Hope for Future Large Cup Dressing: Designer Zhiming Liu

As you know, I’ve been searching for the elusive 8L fit model for a while. With so much bra-fitting awareness out there (Hourglassy readers, Facebook groups, Bratabase and Reddit), I thought it’d be easier than it was seven years ago, but it’s actually been harder! I finally gave in and paid $45 for this craigslist ad in the art/media/design section after discovering how many of the free ads in the talent gigs section are actually for models without clothes.

I also crashed this FIT networking conference for models and stylists in hopes of finding one large-busted student who hasn’t given up her modeling dreams. She wasn’t there. All the models were as A to C cup as you would imagine. However, as they walked the runway in their mostly un-curve-friendly garments, this silver dress caught my eye.

bust friendly zhiming dress on runway 4-9-2016 2-18-34 PM

Afterwards, I found the designer, Zhiming Liu, and asked for a closer look. As I suspected, this dress is extremely bust friendly! Here’s a closeup of the bodice. (The rings at the shoulders wouldn’t hide our bra straps, but that’s easily remedied.)

bust friendly Zhiming dress front closeup 4-9-2016 4-37-51 PM

Beneath the drapey top layer is a fitted base with princess seams.

bust friendly Zhiming dress front princess seam details 4-9-2016 4-38-10 PM

The dress is out of a woven, non-stretch satin, so Zhiming uses darts for a fitted back.

bust friendly Zhiming dress back 4-9-2016 4-38-26 PM

In our few minutes to chat, I learned that Zhiming loves working with women’s curves. Later I sent her an email to find out why. You’ll find her answer as interesting as I did.

I was born and raised in Northeast China. My hometown is near Mongolia and Russia where most women are considered curvy compared to the rest of the country. My mom is very petite but she has two sisters are very curvy. When I was a child, I often see them alter their dresses on sewing machines because most of the clothes  in China are not made for the curvy women. They had to buy one, maybe two sizes bigger and alter the shoulder, waist or sometimes hem. I enjoyed to watching them do this, it was like a puzzle game to me. Now when I design any look for women with curves, I always think what would my aunts say about it. How would they look if they wear my garments.

I like to design for both slim women and curvy women. I like to design across both groups thinking would this look good for a less curvy woman or a more curvy woman? What should I change if I let a curvy woman wear a slim woman’s dress? What details should I add on or bring down when I design for curvy woman?  It’s like a mind game to me and I really enjoy thinking like this when it comes to design.

My understand of women with curves is that women who born with curves are born with a gift. They don’t have to do anything and look sexy. However, I think sexy is not the only word to describe women with curves. They can also be cool, intelligent and athletic. When people determine a woman with curves, they usually use the word “sexy” and I think it’s not very comprehensive. I don’t like hypersexualizing women with curves. I want to bring their other personality to those women. 

I was also curious about the inspiration for this dress.

This dress is part of my F/W collection [Zhiming graduated from FIT in December] and was inspired by the movie Tron Legacy. I imagined what the girl would wear in the real life other than the futuristic suit she wore in the movie. So I researched on militaristic uniform looks from comic books and movies, as well as looks from conceptual designers like Gareth Pugh. Then I try to bring the “crazy future look” down to earth.  I attempted to create a futuristic look but didn’t want to go too far. I imagined someone wearing the dress can go to a party, look classic and elegant but also be able to move her body, like dancing or running. She can match this dress with a pair of classic high heels for a classic look or she can wear funky boots to look more like trendy.

tron-legacy-trailer-1

The Wall Street Journal recently wrote about versatile dresses that can be worn to multiple styles of weddings in a single summer, advising to “choose one that’s dress-code-flexible: a tea-length number that can morph ‘from black-tie formal to beach casual, depending on the shoes you wear‘”. I immediately pictured Zhiming’s dress. Here are all the ways that Zhiming would suggest wearing her dress for just a single wedding weekend.

