Off the Rack ~ A Review of the J. Crew “Sophie” Bridesmaid Dress

For the third week in a row, I’m talking about weddings! But this time, I’ll be a bridesmaid instead of the bride, for my younger sister’s July wedding in Massachusetts. Both she and I went straight for J. Crew when we were looking for bridesmaid dresses because they offer multiple cuts in the same fabrics. I ultimately went with David’s Bridal because I wasn’t crazy about J. Crew’s colors at the time, and David’s was cheaper and had more cuts to choose from.

But my sister’s style errs on the preppy side, and J. Crew is totally her style, so when they offered a 25% off deal, she went for it (and there was another 25% off coupon this past week, so if you’re interested in these dresses, definitely sign up for the mailing list!).

The two dresses she offered the maids were the strapless, sweetheart neckline Marlie or the deep-V Sophie, in sea spray faille. They’re the exact same silhouette aside from the straps.

The Sophie.

The Sophie.

Sophie on the model.

Sophie on the model.

Sophie in profile.

Sophie in profile.

Since I never shop at J. Crew, and it takes months to get an appointment in their bridal shops, I went by the size chart and ordered online. Unfortunately, the size chart turned out to be completely incorrect. At 37”-29”-41”, I’m between their size 8 (36.5” bust and 29” waist) and 10 (37.5” bust and 30” waist). I ordered the 8, but when it arrived, I was completely swimming in it. It was just hanging off me and I could make a fist out of all the extra fabric:

Apologies for the terrible phone selfie.

Apologies for the terrible phone selfie.

Next I went to a J. Crew store to re-order it. I was hoping to just look at a smaller size on the floor to figure out if I needed a 4 or a 6, but they wouldn’t even let me in the bridal suite without an appointment. I asked if there was someone working who could advise me on sizing, and the cashier said the only people who know anything about the bridal merchandise are the bridal consultants and they were all busy.

I even tried just asking the cashier if he could advise on J. Crew’s normal dress sizes, explaining that I had technically sized slightly down with the 8 based on the chart, and it was humongous. But he didn’t know anything either! This was really aggravating. I ended up just going with the 4 and figuring I could come back and exchange it again if necessary. Two dress exchanges would literally take less time than the wait for a bridal appointment.

A few days later, the 4 arrived and it was a big improvement…but to be honest this is not a boob-friendly dress, and after trying it on again this week I don’t think it’s very flattering on me overall. It’s pretty obvious that it was designed with a straighter figure in mind, but I don’t think I could have sized up and gotten it tailored because the arm-holes are already too big and showing off my bra.

First up, the measurement discrepancies: Size 4 is supposed to fit a 34.5” bust and 27” waist, but when laid flat the waist actually measures 15.5” for a total of 31”. As for the bust, it does have three-dimensional cups, so if I allow my measuring tape to follow the boob curve while the dress is laid out, it’s about 19”, and measuring flat across the back is 17”, for a total of 36”.

So overall, the size 4 is an inch and a half bigger in the bust and four inches bigger in the waist. What the hell is J. Crew thinking?? Not only are the measurements off significantly, but the bust-to-waist ratio is also wildly off. The listed measurements have a difference of 7.5 inches (and this applies to most of the sizes), but the actual garment has a difference of only 5 inches.

Here are photos of the dress on me:

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As you can see, it fits okay, but as usual the dress is not curving under my bust. Additionally, it’s a bit small in the bust, just enough to squish my boobs together and make some cleavage. I don’t particularly mind this, but it’s something to keep in mind if you need to look conservative.

I thought the dress would look cuter if I belted it, and my sister wants me to wear a sash or something anyway, to differentiate myself as the maid of honor, so I got a couple different wide ribbons to try out. The one I like best is a 2.5-inch wide slightly stiff grosgrain. It really helps define my waist better, and to lower the waist to where mine is actually located (my long torso strikes again!).

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Unfortunately, though, the poof of the skirt in front, the shape of my tummy, and the slippery fabric of both the dress and the ribbon mean that it instantly slides up to a very unflattering position and basically outlines the roundness of my belly:

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From the side, it practically looks like a maternity dress:

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So what’s the solution? I’m hoping I can figure out some non-permanent way to make the ribbon stay in place in front. I might have to just sew a tiny stitch right in the center of my tummy and then remove it later.

Aside from all the negative comments about fit, there are some positives. The quality is really lovely. The fabric is heavy and feels nice, and the garment is fully lined. It also has pockets! And these pockets are actually big enough to hold a good amount of stuff, but thanks to the full, stiff skirt, you can’t see whatever’s in them. So I’ll be able to slip lipstick, a compact mirror, cash, and ID in the pockets, at minimum. Maybe my digital camera too . . . .

