Monday, March 30, 2015

My Lingerie Wardrobe: The Fashion Sets

Women cannot live on lingerie basics alone, which is why I'm always seeking out gorgeous, "special" sets. (Note: Special sets are most def in regular rotation - they're just more sassy than the basic ones.) This category used to make up the bulk of my wardrobe but, as I've outgrown them (in one way or another), I just haven't been motivated to replace them. I didn't actually realize this until I took the photos for my inventory (yet another plug for this exercise). Gotta say, this trend has to change!

How do I categorize special? Well, it's either crazily-patterned or brightly-coloured or sexy or frilly - you know, whatever basic isn't. It's also given to influencing one's persona: An outgoing floral brings out one's inner flirt. Midnight navy and lace applique whisper: you are the kind of woman who has cocktails at that chic place, with all of the mysterious people. A modernist geometric print is so London @1965, a hot floral so spicy. Take on a role to suit your mood. Special sets are playful.

You know I'm rather subdued when it comes to my clothing. I like good lines, great fit and luxe materials, but I'm not out there with colour or pattern. Undergarments are how I express my intense, extroverted style.

Kristin's Favourite Special Sets:

The Garden Party: Cleo Ellis

I've written about this one here.

Why this bra is in my current wardrobe: I just find it so pretty and evocative of the deepest summer. In truth, I rarely wear this in the winter. It's hard to look upon it when the weather's bad. This bra is very Cleo - very Jessica Rabbit. I enjoy how the pattern belies the fit. Not particularly comfortable, I will say, so it's not in regular rotation.

Rating: B

The Japanese Tapestry: Freya Nadine

Why this bra is in my current wardrobe: I didn't choose this for myself - I came by it in a trade with my bra-fitter friend Veronica. I would never have chosen it but it's beautiful - serene, but not in any way muted. It actually looks much more luxurious up close. It's also gives a lifted, natural shape with its standard-issue plunge-y balconette. The band is uncommonly firm for Freya, which I appreciate, even at this point. This is one of the bras I've not been wearing because the matching undies I purchased (sight unseen, online) never fit well, and now fit outright badly. Got another thong on the way and I'm looking forward to wearing this more often.

Rating: B+

The One to Wear to a Long Lunch, On Vacation: Empreinte Lana

I've written about this one here.

Why this bra is in my current wardrobe: Well, it really is freakin' sexy - in an unexpected, I just took off this jersey wrap dress and look what I happen to be wearing kind of way. It's innocent merged with a kind of knowing insouciance. It's there to have a good time. The details are subtle, but they give this set its edge. See how the thong is asymmetric at the hips? See the buttons? That lace is exquisitely soft and perfectly weighted. It's also invisible under most things so it functions like a neutral. You don't have to gear up to wear it. It just fits well.

One of the best features of Empreinte bras is how they melt away at the underwire. Compare this bra (at the underwire) against a non-Empreinte bra in this post and you'll see how much "sturdier" the other brands seem. (Cleos are particularly implicated.) Extra fabric, below the bust, is uncomfortable for many short and/or short-waisted peeps. At very least it adds unnecessary bulk (not visually, but in terms of compression). So, if you require architecture, but you don't love under band bulk, Empreinte saves the day, yet again.

Rating: A+

The Mod: Freya, Style Name Forgotten (cut like the Phoebe)

Why this bra is in my current wardrobe: Well, this is my second oldest bra (along with the beige Phoebe, see link above). It's got all of the same graces and it's unusual to boot. The undies are ridiculously comfortable and cute. I have the shortie (shown) and the thong. This bra has seen just about as much action as the Phoebe and it's holding up just as well.

Rating: A+

The Siren: Empreinte Ophelia

I've reviewed this one here.

Why this bra is in my current wardrobe: Um, do I really need to answer this question? Let me just say, when I make my arty sex film, I'm wearing this. And it's an Empreinte so everything about it is perfect.

Rating: A+

The Feisty One: Freya Summer (Plunge)

Why this bra is in my current wardrobe: You know what I've been reminded of while writing this post? Freya used to make really gorgeous bras that fit very well. To wit, the Summer. The band is firm for Freya and it's got that brand-distinctive, flattering balconette/plunge happening. There's nothing practical about this pattern and yet it manages to be quite wearable. It's the kind of bra, the straps of which, you show off purposefully.

Rating: B+

The Aristocrat: Felina Conturelle

Why this bra is in my current wardrobe: I found it in Barcelona, on a mission to see if it would be possible to buy a non-matrix sized bra in a regular, European department store. I succeeded, but my pickings were slim. This set is incredibly luxe. It feels expensive. It looks expensive. It's serious and you will take it seriously. The colour is moody, like the landscape in which I live. This isn't a bra for mid-summer. Although it fits nothing like any of my other styles - it produces a slightly wider, flatter shape than I'm used to - it fits very supportively. It's also very comfortable. Goes to show that you don't always have to do the same thing in the same way. The most amazing feature of this set is the undies. They are truly spectacular. I wish all bras came with undies that fit like these - high waisted (at the perfect height), low cut on the leg and fully supportive of the derriere. They look awesome - a retro shape in a totally modern textile.

Here's a close-up of the leg opening. I know it looks like the waist band but that's actually the hole for the left leg (the photo is rotated). Do you see how there's no stitching at the opening? It's like that band of fabric simply extends from the very elegant fabric of the main panty. The result is an opening that glides attractively and comfortably over the outer hip and lower butt. I don't know how they've done it exactly but this fabric was obviously carefully designed to make this particular undergarment.

Rating: A-

The Ice Princess: Cleo Lori

I've reviewed this one here.

