Off the Rack ~ Happy Fourth of July (And a Heart of Haute Astro Dress Review & Alteration)

In honor of the USA’s Fourth of July/Independence Day holiday, today I’m doing a quick and looooong overdue review of the Astro dress from Heart of Haute in the red, white, and blue star print.

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I bought this dress ages ago and never got around to reviewing it, in part because it’s not actually all that boob-friendly and required either a pin to hold it shut or some sewn alterations. But I really wanted to wear it for the holiday this year, so it was finally my motivation to do the alteration.

First up, I had to take advantage of the gorgeous weather and scenery around my parents’ cabin in upstate New York, where I’m spending the extended holiday weekend:

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Basics: Like much of Heart of Haute’s offerings, this one is made of high quality quilting cotton with pristine stitching. The belt is removable, and is held in place by two double-layered belt loops placed on the front of the bodice. I think a minor improvement could be achieved by placing another pair of belt loops on the back on either side of the zipper, since it tends to slide down a bit as-is.

Surprisingly, the red underbust section actually rests under my bust (surprising because my long torso and bigger bust usually means waistbands pull up to rest on breast tissue instead of below it where it belongs).

However, as I’ve experienced before with HoH, the boob space is a little wonky on me. Thanks to ample gathering at the base of the bustline, it appears to have enough volume to fit my boobs, but tends to float away from my chest, exposing bra and way more cleavage than I especially want:

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Until I sewed a permanent alteration, I solved this by pinning the overlapping pieces together, but that ends up creating a broken line along the front, and the pin job is pretty obvious:

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While attempting to figure out the best way to sew the top, I realized that simply pulling the overlapping pieces into place created a loose, gappy look:

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However, pinching the front of the dress on each side pulled the neckline up without eradicating any volume in the cups, so I decided that was the way to go, even if it broke up the pattern a bit:

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While wearing the dress, I pinched one side into place (in my case the left-hand side), folded it down, and sewed it in place with a super-loose baste stitch just to hold it there. If I was at home, I would have held it with several pins and maybe ironed it, but all I had at my disposal was thread and the single needle I’d brought:

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Then I used a slip stitch to hand-sew the overlapping piece in place all the way from the front to the side seam (you can see a slip stitch tutorial in this old post of mine: Shrinking a Bra Band). Here’s how it looked after sewing my left-hand side (so the right side in this view). You can see it looks slightly cleaner overall and there’s no more visible bra:

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For the other side, I sandwiched the two sides together and (lazily) just pinched it in place without bothering to baste it, and started sewing. It turned out a tiny bit uneven compared to the other side, but with the busy pattern I don’t think you can even tell:

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The fabric is now flush with my chest instead of floating out away from it. It’s still fairly open in terms of visible cleavage, but I feel a lot more comfortable and taller folks can’t see down my top any more. This alteration did pull up the red waistband a bit so it’s now resting on breast tissue by just a little (whereas before it wasn’t), but I think this minor sacrifice is worth it.

There are no Astro dresses left on the HoH site (though there is one on their clearance site in XS), but several designs are quite similar, including the Irma, Jolene (which makes me think of the Dolly Parton/White Stripes song), Mallory, and Melinda, all of which I think would benefit from this alteration for big-busted ladies.

Happy Fourth of July, everybody!!

 

Off the Rack ~ Busty & The Beach: Curvy Kate Cocoloco Bikini

Like Darlene, my first choice for Curvy Kate swimwear was also the Ocean Drive set, with the halter top and shorts bottoms.

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And like Darlene, I had an “I’m begging—don’t send me [blank]” moment with a particular style, in my case a bandeau. Ordinarily, I just don’t do strapless. And just like Darlene, I received exactly what I was hoping to avoid! However, also like Darlene, I was pleasantly surprised by how much I like the item, the Cocoloco bandeau and skirted bottoms.

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Disclosure: This bikini was received as a review sample. All opinions are my own and based entirely on my experience.

Since I’ve never tried Curvy Kate swimwear but I know I’m a 28G in their bras, I opted to request a 30FF top. Having read that their swim bottoms run “true to size,” I went with size Medium.

