Daughters in the Dressing Room

As you can guess, I (Darlene) love to talk bras and full bust issues anytime I visit a lingerie store. Sometimes the fitter is simply polite, and other times she turns out to be a recent journalism graduate who is just as passionate about the subject as I am. That’s who I met at Suzette’s Lingerie in 2014, and two years later, Shannon Thomas is finally writing a guest post for us. Shannon describes herself as a “New York City-based writer and bra specialist aiming to change lives one byline and bra strap at a time”.  (Leah will return with another great post for Off the Rack next week.)untitled-102

As a little girl, September was always one of my favorite months. The air was cooling, I could begin wearing my cute cardigans again, and I loved going back-to-school shopping with my mother. You know the usual list: perfectly sharpened Crayola colored pencils, fresh notebooks, and of course crisp clothes for the upcoming semesters. As a bra fitter, I see mothers come into my store with their daughters during back-to-school shopping as well, and I smile from the sweet nostalgia.  About half of the young ladies are in their early to mid teens getting what is their first–but certainly not last–fitting. The other half are young and still waiting for their turn. [Read more…]

Bending the Rules, Part 1

Guess what unexpected bonus I found while I was looking for a fit model? Another writer!  Kimberly is a recent college graduate looking to begin a career in social media.  When we met, she was wearing an old Target bra and had never heard of any of the large bust friendly clothing brands that we love on this blog.  We immediately got her enrolled in Ali Cudby’s one-hour bra course and set up a fitting with the famous Freddy from Eveden. Now she’s ready to write for Hourglassy. Some day she’ll tell you all about her fitting experiences, but you’re going to love the topic she’s decided to begin with.

Hi, readers! My name is Kimberly, and I’m thrilled to announce my guest series on Hourglassy. With Bending The Rules, I’ll attempt to dissect the various “rules” that have been sartorially imposed on big-busted women. I’ll also try to provide examples of ways to stick to the rules — or break them, if you’re so inclined.

Because I’ve been considered “busty” for over ten years (I was a 34C in the seventh grade and my boobs never looked back), I’ve had plenty of time to figure out the ways society dictates that busty women should dress. Along the way, I’ve thrown caution to the wind and gone against the rules when I felt like it, but I’ve also gone along with them at my own discretion. I’ve been reprimanded for showing “too much” cleavage and praised for being able to “hide” my boobs well. Basically, my closet is full of busty dos and don’ts, and this is my chance to share that with you.

One thing I tend to hold conflicting opinions about is showing my bra straps — it seems like one of those things that’s taboo, ugly, or tacky for no particular reason, and I’ve always resented that. Friends have pointedly told me that my bra was “out” when straps were showing, as if I hadn’t noticed. Family members have shaken their heads at the sight of a bra peeking out the side of my dress. Just because you never see bra straps on the red carpet, people have treated them as something to be hidden.

Living through countless New York summers has presented me with many opportunities to be jealous of the smaller-busted women who can seemingly wear whatever they want, especially in the sweltering heat. They don’t have to wear bras with those halter crop tops or flowing strapless blouses or backless dresses. They can even wear cute, underwire-free bralettes under them if they want to, and since those are lacy and delicate, they’re not considered a fashion don’t. Meanwhile, I’m stuck with huge, sweat-inducing bras, and according to the rules, I have to make sure to cover. those. straps.

It’s a bit ridiculous. If I need to show those straps in order to wear a cute outfit, who cares? I don’t really ever have the luxury of going braless, and plus, if I pay so much money for these special bras, why not show them off?

I do try to buy clothes that cover my bra and its straps, but sometimes that means giving up on a beautiful dress or cute summer shirt. If I want to wear a crop top, I’ll get one in more of a t-shirt style, like this black one:


(shirt by Bershka)

Plenty of the (numerous) dresses in my closet have thicker straps and fuller coverage, in order to pander to the “no straps” rule and hide the bra. These are more for the occasions when playing by the rules is necessary, like in professional environments. I got this pink dress to wear to a work event:

(dress by Ann Taylor Loft)

(dress by Ann Taylor Loft)

But then there are times when I just don’t care about the scandal my visible bra straps will apparently cause, and I buy a tank top like this because I want to be able to wear what other people wear during the summer, even if my boobs are fully out, along with my bra. If someone with a 32A bra size can wear the tank top without any hypersexualized commentary and opinions, I can too:

(tank top by Project Social T)

(tank top by Project Social T)

Or backless dresses like this:

(dress by Kimchi Blue)

(dress by Kimchi Blue)


And I deal with whatever negative comments I get. Bra straps may be considered unsightly to some, but they support me so that I’m able to wear those cute outfits in the first place.

