Off the Rack ~ Trying a Custom-Made Coat from Etsy

I’ve long been an Etsy lurker, saving tons of items to my favorites list but never actually buying any of them. Most of the time it’s because it’s out of my price range. Custom, handmade clothing tends to cost quite a bit, and rightfully so. But I recently found a few China-based sellers that have the most amazing coats at a slightly more affordable price point.

I’m usually a little hesitant about ordering from China because I’ve been burned by China-based eBay sellers before and, more importantly, I’m concerned about contributing to sweatshop conditions. But the couple of stores I was looking at on Etsy have pretty extensive and legitimate-sounding shop descriptions, complete with names and photos of the employees. Can it be trusted? I don’t really know. I hope so . . . because these coats are so awesome I want to buy them all! It helps that the pricing is not exactly sweatshop-level. Most of the coats are around $130–$170, which is inexpensive for custom-made, but not at all what I consider “cheap.”

After trying on a full-skirted coat from Guess in a random store, I decided I needed a similar one. The skirt was so feminine and fun and it balanced my chest really well. But I did not want the Guess one, because it was mostly acrylic and was so itchy. All the Etsy coats I found were instead wool-polyester blends, which is exactly what I wanted. I know that blend is very warm and not scratchy because I’ve had coats in that material in the past.

After searching around, I found two shops that had a ton of coats I loved, including plenty with full skirts. The first is YL1dress and the second is Xiaolizi. I had such a hard time choosing from all their offerings, but I eventually settled on an asymmetrical collared one from YL1.

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The best part about ordering clothes through Etsy is that most sellers are happy to customize the sizing or design for you. So I requested to have plain straight sleeves instead of the “lantern” ones pictured, and I asked for houndstooth fabric that was in another listing in the same shop.

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YL1 offers customization for a flat $30 fee, so I got the sleeve alteration, the new fabric, and I provided my measurements (noting my long waist, especially) even though I’m right in the range of what they list as a size “medium.”

The shop had excellent communication, usually writing me back within hours of anything I sent them. They also included charts with instructions on how to properly measure yourself and requested additional measurements beyond the usual chest/waist to ensure the best possible fit (specifically, length from shoulder to waist, height, and weight).

It seems they forgot to mark the parcel as sent when they first shipped it, because I received a shipping confirmation that day after it arrived, so I have no idea how fast it was made or how fast it shipped. But the final communication occurred on November 14 and I received the package on December 10, so I’m pretty happy with that timeline.

So! How’s the final product? Here, have a photo essay (in front of our little Christmas tree that we just started decorating!):

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Love it love it love it love it!!

The quality is so far beyond what I was even expecting. The first thing I noticed is it is really heavy. Also, the lining is high quality and sewn perfectly; the fabric is nice and soft; and the care that went into the details is truly impressive.

The fit is just the tiniest bit off. I wish the chest was just a little roomier. You can see it pulling a tiny bit in the closeups below. And the armpits are attached a little low or at a weird angle or something, because when I lift my arms up high, the rest of the coat goes with them.

But there’s definitely room for layers under the coat and it certainly fits better than my old boxy wool peacoat I replaced it with. Plus the asymmetrical collar and high-low skirt are so fun! And considering that it kept me totally toasty in Thursday’s mid-30s (Fahrenheit) weather (and I was outside for most of the day), it’s practical even though it looks more “fashion-y.”

Here are some of those details I mentioned:

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The torso. Note the princess seams—a busty gal’s best friend. You can see here that the chest is pulling just a touch. Also please note the matching covered buttons. My old houndstooth peacoat just had black plastic. It even came with a spare button tucked into one of the pockets.

Princess seams from the side. Pretty good contouring, no?

Princess seams from the side. Pretty good contouring, no?

I just love this collar. There’s even a little hidden button that holds the larger side of the collar in place under the smaller piece.

I just love this collar. There’s even a little hidden button that holds the larger side of the collar in place under the smaller piece.

Fun, full skirt! I also appreciate that there’s a button on the lower side of the waist seam. The old peacoat (again) only had buttons across the bust, so it would fly open with a big gust of wind. That’s not an issue here.

