Big Bust Celebration Dressing: Fraulein Annie Falling in Love Waist-Cinching Panty

Sometimes our memory embellishes a thing, and when we see it again, we wonder, What was the big deal? Well let me assure you, this doesn’t happen with Fraulein Annie lingerie.

I’ve admired this brand for a long time, and Frauke Nagel recently offered me a bra and panty set to review. It took me weeks to make up my mind, but I finally chose the mulberry/slate Falling in Love fuller bust bra in 34F and waist-cinching panty in US size L. They arrived last week.

My memory hadn’t exaggerated the quality and beauty of these pieces, and because the bra fit perfectly this time, I also experienced the exquisite softness of the satin cups and straps. However, it fit best on the tightest hook, so I’ve placed an order for a 32FF to compare the fit, and I will give you my full review after it arrives. On the other hand, I don’t want to delay reviewing the waist-cinching panty because Fraulein Annie shapewear is exactly what some of you will want to wear under your special occasion dresses this summer.

Like Tina Fey, I have Spanx in my lingerie drawer. Mine is the open-bust body suit that combines her two pieces into one. It made my shirts fit better when I was heavier, and it smoothed me out for a couple of weddings. But I hate it. It’s such a letdown to peel off my carefully put-together outer look to come down to this.

tina-fey-strips-down-to-her-spanx-to-say-goodbye-to-david-letterman

Besides being hideous, it goes higher than the sides of my bra, so the edge rubs me raw whenever I reach my arms forward. I thought this was a necessary evil to maintain an uninterrupted plane of smoothness from bra band to shapewear, but thanks to Fraulein Annie, it isn’t.

I measure 16 inches from my bra band to the beginning of my crotch.  When I’m wearing the waist-cinching panty, I can easily lay my bra band on top of the waist cincher band. The only skin visible is a little triangle under the center gore of my bra. With the silicone edging around the band, it stays put. All Sunday I kept reaching up to make sure it hadn’t slipped down, but there was no need. It never budged.

The bra and cincher panties worn together are so beautiful that I wish they could be outerwear. As I undressed down to my pearls and Falling in Love cincher panties at the end of the day Sunday, I suddenly understood why the Fraulein Annie trademark is wearing evening gloves with her set–these lingerie pieces are made to be elegantly accessorized.

fraulein annie falling in love waist cinching panty front

I’m sure my neighbors wondered why I was laying shapewear on top of their azaleas yesterday, but it was too pretty to resist.

fraulein annie falling in love waist cincher silicone band

Closeup of the silicone edging. I love that the burgundy bows aren’t too matchy-matchy.

falling in love waist cinching panty snap closure

Extremely easy to fasten and unfasten, but it stays secure while wearing.

fraulein annie falling in love waist cincher cotton panel

Cotton-lined gusset.

Besides being beautiful, I know you’re wondering about the function, so let’s begin with hold. Basically, I find it on par with my Spanx. Neither are corsets, so there is no boning that will force you to suck in your stomach, but it takes up to 1.5 inches off my waist. This made a giant difference in the comfort level of a size 6P dress I tried yesterday–when I wore the cincher, the fabric glided over my waist. When I didn’t wear it, the fabric clung.

The experience of gliding vs. clinging reminds me of this interesting tip from The Wardrobe Wakeup by Lois Joy Johnson–an excellent book, by the way:

Wear shapewear as a liner to improve fit. When designers and manufacturers cut costs, linings are the first to go. These silky inner “skins” used to mean quality but now even pricier clothes scrimp on them. Linings do help tailored skirts, dresses, and pants keep their shape, but wearing control garments under inexpensive unlined items provides the same benefits. You don’t need maximum strength shapewear–any silky, light compression piece will help clothes skim over stress points. Shapewear works as a buffer between unlined items and your skin. It prevents sticking and pulling so clothes won’t crease, pull or ride up as you bend and move.

I asked Frauke how she would rate the hold of her shapewear on a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 being the strongest. She said, “I’d give it a 4. Marks & Spencer classify their shapewear in ‘Light, Medium, Strong, Extra Strong’. All my shapewear pieces are Strong.”

As you know, I’m also curious about shapewear’s smoothing effect on my back. The cinching panty didn’t obliterate my bulges, but it definitely helped.

waist cincher comparison

Without on the left. With on the right.

You may also be wondering if the beauty of Fraulein Annie shapewear is also its weakness: will the embellishments show through? If you’re wearing something super thin and sheer, they might, but I was surprised at how little showed through the thinnest, clingiest top I own.

sheer stretch fabric over fraulein annie falling in love waist cinching panty

I’m also wearing the Falling in Love bra in this photo.

There was, however, a bit of VPL with the blue dress I mentioned above. I attribute it to a combination of the dress being slightly too small and the legs of the panties being very slightly loose on me. My only wish for this panty is a flatter band around the legs with the same silicone edging as is in the waist band.

