Bravissimo Opening U.S. Store?

The U.K.-based Bravissimo recently announced plans to open a U.S. store.

For those unfamiliar with this company, Bravissimo is a giant in the lingerie world. They specialize in large-cup bras and typically offer British brands like Fantasie and Freya.

Bravissimo introduced a line of busty clothing called Pepperberry a few years back, though they have since simplified the label to Bravissimo clothing.

Naturally, this is the main reason I’m excited about this news. I can get bras anywhere online, and I prefer to support my local, independently-owned shop when it comes to brick-and-mortar establishments.

The clothing, though? I have never had the chance to try busty clothing on in person. Certainly, I plan to hit up Campbell & Kate or Exclusively Kristen whenever I can make it to their pop-ups, assuming I have the time.

I don’t expect Bravissimo to fill the DD-Atelier-sized hole in my heart. I’ve never ordered clothing from them in the past because reviews were so mixed. I was reluctant to pay their prices for items that would be difficult to return. Being able to try them on in person for once would make all the difference.

When their U.S. store opens — Boston and New York are being tossed about as options — I will make plans to visit. Their designs are decidedly cuter than they were a few years ago, and their presence here will only draw attention to the fact that busty ladies deserve more.

A Dressmaker for the Digital Era: Q&A with KIT’s Natalie Christopher

Kit Shift dress in Graphic Poly.jpg

Add “shift dress” to my list of #bustgirlgoals.

When it comes to finding clothing that actually fits, the struggle is real.

The sheer number of female-owned specialized online clothing companies is a testimony to how frustrated shoppers have been. Instead of using the internet to find cat videos and unauthorized downloads of ’90s cartoons like normal people, we buy clothes without even trying them on in person.

And it’s all worth it. Because every time we sacrificed our hard-earned cash to the Fashion Gods, the industry noticed. Every year, new companies offering a specialized fit arise, often generating a devoted fanbase in the process.

Among them is KIT, a spanking-new, U.S.-based company that creates gorgeous, classic pieces customized to their customers’ specific body shapes.

I had the pleasure of meeting the ladies of KIT at a recent pop-up event in Greenwich, CT. To learn more about what KIT is doing to address diverse body types, I spoke with Natalie Christopher, the Director of Customer Experience.

Tell us about KIT, and what role you play in this company.

 

Kit is a dressmaker for the digital era.

We have thrown out the arbitrary vanity sizing chart and built a unique fit algorithm to make clothing that fits. Kit was inspired from a love of women, fashion, and a bit of despair about the options out there for women.  Fed up with the poor clothing options out there, Merin, the Founder, built Kit to be a new type of clothing company that empowers women.

My unique role is the Director of Customer Experience. I focus on the outward elements of the company while working closely with Merin to build internal company systems to improve the customer’s experience.

What is the best piece of customer feedback you’ve received since launching?

A customer wrote us this email:

“Moment of brilliance as I sit under the dryer waiting on the foils to dry at the salon. Wondering if you’ve overlooked a slogan opportunity……

“Kit’s the shit!”

And the best piece of constructive criticism?

“Fix the website.”

As we grew, the ecommerce platform we chose couldn’t grow with us. We kept trying to strap new things to the side of the already bulky and confusing website. Finally, we sat down and figured out that we had to spend a little and start from scratch. We just launched our new website, and we couldn’t be happier with the user experience and ability to see the customizable options.

How did you determine what information to ask for in the “size you” form?

Before starting the company, Merin became obsessed with measuring women. If she had a chance to talk to you, chances are you would end up being measured. She compiled this information and figured out that vanity sizing misses key elements to a woman’s fit.

I would say first and foremost, our primary and secondary body type elements: pear, hourglass, straight, busty, and apple determine what needs to be adjusted on a dress. Every element of our fit quiz goes into adjusting the pattern and making the dress to fit that customer.

kit Tiered Sundress & Swim Cover up in Graphic Squiggles

I am legit obsessed with their fabric.

Most specialized clothing companies focus on one body type — plus size, curvy, petite, and so on. You address nearly every body type there is, and offer different fabric options on top of that! Is anyone worried this is too ambitious? How do you control the overhead costs while offering this level of customization?

Everything about launching a business seems ambitious! We manufacture each garment in house after the point of sale. This helps keep our inventory low. Fabric inventory will always be tricky, but we have found and cultivated relationships with fabric vendors to allow us to do small batch orders allowing to maintain a controlled amount of fabric.

You haven’t been around for too long, but would you consider any of your pieces to be “bestsellers”?

