Saturday, August 23, 2014

Bra Review: Cleo by Panache Lori (and Matching Undies)

Recently, I had the, ahem, opportunity to buy a bunch of new bras for my kid. It's actually very useful research, buying for a person of a different size and shape than oneself, and outrageously pricey. Turns out that my kid has been listening to all of my good "life advice", and now she won't "let me" buy anything without begging incessantly to also get the matching undies. Fortunately, she's in very reasonable brands costing reasonable amounts (and even more reasonable amounts online) but really, that's my one life lesson she's opted to internalize?? What happened to doing homework without watching TV??

At any rate, I'm doing nothing to unmake this monster because, really, how can one (even an adolescent) be expected to wear a bra that doesn't match her knickers? I'm thrilled to say that my kid finally agreed to purchase a seamed bra without foam cups. Those young people don't understand the world before molded crap. At first she was all: There is no way I'm wearing this soft bra but, after I adjusted the straps and band, and she did a bit of swoop and scoop, the bra was a thing of perfection. Actually, it's more a matter of the youthful body being a thing of perfection, but the bra didn't hurt. Needless to say she's revised her opinion on its appearance and functionality.

But moving on... I can't be expected to buy lots of lingerie for others without having a bit of fun for myself, which is why I purchased an outlier (for my shape): the Cleo by Panache Lori:

You might be thinking that I buy Cleo bras constantly semi-regularly. And I do, but I don't buy the styles that come in this shape, a shape molded on the (insanely popular) Lucy sloper.

Why not? Well, this sloper is designed for the shallower Cleo customer. Don't misunderstand, it's more projected than the offerings of many other brands (Curvy Kate, for example) but it's known for being the style that the slightly less narrow and projected ladies tend to love.

And, as we know, that's not me.

The reason I gave it a go - other than my continual curiosity (believe it or not, two bras I've never tried are the Cleo Lucy and Cleo Marcie - perhaps the most talked about bras on the full-bust, youth-market scene) - is that this bra has been known to thwart the average Lucy-lover cuz it's just a little too projected.

Now that didn't mean it would suit me. But when I found it on eBay for a very good price (50 bucks, all in), I decided I'd give it a go.

Here's what I can tell you:
  • If you fit the Lucy, chances are this won't work for you. The exception is if you're on the cusp of not fitting into the Lucy due to the amount of inner cup projection you require. I was surprised at how well this fits me, even at the centre gore. It's a rather projected bra - but it produces a wider shape, overall, than many other Cleos, as the cup construction is different.
  • It's not as supportive as the Cleos that cater to the very projected among us (Melissa, Meg, Ellis, Bella), but it is partial band (almost no profile beneath the under wires). These bras tend to be a bit less supportive, especially on larger-breasted women, but they're great for the short-waisted among us. On this topic, I've begun to find the full-band Cleo styles to be just too thick below the wires. And they seem to be increasing the width every season...
  • It gives a very round shape - almost rounder than I like, but I know this is a ridiculously popular silhouette. It's nice to have very round options on occasion, just to shake it up.
  • The straps are standard-issue Cleo skinny. They're not the most comfortable, especially after a day of wear (and if your breasts are heavy), but they're not a deal-breaker for me. I mean, all Panache straps are inferior, IMO. But when I want awesome construction, I go for Empreinte.
  • There are 2 hooks and eyes, vs the 3 which many ladies prefer, but again, this brand caters to the young. And the young tend to look down on 3 hooks and eyes for some reason I cannot understand. Really, peeps, a sexy bra is sexy regardless. I mean, long line bras can be hella sexy and they have upwards of 5 hooks and eyes.
  • The gore is narrow, as are the wires, but not excessively so. This isn't the brand for the wide-set, wide-rooted among us. It's also no Comexim or Ewa Michalak - aka narrow in extremis. This bra doesn't produce the "boobs on a plate" thing that the Polish brands are famous for. It's not even as "boobs on a plate" as the more projected, full-band Cleo options listed above.
But how does it look?
  • It's a great looking bra. The grey / orangey-coral colourway is very chic, but also youthful. It's unexpected, but not girlish in that way we've come to associate with Cleo. The balconette is moderate, neither too low nor too high on the chest. And it's firm lace at the upper cup, if not "closed", so it's not a bouncy bra. Mind you, it's not optimal for the breasts with tremendous upper fullness. Despite its lacieness, it doesn't produce too much profile under clothing.
  • I do like the Cleo undies (always this style - which is starting to get a bit boring, though I'm sure they haven't mixed it up because this cut is flattering on many) but the material is not the best. I mean, it's the exact same material as is used in the bra - so it's totally consistent - but it doesn't make for the most comfortable, low-profile or breathable offering in the land.
All in all I recommend this set. It's cute, it's not expensive, it's easy enough to find. It's a low-risk experiment if you're looking for a little change from the usual.

