Thursday, April 23, 2015

Bra Review: Charnos Cherub Full Cup

Charnos is a brand we hear little about in North America. It's from the UK and best known for bridal lingerie, but it does a couple of really nice basics, including the Cherub Full Cup (which comes in black, ivory, white and an occasional, additional colourway):

I really like the way the strap attaches to the upper cup, providing that modified sweetheart neckline. Of course, strap attachment at the upper cup isn't known for providing optimal lift, but it takes all kinds of bras.

The undies that used to match (which I own already, because I've owned this bra on a variety of occasions over the years) are actually super sexy but it doesn't appear that they make them any longer. The "now" version of the matching undies is also nice, but doesn't have the same lace-appeal.

Here's the thing about this bra: It's really reasonably priced and really easy to find. If you want it in all the colours and sizes, Figleaves always stocks it. If you want to dig around for a deal, there are many to be had on eBay. I got this for 35.00 CDN - including shipping. Furthermore, while the brand tops out at a G, the cup fit is generous and the band is very snug. It means that lots of women who wear a GG or H can still fit into it.

The cut is unusual for a UK brand. It's full-cup, for starters (not something you find outrageously frequently in broader-import UK market), and it's very "sophisticated". This is the lacy kind of bra one imagines a French woman would wear.

The shape is quite natural. It's not boobs on a plate, by a long-shot (see above about strap attachment). The support is actually very good but it doesn't provide excessive lift and "presentation" of the breasts. It's about coverage - though that coverage is by no means excessive.

The lace has a lot of give, though I wouldn't call it stretch. This makes it quite forgiving for breasts of different sizes and for full on bottom breasts. There's an elastic band that runs on the top cup, from wire to wire. It gives a bit of extra support - but wouldn't, I imagine, restrict full-on-top breasts unless they were exceedingly so.

The style is good for projected, narrow shapes - but not to the extent that Cleo or Empreinte manage to be. And, as mentioned above, it's always recommended to go up a band size - as these bands are super-snug - and down a cup size. BTW: I generally agree with that advice. The stretch-factor of the lace provides a bit of give you wouldn't get in your average Cleo, for example, given the relentless sturdiness of Cleo fabrics.

The wires aren't as strong as I prefer and the straps are narrow, but somehow the bra still stays in place and does its job. It provides excellent cleavage, if that's your thing, especially given that it's neither a plunge nor a push up. I believe this is because of the inherent softness of the fabric and overall construction.

I do find that this bra doesn't quite tack at the centre gore (on me), in the right size, because the materials and wires just don't hold, at the gore, the way all other brands (that I wear) do. This is in contrast, say, to the only other bra in my wardrobe, the gore of which doesn't quite tack: the Bravissimo Alana. That gore won't tack on me because the bra's just not immediately-projected enough at the centre-cup. If I push the gore of the Cherub lightly, it touches my sternum with no ill effects, fit-wise, elsewhere. But left to its own devices, it's just not structured enough to battle my natural nemesis - immediate, extreme centre projection.

Mind you, that makes it quite comfortable and less extreme than most bras I wear. It's subtle.

I think the issue here is that the bra was designed a long while ago, when another kind of shape and level of sturdiness was in vogue. Not to mention, that it isn't an expensive bra (though it doesn't feel cheap in any way). I mean, you don't get French engineering on a budget.

I totally recommend this Charnos style as a low-risk adventure purchase. I don't wear it continuously, but I've owned it in 2 colours, 3 times, over the last 8 years. When I re-housed one recently, now not my size, I remembered my fondness for the style. Repurchase was given an additional recent push as I'm in a serious black bra crisis - don't ask, subject of another post - so I had to re-add it. :-)

So that's the Cherub for you. Have you tried this bra? Do you like it? What do you know about the brand? You know I'm interested. Let's talk!

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Small Business Chronicles: Starting a Start Up

If you're neither into skin care nor lingerie, it is not your month on this blog... On the plus side, if you can half get with either, it's fun times! Since I wrote about bras last time, today it's skin care. I did receive a new bra yesterday - one I haven't said anything about thus far. I'll review it for you tomorrow but the short story is that it's a winner.

