Saturday, August 8, 2015

Bra Review: Freya Rio

OK, where were we? I last reviewed the Cleo Lucy, a sad shape mismatch. After realizing I was yet another option down, I got a bit flippy.

To recap very briefly, I've tried NUMEROUS black or blackesque bras, in an effort to replace my absolute faves - the Empreinte Roxane and the Empreinte Lola (link takes you to my post about the blush colourway) - neither of which is available any longer. I am horrified to tell you - and this has been corroborated by Veronica (my bra-fitter friend who's very in the know) that Empreinte appears to be falling under the spell of the shallow, round, molded style and their awesome offerings for very projected, close set, narrow breasts are being slowly phased out. Ugh. Here's hoping it retains a continuity line of the projected bras. At any rate, pounce while you can.

In the last year, I've tried on and/or purchased (and been underwhelmed by the fit of, on my body):
  • Masquerade Persia (cups too tall)
  • Avocado Mirabelle (wires too soft)
  • Empreinte Melody (ugly and slightly too shallow, also too big in band)
  • Charnos Cherub (wires too soft)
  • Minnie (too big, underwires and underband too thick)
  • Numerous other brands and styles, in store: Fantasie, Ewa Michalak, Prima Donna, Empreinte etc.
A couple of weeks ago, I hit a wall. Online shopping was not working and my Roxane (the only black bra that's still in regular rotation) is on its last hooks. So I went to see Veronica - best bra fitter evah - and tried on every freakin' black bra in the store.

I was not overly concerned about cost - well, natch I was concerned, but one has to give up on something at some point. My non-negotiable needs were these:
  • Great lift, forward shape
  • Perfect fit
  • Excellent support
  • Attractive
  • Not too visible under snug clothing (not that I'm particularly a stickler on this)
  • Of high quality (I want these things to last)
I walked away with two bras, one of which I'll review now, the next I'll review in another post.

Which one shall I start with? Freya Rio - aka the war horse:

Freya Rio
I'll begin by saying 2 things:
  • This style was one of the first I ever wore when I started wearing bras that fit, 15 plus years ago. That was back when all of Freya's offerings were of very high quality (and more expensive) and the brand wasn't catering to the youth market specifically. It continues to be the one "original" bra they still make and it's made to the former standards of very high quality fabrics and construction. It also continues to fit me as well as it did all those years ago.
  • While it was very popular 15 years ago (amongst a clientele of my age and older) it is now universally (it would appear) despised by the younger market. It's considered to be dated, pointy, visible under clothing and (I'm interpreting) out of touch. 
No question, this bra is neither a contemporary shape nor is it made with standard-issue fabric (lace, smooth satin). It reminds me of something you'd have seen being worn by a super model in an Elle shoot in 1990. It's vaguely cartoon-y in its armour-esque appeal. Having said this, if it fits well - and you like a retro-shape - it's unstoppable when it comes to lift and support.

It works on a reasonably discrete subset: those with narrow-set, even breasts that require a lot of projection at the centre gore. It's unique in that it provides for a lot of projection at the lower cup (something Freya's known for) and a reasonable amount at the upper cup. This means that if you have a very even-full shape (i.e. your breasts are full everywhere), it works beautifully. Most bras are shaped to work for upper or lower fullness specifically, which ignores a certain complement of the marketplace - those with evenly full projection.

Technically, this is the same shape that Empreinte caters to with its increasingly rare projected and seamed offerings. The Rio is a third the price, which theoretically makes it appealing to a broader population. Mind you, the Rio gives a different shape - it's more pointy (particularly at the apex where the three seams meet) and less delicate.

Given that I remember the old days (and liked the offerings then) and that I am the perfect shape for this bra, I bought it. But it's only fair to mention its potential detractors:
  • The straps are too thick. They overwhelm on a small frame and they're unnecessary unless one has extremely heavy breasts. I'd prefer that they scale these differently but it's not gonna happen.
  • The waffley fabric is difficult to match and finding the matching undies is less easy than you'd imagine.
  • Some people say that the waffley fabric is transferred to their skin after a day of wearing (it goes away quickly, apparently). I have never experienced this. I wonder if those peeps are wearing a slightly too-small size or if their breasts are very soft.
  • It's amongst the more pointy bras you'll find out there these days - and it's not ironic like the bullet bras. This shape would have been all the thing in the 80s but in the tens (do we say this?) it ain't ok if it's not pretending that your boobs are a demi sphere. I'm SO not down with that. I like many shapes and I don't intend to be limited by cultural norms. I mean, norms are fleeting and I'm here for the long run.
  • I don't feel that the fabric is specifically observable under clothing (though it is a seamed bra and sometimes seams show), but it's not slippery fabric, so it can produce a tiny amount of drag if the fabric being worn atop the bra is of a particularly draggy hand.
Now, what's right about it?
  • The fit, if it works, is excellent because the bra is well-drafted and constructed.
  • It's really comfortable. Like, all day.
  • The materials are of excellent quality.
  • The lift is front and centre (pulls breast tissue from the sides) to give a pointy version of the boobs on a plate look.
  • The support is beautifully firm. Do NOT size down in this band as you would with most Freyas. It's firm like the Freya bands of yore. I wear my standard 32.
  • The bra lasts because it's well-made.
  • This style has stood the test of time. Freya would not still be making it, I can assure you, if it didn't have a built-in market. I only wish they'd continued producing many of their other styles in this fashion.
Nothing like a polarizing bra, I say! What's your take on this one? Have you worn it? Do you like it? Do you hate it? Let's talk!


  1. I"m glad you found a couple of black bras that work for you, at least! I've got a whole new fascination with your bra posts now because I want to know HOW they do those things - How do they make the lift "front and centre"? How is a 3-piece seamed cup different in its effect that a 4? I wonder if I could get away with a narrower starp elastic than I'm using? I like the fabric they've used - it's lacey but not super fem.

    1. I know - the black bra is a SERIOUS staple. Um, like all the others?! You and I have to have a good long chat about my perspectives on the engineering that underpins bra fit. Are you using 5/8" strap elastic? I think you could go to 0.5 but you'll need a very good band fit to compensate.

  2. Wonderful you found the black bra that works. Buy a dozen, no really. Why reinvent the wheel in a year or two?

    1. Such a good question Cherie! The reason I can't buy the whole lot is cuz, I've learned over the years that my body changes. Right now particularly, I'm in more flux than I've ever been in. And while my breast size and shape have not changed radically, I want PERFECT fit. My concern is that my back or cup size might shift a bit over the next year or two (in either direction) and then I might not be able to get use out of the stockpiles. But trust me, I'm considering it seriously with Empreinte. :-)

  3. This is how I feel about the Jolie. The only Freya I've tried that really allows for lots of upper fullness, & accommodates monthly fluctuation in size. And lots of depth & projection. I did try Gem, Jolie's supposed successor, but it is not similar at all, very clearly for full-on-bottom shapes. Jolie is only continuity now, and the shape is not ideal for me.

    I prefer something between the pointyness of Freya & the eerily hoisted orbs of Cleo. So far I've not found that perfect, moderately round shape. Natori came close but i have to sister size. And Chantelle C Chic, but again, the sizing is not doable. The obsessive quest continues....

    1. So you feel my pain! I too tried the Gem (I have some reviews of it) and I LOATHED it. So not there. It's so wide in addition to being ridic skewed to those who need lower cup projection. And I know from projection! I think it's badly drafted, truth be told. It's one of the "new lot" of Freya. You know what's dead in the middle between Cleo and Freya, shape wise? Empreinte. Yet another way in which those projected offerings are perfection.