Off the Rack ~ Visiting Etaín Lingerie Boutique in Portland, Maine

I was on vacation in Maine last week, including spending a few days in Portland, where my husband and I ate and drank to our heart’s content. I hadn’t anticipated doing much shopping there, and I certainly didn’t expect to find a lingerie shop that carried anything for the full bust, but that’s exactly what I stumbled upon on my very first day there!

Etaín is a really lovely little shop carrying a wide range of brands and sizes, with a distinct perspective. Much to my delight, there was nary a “nude” bra in sight! There were bright colors and cheeky materials, brands both well known (Panache) and independent (Fortnight), and items to suit several needs (in addition to conventional bras, there were binders, loungewear, swim, and sport). It was a beautifully curated collection that somehow still managed to provide something for everyone despite the lack of boring basics.

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Owner and manager Mackenzie Morris was on duty when I walked in the door, and she was exceedingly helpful. She knew the stock well, and knew the size range of each of the items I considered, which made trying a few new things a real pleasure. [Read more…]

Big Bust Bra Review: Hero 1841 Side Support Plunge Bra

When Bras Galore offered me the opportunity to review any bra on their website, I quickly scanned their offerings to find the Freya Hero, a bra I’ve been wanting to try since discovering its extra side support at Curve.

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Here is a closeup of the side support feature on the cobalt blue Hero that we saw at Curve last August.

Since the bra arrived in early January after a long stretch of holiday eating, the 32F gave me pronounced bubbling over the cups. However, by March I’d lost my holiday weight, but the cups were still too small, so I exchanged the bra for a 32FF. The fit was perfect, and it was immediately comfortable without any break-in period.

I tend to get an almond and east-west shape in other Freya bras, so I’m very happy with my more rounded and centered look in the Hero. You can see from the photos below that my lift isn’t particularly up there, but I could have adjusted the straps, which are very elastic. However, this makes them very comfortable (and slightly bouncy).

freya hero review

In Erica’s review of the Hero side support balconet in December , she mentions that women who want “a middle-ground between the front and center fit of Cleo or Polish bras and the wider, east-west style of other brands may find something to like here.” I’ve definitely found something to like. [Read more…]

Éprise and Me in Paris: Finding Full Bust Fit with Lise Charmel

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lise charmel guipere closeup

Given the gorgeous Lise Charmel collections at Curve every season, you can understand the flutter in my stomach as I approached their flagship store in Paris last May. Every Lise Charmel brand is available in A-E cups, but its Éprise, Antinéa and Antigel lines include larger cups. I couldn’t wait to try each beautiful piece that would fit my current UK size of 32FF.

While I didn’t get to try everything*, I came away with an even better understanding of which Lise Charmel styles fit which large breasts best. Basically, the right Lise Charmel bra for a large chest comes down to three factors: size, shape, and fabric.

Size

  • Don’t dismiss all French bras simply because they follow a different sizing sequence from the UK. I wear a 32FF in Freya, but I wear a 32F in Éprise.
  • Don’t dismiss all bras in a French brand simply because one style doesn’t fit you. My breasts bubbled over the edge of a 32F half cup , but they settled nicely into a full cup bra.
  • Basically, begin with the size you think you are and experiment with cup and band combinations,  remembering to factor in cup shape and fabric.

Cup Shape

Women who wear 32-34 bands and F+ cups should focus on full and 3/4 cups. Sadly, I was told that Éprise, Antinéa and Antigel half cups work best for full-busted women with broader shapes . . . think 38-40 bands. Don’t give up entirely on half cups, however. My fitter also felt there was a good chance that the 30G Guipere Charming would have fit me if it had been available to try.

On a side note, last year I heard the phrase “tulip cup” for the first time and assumed it was the same as a 3/4 cup. My fitter clarified the difference. A 3/4 cup covers less of the chest than a full-cup and comes in three parts, like the Antigel 2386 below (the bow and tassel in the photo at the beginning of this post belongs to this bra).

antigel 2836 cup closeup

A tulip cup comes in only two parts, like the Antinéa 6213 below. It is best for firmer tissue and offers some décolleté.

antinea 6213 tulip cup

Fabric

Fabric can change the fit equation. Although the breathtaking Exception Gitane below is a full cup, my bust pillowed slightly above the 32F that I tried. The heavy Guipere embroidery means less give for full-on-top breasts like mine, while someone whose breasts are full on the bottom could wear this style easily.

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Guipere isn’t off limits to all full-on-top busts, though. The Guipere embroidery on the 3/4 cup of the Jardin d’Ete below is in a narrower strip that is also softer and more elastic.

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Simple Calais lace designs offer even more adaptability. My fitter explained that although this Poésie Bohème bra might seem too shallow at first, its heavy tulle base and light features of embroidery would allow it to fit within 10 minutes.

