A Better Class of Bikini for the Big Bust: Miss Mandalay

Like many of us, Lorraine Morton grew up with a dearth of fashionable swimwear options, but she’s one of the few who decided to do something about it. Nine year ago, she created her own company, Miss Mandalay, to offer fashionable big bust swimwear without sacrificing fit and function. Along the way, she has become a strong and steady pioneering force in the full bust market.

Rather than create a wire for a smaller size and then grade it to fit larger cups, Lorraine begins with super firm underwires created specifically for large cup sizes (her sizes range from 30D to 38HH*).  In 2007, she created an underwire plunge shape that gives large-busted women a version of a triangle top. Bravissimo had a 90% sell-through rate in the first five weeks that they began selling it. No wonder companies like Eveden soon followed her lead with a similar shape.

miss mandalay 2014 2 underwire

Miss Mandalay has also offered a balcony shape with 2 mm foam padding and fully adjustable straps, such as the one below that I saw at the 2013 Swim Show. I didn’t see any balconies in her Spring/Summer 2015 lineup at Curve, but I hope she’ll reintroduce this shape in a future collection.

miss mandalay 2014 3

Here’s another look from last year’s show.

miss mandalay 2014 1

Here’s my favorite look from Curve earlier this month. It’s called the Bardot and is scheduled for delivery in February 2015. The top will come in 30-38 D, DD, E, F, FF, G and GG.

miss mandalay 2015 1

The Boudoir Beach is one of her most popular styles, and with its elegant hardware, I can see why. It comes in both “ice white” and “mocha”. It’s also scheduled for February delivery and comes in the same sizes as the Bardot.

miss mandalay 2015 2

miss mandalay 2015 3

miss mandalay 2015 4

L to R, Bohemia (April), Los Angeles (December in black or magenta; April in fluoro yellow) and Venom (March). Same band and cup size offerings as the others.

Miss Mandalay suits are manufactured in Morocco of European fabrics, and you can find a good selection of them at Linda’s Online, Asos and the Miss Mandalay website itself.

Reviews, however, are harder to come by! Bravissimo customers love the Los Angeles, and Amy raved about her red gingham set on FussyBusty last year. In 2011, Undercover Lingerista told us great things about her Boudoir Beach bikini. If you’ve tried a Miss Mandalay swimsuit or can point me in the direction of more reviews, I’d love to hear from you.

And if you’d like to try Miss Mandalay at your own local boutique in 2015, now is the time to urge the boutique owners to place their order!

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*Although I’ve heard in the past that Miss Mandalay goes to HH, the highest cup size I can find in the S/S 2015 line sheets is for an H cup in the Amelie bra in powder (bands 30-38), due for delivery in February 2015. (True & Co. also carries Miss Mandalay bras, but do you think they’ll ever offer them in an H cup? If they do, I’ll have to revise my low opinion of them.)

h cup amelie powder

You can find a picture of the model wearing this bra in Miss Underpinnings‘ recent excellent review of Miss Mandalay’s lingerie showing at Curve. I am infatuated with the Amelie bra because of its satin one-way stretch outer sling that is meant to center our boobs.  Lorraine herself is wearing the Amelie in 30G in the photo below.

amelie centers big boobs with side sling

30G amelie on miss mandalay founder

As you’ve probably realized, in her mission to provide fashion for big boobs, Lorraine is committed to technical expertise. She isn’t rushing to bring the next new thing to the full bust market. In fact, when I asked her at Curve if she had anything new, she told me that there have been no changes except the prints “because what we’re doing is still working.” (Sorry, Leah!)

Hallelujah for the Panache Tallulah

32G panache tallulah front

Usually I’m with the 33.86% of you who only buy a swimsuit every 2-3 years, but my 36GG Elomi swim bra (that I chose in practical black in order to wear it for years to come) is now too loose, forcing me to join the 25.2% of you who purchase a swimsuit annually. Happily, this was my chance to get the Panache Tallulah one-piece that I admired all last summer. I mainly wanted this suit for the figure-flattering solid blue panels on either side of the floral center, but I also felt it would offer great support because:

1. There’s a keyhole back with a clasp. If most of a bra’s support comes from the band, it makes sense that the most supportive swimsuits are going to have a band, either in the form of a high back or a keyhole back. I like a scooped back as much as the next large-busted woman, but “bouce-less” won out over back-less this summer.

2. It was a one-piece.  After my Panache Geneva tankini, I’m biased against tankinis. I now realize that I looked and felt so droopy in that suit because the 36 back was probably too large for me in 2010, but I also think it could have felt more secure if it weren’t divided into a top and bottom–if the “band” extended from bosom to thigh, so to speak.