Interestingly, this is one Cleo style that doesn't reinforce the underwires all to hell. It's also a less uplifting bra than those styles - though it gives a lovely, rather round shape and the pattern is unique. The fabric, while non-stretch, is strangely pliable and doesn't give a maximal amount of support. This style modeled on the Lucy (a bra I've still never seen in real life). It's apparently a bit deeper and more open in the upper cup than the Lucy. I imagine this is true since it fits me pretty well, and my boobs are not the shape that the Lucy is designed for. Note: if it weren't as open at the upper cup as it is, there's no way I'd be able to wear it. It's merely accommodating upper fullness, not working to contain it. Mind you, this does produce an excellent wench vibe. Furthermore, the band is veritably loose by Cleo standards (which is to say that it's true to size). The fabric is softer and more pleasing to the touch than the very thick (vaguely industrial) fabric that the brand uses to make the majority of its bras. If you're looking for a natural(ish) shape in a Cleo style, this is probably it.

Rating: B+

The Blue Sky Bra: Cleo Melissa

I've written about this bra here and here.

Why this bra is in my current wardrobe: If I were a superhero, this is the set I'd wear under the latex. It's so truly imaginative. The red, cloud lace is unique. The mix of red lace with the bright blue floral is inspired. I defy you to be depressed while wearing this. The look is only improved by the fit, which is so boobs on a plate that I worry about my tits hitting my chin when I wear it. It's all projected, all the time, and really, if you've got mega-projected close set boobs on a narrow frame, it's all good. I urge everyone within the size range to go out and buy this set because it's sassy, cheerful and hot.

Rating: A

So there you go, every bra in my wardrobe detailed in 2 posts - 21 and counting, including 2 sports bras but not including 4 that are currently in transit. (See here for my ramblings on basics.) How many bras do you have in regular rotation? For me, I do feel that 25 is the sweet spot. Have you ever photographed every bra you own? Have you recently reviewed your own bra drawer - for content and fit and to confirm that your offerings suit your current life? If no, why not? Are you afraid? Overwhelmed? Do you have 2 bras and it doesn't seem worth the effort? Note: If you've only got 2 bras you're doing it wrong - whatever the size of your breasts. (And I say this with love.) What's your style when it comes to the frilly undies? Let's talk!

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Well Ain't This Sweet?

I used this recipe, which is well-promoted. I made half the recipe and I still could have assembled another of the large deodorant sticks given the amount I threw away.

I don't know if this is going to work, but I will say that the clean up is nasty. If I do this again, I'm buying a throw-away pot (that I can clean in a half-assed way and use only for deodorant-making).

The finished product is very firm, just like the store bought stuff, given that I used 2 oz of beeswax. I mean, this shit is basically a candle. I'm not going to lie - I'm skeptical about how it's going to wear because it has half a cup of oil in it! Furthermore, I realized after making the batch, that I used cornstarch in place of arrowroot. I don't own any arrowroot after having lived through a sink-clogging incident of massive proportions many years ago. For some reason, I blame this on the substance rather than the actual cause (that would be me, putting arrowroot down the drain). Note: I sense that this won't be an issue. In cooking, arrowroot and cornstarch are often used interchangeably.

At any rate, if it does work, this is yet another product I will NEVER buy in the store again. I currently use an all-natural spray that costs 10 bucks every 3 weeks (the way my kid douses herself in it). BTW, I don't feel it works well enough to warrant that price but I don't want to use drug-store stuff, given the evil shit it's made with. This handmade version costs 2 bucks and takes 15 minutes.

I urge everyone to consider making skin and body care - at least to give it a try. We spend an absolute fortune on this stuff - well, I do - especially for quality product. And, seriously peeps, you can make pretty well everything in your kitchen for a fraction of the cost. And it looks just as good. Actually, it can look better if you put some effort in. Not to mention that it isn't carcinogenic. I realize that we all have busy lives and we don't have time to pee, much less make artisanal body oil, but if you find this sort of thing enjoyable (and I really do!), then it's a perfect melding of need and output.

At this point, I've bought a bunch of silicones to reproduce my hair product (Moroccan Oil) and, once I figure that one out, I'm going to be saving ALL the bucks. Ahem, spending them on new bras.

Update: So, this morning I realized why the deodorant was impossible to clean up - and why it's rather challenging to apply: I halved everything in the recipe EXCEPT for the beeswax. So yeah, effectively this deodorant is a candle. Oh well, rookies be makin' rookie mistakes. Happily I was able to salvage the containers (pretty easy to pop candles out of plastic pieces) and I'll give it another go.

Other Update: So I put some of this on this morning (before removing it from the containers) as did my husband and we are shocked by how awesomely it works. Seriously shocked. He's actually going to keep the now stick-free deodorant in ziploc bag because he likes it so much. So natural for the win, I guess. 

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Where I'm At

Well, I don't think I'd use the term "energetic" to describe my proposed weekend. It's going to involve a minimal amount of movement or going out, at least today. Minus 10, peeps. Ah, springtime, TO-style.

No mind, there's nut milk to be made (without cocoa, mildly concerned to say). I'm out of cocoa and I'm not venturing to the store. Also, I've got tons of potions to create. Birthdays are coming up, new formulas need testing. After my last purchase at Voyageur (the excellent place in BC where I get a variety of the supplies I require), I must admit that I've become a bit like the potion cat-lady.

Look, here's my take on things: I love to make stuff and, for the most part, I'm pleased with the results. I attribute my success to the fact that I don't skimp on the building blocks. If you want to sew beautifully, make sure you've got the equipment and all of the notions (including that PITA, clear elastic stay tape). If you want to bake beautifully, go out and get those weird ingredients you only use occasionally. (When they're called for, once in a blue moon, you'll have them.) If you're a knitter - you're really best to have samples of yarns in all the gauges in your stash - and all the needle sizes.

And if you're a skin care aficionado, you need to be outfitted will all of the things to make all of the things you intend to make. Sure, skin care is a broad domain - and you can work with very few ingredients - but if you expect to veer into any new territory, chances are you need obscure things that you will not be able to find up the block. And not having those things will preclude you from making a potion that works. Cuz it's not rocket science - but it is organic chemistry.