Fun, full skirt! I also appreciate that there’s a button on the lower side of the waist seam. The old peacoat (again) only had buttons across the bust, so it would fly open with a big gust of wind. That’s not an issue here.

The pockets! They are a little high up, which I really like because it’s a perfect height for keeping my hands in them. And the inner panel is made of the wool, with just the outer panel made of lining fabric. Not only is this warmer for my hands, but all my coats that have pockets made of just lining end up shredding where it’s sewn together, so presumably that won’t be an issue either. They're also quite deep. I have no worries about my phone or Metrocard or gloves falling out. And the full skirt hides that I have all that crap in there too!

The pockets! They are a little high up, which I really like because it’s a perfect height for keeping my hands in them. And the inner panel is made of the wool, with just the outer panel made of lining fabric. Not only is this warmer for my hands, but all my coats that have pockets made of just lining end up shredding where it’s sewn together, so presumably that won’t be an issue either. They’re also quite deep. I have no worries about my phone or Metrocard or gloves falling out. And the full skirt hides that I have all that crap in there too!

Even with the minor fit issues, I am really happy with this coat and heartily recommend this Etsy seller.

 

Off the Rack ~ Reviewing The Natural “Plus Size Sexy Plunge Bra”

I recently found a weird super-low plunge on Zulily from the brand “The Natural.” I’d never heard of the brand, but the bra looked pretty interesting:

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Now that is a low gore! I was mildly impressed with the size range too. The “plus” version has bands from 30–44 (impressive!) and cups D–G (US), so the equivalent of a UK FF (not so impressive). I usually wear 30FF with strapless bras, so for $20 I figured it’d be worth a try. As usual, before buying I scoured the internet for reviews. Everything said it ran super tight in the band, and one review on Bratabase noted that it required two extenders when the buyer got it in her usual size. Yikes! It seems this is one bra with which you should use the plus-4 method. Bearing that in mind, I decided to order a 34 band. Reviews indicated that the cups ran more or less true to size so I went with 34DDD (UK 34E), which sister sizes to 32F to 30FF.

When it arrived, I immediately measured the band, and found that it stretches from 24.5” to 31” if I pull it really hard. It’s pretty much perfect for my 29” ribcage.

The bra came with a pair of matching fabric straps and one long clear strap to use as a halter (though the fabric straps are long enough for halter use on me too). It has three rows of hooks and eyes.

The construction is pretty innovative, with very strong underwire in the little U at the gore, but no wire under each cup. Instead, there’s a heavy seam. On each side, there is another heavy seam, with internal boning inside it reaching about halfway up. The cups are molded but not too stiff, and the band on front is soft foam. The rest of the band is your usual microfiber fabric lined with power mesh.

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As for fit and usefulness, I’m actually rather impressed. I thought for sure it would be a disaster, but it actually gives surprisingly decent support when worn with normal straps.

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The band is only slightly lower than a regular strapless bra. I’ll stick with my Le Mystere Soiree Bustier for low-backed garments.

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The cups aren’t quite perfect, of course. With my full-on-bottom boobs, there is a little gaping at the inner base, where the breast is pushing it away from my body.

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It basically goes away if I push the top of the wire U back against my skin. I wonder if there’s a way to alter the bra so it stays this way more? Maybe cut up that clear halter strap and attach a piece to both sides of the U so it can’t spread apart at all.

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Unfortunately, using the straps as a racerback or halter exacerbates this gaping issue because now the top of the cups are being pulled further inward.

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Luckily, the few dresses I have that require a super plunge gore actually all have sleeves or wide straps, so it’s not much of an issue. I also wonder what would happen if I bought a cup size down. I know technically it would be too small, but it’s possible that would ameliorate the excess cup being pushed away, right?

Anyhow, here the bra under a Tatyana (formerly Bettie Page Clothing) dress:

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And from the side. With this dress, fully lined and made of thick jersey fabric, you really can’t see the bit of bra being pushed away at the base of the cup:

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And a really plunging dress I have:

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The issue with this dress (and a couple others I own) is that a regular plunge bra is technically covered, but the stupid gore bow is always visible and sometimes even twists around and sticks out. Plus someone taller than me can see the bra if they look down at me or if I slouch. It’s so annoying! This super plunge is the perfect solution (and my cleavage still looks good!).