Our bestseller to date is The Popover, but it may be given a run for its money this spring with one of our newest styles, The Short Sleeve Shirtdress.

Kit Sleeveless Shirtdress in Liberty

Merin Guthrie: Business owner. Artist. Model.

For that matter, which piece is your personal favorite?

It is so hard to choose. I would say that I wear The Tunic Blouse the most, but my current favorite is The Short Sleeve Shirtdress. I am a get up and go person, so I love that you can throw The Short Sleeve Shirtdress on and look put together.

kit short sleeve shirtdress

That is one put-together lady.

Are there any plans to feature models with different body types on the website to give a better idea of how garments fit?

Yes, as a fairly new company we have learned two things. First, it is a challenge to have non-professional models model, and second, professional models are EXPENSIVE. Right now, we love our model who is a normal person with a pear shaped body. That said, as we grow, we would love to increase our budget to have a more inclusive selection of models.

Like a lot of smaller clothing companies, you’ve been marketing through pop-up shops recently. Do you have any stories to share from your most recent cocktail parties?

We learn so much about and from our customers. The biggest thing we find is that women say about their bodies when they are being measured. We actually did a short Instagram series about this. The moment the measuring tape comes out women use all different ways to describe their bodies.

All of your clothing is American-made, which is very rare in this industry. Is the plan to stick with domestic talent no matter how big you get?

It is hard to say what the future holds, but as of right now, yes the plan is to continue to build capacity for manufacturing in Houston, Texas. The good news for us is that Houston has a large number of refugees with seamstress experience.

I’m thrilled that you are designing for different body types, but since this is a blog for busty ladies, what specific structural changes do you make to your clothing in order to accommodate busty figures?

Recently, I spoke to a customer on the phone about this very thing. She is busty, and she ordered our fit & flare. She told me that she has never owned a dress in this style because the seam below the bust never fits over her bust correctly and the hips are always too large. Our Fit and Flare accommodates for both those fit challenges.

Kit Fit & Flare in Tomato Supalpino.png

Another garment that has received extra love in pattern making for the busty gals out there is The Lady Blouse. We added extra fabric to accommodate for the busty figure to prevent gaping on the front of the blouse.

Kit Made Lady Blouse in Cream Silk

How can busty shoppers keep in touch with KIT on social media? And are there any upcoming events we should be aware of?

We are on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Pinterest.

Our final Fit + Flair Pop-ups are in SoCal in mid-May and Chicago in early June.


/end Q&A

If you live in those areas, I highly recommend following Kit on social media and going to their pop-up. Even if you don’t order anything, the Kit ladies are very knowledgeable about their industry and an absolute delight to talk to.

A big thanks to Natalie for answering all of my questions. I look forward to reviewing my first Kit garment soon.

DD-Atelier is Closing and I am in MOURNING.

dd-atelier-closing

I wish I could go back in time and buy a black dress from DD-Atelier.

I have never mourned the passing of a clothing company before, but no other company has meant as much to me as this one has.

Understand that I love most of the companies I have mentioned in the short time I’ve been blogging.

Biubiu introduced me to the busty clothing world. Urkye fits me like a dream. Pinup Girl Clothing made my wedding magical. Naoko is a dream come true.

But DD-Atelier! DD-Atelier changed my life.

When I first discovered this company, the value of the Euro had more-or-less priced me out of ever purchasing anything. This changed around the summer of 2015, when I ordered my first item.

 

dd-atelier-tie-dye-dress

 

 

And . . . it didn’t fit. I couldn’t zip it past my flared ribcage, and as I’d foolishly convinced myself that I could somehow cardio my way into losing a few inches of bone, I never returned the item.

It’s still hanging in my closet, tags attached, waiting for someone with a non-flared ribcage to purchase it.

So why did I order again? Because this piece was so creatively structured around the bust. Often, companies rely on princess seams or darts to accommodate a larger bust.

DD-Atelier took a different approach.

Each piece accommodates the bust in a uniquely flattering manner. Some, like the first item I purchased, utilized additional panels to create an architecturally perfect enclosure for larger busts.

And hey, some of them used princess lines as well — but with a precision that was downright artistic.

dd-atelier-ornella-dress.jpg

More importantly, DD-Atelier was the rare busty line that offered so much more than cotton jersey basics and vintage-inspired numbers. They released basics, yes, but they also provided busty ladies with officewear, sundresses, winter coats, rain jackets, pajamas, evening gowns, cocktail attire, and more.