One other excellent design feature is that the straps have little loops to hold your bra straps in place. Why don’t all dresses have this??

Open.

Closed.

Closed.

I do have to note, however, that the loops are under an inch wide, so if you wear GG+ bras (which tend to have thicker straps), these may not work for you.

Overall impression: The dress is nice, but J. Crew really needs to sort out its sizing issues. And this design is definitely not what I would describe as “boob-friendly.”

 

Off the Rack ~ Celebration Solutions: Wedding Dress Alterations

Continuing our month of celebration dressing, this week will be my final bridal post. This time, I’ll go over the alterations to the wedding dress’s bodice, and what I would tell a seamstress next time.

Here are all the previous bridal posts:

Leah’s Happy Swimsuit Memory
Wedding Dress Shopping Part I
Wedding Dress Shopping Part II: David’s Bridal
Wedding Lingerie Shopping: Masquerade Hestia Basque
Hestia Bustier Revisited (and Wedding Dresses!)
Le Mystere Soiree Low-Back Bustier Reviewed
Wedding Dress Shopping Part III: Alterations
Celebration Solutions: Altering Molded Bra Cups

As for today’s post, here is how the bodice looked before alterations. For an extra fee, the dress came with increased cups (volume-wise) and a one-inch higher neckline:

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When I brought it to the seamstress, I was wearing a baggy sweater and her immediate thought before she saw it on me was that the cups were too big. I insisted they were not, and told her I paid extra to have them bigger. Once it was on, I’m pretty sure she got the idea.

She still needed to alter the cups slightly, though. They were a bit pointy in the outer corners and needed to be made rounder, and the waistband needed to be taken in at its base, like so:

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When it was all done, it fit perfectly. The seamstress really knew what she was doing, and it didn’t require a second fitting or more work. Buuuut…in looking at my photos, I can see that the bodice did not stay quite so perfect throughout the day.

Here’s how it looked when I first put it on:

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Perfect décolletage! I’m totally filling out the cups and there’s just a hint of cleavage.

Here’s a shot during the ceremony, where you can see it mushing into my armpits a bit when my arms are at my sides:

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But a side view during the ceremony looks great! The point is, my boobs are where they should be.

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However, once I sat down to dinner, and then repeatedly got back up to hug people, and back down to eat, and up to mingle, and back down to drink…my boobs started having a containment issue:

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I didn’t even notice it was happening at the time, which I guess speaks to the comfort of the dress. But by the time dancing rolled around, I was seriously quad-boobing:

Please enjoy this super charming shot of me with crazy face and a beer bottle. So classy, this one!

Please enjoy this super charming shot of me with crazy face and a beer bottle. So classy, this one!

Again, I didn’t really notice it while it was happening, but I would really prefer if my mashed up cleavage wasn’t memorialized forever in my wedding photos.

So here’s what I’ll do if I ever have to get a structured sweetheart neckline altered ever again:

  1. Right off the bat, I will tell the seamstress that I have a hard time fitting my boobs into off-the-rack clothing. I want her to know this is a serious concern before we even start.
  2. I will bring these photos with me, to show her exactly what I don’t want happening over the course of the dress’s wearing.
  3. I will specifically ask if she can keep the cups more open and less flush with my chest even though it looks better that way when I first put it on. I’ll jump around a bunch if I have to, to get my boobs flying around so she can work with them in person.

And finally, with all these awkward faces, here are a couple nice photo of my complete outfit, as a little palate-cleanser (click to view full size):

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Off the Rack ~ Celebration Solutions: Altering Molded Bra Cups

For Hourglassy’s month of posts on “celebration dressing,” I’m starting with my big celebration—my wedding last year!

If you want to read the whole saga of the dress and the lingerie hunt, here are all the links. If you just want to see how I altered my undergarments, scroll down.

Leah’s Happy Swimsuit Memory
Wedding Dress Shopping Part I
Wedding Dress Shopping Part II: David’s Bridal
Wedding Lingerie Shopping: Masquerade Hestia Basque
Hestia Bustier Revisited (and Wedding Dresses!)
Le Mystere Soiree Low-Back Bustier Reviewed
Wedding Dress Shopping Part III: Alterations

I last left off having dropped the dress off at the seamstress to have the waist taken in and the bust cups shaped a bit. I also left my Le Mystere Soiree Bustier with the seamstress, so they could take it into account with the cup shaping.

