Meet Our Newest Writer: Rosalind

Based on my past correspondence with Rosalind, I suspected she would be a perfect match for Hourglassy readers, and when I met her in person last September, I absolutely had to invite her to join the Hourglassy team. When you read today’s post, you’ll realize why I was so overjoyed that she said yes. Her captivating style, love of sewing, nursing bra survivor stories, and experience on both sides of the H-cup divide are some of the reasons you’re going to look forward to her upcoming bi-weekly posts. –Darlene

Let me take you back to middle school, in order to get a full picture of my Adventures in Bra-Wearing…

middle school was so good to us all, wasn't it??

Exhibit A: 8th Grade Dance

I was a bit of a late bloomer. The only reason I started wearing a bra in the 7th grade was because of the inevitable gym class locker room. My mom wanted to shield me from as much teasing as possible, so she loaded me with training bras that my scrawny prepubescent frame clearly did not need. I appreciated them and wore them without complaint, aside from the occasional whining about “not having any boobs”. I desperately wanted to be buxom and voluptuous. My mother and her mother were large-chested, so I knew it could be in the cards for me. I would often stuff my mom’s old bras and parade around the house making jokes about Dolly Parton.

Then, in the summer before I began high school, my chest grew from a barely-there AA, to a solid B/C cup. I had to ask my mom to take me bra shopping three times that summer. I suddenly had the breasts I had been asking for, and I was happy . . . until I realized bras were now uncomfortable, and my breasts didn’t stop growing. I had absolutely zero clue what to do with my breasts.

By the end of my senior year of high school, bra and swimsuit shopping made me cry. I was wearing some horribly uncomfortable 36D bras that my Mom had altered to create smaller bands for me. I had looked up a little bit about bra fitting, just enough to know about “sister sizing”, and thought I would fit a 34DD. I searched for that size only to come up empty handed at every retail store. Looking back, I think I was probably closer to a 28G at the time, but I had no idea that there was such a thing as a band smaller than a 32!

Near the end of my high school days, my Mom came home from a thrift store shopping adventure (I am fairly certain at least 50% of my childhood was spent in thrift shops – I love them) clutching two Fantasie t-shirt bras (you know, this famous one). One was a 32E–a size I had never before heard of–and it fit me so well that I cried!!

I wore that Fantasie 4510 nearly every day for well over a year. When the underwires started poking out, I realized I should really do a Google search on the tag and see if I could find out where to buy another one. Within minutes, I discovered Herroom.com and their wealth of bra fitting and purchasing options. Again, I was so happy that I cried . . . but my tears of joy were quickly replaced by tears of despair once I saw the price tags on most of these lovely-looking bras in sizes I knew I needed.

Pretty soon, I learned to search the lingerie racks at places such as Nordstrom Rack, TJ Maxx, and Marshall’s for things in my size. Typically I would splurge on a new bra for my birthday and score 2-3 heavily discounted bras through these stores each year. Fitting myself and figuring out sizing took me a few years of trial and error, but I got it all worked out and found my favorite bra (Freya Deco, 30G/28FF!). 

I <3 Deco! At least I'm 99% sure that's what I'm wearing here, haha.

I heart Deco! At least I’m 99% sure that’s what I’m wearing here. Haha.

During this time I found myself in the same position that Darlene discussed in her recent “F Stands for Full Bust” post–I was busty, but not THAT busty and I certainly didn’t look it most of the time. The only time I was really aware of my full-busted size was when my smaller chested sisters would pick up my bras and gawk, or when I would foolishly try to fit into a size “small” shirt or non-cup-sized swimwear.

I *think?* I'm wearing a Panache Porcelain here. Can't remember the size, but man that was a comfy bra.

I *think?* I’m wearing a Panache Porcelain here. Can’t remember the size, but man that was a comfy bra.

When I finally had it all figured out . . . I experienced the miracle of bringing life into the world. Don’t get me wrong — I love my children, and I am insanely grateful for my relatively healthy pregnancies and births. But I do not inherently love pregnancy in all of its nauseating, breast-expanding glory. I shot up five cup sizes from a 30G/28FF to a 28JJ-30K (which was an L or M or N or something insane-sounding in US sizing). I could find absolutely zero pregnancy/nursing bras in my size, even from websites and brands that I knew and trusted. I was SO baffled–isn’t the biological function of breasts to, well, feed babies? Not just to look pretty? So, why were there hundreds of options for non-lactating busty women, but relatively little for lactating busty women? I then realized after more digging that I couldn’t even find regular bras in my current size – which also confused me. I hadn’t yet learned about the dreaded H-Cup Ceiling (Samantha at The Curves Have It has a great post on The H Problem).

