DD Cup and Up Swim Brands: A. Ché and Janine Robin

Both brands say they only go to an F cup, but it’s worth second-guessing the sizing of any swimwear brand that claims to fit above a D.  For example, can you guess the bra sizes that the following models say they wear?

A. Ché  Model Bra Sizes

The A. Ché model on the left says that she wears a 32B. The A. Ché model on the right says that she wears a 34C. The company rep thought the model on the right should wear a 34D.

janine robin model bra size

The Janine Robin model says that she wears a 34C/32D.

Here’s some background information about each company.

 A. Ché

I only discovered A. Ché in Sarasota last year, but the company is in its fifth year, and it is a subsidiary of the bra manufacturing company Parisa, which has been in the business for 30+ years. Amanda Ché, the designer, is actually the daughter of Parisa’s owner, Amir Ché. The company is based in north L.A. All designing is done in California, and all manufacturing is done in China.

A. Ché uses sister sizing for the cups plus tie backs for the bands to reduce the amount of SKU’s required for all the possible band/cup combinations. Because the largest set of underwires will fit cup sizes D, DD, E and F, Amir Ché said that it is unlikely to accommodate a G or H cup.  Their size guide is confusing and seems to utilize +4″ for the band, so I tend to believe him that their suits won’t fit a British H. However, given the model’s reported bra sizes, I wouldn’t be surprised if FF and G cups could slip into their swimsuit tops.

a che back tie

Here’s a closeup of the tie back for one of the underwired bikini tops. The straps are wide at the shoulders and also removable. There is side boning.

A. Ché  shirred one piece

A. Ché  shirred one piece back

Janine Robin

I fell in love with this company the very first time I attended Curve, but I have yet to find their swimsuits in a store in the United States.  Janine Robin considers itself  “bra-fit oriented”, and their patterns go through a fit certification process. They’re a French company,  so you know the fit for a G+ is going to be sketchy, which is super sad because the attention to detail in these suits is super great. Just in case you find one of their suits, here’s why you should try it on in case it will fit:

    • hardware is a zinc alloy that won’t rust, absorb heat or break
    • all bikinis have adjustable straps
    • hand-sewn gathers along the underwire
    • foam cups that are water-resistant so that you’re not “wearing a sponge”
    • microfiber fabric = UV protection and quickly air dries
    • bottoms have a band at the waist that won’t give a muffin top or fold over (unless that’s the style)
    • bottoms “cup rather than cut the derriere”–they noticed that most women don’t need help with extra bulges in the front bikini leg area, so that is flat; instead, most women need help in the back, so the bikini leg is ruched there

janine robin blue bikini back

janine robin blue bikini front

janine robin taupe drape one piece

jainine robin blue one piece

Full Bust Finds: DD Cup and Up Swimsuits in Regular Department Stores

If you need a suit in a hurry, don’t discount department stores. As I discovered on Monday, we’re not always limited to specialty boutiques or online ordering.

Find #1: Next by Athena

Yesterday I mentioned how nice it would be for the Shoshanna rash guard to have princess seams and a front zipper. Then I found this zipped one-piece from Next!

next one piece small front

Following last year’s failed experiment of trying to wear my Elomi swim bra under tankinis from other brands, this suit could definitely cover a swim bra, although the seams would probably show through. This suit has absolutely no padding or support, and I’m wearing my ordinary size 34G Fantasie 4520 under a size Small swimsuit. The zipper is about ready to explode, so if I wore this in real life, I’d want to put some sort of lock in place. A medium would have been perfect, but there was none, so I tried the turquoise and navy in size Large next.

next one piece large aqua front

The fabric is not thick so this lighter color tends to show off every bump. The Shoshanna rash guard was made of a much higher quality fabric.

next one piece front navy

Zipped all the way up.

next navy front unzipped

Unzipped to a more flattering neckline–and no danger of an exploding zipper in this size. Also, seams from a swim bra are likely to be less obvious in this darker color.

You can find this suit on several websites, although it was on sale for just $45 at Lord & Taylor. Don’t you love this striped version? It was NOT at Lord & Taylor, but it’s available through Zappos for $65.

striped next by athena zip one piece

I’m also curious about their wrap tankini for a D up. Sizes 34D and 36D are available at 6PM for $47. Since we know soooo many women wear 34D and 36D before discovering their true size, I’m pretty sure this top could accommodate higher cups. If anything, it looks wearable for simply hanging out at home if it isn’t supportive enough for swimming in public.

next by athena wrap tankini d cup

Find #2: Coco Reef

This 36DD tankini from Coco Reef actually fit very well and was on sale for $55.

