

And the same tights after the stretching, being held by a model in the Classic Lace Boost Bra and Classic Lace Short.

And the same tights after the stretching, being held by a model in the Classic Lace Boost Bra and Classic Lace Short.

Additionally, Nubian Skin’s distribution has increased quite a bit, and is still growing. The brand can be found at ASOS.com, bluestockingsboutique.com, Bra Tenders in NYC, Busted Bra Shop in Detroit, London’s Fenwick Bond Street, Figleaves.com, Gift Ko (bengc.net), HaooyLegs.ca, the UK’s House of Fraser, Nigeria’s Jumia.com, MyTights.com, Nordstrom, Washington DC’s Nubian Hueman, Nashville’s O Bridal Boutique, and of course NubianSkin.com.


Miss Mandalay

I’ve been aware of Miss Mandalay since Miss Underpinnings wrote a glowing review of their signature Amelie bras all the way back in 2013. Then I was lucky enough to pick one up used from a swap and sell group, and it fit me much the same, i.e. really well. The one I snagged features a wonderful pumpkin orange over the black lace, and I’d love to add more colors to my collection at some point. In fact, there are two new colors being released, navy blue and a stunning pale grey:

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I was a fan of some of the other styles as well, including:

Robin was like a padded version of Amelie. The Miss Mandalay rep referred to it as “How much stuff can we get on a bra?”

Robin was like a padded version of Amelie. The Miss Mandalay rep referred to it as “How much stuff can we get on a bra?”

The lovely yet understated Paris.

The lovely yet understated Paris.

Paris on the body.

Paris on the body.

Florine

Florine

Sheer but rigid fabric with flocked polka dots.

Sheer but rigid fabric with flocked polka dots.

Talia, featuring a stretch satin upper cup.

Talia, featuring a stretch satin upper cup.

Ava, a 3-part cup with flocked leopard spots.

Ava, a 3-part cup with flocked leopard spots.

Miss Mandalay also makes some amazing modern swimwear:

I missed this one’s name too, and it’s not in the lookbook!

I missed this one’s name too, and it’s not in the lookbook!

Gold hardware.

Gold hardware.

Double-straps

Double-straps

Subtle sparkle!

Subtle sparkle!

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Icon in colorblocked light grey.

Another Icon piece, atop a photo of it being worn—looooove those straps!

Another Icon piece, atop a photo of it being worn—looooove those straps!

The Amelie I own is 30G and is a wee bit loose in both the cups and the band, but since I’m in between sizes (28G/GG to 30FF/G), I’d say it fits true to size. Miss Mandalay bras range from 28–38 C–H (UK). Swimwear tops out at GG.


Simone Perele

Finally, we come to the French brand Simone Perele. This brand was a major mystery to me up until this Curve, since at all previous shows they refused to talk to me! But this time, Darlene and I piggybacked on the appointment belonging to a retailer friend. I kept my mouth shut without asking too many questions because I didn’t want to intrude on the actual business going on, and I think Darlene will probably cover them more in depth, but there were a couple pieces that really stood out to me:

I was simply obsessed with the delicate beauty of the Wish demi bra.

I was simply obsessed with the delicate beauty of the Wish demi bra.

Secret cutouts are nearly hidden among the sheer embroidered cups.

Secret cutouts are nearly hidden among the sheer embroidered cups.

I don’t know what this pattern is, but I love it.

I don’t know what this pattern is, but I love it.

Delice, the brand’s #1 selling range.

Delice, the brand’s #1 selling range.

I thought the silver on black “Moonlight” colorway was entrancing.

I thought the silver on black “Moonlight” colorway was entrancing.

Simone Perele ranges from 30–40 B–H (French sizing, so the equivalent of a UK FF), depending on the style.

That’s it for this week! Check in next week for Gossard, Le Mystere, Passionata, and Tutti Rouge.

 

Erin & Capucine, Two Pretty Busty Basics from Empreinte

The shape and lift of my Empreinte Grace is so perfect that I wondered if I could find a beige equivalent to wear under my white shirts. In the past, every time I wore my Empreinte Kaela or Wacoal Alluring, someone would take me aside and whisper, “I don’t know if you realize it, but I can see your bra.”

