Large Bust Wedding Dress Dreams with Curvy Custom Bride

Scrolling through Instagram recently, I stumbled across Curvy Custom Bride and was excited to recognize its founder, Leila Breton, the columnist who gave us incredibly helpful instructions for big bust alterations for coats, armholes, waists and more. I link to all ten of her posts at the bottom of today’s interview. Leila had to scale back her extracurricular activities in 2014, but she didn’t scale back her sewing trajectory. Instead, it moved from hobby to full time profession, and you’re going to love reading about it today.

Darlene: We are super excited to hear from you again after your last column in 2014. Tell us what you’ve been up to!

Leila: It’s so great to be back on Hourglassy. You know I’ve been obsessed with fit for some time now, starting with my own closet, and now helping women get a perfect fit! I recently rebranded from Three Dresses Project to Curvy Custom Bride. While I still do TDP social media-ing, my energy is focused on reaching out to curvy women who are tired of shopping for a wedding dress that exists only in their imaginations! You know, that dress that is the exact look and the perfect fit? For a lot of us with fuller chests, that just doesn’t exist.

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Darlene: You describe hiding behind your bouquet on your wedding day. What else led you to wanting to serve the busty niche?

Leila: I’d have to say being busty myself, and feeling the pain of trying to buy clothes that made me look and feel worse than I already did. Shopping made me feel like I didn’t belong. Wearing clothes that don’t fit affects your daily life. The most frustrating thing is that I don’t fit in “standard” sizes or plus-sizes. It’s the in-between gripe. I know I’m not the only one feeling this way, and now I have the skill to provide a valuable service that I think goes beyond just fitting or just creating an awesome gown. Sometimes I feel like an Alterations Therapist. There are a lot of emotions that come up with what I do and I believe in holding space for my clients.

Darlene: Can you share some of your clients’ pre-Leila horror stories with us? [Read more…]

Off the Rack ~ A Review of Vogue Pattern V8998, Part I

It’s been way too long since my last sewing post. This week I have a pretty big one—a review of the Vogue V8998 pattern, which features a custom fit option of cup sizes A, B, C, and D.

vogue v8998The design I opted for is letter B (upper right teal illustration), which is what the model is wearing.

Now, as we all know, cup letters mean nothing without knowing the band size, but the Vogue method of selecting cup size is actually not too far off from the way bras work. Each cup size corresponds to the difference between your bust at the fullest point and your “high bust” (“Measure across the back, high up under the arm, and across top of bust”). The only difference is it tells you to measure your upper instead of underbust, which I think is dumb since people who are fuller on top will have a smaller difference than someone less full on top, even if they wear the same bra size.

In any case, each letter corresponds to an inch difference, so A is one inch, B is two, C is three, and D is four. This is one of the most basic starting points to figure out your proper bra size—each inch difference between your underbust and bust = one cup size.

Of course, women are capable of having a bigger difference than four inches, but you can compensate somewhat by choosing bigger cup pattern pieces for the bodice and tapering them closer to the waistband—though I would recommend trying this with cheap muslin before you cut out your actual fabric of choice. Then you can use the perfected muslin pieces as your pattern pieces instead of Vogue’s paper pattern.

I, of course, was too impatient for all that, so I just went straight for the D cups. As for dress size, do not even consider your normal dress size. You must follow the instructions. My measurements correspond to halfway between 14 and 16 even though I generally wear an 8 in off-the-rack clothing. I went with the 14 because I usually go with the smaller size when I’m in between, but the safer bet would be to size up since you can just sew it with more seam allowance to shrink it down a smidge.

Unfortunately, I now wish I had taken the time for a muslin, because I’m going to be taking the dress almost completely apart in order to make the necessary changes. So in this post, I’m only sharing with you how the dress looks now and what I want to edit.

First up, some shots when I was putting the bodice together:

As you can see, it’s exceedingly boxy on me. It was starting out way too wide for my frame.

As you can see, it’s exceedingly boxy on me. It was starting out way too wide for my frame.

From the side, you can see that the fabric doesn’t curve under my bust at all—a major pet peeve of mine. I don’t want ski slop boobs!

From the side, you can see that the fabric doesn’t curve under my bust at all—a major pet peeve of mine. I don’t want ski slope boobs!

Here it is from the back.

Here it is from the back.

And here’s how much it can overlay on itself—that’s nearly three inches per side. Of course it would be pulled together more with a zipper, but not enough to compensate for this.

And here’s how much it can overlay on itself—that’s nearly three inches per side. Of course it would be pulled together more with a zipper, but not enough to compensate for this.