I realize that I said my next skin care post would be to introduce Serum A (a creative end-result that I'm very excited to natter on about) but I've spent the last 2 weeks absorbed in the alternatively-creative, all-consuming act of setting up a small business and I simply must tell you about it. Look: I'm not one of those peeps who bravely quits her career to revel in the self-directedness of entrepreneurship. I'm deeply attached to my salary - which I am only interested to expand (and, no, not after accepting a cut in lifestyle prior to making it big). So you won't see me ditching my day-job anytime soon. As such, it means I'm going to have to be that much more efficient.

Given that I'm surrounded by entrepreneurs, I find it interesting that I have never embraced this path. Oh, I love selling things. I mean, I love engaging with people about things that interest them, that might improve their lives in some small way (whether I've made those things or not) - and I'm totally down with the transactional component. It's like participating in the beautiful cycle of commerce from every bar of beeswax to finished balm. I love R&D and creating product and marketing. Gotta say, though, the whole cost analysis / balance sheet part of the job doesn't exactly call to me. And since I've been mega-living that element of the small business experience, it's really sharpening my focus.

My husband has been relentless on this topic. If I hear the phrase: If you don't know every cost associated with your production model, how will you know how to price your product? one more freakin' time... I finally just decided to do it to shut him up. And wasn't he on the ball? I guess intuition doesn't improve profit margin after all.

I've also been setting up an Etsy shop. (Natch, I'll plug it when it's ready to roll.) OMG, people, I never knew how much I wanted an Etsy shop till I got one! I just stare at it all the time! This part of the undertaking has quickly brought me up to speed on ways that I can improve what I can offer to clients, how to realize discounts on shipping (yay for us all) but it has also made me aware of the steep hidden costs associated with peer-to-peer e-commerce as it pertains to the business beginner. Don't get me wrong, it's the way of things, and I believe the platform is a well-run necessity. But I'm starting to understand why everything I buy costs twice as much as I think it should. :-)

I sense I will not be able to keep myself from writing about all of this. You know I write about what I do and, for better or worse, right now this is what I'm doing. Plus, it's a major learning curve and who doesn't like to prattle on about that?! All I can say is that it's really illuminating to put your money (and your time and your energy and your creative-spirit) where your mouth is.

Today's questions are for the entrepreneurs (or part-time or wannabe entrepreneurs): Lord, people, how do you do this all the time? Aren't you tired?? Oh, and what do you appreciate most about having your own business? What do you sell? Stuff? Services? How did you get started? Is there anything I need to know like, today? Please, please - let's talk!

Monday, April 20, 2015

Bra Review Part 3: Avocado Mirabelle

So today I wore the Mirabelle set and, you know what, it was uncomfortable in EXACTLY the same ways as was the Essentia. (There's hella description here - just apply all the fit info to the Mirabelle and you've got it covered.)

I will say that this set is an absolute confection and I think it's very well-made. Although, unstretched, it has a looser band than the Essentia, when stretched, the band is actually firmer than the Essentia's. On this basis, gotta say I'm inclined to stick with a 34 (75) band. It is snug for size - but very comfortable, given that I should be in a 32 (70).

Here's where I'm at with Avocado. I went back and did a bit more math and realized the following:
  • I ordered during a sale, so I got 20% off. 
  • Apparently, 4 seconds after I ordered, Avocado raised its prices to deal with rising manufacturing costs. It's gone up by about 10% per item.
  • The Essentia is the least expensive bra on offer. The Mirabelle is in the less-expensive style category.
If you combine those deets, were I to order again, I'd likely be on the hook to spend 30%-50% more than I did this go round. And I spent 200 bucks on 2 sets. I'm not willing to spend 150 bucks plus, on a set, sight-unseen - from a place that charges VAT and warns that if they remove it (as is every non-Euro person's right), I'm likely to be dinged more by Customs than if I just accept it. (I don't know if that's true but, having ordered from another Polish brand, Ewa Michalak (shady-practice central), I don't know what to think.  Especially when I don't find these bras comfortable! To wit: The Mirabelle and Essentia are going in the Bra Sale drawer. (Note: I'm on record saying that, given that they've each been worn once, they're lovely and the brand is coveted, they will be priced accordingly.)