Here's a peek at a portion of my stash of skin care stuff (well, a portion of the non-refrigerated stuff - the fridge stuff takes up its own mini-shelf):

What I'm aiming to make today:
  • Lotion A, 3, 2.5 oz bottles
  • Lip Balm
  • Arnica Salve, 3 - 4 containers
  • Essential Oil, roll-on perfume - 2 bottles (NEW recipe)
  • Face Serum A - 1 bottle
  • Deodorant A - test batch
Updated: What I made in the end:
  • Lotion A - 1 bottle (2.5 oz)
  • Lip Balm - 3 tins
  • Arnica Salve - 4 containers
  • Essential Oil roll-on perfume - 2 bottles (Oh, this is a trip! So fun, so easy, so cute.)
  • Face Serum A - 1 bottle
  • Deodorant A - 1 large stick, 3 small sticks
And in addition to the zillions of ingredients required (albeit in very small quantities), I have acquired an assortment of the most adorable containers:
C'mon - is this not a fun container??
These will look much better with my labels - BTW, my brand looks good!
Oooh, just like the ones you find at the fancy stores (where the product costs 40 bucks)
Not exciting, but they do the job well...
When I was a kid I always wanted a chemistry set. As a 10 year old, I would go into the kitchen and mix together all of the ingredients I could find, just to see what would happen. A penchant for baking is what came of that dalliance. I find it amusing that, as an adult, I'm using chemistry to make entirely practical, and beautiful things. Goes to show that high school isn't a total waste of time - especially when bolstered by the modern internet. 

I hope to have some fun finished product to show you (labels and all) over the next little while.

Now off to sterilize!

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Very Briefly

I've spent the last 15 hours with the most hideous stomach virus. Lord. I cannot tell you how awful I feel (or how many dozens of times - no exaggeration - I've thrown up since 7pm last night).

As you know, when I get sick, I get very anxious, so this post is a way of keeping me connected to the wider world. I have to assume I'm getting better. 5 hours ago, there's no way I could have lifted my laptop, much less typed. But I have fever and chills and the myofascial pain is through the roof. Dehydration will do that.

Anyway, want to say that my Masquerade Persia set arrived last night. I cannot review it because it is strangely large (I did wonder how this size-up thing was going to pay off). I need to go down a cup size (but not a band size - the band is super comfy) or maybe 2. I'm going to try 1 cup size because the difference between one and 2 cusp sizes can be dramatic. The bottoms, which for some reason I bought in a UK size 16 - when technically I would wear a 12 - are VERY large for size. They fit more like an 18UK, I suspect (not that I've bought an 18 UK, so I'm guessing). The vendor is very accommodating and is holding the set in a smaller size because, as soon as I can leave this bed (aka not today), I will return the one I've received. There's a point to be made that you shouldn't size bras online when you have really bad PMS.

I can say that this set is as beautiful as I'd always hoped it would be - and the materials are very luxe. Much more so than what you would generally get with Freya, Fantasie (and way more luxe than Cleo). It looks, and feels, delightfully high end.

More when I can think straight.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

My Lingerie Wardrobe: The Basics and What Taking Stock Has Taught Me

Warning: This post is endless. And it's all about bras. Proceed at your own risk.

I highly encourage everyone to do an annual inventory of the bra wardrobe. It really is an awesome way to learn more about yourself as a shopper, to learn about your changing tastes, sizes and needs. Furthermore, if you take the (non-negligible) amount of time required to enter in all of your specific bra info into Bratabase, you'll have so much good information at your fingertips (never mind that you'll be helping the world). More on how I use this database in an upcoming post...

What I've learned this go-round is:
  • Pretty well every bra I own has 90 per cent of the same measurements (Bratabase has facilitated my knowledge of this fact). It surprises me how consistent this is, given that my bras come in different sizes, styles and brands.
  • I need to improve my bra extender situation. I want all the colours in 2x3 ad 3x3 hooks and eyes. These aren't expensive and might make the difference between keeping a bra with a 32 band (that now I find too snug) or putting it in the "to be repurposed" drawer.
  • I really don't need any more beige/neutral bras (remember the drought of 2 years ago? Well, it's a thing of the past, apparently). Note: This has not prevented me from buying 2 new beige/neutral bras. Why? I need one to fit perfectly, beautifully and upliftedly on days when I can't handle a tight band (thank you, Empreinte Daisy) and I want to try a new brand (Avocado Essentia).
  • By my standards, I need a few replacement black basics. Currently I own 4 (one of which is on the edge). I've resolved this issue by purchasing 3 new ones (Avocado, Mirabelle / Masquerade, Persia / Cleo Minnie). This also meets the goal of "online bra shopping adventure". Gotta love that.
  • Of all of the new bras I've purchased, in recent memory, only two of them has 2x3 hooks. I'm not into them anymore (except if they manage to hit a sweet spot, band-wise). Having done some fairly extensive research, I've learned that only Empreinte does 3x3 consistently in a wide range of sizes (not simply the large cups and large bands). Other brands are hit and miss. If Ewa Michalak and Avocado work (TBD), there are some 3x3 offerings in those brands - and they're affordable.
  • I've outgrown some undies. Happily, only the ones that were on the cusp of too-snug to begin with. Have had to replace those or I won't wear the bras - ask me how I know.
  • I have pretty awesome taste in lingerie - if I do say so myself! :-) I still love all the things I loved when I originally bought them. Or I've divested myself of them. But, in truth, most of the bras I've bought are, by my estimation, GORGEOUS. I give them away for reasons other than taste mismatch.
  • My cup size is officially one size larger than it was 2 years ago. For a long while, I was hovering on the cusp but I'm not any longer. This will likely make it easier for me to buy. Given that (IMO) I don't require additional full bust volume (like, to improve the quality of my life), I would prefer that this were not the case. But it is. Hormonal fluctuation is a bitch. I'm going to give my body the benefit of the doubt. When I finish this phase of my life, I'm confident that things will settle (much as they did after puberty and childbirth) and that I will return to my exceedingly stable (in the scheme of things) cup size. You'll just have to stick around to see :-)
  • My underbust measurement is unchanged (30 inches) - it just feels wider, probably because I can't stand anything snug.
  • For my comfort, I like to have 5-7 beige/neutral and 5-7 black sets - all perfectly-fitted, natch. I've very specific about when I wear what. I have bras for briefings, bras for days when I'll spend time writing at my desk, bras to match an outfit (either craziness under monochrome or the other way around). Lately, I'm not feeling so upbeat, so I've noticed my interest in the crazy (fashion) bras has waned. Since the latest cull, I've got 8 of this sort remaining - a couple of which you might consider basic, given that they're solids / not bright. If I'm going to expand my lingerie wardrobe any further, in the next year, it will be in the fashion category. (There's an argument that it's a bit on the wan side.) Mind you, some people would consider 8 fashion bras to be more than adequate, especially with 15 neutrals to round out the story. BTW, I also own 2 sports bras. I've torched the lounge bras. I cannot wear ugliness, especially if it's not comfortable.
But on with the details, in no particular order. Note: These bras are shown without undies because, as neutrals, they're generally matchable with many brands. I'm going to rate them against each other, but keep in mind that they all fit very well. The ratings aren't about fit on me, but about how much use I get from them and which are my personal faves...

