Off the Rack ~ Reviewing Bolero Beachwear’s Summer 2016 Offerings

It’s finally starting to feel like spring in New York City, and my thoughts are turning to warm-weather dresses and swimwear. So it’s a perfect opportunity to introduce readers to Bolero Beachwear’s latest styles, the Halter Retro Dress with matching shrug and chiffon shawl, and the three-quarter sleeve Staple Shirt.

Disclosure: These items were received as review samples. All opinions are my own and based entirely on my experience.

You may recall from my last Bolero review that this made-in-USA brand specializes in soft and stretchy boob-friendly clothes that are anti-wrinkle, anti-pill, and washing machine-safe.

Every season, Bolero founder Patricia McCaw introduces new cuts and prints, and I just love the two prints she sent me to test out this time.

First up is the Halter Retro Dress. I think you all know how much I love vintage style, so this Marilyn Monro-esque style is right up my alley. However, truly the first thing I thought of when I saw the beautiful watercolor-like blue print was the ocean. And with its easy-on, easy-off tied halter neck, it would be a perfect beach cover-up. Yet it’s still cute and appropriate to wear to lunch or dinner at a restaurant after a day at the beach. I was so taken with the idea of wearing it to the beach that I photographed it over a bikini:

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The bust cups are lined in the same print fabric, and the front waist panel is lined in soft mesh. The dress features a full skirt (with pockets, of course!) and a small bit of elastic at the top of the back to keep it held up. As usual, the waistband remains fully under my bust:

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Additionally, since the fabric is so stretchy, I found that I could tuck in the top half and wear it like a skirt:

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And thanks to the full skirt, after swimming you could change from swim bottoms into regular underwear under the skirt, and you could pull the dress all the way up to change from bikini to bra:

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For those cooler nights, Bolero offers a three-quarter sleeve shrug that perfectly matches the cerulean blue of the dress’s print:

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I appreciate the little design detail of a bit of gathering at the ends of the sleeves:

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And while I found the chiffon shawl with the dress to be a little too much of the same print for one outfit, I was really into the fringe on the ends of it, which helps weigh it down and drape nicely. I would certainly consider wearing it with a white or pale blue dress:

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Finally, we come to the three-quarter sleeve Staple Shirt, this time in a pinup-friendly cherry and pindot print. This super cute top features a flattering wide neckline without visible cleavage and gathered fabric at the bust for contouring. The front is fully lined in white mesh, so there’s no worry of visible bra showing through.

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I found the shirt a little loose under my bust compared to the perfect fit I get from Bolero dresses, but I think it’s also exacerbated by the fact that I’m wearing shorts that are, to be honest, too small. (I actually tore them a little in the back when trying to get them on!) However, I would not want to size down from this small to extra-small because I’m afraid the arms would be too tight. They don’t feel too tight right now, but the black trim is more restrictive and not as stretchy as the rest of the arm, so it could be uncomfortable in a size down.

Additionally, when this top first arrived, I couldn’t tell if it was a true white or a very, very, very pale pink. Ultimately I determined that it is white, but some of the cherries bled just the smallest bit while the shirt was folded up in the package, leaving the barest pink spots mirroring the cherries here and there. It’s really hard to see (and exceedingly difficult for me to capture in a photo), but it is there if you look very closely in bright light. As such, I might recommend that shoppers wash this top with color-catchers when it first arrives, and then do a vinegar soak to really set the colors.

Looks like it’s going to be another great season for Bolero, and I’m looking forward to what they introduce next!

 

Off the Rack ~ Reviewing the Miss Candyfloss “Christine Kat” Dress

Oh readers, I think I may have a new favorite clothing brand—it’s Miss Candyfloss! I raved about it in my last review, and mentioned that I had ordered two more dresses and two tops. Well unfortunately, MCF took so long to fulfill the order (three months!) that they ran out of my size in both dresses and one of the tops before my order was filled. I was heartbroken.

The top wasn’t such an issue—it was a button-up style that I mostly wanted to try just so I could review it. But the dresses…oh, the dresses! These are the two I had chosen:

“Sammi Lee.” Note that the details are peach, not white.

“Sammi Lee.” Note that the details are peach, not white.

“Christine Kat.”

“Christine Kat.”

So I suppose I could live without the Sammi Lee. It isn’t as if I have a shortage of navy blue dresses, after all. But Christine! Christine is so amazing. The teal plaid, the mustard accents, the bows on the neck and sleeves… For weeks after I was informed that my order had to be cancelled, I couldn’t stop thinking about it. I would’ve considered buying it at full price even, but my size (medium) and the next size up were sold out on the MCF website and I couldn’t seem to find it anywhere else.

Then I finally got the idea to post a “desperately seeking” notice in one of my Facebook groups, and an amaaaazing girl wrote me immediately. There was an online shop in The Netherlands (Succusbus.nl) that had it! And the girl even found me a 10% off coupon. And for some reason their shipping was really inexpensive (only €6.95—less than 8 bucks!) despite arriving a mere six days after it shipped.