On that note, if I know I’m going to wear an outfit where my bra straps or band will be visible, I try to match my bra in some way. I once wore the green dress pictured above with a neon purple and pink bra, and my mother (rightfully) told me how ridiculous I looked. Also, I wore it to work earlier that day— not my best choice, but thankfully, no one said anything. I bought this light-blue Claudette Dessous bra specifically to wear under a grey dress, and ended up loving it! The straps are delicately detailed, and the bra is supportive without any extra padding — perfect for summer.


The straps on lots of Simone Perele bras like the Amour are also pretty enough to show, and in a color like black, they go with a lot of different outfits:


So go forth and wear whatever you want, readers. If you need a bra, wear one. If you need to show that bra in some way in order to wear something you like wearing, don’t think twice. Anyone who will criticize you over the sight of a strap obviously doesn’t understand the heavy lifting you have to do on a daily basis, and for that — you are strong.


For more on visible bra straps, see Leah’s post from our hot September last year.

Katie’s Family-Friendly, Wave-Resistant Full Bust Swimsuit Reviews

Hooray for reader Katie’s response to my July 4th request for swimsuit reviews! And boy did she ever respond–in today’s guest post, you can read her reviews of two tankinis, two bikini tops, two one pieces and three different bottoms.

A week at the beach with my extended family and losing a good amount of weight between us meant DH and I both needed new swimsuits this year. He was happy with cheap board shorts from Kmart, but needless to say, that doesn’t quite work for me. After a good number of returns, I finally ended up with a couple of suits I was happy with . . .

I’m framing my reviews around the following criteria:

  • The top needed to support and contain enough that I wouldn’t have too many worries body surfing. Where we swim in Delaware can get pretty rough, especially since we were there right before Hurricane Arthur.
  • Fuller rear coverage
  • Enough overall coverage that I wouldn’t completely scandalize my PK/MK relatives
  • Fit–I normally wear a 28FF in Freya/28G in Panache, could definitely wear a 26 if they made them. Bottoms are usually a US 4, occasionally 2.
  • No particularly weird lines–while I don’t sunbathe, I do burn easily so I try to keep my lines consistent (and wear lots of high spf physical protection sunscreen)

Glide Performance Tankini Top, Blue, 30F

Glide Performance Tankini Short, Blue, 8 (UK) (Figleaves)

review glide tankini

This was utterly hopeless. I don’t know how it can be billed as athletic, or even in a 30 band. The 30 band felt more like a 34+, if not larger and so offered zero support. Also the non-adjustable bands were so long, I felt I had better shape from a camisole with a shelf-bra. The bottoms were nothing spectacular. I certainly didn’t like them enough to keep them and try and find a top to match. Run, don’t walk away from this set.

For a sporty swimsuit in a smaller band size, I would just spend the money and get the Freya or Panache athletic suits, they actually look supportive.

Cleo Lucille Bandeau Top, 28G (Bravissimo)

Cleo Lucille review

I normally do not wear Cleo bras so I was guessing on band size. It ended up being *very* snug. I’m not sure if it is this style that runs so snug or the brand since my other Cleo suit is much more comfortable. I also did not trust it not to slide down when hit by a well-placed wave. There was a good bit of tissue exposed up top, apparently by design. It’s not a half-cup shape, but the way it pushes up the tissue felt like it. Definitely not my-family-friendly or wave-friendly.