Kristin's Basic Beige / Neutral Bras:

The Outlier: Bravissimo Alana

I wrote a review of this bra here.

Why is this bra in my current wardrobe? It's a totally gorgeous shade of pink - not beige! Goes really well with my skin tone. It's got terrific support and great uplift. It's got 3 hooks! Very well made. Very comfortable! Totally pretty.

Why is it an outlier? See the review for details. Effectively, it's too shallow at the centre cup (you can see that if you compare this bra to all of the others you're about to see. Notice how it doesn't puff up fabric from the centre gore - it's largely flat there.) It's got the right volume for me, just not the right shape. Also, since my back decided to stop liking snug bands, this 32 has moved into extender territory for me...

Note: You must get the matching undies. Mine are on their way from UK now. I've only worn this bra 3 times so far, despite what I love about it, because the pink is totally unmatchable.

Rating: B This bra isn't the "most" anything. But it does give outstanding lift with comfort.

The Warhorse: Fantasie Smoothing 4520

I've written numerous reviews of this bra. Here's an index...

Why this bra is in my current wardrobe? Well, it's one of the only 2 seam-free (molded) bras I own. (Note: I do not own one lined or padded bra so both of my seam-frees are soft cup with wires.) It gives a totally smooth and round look under snug tops. It never shows through. In the right size it's comfortable. It's got amazing projection for a molded bra - most molded bras are shallow - and even when they're not, they carry most volume in the outer breast. I need it at the inner breast. I generally own it in 2 different sizes (because it's not so forgiving in the cups or back).

Rating: A+ for wearability, if nothing else.

The Upscale Newbie: Empreinte Daisy

I've written a review of this bra here.

Why this bra is in my current wardrobe: Well, it is PERFECTION in the cups. It's gorgeous. And it's utterly comfortable, particularly in the band. As mentioned, when I need something that's going to look as good as it feels, this is the beige bra I'll go for. I will definitely replace this one when it gives out (which won't be for years, if my other Empreintes are anything to go by).

Note: You must get the matching undies.

Rating: A++ It would get 3 pluses if it were affordable to many.

The Pin Up Girl: Triumph Doreen

Why this bra is in my current wardrobe: Say what you will about this bra - it's awesome when you want a vintage look. This is the ONLY unwired bra I've ever worn that actually keeps my boobs apart. Given my inner-cup immediate projection and size, that's miraculous. It's apparently the world's most popular bra. (I can't verify that claim.) It's German-engineered. It's made of something like 54 pieces (which is why it's so contoured).

It's also insanely comfortable with 3 hooks and eyes. It gives tremendous uplift (albeit in a pointy shape - which I realize isn't popular these days). There is NO bounce. It's got the length of a midline bra, not a regular one. It's the ultimate sweater bra.

Challenges? Well, it doesn't come in small band/large cup combos. Mind you, the band is very firm (but comfortable!) so you could totally size up in the band. Even the snug-band loving Krissie would say this. It's super-warm. Not a summertime bra! It's also impossible to wear under most every neckline but the crew and the turtleneck. It's not like a modern repro - it's seriously old-school. So if you don't like that, it ain't for you.

Rating: B+ It would get a higher rating if it were more wearable. But when it fits the bill, it's terrific.

The Old Friend: Freya Phoebe

Why this bra is in my current wardrobe: This is the oldest bra I own and it still fits snugly more than 10 years later. I've gone through phases where it was my ONLY beige bra so I wore it multiple times a week. It's like a magical bra. Regardless of my size and shape, it has fit me perfectly - and it still looks new?! It's an original Freya - from back when the quality was high, and the price point was higher. Back before Freya started catering to the teen boobs and lost its edge. 

You probably won't be able to find this one on eBay. Trust me, I've tried. I've also tried to find the other styles made in the same fabric (different pattern/colourways) and same cut. They're gone, gone, gone.

The lace is beautiful, the colour is too. It's got an open shape at the upper cup, which allows one with even to full on top breasts to wear it through various monthly fluctuations. This is accomplished with firm lace, not the flimsy stretch stuff they're putting on all of the Panaches these days. The wires are a perfect width. The fabric has no give, but it's not industrial-seeming in any way. It's completely invisible under tight clothing. It's one of the first wearable bras I ever bought that made me feel completely sexy.

Rating:  A++

The One To Wear To a Picnic: Freya Lacey

Why this is in my current wardrobe: Why not, I say. Look, I don't go to a lot of picnics, but occasionally I want a girly bra - one that can go under most anything. This is a nice plunge (not too extreme the way the Panaches and Cleos tend to be). The band is quite firm for a Freya (again, this is an older model - came out as the brand began to lose it). The undies are very comfortable. This bra is fairly polarizing. Most people have a hate-on for it.