Through all of this searching, I knew there had to be other women in my size range, lactating or not. There was no way I was the only one. So I continued to dig, and finally came across Hourglassy–which served as my portal to the the full-bust blog world. I couldn’t believe there was an entire corner of the Internet dedicated to discussing and solving my specific problems! I sent Darlene a very emotional email, asking for any pregnancy/nursing bra resources she could point me to. From there I followed June at Braless in Brasil (whose blog is no longer online), who recommended to me the ONLY comfortable and properly-sized nursing bra I’ve been able to find (Decent Exposures un-bra). I also used this awesome Hourglassy DIY Nursing Bras tutorial with great success, and there have been quite a few Boobs and Babies posts throughout Hourglassy’s lifetime that I found helpful!

Me and my sweet baby #2 at 4 months old. Wearing a poor-fitting nursing bra and trying to hide my bustline. Babies are a great accessory for that ;)

Me and my sweet second baby at 4 months old. Wearing a poor-fitting nursing bra and trying to hide my bustline. Babies are a great accessory for that ;)

So there is my story. I have been pregnant and/or lactating for the past four years (no breaks–yikes!), currently still nursing my second child (15 months old and weaning v e r y slowly). At the moment I hover around a 28-30 band and J-K cup, depending on the brand. I’m still searching for comfortable bras in my size – I have a few that fit, but nothing I actually love to wear! I’ve tried more bras than I can count in the past four years, most of them have been failures, but a couple have been phenomenal successes (which I am looking forward to sharing with you!).

In addition to sharing my experiences as a mother, I hope to share general-busty experiences with all women–especially those who struggle with the H-Cup Ceiling. I LOVE to sew, and am planning tutorials that show how to make inexpensive clothing work for a busty body, and even how to make a swimsuit if you’re that adventurous!! I just finished making one for myself last week, and it makes me so happy. My style is casual, comfortable, and fun. I greatly appreciate clothing that is easy to wear and care for. I have plenty of bra/clothing reviews and op-ed pieces up my sleeve as well. Hopefully you’ll enjoy reading them as much as I enjoy writing them!

I am SO grateful to live in this day and age where bra information and networking with other bra enthusiasts is so easy. I am grateful for blogs, online shopping, Zulily, Amazon, foreign clothing brands, and all of the other incredible resources that make properly fitting bras available to women everywhere! I couldn’t be more thrilled to be a part of it all.

The Shadow Bra Industry: New Options, New Issues

Throughout the Shadow Bra Industry series, you met two New Yorkers, Jessica and Anina, one Chicagoan, Adrienne McGill, one Californian, Lisa Cole, and two direct sales companies, Peach and Essential Body Wear. Today I wrap things up with some final thoughts on the subject.

As you read the articles in this series, did you sometimes feel like you were reading infomercial scripts? I certainly felt like I was writing them! I think it’s because I was introducing you to individual women who work from the shadows to bring good fit to their clients. It goes without saying that each fitter in this series is human, so I decided to go without saying anything critical. None of the private fitters has a huge marketing budget or much time to promote herself on social media. She simply cares about other women feeling great in their skin. By agreeing to be interviewed, she gave Hourglassy readers one more answer to the question, “Where should I go for a fitting?”

When I began this series, I also didn’t anticipate the need for discretion–not discretion about celebrity clients (although these fitters have them), but about trade secrets! There may be a limited universe of bra fitting techniques, but when a fitter has spent years tailoring her approach to the way that her clients think and feel, it isn’t fair for a blogger to swoop in and tell everyone exactly how she does it.  I also didn’t think it was fair to include their fees in my posts because what may look expensive on your screen will seem insignificant when you meet the fitter in person. In my opinion, the women who have decided to build their livelihood on private lingerie fittings are the biggest argument against free bra fittings. It isn’t only the time involved for each appointment, but their determination that every client will walk away satisfied (and lifted, supported and comfortable!).

Although I knew better, I naively hoped that a magical solution to every big bust bra fitting issue would emerge from the shadows through this series. Instead, I learned more about the challenges in the industry.  For instance, there’s a reason that you probably know more about big bust bra fit than many department store fitters. In the past, bra manufacturers held early-morning training sessions for department store employees in the hours before the store opened to demonstrate how their products were supposed to work. Today, the bra companies still want to train, but the stores don’t want to pay their employees to show up.

The ability to carry multiple styles in many sizes remains a major challenge.

  • I thought that partnering with an online retailer would be the perfect solution, but online stores haven’t yet learned the value of having someone on the ground to fit their customers for them. One fitter worked closely with a large online seller, only to be told “You’re no longer an affiliate,” when her main contact moved to a different company. She moved her business to another big online store but has never been acknowledged for the giant orders that she brings them.
  • One private fitter confided that she runs into the same dilemma I had hoped to resolve with this series: To whom can she refer women with the largest bands and/or cup sizes that she doesn’t carry? If we’re picky about finding fitters we can trust, you can imagine how a professional fitter must feel!
  • Although the direct marketing model is a great way to offload inventory risk, focusing on one brand can be limiting, especially if the brand doesn’t work for you.  I have to admit that my Peach bra is now my gardening bra. I wore it on my flight to Paris last month and couldn’t wait to take it off. My Essential Body Wear bra continues to perform well, but it’s a basic that isn’t my top choice when I get dressed in the morning.

