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:Â 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.
I 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.
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.
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.
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.Â 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.
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.
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.Â 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.)
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.
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.
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!
There 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!
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!