Note: You must get the matching undies. This beige is more taupey than beige and would be a nightmare to try to match - never mind with dots.

Rating: B It's hard to get excited by something this "country".

But we're not done! Now there are the black bras to contend with.

The French Mistress: Empreinte Roxane

I've written about this one numerous times. See the index.

Why is this bra in my current wardrobe: Because it's fucking sexy. It fits awesomely. It lifts, it supports, it gives great shape under clothing. It's luxe. It's sheer but strong. The band is comfortable (3x3). When you put on this bra, you're ready to take on the world - and have a quickie while you're at it. Alas, it's discontinued but if you can find it - don't be stupid. Just buy it. (Then email me to let me know where you got it.)

Rating: A++

The Pin Up Girl: Triumph Doreen

Why this is in my current wardrobe: This is one of the only bras I've got doubles of. What can I say? When I'm wearing cashmere in February, it's a good choice. It's also fun for getting my Bettie Page on. Same pluses and minuses exist with the black as with the beige (see above).

Rating: B+

The Desperate Measure: Empreinte Melody

Why this is in my current wardrobe: Well, desperation, partially. I needed a 3x3, black bra with an incredibly comfortable band STAT or I was going to lose my mind. And, given the dearth of black bra options I have in my current wardrobe, it does see its fair share of wear. Of all the Empreintes, I find this one particularly unlovely. It borders on dowdy - unheard of with this brand! It's incredibly comfortable (straps are padded?!) but it's molded - and it's not deep at the centre cups. The gore only notionally tacks. I'll happily phase it out as soon as I have a better alternative. Then, if someone else likes it (and there are those who love this style), it will find a happy new home. Note: I do LOVE the version of this bra with satin ribbon around the upper cups - it's a plunge and it's gorgeous. When I was between sizes, I couldn't get it to fit - the band was too big or the cup was too small. May give it another try soon. See - this is why you take an inventory!

Rating: B-

The Siren: Empreinte Lola

Why this is in my current wardrobe: Because it opened my eyes to Empreinte. Because I looked long and hard to find it and it was my first experience of pure sex converging with utter practicality. Because, when I bought it the fit, on me, was unparalleled. (There are few bras that give you the kind of boobs on a plate look that this thing has going on.) Because, if I were a princess, I'd have them make it for me in all the colours of the rainbow. Because the lace is spectacular. Because the band is comfortable. Because it wears like a tank.

Alas, I bought this when I commonly wore a 30 band and I think this bra is on the cusp of being too small in both back and cup. I don't think I'll be able to part with it, even if I have to retire it. It represents a wonderful moment in time.

Rating: A++

So, there you go, the longest post EVAH. I do hope you've enjoyed it.

Today's questions: Which is your fave and why? Do you own any of these? If yes, what's your experience of the bra in question? Do you think I'm a nut for having spent 2 hours documenting all of my neutral bras? Let's talk - seriously - after all this work, I'd love some good conversation. :-)

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Updated: McCall's 6844 Muslin 3: We're Getting There...

...But there will be another muslin (which we can always hope becomes a perfectly fitting finished garment).

In the interests of following this process along, here's the latest muslin ( number 3):

By contrast, here are muslins 1 and 2.

First up, let me tell you what's still wrong with Muslin 3:
  • Had to do armscye/shoulder surgery yet again. The shoulders are still way too wide (you can't so much see it because I fixed the problem on the fly) and the sleeve head too tall. Problem with this jacket is in retaining the necessary overall length of the sleeve head while continuing to eat away at length on the armscye (by continuing to narrow the shoulders). Don't know if I've fixed this, but we're about to see...
  •  Did a 1/4" forward shoulder adjustment. I rarely do these but it seems warranted with this (fitted) jacket. This alteration always confuses the crap out of me...
  • I don't like the angled hem (it looks bad on a busty frame, IMO). Opted to straighten it for a true blazer look.
  • The back needs a wedge taken out of it (my back is small in width an length but my boobs are proportionately large.) This swayback adjustment, for a short-waisted, busty frame, acts as an equalizer of length between the front and back bodice. It's how I get the front to be long enough without having the back become too long. I do not have a sway back, interestingly enough. Note: This alteration necessitates a seam down the centre back of the garment. I'm cool with that. I like shaping and seams allow for shaping on a curvy frame.
  • But the biggest issue is still this (sorry for the bad photo - navy is hard to shoot):

See how it's shapeless below the bust? That's where we're at after removing 4 inches of fabric (2 from each side) where the princess side front meets the collar (it goes down the entire length of the garment).

Yeah - I don't really get this. In what universe is this an attractive line?

So here's my latest fix - on top of the one that removed the 4 inches from the side piece / collar:

Look at the middle piece (it's the side front). See how I've inserted 2 darts? They're not actually darts, cuz I smushed them out and trued the bottom of the piece. This is how I've opted to add still more shaping to that piece. You'll note that I actually added back a bit of the width on the collar (where it would meet the princess seam (right piece, left side). That's because I don't want it to appear to narrow (even though it does, very slightly) when you look at the finished garment.

Note: The reason I can do this is because the darts stop just below the bust point. I'm actually removing width from the straight part of the piece. If I were trying to alter over the full bust point, it would be a total pain in the ass. Here's when NOT doing a full bust adjustment works to your advantage. This pattern is SO big in the bust, for size, that it actually fits me well there. I've just got to get rid of all the excess underneath it, or I'll look shapeless and we all know I'm not that.

Why am I bothering?

The garments with the fewest pieces - and the simplest lines - are usually the easiest to alter. What I've found, in this (highly-imperfect to begin with) garment, is the ability to change just about everything without flat-out ruining anything. It's utterly malleable in a way that might be labour-intensive, but isn't hard to grasp. How often does that happen?