Consequently, for the longest time I depended on the very safe Fantasie 4510 or 4520 . . . until my breasts were no longer full enough on top for the 4510, and the 4520 became “too much bra”. I had high hopes for the Natori+Support Pure Alluring, but it failed to live up to my expectations.

When I began my search for a new basic beige, I discovered that Empreinte must be the only lingerie manufacturer in the world that doesn’t produce a basic beige bra. Their cut-and-sew bras are decorated with lace, and their molded bras are constructed of lace. The most basic bra I could find was the Capucine, a discontinued style on sale at Bare Necessities. With a Cyber Monday discount code, I captured the last remaining 32F for only $70.

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Although it’s a 3-part cup, I learned at Curve on Sunday that Empreinte describes this particular style as a balconette because the neckline is lower than it is in their full cup style. Essentially, it’s a 3/4 cup bra. The seams up the front of the cups, together with the lower neckline across the top of the cups, give this bra a completely different shape from that of Empreinte’s molded full cup bras.

I had a heads up about the different shape from one of the Bare Necessities reviews: “The cup is a little strange at first. Once it was washed the cup relaxed and fit like a glove.” Here is the shape on me when I first put the Capucine on under a skin tight camisole–definitely more “pokey-pokey” than rounded.

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The shape above is never this pronounced under my regular clothing–including knits–and with washing and wear, it has become more relaxed. I LOVE the slimming effect that this bra gives by centering my breasts, and as much as I adore the rounded shape of the Grace, I look smaller in this cut-and-sew bra.

capucine compare with grace

Capucine on the left, Grace on the right.

The fit of this bra in 32F is perfect on me. The center gore tacks, the underwires are neither too wide nor too narrow, and there is NO extra space at the bottom of the cups. It’s wonderful to find that Empreinte bras are consistent in sizing across styles. The Capucine band felt slightly more relaxed than the Grace band, and after two weeks of wear I moved it to the middle column of hooks where I have stayed for the past few months.

After passing the fit test, the next big hurdle is the white shirt test.

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It passes: the lace is invisible, and the seams are only slightly visible where they intersect at the apex. I can definitely live with this.

Having found my new basic beige bra, I couldn’t wait to tell you all about it–but I hated to get you excited about a bra that is no longer available. I contacted Empreinte to find out if any of their current offerings were comparable to the Capucine, and they offered to send me the Erin in 32F in noisette to compare.

As soon as I opened the package, my heart sank. It was exquisite, even though it is far from the most intricate of Empreinte’s styles, but how could the lace not show up under my shirt? And the panel of tulle is so deep that I was sure my nipples would show through. Finally, what about the pale print on the bottom half of the cups?

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Well, here is what it looks like under my shirt.

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Surprisingly, it’s the lattice seam up the middle that is most visible. Otherwise, there is NO lace showing, NO pattern showing, and NO aureolae showing (they are are completely contained by the solid fabric at the bottom half of the cups).

This may not be the case for everyone, however. Here is what the Erin balconette looked like on the model at Curve on Sunday.

empreinte erin front view

I have only had time to wear this bra for one afternoon, but once again, the fit is consistent with the others except for some slight pillowing where the strip of fabric that stabilizes the top of the lace pulls across my breast tissue (theory #1: by centering the bust, a cut-and-sew gives you a lot more fullness on top; theory #2: this pillowing is more of an issue in 3/4 cup bras because the higher neckline of full cup bras does not cut across the breast tissue). It may relax more with wear. The shape is identical to the Capucine, but the band feels much more snug. I suspect this is because the bra came directly from the manufacturer and hasn’t been tried and returned by customers. Also, the fabric composition is slightly different. Finally, after wearing this bra for six hours, I felt a bit of the discomfort that comes from breaking in a new bra, but not enough to make me want to avoid wearing it again. The lift and support are phenomenal.

empreinte erin tulle center

Only as I prepared this post did I notice the sheer center composed of two layers of tulle.

If I wanted to avoid the lattice seams showing through my shirt, I could opt for the full cup style instead.

erin full cup on model

However, I love the lattice seams.

