Wednesday, August 12, 2015

You Knew It Was Only A Matter of Time

Commenter Laura raised a really interesting point on my last post, wherein I briefly compared the Prima Donna Divine to the Empreinte Melody. She said that they looked "strikingly similar". My immediate response was: No way! They're so different!

At which point, I decided to pull both bras out of the cupboard, look at them objectively side-by-side, and consider their distinguishing features. And take pics. And compare all their measurements. (What? Does this really surprise you?)

And then I was reminded of what I learned here, that the tiniest shifts in dimension can turn a bra that fits well into a hot mess (which might alter the relative appearance of similarity when applied to one's body specifically).

I won't bore you unduly - well, unless you get bored easily. If that's the case, sorry. The short story is that, yeah, I guess they do look kind of similar - like if you are comparing two lace, black, molded, seam-free, French-brand bras that cater to the small-back / full bust market. But they fit totally differently, largely because of these key dimensional distinctions:
  • Strap shape and width
  • Gore height
  • Gore width - not so much at the top of the gore (where the bow sits) but at the mid point of the gore as it moves towards the base
  • Cup depth
  • Cup shape
Keep in mind that I'm comparing sister sizes (of a sort) here. These bras are both EU sized (different than UK or US sizing) and the main differences are these: The Melody was purchased in a 34 band (when I was really experiencing a lot of pain last year). The Divine is a 32. Furthermore, the Divine is technically one cup size larger than the Melody (even accounting for sister size conversions). I attribute this to the fact that Empreinte bras are notably DEEP, even the shallow ones. But I also sense that the Prima Donna Divine fits, not small, but slightly shallowly, due to the fact that the cup is molded. I have tried other, seamed Prima Donnas in my regular EU size and they have been the correct size (though wrong shape) for me. One could make the point that I can't really compare these as they're not the exact same size. All I can say is that these are each sizes that "fit" (in the main) and that they're objectively pretty close in size, which is to say "my size".

For sure, the Melody is too big in the band for me. It always was. Its saving grace is that Empreinte bands are exquisitely engineered and even a band that's too big still provides support (how I don't quite know). One other interesting detail about the Melody band vs. the Divine is that the Melody has flexible boning (on the side band) while the Divine has a reinforcement channel, but there's no actual boning within it.

One last proviso: I do NOT like - and do not wear - the Empreinte Melody which, in hindsight, is a bra, the fit of which I find unattractive on me. (It's VERY popular amongst others.) I also dislike the specific chantilly lace pattern and other elements of the design (albethey subtly different from those of the Divine). I do like the Divine - but, as mentioned zillions of times, I don't much like the shape and vibe of molded cup bras (even expensive lace ones).

OK, on with some photos...

Empreinte Melody (on top) / PD Divine (on bottom)
Wire width: The Melody is on top and the Divine on the bottom. Notice how the wires of the Melody are much wider than those of the Divine. About 0.5 inches wider. That doesn't sound like much but when one's optimal wire span is 5.8 inches, the 6.5 inch width (measured from wire tip to wire tip over the front upper cup) is meaningful. It also denotes, given that these bras are supposed to be about the same size, a shallower cup.

Cup Shape: Another thing to notice is the upper cup shape of each bra. Do you see how much softer the lace is on the Empreinte (the cups don't stand at attention the way the Divine ones do)? How much wider the span from the top of the gore to the base of the straps is (a bit hard to tell cuz the photo cuts off just below the straps on the Melody).

Empreinte adjusts wire width for every bra size (even sister sizes) so the wires on an Empreinte 34F (for example) will be differently proportioned than those on a 32G (which has the same cup volume). This is because the brand recognizes that when your back width is smaller, your cup width probably is too. And your breast height is probably shorter. So the fact that I got the Empreinte in the 34 back size disadvantaged my fit experience from the get go (which I realized, but it was a necessary evil). The bra is cut for a wider shape and a taller breast (with a lower apex) than mine. It's also better for a bottom-full breast shape. The Divine, as you can see, has more openess on the top (the span between the strap and gore top has a more acute angle).

Prima Donna Divine

Empreinte Melody
Gore Height and width: Do you see how the centre gore is wider (more space between the wires that abut at the centre) at all points on the Melody, but specifically at the mid point between the gore top and base. My breasts have a pinky width of space between them there. The Melody's gore is a good thumb width. By contrast, the Divine is narrow all the way down. Those wires actually touch until you get 3/4 of the way to the base. Intriguingly, and you would never notice it in these photos, the gore height on the Divine is actually 0.75" taller than that of the Melody. I should say, Prima Donna generally has much wider gores than Empreinte. So I don't think this is representative of the two brands. I find myself in the unusual position of defending a brand I don't much like (Prima Donna) and criticizing a brand I generally love (Empreinte). I guess that's the bitch of impartiality.