Unfortunately, the 30FF was too small in the cups, giving me loads of quad boob and escaping side tissue. Apparently Curvy Kate is another brand in which I have to size up in the cup with swimwear:

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The bottoms they originally sent were actually the side-tie briefs. These briefs are extremely low-rise, especially on my extra-long torso:

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Apologies for the grainy cell phone picture.

Most of my underwear just barely grazes the bottom of my hip tattoo, so if a bikini is more than a full inch below it, you know it’s really low. If my bikini area wasn’t groomed, I’m pretty sure there’d be hair visible. Not to mention the fact that any bending would expose my buttcrack, which was about a mere inch below the top of the bikini in back.

Anyhow! Since I had to send the top back for a bigger size anyway, I asked if I could swap for the skirted bottoms too. Since the briefs felt okay in terms of tightness across the waist and across my butt, I stuck with medium.

As I waited for my new set to arrive and stalked the Curvy Kate website in the meantime, the print and color mix of Cocoloco continued to grow on me until I was even more excited to receive the replacements. And I’m happy to report that once I had the bikini in my greedy little hands, the 30G and skirted bottoms are a much appreciated improvement in fit.

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Really loving the black-white-sky blue combination.

I am really impressed by the construction and fit of this top, especially considering that it’s a bandeau, and my full-on-bottom boobs tend not to get along with strapless anything. The cups are made of a lightweight yet strong foam with two vertical seams. It’s then covered in an outer layer of swim fabric that’s gathered and sewn in place in the middle and at the sides.

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The wings are lined with power mesh and feature a piece of vertical boning next to the underwires. There are also removable, fully adjustable straps that don’t attach too far out to the sides (a problem I have with CK bras). Finally, the back of the band is a little thicker than usual, a nice counterpoint to my complaint about the thin-ness of last week’s Fantasie Lombok.

Even though this suit is a 30 band and I’m really a 28, this thing stays up amazingly well. I felt so comfortable in it, and even after jumping around at home it stayed in place. It doesn’t even have silicone strips! I would bet that the thickness of the band is helping with this. It makes me think I should give the CK Luxe Strapless a try—it even has the same vertical seaming as Cocoloco. The gore also tacks really well, a major feat for a strapless.

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Front view, without straps.

Front view, without straps.

Front view, with straps.

Front view, with straps.

Angled view, without straps.

Angled view, without straps.

Angled view, with straps.

Angled view, with straps.

There is one thing I have to complain about: The cups are too shallow. So close to perfection, but my full-on-bottom boobs strike again! Thanks to the looser outer layer of printed fabric, it’s not visible to the naked eye. And thanks to the high quality foam and the vertical seams, cup crushing at the base of the cup is kept to a minimum. But I can clearly feel that it’s slightly too shallow for me and that the wires are being pushed down my ribs. This is such a common occurrence for me, though, that I hesitate to even classify it as a negative trait. It’s more just a fact of life.

Sadly, this was another non-swimming week, so I can’t really assess the practicality of the suit. But I can say that the top of the cups are pretty open, an excellent feature for avoiding quad-boob, but maybe not so great for jumping off a high dive. However, I would definitely feel comfortable wearing it in waves or diving once I attach the straps. They feel nice and secure.

Lastly, let’s discuss the bottoms. I think the adorable-ness of the skirt is self-evident. But as for the fit, honestly I wish I’d requested a large. Although the medium doesn’t cut into my butt at all (success!), it just feels tight and a little binding overall and it’s not doing my muffin top area any favors. Since I’m generally between medium and large, I don’t think these run small, it’s just that I prefer a slightly roomier fit. Additionally, the seam where the skirt is attached is a little itchy in front, and I think a bigger size would help with this since it wouldn’t be pressed against me as closely.

 

Off the Rack ~ Busty & The Beach: Fantasie Lombok Bikini

For my third bikini this month, I’m reviewing Fantasie’s “Lombok” full-cup halter top and scarf-tie briefs. I had the hardest time picking a swimsuit from Eveden. As you’ll recall from our trip to their showroom a few months ago, I was in love with oodles of designs from Freya.