She can wear the dress with pumps, adding a blazer and a brooch for the ceremony. At the reception and dinner party, she can wear the dress with her favorite jewelry and dress sandals. For the next day brunch, she can wear the dress with a bolero jacket, adding a scarf or a millinery hat.

I love the dress as an original on a single woman, but its versatility also makes me think it would be excellent for the variety of body types in a bridal party. Right now, that would have to be a bridal party where all the bridesmaids can be fitted in New York City.

If someone wanted to order the dress, it is possible but everything will have to be custom hand made. They can send me their measurements and schedule an appointment for alterations. They can contact me via email [zhiming_liu@fitnyc.edu]. If someone across the country wanted to order the dress it would be very difficult since they will not be available for fittings and alterations. The dress will be made for their measurements but there would not be an alterations of the dress to make the dress fit perfectly to each person’s unique body.
I’m sorry to tease you with a dress that can’t be purchased in stores, but I have high hopes for Zhiming’s future. I didn’t find my H-cup model at FIT that Saturday afternoon, but I found a new designer who understands our curves and is happy designing for them.
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Fit model update: Instead of using only one model, last week I was able to work with a composite of two women who helped me discover the smallest and largest bust measurements that can wear an 8L. I am ALWAYS looking for H cup models, however, so please let me know if you or an acquaintance has the measurements in my ad!

The Shadow Bra Industry: Brazen Lingerie

She does so much more than maternity, but whenever I hear a mom-to-be worrying about nursing bras, the first person I want her to meet is Anina Young of Brazen Lingerie. When I first wrote about Anina, she worked from her brick and mortar store in Inwood on the northern tip of Manhattan. Since then, she’s changed her business model. Now instead of trekking up to her, for a fee (unless you’re a mastectomy client, then it’s free) she’ll trek to you–an especially welcome change for women who are about to give, or have just given, birth. Just ask the new mother who gave birth to twins that Anina went to meet in the neonatal intensive care unit!

If you ask Anina why she is so passionate about maternity and nursing, she’ll respond, “Have you ever held a one-day-old baby?” Personally, no. But I have shadowed Anina at Curve and listened to her very specific questions to maternity and mastectomy bra vendors that indicate a deep understanding of her client’s needs. For anyone in the NYC vicinity facing motherhood or breast surgery, Anina needs to be at the top of her to-do list.

Anina also needs to be at the top of the to-do list for anyone who

  • doesn’t like bra shopping
  • has had a bad bra shopping experience in the past
  • has neck problems or other physical issues
  • can’t find her size
  • simply doesn’t want to go to a store

These are the types of friends that Anina told me to refer to her. Like Jessica, the friends we send to Anina shouldn’t be in browse-mode. Instead, they should be in “take care of herself mode”.

When I asked why we should trust our friends to Anina, she answered, “Because you know me. You know I’ll take care of them. You know that I know what I’m doing, I’m not going to scam them, and I’m going to do the right thing.” And it’s true. Any time I’ve eavesdropped on Anina as she’s fit other women, I’ve learned something new. She’s worked with so many different body types that she has solutions for situations that would completely stump a bra fit dilettante like me.

If you’re ready to refer a friend to Anina, here’s what you can tell her to expect. First, Anina will ask a few questions ahead of their meeting to narrow the range of sizes to bring with her. Anina carries over 60 sizes, from 28D to HH and 32 (and higher) A to K (British). So far she has always had at least one bra in each customer’s size.

Once they meet, she’ll educate your friend about fit. Typically, customers buy half a dozen bras and rarely all in the same size. Anina can easily spend at least an hour with your friend, so she’ll tell her to be sure to block out 1.5 to 2 hours for her appointment. (Anina also offers parties that can take 2-2.5 hours.)

Once they’ve whittled the selection down to your friend’s favorites (including at least one boring basic and one “Saturday night hot special”), Anina will work through the prices with her. She’ll go through what’s on sale, what’s fashion and therefore will be gone soon, and what can be special ordered any time. Anina is used to working with a variety of income levels, helping her customers get the most out of the budgets they have right now and planning for what to add later.