So I wasn’t crazy about it at that point, and I actually did take it apart and sew all the seams closer in to basically shrink the whole thing. But it’s still not great in the end. Here’s the finished dress, fully lined and with the zipper installed:

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I used lightweight cotton for the dress and the lining. It doesn’t look too bad from far away, but the fit issues are obvious in person. Overall, the bodice, which in addition to the lining has interfacing, is too stiff. Next time I make this, I’ll skip the interfacing. The skirt feels way too heavy and I would prefer it a little shorter, so next time I won’t line the skirt portion at all and will cut off a couple inches from the bottom.

The bottom of the waistband feels tight while the top of it is loose. I also think the princess seams are too far out to the sides. In fact, the straps feel too far out to the sides too.

The bottom of the waistband feels tight while the top of it is loose. I also think the princess seams are too far out to the sides. In fact, the straps feel too far out to the sides too.

Again, here you can see the ski slope shape on the underside of my bust. Not a fan.

Again, here you can see the ski slope shape on the underside of my bust. Not a fan.

And here you can see the looseness above the waistband—even though the waistband fits!

And here you can see the looseness above the waistband—even though the waistband fits!

The back, where I think the too-wide straps are more clear.

The back, where I think the too-wide straps are more clear.

Pinching along the princess seams to show how much excess empty space there is under my breasts along my ribcage.

Pinching along the princess seams to show how much excess empty space there is under my breasts along my ribcage.

Since I adore this fabric and I don’t have any more left, I’m determined to salvage this dress. So I’m going to be taking it all apart except for the individual skirt panels.

For the bodice, I’m going to first remove the lining because all this work has to be done to both the outer fabric and the lining so they match up. If the interfacing is coming up at all, I may try to peel it off too. I’ll sew the princess seams and the back seams to have more seam allowance, which will bring in the width overall. This will narrow the shoulders a bit and move the princess seams to a more appropriate spot. I may also try to sew the underbust princess seam curve into a sharper angle so that it actually curves under my bust.

I will leave the interfacing on the waistband because I want that part to remain stiff, so it doesn’t bunch up when worn.

For the skirt, I’m going to remove the lining and sew a zig-zag stich on the raw edges to keep them from fraying too much. If I had a serger, I would use that. Honestly, this skirt was a massive pain in the ass. It requires something like twelve individual panels. They’re easy to sew together, but they use up so much fabric and take forever to cut out. Next time, I’m using skirt D/E/F, which is a more basic, gathered design. It requires eight pieces, but they can be cut out in half the time by folding the fabric in half and cutting two of the same piece at a time. You can’t do that with skirt design A/B/C because they aren’t symmetrical pieces.

This pattern is a “Vogue Easy Option,” but I’m not sure I’d agree with that, especially in the large cup size. It’s a fairly basic-looking dress, but the bodice features some seriously curvy pieces that are hard to match up, and the time commitment of the skirt takes it out of “easy” into “intermediate” territory, in my opinion.

It’s also clear to me that even the big cup option is still not really well-designed. I don’t need every garment to adhere to my every curve, but it’s just not flattering to have this much empty space under the bust. It’s like the pattern designers think women are shaped like a scalene triangle from the side when we’re really more like an angled teardrop.

Not my boob in profile.

Not my boob in profile.

My boob in profile.

My boob in profile.

I already have fabric on hand for my next attempt at this dress (it’s avocado print!), but I’m going to do a muslin first next time, so I can play around and make the straps and bodice narrower and more fitted.

 

Off the Rack ~ Trying a Custom-Made Coat from Etsy

I’ve long been an Etsy lurker, saving tons of items to my favorites list but never actually buying any of them. Most of the time it’s because it’s out of my price range. Custom, handmade clothing tends to cost quite a bit, and rightfully so. But I recently found a few China-based sellers that have the most amazing coats at a slightly more affordable price point.

I’m usually a little hesitant about ordering from China because I’ve been burned by China-based eBay sellers before and, more importantly, I’m concerned about contributing to sweatshop conditions. But the couple of stores I was looking at on Etsy have pretty extensive and legitimate-sounding shop descriptions, complete with names and photos of the employees. Can it be trusted? I don’t really know. I hope so . . . because these coats are so awesome I want to buy them all! It helps that the pricing is not exactly sweatshop-level. Most of the coats are around $130–$170, which is inexpensive for custom-made, but not at all what I consider “cheap.”

After trying on a full-skirted coat from Guess in a random store, I decided I needed a similar one. The skirt was so feminine and fun and it balanced my chest really well. But I did not want the Guess one, because it was mostly acrylic and was so itchy. All the Etsy coats I found were instead wool-polyester blends, which is exactly what I wanted. I know that blend is very warm and not scratchy because I’ve had coats in that material in the past.