I really wanted the watermelon or the hot pink with neon yellow polka dots. But in both cases, the bikini top style I liked best was the halter, of which I already own two and even covered in my Freya swim roundup of 2013 (the Coconut Grove set). Ultimately I ended up going with a much more subdued suit from Fantasie, because I thought it would be more valuable to both readers and to Eveden to have me assess something new.

Disclosure: This bikini was received as a review sample. All opinions are my own and based entirely on my experience.

I’ve long been intrigued by Fantasie’s full-cup bikini style (which Darlene reviewed earlier this week). Even though it’s billed as “full cup,” it really doesn’t look like an excessive amount of coverage to me, and I really like the gathering at the base of the cup. Plus, Fantasie releases lots of new colors and prints in this style every season.

I almost overlooked the Lombok, but once I realized it was the same full-cup shape but with a halter instead of bra straps, I was hooked. I was also a huge fan of the scarf-tie bottoms, since they have that cute side-tie look, but with more coverage than all my Freya bottoms. The gold beads on the straps and the ties give it just a little more visual interest as well.

So let’s start with the manufacturer’s photo, followed by me:

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Note that the color is more accurate in the manufacturer’s image. Since I find Fantasie to run a smidge larger in the cups than Freya, I went with 30FF instead of sizing up one cup to 30G, and I got the bottoms in Medium since they seemed to offer more coverage and can be adjusted at the sides. I think both sizes are just right, so I would say Fantasie swimwear fits true to size (at least in the full-cup style).

This bikini is so freaking comfortable! The fabric is ultra-soft and stretchy. It almost feels like I’m wearing nothing at all, especially on the bottom.

The top is lined with a double-layer of peach mesh, and the bottoms with a single layer of blue swim lining with a double-layer in the crotch. The gold beads are lightweight plastic, and they can slide around into your position of choice or be removed completely.

Since I wasn’t sure I’d get a chance to swim in the bikini this week, I wore the top all day again, including on my bike-ride to work and an extended ride home as I ran errands. I definitely had not-so-comfortable bounce when I went over big bumps on my bike, but otherwise the support is good. The lift, on the other hand, leaves a little to be desired. The shape is a bit droopy, I suspect because the fabric is so stretchy and not lined with foam for shaping. I’m not sure if there’s any remedy for this without adding foam, but it’s really only noticeable in profile so I don’t much care.

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The gore tacks perfectly, and while the average-width wires could stand to be a little narrower for me, they work fine. Thanks to the stretchiness of the fabric, I had no “orange-in-a-glass” effect, so I think this top would suit a wide range of shapes. Additionally, it has super subtle side slings to keep your breasts forward. The slings are so well hidden that I didn’t even realize their existence until I inspected the top closely, but it definitely keeps you from getting an east-west shape:

I don’t see a seam…

I don’t see a seam…

There it is!

There it is!

Two final negative comments: As you’ll see in the back photo below, the band is very thin. Although the cups are the right volume, the wires an acceptable width, and the gore tacks, the wires tend to shift down my ribs a little throughout the day. I found myself pushing them back up several times. I think this is due to the thinness of the band, and that if it were a little thicker it would anchor to my ribcage better. Conventional straps instead of a halter might also help. Luckily, the Lombok comes in a padded balcony top as well, so you can get both a wider band and regular adjustable bra straps if you prefer (though it doesn’t have the gold beads).

Finally, although halter necks generally don’t bother my neck in terms of strain or weight, the thickness of the straps creates a big, dense knot, which does dig into my neck. It helps to tie it slightly off center to avoid having it jammed against my spine, but I can still feel it significantly.

As for the bottoms, let’s take a look:

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Love it! This is the exact amount of coverage I prefer—enough that I don’t feel on display, but not so huge that I get saggy granny-butt. It also doesn’t cut in at the muffin top area or my buttcheeks. And again I really like the look of the scarf ties.