For those interested in the darting on the Divine cups (which enhance depth): You can just make out the dart that comes out at @90 degrees at the centre of the gore toward the centre cup (look at the left cup). I can just make out the dart at the base of the gore (see right cup). It's next to invisible, I think you'd agree...

PD Divine

Empreinte Melody
Cup Depth and Material: Above are close ups of the lace on each bra. I find the lace on the Melody to be kind of matronly in its geometric-patterned lower cup. It's also slinky and soft to the touch (like the fabric of the molded Fantasie 4520). The fabric of the Divine is actually firm - though not padded or lined. It is less comfortable, at least at this point, though not uncomfortable to me. As per the first photo in the post, the cups maintain their shape unless flattened (at which point they stay flat). You can see by the way my fist sits in each cup that the Melody is wider and shallower than the Divine and that there is much more space between the apex and the underwire of the Melody than between the apex and the upper cup. There's more evenness in the Divine cup.

The depth of the Melody is 10.8" (shallower than my preferred 11.0 - 11.5") vs the depth of the Divine, which is 11.25". Having said this, molded bras fit strangely and shallowly, whatever the technical depth. That's the curse of no seams. So the Divine is a great shape and depth, even though the gore tacks only lightly (my preference is for MEGA tack, as you may know). Note: The Fantasie 4520 (also molded) tacks lightly too. Getting a strong tack with a molded bra, if you have a centre projected, deep shape, is almost impossible.

By contrast, the Melody most notably reveals its fit flaw, on me, with a gore that really doesn't tack at all (even if it's not far from the chest wall, and even if it will tack when I hold the gore in place). This isn't because of wussy wires - the wires on the Empreinte are zillions of times stronger than those of the PD - but because there's not enough immediate projection at the centre cup. More than a size issue, it's a shape one. Perhaps the Melody bra in 2 cup sizes up (and 1 band size down) might be a better fit. But I doubt it would ever be as good as that of the Divine.

PD Divine on the left (next to my birth mark), Empreinte Melody on the right
Strap width: Well, even if the other distinctions in shape are unobservable to the untrained eye, the difference in strap width certainly is. In truth, the Empreinte strap (the wider one) is a very good option for women who struggle with chronic pain conditions or who have very heavy, dense breasts which routinely leave them with indents at the shoulder, on removal of their bras. Even with my pain, I found the Melody strap width and padding to be unnecessary for me. Moreover, my breasts aren't light, but I don't get strap marks on my shoulders at the end of the day. I attribute this to my individual proportions and the fact that I wear firm bands (which, as we know, are there to do the work that many large-breasted women leave to the straps).

Another potential problem with the Melody padding and graded strap width is that they render those straps only partially adjustable. So if you're short from upper bust to shoulder, you're likely to reach your shorten-limit pretty quickly, at which point the bra's pretty useless. Not great from the price point perspective. The Melody bra costs about the same amount as the Divine - they retail at about $185 CDN after tax.. I should clarify that both bras are very well-made, so it's not as if the Empreinte straps would stretch as quickly as those of many other brands, but it's a consideration.

By contrast, the Divine straps are actually some of the nicest (and most comfortable) I've come across. They're very firm. It's hard to see but they have little nodules running down the centre (in part, design, in part to affix the sliders on the strap to prevent strap extension with wear). They're on the thicker side of the equation, 0.7" all along, but nothing compared with the Melody's 1.2" width at the widest point (on the shoulder top), tapering to 0.8" at each end. Having said this, the Divine straps are beautifully proportioned vis a vis the rest of the bra, so they work really well.

On balance, the Divine is a well-proportioned shape for me, while the Melody is too wide, too bottom-full and too shallow. Yeah, they may look exactly the same at a glance, but on careful review,  IMO, their distinctions are glaring.

But I'm curious to know, now that you've seen them deconstructed, do they look the same? Let's talk!


  1. Interesting! I'm actually quite taken with the geometric lace on the Melody but the shape would be all kinds of wrong on me. I'm not a fan of moulded cups myself, which is funny when I think that all I wore was stretchy moulded cups back in my ill-fitting 34DD days. But I might try the Divine if I ever come across it. The darts sound really clever.

    1. Everyone who wears a 34DD (rightly or wrongly) seems to wear a molded cup bra :-) The darts are SO clever. If you give it a try, let us know.

  2. Ha, that was just an off comment I made - I was thinking of the lace rather than anything else.

    Back when I was still figuring out my size, I bought an Empreinte Melody, but it never fit well so I gave up wearing it. I wish I could have a fitting session with your fitter, she seems awesome.

    1. It's always those off the cuff comments that get people writing insanely long posts :-) My fitter is awesome. If you are in town, let me know and I'll hook you up. Pun intended.

  3. Hi, I'm in Toronto and wondering if you could reveal the store where your fitter works. If you don't want to actually name it openly, I'm sure if you gave a couple of key clues I could figure it out. Thanks!