3. The breast section is basically like a bikini top with a body sewn to its base. In other words, it’s like a pretty bra–a pretty three-part cut and sewn bra with a supportive mesh lining integrated into the seams. By integrating the lining into the bra’s seams, there’s no show-through because the seams are part of the design. The tankini, on the other hand, is like a Panache strappy top, with a little “bridge” that links the center gore of the bra to the suit’s shell. Not only is this less supportive, but if there are any seams in the bra, they show through the outer shell, especially when the suit is wet. Of course, this is less of an issue with a print like the Tallulah than it was with my solid Geneva.

tallulah tankini bra vs one piece bra

Tankini on the left. One-piece on the right.

It took me a while to find this Holy Grail, but I finally located it for 50% off at Linda’s Online in both a 34G and a 32G. Since it was final sale, I couldn’t order both and return one, so I finally decided to take a chance on the 32G because I’ve always found Panache bands to stretch out pretty quickly, and swimsuits tend to stretch once wet anyways.

What a relief it was when I tried it on and it fit perfectly! We went swimming the very next weekend, but it was too cold for me to get all the way wet. Today I finally had my chance.

32G Panache talulah side

The suit is totally wet in this picture.

After taking this picture, I marched around the pool to make sure I felt confident in it. There’s the inevitable slight bounce that comes with big boobs–this isn’t a sports bra, after all!–but I would have felt entirely at ease wearing this at a pool party or chasing a toddler.

I really only have two small complaints about this suit. First, there’s a slight wrinkling at the top of the cups once it’s wet. This is probably a size and/or shape issue. Someone who is fuller on top probably wouldn’t run into this, and I’d rather have wrinkling than pillowing of the breast tissue above the cup. It’s easier for me to settle myself into the cups and get rid of the wrinkles than it is to cram myself into cups that are slightly too small to get rid of the quadraboob.

Second, the fabric is super basic. I already mentioned this when I compared it to the Prima Donna swimsuits that I tried. However, I feel like I should be able to get two years of moderate to heavy use out of this suit before it’s time to replace it. I’d be curious to hear how you’ve found the fabric to be in some of the Panache suits you’ve owned.

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P.S. After finally venturing out in bikini last year, I would have loved to have owned the Tallulah bikini set with the high-waisted bottoms. However, I found the elastic waistband  on these bottoms to be unflattering on me. Perhaps I needed a larger size, but a wider waistband would have been even better.

Kris Line at Curve

I was so pleased to see Kris Line at Curve yesterday, and this time represented by the actual owner of, and designer for, the company. And guess what??? There’s a retailer in Brooklyn that’s expanding to offer lingerie, INCLUDING KRIS LINE!!!

Because I’m in a swimsuit mindset, that was my focus. I’ll write more about their most popular Spring/Summer 2015 options later, but I wanted to share my favorite style that’s still available on their website. The bikini top ends up being about USD$80, and the one-piece about USD$100. Imagine how pretty it would feel to wear with the matching skirt!!!

kris line fleur

kris line fluer one piece back

kris line fleur with skirt

Katie’s Family-Friendly, Wave-Resistant Full Bust Swimsuit Reviews

Hooray for reader Katie’s response to my July 4th request for swimsuit reviews! And boy did she ever respond–in today’s guest post, you can read her reviews of two tankinis, two bikini tops, two one pieces and three different bottoms.

A week at the beach with my extended family and losing a good amount of weight between us meant DH and I both needed new swimsuits this year. He was happy with cheap board shorts from Kmart, but needless to say, that doesn’t quite work for me. After a good number of returns, I finally ended up with a couple of suits I was happy with . . .

I’m framing my reviews around the following criteria:

  • The top needed to support and contain enough that I wouldn’t have too many worries body surfing. Where we swim in Delaware can get pretty rough, especially since we were there right before Hurricane Arthur.
  • Fuller rear coverage
  • Enough overall coverage that I wouldn’t completely scandalize my PK/MK relatives
  • Fit–I normally wear a 28FF in Freya/28G in Panache, could definitely wear a 26 if they made them. Bottoms are usually a US 4, occasionally 2.
  • No particularly weird lines–while I don’t sunbathe, I do burn easily so I try to keep my lines consistent (and wear lots of high spf physical protection sunscreen)

Glide Performance Tankini Top, Blue, 30F

Glide Performance Tankini Short, Blue, 8 (UK) (Figleaves)

review glide tankini

This was utterly hopeless. I don’t know how it can be billed as athletic, or even in a 30 band. The 30 band felt more like a 34+, if not larger and so offered zero support. Also the non-adjustable bands were so long, I felt I had better shape from a camisole with a shelf-bra. The bottoms were nothing spectacular. I certainly didn’t like them enough to keep them and try and find a top to match. Run, don’t walk away from this set.

For a sporty swimsuit in a smaller band size, I would just spend the money and get the Freya or Panache athletic suits, they actually look supportive.

Cleo Lucille Bandeau Top, 28G (Bravissimo)

Cleo Lucille review

I normally do not wear Cleo bras so I was guessing on band size. It ended up being *very* snug. I’m not sure if it is this style that runs so snug or the brand since my other Cleo suit is much more comfortable. I also did not trust it not to slide down when hit by a well-placed wave. There was a good bit of tissue exposed up top, apparently by design. It’s not a half-cup shape, but the way it pushes up the tissue felt like it. Definitely not my-family-friendly or wave-friendly.

