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…]

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 . . .

DecentExposures_1

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!):

UnBra_2

UnBra_3

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:

UnBra_4

UnBra_5

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:

UnBra_1

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…]

Meet Our Newest Writer: Rosalind

Based on my past correspondence with Rosalind, I suspected she would be a perfect match for Hourglassy readers, and when I met her in person last September, I absolutely had to invite her to join the Hourglassy team. When you read today’s post, you’ll realize why I was so overjoyed that she said yes. Her captivating style, love of sewing, nursing bra survivor stories, and experience on both sides of the H-cup divide are some of the reasons you’re going to look forward to her upcoming bi-weekly posts. –Darlene

Let me take you back to middle school, in order to get a full picture of my Adventures in Bra-Wearing…

middle school was so good to us all, wasn't it??

Exhibit A: 8th Grade Dance

I was a bit of a late bloomer. The only reason I started wearing a bra in the 7th grade was because of the inevitable gym class locker room. My mom wanted to shield me from as much teasing as possible, so she loaded me with training bras that my scrawny prepubescent frame clearly did not need. I appreciated them and wore them without complaint, aside from the occasional whining about “not having any boobs”. I desperately wanted to be buxom and voluptuous. My mother and her mother were large-chested, so I knew it could be in the cards for me. I would often stuff my mom’s old bras and parade around the house making jokes about Dolly Parton.

Then, in the summer before I began high school, my chest grew from a barely-there AA, to a solid B/C cup. I had to ask my mom to take me bra shopping three times that summer. I suddenly had the breasts I had been asking for, and I was happy . . . until I realized bras were now uncomfortable, and my breasts didn’t stop growing. I had absolutely zero clue what to do with my breasts.

By the end of my senior year of high school, bra and swimsuit shopping made me cry. I was wearing some horribly uncomfortable 36D bras that my Mom had altered to create smaller bands for me. I had looked up a little bit about bra fitting, just enough to know about “sister sizing”, and thought I would fit a 34DD. I searched for that size only to come up empty handed at every retail store. Looking back, I think I was probably closer to a 28G at the time, but I had no idea that there was such a thing as a band smaller than a 32!

Near the end of my high school days, my Mom came home from a thrift store shopping adventure (I am fairly certain at least 50% of my childhood was spent in thrift shops – I love them) clutching two Fantasie t-shirt bras (you know, this famous one). One was a 32E–a size I had never before heard of–and it fit me so well that I cried!!

I wore that Fantasie 4510 nearly every day for well over a year. When the underwires started poking out, I realized I should really do a Google search on the tag and see if I could find out where to buy another one. Within minutes, I discovered Herroom.com and their wealth of bra fitting and purchasing options. Again, I was so happy that I cried . . . but my tears of joy were quickly replaced by tears of despair once I saw the price tags on most of these lovely-looking bras in sizes I knew I needed.

Pretty soon, I learned to search the lingerie racks at places such as Nordstrom Rack, TJ Maxx, and Marshall’s for things in my size. Typically I would splurge on a new bra for my birthday and score 2-3 heavily discounted bras through these stores each year. Fitting myself and figuring out sizing took me a few years of trial and error, but I got it all worked out and found my favorite bra (Freya Deco, 30G/28FF!). 

I <3 Deco! At least I'm 99% sure that's what I'm wearing here, haha.

I heart Deco! At least I’m 99% sure that’s what I’m wearing here. Haha.

During this time I found myself in the same position that Darlene discussed in her recent “F Stands for Full Bust” post–I was busty, but not THAT busty and I certainly didn’t look it most of the time. The only time I was really aware of my full-busted size was when my smaller chested sisters would pick up my bras and gawk, or when I would foolishly try to fit into a size “small” shirt or non-cup-sized swimwear.

I *think?* I'm wearing a Panache Porcelain here. Can't remember the size, but man that was a comfy bra.

I *think?* I’m wearing a Panache Porcelain here. Can’t remember the size, but man that was a comfy bra.

When I finally had it all figured out . . . I experienced the miracle of bringing life into the world. Don’t get me wrong — I love my children, and I am insanely grateful for my relatively healthy pregnancies and births. But I do not inherently love pregnancy in all of its nauseating, breast-expanding glory. I shot up five cup sizes from a 30G/28FF to a 28JJ-30K (which was an L or M or N or something insane-sounding in US sizing). I could find absolutely zero pregnancy/nursing bras in my size, even from websites and brands that I knew and trusted. I was SO baffled–isn’t the biological function of breasts to, well, feed babies? Not just to look pretty? So, why were there hundreds of options for non-lactating busty women, but relatively little for lactating busty women? I then realized after more digging that I couldn’t even find regular bras in my current size – which also confused me. I hadn’t yet learned about the dreaded H-Cup Ceiling (Samantha at The Curves Have It has a great post on The H Problem).

Through all of this searching, I knew there had to be other women in my size range, lactating or not. There was no way I was the only one. So I continued to dig, and finally came across Hourglassy–which served as my portal to the the full-bust blog world. I couldn’t believe there was an entire corner of the Internet dedicated to discussing and solving my specific problems! I sent Darlene a very emotional email, asking for any pregnancy/nursing bra resources she could point me to. From there I followed June at Braless in Brasil (whose blog is no longer online), who recommended to me the ONLY comfortable and properly-sized nursing bra I’ve been able to find (Decent Exposures un-bra). I also used this awesome Hourglassy DIY Nursing Bras tutorial with great success, and there have been quite a few Boobs and Babies posts throughout Hourglassy’s lifetime that I found helpful!