Futhermore, if and when I perfect this, I intend to make it with every stable knit and stretch woven in the galaxy. It will be my soft jacket sloper. Note: I've decided that I'm not into tailored suits right now. I think they feel dated (at least on me). I want a chicer, elegant line with good drape. Of course, my job requires some formal attire. This jacket will allow me to make suits (skirt or pants - using my slopers, natch) that aren't boxy or reminiscent of a uniform.

So that's where I'm at now. Fabric is cut, off to sew. Of course, if this doesn't work, I'm probably going to throw it all in the bin and say fuck it. Let's hope we don't have to contend with that in my next post, shall we?

Update: I really like muslin 4 from the perspective of bodice alterations and, overall, I'm making progress. Alas, the upper bust has too much fabric - as evidenced by a sizable bubble. And you know what that means - potentially fucking irritating alteration ahead. Here's the thing, I may be able to resolve this by going back to the drawing board with the armscye / shoulder. I've franken-worked those into a pretty nasty state, at this point. I've got to go back to my knit sloper (and some other jacket patterns) to see how I shaped the shoulder and armscye. I sense this may fix the issue - or at very least ameliorate it. I believe the hap-hazard alteration of shoulder may well have had an unintended consequence. However, you know - when I princess seam I often experience the issue of too much depth above the full bust. It's what I like to call my need for a small bust adjustment over a full bust adjustment. The projectile boobs really give me a run for my money because they're shape outliers. Literally :-) 

Can't say I'm thrilled by this outcome but I'm going to keep my cool and do a little research. BTW, I did "take out" that extra bubble of fabric, from the finished muslin, with pins. Then I transfered it to paper - it produced a vertical fish-eye dart in the middle of a sea of fabric - no seams to link it to. On paper, I removed the dart - first cutting the relevant (upper) part of the pattern piece from the bodice (which would have been totally skewed by the dart - unless I fixed that too - and I was just doing recon here, not a big alteration). Then I positioned the relevant part of the revised upper bust piece on top of the pattern piece I used to produce muslin 4. It appears that I could achieve the same outcome by narrowing the shoulder and changing the armscye. Of course, we KNOW I'm not an alteration expert - but my goal with this exercise was to see if my armscye alterations had fucked with the upper bust dimension and it appears they might have. At very least, the way the pattern is drafted, there's too much space above the bust (towards the arm). And I'm really not surprised, this pattern is drafted for a wide, thick frame and for a sewist who wants to make something quick and easy. It's a blunt instrument and I'm a special snowflake. Sigh.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Spring Cleaning (But Not the Boring Kind)

Spring fever is alive and well. While it's cold (or cold as fuck, depending on the day), it's sunny more and more and the very earliest signs of the new season are here. I cannot tell you what this has done for my levels of energy.

Of course, if it's spring it's time to divest myself of that which no longer works in my wardrobe (hello, bra sale), to wash all the lingerie - whether it needs it or no - and to replenish the stock.

I'd like to tell you that I've learned some restraint, having recently said good bye to 25 bras (4, of the original 29, are put away for the next sale) but I've used the last week to fill some holes (if we could term them as such):
  • New Empreinte undies (online) - for daisy but with the inverse pattern (beige on cream) - I'm going a bit crazy on the pattern non-matching, by my standards.
  • Undies to match my Freya Nadine (Let's tell it straight: I've outgrown the ones I originally purchased and I will not wear a floral bra without matching bottoms.)
  • New Avocado Essentia set- people, so exciting! Deep and narrow holy grail, Avocado (from Poland) has finally got a direct, online shopping scenario worked out for foreigners. I'll talk more about this when my stuff arrives - but you pay in Euros (ugh for Canadians). This set was about 100 bucks CDN which, if it works, will be a steal compared to the horrifying cost of Empreinte. And this style has 3 hooks and eyes!
  • New Avocado Mirabelle set, also about 100 bucks CDN. What? I was ordering so I decided to do extra research. Like I said, I'm going to go into great detail on this, once I get my package, but in the meanwhile, read what Miss Underpinnings has said about the brand (link to an index since she's done more to inform us about the Polish brands than any other blogger). Not surprising that her breasts are full, narrow and with much centre cup projection. The shapes of these bras are completely aligned with my needs and I've heard that the quality is excellent. So I'm vaguely hopeful.
Once I get these, I'll be at 14 sets of basics (black or beige). I'll talk about fashion sets another time...

IMO, that's a totally reasonable number. It's enough to manage any wardrobe dressing need, any size fluctuation, any need for a strap of a certain tension. It gives me sexy options, seam-free options, highly projected (and slightly less so) options.

I've discovered, as I put in all of my bra measurements in Bratabase (you know, to benefit the hive mind), that I buy bras having practically EXACTLY the same measurements every single time I purchase. If it fits, chances are it will:
  • Stretch comfortably to 32-34 inches in the band
  • Have a depth of 11-11.5 inches
  • Have a wire length of 11-12 inches
  • Have strap width of 0.8 inches
  • Have a gore height of 3-3.5 inches
  • Have a wing height of 4 inches
  • Have 3 hooks and eyes (if at all possible)
In fact, of my current crop of basics - 9 sets in the drawer before the newbies arrive, 6 sets have 3 hooks and eyes. I am such a fan of this feature, I cannot begin to tell you. For heavy breasts, soft breasts, mature breasts (experiencing the impact of gravity), nursing breasts, people with back pain - three hooks and eyes are a god-send.

My next post will show you photos of all of my basic bras (individually and as batches - beige or black). My intention is to link you to my previous reviews of the bras I'm currently wearing, in instances where I have already reviewed them, or to give you some feedback on my rationale for continuing to keep these styles in my wardrobe.