Here's what I will do:
  • Wait till there's a sale.
  • Order the Essentia in the beige colourway, one more time, one cup size up - in the K style. The H style is just too wide-set in the straps for me. And I think I could manage narrower wires. If the wire discomfort is an matter of too-little lower-cup depth projection, that should resolve the issue. I suspect it will make everything too big, but one must experiment. Furthermore, if it doesn't work the next go round, I'm returning it.
Truth is, I'm not willing to compromise.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Curio (Potions for Skeptics): Get Curious

So, a propos of my previous post, I do promise that this isn't going to turn into a blog about skin care products (namely ones that I make and sell). Mind you, one requires a marketing platform. I figure if 8 years of blogging should buy you something, it's a well-travelled space. For the moment, this is where I'll give you all the deets (you know I have approximately 8000 per potion), and the pretty photos. Having said this, I'll make my post titles pretty clear so, if this isn't your scene, you won't be lulled into reading.

This, ahem,  nascent business is a growth opportunity for me, inasmuch as it's a vehicle for providing terrific product at a reasonable price. As you know, I'm a professional with a bat-shit, crazy-paced day job. I have a 15 year old daughter, need I say more? The back of my century home is (technically) falling off. I sew and knit and bake and garden etc. The point: I'm doing this in my own way, at my own pace - but the standards will be high because I expect that of myself and, natch, you should expect that too.

I don't propose to be an expert entrepreneur at this moment, but I am most definitely an expert consumer. I know what I want, what I will buy, what I will spend. I also know what good skincare looks like, for me, and how to combine raw ingredients to create a beautiful finished product. The reason I have an inventory of 11 products, 6 months in, is because my motivation is always to make things for myself that I will use. I've decided to stop buying the majority of products I spend a fortune on, because I can make them because I like to make them (and also to control the quality). But you know I don't go slowly!

If something doesn't work, it's out the door. And, peeps, I am a bitch of a tester. Furthermore, in the last 6 months I've gifted (aka market tested) my wares amongst dozens of people of all skin-types and needs. Yeah, super small sample size, I know. But they've provided feedback, which has been carefully considered. They've also, to a one, come back for more.

My mandate for myself - and by proxy for anyone who might choose to use my potions - is to wear natural skincare which is not fussy, which is elegant and which is sustainably sourced (to the best of my abilities). I will pay for quality, but I will not pay for a name. Oh, and all the things must smell fucking awesome because everything should.

How it Works: What I intend to do is to profile individual potions in separate posts (not specifically in back-to-back posts, but when the info is available and as I have time to produce the content). Until I have the opportunity to move this topic to a new platform, the information will be stored in the sidebar (like my Sock Tutorial of a couple of years ago).

Technically, I'm open for business so if you read about any particular product and you'd like to know more, reach out to me by email at kristinm100 at yahoo dot ca. While I'm still determining long-term costs of shipping, for the moment, assume that it will be 10 dollars to Canada, US or UK (I can provide estimates to those in other places). This is in line with what I've spent to-date to mail potion parcels. Actually, the cost is sometimes higher within Canada but I cannot bring myself to charge my national neighbours a higher shipping fee than I would my international ones. If I discover, over time, that the shipping costs are routinely higher or lower in any location, I'll alter the prices. I will be entirely transparent. That's how I roll.

For starters - and again, this ain't no hard launch - my brand is called Curio. Those of you who know me IRL will know that's a play on my last name. My tag is "Potions for Skeptics" because that's what I am and IMO, that's what everyone should be.

Thanks to all of you who've reached out so far, to find out more, to be my first clients (or to offer your blogging review services). Next up, Serum A.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Curio (Potions for Skeptics): Soft Launch

So, I do intend to show off my new skin care line (I find this concept hilarious) with a fun post or 10 (don't worry - this is not going to turn into a Kristin Sells Potions blog) but I've received a few emails inquiring about what might be available and when.

