Off the Rack ~ My Core Bras

Hey readers, I’m back from my honeymoon to Yellowstone National Park! We saw tons of animals (wolves, coyotes, foxes, bighorn sheep, elk—a million bison), got up before sunrise nearly every day to squeeze in as many activities as possible, and enjoyed all sorts of winter fun—cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, snowmobiling, and visiting the otherworldly thermal features in the park. It was amazing.

While on the trip, I had planned on piggybacking on Darlene’s recent post about discovering her core wardrobe through travel. But since all I wore every day was a bunch of thermal layers and a down coat, my “core” wardrobe consisted almost exclusively of winter gear—not very helpful. However, I did wear one busty item every single day, and that was my Panache sports bra.

I know I’ve written about this bra before in a conventional review. But I think my original review was a little mixed, and at this point I absolutely love these bras. I now own three, and it seems like every season Panache comes out with another color that I adore. I’m currently lusting after the lime colorway from last year and the new magenta with black trim. But I don’t think I can justify owning five of these babies, especially since they don’t fit in my bra drawer and have to live in a pile in my bedside table’s open cubby.

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I wore them every day of the trip because I wanted to be strapped down during strenuous activity, avoid boob bounce on a snowmobile or bumpy snow coach ride (a mini-bus outfitted with treads instead of wheels, for driving over snow), and also take advantage of the bra’s general comfort.

Well the comfort was definitely the best part! Unlike most of my regular bras, I completely forgot I was wearing it at all. The sweat-wicking capability was also stellar. One of the worst things you can do in cold weather is get overheated. As I understand it, since sweating cools your body, becoming sweaty can actually lead to hypothermia faster than if you were just a little cold. Of course, it wasn’t even that cold while I was there (only a few degrees below freezing most days, while back in New York it was barely above zero [Fahrenheit]) and there was no threat of hypothermia.

But when we went cross-country skiing and worked hard enough that our thermal underwear got sweaty and sticky (pleasant!), I was nice and dry on the skin under the bra when we finally finished.

Further, on a more vain note, I really, really appreciated the fact that the Panache Sport doesn’t hide or even minimize my breast size or shape. If I have to be swaddled in several layers, I’d prefer to maintain at least some semblance of my figure, and this bra let me do it while still being practical.

Aside from my Panaches, I did also pack three other normal bras. Well really I packed two and wore one on the plane. I guess you could say the two I packed are my “core” styles. It was the Fantasie Molded Smoothing Tee Shirt bra and the Ewa Michalak S Bambino.

The Fantasie is a core piece because it’s the smoothest tan/nude bra I own. I always, always bring one with me so I don’t have to worry about print or seam show-through. The Ewa S-style, on the other hand, gives me my favorite profile. If I could own every single S bra that Ewa makes, I would be a happy camper. It’s slightly more open than the CHP and has slightly better uplift than the PL, the other two styles I own.

As for the one I wore on the plane ride, well for that I just wanted something really light and with a non-pinchy band. The one I chose is a bra I never even got around to reviewing on here! It’s a somewhat generic Gossard full cup lace bra, pictured on the left here:

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I find that Gossard runs small in the band and a little small in the cup, so I size up from 28G to 30G. With this one, the cup is a bit big on my smaller boob, but perfect on the bigger one. It’s smooth, non-itchy lace with a satiny, floral-print side sling to keep everything tucked in. What I really like about Gossard bras, though, is the back of the band:

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This thing is so cool looking! And also really comfortable when I want a band that won’t dig into my back while wearing a backpack or being stuck in the uncomfortably upright seat position on the plane. It’s maybe not quite as firm and supportive as a normal bra band, but I really like it anyway. I’d love to get more Gossard bras, in fact, but most of the time I’m not thrilled by the design, and non-padded ones are few and far between.

 

Off the Rack ~ An Overview of Outlets to Sell Used Clothing

As regular readers may have figured out, I do a lot of shopping. It seems I have a new dress or bra to review on here every week. But I also mention quite often the fact that I live in New York City, land of the tiny, closet-less apartments.