After searching around, I found two shops that had a ton of coats I loved, including plenty with full skirts. The first is YL1dress and the second is Xiaolizi. I had such a hard time choosing from all their offerings, but I eventually settled on an asymmetrical collared one from YL1.

YL1dress black coat

The best part about ordering clothes through Etsy is that most sellers are happy to customize the sizing or design for you. So I requested to have plain straight sleeves instead of the “lantern” ones pictured, and I asked for houndstooth fabric that was in another listing in the same shop.

YL1dress houndstooth coat

YL1 offers customization for a flat $30 fee, so I got the sleeve alteration, the new fabric, and I provided my measurements (noting my long waist, especially) even though I’m right in the range of what they list as a size “medium.”

The shop had excellent communication, usually writing me back within hours of anything I sent them. They also included charts with instructions on how to properly measure yourself and requested additional measurements beyond the usual chest/waist to ensure the best possible fit (specifically, length from shoulder to waist, height, and weight).

It seems they forgot to mark the parcel as sent when they first shipped it, because I received a shipping confirmation that day after it arrived, so I have no idea how fast it was made or how fast it shipped. But the final communication occurred on November 14 and I received the package on December 10, so I’m pretty happy with that timeline.

So! How’s the final product? Here, have a photo essay (in front of our little Christmas tree that we just started decorating!):

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Love it love it love it love it!!

The quality is so far beyond what I was even expecting. The first thing I noticed is it is really heavy. Also, the lining is high quality and sewn perfectly; the fabric is nice and soft; and the care that went into the details is truly impressive.

The fit is just the tiniest bit off. I wish the chest was just a little roomier. You can see it pulling a tiny bit in the closeups below. And the armpits are attached a little low or at a weird angle or something, because when I lift my arms up high, the rest of the coat goes with them.

But there’s definitely room for layers under the coat and it certainly fits better than my old boxy wool peacoat I replaced it with. Plus the asymmetrical collar and high-low skirt are so fun! And considering that it kept me totally toasty in Thursday’s mid-30s (Fahrenheit) weather (and I was outside for most of the day), it’s practical even though it looks more “fashion-y.”

Here are some of those details I mentioned:

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The torso. Note the princess seams—a busty gal’s best friend. You can see here that the chest is pulling just a touch. Also please note the matching covered buttons. My old houndstooth peacoat just had black plastic. It even came with a spare button tucked into one of the pockets.

Princess seams from the side. Pretty good contouring, no?

Princess seams from the side. Pretty good contouring, no?

I just love this collar. There’s even a little hidden button that holds the larger side of the collar in place under the smaller piece.

I just love this collar. There’s even a little hidden button that holds the larger side of the collar in place under the smaller piece.

Fun, full skirt! I also appreciate that there’s a button on the lower side of the waist seam. The old peacoat (again) only had buttons across the bust, so it would fly open with a big gust of wind. That’s not an issue here.

Fun, full skirt! I also appreciate that there’s a button on the lower side of the waist seam. The old peacoat (again) only had buttons across the bust, so it would fly open with a big gust of wind. That’s not an issue here.

The pockets! They are a little high up, which I really like because it’s a perfect height for keeping my hands in them. And the inner panel is made of the wool, with just the outer panel made of lining fabric. Not only is this warmer for my hands, but all my coats that have pockets made of just lining end up shredding where it’s sewn together, so presumably that won’t be an issue either. They're also quite deep. I have no worries about my phone or Metrocard or gloves falling out. And the full skirt hides that I have all that crap in there too!

The pockets! They are a little high up, which I really like because it’s a perfect height for keeping my hands in them. And the inner panel is made of the wool, with just the outer panel made of lining fabric. Not only is this warmer for my hands, but all my coats that have pockets made of just lining end up shredding where it’s sewn together, so presumably that won’t be an issue either. They’re also quite deep. I have no worries about my phone or Metrocard or gloves falling out. And the full skirt hides that I have all that crap in there too!

Even with the minor fit issues, I am really happy with this coat and heartily recommend this Etsy seller.

 

Off the Rack ~ Ewa Michalak: Custom Orders and Reviews of CHP Mak & CHP Stalowka

Continuing my coverage of Polish bras, after my first Ewa Michalak bra was such a success, I did decide to place an order for two more bras. Here I’ll outline the ordering process as well as review the two bras.

The first one I tried was a CHP, so I decided to stick with that style for my first real order. CHP is sort of halfway between a plunge and a balconnet. It’s a good style for me, since I can fall out the center of plunges and the straps on balconnets are very often too far apart and painfully dig into my armpits and/or fall off my shoulders.