Coco Reef 36DD front

Plenty of room beneath the cups so there’s no boob bifurcation going on.

inside Coco Reef

The straps are adjustable (and you can see the clever drawstring element at the sides of the cups). The band isn’t adjustable, but you can see from this picture that it extends around the body.

Coco Reef is one of several bra-sized brands owned by Swimwear Anywhere. The others are Beach House (which I reported on last year with my swim bra experiment), Coco Rave (targets a younger market and has an adorable longline bikini top), Gabor, and Roxanne. Swimwear Anywhere may only have been around since 1998, but Roxanne has been around for much longer–I owned a 36C suit from them in high school and loved it! If you run into any of these brands, it’s worth giving them a try. (For an idea of how this company (mis)understands bra fit and why their suits can fit larger cup sizes, check out their recent ads for fit models.)

One last note–I wasn’t a fan of the profile that the molded cup style gave me, and I felt very squished into it.  I did like the tie back feature, however.

coco reef 36DD molded fail side

Find #3: Nautica Zip Front Tankini

Take this one with a giant grain of salt, but I couldn’t resist trying it on.

First in size 12, which was too loose, thereby depriving me of any benefit of compression support!

Nautica zip up tankini size 12

Next in size 8. I had to hoist my boobs up to where I wanted them, but they stayed in place after that.

nautica size 8 zip tankini front

This top would get an F by bra-fit standards because it doesn’t really encompass all of my side tissue and the lift is negligible, but it’s so cute!

nautica three qtrs size 8

You can see the pathetic little cup space below. PLEASE, full-bust companies, give us something cute like this that fits and supports!!!! I’ll take it in a tankini top, lounge top, and workout top version please!!!! By the way, the fabric for this top was fabulous–almost like neoprene.

nautica molded cup

What successes have you had recently with department store swimwear?

DD Cup and Up Swim Brands: Shoshanna Swimwear (and Shoshanna Dresses!)

Thanks to your answers to last year’s swimwear survey, I knew what to look for when Saint Bustier sponsored my Swim Show attendance in Miami last July. Before continuing, there’s one thing you should know–if we think that the lingerie industry is behind when it comes to understanding the full-bust market, the swimwear industry is waaaaay behind. Case in point:  I met the lovely Lorraine Morton, the designer and founder of Miss Mandalay. She wears a 30G bra, and her model wears a 30E. However, throughout her time at Swim Show, buyers kept telling Lorraine that she should wear a 38D and that her model should wear a 36B or C!

Lorraine’s approach to full-bust swimwear is everything we would want to see in a brand, but I’m going to start at the opposite end of the spectrum with a “full-bust” brand that would cause each and every one of us to get breast reductions if it were our only option. Shoshanna Gruss’s story is like most of ours. She grew up petite with large breasts and couldn’t find anything to fit. She began with a line of dresses (more on that below) and branched out into swimwear that goes all the way up to–gasp!–a DD.

When I saw the bikini tops at Swim Show, I wasn’t impressed, but since I was close to Lord & Taylor yesterday, I decided to try them because I’ve seen mainstream bra-sized swimwear that is only supposed to fit a DD actually fit a larger cup. Here are my 34G breasts in the Portland Paisley bandeau bikini top in size DD. I had to fasten it on the tightest hook, but incredibly, the fabric covered my breasts entirely. When I lifted my arms, there was no under-boob spillage.

dd shoshanna portland paisley tight necklineI LOVE the beaded tie, but it is killing my neck in this picture! Since I felt secure that the top wasn’t going anywhere, I loosened the tie, but the result isn’t pretty.

dd portland paisley bikini loose neck

I’m not sure what that strange fabric bulge is under my left arm. It may be the side boning, which I was pleased to see included in Shoshanna’s underwired bikini tops, but I’m not pleased to see it bulging out. I’m also not a fan of the side profile. However, if I forgot my swimming suit and had to pick one up at the last minute in a hotel gift store, I could be satisfied with this one.

dd portland bikini top side

Shoshanna’s wireless bikini tops are an entirely different story! The only reason I’m not flashing you in this picture is because I’m standing perfectly still. My boobs did NOT want to be wrangled into this DD halter top.

DD mediterranean geo print ring halter

But what I loved at Swim Show and what I loved again yesterday was the matching rash guard. I’m wearing it in size M below over the matching bikini top. I’d love it even more if it had princess seams and the zipper down the front instead of the back so that we could play with the neckline.  Happily I found a cheaper brand called Next that does just that, and tomorrow I’ll post pictures of it and other mainstream discoveries that I found at Lord & Taylor.

shoshanna mediterranean geo print rash guard

Since I had to fasten the DD on the tightest hook, I decided to try the same bandeau style in size D. As you would expect from a brand that doesn’t truly understand big bust needs, Shoshanna only grades at one level–up and down–instead of grading for different band and cup combinations. Therefore both the band and cup were smaller in size D, and I could barely fasten the loosest hook. I definitely feared underboob spillage if I lifted my arms.

