Fashion Lets Me Voice My Values (With MONEY! PRECIOUS, PRECIOUS MONEY!)

I fell in love with the busty clothing industry a few years ago and most of my financial fashion decisions in the time since have been designed to support it. Here’s why.

1. Busty/Bespoke Companies are predominantly founded, owned, and run by women

This isn’t a rule, of course.

If it were a rule, I would urge all them mens to start busty clothing companies. Rules are meant to be broken, especially in FASHION.

While I haven’t tried their bespoke women’s shirts yet (I want to, but I haven’t read a single review yet, which makes me hesitant), I know World of Alfa was started by Boris Kodjoe who, if the name didn’t give it away, is a man. Likewise, eShakti was founded by a man. But for the most part, the companies I buy from are owned by a diverse group of intelligent, creative, and highly driven women.

With a few exceptions, this section of the fashion industry is by women, for women. As a result, the clothing is designed with a woman’s real-life priorities in mind. This shows in the marketing, communication, and branding.

Take this photo from Urkye:

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Allow me to project for a moment: Yes, she’s wearing the much-coveted button-down shirt that doesn’t gap. In fact, her outfit slays. She knows she looks good, but she’s not pre-occupied with looking good. She is about to conquer the city on her lunch break, then return to work ten minutes late BECAUSE SHE CAN.

There is nothing overtly sexual about the shirt or her pose. Instead, she looks competent, confident, and composed. This might make her sexy, but sexy isn’t a priority.

Next up is everyone’s favorite Biubiu model:

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Allow me to project for a moment: She’s a genuinely happy person — seriously, she has the most radiant smile in all of her photos — and this dress just serves to reflect her feelings on the outside. In this moment, she’s waiting for others to show up, because the party always comes to HER. The day is overcast, but she’s an eternal optimist who brought her sunglasses just-in-case.

Now, I’m not saying that photos from male-owned companies don’t allow their models a personality. What I am saying is that I personally relate more to the models pictured here than I do to, say, this:

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And it has nothing to do with the clothing or activities portrayed. I like hosiery, I can make peace with the adult onesie, I do yoga and I think my predilection for alcohol and sloth has been well-documented. But it’s pretty obvious this photo wasn’t taken to highlight any of these activities. This photo was taken to show a pretty lady whose mouth and legs are open . . . to interpretation, I guess.

Because I’m sure the brand would claim it is being ironic or deliberately provocative in order to invite conversation. For me, though, the bottom line here is that this photo was taken for straight men, not the women who could conceivably purchase the clothing depicted.

You will never see a photo like this — cheeky or otherwise — in a busty/bespoke ad campaign. They understand their audience because they ARE their audience.

2. POC have made their mark in the Busty/Bespoke community

As a Person of Color myself, I actively despise the term “Person of Color.” Again, I live in New England, where white people can’t get enough of tanning booths. Most of them are darker than I am, but I’m still technically the POC, while they are technically “white.” Likewise, I think it’s ridiculous that we have two racial categories — black and white — that are colors rather than places of origin, ethnic heritage, or any other categorization that says far more about a human being than mere physical appearance.

But I guess that’s the term I’m stuck with for now, because “non-European” just sounds ridiculous.

It’s very important to me to support businesses started by “POC” — and more importantly, WOC — because diversity breeds creativity. If you couldn’t tell by my longwinded review of the Naoko split-hem dress, I adore seeing the ways in which people can take the same basic aesthetic concept and make their own version of it.

As a result, busty customers have far more options for basics and statement pieces alike.

Tailoring can differ even on a basic black shirt. The Japanese brand Rui-Glamorous tends to allow a bit more room in the waist, for a more conservative fit.

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Given the long sleeves and the wide collar, this reads “POWER SHIRT” to me. It’s a very authoritative look.

That’s the neat thing about basics — they’re not basic at all. The little details can make a world of difference in what message the clothing projects.

 

Which brings me to Exclusively Kristen.

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Now, THAT is the shirt I should have worn to Thanksgiving.

Notice it doesn’t make her look pregnant the way a typical empire waist would. If anything, it makes her waist look like it gets even smaller below the band. I cannot tell you how rare it is to find an empire-style shirt that makes the body look THIS good.

This is a lady whose understanding of the busty form took basics to a whole new level. Her designs are flattering as hell, and despite using clearly high-quality fabric, they’re affordable.

Kristen was an academic before starting her own company, and her designs all have a touch of minimalist sophistication.

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Again, this is a classic basic piece, and the tailoring here is very different from the Rui Glamorous version. Busty ladies can take their pick depending on their measurements and personal taste.

Kristen also offers a gorgeous, filmy, boho take on the seemingly ubiquitous pussy-bow trend.

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Sadly, I haven’t purchased anything from her company yet. This isn’t because I don’t want to, but because she has a really modern, creative marketing strategy that includes pop-up shops in various cities throughout the year. I want to meet her in person when I try on (and, in all likelihood, buy) ALL her designs.

And since she created the hashtag, I’ll just say that’s one of my many #BustyGirlGoals.

While her designs thus far consist primarily of basics with a few standout items, her blog discusses what it’s like to be busty with a darker skin tone in detail. At times, she extends to discuss the many, many ethical issues that plague the fashion industry.