In the interests of, well, sparking interest - here's a list of my preliminary offerings:
  • Lip Balm to rival Burt's Bees (And organic)
  • Serum (Beautifully hydrating but in NO way greasy)
  • Hand / Body Lotion (It's got excellent glide - not slippery but not too thick...)
  • Hydrosol - Neroli (It works perfectly with the Serum... I source this because I'm not equipped to make it, currently.)
  • Deodorant (This is like the crack cocaine of my skin care products. All of my friend and family testers want a container, and then another. It's not crunchy-granola - I can't abide that. And it works shockingly well.)
  • Roll On Perfume (I can customize this. But I love my beautiful Cedar and Ylang Ylang version.)
  • Arnica Salve (Awesome for muscle pain. Smells great.)
  • Calendula Salve - (Awesome for booboos. Smells even better.)
  • Immortelle Salve (Awesome for softening scar tissue and rheumatic pain. Also appreciated for its "youthening" properties. Note: I'm not here to convince you that well-made, natural skin care will make you look 10 years younger. It will make you look better and the beautiful scents will improve your mood. Essential oil therapy is notably entrenched in my lifestyle and has been since I was a child. I use it in many ways but it is never more valuable to me than in its ability to transform my state of mind. FWIW, scent blending is my my most intuitive art.)
  • Body Oil – Ylang Ylang / Grapefruit (A floral citrus, blend that brings out the best of both.)
  • Body Oil – Neroli / Rosewood (A deep floral with a chypre subnote.)
  • Eye Serum A (The original is very popular but I'm not quite satisfied quite yet. This is in the works and should be ready in the near future.)
I promise to take attractive photos of each (highlighting tasteful labels) and providing details about the organic ingredients and their reputed benefits. This is in the works - if only because I find these products so lovely that I have to capture them as part of the journal of my life and creative pursuits. FYI, I use them all - all the time - and I wouldn't bother if I could buy stuff that I considered to be better. Y'all know that's how I roll.

Having said this, if you're interested to try anything between now and who can say exactly when, feel free to email. I can regale you with the narratives which underpin each product and (slightly more mundanely) with info about cost and shipping, which I do not mark up, as you know. Moreover, my interim pricing will be discounted by 10 %, per product, as I iron out the kinks in the process and refine the brand to suit my own strict specifications.

As they say, if you're interested, holla. This stuff truly is gorgeous. I hope to wrangle a few long-standing bloggers into trying it and posting (absolutely honest) reviews. And, if you're interested in participating in that way, let me know.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Bra Review Part 2: Avocado Essentia

I can see there will be three parts to this initial review of Avocado Lingerie. Today I wore the Essentia for the full day - which is key, don't you think, to writing a review? I'm going to talk about it in this post and later on, the Mirabelle, after I've worn that for a full day too.

Here are a few pics:

Alas - I took a weird photo and didn't capture much of the matching thong...
You can see how nicely unencumbered it is at the base of the cups. For short waisted peeps, this is a plus.

Brief Word About the Undies: I bought an XL (I was afraid that they'd be snug, based on what I've read.) I could easily do with a L. They'd fit better. But I'd always rather a loose thong over a tight one. Next time I'll keep this in mind.

Now, let's talk about centre cup fullness. See the photo below - see how, when I pull at the top cup there is LOTS of fabric that lifts from the centre gore. If you've got shallow breasts (or if you're wearing a bra that always seems to shift throughout the day, or causes breast spillover), look at that bra. I guarantee, you will not be able to lift the fabric to anywhere near this degree. On the outer cup, mind you, that may be a different story...

Shape, peeps - it's freakin' everything. If this space were at the outer cup, it would be a disaster on me...

Let's start with the less good:

OK, gotta say, those wussy wires are an issue. Not a huge issue. Not a deal breaker (especially not if you are young or your boobs are not heavy or if they're self-supporting). But what started out as a really stable and comfortable bra in the morning, became (as the day wore on) kind of fussy at the underwire where it meets the underbust.

I'm not too concerned about it. It's my first time wearing this bra and it needs to conform to me and I need to understand it - but I'm pretty sure that the issue isn't one of shape incompatibility. This shape could not be more compatible with mine. It also doesn't have to do with weak straps or band - those are surprisingly firm, after all, despite seeming a delicate on first try. The wires simply aren't strong, so as the day goes on, they shift a smidge - on me, to clarify - and that causes a bit of chafe. It might resolve itself. I hope it does. The issue also might be ameliorated by a snugger band. But I feel the need to mention it. I'll keep you posted.

As it happens, the Essentia is the shallower of the two bras I purchased, if not by much. It's shallower at the lower cup, interestingly. It's dimly possible this might also be contributing to the underwire issue. We'll see if the Mirabelle has the same issue because it's deeper in the lower cup.

