Review: Noir Tankini by Midnight Grace

Noir Tankini by Midnight Grace. 30-38 D-GG (UK) ($54), bikini 8-18 (UK) ($27)

Noir Tankini by Midnight Grace. 30-38 D-GG (UK) ($54), bikini 8-18 (UK) ($27)

Like Lulu Tout, the new brand I reviewed last month, Midnight Grace is a brand that is exclusive to lingerie retail powerhouse Figleaves. I’ve been so pleased to see them expand their in-house offerings, and they now offer the D+ customer a great range of pieces to suit different styles and occasions. The Midnight Grace label includes both swim and daywear (check out their first lookbook in this post), and I was really delighted when Figleaves offered me the chance to try a Spring style of my choosing. My Panache Tallulah bikini from last season is in perfect condition and still fits well (I don’t get to swim or go to the beach as much as I’d like to), so I asked if I could try the darling navy blue “Noir” tankini, for a swim option with a little more coverage.

[NOTE: While Figleaves generously provided this set for review, all thoughts and opinions are my own]

Appearance

Midnight Grace Noir Tankini Figleaves

Add to file: Sweets’ worst smartphone pictures.

This suit is a classic: the I love the nautical navy + red + gold button trim, the halter neck and ruffle trim are flattering, supportive, and evocative of pin-up styling, and the tankini style offers coverage with a flexible fit. I knew wanted a smooth, streamlined look, so I opted for the button bikini brief instead of the ruffle brief. For those who aren’t tankini fans, there’s also an underwired bikini top and an underwired convertible bandeau top, all in the same 30-38 D-GG size range.

Fit

Midnight Grace uses UK cup sizes, so the cup size progression goes D, DD, E, F, FF, G, GG. While Noir isn’t available in my usual size, I knew I wanted to try one band size larger anyway (more room for my middle), so I requested my sister size (one band size up and one cup size down), as well as the briefs in my usual (i.e., Panache/Curvy Kate size, as opposed to Bravissimo/Eveden size).  At the time I didn’t know that for some people  Midnight Grace runs small in both band and cup, so I was optimistic about having a comfortable, relaxed suit for lounging this summer.

Review: Midnight Grace Noir Tankini

Unfortunately, I did find both the band and cup to run small. The band fit more like my usual size, which is great for support, of course, but it does mean that it fits quite snugly over my belly. In addition, there’s a lot of tension across the back of the suit, and as a result the top edge of the back curls under and flips down instead of lying flat and smoothly across my back.

Review: Midnight Grace Noir Tankini

Even more than the back, though, the cups are noticeably small: the gore doesn’t tack, and the top of the cups digs into my breast tissue, causing bulges. They feel at least a full size small, and I’d strongly recommend anyone used to Eveden and Panache cuts to experiment with different sizes.

Comfort

Sometimes a bra or a swimsuit is so comfortable that getting a 100% perfect fit just isn’t a priority.  For example, even though the spotted suit I wore in my first boudoir shoot (which also came from Figleaves) isn’t my true size, it’s incredibly fun to wear to the beach, or even swimming some slow, lazy laps in the pool. I’m sad to say that I can’t really say the same for Noir. It’s just not a great fit for me, both in terms of technical bra fit and in terms of shape and style. I feel squished and unsupported, and after only a few minutes of wear I start to feel like I need to tug and adjust everything.

Review: Midnight Grace Noir Tankini

The back features an internal bra that closes with two rows of three columns of hooks and eyes.

Noir is really adorable, and I might totally wear it if I ever do another photoshoot, but I know I’d be fidgeting with it all day if I tried to wear it to the beach.  Furthermore, while halter-neck styles tend to be flattering and supportive to a larger bust, they take a lot of weight and place it directly on the back of your neck, which can really strain after a while.

Overall, I’d advise those who want to try this style to size up in both band and cup.  It looks really, really cute, but be prepared for a little back and forth to find the size you like the best.

Also, don’t forget that Figleaves is running a Spring promotion right now: the discount code “TWENTY” gets you 20% off all full-price items.

Non-Boring Neutral Bras for Full Busts

[UPDATED: See note below] As a follow-up to Wednesday’s list of colorful and embellished Spring styles, I thought it would be nice to take a look at some of the equally lovely neutral shades that are available this Spring. Stylists are fond of reminding us to wear “nude” bras under sheer, white, and pastel tops, and while I really hate it when people call beige “nude” (because no one’s skin tone is beige, and not everyone has light skin), lots of people do prefer to find a bra that’s at least close to their skin tone so that it “disappears” under lighter, warmer-weather clothes. While it’s easy to reach for a plain, molded t-shirt bra, I tend to veer away from minimalism, so this list features pretty full-bust bras in shades of cream, brown, sand, gray, and ivory, all of which have a little something extra to make them special. No boring basics here: these sets work equally well as both neutrals and fashion styles.

Bravissimo’s “Rococo Charm”

Rococo Charm by Bravissimo in Ivory/Blue. 28-38 DD-HH, XS-2XL.

Rococo Charm by Bravissimo in Ivory/Blue. 28-38 DD-HH, XS-2XL.

This is stunning. I ADORE the contrasting navy embroidery– it’s sophisticated and unexpected.

Panache’s “Tango”

Panache Tango Balconette in Chocolate. 28 D-J, 30-40 D-K, 42 D-J, 44 D-G. XS-2XL.

Panache Tango Balconette in Chocolate. 28 D-J, 30-40 D-K, 42 D-J, 44 D-G. XS-2XL.