However, it must be noted that with this loose and thin jersey fabric, you can see the edge of the inner cup:

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I’ve gotta find a way to fix that!

I think this bra could work really well for someone less full-on-bottom than me, and the price I paid was definitely right (it ordinarily retails for $56). This model is the “plus” version (style number 2307). The “regular” one has a pair of thin straps around the back instead of a solid band. It’s a little hard to find the full range of sizes in the plus version. Several websites only list band sizes from 38–44, but Amazon and Brayola have the full range.

Off the Rack ~ Pin-Up Tops from The Oblong Box Shop

This week I’m reviewing an item from a super cute online store I just discovered called “The Oblong Box.” I really like the shop’s message, and their house brand clothes are very reasonably priced and come in a wide range of sizes. From their “About Me” section:

Named after the vintage horror film featuring a story by Edgar Allen Poe . . . my love of horror films spawned my shop but my love for all women and their beautiful shapes is what was ultimately born from it. The Oblong Box Shop means coffin . . . but it also means odd shaped box . . . no two girls are the same size so why only make clothes in 3 sizes?

So great! The discovery started when I stumbled across a Heart of Haute dress on the site for 30% off and only my size left in stock (lucky!). I’ve had my eye on the Midnight Peacock Monique dress (review to come) ever since it was released but have been reticent to pay $99 for it. I additionally had a 10% coupon for the shop, so I looked around to see what else they offered and found their section of “pin-up tops”—stretchy, strappy, ruched sweetheart tops that come in tons of bright colors and sizes from Small to 2X.

Most of the tops feature criss-cross straps in the front, but some have regular straps, which I much prefer. I think the crossed ones look like they’re choking the models! (Actually, I just now read the full description, and it turns out you can wear them crossed in front or back. In back sounds nice!)

The criss-crossed tops are ruched in front and back, while the regular straps are ruched just on the front panel. I ended up buying the regular-strapped bright cobalt blue and the teal-like peacock:

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The bust has light foam padding inside it (the criss-cross ones do not, though), which for smaller-chested ladies will probably serve as an okay bra replacement. In my case, it’s hardly enough support, but it does maintain a nice, round profile and means there’s no visible nipple and you can wear textured bras (lace or significant seams) without it showing through. The sweetheart neckline and twisted top are also supremely flattering.

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It’s quite boobalicious. In these photos, I’m wearing an Ewa Michalak CHP-style bra, but when I wore it with my Ewa S-style, which gives more push-up both upward and toward the center, it was practically indecent.

Made of a swimsuit-like 96% polyester / 4% spandex blend, it’s also very tight and clingy. Since my measurements (37”-29”-41”) fall exactly in the size Medium, it’s obviously supposed to fit this way. But you can really see where my bra is pinching in and I’m not crazy about how my tummy looks. So I might size up to a Large if I buy more of these.

The other issue is that the straps are set very wide. My Ewa has the widest straps of all my bras, and it’s still visible, especially in back. If you click on the photos to view them full-size, you’ll be able to see it. I guess it’s minor enough that I don’t really care, but I wish the straps were just a tiny bit further in or were a bit thicker. I can’t even imagine trying to match up a bra to the criss-cross straps! I guess it’d have to be a strapless.

Of course, my favorite way to wear these tops is with high-waisted bottoms. Here it is in peacock paired with my Freddie’s 1940s Button Pants:

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So perfect! I guess that’s one bonus of the top being so tight—it slides under high-waisted garments super smoothly.

 

Off the Rack ~ Heart of Haute Separates

I’m finally back! The wedding was amazing. Everything that could have possibly gone right went really right, from the weather to the food…to my dress, of course! Here’s a little sneak peek at two photos from our amaaaazing photographer Marylou, from All Bliss Photography:

10653733_815418081834444_7950988120988891737_n10599212_815418061834446_7687430695961492829_nI’ll have a more in-depth post about the dress and its undergarments in a few weeks once we get the rest of the images. I can’t wait to see them all!!

As for this week’s post, well I have just about had a revelation with Heart of Haute (in a good way)! I’ve written about several dresses from the brand (here, here, and here), and have always walked away with more or less a mixed opinion. But I’ve finally found an item that works amazingly well (and also one that again receives an “eh” review).

