Listening to a podcast called Social Triggers Insider recently, I discovered that most of us have a natural tendency to think we don’t belong and to self-exclude. Large-busted women tend to do this during Fashion Week. That’s when we watch small-chested models stride the catwalk in clothing that either won’t fit our chests or won’t cover our bras. It’s very easy to jump from thinking, “I don’t belong in that designer’s tops and dresses,” to thinking, “I don’t belong in designer clothes.” Ironically, I even went so far as to exclude myself from Saint Bustier, a store whose only purpose is to bring designer clothing to large-busted women.
This changed when I met Sarah McGiven for coffee last Thursday. Sarah is the “PR, marketing & social media maven” for Saint Bustier, and I first met her via email when I was researching how full-bust brands and stores are covering this spring’s trends. Amazingly, she was going to be in New York City for part of March, and it worked out for us to get together. Until we began talking, the most I planned to write about Saint Bustier (if at all) was a little blurb about our encounter and a reminder that Saint Bustier may be a good option for some readers. However, by the time we parted a good three hours later, I no longer excluded myself from Saint Bustier’s customer base.
Here’s the before-and-after of my thinking.
SIZE RANGE BEFORE
When Saint Bustier announced their launch date last October, their newsletter said, “We’re launching with a small selection of fantastic pieces by a range of designers, which look stunning on busty women from D-H cups and in clothing sizes 8-16 (we also have a few 18s!)” (emphasis added). A UK size 16 is a US size 12, and I can’t fit a US size 12 right now.
SIZE RANGE AFTER
Thanks to customer demand, Saint Bustier now offers its clothing in sizes UK 8-18, and even though they can’t promise it in advertisements, several of their styles fit cup sizes higher than an H. They search for pieces that will look good across the spectrum of their sizes, so if a manufacturer’s sample only looks good in smaller sizes, they won’t buy it for the store. Because their clothing is so generously cut for the bust (especially from the Scandinavian brands), many of their customers have discovered that they can actually go down a dress size.Sarah brought a dress for me to examine, and it happened to be the one dress I was most interested in–the Pitot Zig Zag Dress in size 18. I whisked it away to the bathroom to try it on, and . . . IT FIT!!!!!
Later I emailed Sarah to find out what other pieces I could wear from their site. See her suggestions at the end of this post.
When the site actually launched, I couldn’t relate to the tall, seemingly small-busted models. My head knew that they only looked small because of their narrow backs, but my psyche felt confirmed in my suspicion that the clothes would never fit me.
As I suspected, the models on their website are indeed large-busted. In addition to Saint Bustier’s editorial models, they have fit models going across the cup sizes for each dress size. The fit model they use the most to test everything initially is a 32GG, and she typically wears a UK12. Simply knowing they aren’t all E cups makes a big difference to me. I’m also looking forward to more Real Life Style blog posts that show what their actual customers look like in Saint Bustier clothes.
Several of the styles don’t follow the “busty rules”. There are high necks and blouse-y waists. These features may be fine for women who look like the models, but they can be problematic on short-waisted, 5’3″ me.
I’m going to continue to gravitate to V-necks, scoop necks and fitted waists, but I’m willing to experiment with other styles that fit, especially if I can see them working on women with a similar shape to mine. One new feature coming to Saint Bustier’s website is video. This will really help to see the drape of the fabrics that look slightly stiff in the current photos. I’m also looking forward to upcoming blog posts about using accessories to work with different necklines.
BEHIND THE SCENES BEFORE
I didn’t feel like I knew the people behind the brand. It was nice that someone was trying to find clothes that fit up to an H cup, but could the founder and buyer and other employees actually relate to my struggles? There’s a big difference between style advice from someone who understands large busts in theory and someone who has actually lived in an H cup.
BEHIND THE SCENES AFTER
We’ve all had a discouraging shopping day, but imagine having one day after day, and you’ve got the job description of the Saint Bustier buyer. She wears a 30/32F and keeps going back for more. Anything that fits her (and looks good) is then tried by all of the Saint Bustier fit models, but it’s not only the fit models who give their opinions. Except for one employee who wears an A cup, every woman at Saint Bustier wears at least an E cup, and everyone has an opinion. I absolutely love the idea of a full-busted sisterhood of fashion-conscious women doing the leg work to find things that fit and look good on us and then actually bringing it to market.
Sarah especially enjoys the customers who ask for fashion advice because they tend to follow it. Based on her own recommendations for me, I think I would, too. See her follow-up suggestions after the jump.
For work/smart looks:
– you’d look amazing in our exclusive* Nico Didonna for Saint Bustier dark grey wrap jacket and pencil skirt. They’re both pure wool and lined with the prettiest pale pink lining and the skirt has little rose gold zips on the back too.
– the Ingenue Marble print Archipel dress which has the most gorgeous print too.
– our exclusive* Nico Didonna Paisley or Black Oscar dresses – the satin ties can be worn in various different ways so you can get lots of looks from the one dress and they’re machine washable! This style can be worn with the cowl to the front or to the back and we had the design made so that it would cover bra straps both ways. It’s a classic!
“Exclusive” means that Saint Bustier has located a designer who will work with them to create bust-friendly pieces sold only on the Saint Bustier website.
Finally, I realize that some readers will feel excluded by the Saint Bustier prices. Their website doesn’t stress it, but most of the clothing is made local to the designer. The Pitot Zig Zag dress, for example, is made in France. Although it is more expensive to purchase clothing made in the United States and Europe, this can be an excellent way to invest in fewer pieces of high quality. According to Sarah, the Saint Bustier customer tends to be extremely busy and in need of hard working practical pieces that can be worn in multiple settings. If you appreciate “slow fashion” and functionality, then you may not feel excluded by the Saint Bustier price points after all.