AquaLuxe High Waisted Bottom, Mint Green, Small (Athleta)

High waist should be in quotes. I used to wear their standard swim short, and I felt that came just as high. It felt like good material and the color went with the piping on the Lucille, but it came 2” below my navel, at just the wrong place to be flattering. I wanted something with a higher rise, so it went back. I know I should have known better since it doesn’t reach the model’s waist, but I thought being short would make a difference. (Aside, has anyone else noticed that even Modcloth’s high waisteds are usually hitting the same place on their models? Maybe this is a more wide-spread definition of high waist . . . .) Note, the fabric is a bit shimmery.

Ocean Park Swimsuit, Red, 4 (Shabby Apple)

shabby apple ocean park 2

I ordered this to make DH happy since I was skeptical it would be flattering. Unfortunately, it offered zero support since it just had liner cups and not enough coverage to even sit around (for me). It’s a shame because it is a *really* cute suit. No complaints on the construction, and I recommended it to a friend. All of Shabby Apple’s suits seam to either to have a shelf bra or, more commonly, two molded cup-like things (not much actual shaping, more for coverage). If you can find a non-obtrusive swim bra/bikini top in a coordinating color, they may be worth a look if you like that aesthetic or want a more conservative but still cute suit. I really wish this one and their Coastline would work. They are a completely different style than you normally see in the market.

Panache Nancy Tankini Top, Nautical Print, 30G (Figleaves/purchased Summer 2013)

Panache Nancy tankini review front and side

Loved this last year. It fit fine then but since then I’ve changed size and shape and it’s just okay. It was my back-up this year if I couldn’t find another suit to work a little better. Properly fitted, it holds up great in the waves and I got compliments on it. I wore old bottoms so not really worth commenting more on that. The rings do give a funny tanline if you aren’t careful with the sunscreen, something to keep in mind.

Bravissimo Santorini 30F (Bravissimo)

Bravissimo Santorini review

 It was definitely not my normal shape, and the original fit was even worse than it is now. The cups looked both too small and too large at the same time. I ended up stitching the cups together another 1-1.25” above the wires to give me better shape and support. Even now that I altered it, I’m not super thrilled but DH says it looks fine. I may ended up passing this one off to my mom since it is likely wave-friendly and it fit her well. The Santorini didn’t actually make it into the water since I liked the Pippa and Revival so much and we avoided swimming once Arthur got close enough to have a real effect on the waves.

Revival Underwired Sweetheart Padded Bikini Top, Black, 28FF (Figleaves)

Fables by Barrie Frannie Super High Waisted bottoms, Black and White, Small (etsy)

(Note how much the band rides up.)

(Note how much the band rides up.)

This was a compromise. I hate that almost all swimsuits that come in a 28 band are plunge or else like the Lucille. I simply do not trust that shape to keep everything contained. Ideally, I’d like the cups of the Revival to cover a little more than they do, but it was enough that I was reasonably comfortable. The gore is wider that I expected with Freya, not excessively wide but definitely wider than the Gem/Luisa/Loretta/etc. that I normally wear. There’s something vaguely midcentury to the design that I really liked. I mostly bobbed around and dove under waves in this, and it held up just fine. I’m not sure I would be confident actually riding any waves. My main complaints are that the band is even stretchier than the standard Freya band and I had to shorten the straps all the way (which admittedly, is only 1-2” more than I normally do).

I *love* the Fables bottoms by Barrie Franny–they are incredibly flattering and comfortable. I’m not sure it’s really super high waisted since it hits right at my natural waist, and I’m on the petite side already. The white does get a bit sheer when wet, but the band is high enough that it’s not indecent. The construction is good. The bow came partially untacked after being battered by waves but it’s an easy fix with a ball point hand needle. Fables sells through their own site and through Etsy. They also sell through Modcloth and Unique-Vintage, but you are going to spend more and neither carry the full line. Next time, I would rinse the bottoms well in cold water before wearing since I think the white looks a little darker now, possibly from dye, but that could be my imagination.