 

dd-atelier-white_cayenne_jacket

I cannot tell you how much I wish I’d purchased their suffragette suit when it was still in stock.

 

Certainly, the flawless construction of their clothing made me feel like every time I wore DD-Atelier was a special occasion, even if it was anything but. I’ve worn their clothing in job interviews, to meet with my wedding planner, and even on hikes.

 

dd-atelier-diva-dress

The Diva Dress. For divas, by divas.

 

While DD-Atelier had a “signature” collection that included classics like the Diva Dress and the Cayenne skirt set, I will always regard their team as innovators above all else.

 

dd-atelier_cayenne

The Cayenne is equal parts “flattering” and “professional.”

And here’s the saddest part: If the busty clothing world were larger, more profitable, and, let’s face it, less moral, DD-Atelier would have revolutionized the entire industry. Every other company would be copying their styles.

Substandard, mimeograph-quality pieces would be popping up in fast-fashion stores around the world.

Understand, I wouldn’t want that to happen. But I do wish that the small, creative, internationally successful companies that form the backbone of the busty clothing community would receive the accolades and recognition that they deserve.

These are companies that have never participated in Fashion Week. They don’t have name recognition in the wider fashion community.

 

But they make their customers happy. DD-Atelier made me feel beautiful every time I opened my closet.

So I want to honor their contributions to the bust community. I’ll devote a few posts here to the pieces I’ve purchased over the years, with the hope that other busty companies survive, and continue the tradition of creativity and innovation that DD-Atelier embodied.

Introducing Kit: A Bespoke Clothing Company Coming Soon to a Cocktail Party Near You

Kit_dress_page_coupon

Kit: A uniform soldiers wear into battle. Sounds about right!

I am always on the lookout for new busty or bust-friendly companies based in the United States.

This is mostly to save on shipping expenses, particularly for returns. But more than that, I want domestic busty clothing companies to be so successful that investors start to recognize the demand for these products is very real, and very profitable.

In other words, it would be awesome if investors paid more people to design clothing for us.

And by “us,” I mean “me.”

Which is why I was delighted to see that The Houston Chronicle has profiled Merin Guthrie, founder of a new, body-friendly clothing line named Kit.

Guthrie crowdfunded to start this company, and has achieved quite the following thus far. Kit primarily offers classic silhouettes — office-appropriate investment pieces that will last forever and work for a number of occasions. This includes a standard black wrap dress.

kit_wrap_dress

A classic black wrap dress that actually fits? Do those exist?

As a busty lady, I’ve been told repeatedly that wrap dresses are flattering and that they totally hold their shape and flatter the décolletage.

In my experience, however, wrap dresses exist solely to let the curious public know what color my bra is.

I certainly hope Kit can prove me wrong. Because PRETTY.

Kit doesn’t serve the busty community exclusively. Instead, it asks users to create “Size You.”

This is a personalized size based on user-based input, like body shape, height, weight, bra size, and measurements.

kit_body_shape_guide

So this company could potentially be an EXTRA-win. It may be the rare company that offers a Perfect Fit rather than a Good Enough fit.

They recently redesigned their website, making it more responsive and streamlined.  You can also learn more about the KIT team, which is especially refreshing. While busty shoppers are often familiar with company founders, I really haven’t seen anything this personalized on any of the other clothing websites I frequent.

Speaking of personalized, Kit is hosting a pop-up shops this week!

And by hosting, I mean HOSTING.

Their pop-ups include cocktail parties. Two great tastes, one great event.

Actually, make that TWO great events.

If you’re in New York City on Thursday, be sure to visit the Village between 6 and 8 p.m.

If you can’t do weekdays, you can also meet the KIT team in Greenwich, CT between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m.

Be sure to R.S.V.P. if you decide to go. I may visit one or the other, so you just might see me there.

And check back for an interview with Natalie Christopher, their Customer Experience Director.

 

Same Print, Different Day: Would You Try the Polish Porcelain Trend?

urkye photo porcelain

Button-down out on the town.

So maybe my foray into porcelain-inspired fabric wasn’t a once-in-a-lifetime chance for me to meet my #bustygirlgoals. It looks like Polish clothing companies are making a concentrated effort to make fine china prints A Thing.

Previously, I highlighted one of Urkye’s porcelain tops in an article that focused on the values of busty clothing companies. The one pictured above utilizes the same pattern. Urkye showcases its clothing on different body types so consumers know what to expect.