The Shadow Bra Industry: Jessica Fits to a J Cup

Today I continue my Shadow Bra Industry series with the first of four women that I interviewed who are forging separate paths to help women find their perfect fit. My earlier posts covered the direct sales model and my experience with two companies, Peach and Essential Body Wear.

As you know from my first post on the subject, this series was sparked by the dreaded question: “Where should I go to get fitted for a bra?” I always feel like I should have a one-size-fits-all answer for a one-size-doesn’t-fit-all question! Now, instead of a single answer, my research for this series has given me multiple choices.

If one of these women offers services in your area, I encourage you to reach out to her. And if you know other D+ fitters in the Shadow Bra Industry or are a shadow fitter yourself, please let me know so that I can update my new Big Bust Bra Fitters resource page.

Before I proceed, here are some of the questions that I asked each of the women that I interviewed:

  • Why can I trust you to take care of a friend that I send to you?
  • What type of friend should I send to you? Or, what are your customers like?
  • What experience can I tell the friend to expect?

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Jessica has a story that a lot of us can relate to. She skipped an A cup growing up and jumped right into a B for her first bra. To her mom’s credit, she took Jessica to specialty bra stores from the very beginning. Even so, Jessica wore “grandma bras” all through college until her magical first experience with Bravissimo when she was 22. That’s when she discovered her true size of 32F and that it came in pretty styles and colors.

It’s also when she discovered her passion for bra fitting. When asked why we can trust her with our friends, she told me, “Because it’s personal.” She wants other D+ women to have the same experience that changed her life.

Jessica is the only fitter that I interviewed who doesn’t charge a fee. As she puts it, “My goal is client satisfaction. My main focus is not on the bottom line right now.” That’s saying a lot for a fitter whose day job is as an accountant!

Her ideal customer is a serious shopper who wants a proper fit, rather than someone who is only browsing, and Jessica would much rather sell two bras to her every six months than eight every two years.

Here is what the New York friends that you refer to Jessica can expect from the process. As they’re setting up an appointment date over the phone, Jessica will ask your friend what bra she’s currently wearing to figure out where she might be in the D-J cup range and the 30-38 band range (Jessica also carries some 40 and 42 bands for a specific customer). Once they meet, Jessica usually identifies the correct size within three try-ons.

Next, she’ll give your friend everything she has in her size, beginning with a tee shirt bra and moving on to non-molded cups if she’s interested. If a non-molded bra fits best, she’ll try to encourage your friend to choose that one. Finally, she’ll introduce sexier styles into the mix. As Jessica tells her clients, “There’s a technical need for a bra, so it might as well be pretty!” Jessica offers bras from Simone Perele (her favorite), Panache, Addiction and Parfait, as well as shapewear from Yummie Tummie and BodyWrap.

Catching Up with Patsy, Pepperberry & More Front Room

It’s been a while since we’ve published a Fitting In column (Patsy shared her button-front blouse odyssey in December), so when I caught up with Patsy for lunch at a nearby department store on Wednesday, I stole the opportunity to catch up with her wardrobe as well.

Patsy was a complete breath of fresh air when she breezed into the store wearing this Pepperberry ice blue double breasted coat in size 18SC.

pastsy pepperberry coat accessorized

I’m a big fan of the double princess seams that accommodate the bust and define the waist.

patsy pepperberry coat 3 quarter view

Patsy is a big fan of the pockets that are deep enough to keep from losing her cell phone.

patsy pepperberry coat deep pockets

patsy pepperberry coat back view

Underneath that coat she wore one of her More Front Room tops in XL.

Patsy in More Front Room top with blazer

Besides horizontal ruching that runs across the torso, this top has vertical ruching that runs the length of the chest area. Patsy feels there is definitely room for a larger bust than hers and that she could even size down to an L.

patsy more front room top side ruching

patsy more front room top back view

It looks like this style is currently sold out on the More Front Room website, but its popularity is a good sign that It’ll be back. And speaking of being back, Patsy promises she’ll be back with a new column soon.