Finally, while writing this series, I learned about a DIY option from Ali Cudby. Having trained hundreds of bra fitters, Ali has a good idea of who the good fitters are. But even those fitters can have an off day. After a friend of hers had a bad experience at a reputable store, Ali decided it was time to train the customer. For the price of a Victoria’s Secret bra, she teaches all the basics and some of the finer points of bra fitting in three modules that last a total of one hour. Ali’s goal is to empower the customer to be able to find what she needs no matter who the fitter is or what the store’s inventory is like. It’s great to have one more way to help our friends find their fit!

 

 

The Shadow Bra Industry: Uplifting the Girls with Lisa Cole

Today I continue my Shadow Bra Industry series with the final of four women that I interviewed who are forging separate paths to help women find their perfect fit. Earlier I introduced you to two New Yorkers, Jessica and Anina, one Chicagoan, Adrienne McGill, and two direct sales companies, Peach and Essential Body Wear. Today you get to meet Lisa Cole.

Each of the women in this series has taken a separate path to storeless fitting. Lisa Cole began with the biggest store of them all–Nordstrom. She started in their lingerie department in 1993 with seven other women. By the end of her first year, she was the only one remaining. Everyone else had either quit or transferred to a less challenging department. As Lisa explained, lingerie is hard work because there is so much detail involved. You have to be passionate about helping women find the right bra. Otherwise, all the details will scare you away.

Lisa has stuck with the details for 23 years and is still going strong. Today she delivers motivational speeches to women’s groups and helps new store owners find their way. She also continues to work with individual clients who find her through events and referrals. Although based in Los Angeles, she can meet with clients in any city where she has a speaking engagement, which is how I met her in New York City six years ago when she put me into the Panache Tango.

I now prefer other bra shapes and styles, but my experience of being perfectly fitted into the Tango is one reason I know I can trust Lisa to take care of others. After my fitting , I would flash my Tango at every female lingerie store owner that I met, and they’d always be impressed. The other reason for my trust is that Lisa told me, “It is imperative that women feel good about themselves. That’s my bottom line.” Good fit alone isn’t enough. If a client’s response to a bra is, “I guess I can live with this,” Lisa makes sure she doesn’t have to.

Lisa’s typical client is the woman who has been to ten different fitters and stores, has shopped online, and is exhausted. Lisa works with every demographic–she wants the Walmart customer and the Nieman customer. She also works with every niche, including weight gain and loss (she recently helped a client who had dropped from a size 18 to 8 and needed swimwear for a Hawaii vacation), pregnancy, nursing, cancer, breast augmentations, and reductions. Many of Lisa’s clients work 60-hour weeks, and they appreciate that Lisa can have them in and out in an hour with everything from bras to swimwear and everything in between.

If you send your friend to Lisa, what type of experience can she expect? First, the private consultation can take place in your friend’s own home or at a store. Lisa’s approach is consultative because her goal is to help each client into a space where she says, “Oh, OK, I feel good around her.” To determine your friend’s size, Lisa brings a set of bras with her in every size. Afterwards, she shows your friend what she has with her (a curated set based on customer favorites) and what can be ordered in over 100 brands. In-home consultations are great because Lisa can help a client with solutions for what is actually in her closet. On the other hand, she also offers fun group sessions that cost a lot less.

Lisa has watched a lot of changes in the bra fit industry and has been a pioneer as a private fitter. However, her biggest love is simply helping women. As she put it, she may be a speaker, expert and authority on women’s intimate apparel, but lingerie just happens to be her teaching platform to help women see themselves differently through shaping their bodies.

 

Off the Rack ~ Partying with Eveden

It’s another Eveden post this week! A couple weeks ago, Darlene and I attended a “70s dance party” thrown by Eveden for bloggers and other members of the press. We got to see models try on anything we requested from the latest season, got fitted (I’m happy to report that I’m already in the correct size), and even enjoyed some muffins and other breakfast goodies.

It wasn’t really a dance party, but I guess some of the collection is inspired by the 1970s, and the lovely PR ladies wore ’70s-inspired outfits. In fact, that’s one of the things I love about the Eveden brands and is part of why I like supporting them—they are very accommodating and welcoming to press!

Most of what I was interested in was the trendy swimwear cuts I shared in my coverage of the last Curve show. It really makes a difference to see these things on a real person in front of me. But I also have a few other tidbits to share…

First up, what I last referred to as the “standout” of the show, the “Pinup” set. I’m surprised to see how long it looks on a real body. With my long torso, I pretty much always expect long items to actually be a conservative length on me. This one’s definitely worth trying!

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Moving on to swimwear:

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