Tango has been around forever in a huge range of sizes, and this season it gets an update with contrasting ombré fern embroidery and a jaunty chocolate/pink color pairing.

Freya’s “Enchanted”

Freya Enchanted. 28-38 D-HH, XS-2XL.

Freya Enchanted. 28-38 D-HH, XS-2XL.

While Freya hasn’t been working so well for me lately, I really, really like the contrasting aqua bows and embroidery of this new style (and I LOVE the white version, with orange trims).

Freya’s “Deco Delight”

Freya Deco Delight in Dove. 28-30 D-GG, 32-38 B-GG, XS-2XL.

Freya Deco Delight in Dove. 28-30 D-GG, 32-38 B-GG, XS-2XL.

The beige and black versions of Deco are hugely popular as full-bust basics, featuring super-round cups and a dramatic, plunging center gore. I like this season’s pretty gray version, trimmed with ivory lace (which I really, really wish continued all the way around the band and onto the straps. When in doubt, more lace). It’s a soft, cool look, and the straps feature a J-hook, so that it converts to a racer-back: perfect for summer tank tops!

Panache’s “Envy”

Panache Envy. 30-38 D-K, XS-2XL.

Panache Envy. 30-38 D-K, XS-2XL.

For a so-called basic style, Envy is a stunner (review of the black version here). The high-waist shaping brief looks both retro/pin-up and very contemporary, and the silky soft fabric has a beautiful, elegant sheen. The soft stretch lace gives fantastic support up to a K-cup.

Bravissimo’s “Alana”

Alana by Bravissimo in Mocha. 28 DD-J, 30 DD-KK, 32-40 DD-L. XS-2XL.

Alana by Bravissimo in Mocha. 28 DD-J, 30 DD-KK, 32-40 DD-L. XS-2XL.

Alana was Bravissimo’s first-ever in-house style, and it’s been with the company ever since. The style is vailable up to an L-cup in some band sizes, as well as a great range of shades (including this season’s neon Orangeade), and this lovely mocha is available as a beautiful continuity color.

Claudette’s “Dessous” in Sand and Godiva

Claudette Dessous in Sand. 28 D-G, 30-38 A-G, XS-XL.

Claudette Dessous in Sand. 28 D-G, 30-38 A-G, XS-XL.

 

Claudette Dessous in Godiva. 28 D-G, 30-38 A-G, XS-XL.

Claudette Dessous in Godiva. 28 D-G, 30-38 A-G, XS-XL.

Claudette are masters of the non-boring neutral. I particularly love how they paired this season’s “Blondie” and “Godiva” with hot coral trims. Not feeling the neon? Check out the Sand/Navy colorway, for something a little more sedate but equally sophisticated.

Elomi’s “Bijou”

Elomi Bijou. 34 F-H, 36-42 E-H, 44 E-G, M-4XL.

Elomi Bijou. 34 F-H, 36-42 E-H, 44 E-G, M-4XL.

Elomi gives the full-figure customer her own version of “Deco” this season, with Bijou’s smooth, molded cups and plunging center front.

Just Peachy’s “Lana”

Just Peachy Lana in Denim/Cream. 30-38 DD-G, 8-18.

Just Peachy Lana in Denim/Cream. 30-38 DD-G, 8-18.

Just Peachy is one of Figleaves’ exclusive brands, offering pretty, delicate D-G styles at incredibly reasonable prices. This pretty sheer bra with contrasting blue embroidery is only $30!

Fantasie’s “Rebecca Nouveau”

Fantasie Rebecca Nouveau. 30-36 D-GG, 38 D-G, 40 D-FF, XS-XL.

Fantasie Rebecca Nouveau. 30-36 D-GG, 38 D-G, 40 D-FF, XS-XL.

I love Rebecca, and a lot of my fit clients do too: the spacer fabric is light and breathable, there are no seams to show under clinging fabrics, and it conforms beautifully to your body. This season sees the introduction of a beautiful black-and-ivory version (it will be available this Fall too, just with the color scheme reversed) featuring floral embroidery and pretty bows. A winner!

[Note: All of these bras are in UK sizes, so the cup size progression goes like this: D, DD, E, F, FF, G, GG, H, HH, J, JJ, K, KK, L. Happy shopping!]

UPDATE: About ten minutes after publishing this I found a great post from The Curves Have It, published yesterday (great minds think alike? Lingerie blogger mind meld?], speaking passionately about the many problems with equating beige and nude. Many (but not all) of the designers/brands in this list use the terms interchangeably, including some of the big guns like Panache and Freya. If this bothers you as much as it bothers her and me, please reach out to your favorite brands and speak up on social media, using the hashtag #nudeisnotbeige. It’s 2014: we can do better.

Pretty D+ Bras for Spring

Now that April is here, and my thoughts are turning to Spring cleaning, brighter days, warmer temperatures, and budding flowers, I’m beginning to cast a stern and appraising eye at my lingerie drawer. I’ve got some bras that are pushing two years old, and they are TIRED. I had a little surplus money in my budget earlier this year and placed some orders for bras that filled the important gaps in my wardrobe (reviews to come!), and even though I’m feeling pretty set now, the styles that are in stores today are just so bright and cheerful I can’t help but wish I could stretch my budget a bit further. After a very long and very, very cold winter, these cute sets will put a little spring in your step (pun fully intended, obviously).

Elomi’s “Megan”

Elomi Megan Longline Bra and Brief

Elomi Megan Longline Bra and Brief. 34-40 E-H (UK), M-4XL. Banded bra available 36-42 E-JJ, 44 E-G.