Luckily, I did end up getting a chance to swim in the suit, after all! This past weekend was my sister’s bachelorette festivities in Newport, Rhode Island, and obviously while there the group had to go to the beach. The temperature was pretty cool, so I didn’t swim a whole lot, but I made sure to go under at least once and paddle around a bit. There were no waves this time, so I couldn’t assess its staying power in a more active situation, but I will say that I was originally concerned the stretchiness of the top might lead it to become more saggy when wet. However, it didn’t move and maintained the exact same shape as it had while dry. There was some visible nipple, but I doubt that’s avoidable without padding in the cups. I also managed to pinch my skin a little with the beads on the halter as I was reapplying sunscreen, so that’s something minor to be aware of.

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This set is definitely more conservatively styled than I usually go for, but I foresee it getting a lot of use due to its practicality and amazing comfort (aside from the neck knot).

 

Off the Rack ~ Busty & The Beach: Profile by Gottex Cup-Sized Swimwear

Continuing our June swimwear coverage, this week I’m reviewing a bikini from a lesser-known brand that was provided by Lion’s Lair, a shop in Islamorada, FL that also has a web presence.

Disclosure: This bikini was received as a review sample. All opinions are my own and based entirely on my experience.

First a word about Lion’s Lair: I somehow came across them years ago when I was first discovering the world of small bands and big cups, and was desperate for some swimwear that actually fit and flattered my body. They have a massive selection, and much of it is listed online. However, since they like to ensure proper fit, you can’t actually order through the website. You have to call, and one of their staff will talk to you about your measurements and what you want, and then you buy over the phone.

This may sound like extra work for the customer, but it’s actually really great. Because they are also a brick and mortar store, Lion’s Lair has seen all the merchandise on real people who’ve tried things on in-store, and can advise you on the sizing for individual pieces. When I bought those first two bikinis (seven years ago?), I had no idea what I was doing size-wise and their advice was invaluable. I wouldn’t be wearing the right size, much less blogging about boobs, if it weren’t for them!

As for this new bikini, it’s from Profile Blush by Gottex, which seems to be a younger, more inexpensive range from Gottex. It comes in some amaaaazing prints, and tons of mix-and-match pieces, including tankinis, draped tops, triangle tops, bandeau, plunge, full-coverage, rash guards, tanks, cap-sleeved tops, longlines, and tunics, as well as an equally numerous variety of bottoms.

I’d never heard of it before, but after I sent Lion’s Lair my measurements and other information, they responded with two bikinis they thought would work for me:

“Romance” colorway.

“Romance” colorway.

“Shangri-La” colorway.

“Shangri-La” colorway.

I literally gasped out loud when I saw these photos. They’re so gorgeous! I hadn’t even mentioned to Lion’s Lair how much I love longlines—it’s like they just knew! It was an absolute struggle to decide between the two colorways, but I ultimately chose the Shangri-La. I just couldn’t resist its vibrancy.

Many of the offerings from Profile Blush come in multiple cup sizes, but they don’t really work the way bra cups normally do. The choices are small, medium, or large, and then each of those comes in D, E, or F. But the D, E, and F don’t change with a different band the way a bra would (i.e. 30F is a smaller cup size than 36F in bras). The cups are constant, and only the bands change.

Unfortunately, the first bikini Lion’s Lair sent me was too small in the cups at large-E. The band is completely adjustable, so the large was fine, though I figured a small or medium would probably work too, based on the design (which you’ll see below). When I contacted them to swap for F-cup, regretfully they were out of that size, so instead I switched to the Romance, and they sent me a medium-F. It’s still a little small on my bigger boob, but it’s pretty good on my smaller one. Since I’m currently between 28G and GG, I would say that the F-cup is equivalent to 28G (UK) cup volume, or any sister-size thereof (so 26GG, 30FF, 32F, 34E, etc.).

Here are mirror photos of the large-E Shangri-La, in which you can see quad-boob and some tissue escaping out the side:

Bigger boob in background.

Bigger boob in background.

Bigger boob in foreground.

Bigger boob in foreground.

And here are similar shots in the Romance medium-F:

Bigger boob in foreground.

Bigger boob in foreground.

Bigger boob in background.

Bigger boob in background.

And a front view:

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Bigger boob on right side of photo.

