Suzette, a New (Old) Best Friend for Big Bust Bra Shoppers

Remember that wasted trip I took to Zöe & Co. last summer? Instead of driving 2.5 hours to Rhode Island, I should have driven half an hour to Yonkers. I thought I knew every decent store available to full bust bra shoppers around New York City. Whenever anyone from the Bronx asked for a recommendation, I’d sigh and say, “I’m afraid you’re going to have to make a trip to Manhattan.” Boy was I wrong. Not only do residents of the Bronx, Yonkers and Westchester not need to travel to Manhattan, residents of the rest of New York City may want to make a special trip to Yonkers.

Suzette’s Lingerie has been around since 1958, but I only heard about it last February. I made my own special trip there last Friday to reward myself for lowering my LDL cholesterol from 219 to 137 since my birthday in December. I lost 25 pounds in the process, creating baggy cups and a slippery band on my 36H Fantasie Jana–a great excuse to visit a new bra fitter. (I tend to avoid writing about weight loss on Hourglassy. However, if you need to recalibrate your eating habits, I highly recommend a nutritionist. Appointments qualify as preventive care so they are covered 100% by insurance. My own nutritionist, Maria Bella at Top Balance Nutrition, is amazing.)

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Before I continue, I admit that I’m violating my own rule not to publish a store review based on a single visit, so if you have a different experience from mine, please let me know so that I can consider updating this post.

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Now back to the store-y. I had a good feeling about Suzette’s when I called a few weeks ago to see if they carried the Panache Envy. I wanted to try it because the Panache rep at Curve told Leah and me that this style was super popular, and it’s even coming out in a body in Fall/Winter 2014 (with adjustable hooks at the bottom for those of you with long torsos). For more on this bra style, check out reviews from Sweet Nothings and Bras I Hate.

envy body front
A woman named Megan answered the phone, and when I told her my size, she asked, “Is that European or American?” Good sign. They didn’t have my size in stock but were expecting a shipment soon. When I visited last Friday, that shipment hadn’t arrived, so it’s still on my To Try List.

My first impression of the store was that it was spacious, uncluttered, and pleasantly pink–an important feature since you can see Victoria’s Secret from its front door. Too many “good” bra stores focus on inventory to the exclusion of atmosphere. When I spend money on something as special as lingerie, I want a setting that is more than simply functional. Suzette’s customers that upgrade their fit from Victoria’s Secret (and Suzette’s wins over a lot of frustrated former VS customers) don’t have to downgrade their shopping environment.

suzettes inside right

See the ladder in the background? It slides along the wall to the various size bins. It’s like a library for bras!

Suzettes inside left

Another ladder on this side. Also, notice the cashier’s great scoop necked top from Vince Camuto.

vince camuto striped scoop neck tee

She found this top last summer, so of course it’s no longer available. It was super flattering on her, as it would be on any of us.

My fitter Shannon greeted me as I walked in the door, and when I told her I needed a fitting after losing weight, she took me to a dressing room and got started right away.

Her method was new to me, but it seemed to work. First, she tugged my bra straps up and had me hold them there so that she could get a precise measurement of my underbust. She got 31″ and decided to add 3″. Before coming, I had measured my own underbust super tightly without lifting the straps and gotten 35″.  Next, she measured above my breasts to check against her first measurement. Finally, she measured the depth of an individual breast–another first for me! After a little calculating, she decided to begin with a 34I.

Whaaaaat?

When she brought the Panache Dahlia and I checked the paper tag, I breathed easily again. It was a UK34G with “I” handwritten in ink onto the paper tag. It turns out that Suzette’s default sizing system is American. I found this super confusing, but at least they’re consistent within the store.

The Dahlia was gorgeous with its sexy, streamlined lace. It tacked perfectly and lifted beautifully. If Suzette’s had had a 34GG in stock, I would have bought it even though it didn’t give quite as much forward projection as I prefer. However, I felt there was a slight line of indentation where the top edge of the cups met my breasts. It wasn’t quite quadraboob, but it meant I would be self-conscious about not having a smooth “rim” under my tees. (For reviews by two bloggers who own this bra, check out Faustine’s Foundations and Iliketweet.)

panache dahlia image

Shannon’s suggestion for dealing with this issue was also interesting. It involved holding the bottom of the cup where it is closest to one arm (using the hand of that arm) and lifting the cup ever so slightly, then using the opposite hand to gently press the breast tissue away from the rim. I admit I was scandalized by this. Wouldn’t this negate the scooping and swooping? It didn’t matter because it didn’t work for me, but I wonder if any of you have tried this. And guess what?! Every saleswoman in the store learned this technique from Freddy, the best bra fitter in the world. I must remember to ask Freddy about this the next time I see her, but for me, finding out that the fitters had been trained by Freddy gave Suzette’s a GIANT boost of credibility.