I haven’t seen the full size range for this longline available at many stores, and with no longline style for the Elomi customer in the A/W14 collection, I suspect this might be the last one we’ll see. It’s a shame; I can’t help but feel like this style didn’t really get a fair shake. The size range covers only a portion of the Elomi customer base, and the prints have been either divisive (S/S13) or lackluster (S/S14). Still, I’m eager to take Megan out for a spin: I like the darker blue background shade, and while the print doesn’t set my soul on fire, it’s … fine. Inoffensive. Fine. As the only non-padded G+ longline bra with boning I’ve ever seen, I’m going to get mine while the getting’s good.

Panache’s “Clara”

Panache Clara in Turkish Delight

Panache Clara in Turkish Delight. 30-38 D-J (UK), XS-XXL

Clara is so, so beautiful. I think it’s one of Panache’s best new bras of the last few years. Even though the style doesn’t work terribly well for me, I still recommend it wholeheartedly (after all, we don’t all have the same boobs), and I seriously can’t wait for the staggeringly pretty gold/black version for A/W14.

Curvy Kate’s “Daisy Chain”

Curvy Kate Daisy Chain in Sherbet/Rose

Curvy Kate Daisy Chain in Sherbet/Rose. 28-38 D-J (UK), 8-22 (UK)

I’ll have a full review to come, but spoiler: this is the best Curvy Kate style I’ve ever tried, and has quickly become one of my favorite sets in my current rotation. While I initially wanted to try the black version from the Winter, the pretty Sherbet/Rose colorway just screams Spring.

Fantasie’s “Susanna”

Fantasie Susanna in Sea Breeze

Fantasie Susanna in Sea Breeze. 30-38 D-H, 40 DD-G, 42 DD-F (UK), XS-XXL

Susanna is (I think) one of the best bras in Fantasie’s current roster. True, it can look a bit frumpy on the rack, but it gives a centered, round, uplifted shape, and I’ve seen it work really well for women across a wide range of sizes, shapes, and ages. I love this beautiful soft green– it has a lovely antique feel, yet still seems fresh and light.

Cleo’s “Marcie”

Cleo Marcie in Yellow

Cleo Marcie in Sunshine. 28-38 D-J (UK), XS-XXL

This bra is an unstoppable force of adorable. Appearing in one eye-catching color after another, season after season, Marcie is a winner. While I know yellow can be divisive (hell, I can’t wear it without looking seasick, so I’m giving this season’s version a pass), it’s undeniably sunny and bright, as well as a welcome change from the expected Springtime pinks and pastels.

Freya’s “Ooh La La”

Freya Ooh La La Bodysuit in Blush

Freya Ooh La La Bodysuit in Blush. 30-38 D-G (UK)

As Miss Underpinnings and I noted in our trend report for Autumn/Winter 2014, the bodysuit is poised to be one of the next big shape trends for the full-bust crowd. Get in early with this light, lovely sheer mesh underwired bodysuit from Freya.

Parfait’s “Louisa”

Parfait Louisa Bra in Poppy Blue

Parfait Louisa Bra in Poppy Blue. 30-40 D-G (UK), XS-XL

Louisa was one of my favorite looks from the Spring/Summer 2014 runway presentation, and my love remains undimmed. Parfait continues to impress me with their prints. True, their styles aren’t really avant garde or trend-setting, but they’re distinctive and really stand out against the typical ditsy florals or zany neons. These blue poppies set on a crisp white background (there’s also a red poppy version) totally charm me.

Sunday Intimates’ “Dottie”

"Dottie" by Sunday Intimates

“Dottie” by Sunday Intimates. 28-34 DD-H (UK), XS-L

It’s not a secret that I love Sunday Intimates’ designs, and this set is no exception. The pretty blush color is beautifully vintage and classic, but let’s be real: when have I ever been able to resist polka dots?

Claudette’s “Odette”

Claudette-SS14-odette-longline hot coral

Claudette Odette in Blondie/Hot Coral. 28-38 A-G (UK), XS-XL

Longline bra, pretty lace, suspender undies, neutral/neon color pairing? This set hits all of my sweet spots.

Happy Spring shopping, and enjoy the sunshine!

Sweet Nothings Exclusive: An Interview with Sunday Intimates

Sweet Nothings Exclusive: Sunday Intimates E-Commerce Launches

I am thrilled to announce that today is the official e-commerce launch of Sunday Intimates, a new full-bust brand based in Los Angeles that offers bras in sizes 28-34 D-H (UK cup sizes, which include DD, FF, and GG).  I met Tannis Mann and Simonette Lowy, the founders of Sunday Intimates, at Curve NY in August, where their beautiful, incredibly stylish full-bust lingerie and loungewear absolutely blew me away. I have literally been saving money to buy my own set ever since.

I’m also delighted to share with you an exclusive interview with Tannis and Simonette.  Spoiler: I’m in awe of both these ladies.  Not only are they just about the nicest people on the planet, their knowledge of the market, their fresh and beautiful sense of style, and their passion for the product and future customers is really inspiring.

"Lolita" bra and high-waist brief with "Sara" kimono jacket by Sunday Intimates

“Lolita” bra and high-waist brief with “Sara” kimono jacket by Sunday Intimates

How did you all meet?  When did you realize your shared interest in full-bust lingerie was something you wanted to pursue professionally?

TANNIS: We met in the seventh grade during a dance class at school. We were doing jazz walks across the floor, when Simonette said to me, “You go, girl!” It was instant friendship.