I’ve been eyeing this shirt for months, but since I miraculously own not one but four button-down tops that fit me properly, I have yet to pull the trigger on this one.

But I thought of it immediately when I recognized the pattern here:

zulily photo porcelain

Finally, a porcelain-print blazer, for all your porcelain-print blazer needs.

Yes, that is the exact same print, in blazer form, by the Polish brand Peperuna.

I’ve been eyeing Peperuna on Zulily for a while. As I mentioned yesterday, they have a similar aesthetic to Naoko. They focus on office wear, but they also have a few unconventional items like hot pink jumpsuits just to keep it interesting.

Their sizing chart looks bust-friendly, though I’m waiting for Zulily to reimburse me before I verify this for myself.

I haven’t found this particular print anywhere else, but I think it’s safe to say that if two companies are using it, then it is officially A Thing. I will be on the lookout for more porcelain-inspired fabric, because I am an obsessive weirdo.

It is also for that reason that I noticed that while the print is identical, the fabric is not. Urkye gave this description:

urkye description porcelain

Urkye’s item copy is made out of happiness.

Zulily described the Peperuna fabric as such:

zulily description porcelain

None of those fabrics are “linen.”

Of course it’s probable that the fabric supplier uses the same print on different fabrics. A cotton-elastane blend is ideal shirting material for the busty, while a cotton-poly-elastane blend would create a casual blazer that holds its shape.

Still, I’m going to be honest.

I am skeptical of all of Zulily’s descriptions now, and will be until they send me something that fits as advertised.

I am not okay with them using the term “linen” to describe something that contains no linen. Linen is a summer-appropriate fabric made out of flax bast fibers. It is not a cotton-poly blend.

And it is beyond me why someone would want a linen blazer in the first place. Linen wrinkles very easily. A cotton-poly-elastane blend would hold its shape and be breathable, so why not just say it’s a cotton-poly-elastane blend, or leave out a fabric description entirely?

Contradictory information like that makes me distrust the description as a whole.

Given that Urkye has never misled me, their description of the fiber blend makes me all the more skeptical. Again, it would make sense to use different fabric for different garments.

I have trust issues. Redeem yourself, Zulily! Describe items accurately or not at all.

My feelings aside, this print is apparently a THING now, so accept its Thingness. I personally would prefer a blue print on a white background, but I can see why navy is a bit more practical.

I like the simplicity of rendering an intricate floral pattern in just two colors. It’s an elegant enough pattern to be appropriate in most work settings. It’s not terribly fun, but we can’t have everything in this life.

The print is All. Business.

I respect the print.

I don’t love it, and I probably won’t buy it, but I see what it is trying to accomplish and commend it for becoming A Thing.

We should all be so lucky as to become A Thing.

Do you like this print? Do you respect it? Would you wear it? Have you acknowledged the thingness of the thing? Let me know in the comments or email me!

 

 

Review: Coeur De Vague Purple & Cream Floral Sheath Dress

coeur-de-vague-purple-cream-floral-dress

If it looks too good to be true . . .

I am beginning to have doubts about Zulily’s sizing advice.

This has been going on more-or-less since I made the mistake of clicking on their bra sizing chart. They had the same antiquated-yet-stubbornly-conventional advice that plagues the U.S. lingerie industry.

Kinga_Bra_Size_with_Plus.jpg

American bra-sizing charts: because they think we don’t know what “centimeters” are.

Size charts like this are the reason that 80% of American woman are wearing the wrong bra size. I can just imagine some bra-illiterate person dictating this outdated and harmful advice:

“Add 4 inches to your underbust measurement, even though this will result in an ill-fitting band that will concentrate all that boob-weight on your shoulders.”

“Forget about the fact that most European brands determine cup size by centimeters, meaning an inch-based fit guide will inevitably result in quadboob.”

It feels worse coming from Zulily precisely because they have done so much to cater to  underserved busty American shoppers. They sell bra sizes that straight-up do not exist in most brick-and-mortar stores here. More importantly, they usually chop at least $20 off the price.

Still, posting an age-old sizing guide isn’t the worst misstep. I had a lot more faith in their sizing guides for clothing.

The Naoko dress was not a perfect fit, but it did match their size guide and sizing tips. Though not perfect, the fit was decidedly Good Enough. I also ordered a steampunky Hearts and Roses London coat based on their size chart and was not disappointed. Given how many bust-friendly companies they work with, I trust them to get it right most of the time.