Shannon also brought me the Dahlia in 36G, and while it seemed to fit, I’ve been burned too many times by Panache 36 bands stretching out prematurely. Next, she brought me a Panache Idina, which I fell in love with and will review later. She also brought a few Fantasies, including the pinstriped Fantasie Lois, but by this time everything else looked frumpy compared to the Idina.

Only as I’ve written these styles down here has it dawned on me that every bra Shannon brought me was a current style. They were the styles we would have seen at Curve last February. Never did she bring me a Tango, that boring standby that so many others have tried to sell me in the past (and that I bought once and swore never again when I saw how both east-west and pointy it made me).

Here are a few other things that I appreciated about Shannon and the rest of the staff of Suzette’s:

  1. Collaboration. Shannon may have disagreed with me on the fit of the Dahlia, but she didn’t take an I-Am-The-Expert approach. Instead, she accommodated each of my requests. If I had wanted to see even more bras, she would have brought them. She also helped me discover that I wear a 34G in the Panacha sports bra.
  2. Style names. Unlike my favorite Manhattan store where the fitters only use style numbers and stare at you blankly if you ask for a bra by name, Shannon knew all the names (she wears a 30DD, and the Patsy is her personal favorite). When I commented on this, she said, “The bra styles are my co-workers. I have to know them by name.”
  3. Size range. When I asked if they carried 28 bands, they acted like it was no big dea (they do)l, and they carry cup sizes to a KK (U.K.).
  4. Passion. Shannon is studying journalism (she may write a guest post for Hourglassy soon!), so she doesn’t see herself as a bra-fitter for the rest of her life, but that didn’t stop her from talking to me extensively about the different styles and needs of their customers (for instance, what a shame it was that Elomi was discontinuing the Abi since it works for so many women). Because I blog about being full-busted, I can never contain my enthusiasm in a bra store. It’s such a wet blanket when the salespeople don’t care about their product. As far as I could tell, everyone at Suzette’s cared, including the saleswoman in the striped Vince Camuto top who told me that she loves the Idina.
  5. Knowledge. It’s wonderful to visit a store and learn something I never knew before. For instance:
  • Have you heard of Gossard Glossies? They start at a 30 back and go up to a British G. Suzette’s doesn’t offer Claudette because their younger customers refuse to wear seamed bras, so they offer Gossard Glossies instead.
  • Did you know that Fashion Forms now makes wide invisible straps?
  • Since Panache sports bra cups run large, some women who are usually sized out of the Panache cup range can still fit the Panache sports bra.

Speaking of knowledge, I’m extremely pleased to know about this store. It’s the kind of place I can recommend to a bra-fit newbie without (a) worrying that the fitter will put my friend in the wrong size because the store doesn’t carry the right size, or (b) feeling like I should go with her to ask questions or point out fit issues on her behalf. Actually, I enjoyed shopping at Suzette’s so much that I’d be happy to go with my friend for the chance to shop there again.

 

 

 

Mini Big Bust Roundup

Inspiration hasn’t hit me, so instead of writing my own post, I’m going to share others that have caught my eye.

Need to feel affirmed as you start this new week? Then start with Weirdly Shaped’s thinspiration (“thinspo”) alternative. My favorite message: “There is no such thing as perfection, but you *are* so very special.” I actually felt my shoulders relax when I read it the first time. Be warned–this post’s glowing review of the Panache sports bra will make you want to buy one and live in it.

Thank you to everyone who answered our survey for the bras to add to Wellfitting‘s spring 2014 collection. These were your top choices.

comexim finalists georgia arizona illinois

If you’re thinking about ordering a Comexim bra, be sure to read Dressing Curves’ Comexim roundup.

If you’re in the market for a black blazer, you’ll want to check out Curvy Wordy’s super helpful review of the Urkye blazer.

And if you’re one of the lucky ones in the market for a swimsuit right now, Venusia Glow has written about the Panache Savannah and Cleo Lucille. [Even if you're not in the market, you may want to stock up on the Panache swimwear on Zulily right now! Here's my referral code, and here's a link to the sale itself.]

Finally, Invest in Your Chest is back with more useful information, this time about how to tell if your bra band is too tight. I may be guilty of straining hooks–do you think any straining is bad, or is it a matter of degree?