Me and my sweet baby #2 at 4 months old. Wearing a poor-fitting nursing bra and trying to hide my bustline. Babies are a great accessory for that ;)

Me and my sweet second baby at 4 months old. Wearing a poor-fitting nursing bra and trying to hide my bustline. Babies are a great accessory for that ;)

So there is my story. I have been pregnant and/or lactating for the past four years (no breaks–yikes!), currently still nursing my second child (15 months old and weaning v e r y slowly). At the moment I hover around a 28-30 band and J-K cup, depending on the brand. I’m still searching for comfortable bras in my size – I have a few that fit, but nothing I actually love to wear! I’ve tried more bras than I can count in the past four years, most of them have been failures, but a couple have been phenomenal successes (which I am looking forward to sharing with you!).

In addition to sharing my experiences as a mother, I hope to share general-busty experiences with all women–especially those who struggle with the H-Cup Ceiling. I LOVE to sew, and am planning tutorials that show how to make inexpensive clothing work for a busty body, and even how to make a swimsuit if you’re that adventurous!! I just finished making one for myself last week, and it makes me so happy. My style is casual, comfortable, and fun. I greatly appreciate clothing that is easy to wear and care for. I have plenty of bra/clothing reviews and op-ed pieces up my sleeve as well. Hopefully you’ll enjoy reading them as much as I enjoy writing them!

I am SO grateful to live in this day and age where bra information and networking with other bra enthusiasts is so easy. I am grateful for blogs, online shopping, Zulily, Amazon, foreign clothing brands, and all of the other incredible resources that make properly fitting bras available to women everywhere! I couldn’t be more thrilled to be a part of it all.

Where Are They Now? Braless in Brasil

Braless in Brasil is one of my favorite bosom blogs of all time. June didn’t take fancy pictures, but her content was stellar, with multi-faceted perspectives, unique topics, and great advice. Plus, she was a goldmine for busty nursing mothers.

Her posts became pretty irregular around the time her second child was due. Eventually she announced on Facebook that she was deleting her domain name. I missed the announcement, so when The Lingerie Addict tweeted in January that all traces of Braless in Brasil had vanished, I got a giant jolt to action. I knew she was moving from Brasil, but what if she’d already moved again and I could never find her? I quickly texted her cell phone number and was relieved when she replied.

We finally met up earlier this month when she was in town, and since a lot of Hourglassy readers are also Braless in Brasil fans, I thought you’d like to hear what’s been going on with our favorite 32JJ. For those of you who didn’t get to meet June through her blog, here are two guest posts that she wrote for Hourglassy a few years ago:

(We always intended for it to be longer than a 2-part series, but I’m glad we got at least two posts on the subject!)

First, it’s probably no surprise that June is extremely smart brilliant. She works in a very serious field, and she has all sorts of credentials on her resume that I’m not allowed to share with you because “June” isn’t her real name. (In fact, when I called out to her at the train station where we met (having recognized her by her bustline), she didn’t answer at first because she forgot she was “June”!).

Since she’s so smart, I hesitated to bring up bodies, bras and shopping. These subjects seemed trivial compared to her professional life, and I assumed she’d moved on. Instead, I asked her safe questions about her personal life and ended up being even more intimidated:

  • Using the internet from Brasil, June found a rare rental apartment in a desirable school district in her new city.
  • She moved into that apartment all by herself with a baby and a toddler while her husband finished his professional commitments in Brasil.
  • She jumped into a new job that required a quick climb up the learning curve.
  • She was getting ready for two Asian trips in the weeks ahead after having already traveled to numerous other conferences around the world.
  • She had had a surgery that would cause her body to take a year to get back to normal.
  • She doesn’t have a nanny.

Every time I asked her how she does it all, she’d reply, “Lots of coffee.” With such self-deprecation, it wasn’t long before I felt at ease talking about the one thing we have in common: big boobs. Here are some of her recent observations:

  •  Women in academia seem to change the way they dress according to their professional level and aspirations. Once they get tenure, they’re a lot freer. Right now, the low BiuBiu scoop neck in June’s closet isn’t getting a lot of wear.
  • Living with a dearth of bra and clothing options in Brasil forced her to go through the ordering process a million times to find her size in all the different brands. Now that she knows what fits and works on her, she tends to stick with that, especially since she’s so busy. For example, Pepperberry tunics are good with her long torso, and she needs to replace the Ewa Michalek she was wearing that day. (Even though she told me that her EM bra was old and stretched out, her bust stil looked incredible in it.)
  • She agrees that Curvy Kate bikini tops are the BEST. She doesn’t find the bottoms to be very friendly to women past their 20’s who have had kids, so she buys inexpensive bottoms in a matching solid elsewhere. She wished that Curvy Kate tankinis weren’t too short on her, so she was excited to hear that my Moonflower tankini can be made longer for longer torsos.
  • We agreed that being a 32 band makes clothes shopping so much easier! This led to a delicate discussion about weight and how we each need our own individual motivation to maintain what is healthy for us. I mentioned that for me, the only thing that got me to change was the threat of having to take cholesterol medication. Personal appearance is important, but it just couldn’t get me moving. This brought up an interesting discovery that June made at a recent conference. She used to wear a 30 band and still carries some of her pregnancy weight. She noticed that a lot more of the younger men (her field is male-dominated ) approached her to discuss her work when she wore a 30 band a few years ago than at the same conference this year when she wore a 32–even though she’s been doing her best work yet. How I wish June were still blogging so that we could read her reflections on this.
  • If it weren’t for lack of time, we’d definitely be hearing from her. June may have moved away from blogging, but she’s still passionate about body image, respect, clothing and bra fit issues. She even wishes she had time to learn to sew. I doubt there’s enough coffee to make that happen!