Of all things, the piece that works so well is a button-up blouse. Can you believe it?? I always avoid these because, unless they’re specifically designed for big boobs (hello, Campbell & Kate!), if you buy to fit your waist then the buttons pull open or there’s massive gaping at the bust, or if you buy to fit your boobs then the waist is humongous.

But when I saw this blouse on the lovely June from Junebugs & Georgia Peaches (one of my favorite fashion blogs, since my body is basically a mashup of June’s top half and Amelia’s bottom half), it fit her bust so well and looked so darn cute that I wanted to try one too. And when HoH released it in a scottie dog print, I just had to have it! (Scotties are almost the same shape as westies, which is what I have, so I have a habit of buying scottie merchandise and just pretending it’s a westie).

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I was nervous to order a medium because it’s only supposed to fit up to 36” bust and I’m 37”, but since I found a couple photos of bigger ladies than I wearing a medium, I went with it and hoped for the best.

And thank goodness I did, because it fits almost perfectly!

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And untucked from my super high-waisted Freddies jeans:

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There is no gaping at all! Yet my breasts aren’t being squashed into a boobloaf. It’s a miracle.

There are princess seams all the way up the front that give it visible contouring, and seams up the back so it’s not all one panel there either. It cinches in at the waist when looked at straight on and from the side. It also helps that the buttons are closer together and placed in such a way that there isn’t a lack of closure right over the fullest point of the breasts. The panel of fabric behind the button panel is also quite wide, aiding in the panel’s stability.

As for those little nitpicks that make it almost perfect and not straight-up perfect…well it’s a little short on me. Even in my super high-waist jeans, when I sit down the back of the shirt comes completely untucked. In the front, it’s only 2.5 inches past my belly button. There’s no way I could wear this with your standard “low-rise” (or in my case even “mid-rise”) pants. And since it’s short on me, the area below the waist flares out much higher than where my hips are actually located.

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I recognize that this is not a universal problem. I just have a really long torso. So it would not be an issue for petite or short-waisted gals. And I think it looks really good with high-waisted bottoms anyway, so I’m perfectly happy to only pair it with that particular style.

Next nitpick: The shoulders are just narrow enough that my bra straps peek out. In these photos, I’ve shoved it over so it’s not visible, but they don’t stay that way throughout the day. Do I care enough to wear a strapless or use a Rixie clip to turn my bra into a racerback? Absolutely not! I just stick with black bra straps so it blends in.

Finally, the last little thing I have to mention is that the armholes are awfully small. It’s really great that there’s no visible side bra, and I feel perfectly comfortable, but if someone has bigger or more muscular arms than me, it could be a problem. On me, the holes are the exact circumference of my upper arm. If this had sleeves of the same circumference, I don’t think I’d be able to life my elbows above my waist.

Moving on, the piece I have with the mixed review is the Circle Skirt in Constellation print. Don’t get me wrong, ultimately I luuuuuuurve this skirt. But the fit is not as advertised. I ordered size medium as I always do, which is supposed to fit a waist of 28–29 inches. My waist is 29 inches. So medium should be perfect, right? Not so much…

I could barely zip the thing! I ended up exchanging it for a large, which is just loose enough to have room to tuck in a shirt and still be comfortable, not binding. I measured my large, and laid flat it’s 15 inches wide (so 30 total). I forgot to measure the medium, but I’m assuming it was 28 inches, but 28 inches of double-layered non-stretch cotton is not going to fit someone who is 29 inches. All the size medium HoH dresses I’ve tried have been perfectly fine in the waist, so I guess this particular item just runs a little small. Just by an inch or inch and a half, but enough that you should size up one.

Now that my complaint is out of the way, this skirt is freaking adorable! It has actual constellations printed all over it, against tiny dots for the rest of the stars, over splotchy shades of dark blue. And—hello!—it glows in the dark! Seriously. It’s also full enough that it has volume without a petticoat, though I’m sure a petticoat would look really cute under it too.

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I also like that the length is just above my knee, since most vintage-style skirts are mid-calf, which tends to make my short legs look extra stumpy. I would definitely buy this skirt again. I’m particularly fond of the blue chambray dot, which has contrasting paneled pockets. It’s about time HoH start adding pockets to their designs!