One more post that excited me–Laura’s review of her Angela Friedman custom overbust corset. SO beautiful!

 

 

 

Kris Line in America . . . and on Me

Holly at The Full Figured Chest has pointed out that Kris Line still hasn’t made it big in the United States, but at least it’s beginning to make a dent in Winter Park, Florida. That’s where the importer, Santa LaBellman, has her brick and mortar store. When I shopped there again last November, I was also lucky enough to meet Santa in person.

When I first discovered Kris Line, I couldn’t wait for more of its loungewear to become available in the States. Bad news: that’s probably not going to happen. Kris Line loungewear hasn’t done well in Santa’s store because it’s more fitted than her customers like, which explains why I could only find a few pieces of it on her clearance rack.

Here’s the good news: Kris Line fashion bra styles are doing well! Santa stayed true to her strategy of slowly introducing her customers to the Kris Line basics. Now they’re loyal to the brand and want the pretty stuff. Happily, Santa provides. Eventually she hopes to have an ecommerce site for the rest of us.

I had just one item on my shopping list when I visited Santa’s store: the green Selena bra that Holly reviewed. It looked amazing on her, and I loved the color. Unfortunately, it didn’t look as good on me. What did look good was the Martina in 36HH because it gave me the high and rounded shape I like.

kris line martina with inset

The lace of my Martina actually has some of the “radiant orchid” embroidery that you see in the inset.

You already saw the great lift and cleavage this bra gives me back when I reviewed the Second Base demi-camis. Now here’s a profile comparison with my 36H Fantasie Jana. (It was so cold this weekend that I wore my clingy long underwear top and discovered it was perfect for demonstrating fit.)

big bust compare 36H Fantasie Jana 36HH Krisline Martina

Jana on the left. Martina on the right.

The difference is less dramatic from the front.

big bust compare front fantasie jana 36H krisline martina 36HH

I’m not a fan of padded bras–even spacer fabric if I can help it–but this bra works for me because the padding is on the bottom half. Do you think the padding is responsible for the industrial-strength lift? I’m sure the 3-part construction also helps, but the Jana is a 3-part bra as well. I also think the narrower underwires are a factor, as I describe below.

I loved being able to try as many sizes and styles as I wanted with minimal interruption. I also respect Santa’s fitting expertise because she noticed that the 34HH didn’t completely encapsulate my side breast tissue. However, after wearing the 36HH that she recommended, I realized that I would have preferred the 34HH because the ends of the 36 underwires come up too high and irritate me as the day wears on.  I don’t have this problem with the underwire ends of the Jana because they stretch well past the edge of my breasts and end pretty low as a result . . . probably another reason it doesn’t have the same amazing lift as the Martina.  (I also tried 34J and 36J Kris Lines in other enticing styles, but the base of the underwire seemed to rest on my upper torso–definitely too much bra. Santa blamed the band of lace at the base of the bra, but I doubt that was the problem.)

With the subtle variables in shape and wire comfort, I’m glad I had the chance to try as many Kris Line bras as I wanted to before choosing one. I hope that Kris Line eventually makes it big enough in the United States that I don’t have to travel all the way to Florida the next time I want to buy one!

 

Big Bust Field Trip Fun: A Sophisticated Pair

Last week I drove from Delaware to Florida to deliver my mother-in-law’s van to her. Here I am before beginning my drive last Monday evening, wearing a Second Base demi-cami that I plan to review next week. Can you tell what my criticism will be?

34GG ready for trip

When I woke up Tuesday morning, I couldn’t stand the thought of driving straight through for nine more hours. What better way to break up the monotony than a field trip to A Sophisticated PairAfter all, it was Hourglassy‘s fifth birthday. This would be the perfect way to celebrate!

Google Maps said it would take 2 hours and 18 minutes to get there, which made me wonder if I was crazy . . . until I got onto Route 58. Not only was it a beautiful fall drive with a gas station that charged just $2.97 a gallon, but I also found something remarkable that I describe on the Campbell & Kate blog. All signs said I was headed in the right direction, and when I finally met Erica in person, it was confirmed.

big bust sophisticated pair erica greeting

Erica’s way of dressing always inspires me. Here she wears her BiuBiu Portofino top with a sparkly Banana Republic pencil skirt. In her recent review, she paired it with an animal print skirt.

Before I show you any more pictures of her shop, let me say that it’s even better being fitted by Erica in person than it is through the advice on her website, blog or Facebook page. She’s solicitous without being smothering. She engages in the process as an extremely knowledgeable partner rather than as a bra fitting diva who treats every question as insubordination. [Read more...]