Despite the cups still being a smidge small and the gore not fully tacking, I love this bikini! First off, it’s the first longline I’ve tried whose band doesn’t scrunch all the way up after five minutes of movement. The band is long enough and there is elastic in the bottom seam that makes it just a little tighter there than the rest of the top, so it grips in place. It does shift a little, as you can see in the full-body shots below, but not enough to ruin the longline effect.

Aesthetically, I can’t get over how stunning the color and mix of prints are. The most color-accurate shots in this post are the three closeups just above. The base is a vibrant periwinkle with stylized tropical flowers and leaves in white, black, sky blue, and pink. And then you have the graphic black and white croissant-like print as the wide trim on the cups, two wide vertical stripes on the band, a string bow at the gore, and the adjustable string straps. The fabric on the cups is also gathered at the center along the underwire. This print, and all the other Profile Blush suits I’ve explored online, are totally unique and modern.

Since I knew I wasn’t going to be able to get to the beach this week and the city’s public pools don’t open until the end of the month, I couldn’t try the suit out in water. So instead, I wore it all day long in place of a regular bra, on one of the days I ride my bike 3 miles to work. Throughout the ride and all day, there was some shifting of the underwires down my ribcage, so I don’t get the cleavage-enhancing lift of a conventional bra, but it was still quite supportive during the bike-ride.

The cups are lined with soft foam to maintain a round shape, and the band is lined with dense power-mesh. It was very comfortable for exercise, and dried really fast after my sweat-inducing ride to work. The underwires are on the narrow side of average, which is good for me because narrow wires fit me best.

Let’s see some more photos!

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Please ignore my fading sunburn. Yes, I wore sunblock to the beach two weeks ago… No, I did not reapply as much as I should have. But I happened to go to the dermatologist this week, and he recommended a particular type of sunscreen and a UV-blocking clothing brand, so I swear this will be my first and last burn of the summer!

How neat is that back?? Let’s get a closeup:

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This might be my favorite part of the suit. It’s 100% completely adjustable and looks really cool! As you can see, I tightened the band almost all the way, to help get more support and to shorten the straps so they would do more lifting too. The strings are doubled up and are thick enough that they don’t dig in to my shoulders despite being pulled so tight.

Not counting the strings, the band on this medium measures 22.5 inches laid flat. My underbust measures 29 inches. Thanks to the strings, it could easily fit a significantly bigger measurement, though keep in mind that the wires are on the narrow side.

As for the bottoms, in the full-body photos above you can see there’s a little flounce and gathering with ties on the sides. But if I undo the ties, I can un-gather it and then it’s a little skirt:

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The inner underwear layer is a classic bikini shape made of the black and white croissant print, and the croissants continues as a wide stripe along the bottom of the skirt and the little ruffle. The entire bottom is lined with the same power-mesh as the top’s band, a nice touch considering a lot of bikini bottoms only line the front and crotch panels. Here, there are no worries about the butt wearing out.

I have a size large, and it fits snugly. The bottoms feel just right—tight enough that they won’t fall down during serious swimming or powerful waves, but not so tight that they’re cutting in. At 29” waist and 41” hips, I find most larges a smidge loose and most mediums too tight, so I think that means these run a little small—which in my case works out perfectly!

As for purchasing this bikini, you may notice that Profile Blush by Gottex is not listed on the Lion’s Lair website. They explained to me that the Profile Blush brand “is more of a junior line and it does not have as large a cup size range as some others [like Fantasie and Freya]. It also does not have as many options that have underwire or offer as much support.” Further, online customers tend to be looking specifically for swimsuits that are bra-sized.

However, if you’re interested in purchasing this suit or finding out what other brands they carry in the store, you can call them at 1-800-220-1691. They’ll be happy to email photos of what’s on offer. As for my particular bikini, in addition to the longline, they carry a bandeau top and halter top, as well as a string side-tie, shirred side-tab, and wide-banded bottoms. The longline top I have retails for $78 and the skirted bottoms for $58

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Note from Darlene: Need help choosing your own Profile Blush by Gottex swimsuit? Answer the questions at the end of Tuesday’s post and give Lion’s Lair a call. Give them the code “Hourglassy”, and you’ll get $10 off your purchase.