Finally, here’s a tiny detail that I think shows the least understanding of what full-busted customers want. When I talk about the tightest and loosest hooks, I’m referring to actual bra hooks on the bikini tops.

shoshanna bikini bra hooks

Oh the indignity! You might think that this is the only option for offering customers an adjustable back (other than a tie back), but happily, you would be wrong.  The volleyball version of Rosa Faia’s Sea Gym bikini top offers a much more contemporary treatment of hooks. It’s not easy to see in the picture below, but the hooks and eyes are covered by fabric. Unfortunately, this style only goes up to a D cup, but if performance is important to you, check out the Rosa Faia C-H cup Sea Gym bikini, which has a J-hook option in back. I’ll be writing more about this brand later.

(To be fair, Shoshanna’s balconette style bikini tops use a traditional bikini clasp with different loop fastening length options, but this style wasn’t available for me to try.)

rosa faia sea gym back

Finally, the Shoshanna bikini tops that I’ve shown you retail for well over $100 and are currently on sale for $88-$99. Could you imagine if Panache or Fantasie tried to charge this much for such a low level of quality and structural design? Granted, the UK brands are made overseas, and Shoshanna is made in the United States, but if you’re going to make something in America, you need to ensure that the quality meets the customer’s expectations for the higher price.

——

Based on the Shoshanna swimwear lines, you could be forgiven for wondering if Shoshanna Gruss is actually large-busted. A quick Google image search assured me that she is. Fortunately, Shoshanna has done a better job of creating dresses for petite and busty bodies than she has of creating swimwear.

large bust shoshanna grus

I want to update you on Shoshanna dresses because when I wrote about them in 2009 (a strapless summer dress, double-breasted sheath dress and fluffy two-part dress), it was a struggle for me to fit a size 12. Yesterday I was able to fit the woven silk dress below in size 8, and I was able to fit a knit A-line dress in size 10, although the armholes in the latter were too tight to be comfortable.

34G size 8 shoshanna dress

According to the size chart on the Shoshanna website, I shouldn’t even be able to fit into a size 12, so I encourage you to try the dresses on instead of relying upon the chart. One more thing to note about Shoshanna dresses: they are very short-waisted. Since Shoshanna Gruss herself is petite, this makes sense. (For instance, the dress above is supposed to be a drop waist dress, but it’s not dropping anywhere on me!)

I really, really, really wanted to try this strapless Shoshanna gown, but unfortunately, it appears that Lord & Taylor is discontinuing Shoshanna dresses, so there’s a lot more available online than in the stores–I tried two of the only three dress styles that they had in stock!

DD cup up shoshanna strapless gownThere are also just a few more hours left of the Shoshanna sale on Gilt, and here are my two favorites. The dress on the left is only $79 (originally $340), and the dress on the right is only $69 (originally $375). If you’re not already a Gilt member, please use my referral link, and you can save another 30% if you enter the code GILT30 at checkout!

dd cup up favorite shoshanna dresses on gilt

Finally, other than the Shoshanna website itself, Shopbop is another good source for this brand. If you try or have tried any of the dresses, I’d love for you add to our knowledge base on how this brand fits!

Into the Swim of Things

In June last year, 127 of you answered my survey about big bust swimsuit preferences.  I thought you’d like to see the results of the survey before we delve into the specific brands and styles that are out there for us. Do any of the results surprise you?

Question 1: What style of swimsuit do you prefer?

What style of swimsuit do you prefer?

Question 2: If you wear a two-piece, what style of bottoms do you prefer?

bikini bottom preferences infographic

Question 3: How important is underwiring in your swimsuits?

underwire survey question.png

Question 4: Aside from support, what are the top three features that you look for in a suit?

top three features in a full bust swimsuit

Question 5: How often do you buy swimwear?

Swimwear Purchase Frequency Pie

Question 6: What fabric design do you most prefer?

color-swatches

Here were the two biggest surprises for me:

  1. Figure camouflage doesn’t rank as the top 3 for most of us, but figure flattery does. I love it!
  2. I’m not the only one who doesn’t invest in a swimsuit every year.

Also, isn’t it interesting that black tied for last place in fabric design? I hope the store swimwear buyers are listening!! When I stopped at Town Shop earlier in the summer, all the great colors and prints were gone, leaving giant blocks of black swimming suits. Consistent with your survey responses, the sales assistant told me the colors and prints go right away. If you’ve only just started swimsuit shopping, I’d love to hear if you’re finding the prints and colors you want in your size.