So, today's questions: Have you tried Avocado and, if yes, what was your experience?? What do you think of the idea of having 14 sets of neutrals? Does it seem insane, smart, somewhere in between? If you've used Bratabase (and - though it's a pain in the ass - I recommend it highly. Not only will it help everyone else you know it will help you too), what measurements do you continue to repeat? Or are you all over the map? Let's talk!

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Bra Review: Empreinte Daisy

In happy anticipation of new bra space (addicts be addicted and all), I found myself at the bra store a couple of days ago - simply to scope out the Empreinte options. Like, for the future. Like, I swear.

But we all know that delayed gratification isn't my strong suit. And this is the most affordable Empreinte style I've ever come across:

Empreinte Daisy
It's also one of the most practical. It totally fits into the "bra basic" category.

You might think I didn't buy the undies, cuz this is a beige bra that can be matched with a number of affordable alternatives. You would be wrong. Sorry, but that floral cream on beige pattern is NOT matchable. Nor is that specific French lace.

At any rate, I'm very happy with both look and feel. I've come to appreciate that 3 hooks and eyes are really the way for me right now. Distributing the weight of my breasts over just a bit more back-band width, makes the difference between bringing on pain (that can take effort to get rid of) and being fine. Honestly, if you're dealing with pain (potentially exacerbated by bras), you cannot do better than Empreinte for awesome design. The fact that it's all gorgeous is a bonus.

But let's talk more about how it fits and how it feels:
  • I bought this one in a 34 back size (something I've recently started to do in some instances) Note: 32 bands are fine, as long as they're not too snug, but sometimes I can tell that pain is hovering and, on those days, I need to wear something sized up in the band.
  • What I love about Empreinte is that it manages to support and lift a substantive rack, even when the band is arguably too large to do its job.
  • The shape is standard-issue front-and-centre with lift. It's not exactly Cleo/Ewa-style boobs on a plate but it's not wide. These bras are designed for deep, narrow breasts. The kind that notably "pop" from a small chest wall. But it's not about youth or overt sex (as some of the projected brands seem to be). It's about old money and elegance and knowing that life is good. And just to confuse the imagery, it's ever so slightly Disney princess.
  • The materials are beautiful. Even in a boring beige bra, Empreinte brings luxury.
  • Who will this bra work for? A woman with narrow roots, projected breasts (specifically at the centre gore) and a decent bra budget. Someone who needs to wear a neutral basic under thin, fitted fabrics. This style's pretty good for a young clientele - it's not overly lacy or fussy.
  • As I've mentioned in the past, Empreinte sizes differently than UK brands - and differently than other EU brands, if I'm not mistaken. There's no sister sizing in this brand. Every band size/cup size combo has its own, individually sized wire. That's what we call excellent scaling. But it's still unlikely to be the brand for you if you have wide roots or a shallow shape.
  • The straps are the perfect width to be supportive, but not sturdy. They're not wide-set (as the brand suits a narrow breast, likely to occur on a narrow frame). They're beautifully positioned on the bra to provide optimal lift from the base of the cup.
At this point (as you'll see when I write about my current bra inventory, which I'll divide into basics and fashion bras - for the purposes of making the posts manageable), I've got a reasonable collection of Empreintes to work from. So, today I'd like to open the floor for any questions about brand fit and the various styles. If there's anything you want to know, ask away. If I don't know the answer, I'll try to find it - or I'll make something up (just kidding!).

PS: If you don't see the point in posts about bras, don't despair. It's spring - which is when, traditionally, I go on a bra binge and write a lot of posts. Just figured out that little personality quirk. This can't last much longer - I give it 5 more posts and I will try to intersperse some other content.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

The Bra Sale: Final Batch and Progress Report

Oh Ehm Gee, people. I suspected that many of you are confirmed bra nuts (crazy for a good deal), but man - you exceeded my suspicions :-) I must say, to all of you who have emailed to inquire about the bra sale (and there are MANY of you), I am so thrilled to have had a chance to chat with you and, in some cases, to match you with your newest bra(s). It's times like these that I'm reminded that community is all about communication - about shared interests and connecting. You are such a delightful group of people and I'm grateful for your readership.

But on to the update portion of the post. Here's what remains to be matched with new homes:
  • Cleo Neve - photographed here (15.00, new with tags)
  • Freya - Rio (5.00)
  • Wacoal - Retro Chic (5.00)
  • Empreinte - Lily Rose (Taken)
  • Fantasie Bella (Taken)
  • Freya Millie (Taken)
  • Panache Tango

Most of the bras, shown above, are in different sizes - and many of them were originally listed as free - to be given away with purchase. Alas, a freebie can no longer be parceled with a purchase, cuz the sizes are all over the map. Moreover, every freebie would need to be mailed to a different new owner, what with this utter variety of sizes.

Here's the thing, it appears that - while I'm altruistic enough to give away bras for free - I'm not quite altruistic enough to give away bras for free and go to the post office. What can I say? We all have our limits. Truth is, it takes a lot of time and energy - two things about which I should be discretionary.

So, what I propose to do with the sale, going forward is this:
  • The items that are for sale (not free) will continue to be listed, as is. No changes.
  • The items originally listed for free (the ones above with no prices) will now be 5 dollars, each, not because I've rescinded my original intent (which was always to parcel with purchase) but because I just cannot get inspired to go to the post office, potentially numerous times, without the motivation of a token payment.
One other thing - the sale will run till this Friday, at which point, anything that hasn't been sold will go in the special bra drawer to resurface during the next sale event. Why not keep it short an sweet, I say!

Till then, if any of the bras above appeal, do drop me a line and we can discuss sizing.

Monday, March 16, 2015

The Bra Sale: Batch 2

Oh, peeps. Where to begin? I have so much to tell you: For starters, I got a new Empreinte today (What, 28 out, one a few in - it works!) Gonna do a post on it asap, but it may take a few days cuz I also want to tell you about muslin 3 of McCall's 6844 and how I'm going to make still more changes (but trust me, it's all good - most fun I've had sewing in ages!) Did I tell you about my idea to post all about the bras I'm keeping - the ones in my current rotation? Turns out everyone wants to hear about that! Then there's uploading all the photos for the Bra Sale. Wow - y'all are a bra-loving bunch. Thanks so much for your excellent questions and emails. I so enjoy "meeting" you.