SIMONETTE: We were both late bloomers. We didn’t fill this niche (literally) until college. We would come back home during vacation time and talk about how we couldn’t find bras that fit us properly. Back then, we were shopping at Victoria’s Secret and didn’t realize that this size range even existed. As we became better informed about the lingerie market, we realized we could find bras in our size, but none that met our aesthetic needs and desires. We wanted to wear bras that fit and supported us, while still being fun and hip. We wished we could design our own bras and, when we both found ourselves looking to make a career change, we decided to take a leap of faith and start Sunday Intimates.

Tannis Mann and Simonette Lowy of Sunday Intimates

Do you have a fashion or design background?  How have your previous careers and interests helped shape the creation of Sunday Intimates?

TANNIS: Zero. And it has been a huge learning curve for us. Sure, we grew up in Los Angeles and have always shared an interest in fashion and design, but I was working at a talent agency prior to this.

SIMONETTE: And I was working at an arts and cultural museum.

TANNIS: That said, we had vision and we both appreciate visual mediums. We are both dancers. I studied film in college and Simonette studied art history. We can see designs in our minds before bringing them to fruition.

SIMONETTE: In some ways, not coming from a fashion background is a strength for us. We had different perspectives on business, which have helped guide our decision-making process in this endeavor. But, we are new to this and continue to learn more every day about the business and ourselves.

TANNIS: We have, also, been so lucky to have supportive friends and family who have served as resources and sounding boards to us when we’ve come up against new challenges.

Behind the scenes with Sunday Intimates

What are some of your inspirations for your first collection?  Are there any particular people, places, images, films, or songs that really captured the look you were going for?

SIMONETTE: We really love how women were presented particularly in the 40s and 50s—this idea that curves are sexy and beautiful. It’s disappointing to us how this notion has evolved over time in the media and we wanted to bring back the retro ideals of beauty and femininity.

TANNIS: But, we still wanted it to feel fresh and modern! We started off researching pin-up artists, such as Gil Elvgren and Vargas. Taking inspiration from their work, we designed a collection that celebrates the female form, made up of beautiful pieces that we wanted to wear.

I really love the name: it feels like lingerie I want to wear an on an ordinary day, yet it’s something special and unusual all at the same time.  Will we see other bras besides the Monday and Tuesday inspired by different days of the week?

TANNIS: The name came from the Etta James song, “Sunday Kind of Love.” We were drawn to this idea of “a love to last past Saturday night.” The same is true of our collection. They are sexy pieces that work for the boudoir, but they are also meant for you to live your life in. Form and function.

Behind the scenes with Sunday Intimates

The UK has been a major leader in the full-bust market for a long time, so it’s really exciting to have a new brand that’s designed and made in the USA.  How did you decide manufacture locally?  Have there been any unique challenges or opportunities?

SIMONETTE: We are so proud to produce in Los Angeles and support our local economy. Plus, we can go check up our production regularly and ensure things are up to our standards. This luxury is not without its challenges, though. Our bras are more expensive to sew than ones sewn outside of the US. This drives up the purchase price of our product, which has not been an easy sell to retailers. We hope that retailers and consumers recognize the importance of buying/selling local-made goods and will support our growth.

TANNIS: It was also difficult to find a factory to take on our production. The apparel industry in LA is driven by denim and swimwear. You tell people you want to manufacture intimates and they look at you like you’re from Mars. Fortunately, we landed somewhere with a positive outlook and capable hands.

Behind the scenes with Sunday Intimates

What’s it been like preparing for the launch?  How did you go about sourcing materials and production venues?  Did you face any challenges in terms of developing the full size range or any particular style?

SIMONETTE: It has been a rewarding experience for us, but has had many ups and downs. As we said, we had to start from scratch when it came to developing the product. We did a lot of research and asked many questions. We visited textile showrooms around town and had swatches sent to us from anywhere and everywhere—Belgium, Italy, Japan, New Jersey…

TANNIS: The size range was definitely a challenge. We, originally, planned to carry 36 and 38 bands in addition to what we currently stock. There were so many complications involved though and we had to scale it back and come to terms with start-up/indie brand reality. Down the road, we’d love to expand our size range.

Behind the scenes with Sunday Intimates

Have there been any surprises along the way, pleasant or otherwise?

SIMONETTE: Many surprises! Everyone warned us that nothing happens as you expect in this industry and even with that advice in our heads, it can still come as a shock. We find that all of our deadlines come and go and we almost always have to reevaluate our plans. I would say that everyday something unexpected happens. Sometimes it’s great news and sometimes it’s not so good. It has been such a learning curve for us to adapt, change, and learn how to just get it all done against the odds.

We are lucky to have each other. When one of us is down, the other can build her back up. Our process is a dialogue with multiple opinions and visions, allowing us to create something different and special.

Tannis Mann of Sunday Intimates

Knowing what you know now, what’s the single biggest piece of advice you’d give an aspiring independent full-bust designer?

TANNIS: Ask us in five years! We’re still on the receiving end of that spectrum! If we had to offer one piece of advice, it would be to be flexible. Things aren’t always going to turn out how you want, but if you are amenable to change, there is always a solution.

The full-bust world has grown so much over the last few years, but even with all the new players and new designs, Sunday still feels really special and unique: sophisticated and luxurious without being stodgy or dated, fresh and fashion-focused without being frilly or girlish.  I assume this was deliberate, so I’d love to know: who is the Sunday customer?  For having such a unique look, I feel like the brand has the potential for really broad appeal.

SIMONETTE: Thank you! It’s so nice to hear that, because we wanted to create an ageless lifestyle collection. We think our debut line achieves this goal—Your mom would feel completely at ease in a Sunday Intimates bra, but your younger sister would love to rock it as well. We decided a while back to write our version of, “Who is the Sunday Girl?” (See below)

“She is sexy yet approachable. She is nostalgic for the past but looks forward to her exciting future. She is comfortable in her own skin but enjoys slipping on Sunday Intimates at any moment, for any occasion.”