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lise charmel white lace closeup

Impressively, EVERY Éprise, Antinéa and Antigel bra designed for large busts includes a tulle lining at the bottom half of the cup to offer greater lift and longevity while simultaneously adapting to a wearer’s shape.

antigel 2836 tulle lining

lise charmel inner sling double tulle exception gitane

In Real Life

Happily, I found a bra in the store that fit me, and the company even gave it to me as a gift: the Depart Aux Iles full cup bra in 32F. Although I received the bra for free, all opinions in this post are my own.

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The Depart Aux Iles isn’t the most eye-catching bra in the Éprise spring/summer 2016 collection, but once on, it was so pretty that I wanted to show it off under my white shirt.

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Of course I never wear it under white, but I wear it under absolutely everything else, even knits. With its pastel shades and delicate leavers lace (soft, not scratchy!), I feel fresh and summery every time I put it on.  The lace and seams may show up a little bit under thin knits, but not enough to be distracting, and I really like the lift and shape.

big bust eprise shapeHere’s what else I love about it:

1. Other than occasional glimpses that remind me that I’m wearing something special, I never think about this bra during the day. There was no break-in period to stretch it out, and there is still no band movement on the loosest hook after over two months of many, many wears.

2. Sturdy straps and cushioned underwires are standard in a good full bust bra, but they feel positively luxurious in my Éprise. At 7/8″ inch wide, I own only one bra with wider straps–my Panache sports bra. However, the feminine color and lace applique keep the straps from looking industrial.

eprise large bust straps

While it may not look industrial, the wide straps extend down the length of the leotard back, making it feel incredibly secure. Do any of your bras have this feature? In every other bra in my drawer, the strap ends where it attaches to the ring on the band, and the band is simply hemmed with a zig-zag stitch to the hooks. [Edit: I have since noticed this feature on other bras, but none use this wide a band of elastic.]

big bust eprise leotard back

Here is a closeup of the cushioning on the underwires.

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For reference, the underwires are very flexible.

lise charmel flexible underwire poésie bohème

3. Finally, the 32F fits me perfectly. A Swarovski crystal dangles from the perfectly tacked center gore. There is no spillage at the top of the cups and no empty space at the bottom. The wire length is ideal for someone with high set breasts like mine: long enough to contain all breast tissue, short enough not to poke the soft skin beneath my armhole. I’m pointing to where the underwire ends in the photo below.

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As you’ve probably guessed, this is my favorite souvenir from our trip to Paris.

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*In some ways the Lise Charmel store is like a showroom. You can see all the styles, but they may need to special order your size. With this in mind, if Lise Charmel is on your Paris itinerary, it wouldn’t hurt to contact them ahead of time to make sure that the sizes and styles you want to try are available during your visit.

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Sanity Savior for Big Bust Maternity and Nursing: Decent Exposures Un-Bra

Today I am so excited to share with you the one bra that saved my sanity at the end of my second pregnancy: Decent Exposures Un-Bra.

It was recommended to me by June of Braless in Brasil, who had a lovely review post at one point. I don’t know if I ever would have tried the Un-Bra if it weren’t for her review and encouragement/high recommendation. But I am so glad I did – this bra is worth its’ weight in gold!

What put me off at first, might you ask? Well . . .

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Front page of the Decent Exposures website

It isn’t exactly the most attractive bra I’ve ever seen. If I had drawn what came to mind when I thought of the phrase “Grandma Bra”, it probably would have looked almost exactly like the Un-Bra. But when I tried mine on and felt the comfort firsthand, and suddenly I did not care ONE BIT about how it looked!


 

Here’s a rundown of how Decent Exposures and their bras work:

You can get the general concept of the Un-Bra from the image above – it is not specifically a maternity/nursing bra. Each Un-Bra is custom made, which means it is fully adjustable to your preferences! They offer scoop back, racer back, and strapless styles. It is manufactured in 7 types of fabric and a wide variety of colors. The order form has descriptions of each fabric selection and the type of support it offers (light, medium, and firm support).

The bottom elastic is 1.25″ wide for cup sizes E+, which makes it extremely supportive. However if you would like to try their 1″ elastic in a larger cup size, or the 1.25″ elastic in an A-D cup, they can do that for you. There is also the option of adding a 2″ ribbed lycra band in lieu of elastic, which works best on A-F cup bras.

It comes with an innovative “front looper”, which you can see on all of the women’s bras above. This loop provides definition and separation, the perfect solution to the dreaded boob loaf and discomfort of having your breasts touching in the middle of your bra. The looper is usually 0.5″ wide, but you can request a 1.5″ loop (I’ve found myself wishing for the wider looper at times).

Decent Exposures offers an extremely wide size range: 30-54 bands in A-L cups is what is listed on their order form. But, since everything is custom made, they can reduce the band size down as much as you need, and they produce cup sizes up to an M! The size guide on their order form works very well, but you can always call them for fitting assistance. They have 20 years experience with long-distance fitting. If you are local to Seattle, Washington, you can even make an in-person fitting appointment via phone or email!

