Business Briefing: Fabric Fantasies

I had an epiphany about my favorite polka dot jacket that I wrote about last week: why not ask my sewing contractor to create a new one just for me? And if it works, why not grade it and sell it? To that end, I attended the DG Expo on Monday, searching for a knit polka dot fabric that I could order in small minimums and re-order as needed. Finding fabric that meets these two requirements is one of the biggest challenges for a small clothing manufacturer. I didn’t find the fabric I wanted, but I found some other possibilities: a solid soft viscose knit that feels like a sweatshirt and is actually milled here in the States, a solid heavier knit, and polka dots in a “sweater weight” that would require lining. Unfortunately, the solid heavier knit is the one I really want, but the company requires a minimum purchase of 20 yards–quite an obstacle when all I want to do is make a sample to see if I like the fabric enough to order more. So I’m going to order just three yards of the sweatshirt-like knit and see if I like it.

I think I’ve written before about how inspiring fabric stores can be, and I found some beautiful pieces at Monday’s show that make me want to create something special . . . like this dotted Swiss cotton batiste. Which color would you choose, and what would you have it made into?

dotted swiss

Or this black lace that also comes in other colors.

black lace

Happily, both the batiste and the lace can be ordered in small quantities and re-ordered as needed.

Below are some prints that I fell in love with at a jobber’s booth. A jobber buys the end rolls from other garment manufacturers and re-sells them. Sadly, once the roll is finished, it can’t be re-ordered.

St. John print

Who was I kidding when I said that I have all the tops I need last week? I NEED a top in this St. John print.

theory print

A cotton/viscose/elastic from Theory, and only 10 yards left.

Karen Kane print

I want a sheath dress in this Karen Kane print.

Best Breasts Forward ~ My “Go Bag”

I’m sure I’ve mentioned how much I dislike clothes shopping before. This is nothing new for me. My mom always commented that I shop “like a man”. I have never enjoyed perusing racks upon racks of clothes, not even when I was a skinny teen with a reasonable rack of my own.

The older I get and the more my body changes, I’ve learned to just suck it up and step into the dressing room.

There is one thing that has made shopping close to fun for me and that is being sure to pack a bag before I go. Even if I think I know exactly what I am going to buy and how it will fit, I still take a bag with a few essential items for the dressing room.

As a busty woman it is imperative that I bring several bras. I usually pack two. How many times have you had to pull your straps to the side or tuck your cups trying to see what a top or dress will look like? Or tried to imagine what active wear will feel like and how it will move over your sports bra? It’s these things that build up aggravation in me so I take preventative measures.

I also bring:

A foundation garment in case things look a little lumpy

A pair of pumps so I don’t have to visualize height on my tip toes

Bobby pins and/or an elastic band in case I want to see what an outfit looks like with my hair up

Everything in my shopping “go bag” is there for a specific reason. If we all had personal stylists, they’d have a bag of goodies with them. I’ve got to style myself, so I’m going to do it right, with my own bag of tricks.

Getting Out the Door When I Know I’m Not Going to Fit In (and Filling the Gaps in my Wardrobe)

One reason you’re not reading about new year’s resolutions from me this month is because I went through a spate of goal-setting in November and December that had me updating my LinkedIn profile (almost done), cleaning and organizing my basement studio (done!), and attending networking events once a week so that when my shirt issues are finally solved, I can reach out to the women I meet who need them (ongoing). That last goal is the reason for my underdressed uniform fail.

The week after that experience, I ventured to hear a panel of female creatives talk about their work in digital media. Having learned my lesson to look like you’ve just come from work, I came up with the following combination, hoping that my polka dot blazer and tights would somehow say “creative”.

overdressed uniform fail

Instead, my outfit said “overdressed outsider.” Here’s what everyone else wore at the Razorfish offices that night.

overdressed for creatives at razorfish

Fortunately, I’d already met my greatest challenge that evening: getting out of the house. I doubted anyone at the event would be part of my target market, and it was so comfortable at home, that I could easily have sat under a blanket in front of our television all night. I persuaded myself to walk out our front door by looking at the evening as a research project.  I would find answers to questions like, What do creatives wear? What do they do at their jobs? What do they care about?

With this plan, I no longer had to worry about blending in! When other attendees asked if I was also in advertising, I just said, “No, I’m in the garment industry, and I’m here to find out how women in your industry dress and think.”  It led to some pretty interesting conversations even though the night confirmed my suspicion that my shirts aren’t a priority for busty women in digital marketing.

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My next event was on waaaaay more familiar territory because it was sponsored by women lawyers. Up to this point, I’d made do with the uniform I told you about yesterday, but now I went into high shopping gear looking for a black pencil skirt. I decided on the Sloan pencil skirt from Banana Republic and found it on sale for $35. The heavy stretch cotton makes it versatile for dressing up or down, but the color keeps it serious. I wear it all the time, including yesterday with my Lord & Taylor tee shirt and my new rain/snow bungee boots that I adore–now this is an outfit I could have worn to Razorfish!

blue tee black skirt bungee boots

Yes, I desperately need to accessorize. Maybe this will be the Year of Accessories. More on that in another post.