Apart from your website, where else can customers find Sunday Intimates?

TANNIS: While you can only find the bras and undies on our website, we are pleased to announce that ModCloth.com began carrying a selection of our sleepwear in January.

Tannis Mann and Simonette Lowy of Sunday Intimates

Tannis Mann and Simonette Lowy of Sunday Intimates

Your first collection was so stunning I can’t wait to see what’s next!  Do you have any goals for future seasons, in terms of the kinds of garments and the sizes you offer?  Any major design inspirations for 2014?

TANNIS: Like we said, we hope to expand our size range and, eventually, we’d love to add swimwear into the mix. More immediately, we just redesigned our website to accommodate e-commerce and our new lifestyle blog.

Billy longline bra and high-waist brief by Sunday Intimates for Fall/Winter 2014

Billy longline bra and high-waist brief by Sunday Intimates for Fall/Winter 2014

SIMONETTE: For AW14, expect to see something a bit more sultry and dark. We took inspiration from Film Noir, so it’s definitely a different vibe from SS14. For sneak peaks, make sure to follow us on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and the new blog.

Tannis Mann and Simonette Lowy of Sunday Intimates

A huge thank you to Tannis and Simonette for sharing the Sunday journey with us!  The Sunday Intimates e-commerce site goes live today, and you can begin placing preorders.  Bras are available in sizes 28 DD-H and 30-34 D-H (UK cup sizes: D, DD, E, F, FF, G, GG, H), knickers in sizes XS-L, and loungewear in sizes S, M, L, and S/M or M/L.  I can’t wait to place my order!  Which style from the lookbook catches your eye? 

Open Post: Shopping for Wedding Lingerie

While I haven’t personally run the gauntlet of wedding dress + lingerie shopping, I’ve accompanied women who have, and I have to say: not impressed. I talked about it a little bit here, but mostly I’ve been genuinely taken aback by the occasionally insensitive, uninformed, and even downright body-snarky comments I’ve heard from store associates in bridal salons and even, alas, in some lingerie boutiques.

My general understanding of wedding dress shopping was that the Average Jane will almost always need to alter her gown. So I thought that wedding dress shopping would be fairly stress-free, at least from a fit point of view: you’d buy one that was maybe a bit big in some places, and you’d get it tailored to suit your specific body later, and hurray: perfect dress. I was astonished, therefore, to watch as my friend’s (completely lovely and frankly fairly common, size-and-shape-wise) body was picked apart bit by bit. Store associates and “fitters” shamed her for not fitting into sample sizes, they gasped dramatically when she told them her bra size, and they told her in hushed voices with furrowed brows that the gown she was trying would only fit “a DD”.

I refer you gently, as always, to my rant about how you’re not a cup size, and also how there’s no such thing as “a D cup”.

Bridal Pinup Vaughan Bass illustration

Bride by Vaughan Bass

In response to experiences like the one above, I’m working on a few posts and reviews about bridal lingerie, and I’d love to hear from any of you who have had similar (or, hopefully, different) experiences. I put out a call on Facebook, but as Facebook is showing my posts to, like, seven of you, let’s bring it back to home base:

As a bride, attendant, parent, or friend: what was your experience of wedding dress and/or wedding lingerie shopping? Did you get the support and and find the style you wanted? How knowledgeable were the store associates when you bought your dress? What advice did your tailor or seamstress offer? Anything you wish you’d done differently, or that you’re struggling to find? I’d love to hear from those who had either positive and not-so-positive experiences, as well as what some of you who are still shopping might specifically be looking for. If you have questions about wedding lingerie, lay them on me!

Review: “Marvel” by Freya

Freya Marvel bra review

“Marvel” is one of the first new shapes Freya has introduced in quite a while.  Freya’s current lineup features the Deco range (molded cups), a half-cup padded bra and longline bra, and a plunge balcony/balcony bra that goes up to a K-cup.  There are some variations on this formula (some are sheer, some are lace, some have lower or higher wires, etc.), but in general once you find a shape you like in Freya you can be sure to see it in a few different colors or patterns each season.  So the introduction of Marvel as a new continuity style was a pretty exciting development, and made me hopeful that Freya might be on their way to a new (better) G+ shape (as the balcony bras and sports bra do not work for me at all past a G-cup). I recently found Marvel in my size at a deep discount on Amazon and decided to take it out for a spin. In general I don’t get along with half-cup bras, despite being fairly full-on-top, but I’d heard that this shape, with non-padded cups (yay!) and a side panel, might work really well for me.

Appearance

Marvel bra Freya review

Marvel is a non-padded padded bra with two vertical seams for shape and uplift (one seam is connected to a side panel, for an upfront and centered look). The beige colorway features simple white mesh trim along the top of the cup, a bow at the center gore, and fully adjustable ribbed straps, while both the black continuity and this Spring’s white “Glacier” colorways feature contrasting, bubbly dots (in purple and seafoam green, respectively). The bra closes with three columns of two rows of hooks and eyes.

Review Freya Marvel bra

Not the loveliest, but definitely not the worst, right? A totally fine beige bra.

Fit

I’ll go ahead and get it out of the way, this bra is a bust (no pun intended) on me. It’s not a bad bra, by any means, but as soon as I pulled it out of the bag I sensed the imminent disaster. The main reason? The underwire is one of the bendiest underwires I’ve seen in my size range in quite some time. It’s thin, super-flexible, and angles sharply backwards under the arms, rather than swooping up vertically. I haven’t had luck with underwires like this in the past, and my fears proved well founded.