One other challenge - and this is something I never experience - is that the straps are slightly too widely set for my frame, at the side breast. These straps are very widely positioned relative to the centre-point of the bra which, I'm pretty sure, is a feature specific to the H cut. There are also K and A cuts - each of which provides different and narrower strap settings, and also different cup depths and overall shape. This post provides more deets on how Avocado uses modified construction to increase the likelihood that a bra you like will fit you.

If I sense that the same problem occurs with the Mirabelle (which I also bought in H cup - it's the style I prefer), then I'll give the K cup a shot. Note, however, that the H shape comes with the widest wires on offer at Avocado. Since Polish brands generally have very narrow wires, you might want to consider this before embarking on one of the other cuts. The H wires are PERFECT on me, so I'm loathe to mess with this.

And now for the actual good:
  • I love a narrow gore and this bra really fits the bill, both at the top of the centre gore and at the base. It's only .75 inches in width which is great for those with really close-set breasts.
  • The fabric really is soft. And pretty. And sexy - which is weird for a beige bra. I love how delicate and lacy it is. This is much more fun than pattern-printed duoplex (a firm synthetic with no stretch, the kind that Cleo uses in the majority of its projected styles).
  • The shape is delightful. For those of you who like round, round round - well, this is it. I am just as happy with a slightly pointier (aka realer, to my mind) shape. But under a T shirt it's useful.
  • While it's not Cleo-style boobs on a plate - I mean the fabrics are less strong as are the wires, after all - it does give a very front and centre projection.
  • Occasionally, I wish I had the kind of life / blog wherein I could model the bras I review. Cuz this one looks seriously fine.
  • The band is actually very supportive. I don't even know if I would size down next time. I mean, it's not tight but it does the trick without yielding. It's firm. It does seem short for size but not to the degree that Cleo bands are. I'm going to see how it wears before I weigh in further.
  • The cups are truly projected (though not like Empreinte, exactly). The overall shape is a bit wider which likely makes it more practical for a wide variety of projected boobs.
  • The wires are a perfect width for my narrow, but not excessively narrow, shape. The side cup is also adequately high to enclose side breast tissue, without encroaching on the underarm.
So that's this bra. Next up the Mirabelle.

Today's questions: If you've tried Avocado, how do you feel my review corresponds with your perspective? If you haven't, does it seem like it would work for you? Let's talk!

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Bra Review Part 1: Avocado Essentia and Avocado Mirabelle

OK, I'm going to start this post by saying that the reason I've never ordered from Polish powerhouse, Avocado Lingerie, before is that they didn't have a workable online system. That means, till about a month ago, you had to order from an English distributor site called Wellfitting and that increased the complexity of the process and the difficulty of returns. In truth, I don't know how direct-to-Avocado returns would work, in practice, though I was prepared to take on that administrative task. Mercifully, I don't have to figure it out, but I have heard that Avocado's customer service is awesome and, thus far, I have only good things to say. You may be interested to note that I ordered the very first day that the system went live and I had no issues. During a previous attempt at an online platform, things did not go well and it took them quite a long time to ramp up to what they've got now.

A Bit About Price and Shipping: I'm not going to go into detail on pricing, shipping costs and add-on VAT charges etc. I'll leave that for another day. What I'll say is that for 2 sets, undies and bras, I paid 180 bucks all in. 90 dollars for a sexy bra/undies set that fits beautifully and looks great are ENTIRELY in my budget. I know this might be a ghastly thought for some, but I barely hesitate at spending 225 bucks on a bra at this point. And undies to go with it cost another hundred. As a non-Polish person ordering from Avocado you will be charged in Euros. That's your only option. Yeah, that sucks, but so does being charged in USD (at this point) and I deal with that all the freakin' time.

A Bit About Avocado Sizing: You know I read everything in the land about bras and bra fit. I've had occasion to become sensitized to this brand over the course of a couple of years. Many of the lingerie bloggers I like best have taken the plunge (ha!) on a variety of occasions. I highly recommend that you read Miss Underpinnings on the topic. She actually took a lingerie tour of Poland and blogged about it?! This post and this post are particularly enlightening but Two Cakes on a Plate has also written about Avocado as have many others.