Mind you, I do have to say that I may be coming to the end of my love-affair with Cleo. It's all vaguely samey-samey and the materials are just not luxe enough for the midlife version of me. Moreover, would it kill them to make one bra in a neutral? You may not always want a jewel-tone purple offering - regardless of a great shape - for underneath your white t shirt.

Today, I tried on Empreinte bra that blew me away:

The one I tried was in a champagney kind of shade (this one seems to be ice blue) and it was spectacular. The workmanship was unparalleled. The bra was a comfortable as could be. Alas, the set would have put me back 350 bucks. Which is hard to justify given the number of bras I already own. Hell, it's hard to justify merely on the basis of the number of Empreinte bras I already own.

But enough of the frou-frou fantasy... Have you tried the Lori? What do you think of the style and pattern? If not the Lori, let us know your experience of the Lucy, assuming that this is the version of that style you've come to know and love. Is Cleo thrilling you or is it losing its edge? Let's talk!


  1. Oooh, oooh, a bra post on bra shopping day! It was great shopping with you today - fun to see the magic in action! I do think you should keep your eyes open for that Empreinte bra. Any bra that makes you so happy is worth having! :)

    1. It was already in the queue (just had to add the last bit!) I do love that bra but, really, I love so many things. Doesn't mean I need to own them all...

  2. I wish Cleo (and Freya and the rest, for that matter) would forsake the florals and go for a more androgynous look. However, I do think we have enough white/tan/black bras in the full-bust world to last several lifetimes.

    I actually love the two-hook bands though! I am young, but I promise it's not because of the aesthetics: I find 3+ to be incredibly uncomfortable and I get more back-fat, not less. I adore Comexim's ultra thin bands because they give an amazingly smooth silhouette and I abhor shapewear. I also hate thick straps even though I consider my bust to be fairly heavy for its size (28G), because I'm just shy of 5'5" with a short torso and there's just not enough room for thick straps.

    I like the Lucy just fine but after trying the Andorra plunge I just can't go back to those ridiculously high gores (the Andorra plunge fits me the way a balconette should).

    1. I agree that we have enough of those neutral bras to last a lifetime - but somehow, none of them are attractive! I'd love a Marcie in beige. And if the 2 hooks and eyes work best, woohoo. I find it's fine with my shape, but I do think they limit the market, especially as they make the bras to suit large breasts (at the upper end of the size range).

      A friend just bought the Andorra plunge and it looks terrific on her. I've heard a lot about it but I didn't realize it was so much cuter than the regular Andorra (which I find very unattractive).

      Isn't it awesome when you find a style that works?

  3. Marcie is coming out in beige and black in SS15.

    1. I know! I heard. But that's like a lifetime from now.

  4. I love your bra reviews. You know, if you took pics of yourself wearing clothes over the bra, it might help imagine some of what you're talking about re shaping, lift, etc. I know you don't want to post pics of yourself in lingerie.

    I wish I'd had a mother like you when I was a teenager.

    1. That's an interesting idea, but given my professional life (and the fact that work peeps read this blog), I don't know that it's advisable, even if it isn't technically wearing my bra on my blog :-) And thank you so much for that lovely vote of confidence for me as a parent!

  5. Your daughter is very lucky. Mine is stuck with thrift store bras because we at least have a chance of finding the smaller band sizes there, and I'm not willing to spend big bucks on a bust that changes size every few months. That being said, I did buy my first bra pattern last weekend and my very quick-and-dirty muslin actually stunned me with its fit---now if I can just replicate that in the final version! :) we'll just have to see how hard the whole thing is to determine whether I'm willing to make custom bras for a growing teen...

    1. My theory is, if I can't make a bra to fucking fit myself, my kid is not going to be the first beneficiary. Although she'd be easier to fit. And her boobs are self-supporting. :-)

      Here's the thing - and I totally understand your rationale, it's painful spending on bras when size changes are likely to occur - if your daughter is rather petite (boob-wise), then it doesn't make so much of a difference if her bands are a bit large. She can fit into standard matrix cup sizes.

      Mind you, if she has a projected bust and a very small back size, you might be wise to measure and then to make her a bra, if it seems warranted.

  6. hi,it was a great post. By the way, if marcie fits me, is it a bra for me or not?

    1. Hi There: Probably not, according to what most reviewers and A Bra that Fits would say. This bra is better for full on bottom breasts and Marcie is better for full on top. Also, Marcie fits tall roots (breasts that cover a larger vertical span of the chest) and the Lori is better for average ones. But it doesn't hurt to try. If it looks good shape-wise, why not buy it online (if you can return it)?