In better news, I found the bra “true to size”, so those of you who find some Freya bands too stretchy may be happy with the fit of Marvel. I fastened mine comfortably on the loosest set of hooks, I had enough length in the straps (yay!), and the bra does indeed give a very round shape, with none of the retro pointiness of some of Freya’s other styles (which I don’t mind, but I know some others prefer a super-round shape).

Review Freya Marvel bra

That being said, the shape of this bra is all wrong for me. Though there’s plenty of room in the cup, the center gore doesn’t tack, the wires are wider than I need them at the sides, and the bottom of the cups are too shallow for me. I keep wanting to yank the underwires forward to get a narrower, more projected shape, which is sort of the same feeling I get in Elomi bras. I can sense that the longer I wear this bra, the more the band will continue to pull the wires backwards, causing the cups to flatten even more. The cup volume is probably fine, but it’s too spread out: I have empty space in the bottom and sides of the cups, and I don’t feel very secure or supported.

Comfort

Review Marvel bra Freya

While I like parts of the bra (the fabric feels silky and smooth, I love that it’s not padded, and the straps are long enough), overall Marvel is a bit of a letdown. Well, it is for me, but my boobs are not everyone’s boobs. I suspect someone with a wider breast root and shallower profile might love Marvel (I can in fact think of several friends who might really like it), but I’m returning mine.  I’m sad the new shape didn’t work out for me, because I feel like I’m about ready to stop trying Freya bras altogether.

When I wore a G-cup or smaller Freya was hands-down my favorite brand. They were the first bras I ever wore that made me feel lifted, stable, and supported, plus they came in fantastic prints or colors. Part of the reason I’ve switched loyalties over to Freya’s competitors for G+ bras is the variety of shapes those brands offer, as well as stronger, sturdier underwires.  While I don’t get along with some Panache classics like Tango and Andorra, I have quite a few other styles in my size range to choose from three Panache brands (Cleo, Panache, and Masquerade) like Jasmine, Colette, Marcie, and Lily. Bravissimo’s balconettes work beautifully for me, and though it’s taken a while, I think I’ve finally found my first really great fit in Curvy Kate (review to come!). These brands are winning me over not because I’ve found one shape that works well, but because I’ve found several. I’m more likely to recommend these brands to clients, because I know that my G+ clients in particular will have more choices. If Freya wants to focus their energies on B-G cup sizes I wouldn’t blame them: they do very, very well in that size range, and moreover stores will always buy that size range. But after another season of limited G+ fashion styles, no new developments for an H+ Active customer, and an upcoming season filled with more of the same, I’m about ready to give up. Freya, darling, we had a good thing while it lasted. Be good to my B-G sisters.

*****

Marvel is available in Black, Beige, and Glacier in sizes 28-38 D-H (UK), with matching brief, short, and thong in sizes XS-XL. You can find Marvel at Figleaves, Freshpair, Bravissimo, Brastop, Large Cup Lingerie, and others.

For more Marvel reviews, check out Miss Underpinnings, Bras I Hate & Love, Petite & Plentiful, Faustine’s Foundations and Fussy Busty. I’m interested to see that some women who wear band sizes on the smaller end of the spectrum found the cups both narrow and projected; maybe Freya needs to revamp the proportions of their larger sizes?

CurveNY Trend Report: Fall/Winter 2014

Today’s post is a collaboration with my good lingerie friend Miss Underpinnings.  We shared almost all of our press appointments during CurveNY, and we talked about underwear A LOT.  I love her decisive, insightful, thought-out analyses of seasonal trends as well as her finely honed personal style, and we thought it would be a fun opportunity to share our conversations about the upcoming seasons with our readers!  Today’s post kicks off a series of collaborative posts in which we discuss trends, share our favorite picks from upcoming seasons, and occasionally violently disagree on whether a bra is atrocious or magical.  Without further ado, let’s dive in!

Overall the consensus is that F/W 14 is a really strong season, and certainly stronger season than the last.  Spring/Summer had some real hits and misses– odd colors, dreary lookbooks, timid or too-safe designs, and quite a few mis-fires.  While some brands seemed stronger merely because they were course-correcting, others offered some genuinely great designs in exciting, on-trend colors and styles.

Speaking of trends, here are some we noticed!  [Subtle segue, no?]  This post is a long one, but it lays the groundwork for some of the rest of our coverage, plus, come on, we all like talking about bras all the time, yes?

COLORS

Purple

Curve Fall/Winter Trend Report 2014- Sweet Nothings & Miss Underpinnings

Clockwise from top left: Sculptresse “Paradise” in Butterfly Print, Fantasie “Rebecca” in Violet and “Elodie” in Magenta, Sculptresse “Pure Lace” in Purple/Pink, Claudette “Odette” in Dahlia/Pointe Shoe and “Dessous” in Dahlia/Caipirinha, Panache “Idina” in Navy/Pink, Masquerade “Ardour” in Mulberry, Fauve “Chloe” in Purple, Parfait “Danielle” and “Carole” in Imperial Purple, Elomi “Betty” in Purple

These rich purple shades are autumnal powerhouses, and with good reason.  They tend to be warm and flattering, and they appeal to a wide range of consumers.  I love the pretty Claret color that’s coming for Panache’s Colette, one of the styles I’m most looking forward to trying this Spring. Sculptresse adds a Purple/Pink combination for their Pure Lace collection, as well as a pretty purple butterfly print for their first ever babydoll.  Fantasie will offer a purple Rebecca, and Elomi offers a cute purple for Betty, which I [Sweets] unfortunately think is let down by contrasting raspberry embroidery.  Somehow the pink/purple/polka dot combo skews too juvenile for me, but then again that may just be me. Even Masquerade offers a vibrant purple bra, but unfortunately we found the plain molded plunge shape to be rather boring for a brand that usually focuses on exceptionally elegant shapes and details.