When I picked up the dress, it was perfect! The cups were a little more rounded at the top (instead of having pointy-ish outer corners) and the waist was cinching me in and staying up without feeling at all uncomfortable. However, a tiny bit of the bustier was still peeking out if I moved too much. Since I doubted I’d find anything better, I decided to just trim down the gore and the inner cup. Here is how I did it…

Here’s the bustier as it started:

The rest of this post will be photos with instructions in the caption. Apologies for all the different lighting, as it was done over several different days at different times. Everything here was sewn by hand.

First I used a seam ripper to pick out the seam holding the upper cup trim in place. Don’t cut off the excess trim, as you’ll be re-attaching it later.

First I used a seam ripper to pick out the seam holding the upper cup trim in place. Don’t cut it off, as you’ll be re-attaching it later.

Next I removed the fabric from the outside of the gore, again leaving it hanging.

Next I removed the fabric from the outside of the gore, again leaving it hanging.

Back to the inside of the bra, I removed the seam holding the underwire channels in place.

Back to the inside of the bra, I removed the seam holding the underwire channels in place.

Now that everything was taken apart (but not completely removed from the bra), I marked where I planned to cut the foam with white chalk.

Now that everything was taken apart (but not completely removed from the bra), I marked where I planned to cut the foam with white chalk.

After I carefully cut off the excess foam.

After I carefully cut off the excess foam.

Next, I sewed a baste stitch along the cup edge to hold the outer fabric in place. I went up one side and then back in the opposite direction.

Next, I sewed a baste stitch along the cup edge to hold the outer fabric in place. I went up one side and then back in the opposite direction.

Then I laid the trim back onto the cup edge, pinned in place, and baste-stitched it back on, again going up one side and then back in the opposite direction.

Then I laid the trim back onto the cup edge, pinned in place, and baste-stitched it back on, again going up one side and then back in the opposite direction.

Finally, I un-sewed part of the underwire channels so I could cut down the wires.

Finally, I un-sewed part of the underwire channels so I could cut down the wires.

On to the hard part—cutting the underwires. These things were impossible! I own a pair of sheet metal snips, but they barely made a scratch. Luckily, my father-in-law has a hacksaw and clamp, so the next time I was at his house I held the bra in place with the clamp and sawed the excess wire off. I’ve also read that you can use bolt cutters. Who knew underwires were so strong??

On to the hard part—cutting the underwires. These things were impossible! I own a pair of sheet metal snips, but they barely made a scratch. Luckily, my father-in-law has a hacksaw and clamp, so the next time I was at his house I held the bra in place with the clamp and sawed the excess wire off. I’ve also read that you can use bolt cutters. Who knew underwires were so strong??

A close-up of the freshly cut wire. Those dainty little scratches are all the damage my sheet metal snips could do.

A close-up of the freshly cut wire. Those dainty little scratches are all the damage my sheet metal snips could do.

Next up was coating the wires so they couldn’t stab back through the fabric later. I considered just dipping them in hot glue, but was advised that that might not be good enough and the glue could easily pop off since the metal is non-porous. Instead, I got heat-shrink tubing. It comes in a variety of sizes and colors, and shrinks down to half its size. I bought 3/16” tubing.

First I tested it on two toothpicks put together with actual flame (left, which you’ll notice is coated in foil so as not to set the wood toothpicks on fire) and a hairdryer on the hottest setting (right).

First I tested it on two toothpicks put together with actual flame (left, which you’ll notice is coated in foil so as not to set the wood toothpicks on fire) and a hairdryer on the hottest setting (right).

Flame on top, hairdryer on bottom. The actual flame seemed to burn the plastic a little, while the hairdryer was hot enough to fully shrink it while maintaining a nice smoothness.

Flame on top, hairdryer on bottom. The actual flame seemed to burn the plastic a little, while the hairdryer was hot enough to fully shrink it while maintaining a nice smoothness.

A comparison of the tip with hairdryer (left) and flame (right). I also figured it was safer to use the hairdryer, since there’d be no threat of me accidentally burning the bra fabric.

A comparison of the tip with hairdryer (left) and flame (right). In addition to the better smoothness, I figured the hairdryer was safer, since there’d be no threat of me accidentally burning the bra fabric.

Since there was a little bit of excess plastic at the top of the toothpicks, I folded it over and mushed it down while it was still hot, and then blasted it with the hairdryer again to set it.

Since there was a little bit of excess plastic at the top of the toothpicks, I folded it over and mushed it down while it was still hot, and then blasted it with the hairdryer again to set it.

The topside of the mushed up tip.

The topside of the mushed up tip.