When I saw the Coeur de Vague dress,  I was blown away by the print and, above all, the fit.coeur-de-vague-purple-cream-floral-dress

This is the quintessential sheath dress. It is serving up all kinds of modern Joan Holloway realness.

joan sheath dress

T.Lo would say the roses symbolize her crappy love life, but who cares in the face of such dress ownage?

I was a big fan of the modern updates Coeur de Vague made to this classic pattern, particularly the shorter sleeves (long enough to cover arm fat and sideboob, but short enough not to be matronly), the waistband, and the higher neckline.

But the biggest appeal was the combination of a colorful, paint-inspired floral print with all that negative space. The silhouette may be Joan Holloway, but that pattern is all about Tahani Al-Jamil.

tahani-al-jamil-floral-dress

I might legit be into Tahani.

Most importantly, though, the color looked more like a magenta than a true purple. This was the deciding factor, really. Purple can make me look green, but magenta makes my skin come to life.

I had to have this dress.

So I checked the size chart:

coeur de vague size chart

My waist is typically around 29-30″, my bust and hips are both usually 40-41″. And, frankly, in the winter, I can add an extra inch anywhere without freaking out about it too much. Since I injured my back in January and haven’t really moved much since, I figured I could order the 14, hope the bust fit, and have the waist and hips taken in if it did.

It didn’t occur to me to try a smaller size. I didn’t want to deal with the discomfort of squeezing my boobs into a too-tight dress. We’ve all been there and it sucks.

I knew the 16 would fit the bust, but I worried taking 4″ off the waist would be a little too much. And since I usually take a while to get alterations, I knew it would be way too loose elsewhere to work. Sheaths are supposed to be form-fitting.

I clicked back to the order page and saw this:

coeur de vague size guide

“Ordering a size up is also recommended.” THANKS, ZULILY.

Since their sizing advice had been so spot-on with other items I ordered, I took them at their word. I have never taken a size 16 even in the most generously-proportioned U.S. sizes, but I trusted Zulily and I had a merchandise credit.

I took the plunge.

And just look where I landed!

baby got back

This dress can stick it.

It’s SO BIG.

That’s what she said.

But seriously, look at this thing!

hand up

This is my sober face.

On the plus side, it’s really, really well-made. I had my concerns when I saw the label:

labeling

The factory sewed in its own label, which doesn’t match the Coeur de Vague tag. That’s an unexpected-but-somewhat-understandable affect of outsourcing labor.

But still, this is thick, silky, quality fabric. The lining stays in place. The seams are perfect. The visible zipper zips and unzips without a problem. Seriously, it’s the Tesla to the Pinto that is eShakti’s crappy side-zipper.

Sadly, all of these strengths turn into weaknesses really quickly when the dress is too big.

meh

Also, just look what it did to my face!

Because the fabric is thick and lined, it holds its shape. This means it doesn’t wrinkle easily, which is amazing.

It also means this dress WILL NOT drape over my body or even hint that I’m not the same size as the dress. I might as well be wearing a hoop skirt.

I mean, on the plus side, this kind of makes my skullcrusher legs look like they belong on the rest of my body, but that’s the only benefit I can see to non-drapey fabric.

Could it be altered to fit? I imagine so, but it would take more steps than I’m comfortable paying for. The shoulders are much too large for me, as are the sleeves, as is the waist, as is the skirt, as is the neckline.

Altering it would be a whole THING. I don’t really want to spend more altering this dress than I did in three rounds of wedding gown fittings.

Nor do I want to size down. It does fit me in the bust, with a little room to spare. Sizing down would mean a snugger bust, but given how poorly this dress fits, I feel like I would still need to alter it. I really don’t like shelling out more than $20 to alter a $40 dress. I’m too used to purchasing dresses that are either perfect or “good enough.”

The sizing advice is just SO far off. The photos picture a model in a traditionally form-fitting sheath dress.

coeur de vague dress back

The 16 does not fit according to the 14’s size chart. If anything, I’d say it’s slightly bigger than a standard U.S. size 16.

Which is great in a way. It can be very difficult for ladies who fall outside of the standard sizing range to find the gorgeous dresses they deserve.

And this is a gorgeous dress, make no mistake. It doesn’t cater to my body shape, but an accurate size chart and interpretation thereof would have let me know that before I ordered it.

It would look absolutely amazing on someone who is not me.

Final note: Zulily’s customer service department really is superb. They responded to my complaint immediately and thanked me for letting them know about the size chart issue.

I would imagine that there is a lot of room for miscommunication between the vendor, the designer, the manufacturer, and the distributor. It’s an inevitable side effect of shopping online.