So where do I store all these dresses?? Well I actually have a limited number of hangers, and when they all get full, instead of buying more hangers I get rid of a dress or two. But when you spend so much time searching for dresses to fit your boobs, it’s hard to get rid of them! They’re so difficult to find and often expensive. Selling the nicer ones instead of donating to goodwill is one way that encourages me to make room in the closet, and over the years I’ve discovered several avenues for doing so. This week, I’ll give an overview of four methods, and what I like and dislike about each.

First up, the most casual: Selling through Facebook groups.

I often mention Facebook forums where I get advice on busty clothing, and several of those same forums are also a venue to swap and sell my boob-friendly castoffs. I’m a member of a Trashy Diva group, a general big boobs clothing group, and used to be on a few others such as Hell Bunny and Wheels & Dollbaby. These days, I’m just on the first two because they’re the best organized and have moderators who keep everyone on topic and keep an eye out for scammers.

In both groups, there are official photo albums organized by size, into which one can post the item for sale and write details about fit, condition, and price. Some people also simply post their available items to the wall, but in that case it can disappear under more active conversations, so I like to stick with the albums.

When someone is interested, they usually start out by commenting on the photo, and then if they decide to move forward with the purchase, the conversation will move to private messages. Thanks to Paypal, sending and receiving money is very easy and everything goes directly between seller and buyer without any middlemen and just a small Paypal fee.

Speaking of Paypal fees, there are two options for sending money. Sending as a “gift” and using your bank account (as opposed to a credit card) will incur no fees. Sending (or requesting) money as payment for goods and services incurs a small fee (about 2.5% or so). It would be nice to stick with the gift method, but it’s much safer to accept the fees and send as official payment. If there’s a problem with the item you purchase or it’s never received, you can open a dispute with Paypal and get a refund. You can’t open a dispute for a “gift,” though.

Some ladies in these groups get to know one another quite well and feel comfortable enough to do business with the “gift” function, but if you’re a new buyer or seller, I’d definitely recommend sticking with the fees.

Selling Method #2: eBay

I’ve been using eBay for about a decade, so I know it quite well at this point and feel very comfortable using it. It gives you a much wider potential selling base than a Facebook group does, but it’s also not as targeted an audience and there are thousands (millions?) of other people selling on there, so it’s hard to make your listings stand out. As such, it’s difficult to sell items that aren’t from a well-known brand. And with well-known brands, it’s more likely that there will be other people selling the same thing, which means you may not be able to command as high a price as you’d like, depending on the prices of similar items.

There are also a lot of annoying buyers on eBay who don’t follow the rules, doing things like asking for a lower price after winning an auction, simply not paying because they changed their mind, or even receiving the item and then lying about its condition to get a refund. Unfortunately, in recent years eBay has strengthened its buyer protections significantly whilst decreasing its seller protections.

For example, it used to be that both buyers and sellers could choose to leave positive or negative feedback. It’s since been changed so buyers can choose positive, neutral, or negative, but a seller can only choose positive or “report this buyer.” You can write a negative comment even while selecting “positive,” but there’s no way to select “negative” overall, and as a result it’s impossible for buyers to have anything but 100% positive feedback in terms of numbers. You have to go out of your way to report a buyer for violating eBay’s terms, and even then they’ll only get kicked off if they do it repeatedly. There’s no good way to warn other sellers that a particular buyer is bad news.

As a buyer, though, you can certainly take comfort in the fact that eBay will almost always rule in your favor should a dispute arise.

All that being said, eBay is extremely intuitive and easy to use. You simply click “sell” and follow the instructions step-by step. They want you to sell your items, because that’s how they make money—by taking a 10% cut of each sale. There are listings fees as well, but the first 50 or 100 (depending on category) per month are free, so that doesn’t affect small-time sellers like me. Payment is once again sent and received through Paypal.

EBay offers three kinds of listings: auction, buy-it-now, or auction with a buy-it-now option. For items that I expect to sell quickly (such as popular brands, or anything just before Christmas), I stick with auction and usually include a buy-it-now option for a higher price. For items by a lesser-known brand, I select just buy-it-now and leave the listing up indefinitely. You can choose the duration of each listing from as little as a few days, to a month, to “until it sells,” as I do with my buy-it-now listings.