Ruby and Raspberry

Curve Fall/Winter Trend Report 2014

Clockwise from top left: Panache “Andorra” in Scarlet, Curvy Kate “Jewel” in Ruby/Spice, Curvy Kate “Daisie” in Ruby Print, Panache “Tango” in Scarlet, Cleo “Marcie” in Raspberry, Curvy Kate “Ritzy” in Ruby/Spice, Fantasie “Allegra” in Rouge, Panache “Tango Accenti” in Mulberry

We saw lots and lots of bright reds and berry shades, appropriate considering that most F/W collections include some special “holiday” pieces.  Panache will offer a wonderful assortment of shades across some of their most popular collections, like Andorra, Tango, Tango Accenti, Idina, and Porcelain, as well as a vibrant Raspberry for Masquerade’s Angie.  Ever-popular Maddie and Marcie from Cleo both return in a rich, radiant raspberry that is a fantastic match for Marcie’s sweet Swiss dot fabric.  Fantasie offers Melissa in magenta with gleaming blue embroidery, Elodie in magenta with black lace, and beautiful Allegra in red, and Curvy Kate offers Boysenberry and Ruby as two of their major seasonal fashion colors.  Elomi offers a lovely Cerise for Amelia and Flame for Bijou.

Regal Autumnal Tones

Curve Fall/Winter Trend Report 2014- Sweet Nothings & Miss Underpinnings

Empreinte “Misia” in Amarante and “Marlene” in Noir, Panache “Clara” in Black/Gold, Angela Friedman “Evelyn” corset in Purple, Claudette “Paloma” in Cayenne, Mimi Holliday “Rum and Raisin” slip, Masquerade “Aleah” in Charcoal, Fauve “Lavinia” in Black/Pistachio, Masquerade “Antoinette” in Ruby/Black, Huit “Belle de Jour” in Clementine

While bright reds and purples are all very well, we saw some really beautiful autumnal shades across a range of hues. Masquerade’s Antoinette shows up in a classic black lace/ruby satin combination, a welcome return to form for a collection that looked a little drab over the last few seasons. We also saw some unusual burnt oranges, gleaming olive-green, and some major spice from Claudette and Curvy Kate.  Claudette in particular wins points for daring with an unusual Pointe Shoe/Old Penny color pairing that shouldn’t work at all and is instead magnificent.  Mimi Holliday gets into the act with a super-dark hunter green Rum and Raisin collection, and we also LOVED the olive-green Amelie strapless bra and Brazilian brief from Masquerade– I can’t think of a single other brand that offers (or that has ever offered) a so-called “solution” bra in such a sophisticated shape and color.

The Blues

Curve Fall/Winter Trend Report 2014- Sweet Nothings & Miss Underpinnings

Clockwise from top left: Claudette “Sophia” in Club Med, Cleo “Neve” in Blue, Claudette “Bardot” in Club Med, Fantasie “Ivana” in Teal and “Susannah” in Moonlight, Parfait “Leslie” in Blue/Black, Masquerade “Alice” in Ink, Dollhouse Bettie “Lotus Blossom” babydoll, Parfait “Danielle” in Peacock Blue, Curvy Kate “Princess” and “Roxie” in Night/Silver

Navy is an unexpectedly popular alternative to black this season, with offerings ranging from the clean lines of Parfait’s Jeannie molded plunge bra to the luxe sophistication of Masquerade’s Alice slip.  Blue turned up as the primary color for Nevaeh’s Fall/Winter collection, and it leant a cool kick to Parfait’s animal-print Leslie set.  Elomi’s Caitlyn gets a rich Ink colorway, and Sculptresse is FINALLY cute y’all, with a new navy blue with white polka-dot range called Flirtini that is legitimately delightful and retro without looking cheesy.

Neons/Brights

Curve Fall/Winter Trend Report 2014

Clockwise from top left: Huit “Melisande” in Acid Green, Claudette “Odette” in Caipirinha/Elsa Pink, Curvy Kate “Dreamcatcher” and “Starlet” in Frost/Boysenberry, Claudette “Fishnet” in Caipirinha/Pointe Shoe, Freya “Rapture” in Neon, Claudette “Fishnet” in Caipirinha/Pointe Shoe, Cleo “Kali” in Neon Lime, Claudette “Dessous” in Malibu/Caipirinha, Mimi Holliday “Calypso”

Claudette presented another winning season of neon brights, from vibrant purple Dahlia to sizzling Elsa Pink (after the great Elsa Schiaparelli) and hot lime green Caipirinha.  They even had two different sample sizes at the booth, so I [Sweets] got to try on my first Dessous!  It was too small, as expected, but so, so soft, light, and comfy (and the straps were long enough!  What a miracle!).  While there’s still no projected date for a G+ size expansion, getting a little taste of this fabulous bra was enough to whet my appetite.  Even beyond Claudette though, Freya, Cleo, Panache, and Sculptresse all offer some sizzling bright colors to heat up the cold Winter nights.  Panache’s sports bra’s new colors feature electric lime and blue, Sculptresse’s Pure Lace gets a hot purple/pink update, and Mimi Holliday offers several pretty collections with neutral/neon contrasts.