When I walked into the lawyer event, I knew I’d nailed the look: pearls, white shirt, black and brown woven blazer from my law firm days, black skirt, black tights, and black shoes. It’s a good thing I felt comfortable in my clothes because I didn’t necessarily feel comfortable in my skin. The event was a clothing drive and holiday party hosted by the Association of Black Women Attorneys, and I worried that I’d be seen as forcing my way into a support network where I had no business. This time “research project” didn’t give me any courage. Now as I waffled over whether to leave our house, I remembered advice I’d read recently about how to introduce yourself: instead of focusing on what you DO, focus on WHO you HELP. That was all I needed to overcome my shyness because I’m passionate about how my shirts help busty women. The event was a success for everyone, and I met some amazing women. I even helped another busty woman that night!

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This post is turning out to be more about how I’m learning to approach events where I’m unlikely to blend in than it is about filling the gaps in my uniform that I promised you yesterday. So far I’ve only told you about my new black pencil skirt. It filled the biggest hole, but I also needed a few pairs of dress pants to give my khakis a break, and I didn’t have even one pair of jeans that fit. I also wanted a nicer pair of black shoes to wear with skirts and dresses.

You never know what you’re going to find at thrift stores, but I hit the gold mine for these basics in Florida last month. Here are the shoes ($4 each) and belt (99 cents!) I scored at my favorite Goodwill. (Shoes are always a major challenge for me, so finding these was a big deal.) I also got two pairs of jeans that fit perfectly for $4 each that I’m sure you’ll be seeing in later posts.goodwill accessoriesNext up was the thrift store beside my sister’s art studio–the one where she found my purple dress in November. There I found tan and charcoal dress pants for $2 each. You’ll definitely be seeing these in future posts. I’d like to brag and say that I created my own luck by being so aware of my uniform and what I needed to complete it, but I’ve searched for these things before to no avail.

Before flying to Florida, I also found a pair of Donald Pliner kitten heels on eBay for $60.

leopard

I’ve been wanting a pair of leopard print shoes for more than two years. I’d like to say that it’s better to invest in the hard-to-find accent pieces since inexpensive basics are easier to find, but I know that’s not always the case either. Sometimes it’s the perfect basic that’s expensive and the trendy accent piece that’s cheap.

I guess it’s the not knowing that keeps things interesting. I love seeing how the other Hourglassy writers approach their wardrobes (Leah and I couldn’t be more opposite!), and I’d love to hear what you do. Also, be sure to check out Astrid’s latest post–The Busty Gal and the Accidental Capsule Wardrobe. I have a feeling we can all relate!

 

It’s All About the Busty Base: My Wardrobe Core

Here’s how I propose discovering the must-have pieces in your wardrobe: pack for a couple of back-to-back trips, take lots of photos, then notice what you’re wearing in practically every photo. That’s how my recent travels showed me I was reaching for the same favorite pieces again and again.

The number one piece that I reach for? My knit polka dot blazer from the Loft. It keeps me warm on the plane, isn’t too hot in Florida, and is great for layering in the cold. It’s like a cardigan but with a little more presence, and the polka dots give it personality.

polka dot blazer on the beach

On the beach two days before Christmas.

white shirt polka dot jacket boiled peanuts

Finding my favorite snack at a gas station in South Carolina while driving my mother-in-law from Florida to Pennsylvania in November.

Sadly, this jacket has gotten too big for me and is now looking kind of shapeless, but I just can’t quit it without a replacement. Last week I got a mailing from Express that showed this checkered knit blazer from their spring 2015 collection, and it looks promising. It’s not on their website, but their solid knit blazers are, and they’ve received lots of good reviews. Have any of you tried them?

big bust find express checked knit blazer

In the beach and peanuts photos above, you see two more of my standbys for my upper half: my $10 Lord & Taylor brand tee shirt, and one of my white Campbell & Kate button-fronts. Together with my French blue Campbell & Kate button-front below, I really don’t worry about what to wear to fit my boobs. These pieces pretty much go with everything.

blue shirt posing with Lisa Dolan Lee Lees Valise

Posing with Lisa Dolan after Leah and I toured her brand new lingerie store–Le Piege des Boobies– in November. Lisa herself has designed the amazing sleep set you see between us. She cleverly accounts for multiple big bust considerations in the design, and once I find my notes from our meeting, I’ll share them with you!

Then there are my khakis that you see above, which together with my denim pencil skirt have carried me everywhere for the past several months.

My final core piece is the blue Lauren by Ralph Lauren surplice dress I shared with you in June. I wore it to Leah’s wedding in October!

big bust dress success to leahs wedding

If I had to, I could probably make it through the rest of the year wearing only these pieces, but I’d get pretty bored and everything would wear out. However, realizing what my favorite pieces are is helping me a lot with my wardrobe planning. Instead of being distracted by everything in the stores, I know the base that I’m building from. I’ve also discovered some gaps that I was able to fill with a few trips to thrift stores and sales. More on that tomorrow!