Cleo Pippa Bandeau Swimsuit, 28FF (Ebay/Summer 2013)

Cleo Pippa one piece review

This was an Ebay gamble. The seller said she only wore it twice in a pool so I at least knew it could survive getting wet. It’s a snug band, but nowhere near as bad as the Lucille. The sailboat print is cute, but farther away the detail is lost and just looks geometric. Not a problem, just something to be aware of. I do need the straps for assurance in the waves, but I think swimming around a pool would mean they are unnecessary. I’m not sure how much the straps really do, they are pretty thin and only attach to small loops in the front. It would be nice if they crossed and hooked in the back, just for more security. No real complaints otherwise. It held up fine in the ocean which was my main concern. The torso does feel a little on the long side to me, but I do have a short torso.

Starting a Large Bust Wardrobe Over by Trial & Error: Three Bust Friendly Dresses Under $50

Ever since Holly of The Full Figured Chest began this series with her little black dress find, I know you’ve been wondering what she’d try next. I’m happy to see that it’s more dresses to fit both top and bottom!

While I normally thrift most of my clothes, I’ve spent this month checking out what dress options are like on some of the major online clothing websites. I love looking put together but I also hate spending tons of money on clothes that I won’t fit in the future! For me, $50 is about where I stop being interested in a dress. Luckily, it turns out there are lots of great options out there for bustier women if you know where to look. Two of my favorites are ASOS and Modcloth. ASOS has lots of great sales and carries a huge size range, and Modcloth has tons of cute low cost dresses in stretchy fabrics. While I love the vintage inspired clothing companies that cater to fuller busted women like Pinup Girl Clothing and Stop Staring, I don’t want to go full vintage all of the time. They also tend to emphasize cleavage, which doesn’t really work when you’re presenting an ad campaign to a bunch of CEOs. My look tends to be more eclectic anyway: I start with plain colored dresses in classic cuts and then add crazier tights or hair clips on top of them to make a full look.


Work With Me Dress from Modcloth:
This dress is definitely 40’s inspired but still has that nice sleek look. I love the peplum and how it draws attention away from my bust. Peter Pan collars are traditionally a no go for bustier women, but I love how it adds a subtle shape to this dress. The fabric is very stretchy in real life, which makes the dress incredibly comfortable while giving your waist lots of definition. I bought this in black first, and I loved it so much that I immediately picked up another one in this gorgeous mint color. Modcloth also has it in stock in this great coral color, but even I think that buying the same dress in three colors is a little nuts. This dress feels very nice (especially for the low price tag) and I suspect it will hold up beautifully. It’s certainly going to get lots of wear. I’m wearing a size XL in the picture.


The Coach Tour Dress in Tangerine from Modcloth:

This dress reminds me of something Audrey Hepburn would wear as she runs from criminals in Charade and seduces Cary Grant. The chic button details really make this dress for me. Lots of the reviews on Modcloth say it comes up short, but the length was fine on me. I’m only 5’4″ though, so taller women may want to be more wary about this one. As you can see, the color in reality is very different from the color on the website. I like both, so this didn’t upset me. This is another one that Modcloth has in six or seven different colors. You could do tons with this dress by changing out your stockings and some jewelry and the color will also be great for the fall and winter.

This dress is made out of a soft thick fabric that I think will hold up really well. The only downside is that the label says handwash and hang dry, so if you hate handwashing things this may not be your dream dress. This dress looks great as long as I wear a bra with tons of lift, like my Ewa Michalak plunges or my Kris Line bras. I tried it in my Curvy Kates and it looked much dumpier on me. It also has pockets, which gives me a convenient place to stash my phone when I’m on the go in it. This dress is also a size XL.


ASOS Peter Pan Collar Dress With Puffed Shoulders:

I bought this in my usual ASOS size of 14 (to fit my chest measurement) and while it fit my chest it was baggy in lots of other places. Hopefully this means my weight loss plan is working! It’s on the verge of being too baggy in the waist and hips, so I’m going to wait a little while and then have my seamstress take it in some. That said, right now a belt fixes all of those issues easily.

This is another Peter Pan collar dress, but the lower cut neckline makes it work. It’s very work friendly, but I’ve also dressed it up a few times for a Friday night dinner and it transitioned very nicely.  You can go fancy with gold jewelry or make it funkier with comic book inspired accessories. My new favorite work outfit is this dress combined with my Wonder Woman themed hair clips.

What online retailers do you buy bust friendly clothing from?