Besides, if someone tells me they can see my bra the next time I wear the Erin under one of my white shirts, I’m prepared with two possible responses. I could say, “Isn’t it pretty?” Or I could simply offer to show them the rest of it!

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Sizing: The balconette is available in a 30G. The full cup begins with a 32 band.

The Shadow Bra Industry: Direct Sales with Peach

As I write this, I’m wearing a Peach Lovely Full Coverage bra that the company gifted me after a fitting with them at TechStyleNYC last September. The fabric is satiny soft over lightly padded cups, and even though the band provides most of the support, I really appreciate the cushioned wide straps with lace on top but satin next to my skin.

You’ll never guess what size I’m wearing, however.

34-11.

Peach has its own sizing system. As part of its campaign to turn bra shopping into a pleasant rather than painful experience, they’ve abandoned traditional cup sizes in order to quash letter-phobia. Having only worn D cups and higher since I was a teen, this completely baffling concept has been well-documented by others.

In theory, I understand what Peach is doing, but the practical implications concern me. The average Peach customer has had no fit experience. (When I walked into my fitting, they couldn’t find anything wrong with the bra I was wearing, which they said was very unusual.) Adding an entirely new sizing system does nothing to quash the confusion surrounding fit above a D cup. Instead, it may encourage over-dependence on the Peach stylist.

Last week I promised to explore Peach’s business model “for the fit-savvy Hourglassy reader looking for ways to help other women feel as great as she does.” If Peach recruits such a woman, it could go a long way toward building the company’s credibility with bra fit devotees. It’s not that we need to find someone to fit us. We need to find someone we trust to fit our friends, and if we’re afraid that a Peach stylist will put our friends into a weird new size in order to encourage future re-orders without empowering her to shop elsewhere, then we won’t refer them. On the other hand, if we know a Peach stylist who understands the ins and outs of American, British and European brands for the D+ market–even if she doesn’t stock them–we can refer our moms, sisters and friends to her with confidence.

Are you curious about whether your bra fit passion and Peach could be a match? Here’s what I would consider.

1. Do you like their bras?

Surprisingly, my own answer is yes. I’ve already described their tactile appeal, and my Lovely Full Coverage bra is so comfortable that it’s my bra of choice for long flights. As for shape, it’s a basic molded cup with a slight flattening effect, and it is by no means a top performer for lift. However, it’s as supportive as anything else in my lingerie drawer.

peach bra comparisons coral tee

L to R: Empreinte Capucine in 32F, Empreinte Grace in 32F, Peach Lovely Full Coverage in 34-11.

Peach side view comparison with empreinte grace

L to R: Empreinte Grace, Peach Lovely Full Coverage.

The vast majority of American women prefer seamless tee shirt bras, including most of the friends I would refer to a Peach stylist. If a Peach stylist puts my friend in the right size in a Peach bra and she loves it, then I’m happy. I’m also happy with the pretty lilac and grey colors that they offer. Too many times my large-busted friends have been limited to beige and black at the stores where I’ve referred them. Finally, the center pull straps are a giant bonus for those of us with narrow or sloping shoulders.

2. Does Peach offer enough bra sizes?

Peach bras come in 32-40 bands. Even though I prefer a 32 in most brands, the Peach 34 band is both comfortable and secure on the middle hook with no riding. This makes me think that women who typically wear 30 bands may be able to wear 32 bands in Peach.

Peach cup sizes extend from 5 to 16. A 5 roughly corresponds to an A cup, which mean that Peach cups run to a respectable British HH. It makes sense that my 34-11 bra would translate to a 34F because I’m between a 32F and FF in British brands.

Since even the highly respected full-bust-focused Erica of A Sophisticated Pair finds that most of her customers wear 30-40 D-G, it’s a good bet that the friends we need to refer will also fall within that range. However, if you want to be prepared for the customer who falls outside the range, CEO Janet Kraus assured me that stylists are free to sell other brands. Peach currently also offers Chantelle bras and will eventually offer its own cut-and-sew and unlined molded bras.