One final tip: As a seller, you can offer a range of shipping carriers and speeds. I always go for USPS because it’s the cheapest for small parcels, but I often roll the cost of shipping into the price of the item and then offer “free shipping” (especially when I plan to use a Priority flat-rate box, because then I know exactly what it’ll cost no matter where I ship it or how heavy it is. People just love free shipping (or what they think is “free” shipping), so it can really boost your sales to offer it. I used to avoid doing that because it meant eBay was technically getting a cut of the money intended to pay for shipping, but they changed their policy a couple years ago and now they take a cut of the entire final value, shipping and all, so it makes no difference.

The third (and fourth) method: Shopping Apps

Shopping apps are smartphone applications or websites where sellers list their pre-owned clothing. The app takes a cut of each purchase, but also dictates the same shipping rate no matter the size or cost of the item, and provides sellers with a shipping label. There are no auctions, but buyers can message you to make an offer for a lower price or ask for a bundle of several items to avoid paying the shipping fee several times over.

I’m currently using two shopping apps, one of which I just signed up for recently. The one I’ve been using for a year or so is the smartphone app Poshmark. It has a very easy-to-use interface and is really fun for browsing and searching. I’ve wasted many an hour flicking through other people’s items, and once in a while you can find a real gem, like the pinup brands we’re all familiar with, for rock bottom prices.

Poshmark lets you submit up to four photos of your item, you select a category, and then you write your own title and description. They take a 20% cut, which is twice that of other sites. But Poshmark also only charges buyers $4.99 for shipping via USPS Priority.

They also host “Closet Clear-Out” events pretty frequently, during which time if you drop the price of an item by at least 10%, everyone who has “liked” it will receive an alert letting them know, and they’ll be able to get a shipping discount for an hour after the price drop. Again the program wants you to sell, sell, sell! since that’s how they make their money. There are no listings fees or ads.

I’ve bought and sold a handful of items through Poshmark, but to be honest I really expected to sell more stuff more quickly. I do better on eBay. I have several items with dozens of “likes” and plenty of comments, but they’re still languishing in my virtual closet months later.

One thing you can do to get more eyes on your items is to submit them to “parties,” which happen three times a day and always have a theme. The themes range from vague (“girly girl party”) to totally specific (“Nike, Puma, and Lululemon party”). You can also “follow” sellers, much like Facebook, and then “share” new listings to your followers. Other people can also share your items to their followers, so it helps to like items, leave comments, and follow other sellers.

A screen shot of my Poshmark “closet” on my phone.

A screen shot of my Poshmark “closet” on my phone.

The final app I’ve used to list clothes is called Tradesy. I actually haven’t explored the phone app much, but have listed lots of items through the website. While Poshmark only allows you to sell through the app (you can browse and buy through the site, though), Tradesy has an excellent website with full functionality.

Tradesy works much the same as Poshmark, but there are some key differences. First, they only take a 9% cut (again with no fees or ads). They have a higher shipping rate of $7.50 and will actually mail you a shipping kit complete with box and label when you sell something. No scrounging around for an old box or envelope! You select the box size from a dropdown when you list the item.

They also alter everyone’s main photo, to take out the background and replace it with a white field, and remove the hanger if it’s been photographed while hung up. This way, all the images across the entire app look consistent. They also allow you to upload up to eight photos, instead of Posh’s mere four.

I haven’t purchased or sold anything through Tradesy yet, so I can’t speak to that experience, but I really love their website interface. It’s so easy and intuitive to list things, and they even give you pricing suggestions based on similar items that have sold and the original price of the item.

Overall, I like using Tradesy better for listing things, but I like Posh better for buying, since I think the browsing, community, and communication experiences are better (and they offer cheaper shipping).

My Tradesy closet on the phone.

My Tradesy closet on the phone.

All the different selling outlets have their pros and cons depending on personal preferences and what you’re selling. I prefer to use all four since it makes it that much more likely that my items will sell (though some garments are not appropriate for all forums). It might sound like a lot of work, but if you list the item (or a few items) in all the outlets at the same time, it’s quick and easy. Just copy and paste all the same info across each platform!

Finally, in case anyone is interested in checking out my for-sale items, my eBay username is SailorM17 and in the two apps it’s Twingomatic.

Happy selling!

 

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.

YL1dress houndstooth coat

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.