The two I selected were the silvery grey CHP Stalowka and the bright red (with lace wings) CHP Mak. Note that there is also a CHP Mak Nowa Koronka for ten zlotys more, but I cannot for the life of me figure out the difference between the two.

CHP Mak

CHP Stalowka

I decided I wanted to order a 28GG (or 60GG), which is a custom-made size, meaning it is non-refundable and I would have to pay a little extra. But the prices are so low and the bras so wonderful that I thought it’d be worth it. I followed instructions from Braless In Brazil (scroll down to “Ordering”) to keep emails as short and direct as possible to avoid any language miscommunication. Here are all the steps I went through, from first email to arrival at my door:

January 30: Sent an email to sklep@ewa-michalak.pl stating that I wanted to buy the two bras, the size I wanted, my Ewa Michalak account user name, and my mailing address.

January 31: I received a response from Dominik Michalak confirming that my order would be non-returnable. I responded that I knew and accepted that. Then he (she?) sent me an email stating that the order had been created for me, and that payment would be 289.38zl. I then sent a PayPal payment in that amount to the same email address I’d been using to converse. Finally, I sent Ewa another email stating that I had paid and included the PayPal transaction number. (Yes, this was all in one day!)

February 1: I received an email confirming they received payment.

February 4: I received an email telling me my order had been delayed. (Since I knew they’d be custom-making the bra, I could only assume that this was par the course. It takes time, and three days would not be enough to complete the job.)

February 21: I received an email stating that my order was being “processed” and could no longer be changed. A couple hours later, I received an email announcing that my order had shipped. It included an itemized list of garments and the breakdown of the cost.

March 8: The bras arrived at my door.

The two items I ordered cost 109zl and 119zl, plus 45zl for shipping and 6% extra to cover PayPal’s fees. This week, Ewa rolled out a new policy of charging an extra 20zl for custom orders, but that was not the case when I purchased. At the time, the total was equal to $95.99 USD. Considering that most new bras cost at minimum $50 and custom-made ones twice that, plus adding in the fact that it’s coming from a foreign country, I feel totally pleased with the price I paid.

As for the bras themselves, they feel extremely high quality. Everything about them is tough and made to last. Excellent fabric, no loose threads or wonky seams, and amazingly strong wires (more on that later).

As for fit, on my body they look more like the photo of the Mak above—balconnet-like—versus the plungier-looking fit in the Stalowka shot. It doesn’t come up as high on me, though. It’s more like a true halfcup.

I ordered 28GG because the 30FF I had first tried was one cup too small and I could comfortably close the band on the tightest hook. Ewa is known for their exceedingly tight bands, so I was a little hesitant to order 28s, but I so prefer tight, tight, tight bands and I figured I could use an extender if it was too much.

Well I need an extender–haha! I can close it on the loosest hook, but I’m literally pulling the band as far as it’ll go. I’m okay with the comfort level since I feel more secure in a vice-like bra, but I don’t want to damage the hooks by pulling them too hard, so I’ll stick with the extender until it stretches out some. As for comfort, I doubt most other women would like it so tight, so I do have to recommend ordering up if you wear a small band.

The only thing that’s uncomfortable for me is that the wires line up perfectly with a rib. It’s fine if I’m walking around, but if I’m sitting down for a long time, the wires press against the rib harder and it hurts. The first day I wore one to my office gig, I ended up stuffing my tee shirt between the bra and my skin to give me a little more padding. Amazingly, despite the insane tightness of the band, the wires aren’t being pulled or warped at all. I don’t know what kind of magical alloy they’re made of, but I am seriously impressed.

As for the cups, well they’re pretty magical, too. Like I said, they look more like a balconnet on me. That’s a bit of a shame, as I prefer more of a V-shape than a horizontal line going across my chest, but the volume and shape are perfect. They almost look small on me when I look down because I have a lot of skin visible, but then when I look in a mirror, they’re perfectly, perfectly flush with my bigger boob and just the tiniest bit loose at the top edge of the cup on my smaller boob. No quad boob or indent into my breast tissue, not even an inkling. It’s pretty awesome.

I also love the crazy lift these bras give. No underboob sweat for me this summer! It also makes my chest fill out an empire-style dress better, because they’re being hoisted above the seam.

Going forward, I’ll definitely be ordering Ewa bras one cup size up and one band size up (so 30G/65G instead of my standard 28G), since the 60 bands are just a bit too tight and I’d prefer to avoid paying the extra fee and waiting for a custom-made bra anyways. But I would still call this order a rousing success.

Next week I’ll be writing about another Polish bra brand, Comexim, which I’ve actually decided I like even better than Ewa.

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For more background on bras from Poland, be sure to check out Miss Underpinnings’ series about her recent trip there.