3. What is the fitting process like?

It’s unusual, but for bra geeks it will be fascinating. The stylist has a client put on an unlined bra-like contraption that gives absolutely no lift or support. My guess is that this “fit bra” helps ensure consistency of measurements across fitters and clients. The stylist then takes 10 points of measurement, including the typical rib cage and over bust, but also nape to waist, around the back, across the front of the chest, and apex to apex.

The more data that Peach can collect, the more accurately they hope to predict the best style and fit for each customer. Interestingly, in Peach’s previous life as the startup Zyrra, COO Derek Ohly used these measurements to create custom-made bras. Eventually, Janet Kraus convinced him to use his algorithm to fit bras rather than custom make them.

Surprisingly, most stylists do not carry a complete range of sizes. Instead, after a customer is “measured to order”, three bras arrive in the mail with instructions, diagrams and tips. The stylist can then follow up in person or via Skype or FaceTime. Stylists who want to invest in all the sizes can “fit to order” at the first appointment.

The process isn’t fool-proof yet. At my own fitting in September, I liked the fit of the 32-12 better than the 34-11, but when the 32-12 arrived, the cups were so shallow that my breasts looked like apple pie spilling over the side of the pan. Peach sent a follow-up shipment with a range of sister sizes for me to try, and I loved the fit of the 34-12 cup, but going from a 34-11 to a 34-12 seemed to cause everything–not just the cups–to grade larger, and the shoulder straps couldn’t be adjusted any tighter. Initially, the 34-11 gave my larger breast a pronounced pillowing toward the center of the bra, but the pillowing didn’t show up under clothing and has since evened out. I would have loved to have tried a 32-13 or 32-14, but they weren’t included in the second shipment.

I think that Peach has giant potential for bra fit enthusiasts who want to help other women find their best size. I’d love to hear your thoughts.  If you’re a New Yorker who’s reading this and decide to try it out, please let me know so I can refer my friends to you!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Off the Rack ~ Reviewing Dear Kate Underpants

Now that I’ve pretty much found the perfect bras for me (hello, Ewa Michalak and Comexim!), my bra shopping has slowed way down. But I’m still on the hunt for some perfectly fitting panties. With my small waist and comparatively big hips (29” waist and 41” hips), I have just as much trouble with my bottom half as my top half. Unless I’m buying specialty items like the pants from Freddies of Pinewood or Lady K Loves, most bottom styles are cut for a very straight figure—underwear included.

If I buy size medium in panties, they usually cut into my butt to create panty-lines and wedgies. But if I buy large, then the fabric in back is loose and saggy.

I’ve written previously about several underwear styles that I picked up from BareNecessities.com, but I’ve since been mostly disillusioned by them. The Warner’s briefs and hipsters have worn out quickly, and now feel loose. They look totally unflattering, and have to be tucked into place when I pull on my pants or tights lest they bunch up. The Maidenform boyshorts are fine, but their fabric, too, has proven not to be a lasting product and I rarely reach for them. The Hanky Panky Bare collection is still going strong, but I only wear those when I need something completely seamless, so they’re not an everyday style.

Cotton underwear from Victoria’s Secret is okay, but it shrinks in the wash and then gives the dreaded panty-lines. Plus I’m not crazy about wearing cotton underwear for exercising, since it doesn’t dry quickly if I’m sweating a lot. So the hunt continues…

Two years ago, Sweet Nothings wrote a review of a new panty company called Dear Kate. I was intrigued by the fact that they offer two sizes of lining (“mini,” which covers just the gusset, or “full”). They’re marketed as being good for an extra barrier during our periods, during exercise, and at times when women might have a little bladder leakage such as during pregnancy. They’re not meant to replace pads or tampons completely, but they can absorb up to 3 teaspoons of liquid without leaking onto clothing, and they’re stain-releasing and quick-drying. Since its inception, Dear Kate has expanded to bralettes and yoga pants, a natural progression.

However, at about $34 a pair, I just couldn’t justify the price, even though they’re made in NYC. Luckily, I had the foresight to sign up for their mailing list, which gives you a 20% off code for your first purchase. Additionally, you’ll receive notice of sales and discounts. There are lots of items on sale right now, in fact.