AquaLuxe High Waisted Bottom, Mint Green, Small (Athleta)

High waist should be in quotes. I used to wear their standard swim short, and I felt that came just as high. It felt like good material and the color went with the piping on the Lucille, but it came 2” below my navel, at just the wrong place to be flattering. I wanted something with a higher rise, so it went back. I know I should have known better since it doesn’t reach the model’s waist, but I thought being short would make a difference. (Aside, has anyone else noticed that even Modcloth’s high waisteds are usually hitting the same place on their models? Maybe this is a more wide-spread definition of high waist . . . .) Note, the fabric is a bit shimmery.

Ocean Park Swimsuit, Red, 4 (Shabby Apple)

shabby apple ocean park 2

I ordered this to make DH happy since I was skeptical it would be flattering. Unfortunately, it offered zero support since it just had liner cups and not enough coverage to even sit around (for me). It’s a shame because it is a *really* cute suit. No complaints on the construction, and I recommended it to a friend. All of Shabby Apple’s suits seam to either to have a shelf bra or, more commonly, two molded cup-like things (not much actual shaping, more for coverage). If you can find a non-obtrusive swim bra/bikini top in a coordinating color, they may be worth a look if you like that aesthetic or want a more conservative but still cute suit. I really wish this one and their Coastline would work. They are a completely different style than you normally see in the market.

Panache Nancy Tankini Top, Nautical Print, 30G (Figleaves/purchased Summer 2013)

Panache Nancy tankini review front and side

Loved this last year. It fit fine then but since then I’ve changed size and shape and it’s just okay. It was my back-up this year if I couldn’t find another suit to work a little better. Properly fitted, it holds up great in the waves and I got compliments on it. I wore old bottoms so not really worth commenting more on that. The rings do give a funny tanline if you aren’t careful with the sunscreen, something to keep in mind.

Bravissimo Santorini 30F (Bravissimo)

Bravissimo Santorini review

 It was definitely not my normal shape, and the original fit was even worse than it is now. The cups looked both too small and too large at the same time. I ended up stitching the cups together another 1-1.25” above the wires to give me better shape and support. Even now that I altered it, I’m not super thrilled but DH says it looks fine. I may ended up passing this one off to my mom since it is likely wave-friendly and it fit her well. The Santorini didn’t actually make it into the water since I liked the Pippa and Revival so much and we avoided swimming once Arthur got close enough to have a real effect on the waves.

Revival Underwired Sweetheart Padded Bikini Top, Black, 28FF (Figleaves)

Fables by Barrie Frannie Super High Waisted bottoms, Black and White, Small (etsy)

(Note how much the band rides up.)

(Note how much the band rides up.)

This was a compromise. I hate that almost all swimsuits that come in a 28 band are plunge or else like the Lucille. I simply do not trust that shape to keep everything contained. Ideally, I’d like the cups of the Revival to cover a little more than they do, but it was enough that I was reasonably comfortable. The gore is wider that I expected with Freya, not excessively wide but definitely wider than the Gem/Luisa/Loretta/etc. that I normally wear. There’s something vaguely midcentury to the design that I really liked. I mostly bobbed around and dove under waves in this, and it held up just fine. I’m not sure I would be confident actually riding any waves. My main complaints are that the band is even stretchier than the standard Freya band and I had to shorten the straps all the way (which admittedly, is only 1-2” more than I normally do).

I *love* the Fables bottoms by Barrie Franny–they are incredibly flattering and comfortable. I’m not sure it’s really super high waisted since it hits right at my natural waist, and I’m on the petite side already. The white does get a bit sheer when wet, but the band is high enough that it’s not indecent. The construction is good. The bow came partially untacked after being battered by waves but it’s an easy fix with a ball point hand needle. Fables sells through their own site and through Etsy. They also sell through Modcloth and Unique-Vintage, but you are going to spend more and neither carry the full line. Next time, I would rinse the bottoms well in cold water before wearing since I think the white looks a little darker now, possibly from dye, but that could be my imagination.

Cleo Pippa Bandeau Swimsuit, 28FF (Ebay/Summer 2013)

Cleo Pippa one piece review

This was an Ebay gamble. The seller said she only wore it twice in a pool so I at least knew it could survive getting wet. It’s a snug band, but nowhere near as bad as the Lucille. The sailboat print is cute, but farther away the detail is lost and just looks geometric. Not a problem, just something to be aware of. I do need the straps for assurance in the waves, but I think swimming around a pool would mean they are unnecessary. I’m not sure how much the straps really do, they are pretty thin and only attach to small loops in the front. It would be nice if they crossed and hooked in the back, just for more security. No real complaints otherwise. It held up fine in the ocean which was my main concern. The torso does feel a little on the long side to me, but I do have a short torso.