The wire with finished heat shrink on it before I completely mushed the tip down. You’ll notice the tubing is a little wider than the wire, but the next size down at the store from which I bought (3/32”) looked too small. So if you can find a size in between (i.e. 1/8”), that’d probably be your best bet.

The wire with finished heat shrink on it before I completely mushed the tip down. You’ll notice the tubing is a little wider than the wire, but the next size down at the store (3/32″) looked too small. So if you can find a size in between (i.e. 1/8”), that’d probably be your best bet.

A comparison of the original tubing (left) and the shrunk tubing (right).

A comparison of the original tubing (left) and the shrunk tubing (right).

The finished shrink tubing on both wires, successfully folded and mushed.

The finished shrink tubing on both wires, successfully folded and mushed.

Back to sewing!

The next step is to put the wires back into their channels and sew the channel shut all around the wire, including at the top. I went back and forth over the top a few times to make sure it was super strong and the wire couldn’t break out.

The next step is to put the wires back into their channels and sew the channel shut all around the wire, including at the top. I went back and forth over the top a few times to make sure it was super strong and the wire couldn’t break out.

Then you can snip off the excess wire channel above where the wire stops.

Then you can snip off the excess wire channel above where the wire stops.

Next, sew the wire channel back to the cup exactly where it was previously attached. This is the view from the outer side of the bra. You can see that the wire channel goes past the edge of the cup a little, but that’s no big deal.

Next, sew the wire channel back to the cup exactly where it was previously attached. This is the view from the outer side of the bra. You can see that the wire channel goes past the edge of the cup a little, but that’s no big deal.

The view of the now reattached wire channel from the inside of the bra. You’ll notice it’s only attached to the cup at the point, and the gore fabric is still flopping around.

The view of the now reattached wire channel from the inside of the bra. You’ll notice it’s only attached to the cup at this point, and the gore fabric is still flopping around.

After reattaching both wire channels to the cups, next trim off excess gore fabric and sew it to the wire channels. This is the view from the outer side.

After reattaching both wire channels to the cups, next trim off excess gore fabric and sew it to the wire channels. This is the view from the outer side.

You can see here that I left the gore fabric raw and just folded it over behind the wire channel. I was too lazy to finish the gore fabric’s edge and there were already so many layers of fabric there that it would have been difficult to sew—I was already using a metal thimble to push the needle through because my cushy fingertips couldn’t handle it! Additionally, because I trimmed down so much of the cup foam, the old cup trim didn’t actually reach all the way to the gore any more. So to keep the edges from unraveling, I sewed an overstitch all along the raw cup edge.

You can see here that I left the gore fabric raw and just folded it over behind the wire channel. I was too lazy to finish the gore fabric’s edge and there were already so many layers of fabric there that it would have been difficult to sew—I was already using a metal thimble to push the needle through because my fingertips couldn’t handle it! Additionally, because I trimmed down so much of the cup foam, the old cup trim didn’t actually reach all the way to the gore any more. So to keep the edges from unraveling, I sewed an overstitch all along the raw cup edge.

DONE! The finished product was never visible on my wedding day, even after hiking down a mountain for good photos and dancing for two hours straight! Here are some final photos:

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Next week: Lessons I learned from my dress’s tailoring, and what I’ll tell the seamstress next time I need a sweetheart neckline altered.

 

Off the Rack ~ Visiting the Chantelle & Passionata Showroom

After I reviewed Passionata’s Starlight bra three weeks ago, Passionata’s parent company Chantelle got in touch with the Hourglassy team to ask if we would be interested in coming to see their showroom here in New York. And obviously we jumped at the chance!

It’s always interesting to see “where the sausage gets made,” so to speak, and I also love getting to touch and photograph everything and ask lots of questions. The Chantelle folks were kind enough to pull all their full-bust options for us ahead of time, from the current season (spring/summer 2015) and the next (fall/winter 2015), so I’ll be sharing with you some of my favorite finds.

First up, some highlights from the lovely fitting room:

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Darlene and me hanging out with some mannequins.

A replica of an 1878 Kretz Establishment loom, which was used to manufacture one of the first elastic knitted fabrics in the world.

A replica of an 1878 Kretz Establishment loom, which was used to manufacture one of the first elastic knitted fabrics in the world.

Antique bra-making tools and a raw molded cup on the right, with its mold to the left.

Bra-making tools and a raw molded cup on the right, with its mold to the left.

Now, on to the bras! A note on sizing: Chantelle and Passionata start at 30 in most bras, 32 in some. The largest cup size is a French H, which is the equivalent of a British FF. I’ll list the smallest band and largest cup wherever possible.

