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 ~ Review of Passionata Starlight Tee Shirt Bra

I’m really excited to share a review this week that I had wanted to write ages ago, but then the Curve Expo came along and it got bumped. This bra was announced around the time of the previous Curve, which I didn’t attend, and was released this past winter. I first saw it when someone else shared its photo in a Facebook group, and then spent several months scouring the brand’s website until it was finally released. It’s the Starlight tee shirt bra by Passionata (which you may remember from this year’s Curve coverage).

First up, the photo from Bare Necessities (from whom I bought it):

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Nothing special, right? Well check out the back:

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What?? A T-back bra for large cups? With glittery little stars? Yes please!

I freaking love this thing! Technically the fit could be better on me, but the back is just so awesome and the bra is so useful that I really do not care. Here’s a shot of the back on me:

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So often, I find bra straps way too wide. They stick out of sleeveless tops, feel like they’re perpetually falling off my shoulder unless I wear them super tight, and cut into my armpits. This construction is an excellent solution. It’s also a great option for wearing under racerback tops. It’s perfect under my Trashy Diva Streetcar dress and my Heart of Haute Ella tops.

Some other aesthetic details before I discuss fit: The band has glitter dots in a criss-cross pattern, and there are more glitter stars on the center gore. The base of the band is also trimmed in the same lace-like fabric as the outer edge of the back piece. The cups are molded foam (non-padded) with an outer layer of mesh, and feature a tiny trim of darker pink mesh on the inside edge.

Sizing is a little tricky in this bra because the brand uses European sizes, which means no double letters, from C to H (and bands 30 to 34). In UK sizing, that translates to a maximum cup of FF. As such, I sister sized from my usual 28G into 30FF. The band has two rows of four columns of hooks and eyes, so there’s lots of possible band adjustment.

As for fit, well let’s start with the good: Overall, the bra achieves a nice, round profile. Not too up-front, but also not minimizing. As a tee shirt bra, it completely disappears under clothing.

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Further, since the straps point toward the neck instead of going straight back over the shoulder, there’s plenty of space under my armpit, so that there’s no digging in or scraping against the arm:

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While the wires are only a little wider than I need, the base of the cup is quite shallow right in the center, so it’s folding over on me significantly and pushing the underwire down my ribcage:

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Due to this fact, the cups are running a little small on me. But if I weren’t so full-on-bottom, I would say that it runs true to size. The band runs true to size as well. I’m wearing it on the tightest hook in size 30. But since the straps aren’t pulling on the band, I could probably wear it on a looser hook to avoid stretching it out too fast, and still achieve good support with no riding up in back.

I appreciate the fact that the strap adjusters are in the front, because it’s a little tough to figure out the right length the first time you put it on, and this way you can adjust the cups and then adjust the straps while it’s on your body.

The reason it’s difficult to get on is because while the band opens and closes like normal at the bottom, it stays closed permanently up near the neck. So you have to pull it on over your head and wrangle your boobs up into the cups instead of letting them settle down into the cups as you normally would. But it’s only a minor inconvenience, really.

Some of you may be wondering why Passionata didn’t just make the bra a front closure—a true racerback. But I actually spoke with them at Curve, and they said that while it’s something customers are demanding, the support just isn’t there with front-closure in larger cup sizes. It would have to be a super plunge with basically no gore height at all for a front closure, so I guess I understand. Plus you can’t have an adjustable band if it’s a front closure either, and to me that’s unacceptable.

I’m really pleased with the Passionata Starlight, which also comes in “Cappuccino” with neon yellow glitter and mesh trimmed cup edge. I’m definitely interested in trying more from the brand, although it’s rather difficult to find, or at least to find in the complete size range. Some of the few American websites that carry it stop at F or G-cup even in styles that I know end at H, or if they carry H it’s all sold out (Bare Necessities, I’m looking at you!).

 

 

Off the Rack ~ Freya’s Bondi Bikini Reviewed

Readers, it’s with great sadness that I report to you my Freya Bondi bikini (which I gushed over in my Eveden Curve roundup) does not suit me at all. The fit on top and bottom is just not working, and I had to return it. I made sure to snap a few photos to share first, though.

I purchased the top in 30G, which is what I always order in Freya swimwear even though I wear 28G in their bras. I got the bottoms in size medium, which is what I always order in their bikinis as well. Here’s the complete look, followed by my thoughts:

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First impression: My husband immediately said “that doesn’t fit you very well” when I put the suit on, and I definitely agree. I feel that I bought the right sizes, but that this suit is just doing me no favors.