Again, I’m a fan of woman-owned companies because they literally ARE their buying audience. For the same reason, I’m a fan of WOC-owned companies. Kristen knows what fashion dilemmas women who look like her face, and she uses her knowledge to educate her community, while occasionally shining light on the abuse and discrimination that seem to plague the fashion powers-that-be.

In short, she’s brilliant, her clothing is brilliant, her business plan is brilliant, and the busty clothing community would not be the same without her.

3. There is an adorable lesbian couple that makes bespoke clothing in Canada

I feel like it’s a little obvious to say that the LGBTQ community is incredibly influential in the fashion industry. This goes for high fashion and street fashion alike. Christian Siriano is one of the few designers who embraces the challenge of dressing diverse body types and typically manages to make the ladies in question look and feel as gorgeous as they are.

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WERQ, girl.

Christian Siriano New York recently appeared on Zulily, and while I haven’t had a chance to try any of their items yet, the size chart looks promising.

In addition to big names, of course, there are independent LGBTQ designers, like the ladies behind Ureshii:

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Like Ula from Urkye and Kristen from Exclusively Kristen, Amanda and Emily of Ureshii decided to be the faces and bodies of Ureshii. This is a brand that really reflects the personalities and lives of the designers.

They sew custom clothing in their own home, while raising their children and their cats.

Yes, their cats. Cats. CATS.

If I haven’t mentioned it before, I am completely obsessed with my cat, primarily because:

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So knowing that there’s a couple of awesome ladies sewing pretty, custom clothing while surrounded by murderous beings of pure cuddliness . . . this speaks to me. On so many levels.

It makes me happy, to say the least. And incidentally, “ureshii” means “happy” in Japanese.

My dream is to order this:

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— and just have it arrive covered in cat fur. That way I’ll know that the clothing was really designed for me.

Ureshii offers all-around customization. They don’t just make clothing to fit measurements; they also allow customers to choose which fabrics they want.

This brings me to my next point.

4. Busty/Bespoke companies offer amazing customer service

A song of love is a song of woe.

Okay, that was creepy and I’ll get back on topic.

Over the summer, I ordered the most adorable shirt.

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Sadly, it didn’t fit me. The waist and bust fit perfectly, but because it was designed for taller ladies, the neckline sagged. In most cases, this is an easy fix, but my horrifyingly honest seamstress told me there was nothing she could do to stop it from sagging.

I’d never returned to DD-Atelier before, but I was amazed at how easy it was. Their clothing is so popular in the U.S. that they literally sent a team member out just to ensure that customers can return items without paying huge shipping fees. Instead of waiting for weeks while the item went through customs, I was refunded within two days.

As with most small businesses, big bust companies know that treating their customers well is key to retention. As a result, they have better customer service than most online retailers.

Once, I realized I ordered the wrong size through Urkye. Ula responded to my email in seconds and quickly amended my order.

Once, I was dissatisfied with the fit of an eShakti shirt. I asked if they could cover tailoring fees. Instead, they sent me an entirely new shirt that fit perfectly.

There is only so much an online company can do to match the human interaction and connectivity offered in a brick-and-mortar store. But these companies have really gone above-and-beyond in my dealings with them. In many cases, it’s the owner/designer herself responding to the issues. Those extra touches really help.

5. Busty/Bespoke Companies Typically Treat Their Employees Well

 

Sweatshops are the dirty, huge, not-so-secret powerhouse of the fashion industry — with “fast fashion” being particularly risky. It can be difficult to avoid purchasing clothing items made in sweatshops.

Now, my feelings on outright boycotts are . . . complicated, to say the least. There has been evidence that boycotts don’t necessarily improve working conditions. Beyond that, if a company suffers financially, one of the best ways to cut costs is to reduce payroll, i.e., lay people off. In some cases, boycotts end up hurting the people they purport to help.

But even knowing this, I still prefer knowing that my clothing was not, in fact, produced through modern slavery. I wouldn’t say I’m boycotting any specific companies, though. As a rule, my fashion decisions are based purely on how much I like the item and how good it looks on me. Fair worker treatment is a perk.

This is particularly significant if you prefer to buy American products. Bolero Beachwear is sewn in the U.S., so their workers are protected by U.S. labor laws. For this reason, their dresses are a bit pricier, but well worth it if you believe in supporting female-owned U.S. businesses.

I bought my wedding dress from Pinup Girl Clothing, another U.S.-based company. Though they don’t specialize in busty clothing, their retro designs offer a bust-friendly fit. Although I had to alter the living hell out of my wedding dress, I think the result was worth it.

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I look pretty when I’m drunk!

But enough about me.

The point here isn’t that there are no ethical ramifications to busty clothing companies, but that there are fewer. Most don’t have a large enough consumer base to export their work abroad. eShakti is the only company I know of that operates out of India, and they claim to pay their workers well above the minimum wage. I doubt their working conditions are ideal, but I’m not going for ideal here. I’m going for BETTER.

I would add that busty companies typically make clothes of better quality, meaning they will last longer, meaning I buy fewer of them in the long run. This is what makes the biggest impact in the long run — buying classic pieces that you can wear for years instead of buying new items that are on-trend for the moment. Trends fade. Silk blends do not.

Did I miss anything?

I haven’t had an ounce of sleep in days, so I probably did. Let me know in the comments or email me if you think I need to add anything to this list.