So I’m not mad, Zulily. Just disappointed.

Needless to say, I would not order this particular brand again. Once they credit my account, I will probably try something from Nife or Peperuna. They look similar to Naoko and I have high hopes they will fit me properly. I’ve had a lot of luck with Polish brands in the past

I only wish I were as lucky with French brands, because this dress is so, so beautiful.

 

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:

urkye_porcelain_shirt

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:

large_waikiki-roses-biubiu

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:

american_apparel_photoshoot

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.

rui-glamorous-shirt

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.

exclusively_kristen_gypsy_top

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.

signature_one_and_only_shirt_black

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.

bow_collar_shirt

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.

Busty Clothing: Too “Sexy” for Facebook?

DD-Atelier posted the following today:

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Floor-length gown with barely-visible cleavage? Is she a witch?

Are you scandalized? I’m scandalized.

I mean, I take bathroom mirror selfies all the time, and it’s literally impossible for me to take a photo that doesn’t show my toilet. It’s not fair that she doesn’t have the same problem.

Still, I have to thank her for her efforts. She took this photo purely to show other women how well the dress fits. You can tell because she’s wearing normal-face, not ducklips-face.

This is, again, why I prefer  busty clothing companies — they don’t portray breasts as central to a woman’s personality or experience. They focus on a flattering fit — and if a woman chooses to look sexy in their clothes, that’s her decision.

Because nearly all DD-Atelier customers purchase their clothing online, fit is a constant concern, so the more feedback we have regarding individual items, the better-informed we are when placing an order. Obviously, they aren’t going to use a bunch of user-generated bathroom selfies on their landing pages, but providing some visibility on social media helps their customers and prospective customers make educated purchasing decisions.

Despite the intent and innocuous nature behind the photo, Facebook banned advertising because this velvet number is allegedly “too revealing.” You know, unlike the other ad campaigns that Facebook allows.

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I don’t even think the models here are posed provocatively by Victoria’s Secret standards — they just look like Photoshopped friends who really, really enjoy showcasing their respective thigh-gap to the male gaze.

But to allow this ad while claiming that a selfie in a floor-length dress doesn’t cover enough skin?

Are they saying Victoria’s Secret models aren’t sexy enough to be considered desirable in bikinis?

Are they saying DD-Atelier loyalists are so sexy that the mere thought of one going shoeless in her bathroom might shake the very foundations of the internet and the hegemony it serves?

I don’t know. And since this is a niche brand in a niche market, I’ll probably never know. If any of my, like, 4 readers knows, please post in the comments.

Review: Naoko Split-Hem Sheath Dress

 

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I can’t afford Roberto Cavalli, but I found a nice alternative! Image via Met Museum.

I moved to New England in 2010. I’d visited this area since I was a child, but never before had I had control of what attractions I might visit, or how. So since I was finally a mere train ride away from Manhattan, one of my first visits was to the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

While I’d wanted to visit since reading From the Mixed Up Files of Basil E. Frankenweiler at age ten, all my trips to NYC as a child were dictated by the adults in my life. Finally, as a legal (if not mental) adult myself, I could spend an entire day in the museum, read every blurb, and above all marvel at how little I knew about any of it.

While I certainly didn’t have time to walk the entire museum during this trip, I nevertheless developed a few obsessions with specific eras and media. I couldn’t possibly go into all of them now, because this is just a review of a dress I ordered off Zulily.

But if I ever find a reason to do so, beware. I will bore you SO much.

The obsession I want to discuss today is simple enough — fine china, or porcelain featuring intricate cobalt details.

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From the Kangxi Period. Image via Christie’s.

This is an art form that originated in the eponymous region of China, specifically during the Han and Shang dynasties.

I’d known that when I went into the Met. What I didn’t know was that in addition to exporting their art, Han artisans had also exported their artistic techniques.

I found that every culture with even a vague economic connection to China developed its own interpretation of the basic “cobalt blue on white porcelain” pattern. This included the Japanese and British porcelain I was already familiar with, along with the Middle East, Spain, and countless other regions.

And the art form survives. For my wedding I was gifted with this:

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This is the New World interpretation of “fine china” and it is AMAZING. Mexico already had an impressive history of craftsmanship and artistry, and Clase Azul pays homage to all of it. This decanter seemed to combine all of my interests in one gorgeous package. Art history. Colonial history. Alcohol.

By this point, I realized that I didn’t own any fine china. Moreover, the blue-on-white palette was sadly missing from my wardrobe. I had to fix that.

