Full Bust Finds: A Quick Introduction to Bitter Lollipop

Leah’s off to a wedding this weekend, and the timing is perfect because I wore my Bitter Lollipop Riley dress for the first time yesterday and want to tell you all about it. I’ve been eyeing this dress ever since Kelly Roberts launched her brand last year. She’s had a lot of sales since then, but this dress was never part of them.

Now it’s September, and with our 4th Annual Big Bust Clothing Swap coming in just a week, this is the month for cleaning out our closets and identifying essentials. I contacted Kelly to see if she’d like me to review the Riley and Paige dresses in connection with this theme, and she agreed to send me one of each. I’ll write more about the Paige later (spoiler: it’s as flattering and versatile as I thought it would be from the pics), but today is all about the Riley.

I don’t know why I gravitated to the Riley so much. After Kelly agreed to send it to me, I was hit with remorse–why had I asked for something black and white and angular? I look better in spring colors, and my curly hair is the antithesis of all straight lines. But when I took it out of the box on Wednesday, I knew my instincts were justified.

This is a simple dress with clean lines and an interesting pattern that can be dressed up or down. I wore it both ways yesterday. Here’s how I wore it running around Manhattan during the day.

bitter lollipop casual riley front

Here’s how I wore it to the open house for Bottomless Closet volunteers later that evening. I simply added a necklace and changed my shoes in the elevator. It was a well-dressed crowd, and I fit right in.

bitter lollipop dressed up riley front

Throughout the day I glanced at my profile in store windows and admired my streamlined look. (Yes, that’s bagging you see over my shoulder blades. It’s a common issue for me, but not everyone runs into it.)

bitter lollipop casual riley side

It was probably our last really warm day of the year–the temperature reached 89 degrees. The lining is 96% cotton, and although the dress is very fitted, it never felt clingy or hot. Besides being extremely comfortable and helping to keep everything smooth, I was also impressed that the lining is hemmed with the rest of the dress. I’m used to pulling a tight dress like this down my hips and having to shimmy to get the lining to catch up, but in this dress the shell and the lining are a single unit.

bitter lollipop riley hemmed lining

The lining is probably one reason this dress seems to have a life of its own–the structure carries the shape of its wearer even on the hanger! However, the fabric isn’t stiff at all.

My waist currently measures 31″ and my bust 39″, so Kelly put me in size 14Busty, which is perfect. This picture shows you how much room there is for the bust without it being stretched out.

bitter lollipop riley life of its ownThe next picture is meant to show you that someone with a much larger bust could still fit into this dress with only a little stretching.

bitter lollipop extra space 14busty riley

This dress is going to be a closet staple for me. I’m actually wearing it again today! (This means I’ll be washing my new dress this weekend. Kelly says the fabric has been pre-washed, so I don’t expect any shrinkage, but I’ll update here if I run into any.) I’m looking forward to figuring out more ways to accessorize it, and with its sturdy fabric and seasonless print, I’m going to look for ways to layer it for cooler weather.

I’m sorry to report that the Riley is now sold out. I asked Kelly if she plans to offer variations of this style because I love sheaths (she calls them shifts). She said that there will be more in the future, but she doesn’t have any planned right now. The fit & flare and midi dresses have been a lot more popular, so she is focusing on doing variations on those. If you love sheaths (or shifts?!) like I do, then you might want to snatch up the Kate while you can! It’s the one similar style currently available, and it also comes in a seasonless, versatile print.

And if you’re now a Bitter Lollipop fan like I am and live in or near New York City, then clean out your closet and come to our clothing swap where you’ll have a chance to win a dress from Kelly’s newest collection!


I did run into an interesting issue with the neckline yesterday that I’m going to describe below: there seems to be a lot of extra fabric above my shoulders. No one else has complained about it, however, and Kelly is going to look into it.  [Interestingly, there is NOT a lot of fabric for the width of the shoulders–shoulder point to shoulder point measures only 12.75″. Most women I’ve measured have had a shoulder span of around 16″, and I’m pretty average. I think that the wide neckline and stretch fabric kept the shoulders from feeling restrictive.]

wpid-bitter-lollipop-riley-extra-fabric-demo.jpg.jpegI thought it would be a simple matter of smoothing the neckline down, but I ran into issues when I wore my shoulder bag. Perhaps someone much bustier would fill out more of what is empty space on me.