As far as sizing goes, my waist measures 83 cm, so the US size L is right for me. It is far more comfortable than I expect shapewear to be, though, so I would have considered trying an M if my experience with the Va Bien longline hadn’t already convinced me to err in the direction of a larger size when in doubt.  Frauke concurred: “I won’t recommend wearing a smaller size than one that fits well. It would create bulges and would be uncomfortable and irritating. After all, shapewear is to flatten bulges and to give you better proportions. Also, if you are wearing a garment a size too small, the material gets tired faster and it won’t last as long as it should.”

I also asked Frauke how she would recommend wearing panty hose or stockings with the cinching panty, and she advises hold ups in the summer and panty hose in the winter.

I’m absolutely delighted with my mulberry/slate Falling in Love waist-cinching panty, but if you study the Fraulein Annie shapewear options, I know you’ll understand why it took me so long to choose just one. Based on my own experience, I know you’ll be happy with whatever choice you make.

 

Full Coverage Reading Roundup for D Cups and Up

A New Fitter that I Like

Don’t be jealous, but I had a giant treat yesterday. June from Braless in Brasil landed at JFK for a 12-hour stopover, and I got to take her bra shopping! I’ll let her share her fit discoveries, but I’ll share my latest fitter discovery: Maritza at the Town Shop is great. When I thanked her for spending so much time with us (an hour), she said, “Thank YOU for letting me.” Town Shop customers tend to want to get in and out as quickly as possible, but sometimes a good fitting takes time. It means identifying specific breast shape issues and experimenting with different styles and brands. Martiza did this plus help me figure out what was wrong with two bras that I brought in for an expert opinion.

(Since June is traveling, her blog posts may be a little erratic, but be sure to check out her latest review of the Freya Active Top that we’ve all been waiting for.)

Why I Would be Bad at Selling Lingerie

Our next stop was Magic Corsets in Forest Hills, Queens, on the way back to JFK. While I waited for June to try on the adorable Fantasies and Freyas that were close to her size (sadly only a beige Deco fit perfectly, and she already has a ton of beige), a full-figured customer inquired about strapless bodysuits to wear under a dress for a wedding she was attending. The store didn’t have anything in her size, and the woman began muttering things like, “These mom and pop stores never have anything. What a waste of time. I bought one before, etc., etc.” Initially I sympathized with her since I’m ALWAYS looking for bodysuits  that go above an F cup, but since I’ve never been able to find one, I tended to believe the saleswoman.

The saleswoman began pulling out shapewear that the customer could wear with a strapless bra, including a Rago girdle. “Ooh! How retro!” I exclaimed. “I’ve seen a blogger look amazing in this,” I told her, thinking of Georgina Horne.

“I don’t care what it looks like underneath,” she said. “I’m just going to throw it away after the wedding.”

Not care how it looks? Just throw it away? I had to focus on June in the fitting room so that I wouldn’t become argumentative, but I kept an ear open to the conversation. I heard the saleswoman continue to talk to the customer in a low and pleasant voice until the customer’s own voice softened.  When the woman left the store, she no longer looked defiant.

On our drive to the airport, I mentioned how rude the customer was and how amazing the saleswoman was not to have lost her cool. June, on the other hand, totally understood the frustration and disappointment the customer must have been feeling. I think June would make an excellent lingerie store owner. (June also mentioned a thought-provoking blog post by Erica of Sophisticated Pair about how she works with customer’s fit misconceptions. I haven’t been able to locate it, but I’ll link to it here once I do.)

Dresses that Fit a Large Bust

There have been some helpful blog posts about dresses recently. Check out Transitional Dresses on a Budget by MissUnderpinnings and Bust-Friendly Dresses Roundup by Boosaurus.

I found two Laundry by Design dresses last week–one is another faux wrap, but the other is a shirt dress that I’ll write about after I attempt an alteration on my mother’s sewing machine when I’m down in Florida next week. Century21 had other great full-bust flattering knit dresses from this brand for those of you who wear a smaller size than I.  (Does anyone know if “Laundry by Design” is the same as “Laundry by Shelli Segal”?)

What’s Your Narrative?

Autumn of The Beheld published a thought-provoking post last week on The Problem with the Body-Love Therapeutic Narrative. It made me wonder if it was even necessary to publish those reassuring thoughts for busty women observing Fashion Week. I wonder where you are on the spectrum she describes. Have you always accepted yourself? Have you come to accept yourself? Or are you still working on accepting yourself? Did you used to accept yourself and then think you shouldn’t so you stopped? I agree that we are inundated with the assumption that all women travel an arc from body-shame to body-acceptance, but it’s refreshing to consider that (a) not everyone does; and (b) we don’t have to keep traveling this arc.