There are also additional options of adding a front closure, nursing flaps, or pockets for prosthesis. I have experience with the nursing flaps. They are fastened with either hook & eye or Velcro. The hook & eye option is a 2-row, 2-column clasp – so that you can adjust the fit to be looser when you are more full in the mornings (using the bottom row), and tighter when you are less full (using the top row). Great feature!

Not only are the sizes and features workable for a wide variety of women, but after you receive your bra, you can send it in for alterations. This service is free for 60 days after your purchase, and available for a nominal fee any time after that. When I called to ask if they had a “cutoff time” for when you could request paid alterations, the associate explained that they don’t have one. If the fabric is frayed or wearing out, then they would be concerned about altering it. It all depends on how often that particular bra has been used. She mentioned that if it were over 5 years old, they would be fairly worried, unless it is an old bra that was forgotten in a drawer and hardly worn. I may be sending my 18 month old bra for alterations soon!


 

I think the Un-Bra is not only a lifesaver for pregnant and lactating women, but a phenomenal “comfort bra” for any full-busted woman. If ordered in one of the medium or light support fabrics, I imagine it would make a lovely sleep bra. In the firm support fabrics, it is supportive enough to wear out and about for a full day. It is simply a superb non-wired bra.

The Un-Bra was the only bra I owned that was preferable to going braless during the final pregnancy and first postpartum months. My body was never in pain after wearing it – I always felt contained, and ironically enough, I felt less-frumpy in this than I did in other bras. It is definitely difficult to get a decent, uplifted shape while wearing a non-wired bra, but the Un-Bra does a fair job. Here are some photos I snapped in December 2014. I was 7 months pregnant and had just ordered a lined Cotton/Lycra bra in size 32J. I must warn you, the bra was still 1-2 cup sizes large for me at this point. I ordered that way on purpose so there would be room to grow when my milk came in (as always, click to enlarge!):

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The photos in the black shirt were taken the very first time I tried the Un-Bra on. You can see I needed to get used to it, I over adjusted myself and you can definitely tell my left side runs larger than my right. Hahaha. I snapped some photos in a white shirt the next day to get a clearer picture of the side shape:

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Much more accurate! It’s no Freya Deco profile, but it’s better than any other non-wired bra I’ve tried.

The close-up photo illustrates the only “major” issue I have with the Un-Bra…It has a VERY high neckline. I was able to hide it under this Downeast Basics cap sleeve tee (the Essential Tee), but just barely. You can see the nursing clips at either side of the neckline. The top photo in the black shirt also illustrates how high the neck goes (I’m wearing a basic v-neck tee from Target in those photos). In the end, though this was annoying, it didn’t stop me from wearing the Un-Bra nearly every day. I would typically throw the Essential Tee underneath tops if I was worried about my straps poking out. But more often than not, I didn’t want the extra layer, so I just dealt with tucking the straps in or having them show (because in my honest opinion, there isn’t anything racy/offensive about showing off this bra. Haha!).

I mentioned the bra being too large at the above stage (7 months). Below is a photo of me on my due date, for comparison! I definitely filled the full 32J here, and for a few months postpartum:

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Aside from the high neckline, my only other complaint was that the Un-Bra is a bit difficult to get over your head. This is the issue with many small band/large bust clothing items that have to be pulled straight down over the head. If this isn’t your cup of tea, there is always the option to order a front-closure bra. Another minor grievance is that it takes a while to dry after being laundered – double layers of super supportive cotton will do that.

Now, let me list a couple of things that I LOVE about Decent Exposures and their Un-Bra . . .

  • The thick elastic band. It is the most supportive and comfortable band I’ve ever had on a bra.
  • Hook and eye nursing closure. It weirded me out at first – but I love that it’s always quiet and doesn’t pop open randomly or squeak like a traditional nursing clasp. Sometimes it’s a bit fiddly to re-hook, you can’t always do it one handed. But it’s not that big of a bother.
  • “Looper” in the middle front of the bra. It gives breasts separation and definition, and it even helps alleviate dreaded boob sweat!
  • Wonderful company that’s willing to work with you. I didn’t send my bra in for adjustments, but if you order and your bra isn’t perfect, you can send it back in for alterations! Adjustments are free within 60 days of ordering, and available for a nominal fee after that time frame. They can adjust the size of the band, length of straps, cut the armpits deeper, and more.
  • GENEROUS size range. They offer everything from 30-54 A-K. They define a K cup as a 15.5-17 inch difference between band and bust measurement.
  • Machine washable and dryable!!! You can wash this bra with your regular laundry!
  • Wide variety of customization options, including nursing flaps and pockets for prosthetics.
  • Made in the USA (Seattle, Washington) from organic Cotton products.

If you’re interested, I’ll give a quick walk through the ordering process after the jump. Since each and every bra is custom-made, there are many options and possibilities. I found it a bit overwhelming at first glance, so hopefully my walk through can help it be less confusing for you.

[Read more…]