Off the Rack ~ Introducing Alisa Nicole Swimwear

This week I’m reviewing a start-up swimwear brand called Alisa Nicole Swimwear. Founder Alisa recently reached out to Darlene and me, only to realize that we all live in New York City, making it super easy and convenient for Darlene and me to try a few pieces of her swim collection without dealing with postage or shipping things back-and-forth. The three of us had brunch last weekend, followed by a try-on session.

Darlene, Alisa, and me.

Darlene, Alisa, and me.

First, some background on Alisa Nicole Swimwear: Alisa used to live in Sydney, Australia. As a busty woman and avid surfer, she couldn’t find any swimwear that suited her shape and gave the right support—so naturally she started making her own!

Here’s Alisa surfing in Australia while wearing her “Aphrodite” one-piece.

Here’s Alisa surfing in Australia while wearing her “Aphrodite” one-piece.

While Alisa reached out to us with the pitch of a busty swim brand, during our meetup she explained that she actually wants to avoid pigeon-holing her company into that niche. Rather, she designed her product to fit a range of bust sizes. I was a little skeptical of this claim at first (aren’t we all?), but check out this photo of Alisa (left) and her much less busty model (right) rocking the exact same swimsuit:

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Sadly, Alisa didn’t have any samples of this “Bardot” one-piece in our size, because its features are amazing. Bardot is made of perforated white swim fabric, is fully lined, has adjustable straps, princess seams, a stretchy “flexi-bra” interior, and—get this—hidden zipper pockets on each hip that are big enough to fit a smartphone (or your keys, some cash, travel-size sunblock…)! It’s seriously genius, and looks amazing to boot.

As you might imagine, the Bardot is a more complicated and thus expensive piece to produce, so Alisa also offers two pared down swimsuit styles, the Sophie and the higher-neck Aphrodite, as well as a bikini version of each. These are the ones Darlene and I excitedly tried on (in the public bathroom of the Time Warner Center—which, I must note, has great lighting).

Both of us in the Sophie one-piece, in Deep Blue and Flamingo Pink.

Both of us in the Sophie one-piece, in Deep Blue and Flamingo Pink.

Me in the Aphrodite bikini and Darlene in the Aphrodite one-piece.

Me in the Aphrodite bikini and Darlene in the Aphrodite one-piece.

Sophie and Aphrodite feature a coordinating lining (pale blue or pale pink) that can optionally be worn folded out for a visual pop, as well as a power mesh interior lining, so three layers total. The triple layer helps maintain a smooth look overall and keeps the suits from getting saggy or stretched out while wet. Instead of the flexi-bra that Bardot has, they feature a hidden and extra tight elastic band that essentially creates a shelf-bra shape within the suit. Both the suit and the bikini feature vintage-style low-cut legs, and thick straps that alleviate shoulder pressure.

Here are some more shots of Darlene and me in our Aphrodite high-neck swimsuit and bikini:

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Darlene and I both loved these suits, with seriously minimal criticism! Says Darlene:

I love that Alisa has actually surfed in her own suits. She considers functionality and has a real aesthetic (retro/minimalist). She’s designing the kind of suit you wish came in your size…and then you realize it does!

And three layers? That seems amazing to me. No wonder even the pink one-piece didn’t look too bulgy on me (although I prefer the more camouflaging teal).

As for fit, we’re both wearing Medium in all these pieces. Darlene is 41.5” at bust and 33.5” at waist (34FF-ish bra and size 10/12 in clothing), and says she feels like she’s at the outer end of what will fit the size Medium. No bulging around the back band or straps.

I measure 37” bust and 29” waist (mostly 28GG bra and size US 8). Medium is definitely the right size for me.

We were both seriously impressed by the shape we got in these non-underwire options. I think the lift is as good, if not better, than many of the big-bust bralettes I’ve tried. I’m also positively in love with the high waist and low-cut legs—finally swim bottoms that don’t give me quad-butt!

The aesthetic in general is the most perfect combination of modern minimalism and vintage styling. The strap placement also works amazingly well for me. Aphrodite’s straps are paired together in the front while Sophie’s join in back, so there’s no chance of either of them falling off my narrow, sloping shoulders.

My only critique (and regular readers will know this is nothing new) is that I wish the one-piece and the Aphrodite top were both a little longer. My long torso strikes again! I found myself pulling up the Sophie swimsuit in an attempt to get more boob coverage; and while the higher neck of the Aphrodite bikini is an improvement, it loses that “high-neck” look on my tall boobs (compare the bikini on me and the one-piece on Darlene to see what I mean).

So now that I’ve gone on at length about aesthetics, you’re probably wondering, “Yeah, but how does it hold up while swimming?” Well, readers, I’m excited to report that I signed up for (free!) evening lap swim sessions at my local public pool. There was only one day this entire week that didn’t have projected thunderstorms, but I made it count! I swam 20 laps (1.1 kilometers total) in the Aphrodite bikini—and loved it! Nothing stretched out or got baggy, and I felt like the bust support was the same after 20 laps as it had been before I even hopped in the pool. I felt totally secure and comfortable the whole time, and literally didn’t think about my bikini at all once I hit the water.

It was a little tough to get the top off once it was wet, but I found that shrugging off the straps and rolling the top down over my boobs and then hips was a lot easier than attempting to flip it over my shoulders. Unfortunately, my pool doesn’t allow photography, so I couldn’t get any shots of the bikini while damp, but believe me when I say the only difference between wet and dry is it looks darker while wet.