Off the Rack ~ CURVexpo Summer 2012 Part I

Here comes a long one! This year I actually only spent three hours at CurvExpo on one day, unlike last year’s two full days. With such limited time, I ended up just catching up with the usual suspects of Claudette, Curvy Kate, Panache and Cleo by Panache, Freya, Parfait by Affinitas, Mimi Holliday, and a brief look at Marlies Dekkers just because I so desperately want them to carry large cup sizes (they still don’t). I’m splitting all the brands into two parts because there’s so much I’m excited for, it’s simply too much for one post. Today I’ll cover the C’s—Claudette, Curvy Kate, and Cleo by Panache (plus regular Panache).

There are a lot of photos below, and some are maybe not safe for work, so click to see everything.

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Full Bust in a Corset–the Quintessential Hourglass

I love how a corset top highlights an hourglass figure, and I even purchased an off-the-rack Grenier corset a few years ago. Back then I told you how great it was to be able to use the laces to make it fit a larger bust, but back then I didn’t realize that my method of making it fit was simply smashing my boobs under my arms. You can avoid the underarm boob smash by either (1) purchasing an underbust corset like the What Katie Did Morticia reviewed by Georgina and Cheryl, or (2) ordering a custom-made overbust corset like the ones made by Larissa Boiwka of Wilde Hunt Corsetry.

When I discovered Larissa through the Fashion Incubator forum recently, I had a lot of questions for her, and I thought you’d be interested in her answers.

1. Where does everything go?

Your size doesn’t change when you wear a corset, but the placement of everything makes you look smaller.  Larissa calls it “vertical compression”. Lacing down brings everything in and up, including your boobs. In a custom corset, your boobs  aren’t smashed under your arms because a good corsetiere will take it in at the waist but add to the bust. This explains why the room for your bust may be larger than your natural measurements.

2. Who wears corsets?

I have worn my own corset out of the house a grand total of ONE time, and that was under a dress for a date night. So I wanted to know who wears Larissa’s corsets and where? Although her corsets can easily be worn beneath other clothing, they are intended for outerwear. Usually a Wilde Hunt corset is commissioned for a special occasion, such as a client’s recent 40th birthday party, and there is no one “type” of customer. Larissa’s clients have included:

  •  an outgoing vaudeville performer;
  • a shy and conservative woman who wanted something dramatic in her life;
  • an Iraq war veteran who commissioned a pinup corset with insignia on it;
  • the owner of a prestigious art gallery;
  • the owner of a tattoo and piercing parlor;
  • a California doctor that Larissa later heard quoted on NPR for an important study.

Recently Larissa has created a bridal line. Imagine the versatility of being able to wear your bridal corset after the wedding–you could even have the leather painted a different color (Larissa cautioned me that dyeing it could cause the coating of the steel to crack).

This is Wilde Hunt bridal underbust corset costs $675.

Back to who wears corsets, when I watched the first season of Downton Abbey, I was obsessed with trying to identify the outlines of corsets under the costumes. “Did everyone wear corsets back then?” I asked Larissa. Yes.  She told me about an advertisement she’d seen from that period for a corset called “The Pretty Maid” that was designed for servants–working corsets tended to be shorter and more functional. They even had ventilated corsets for hot weather.

3. Isn’t it hard to get the right fit remotely?

Surprisingly, no. Larissa conducts fittings via snapshots from all angles to determine where to sculpt. A customer will first be photographed with the laces loosely tied and again after they are tightened. One customer had her neighbors take the photographs–two 70-year-old twin nuns. Larissa wishes she had a photograph of the photographers!

When Larissa studies the photos, she is concerned with what she calls “negative ease”. When I create my Campbell & Kate shirts, I’m concerned about giving the wearer enough ease in the waist and bust to be able to move comfortably. Larissa, on the other hand, is concerned with taking that ease away. She finds that working with steel and leather is very similar to actual sculpting.

It can take as many as three photo sessions to get the fit perfect for a woman with a large bust.

4. What’s her favorite corset?

Larissa’s favorite corset is always the one she’s currently working on.

She created the Ammonite corset as a personal challenge. It has a three-dimensional spine feature that mimics a vertebral column and is ornamented with mirrors set in pearlized patent leather. A typical pattern consists of 10-12 pieces, but this one consisted of 18 different pattern pieces.

You can probably tell from these photos that Larissa watches a lot of fantasy and science fiction (wouldn’t the Ammonite be perfect in a movie?). She also has a degree in anthropology, so she is very interested in cultural dress.

5. How does a client decide on a design?

The possibilities are endless, but Larissa is careful not to overwhelm. After talking to a customer, Larissa hones in on what the customer is really looking for and sends her a few sketches. Of course price will be a factor as well. Wilde Hunt overbust corsets begin at $600, and Larissa walks a customer through the price ranges for each option.

Do you have more questions?

I do. I want to know:

1.  the time range from commission to final product;
2. whether the mockup is created in leather or fabric;
3. the advantages of using leather (i.e., more breathable, moldable, etc.); and
4. if Larissa has ever created (or would consider creating) corsets as built-ins to other designers’ dresses (such as a wedding gown).

What would you like to know?

Look for Larissa’s answers in the comments over the next few days.