Oh goodness, I love this dress so much! The fit feels made for me. The sleeves are slightly loose for comfort, the fabric has a lovely drape to it, and it really accents my figure. The print is slightly less vibrant in real life compared to the manufacturer photo, but otherwise it’s just perfect. I even already own mustard yellow shoes to go with it!

The fabric is 65% Polyester, 32% Viscose, 3% Spandex. Despite the spandex, it has almost no stretch, just a little bit of give.

I think a golden yellow fabric belt to match the cuffs would be ideal, but that may be a bit hard to find.

I think a golden yellow fabric belt to match the cuffs would be ideal, but that may be a bit hard to find.

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Without the belt:

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And obviously it wouldn’t be an “Off the Rack” review without some chest closeups! The seams are just perfect for big boobs. There’s a pair of seams that start out parallel to each other at the waist, but flare out as they travel upward, and then stop at the breast apex. It’s a construction I’ve never seen before, and it causes the bodice to totally mold to my shape.

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In these photos, I’m wearing an Ewa Michalak CHP bra in 30G, and my measurements are 37”-29”-41” with a height of 5’6”. The MCF size chart lists medium as being up to 36.6” bust and up to 30.3” waist. I’d say the waist is accurate (I do have a tiny bit of extra space at the waist), but most MCF pieces make ample use of pleats, princess seams, and gathering at the bust, so it’s actually quite flexible and generous. Just pay close attention to the construction, and perhaps avoid styles that are flatter on the front.

 

Off the Rack ~ Retrospec’d “Elizabeth” Dress Reviewed

I’m so excited to share a new (semi-) bust-friendly brand with Hourglassy readers: It’s Australian vintage reproduction brand Retrospec’d. I just discovered them a couple weeks ago when someone posted a pair of their dresses for sale in one of my Facebook sell/swap groups. Though they were size XS, the construction looked strikingly boob-friendly and I navigated to the brand’s website straightaway.

That’s when I laid eyes upon one of the most lovely dresses I’ve ever seen:

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Readers, I was totally smitten. I clicked around the website until I found the dress—the Elizabeth in Gay Paris print. At first the price seemed prohibitive. $190??? But then I remembered that the American dollar is quite strong against the Australian dollar, and in US dollars that would be about $148. Still not “cheap,” to be sure, but about the same range as many other vintage repro brands such as Pinup Girl Clothing, Tatyana, and Heart of Haute.

Next I checked out the size chart—and couldn’t believe my eyes! The Australian 10 matched my measurements almost perfectly. But…I’m always a 12 in Australian and UK sizes (which is the same as a US 8 / Medium). Size 10 couldn’t be right, could it? Especially since all the other dresses’ size charts put me in a 12 (or none at all, depending on that garment’s particular measurements).

Feeling conflicted about sizing, I was wary of ordering. Shipping from Australia is pricey and slow, and I knew it wouldn’t be worth it to attempt an exchange. Luckily, a lovely gal in one of my Facebook groups pointed me toward a stockist in the US, Bygones Vintage in Richmond, VA. Since it’s a brick-and-mortar store, I called and asked them to measure the actual waist of the dress in size US 6 and 8. The 6 was 29.5 inches—a quarter-inch over my exact waist size! So I placed the order through them and the dress was in my hands a mere 3 days later.

Readers, this dress fits like a dream. With my waist measuring just over 29 inches, and most size charts usually listing medium at 28-29 and large at 30-31, I always have to choose between slightly too small or slightly too big. But this dress is perfect. And it actually has room for boobs! Further, the straps are wide enough and in the ideal placement to cover my bra straps (I’m wearing a Comexim plunge in Polish size 60J [about a UK 28GG] in these photos).

Additionally, the cotton is a fantastic weight. It has enough heft that it doesn’t feel cheap (*cough* Bernie Dexter *cough*), but is still light and airy enough for a hot summer day. And while most of my poofy skirts are gathered, this one is pleated, giving it lots of volume without blowing up and flashing my underwear with every gust of wind.

The print is a gorgeous lavender base with peach and red details, featuring a scene of a painter sitting along the water’s edge in Paris, trees in the foreground and the Eiffel Tower in the distance. It’s an unexpected color combination that works so well—and perfectly matches my lavender heels!

So let’s get to some photos, shall we??

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Now, while the Elizabeth has up to nearly an 8-inch difference between the waist and bust, many of the brand’s other styles do not. In fact, some are downright tiny in the bust. There are a lot of different styles, so I’ve compiled a list here of each style and its waist-to-bust difference in inches (in size Aus 12 / Medium), with the biggest difference at the top. With my 8-inch difference, I’d probably avoid anything with less than 7 inches. So I guess there aren’t really that many big-bust options here…but the Elizabeth is so lovely and has enough prints to tide me over!