And so when Zulily featured the brand Naoko, I knew immediately what my first purchase would be: the White & Blue Geometric Floral Split-Hem Sheath Dress.

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Not pictured: Me. Photo courtesy of Zulily.

Unlike the other Polish clothing companies I typically order from, Urkye and Biubiu, Naoko doesn’t necessarily advertise itself as being bust-friendly. I just saw their size chart, thought “close enough,” swallowed my pride, and ordered the XXL.

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Classy. As. FF.

Now, this is the part where I would ordinarily give some background about the designer, but I have yet to discover Naoko’s actual website, if they have one. I found a slew of Japanese websites, a few retailers that sell their products, and a different Polish clothing company with the same name when I searched.

I hope that the exposure via Zulily helps Naoko to attract enough of an English-speaking audience to expand their web presence. But for now, I’ll content myself with waiting for their next sale.

Because I would absolutely buy a Naoko product again.

Granted, yes, I experienced a few fit issues. The sleeves are a bit too long. The waist is much too loose. The shoulders have too much fabric. But overall?

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Overall, I was more than pleased. I was elated. I look like a goddamn tequila decanter. I am wrapped head-to-toe in fine china.

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Now, I will absolutely take this dress to my seamstress at some point to take the waist in. But note that even unaltered, the looser waist doesn’t necessarily look bad, particularly not compared to mainstream silhouettes.

The sheath dress is tailored in such a manner that defines the bust and suggests a waist before turning into the universally-flattering pencil skirt. Note that the neckline is quite high, but it doesn’t make my breasts look saggy or overly-large, which is the usual risk a busty lady runs with a high neckline.

Even from the side, the loose waist kind of helps to make my breasts look less cartoonishly-large, so I may just keep the dress as-is until the spring. It’ll give me space to gain and lose all that holiday weight.

I realize the typical rule for short women is to let the dress hit just above the knee, I’m fine with the length. It’s elegant. It’s Classy as FF.

The fabric is 70% viscose and 30% polyester. This, sadly, means I’m kind of afraid to toss it in my washing machine. Certainly, the care instructions say I can machine-wash it if I want to, but my washing machine is absolutely vicious, so I’ll probably hand-wash it and dry-clean whenever I’m feeling spendy.

The more salient point about the fabric composition is this: it doesn’t show my bra straps, my navel, or any of my various lumps and bumps.

The fabric is fairly densely woven, but breathable. It’s thin, but insulating enough to wear on an autumn or spring day without a sweater. The white sections never come close to being sheer. The fabric drapes nicely and doesn’t wrinkle, even after I left it crumpled at the bottom of my delicates for a week.

In short, it’s amazing. It FEELS amazing. This is one of the most comfortable dresses I’ve ever put on.

Based on Zulily’s product list, Naoko offers this particular dress in a number of different patterns, so if you don’t have my weird porcelain obsession, you’ll probably find something else you like.

In terms of accessorizing, I tend not to accessorize all that much when I wear a bold pattern. They have a black-and-white checkered pattern that will definitely work for someone who likes bold prints/Nascar.

I did wear my wine-red Bandolino pumps because I was originally going to start this blog on Election Day and entitle this post Red, White, and Boobs. While I ended up sad-drinking and delaying the blog launch, I still consider this a valid shoe pick.

Because the print is darker than pictured on Zulily, the dress is essentially composed of two neutrals — white and navy. As a result, virtually any shoe color would work.

But I would probably go with a dark red shoe regardless. It just GOES. I’m very much in favor of incorporating a lot of colors into a Look, but in this case, classic was better.

Likewise, I think it would look best with a pump. A wedge sandal would be too summery and a bootie — I say this as someone who owns way too many booties — is just too informal.

This dress is Classy as FF. It demands minimal accessories and a traditional shoe.

In terms of jewelry, I’m only wearing my wedding and engagement rings in this photo. My hair covers my ears, so there was no need for earrings. I suppose I could have added a choker or a string of pearls, but those also felt unnecessary. This dress is its own adornment. Anything else would be unnecessary.

I left my hair down because it’s been cold, did a complementary eye-look-thing courtesy of Urban Decay’s only essential Naked Palette (I have no use for the others), and wore a darkish lip courtesy of Kiko Cosmetics to match my shoes. (This is way matchier than I would normally go with an outfit, but I feel like it works for this look.)