What I ended up ordering was a 75 back size (roughly equivalent to a 34 in UK sizing), given my current sensitivities and that I have read that the bands run tight. In fact, I think I'll size down in the band next time to a 70. I just don't find the 75 that snug - which is a wonderful thing, IMO. This might be on account of improvement in my pain condition. Of course, were I to do this, I'd need to go up in the cup size because, given the perfection of cup fit, I don't want to mess with that volume or shape.

For what it's worth, I used the Avocado sizing system and it worked out pretty well. Were I to purchase my "correct" band size - a 70 - then I'd be in a cup size which is 2 higher than that which I wear in UK bras. This is Euro sizing non-standard sizing in which cups go up in 4 cm volumes.

I believe that the fit guide worked for me because a) I truly fit the shape that Avocado is designing for (really deep cups, immediate projection at the centre gore, narrow (but not too-narrow) wires) and b) I truly know and understand my bra size / fitting needs in many different sizing systems. I've got every my every vertical and horizontal breast measurement memorized. If you haven't gone full-on with the Bratabase, multi-dimensional measurement system, I urge you to do so. It will advise you about your shape and size in some very meaningful ways, which you'd have to be an intuitive whiz to figure out otherwise.

Brief PSA: Even though Bratabase is annoying, consider entering in the 8 zillion requested measurements for all of your bras. This is how we can all get better at buying online, without disappointment. The broader the sample size, the greater the accuracy. I won't buy online without adequate info about, among other things, the horizontal depth of a bra cup. That's my "difficult" measurement and most of us have at least one. I will enter in info about these new bras, particularly because there's not a lot of Avocado representation in the database, so every review counts.

A Bit About Avocado Materials: If I have a disappointment, it's in this category. Don't misunderstand, the fabric materials are very soft and comfortable. They are also very lovely to look at and high-end-seeming. But all you need to do is hold an Avocado bra in one hand and an Empreinte bra in the other to recognize that there is no comparison in terms of the materials and construction. Of course, there's also no comparison in price.

Empreinte provides extreme lift and support by virtue of otherwise unsourceable band materials and incredibly strong (but delicate-looking) lace. The wires are also unparalleled in their firmness. (Note: They're not painful-firm the way that Panache wires tend to be.) This is to say nothing of the beautiful, elegant, sexy shape that Empreinte designs.

Avocado wires are amongst the bendiest I've encountered. I can source wires stronger than these for handmade bras. This is a shortfall, IMO. I think the situation is that this brand is not actually high-end (though it does a good job of looking that way). The materials are nice, but not luxe. Don't get me wrong. They're infinitely better-looking and more supportive than anything Ewa Michalak. (I'm so over that brand.) But they're not strong in the UK-brand sense of things.

I don't think this is particularly relevant to the young lingerie bloggers who've reviewed this brand (they haven't had kids, aren't even in their 30s), but for more mature women, I wonder if the support would be adequate. Note: Because my breasts are fairly self-supportive (gravity notwithstanding) and because the cup and band fabric is reasonably firm, these bras provide me with more than adequate lift and support. But I don't know if the average 50 or 60 year old, with projected breasts, would feel the same way. I'd NOT hesitate to recommend Empreinte to a woman of a certain age, with projected, soft breast tissue. Those bras defy that sort of boobs. But not so sure about Avocado as yet. I'll need to wear these for a while before I weigh in.

A Bit About Avocado Construction: This is surprisingly good. Strongest feature, dare I say.
  • The bands are firm and short - optimal for narrow torsos.
  • There are 3 hooks and eyes (at least in the brands I deliberately bought for that feature).
  • The seamed cups are ingeniously designed for centre-full projection (a very tricky shape for which to design). 
  • The under bands are narrow - not thick and wide in the way that projected Cleos always seem to be. (Note: The Mirabelle is wider at the base of the gore than the Essentia - and this results in a less-optimal fit for me (though not for everyone). It's by no means a deal-breaker.) 
  • The straps aren't in any way thick or tight nor do they dig in, but they do provide adequate lift. They're on the wide side, fyi. 
  • The length of the wires (and the shape) are perfect for projected breasts. These wires are narrow but they're not as narrow as Ewa Michalak, IMO.
I realize that I haven't got into the specifics of the Mirabelle and the Essentia as yet - though all of the things I've discussed in this post do apply specifically to each. For that, and more pics, you'll have to wait for the next post.