Let’s start with the Passionata Bloom bra, which in some online stores is referred to as a longline and in some a demi. It only has a little extra length in front, but it has a very wide band with 6 hooks and eyes, so it’s sort of in between a longline and a demi. I actually have one on its way in the mail, so I’ll be doing a full review eventually. Bloom starts at 32 and tops out at G.

My top pick of the whole day: the “blue Danube and mint” Bloom bra, available in September.

My top pick of the whole day: the “blue Danube and mint” Bloom bra, available in September.

Embroidery detail. I love this color combo so much!

Embroidery detail. I love this color combo so much!

This Bloom colorway is out right—it’s called “talc,” but I’d rather call it peaches and cream.

This Bloom colorway is out right—it’s called “talc,” but I’d rather call it peaches and cream.

Lavender-raspberry is also out right now, and this is the color I’m getting.

Lavender-raspberry is also out right now, and this is the color I’m getting.

Another amazing color is this “racing green” About Midnight bra. I got to see this one in black at Curve, but I wanted to once again show off how super vibrant the green is. It’ll be out in October:

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Moving on to parent brand Chantelle, we have the innovative Revelation, which starts at 30 and goes up to H:

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This bra features four parts, stretchy trim along the top of the cup, and a double-layered side sling. Darlene and I appreciated its major functionality and the fact that it’s still mostly sheer and thus quite sexy. I also noticed that it had a conventionally seamed bottom band edge instead of harsh elastic sandwiched between mesh, a feature that I noticed on a lot of the bra models—perhaps a way to avoid the biting in that so many bras inflict?

Here, you can see the four cup parts better. There’s a top, side sling, and a vertical seam separating the bottom portion into two pieces for better uplift:

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Revelation will be out in August, and will come in the pictured black, as well as navy blue and “suede,” a tan nude.

Next up is the Intuition, which I love for its solid embroidery over sheer base. Anything that looks like a tattoo against the skin is a plus in my book. Here’s the demi in black:

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And the plunge in “milk and rose”:

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I really love the milk and rose colorway. It’s so unusual to see white embroidery over a colored background, and these particular colors are so sweet and almost bridal.

The Intuition collection starts at 30 band and goes up to H, but I’m not sure if that’s across every style or just some of them (there’s also a molded tee shirt bra with the embroidery on the wings instead). Black will be available in July, a third color—“myrtle blue”—will be out in September, but somehow I didn’t note the release date of milk and rose.

Next we have another inventive creation, the “Illusion,” whose pattern I was told is based on the Chrysler building’s Art Deco details.

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I can definitely see the resemblance! Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

I can definitely see the resemblance! Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

So the interesting thing about this bra is that it’s molded, but not rigid. Rather, it’s soft fabric cups that are a single, seamless, three-dimensional piece:

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On the inside is tan mesh lining and intense, opaque side slings to keep everything front and center:

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This model goes up to G cup, and will also be available in black, navy blue, and terra cotta.

Moving on to the “Irresistible” three-quarter molded bra: I think this bra could be a suitable replacement for the laser-cut bands and padded underwires that I used to get from Victoria’s Secret. It’s a slightly plunging molded bra where the entire front pair of cups is one piece of fabric:

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The lining is also one whole piece of molded fabric, with the wire encased between the layers:

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While the band is not actually laser-cut, it does use seaming without pinchy elastic, and the strap is movable in back to two different positions (so it could also be worn as a racerback):

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Sadly, the Irresistible stops at G (UK F), which means I won’t be able to try it, since it would mean sister-sizing up two bands to 32G (i.e. UK 32F).

Lastly, we have the holiday Satine bra, which will be out in October:

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I appreciate that the pattern is not quite animal print, but is more abstract.

I appreciate that the pattern is not quite animal print, but is more abstract.

I’m also a fan of the metal aglets on the gore bow—it’s like fancy shoelaces!

I’m also a fan of the metal aglets on the gore bow—it’s like fancy shoelaces!

Finally, here’s another, clearer example of that seamed band I mentioned before. Unfortunately, I didn’t take a photo of the front of this bra, so I don’t know which model it is! But I do remember that the inner mesh was much softer and with a smaller weave than the power-mesh I’m used to. I have to imagine it would feel great against the skin:

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After we were done, Darlene and I realized we’d spread bras all over the table. Oops! Sorry for being messy guests.

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Final thoughts: Even though I would have to sister-size from my usual 28G to 30FF (30H in Chantelle’s official sizes), this is definitely a brand I want to explore further. It’s sophisticated and classic without being old or stodgy, and I think there are a lot of clever details and design choices.