I know a number of peeps are waiting on pics so here goes (I'm going to be light on text, for like, the first time in my life, or I'm never going to get through all the things!).  Please see this post for the way the sale works, and this post for list of inventory and pricing.

In no particular order...

Fantasie Helena
Man, I just can't stop myself with the words! This is in brand new condition and it's LUXE seeming. Does fit breasts that are wider set than mine. Quite supportive and I'm sure it has a lot of life in it.

Cleo Bella
OK, this one has a very firm band. It fits upper cup fullness excellently and it's very deep. Beautiful colour scheme. Just to snug in the back for my liking given my current pain issues. Undies readily available online (eBay, for example), in case you want a set.

Freya Arabella
By contrast, this one has a rather stretchy band for size. This is a gorgeous, sexy plunge and a serious bargain, if I do say so myself. They recently discontinued the style, but undies are still available on eBay and at stores, in volume.

Freya Tamsin
I don't know how many ways to express my love for this bra. It's just become a bit to snug in the cups, for my liking. People, it's got embroidered cherries and zebra print. That is all.

Fantasie Smoothing Balconette - 4520
So this is the molded, soft cup version of the Smoothing Balconette - not the spacer fabric version. See how the cups don't hold themselves in shape? This is a bra about which I've written so many times - and purchase in so many sizes. It's my staple T shirt bra, lo this last decade. It is a bit of a tricky fit for some - though it's very deep for a seamless bra and very supportive - and comfortable! If you have no upper cup fullness or your breasts are of 2 notably different sizes, it's probably not the one for you. On the plus side - I have 3 of these, in different sizes (all like new). So ask away!

Freya Tabitha
I bought this bra cuz everyone else liked it. I know. Crazy. It's a nice Freya and it's in very good shape. It also gives a very good (and not-noticeable) shape under t shirts.

Fantasie Samantha
This has never been worn because I never wear strapless bras (or things that require them). I'd keep it (never know when you're going to need this kind of wardrobe basic) but the cups are a bit to small for me these days. It's beautifully constructed, DEEP, non-molded and luxe. I'd definitely buy it one size up to have when needed.

Panache Jasmine
This bra is the Holy Grail for a lot of women. It's deep, the cups aren't too wide (or too narrow), it's firm, it gives gorgeous decollete. I like it, but I don't love it. And as such, I don't wear it. But if it works for you (or if you want to give it a try), this is a steal. Undies readily available online - so if you want a set, you'll have that option.

Freya Nina
Do look this one up in my archives. I went to GREAT lengths to procure this one in the right size. It's just stunning. Alas, it never really fit me the way I wanted it too - just a smidge of shape mismatch. But it really is a looker of a bra.

Email with any questions. K

The Bra Sale: Full Inventory and Specifics on Batch 1 (NWT and Empreinte)

As promised, here's a list of the loot that's available (listing free stuff first, followed by brands in alpha order). Photos and additional info will follow in other posts:

Empreinte Lily Rose   Free (Yeah, you did read that right)
Fantasie Bella Free
Freya Pheobe Free
Freya Unknown (Blue and pink with animal print), totally awesome Free
Freya Eleanor Free
Freya  Millie (Black) Free
Freya  Millie  (Pink) Free
Panache Tango Plunge Free
Panache Tango Plunge Free
Charnos Cherub Full Cup (Black) Free
Cleo Meg  $15.00
Cleo Neve $15.00
Cleo Bella $10.00
Empreinte Kaela $45.00
Empreinte Lola $45.00
Fantasie Helena $10.00
Fantasie Smoothing Balconette $5.00
Fantasie Smoothing Balconette $5.00
Fantasie Samantha Strapless $10.00
Freya Nina $5.00
Freya Arabella $10.00
Freya Tabitha $5.00
Freya Rio $5.00
Freya Tamsin $5.00
Miss Mandalay Paris $5.00
Panache Envy $10.00
Panache Strapless 5210 (padded) $5.00
Panache Jasmine $10.00
Wacoal Retro Chic $5.00

Let's get the photos rolling with (my precious) Empreinte and a couple of NWT items:

Empreinte Lola (in Blush):

See post here for a review. Although this was purchased in the same size as my black version (which I also posted about), it was always smaller in the back than the black. That's the sad potentiality of different dye lots. Alas, since I bought it via the UK, there was no option to try it on first...

I'm just gonna say, it's so beautiful I can scarcely believe I'm selling it, even if I am never going to wear it again... Worn twice with an extender, before accepting it was a no-go.

Who's this for? Someone who's always wanted to try Empreinte but can't find it locally or can't afford to spend the bucks. It's effectively a wardrobe neutral. Doesn't show under top unless it's very thin and very tight.

Empreinte Kaela

Posted about this one here (includes more pics)... This is a soft-cup molded bra that provides a very rounded shape. It's beautiful but, alas, too shallow for me. Don't get me wrong, it's not a shallow bra in the scheme of things, it's just shallow by Empreinte standards - and by the standards of my very projected needs. The pattern reminds me of a breeze on a lake. Also counts towards wardrobe neutral.

Cleo by Panache - Meg

What can I say about this one? It's a gorgeous bra - totally boobs on a plate and extremely supportive. But it's very strangely sized. This fits one size larger than you'd imagine, in the cup, and one size smaller in the band. Good for very full on top breasts. See these posts on the bra and fit...

Cleo Neve

This was purchased for my daughter but it just didn't work on her. It's quite shallow and wide in the wires. It's a true plunge and would work well for someone with tall roots or upper cup fullness, IMO. Good for young breasts. Very pretty shade of coral, lightly padded.

So there you go, Batch 1. Next up, we'll talk about some Freyas...