Avita – 11
Josie – 9
Kathy – 7.9
Kelly – 5.9-7.9 (this one lists a range for the bust due to stretch)
Norma Jean – 5.9-7.9 (stretch)
Elizabeth – 5.9-7.9 (this one’s range is due to fabric gathering at the bust, no stretch)
Ruby – 3.5-7.5 (stretchy shirred back panel)
Sandi – 3.5-7.5 (stretchy shirred back panel)
Sarong – 3.5-7.5 (stretchy shirred back panel)
Bella – 7.1
Kathleen – 7.1
Wendy – 5.1-7.1 (stretch)
1943 – 6.7
Betty – 6.7
Connie – 6.7
Gidget – 6.7
Suzie – 6.7
Lori – 6.3
Audrey – 5.9
Peggy – 5.9
Sophia – 5.9
Tammy – 5.9
Betty Rose – 3.9-5.9 (stretch)
Lilli – 5.5
Dyann – 5.1
Sun Dress – 5.1
Valerie – 5.1
Ella – 4.7
Laura – 4.7
Sammy – 4.7
Empire – 4.3
Vivian – 4.3
Ingrid – No size chart

 

Off the Rack ~ Reviewing Kris Line Bras

Kris Line is a Polish bra brand that has the largest size range that I’m aware of, going from A cups to O cups and 28 bands to 50 bands. It follows the UK letter schema from A to HH, then has an I before moving to J (most UK brands skip I), JJ, K, KK, and single letters L – O. So their O, I think, is approximately a UK N. There are 197 sizes in total. Pretty amazing!

Considering that I get my best fit in Polish brands Ewa Michalak and Comexim, I’ve been wanting to try Kris Line for quite some time. They offer cut-and-sew, semi-soft, and molded-cup bras in luxurious, sometimes over-the-top designs. They’re also frequently on US flash sale site Zulily.com, so I recently took the plunge and bought two different styles in two different sizes to try them out.

I’d been advised that the cut-and-sew bras are inconsistent in fit, that the semi-softs run small in the cups, and that the molded ones run really small. Since I generally consider myself a 28G (though really I’m between sizes in both band and cup), I got a semi-soft in 30G and a molded push-up in 30GG. Either Zulily offers few 28 bands, or they’re actually quite rare among Kris Line’s offerings, because the smallest band available on any design, except one or two, was a 30. Here are the manufacturer’s photos and descriptions of my choices:

Merlot Floral Sheer Bra
(Semi-soft, size 30G)

Decorated in feminine floral embroidery, this delicate peekaboo mesh panel, full-fit bra will light up any boudoir. Adjustable straps and a modifiable back closure create a custom fit, while the underwire offers extra support.

zu red

Emerald Cleopatra Push-Up Bra
(Molded, size 30GG)

Luxe lace lends allure to this top-drawer staple, while molded, underwire cups and adjustable straps create supportive comfort.

zu blue

They’re both really gorgeous with plenty of effort put into the details. Unfortunately, neither one fits me right.

First up, the Merlot. It features a padded bottom half of the cup with removable pads and a sheer, embroidered top half. The gore is lace with a bow and small crystal charm, while the wings are a solid, smooth fabric.

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Even though it’s a 30-band, it runs tiny, like a small 28. It stretches from 22” to just barely 29”. The cups are small on me, though not by much. However, they’re such a weird shape that even in a size up, there’s no way this bra would suit me.

The cups are not tall enough, and the sheer lace top half is way too restrictive, especially considering how much space and projection there is in the bottom half. In fact, the bottom, padded portion seems to fit just fine. But the sheer portion is insane. Observe:

Smaller boob.

Smaller boob.

Bigger boob.

Bigger boob.

What is that?? Why is the sheer section at such a sharp angle? It’s a nice change not to have bra cutting into my armpit, but these cups are not the right shape or height to hold all my tissue in, as such:

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At least the gore tacks and the band is made of a decent fabric (unlike the Emerald, as you’ll read below). The band feels silky and is opaque and not too stretchy, just the way I like it:

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As for the Emerald…Ugh, you guys this bra is so pretty. It’s a tone-on-tone leopard-esque splatter print in the loveliest shade of petrol blue:

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It also has a navy and petrol lace gore:

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And removable, fully-adjustable straps, so you could wear it cross-back, halter, etc:

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The cups have that Victoria’s Secret-style graduated padding where it’s thickest at the underwire and fades into light padding at the cup edge, to give incredible Y-cleavage. Unfortunately for me, though, the fit again is all wrong.

This time the cups are a little too tall, so there’s empty space in the outer corners:

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But if I throw my shoulders back to force it to sit flush, then I get major pillowing. The bra has a slightly east-west shape to it, and my boobs are more front-and-center, so I’d say that’s what’s causing both these issues, as I do think this is the “correct” cup size for me.

Next, the cups eat my armpits. It’s not so bad that it’s painful, but there’d be major visible side-bra under any sleeveless top or dress:

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This also contributes to the issue of the straps being way too wide-set for me. They’re really on the verge of sliding off:

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Finally, I am not impressed with the band. It’s made of a very soft jersey fabric with no lining. While this may be really comfortable, I can’t imagine it would last very well, and would likely stretch right out:

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Additionally, the band is a completely different length than the Merlot even though they’re both size 30. It starts at 24” and stretches to 33”. Um, what??

As for the famous narrow Polish wires, these are more narrow than most British brands, but still wider than my Ewas and Comexims. Overall, I don’t think these are inherently “bad” bras, but they’re definitely not for me, and I won’t be spending any more money experimenting with the brand.