For example, the bottoms are supposed to be high-waisted, but on me they hit at a really unflattering mid-rise. The black trim around the waist is also cutting in big time, making my midsection look extra chubby. I have tried Freya bikini bottoms in size large before, though only a lower-rise style, and the problem with large is that there’s too much fabric in the crotch and it bunches up on me and looks weird and feels uncomfortable. The Bondi bottoms already have a lot of fabric in that region that I had to situate just so to avoid having the bottom seam flip and bunch up, so I really don’t think a large would work either. Plus that wouldn’t solve the unflattering rise anyway.

Next up, this is not a longline, despite Freya’s naming it so. It’s maybe a centimeter longer than a normal banded bra would be. I wish it was at least a couple inches longer, to get a more vintage look.

As for the top’s fit, it’s not that easy to see here, but the cups were not very supportive on me. The top of the cup isn’t open enough, so it’s cutting in and I’m getting mild quadboob. From the side, there was a rather sad, slightly droopy shape, as you can see here:

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It actually doesn’t look that bad here, but the boob in the foreground is my bigger side and it was really pronounced on that one. I should have gotten a photo from the opposite angle.

There was slight improvement when I added the straps, but not much:

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I actually like the way it looks with the straps, but as you can see above, they are way long. I had to tighten them almost as far as they would go. If I’m 5’6”, imagine how these would fare on a more petite lady? I never have a problem with Freya’s bra straps, so I don’t understand why these swim straps are so much longer.

At this point, I might have considered keeping the top and wearing it with black bottoms. I even already own some—Freya’s “Showboat” bikini bottoms in size medium (which fit perfectly and are actually high-waisted, reaching up to my belly button). But there’s one other problem with this top that I just couldn’t overlook:

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The cups are too shallow! Curses! They’re crumpling over and pushing the underwire down my ribs instead of resting beneath the breast tissue. (By the way, the above photo is a more accurate representation of the color. The purple looks overly blue in my other shots.) This is the same issue I complained about in my Panache Envy review last week. It’s something I’m willing to deal with in a bra, but not a swimsuit where it’s visible to all.

Lastly, I just have to share this most unflattering back view of the whole suit:

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Augh! So much squishy back fat! I’ve never had a bra or swimsuit do this to me. This shot definitely sealed the deal for me that I would not be keeping Bondi. I’m also not a fan of how much buttcheek is hanging out. It felt like a wedgie waiting to happen.

As always, while this bikini is not for me, I still think there are women it would suit much better. I’d highly recommend it for ladies on the shorter side, on whom it may look like more of a real longline and/or real high-waisted bottoms. I think the top would work for ladies who are more average-boobed than me (so not too much projection and not super full-on-bottom or full-on-top). And the bottoms would definitely be better on someone with a little less “junk in the trunk” than I have, or at least someone whose waist and hip measurements are at a smaller ratio than my 29” waist and 41” hips.

 

Off the Rack ~ Panache Envy Bra Reviewed

In the aftermath of Curve, each member of the Hourglassy team received a sample bra from Panache. This week I’ll be reviewing mine, the Panache Envy in black, size 30G.

The last time I tried Panache Superbra (as opposed to Panache Cleo) was several years ago. I was desperately in need of a strapless bra, and the Panache Porcelain molded strapless was the only thing I could find, as the Deco strapless had not yet been introduced and I was still relatively new to the small-band-big-cup world and just wasn’t aware of any other brands.

The Porcelain was a terrible fit on me: way too shallow and wires way too wide. I used it for the event at which it was necessary, and then I basically wrote Panache off as simply not being the brand for me. But last year I tried a random Panache bra with three-part cups in a brick and mortar store, and was pleasantly surprised at how well it fit. So you can imagine my excitement when a brand rep at Curve offered to send me a sample.

Since I haven’t worn Superbra in so long, I deferred to her recommendation on what bra I should try. I stated that I typically wear 28GG or 30G in Cleo depending on the design, and am currently waffling between 28G/30FF and 28GG/30G depending on brand. She said a lot of people find Panache to run tight (I usually do; most of my Cleos are 30 bands), and since I’m already taking the larger cup in Cleo I should do the same for Superbra. She suggested the Envy as a good starter bra and size 30G. I chose the black colorway in part because black dye tends to make fabric less stretchy, so I thought that would make the 30 band even tighter and closer to a 28.