As much as I love my underwired, bra-sized swimwear, I have problems with bikini bottoms falling down and bikini tops parachuting out when I get hit by a wave or make a fast swim stroke. So I’m really pleased with this Alisa Nicole bikini. I can’t wait to see her next collection! And at $98 – $159 per set, the price point is not far off from the usual bra-sized brands, except it’s ethically made right here in New York City, utilizing fabrics sourced from Italy, and you’d be supporting a small, woman-owned business.

For more information or to make a purchase, visit alisanicoleswim.com. Or if you live in or near New York, you can try the brand in person at Musée Lingerie, a “unique lingerie and art gallery boutique” in the West Village.

 

Off the Rack ~ Freya “Pinup” Longline Bustier Reviewed

I’ve mentioned the Freya “Pinup” set twice before, most recently when I attended an Eveden marketing event a year ago. In that post, I called it the “standout” piece of the season. Then I sort of forgot about it…until it appeared in a Zulily sale a month ago! I snagged the longline strapless bustier and the high-waisted panties for a steal.

Lately, I’ve been wearing a 28GG or 30G pretty consistently. In fact, Freya is the lone holdout among brands that still fit me in 28G, but even then, it depends on the cut. For example, my Freya Hero and the Deco still fit at 28G, but the Deco strapless requires a cup size up. For the Pinup, I went with 30G (it doesn’t come in 28GG, and I often size up in the band with strapless bras anyway since they tend to run tighter to stay up). Luckily, 30G was the right size.

I originally purchased this set thinking it would be more of a “boudoir” piece, but after I got a nasty sunburn on my first beach day of the season (despite reapplying sunblock!), I couldn’t bear bra straps, and ended up wearing the Pinup bustier several times in one week. It turns out to be the most comfortable strapless bra I’ve ever tried!

The bustier features relatively stiff molded cups, mesh band and wings, semi-shiny black trim, side-stays, two pieces of boning on the front, two strips of silicon at the top of the band, removable straps with two attachment positions on cup and band, and five rows of two columns of hook-and-eyes.

On my long torso, the high-waisted panties (which I bought in size medium) just barely reach my belly button, so they’re not terribly vintage-looking. They’re more like granny-panties, but of course that wouldn’t be the case for a more petite wearer. Additionally, they don’t fully cover my backside, which is another common feature for me. However, for once in my life they don’t ride up into my buttcrack with every step, so they’re still pretty comfy.

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Off the Rack ~ Kinga “Nati I” Bra Reviewed

US flash sale site Zulily.com often has sales on British and Polish big-bust brands, including Panache, Cleo, Freya, Fantasie, Kris Line, and Kinga.

I tried two Kris Line bras from the site a while back, and was not successful. But I wasn’t deterred, so I recently tried another Polish brand through the site, Kinga.

Kinga starts at band size 30/65, uses European cup scheme (so no double-letters), and goes up to K-cups depending on the model.

Zulily had two cage bras available, the Nati I and Nati II. Nati I has less coverage and stops at cup size H, which is about a UK FF (Polish D = UK D, E = DD, F = E, G = F, H = FF). These days, I mostly wear UK 28GG or 30G, which would be a Euro 30I. But Nati II was already sold out of that size, so I gambled and tried the Nati I in 30H (30FF), since I can still get away with 28G/30FF in some brands.

Sadly, the Nati I is too small in the cup for me. When you look at the manufacturer photo, the cage straps on my cleavage are located where the cup edge rests on the model. There’s also plenty of escaping tissue on the sides. It’s very clearly too small all over. Though, impressively, there’s no quad-boob! The band stretches from 23″ to 30″, so I’d say it’s a little small compared to most 30 bands, but not by much. It certainly works well for my 29″ underbust.

I think I would fit quite nicely into the Nati II in 30I, but there don’t seem to be any US retailers carrying the brand other than Zulily. So hopefully Zulily will restock sizes and have another Kinga sale at some point because I really want this bra in my life!

The Nati I bra

The Nati I bra

The Nati II bra

The Nati II bra

Aside from the fact that this bra is not my size, I have lots of positive things to note. [Read more…]

Off the Rack ~ Reviewing the Retrospec’d “Norma Jean” Dress

This week I’m revisiting a brand I raved about a year ago, the Australian vintage reproduction label Retrospec’d.

Last time, I tried the Elizabeth dress, which featured a cross-over neckline that was surprisingly boob-friendly. I really liked the quality and fit, so I’ve been eager to try another style. I settled on the Norma Jean dress, but at the time wasn’t really interested in any of the available prints. They were all super feminine florals, and I’m just not much of a florals gal.

Eventually, they released a few graphic prints, as well as a black and white stripe with realistic yellow roses floating on it. And I do mean “floating”—there are shadows behind each flower to make it look like they’re resting above the fabric.

At 37”-29”-41”, I was unsure of sizing because my bust falls in sizes UK/Aus 12 and 14, but my waist falls in 10 (even though my waist is usually size 12), so I hesitated on ordering from Australia. Then one day, the dress disappeared from the Retrospec’d site! I knew it couldn’t have sold out completely, because I’d been keeping an eye on it for months and none of the sizes had yet sold out. Resigned to the idea of ordering my second favorite print, I waited until the $150 (or Australian $195) dress was within my budget.

But then I received an e-newsletter from Unique-Vintage.com, and there was the dress! I guess they sent all the remaining stock to UV. This was great for two reasons: 1) I could try size 10 knowing I could exchange it if necessary, with no international shipping; and 2) I could wait until UV had a coupon or sale, and get it for a better price. Two weeks later, they had a 20% off code for Memorial Day weekend, and I took the plunge!

(Note that UV translated the sizes to American, so to get the Australian 10, I ordered size 6 from UV.)

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