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. :-)


  1. Hahahahaa - you weren't kidding about how long this post is! But fun to read, always.

    1. I know - it's kind of concerning! But my mother is going to love it :-)

  2. This is teaching one thing first and foremost. Life for the small of breast is different;).

    1. Ha! I think it's more about obsessive tendencies than breast size. I know lots 'o busty ladies who have 4 bras (and 2 of them are broken). The horror.

  3. I love your bra posts -- thanks for sharing!!

  4. "I know lots 'o busty ladies who have 4 bras (and 2 of them are broken). The horror." <--Me. I'm just hopeful that soon I'll lose enough weight to be below the threshold of bustyness so that I can go back to cheap bras, cuz this shit is getting out of hand! I spent $150 on bras a few months ago and now they're all too big in the band (they were 36's that I altered to 34's) and getting to be very slightly too big in the cup. I love the fit, and they only dug into my armpits a little bit--which is a miracle for me, since what is generally "center pull" sits on the edge of my shoulder. My bad posture doesn't help, but I've been trying to work on that too.

    I find it interesting what other people's fit challenges are and then kind of contrast them to your own. To me, the thought of not having enough projection at the center gore seems impossible, but then, you probably would feel the same about my battle to keep 'em in the cups on the sides. (Note: side slings help, but honestly, I think I'd have to tape 'em together if I wanted them to stay front and center--which I do, but I haven't been quite that desperate yet. ;-) )

    And for the record, while I don't mind a smidge of pointy-ness (my current Betty's all give a little of that), I'm just not sure that the Doreen wouldn't be more like a full on blouse on my frame!

    1. I know - it's totally fascinating that 2 people can wear the same size and be completely shape incompatible - one can look sizes different than the other. The Doreen really is in a class of its own. If you don't love the Grace Kelly circa 1955 look, then it may not be for you. It really is almost girdle-like.

  5. Your should take it as a compliment to your writing skills that I didn't find this remotely long reading, and there is no conceivable world where the bra styles that suit you would ever work for me. ;) although the thought of doing a similar tally of my own bra drawer is amusing/sad. Glad you are having fun with them even through size changes and everything! :)

    1. Ha! I will take it as a compliment. I figure, if you can't have fun with lingerie in all the sizes, you're doing it wrong :-)

  6. I wore the 4520 for YEARS! That was my go-to bra because it was so comfy, and the shape was great. I bought it in a bunch of sizes for the store when we opened, and it just never panned out for us. We get the occasional customer who has us order it for them, but it never found the widespread love I thought. It was one of my interesting first observations of how my personal taste/experience will vary from what is successful at the shop.

    I also started investing in bra extenders last year. Because of a pretty serious illness, I put on weight, but I also became extremely sensitive to tight bands for a while. Even though I measured at a 30 band still, I had to wear my stretched out ones with a full extender to feel even remotely comfortable. They can really make a difference, especially if you have any issues with band tightness from day to day!

    1. You are one of the only people I've talked to who's ever "got" the 4520. I have heard (from my first, local boutique) that it's very particular and people either love it or hate it. In general, everyone's into the lined molded cups, so I don't think it gets as much profile as a lot of the other bras. And then you really need upper cup fullness and centre projection or the bra just pulls diagonally from the upper cup and ripples. (I do get that very slightly on my smaller side, but I can adjust it away.)

      So I think, if you don't tick a lot of boxes, you're just not going to be into this bra - esp. as it isn't exciting - I mean, it's a tshirt bra!

      I do agree that, if it works, it gives unparalleled shape - in that round way that people love.

      And I'm so intrigued to hear you say that you too have found the need to use extenders. Makes me feel less alone! It's so strange that I was OBLIVIOUS for years to a snug band. I'm the one who would nicely suggest to others that they buck up and get used to it - and now I have days that I'm plus-4ing it big time. BTW, if you haven't tried Empreinte, I really think you should give it a go (for you, not nec. the store). The bands are amazing. You could wear a 34 and it would still give you excellent support. And the cups are deep.

  7. I *love* bras from a technical/sewing perspective--the engineering is just fascinating, and the fitting sooo individual--but I have to say, it wouldn't take long for me to inventory my "bra drawer", where the two bralettes I knocked together in an hour, three years ago live. :)

    I just thank my lucky stars that I'm small enough to be lazy about buying/making bras. Your diligence in collecting beautiful bras is an inspiration to us all!

    1. Hey - a beautiful, handmade bralet is nothing to scoff at - especially if it does the trick. (But maybe time to make a couple more? :-))