Verdict: I am a total Panache Superbra convert!

However, I have to admit Envy is not a perfect fit for my shape (narrow root, very full on bottom). But let’s start with the good first! Here’s the manufacturer’s photo:

(Please ignore the weirdly Photoshopped cleavage.)

(Please ignore the weirdly Photoshopped cleavage.)

It’s pretty basic, right? But it’s hiding a fun surprise…

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The bottom portion is actually houndstooth fabric! One of my favorite prints, this is actually my third houndstooth bra.

There’s also a detail on the underside that I really enjoy:

Criss-crossed band trim!

Criss-crossed band trim!

The construction—a single vertical seam, a horizontal seam, and a side panel—gives excellent uplift and pulls the breast tissue inward. There’s no east-west look here at all.

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Further, the stretch lace on the top portion is divine. It’s really stretchy yet bounces right back, and feels very soft and not at all scratchy or itchy. There’s no ribbon or sewn hem at the top of the lace, meaning this would be an excellent choice for full-on-top ladies who worry about the top edge cutting in. Plus, unlike a lot of other cut and sew bras I own, I don’t get even the tiniest bit of rippling on my smaller boob side where the lace meets the lower portion (*cough* Freya) or along the center vertical seam (*cough* Bravissimo).

This is perhaps a minor thing, but I also quite appreciate how thin the straps are on this bra. Maybe I’m just used to Freya’s somewhat clunky-looking elastic-esque straps, but these look much nicer.

Finally, I’m really pleased with the overall shape. It’s very round and uplifted, yet has just the slightest downward slope on the upper half of my boob, giving a nice, natural profile.

Sadly, despite all my positive findings, there are some definite fit issues. First up, the 30 band is too big. Right off the bat, I’m wearing it on the tightest hook and it’s still sloping up my back just enough that I can feel it. In fact, when I swapped bras to take some photos of it on me, the Panache band was sitting at least an inch above the slightly red mark where the previous bra’s band had been sitting. The band is really stretchy and comfortable, so I have no doubt that a 28 would be perfect.

Unfortunately, the Envy starts at 30! Of the seven Panache bras from the Autumn/Winter 2015 collection that start at 28, only the Andorra has similar construction to Envy, so that one would be next on my to-try list. (But I really want the houndstooth!) I really don’t understand why Panache’s bras don’t all start at 28 when many of them have similar construction to one another. What is the logic of having half of them at 28 and half at 30?

Moving on, the next couple issues are things I deal with all the time. First, the wires are a little too wide. In this next photo, I’ve got my thumb placed where my breast tissue stops, about an inch in from the wire:

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It’s not that big a deal. I still feel supported, and I’ve certainly experienced waaaaaaay wider wires among other brands. But I’d still prefer narrower if I had a choice.

Next is that the bra is slightly too shallow in the base of the cups. It’s causing me to experience the “orange in a glass effect,” meaning my breast tissue can’t squeeze all the way into the cup base, so instead the cup is folding over and the underwire is being pushed further down my ribcage instead of resting directly below my breast tissue.

Folded over cup from front.

Folded over cup from front.

Folded over cup in profile. If you click the image to view it full size, you can clearly see the unfilled space and improper wire placement.

Folded over cup in profile. Here, you can clearly see the unfilled space and improper wire placement.

Finally, and again this is a common issue for me, the straps are set a little too far out to the side for my arms, leading to some chafing along my armpit. You can really see the way it’s digging in when I place these photos next to each other:

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As I said in the beginning, despite these issues, I would still consider myself a Panache convert. They’re all issues that I experience with a lot of brands, but with Panache it’s much more minor. For example, Bravissimo has much worse shallowness (with some models, anyway) and Curvy Kate has way worse arm-chafing due to wide-set straps. I love the stretch lace with a passion and appreciate the attention to detail.

I think ladies who would get the best fit in Panache Envy would be women with fairly average shape: neither super full nor super shallow, neither super wide nor super narrow root, and neither a broad nor particularly small frame. The stretch lace does mean that very full-on-top ladies could do well in the brand, though. I’ll definitely be returning to Panache in the future…but I’ll also only be ordering from companies with a good return policy.

Disclosure: This bra was received as a review sample. All opinions are my own and based entirely on my experience.