My temporary fix was to fold the extra fabric over and hold it in place with the straps of my bags! Any ideas for what I should do for a permanent fix?


If I have to stop using a shoulder bag in order to keep wearing this dress, then so be it because I love the Riley. The neckline is extremely flattering because it hits my lower balance point (more on balance points here). This means it would probably require a cami in a conservative office, and anyone standing over me while I sat on the subway yesterday certainly had a clear view of my tacking gore center.

More Big Bust Experimenting with that Polka Dot Neckline

There is so much to cover in the D+ Dressing workshop that I’m leading in three weeks. One very basic subject is necklines, but it isn’t anything so simple as “never wear crewnecks” or “always wear V-necks”. It isn’t even as simple as “don’t wear a lot of fabric above your chest” vs. “expose as much skin as you can”, although that’s a helpful generalization that I set out to demonstrate when I stretched out the neckline on my Polka dot dress.

big bust neckline stretching exerciseIf all things were equal–i.e., the waistline didn’t rise when I scrunched the neckline and the fabric didn’t stretch even more tightly around my breasts–I think it’s safe to say that the middle and right images look more balanced. According to The Triumph of Individual Style, “you can wear  any neckline or collar style as long as it makes the head appear in balance with the upper body. To do this, at least two things must be included in the design of the neckline or collar:

  1. A neckline opening or the collar construction needs to be at least as wide as the widest part of your face.
  2. A neckline or collar opening or some detail of the collar treatment needs to fall at a balance point in the upper body.”

The unmodified neckline on the left only meets the first requirement, but the modified necklines meet both requirements. I’ve always concentrated on necklines that fall at my low balance point, but when I reviewed the steps for finding my high balance point, I understood why the middle neckline is also balancing.

how to find high balance point 1

Imagine tracing a shape from the widest part of one one side of your face around your jawline and chin up to the widest part of the other side of your face.

how to find high balance point 2

Repeat the shape at your shoulder line. The bottom point of the shape is your high balance point.

But the Triumph of Individual Style authors said that ANY neckline should work if it can meet these requirements, and my two modifications removed this dress from bateau territory. Here’s how a busty woman can get a boatneck to work for her.

“What if a neckline opening is above your second balance point? If the neckline opening is as wide as your face but is above your second balance point, note how much farther above it is, then widen the neckline that same distance on each side of the opening.

I didn’t believe it would work, but I had to try it. My high balance point falls about two inches below the center of my clavicle. The neckline of the Polka dot dress falls only one inch below it. I pulled out my seam ripper and tore away one inch from either side of the neckline. Here are the results.

high point neckline remedyPretty neat, huh? Evidently more skin, whether it’s exposed below or out from our necks, helps to balance our heads with our chests. It seems like a variation of the grouping principle. The more skin (or design elements) we can group with our heads (in keeping with our balance points), the more balanced our heads will appear in relation to our chests.

Big Bust Prominence . . . Experimenting with a Polka Dot Boatneck

My friend gave me a polka dot dress a few months ago, and I wore it for the first time on Easter Sunday. It was a pretty cool day, and since I didn’t have the perfect jacket or sweater to wear over the dress, I wore one of my button fronts under it. I was so pleased with myself that I took this picture afterwards . . . and got a shock at how prominent my boobs were.

big bust neckline polka dot rolled sleeves front

They were much more dominant in the photo than they had seemed in the mirror that morning. After mulling it over, I came up with three observations:

  1. Other busty women do fine with boatnecks–Miriam Baker likes the way they balance her out. But every time I try a  boatneck, I look bustier.
  2. Using sleeves to avoid grouping my boobs with my waistline didn’t work any magic with this neckline. At best, it only neutralized the effect of so much fabric above my chest. All the fabric on top (including the added collar) makes me look like I’m hanging low, but at least the sleeves show how much lower I could go.
  3. This is very thin, super stretchy fabric, and it has to stretch the most at my bustline, which makes the print around my chest bigger there than anywhere else.