During a sale, I bought several pairs of the Lucy Hipster and the Hazel Sport Hipster, both with mini liners. Then in the current sale, I bought the League of Ladies Hipster Mini set, which are the same as the Hazel, only in different colors and with decals of four famous historical women, including Amelia Earhart, Frida Kahlo, Harriet Tubman, and Marie Curie.

The Lucys were the first to arrive, and I was surprised by how high-rise they are. They’re definitely a mid-rise, while the Hazel and League sets are low-rise, though they’re all called “hipster.” I tend to save my Lucys for days when I’m wearing a higher-rise pant or skirt.

Hazel, on the other hand, gets worn constantly. I’ve actually started doing laundry more often, because I prefer my Hazels over every other pair of underwear I own! First off, they look cool. They’re black with flat neon trim around all the edges. Unlike most underwear, though, the edging doesn’t dig in or give me “quad-butt.”

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Now, I’m actually on hormonal birth control that leaves me with no periods at all (it’s Implanon, the arm implant that lasts three years, and it’s the best). So I can’t speak to the stain-releasing or leakage issues there. But I recently started running regularly, and I tend to sweat a lot. And I sweat everywhere, not just my underarms. Seriously, I am a sweaty, sweaty gal. I find it pretty uncomfortable when I’m sweating a lot around my lady-parts, and it feels especially grody when it’s cold out and I’m wearing multiple layers, so things remain cold and damp until I change.

But there is a world of difference when I wear my Hazels (or Lucys) vs. literally any other pair of underwear I own. They pull the sweat away from my body in the style of Under Armour-type wicking fabric. When my run is finished, I feel so much drier and more comfortable than if I wear cotton or plain polyester undies. Additionally, the Hazels barely show any panty-line under my running tights. They do show a little, but it’s not enough that I care, and they don’t show at all under normal pants like jeans.

Here, you can see a couple tiny bumps on the left side where the underwear’s seams are located.

Here, you can see a couple tiny bumps on the left side where the underwear’s seams are located.

Here, you can see a small vertical line where the side seam (and the neon trim) of the underwear is placed.

Here, you can see a small vertical line where the side seam (and the neon trim) of the underwear is placed.

Here, you can juuuuuust make out the lower leg edge of the underwear.

Here, you can juuuuuust make out the lower leg edge of the underwear.

As for fit, the Dear Kate size chart only lists hip measurement, not waist. My hips, as usual, fall into Large. I was worried a Large would be too big in the waist, but I took a chance anyway, and I’m happy to report that they fit perfectly.

Whether worn for exercise or just a regular day, this underwear does not move. It doesn’t slide around, or fall down, or crawl up my butt to give me a wedgie. It’s totally comfortable, sits at a height I like, and doesn’t feel pinchy or loose at any spot.

Now, while everything I’ve written so far applies to Hazel and the League hipsters, I do have to point out some issues with the League pairs. One good thing is that the pesky vertical trim that showed through my running tights is gone. And the faces on the front are cute.

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But the corresponding decals on the back (wings for Amelia Earhart, flowers for Frida Kahlo, constellations for Harriet Tubman, and, um…sciency…shapes? …for Marie Curie) are really annoying.

Seriously, what is that stuff on the Marie Curie pair supposed to be? Flowers? Why isn’t it a bunch of atomic symbols, or the periodic table, or chemistry equipment?

Seriously, what is that stuff on the Marie Curie pair supposed to be? Flowers? Why isn’t it a bunch of atomic symbols, or the periodic table, or chemistry equipment?

First off, the decals immediately started peeling up at the edges:

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But worse than that, they’re plastic-y and don’t stretch, so the back of the underwear fits oddly, since the side without the decal stretches differently than the side with it. Additionally, the plastic doesn’t breathe, so the large decals on Marie Curie and Harriet Tubman make my buttcheek sweat underneath it. It feels so weird to have such localized sweating!

At first I was glad the decals were peeling, since I figured I could pull them off, but they’re actually glued on really well everywhere except the edges. When I succeeded in pulling off a little piece of Marie Curie’s decal, it pulled the fabric along with it, and made it go from silky and smooth to fuzzy and slightly damaged-looking:

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So I would probably not recommend the League pairs, but I would absolutely recommend all the other styles. Get yourself on the Dear Kate mailing list stat, and get some for yourself!