I do think darker makeup was kind of essential for this dress, as its pattern so exquisitely highlights the contrast between dark and light. Obviously I wasn’t about to go for blue eyeshadow with a blue-patterned dress. But using makeup to add a bit of depth and darkness to the lip and eyes did heighten the drama a bit.

Have you heard of Naoko? Have you tried any of their clothing? Better yet, are you a Polish-speaking busty lady who can tell us more about this company? Contact me or let me know in the comments!

 

 

Reflections on the Busty Fashion World

When it comes to clothing, I don’t follow trends.

Or, rather, I can’t follow trends, because they look terrible on me.

The ’90s are back in full force, and with them, the oversized silhouettes that look good on a very select group of people.

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Nobody looks as good in street clothes as TLC did in pajamas. Image via MTV.

So when I see clothing like this —

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At least they didn’t include Hammer Pants. Image via The Dress Revolution

 

— I can appreciate the design, artistry, and attention to detail that went into creating these looks, even if they aren’t necessarily my thing. I can see why people would buy them, wear them, and rock them.

But from a structural standpoint, they are not designed for a curvy figure. The oversized sleeves in the first image would add unnecessary bulk to the top. The “oversized top/slim-cut pants” combination in the second picture would do the same. And the third set would bury the mere suggestion of curvature beneath its capacious folds.

The result? I think Paige “Rampaige” Halsey Warren put it best.

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The Madonna/Whore complex strikes again. Image via Busty Girl Comics.

Most mainstream clothing will not account for different body shapes. And though our society seems completely obsessed with breasts, the mainstream fashion industry neglects busty women entirely.

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I’m currently 41-30-40. Based on the chart above, I’d need to buy an XL for my bust, an M for my waist, and an L for my hips.

Certainly, I could buy an XL and just have it taken in, but if the original piece isn’t designed for my body shape in the first place, this would be of minimal help. Besides, I have a very honest seamstress who will straight-up refuse to tailor a piece if she knows it won’t work.

As a result, I almost never buy shirts or dresses when I go shopping in brick-and-mortar stores. Certain brands, like T. Tahari (I couldn’t possibly afford Elie Tahari), will work for me on occasion, but in general I get so frustrated by the the process of loving something on the rack and hating it on me that I just give up.

I may not always feel this way. There may come a time when mainstream designers start to design for more diverse body types.

Public pressure from the body positive community as well as industry insiders like Tim Gunn has definitely generated notice, primarily through social media shares by the busty community.

Celebrities like Sofia Vergara have similarly noted that tailoring can cost more than the original piece of clothing.

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Finding a dress that fits: priceless. Image via Rachel David: Cultivating Happiness.

So we may be on the precipice of change.

But until I am able to walk into a department store and buy a dress that fits me off the rack, I have plenty of options to tide me over.

The mainstream clothing industry didn’t respond to a clear gap in the market, but independent designers — who are often busty women themselves — have risen to the challenge.

And if you are concerned about up-to-the-second fashion, you’ll have no trouble finding bust-friendly iterations of current trends, like DD-Atelier’s gorgeous interpretation of the pussy bow shirt.

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Flowy, yet flattering. Image via DD-Atelier.

While their model is still quite slim, note that the shirt is tailored to follow the lines of the body rather than drop straight down from the bustline. The result is classy as FF.

Independent designers have made trends accessible to the busty community. They saw that the fashion industry was doing little-to-nothing to address their needs, so they took matters into their own hands.

I am not one of those women. I am attempting to learn how to sew, and may document some of my progress in following the Jailyn-Apparel Mandarin Collar Shirt pattern at some point.

I am a woman who loves clothing, and a woman who appreciates the interconnectivity of apparel. I want clothing that reflects my personality, true — even the boring and gross parts of my personality — but I also understand that fashion reflects all aspects of humanity. Every fiber and every fold is a result of the complex interplay of trade, art, politics, economics, and more.

Just as an example, Lingerie Addict detailed the ways in which Brexit would impact the production of quality bras. As many busty women rely British and European lingerie companies, some spent the day after the Brexit vote shopping — not because they wanted to shop, but because they were afraid they would be priced out of decent bras when the UK leaves the EU.

Currency is also a huge factor in purchases. I couldn’t justify buying DD-Atelier purchases for years because of the USD exchange rate with the Euro. Now, the dollar is worth slightly more and I can shop to my heart’s content. (Just kidding. I got married this year and I’m totally broke.)

So this blog isn’t just going to be about me putting on a new outfit and looking in the mirror. It’s going to be a mirror in its own right — a symbolic, verbose mirror that is detailed and smart and ultimately Classy as FF.