I couldn’t do anything about the neckline or the print, but look what happened when I got rid of all that extra fabric from the shirt.

big bust prominence better with less fabricMy boobs are still front and center, but they look more lifted, and I look slimmer without all that cluttery fabric.

Since layering underneath isn’t an option anymore, what happens when I layer above? I found this knit Calvin Klein jacket on sale at Macy’s last week and thought it would be perfect. A jacket definitely reduces boob prominence.

reduce boob prominence but jacket too longUnfortunately, this jacket also makes me look frumpy–a common issue for busty women. I mentioned this problem to my stylish friend Carol last week, and she said that length is often the culprit. It certainly is here. Look what happened when I pinned up the hem.

reduce boob prominence with jacket but remember proportionI should have learned this lesson from my Express jacket experience, but I guess I need to be hit over the head a couple of times before something sinks in.

This isn’t the last you’ll be seeing of this dress. That bare neckline is just begging for a necklace, and I’m going to show you my discoveries on that front as soon as I make them.

Addendum: As promised, this wasn’t the last of this dress, although I didn’t expect to make the discovery I write about a week later.



Interesting Necklines for DD Cups and Up

This long weekend, we’ve been binge watching the second season of House of Cards. Claire Underwood’s look is now somewhat predictable, but she managed to blow me away with this architectural neckline in Chapter 17.

claire interview neckline

The asymmetrical panel actually stands up from the dress. You’ll have to watch Season 2, Episode 2 to get the full effect.

I doubt a DD+ woman could fit this dress straight off the rack; however I have no doubt that a DD+ woman would look amazing in this neckline if the dress were custom made for her. (Those of us with narrow shoulders might have a hard time hiding our bra straps, though.)

This Liz Claiborne top in fiesta rose is a more affordable interesting neckline that I tried last Friday. It definitely drew the eye to above my chest, and I loved it–except for the strum-strum factor that drew the eye right back down. You can even see the fabric pull marks on the model below.

liz claiborne interesting neckline

From Claire’s dress and the Liz Claiborne top, we see once again that the issue isn’t whether full-busted women can look good in interesting necklines. The issue, as usual, is fit. So I’ve taken a quick survey of the interesting necklines available to us from the companies that cater to the full bust market.

First up, the cowl neck is a popular one.

cowl necks for big busts

Clockwise from top left:

  1. Biubiu Portimao (my favorite because of the cinching near the shoulders)
  2. Biubiu Solina
  3. Pepperberry Cowl Zipback Top
  4. Saint Bustier Blossom Dress
  5. Saint Bustier Clementine Cowl Neck

These asymmetrical draped necklines from Vivienne Westwood Anglomania are similar to the cowl, but more architectural.

saint bustier asymmetrical necklines

Clockwise from left:

  1. Alto dress
  2. Daisy dress
  3. Alto top

Next up, my favorite interesting neckline. . . the sweetheart.

sweetheart necklines for big busts

Clockwise from top left:

  1. Urkye Mala dress
  2. Pepperberry workwear dress in black
  3. Pepperberry workwear dress in mink
  4. Saint Bustier Nigella dress

The Nigella neckline deserves a closeup.

nigella closeup

Next, variations of notch and keyhole necklines.

keyhole notch necklines for big busts

Clockwise from top left, ending in center:

  1. Pepperberry notch neck dress in teal
  2. Pepperberry keyhole jersey dress
  3. Saint Bustier Rita dress
  4. DDAtelier Lisbon sheath dress
  5. Pepperberry check workwear dress
  6. Pepperberry notch neck dress in black
  7. Saint Bustier denim top

Finally, here’s a scalloped variation of the simple V-neck from Pepperberry that’s worth a mention. It also comes in black and a violet that could easily pass for “radiant orchid”.

pepperberry scallop neck top

This is a good start from the full bust companies, but I’d love to see more adventurous neckline offerings in the future.

Have you worn something with an interesting neckline recently? Please share!