Blush and Ballet Pink

Curve Fall/Winter Trend Report 2014- Sweet Nothings & Miss Underpinnings

Clockwise from top left: Dottie’s Delights, Madame Supertrash “Mademoiselle”, Dollhouse Bettie “Juliet”, Angela Friedman “Musette” chemise in Pink, Claudette “Dessous”, “Paloma”, and “Bardot” in Pointe Shoe, Mimi Holliday “Mr Whippy”, Claudette “Fishnet” in Pointe Shoe

Oh MAN there are some pretty paler hues coming at the end of this year.  Claudette won us over with their Pointe Shoe color, on account of nostalgia and permanent inner desire to be a ballerina.  From full-bust favorite Freya (a new Deco style Vibe) to indie and luxury brands like Dottie’s Delights, Madame Supertrash, Mimi Holliday and Angela Friedman, soft peach, pink, and blush tones abounded.  The color always reminds us of classic silk lingerie from the 1920s-30s, and we love seeing how current designers put their own spin on it.

Interesting Neutrals

Curve Fall/Winter Trend Report 2014- Sweet Nothings & Miss Underpinnings

Clockwise from top left: Fantasie “Allegra” in Butterscotch, Empreinte “Melody” in Caramel and “Marlene” in Cristal, Fantasie “Eclipse” in Ombre, Empreinte “Misia” in Muscade, Freya “Deco Vibe” in Mocha, Fantasie “Rebecca Mirage” in Smoke Grey, Mimi Holliday “Solero”

It takes a lot to get me (hi, Sweets here) pumped about neutrals, and I’m often guilty of thinking “If I never see a beige bra again, it’ll be too soon.”  We were, however, totally pleased and impressed by the range of neutral shades designers are trying on for size.  Several brands use soft fawn colors that deepen to mauve and dusty rose, still others are expanding to warm brown and mocha shades.  We love seeing brands reach out beyond the default beige for neutrals that will match a variety of skin tones and simultaneously act as fashion colors.  Thumbs up, more please!

PRINTS AND PATTERNS

1980s/Kitsch

Curve Fall/Winter Trend Report 2014- Sweet Nothings & Miss Underpinnings

Clockwise from top left: Cleo “Izzy” in Star Print, Freya “Instinct” in Magenta, Huit “Petite Coquette” in Popcorn, Fantasie “Mollie” in Confetti, Freya “Doodle” in Hot Pink and “Ignite” in Yellow, Cleo “Nyla” in Floral Print

So much color everywhere this season!  Curvy Kate, Cleo, Freya, and even Fantasie all got into the colorful, slightly-retro/slightly-Saved-by-the-Bell prints act, with varying degrees of success.  We were divided on some of the prints from CK, Cleo, and Freya (one of us would strongly like something but the other strongly wouldn’t), but unanimous in our dislike of the odd, off-note black-and-white print “Mollie” from Fantasie.  It feels a bit like it’s trying to offer the Fantasie customer a Freya-style bra, but it just doesn’t work.

Animal

Curve Fall/Winter Trend Report 2014- Sweet Nothings & Miss Underpinnings

Clockwise from top left: Elomi “Kenza” in Jungle, Parfait “Jeannie” in Panther Print, Elomi “Kayla” in Pecan Eden, Freya “Instinct” in Magenta and “Deco” in Rebel, Elomi “Lexi” in Java, Cleo “Juna” in Teal, Parfait “Leslie” in Blue/Black.

Animal prints are popular classics, but they’ve come out in full force for Fall/Winter.  Cleo offers their bubbly take with a turquoise Juna, Panache brings out another version of Jasmine in the frosty Snow Leopard, and Freya  will release Rebel as a new Deco continuity color.  Goddess branched out from offering animal prints in one shade to present a vibrantly multicolor animal/floral mix for Kayla.  As for Elomi … well, we called theirs (Kenza) the “Fern Gully” bra when we were feeling charitable and the “Swamp Monster” bra when we weren’t.  We’ll cover this one more in a future post.  Fortunately, Elomi will also offer a soft, pretty owl feather print called Lexi that restores my faith in animal-print bras a bit.

Tattoo or Sheer + Contrast

Curve Fall/Winter Trend Report 2014- Sweet Nothings & Miss Underpinnings

Clockwise from top left: Fauve “Isla” in Midnight, Empreinte “Melody Onyx” in Noir, Mimi Holliday “Fab” star knicker in Bubblegum Pink, Harlow & Fox “Isabelle”, Fleur of England “Caviar” bodysuit, Elomi “Bijou Soiree” in Black, Huit “New Idylle” Bodysuit in Bordeaux

A Miss Underpinnings/Sweet Nothings unanimous favorite?  We noticed an explosion of sheer backgrounds with contrasting solid details laid over them.  Fleur of England is the ringleader of the luxury markets, but Fauve (gorgeous new style Isla), Mimi Holliday, Elomi (fabulous new Bijou Soiree), and Harlow & Fox all got in on the act.  We love this trend!  Sweets’ favorite is hands-down Mimi Holliday’s “Fab” bodysuit and faux-cage-back knicker, featuring pale, super-sheer mesh and contrasting hot pink trim.

Wallpaper Florals

Curve Fall/Winter Trend Report 2014- Sweet Nothings & Miss Underpinnings

Clockwise from top left: Parfait “Casey” in Black/Rose Print, Panache “Jasmine” in Black Ricamo, Curvy Kate “Wonderland” in Boysenberry Print, Sunday Intimates “Stanwyck” in Red Rose, Freya “Deco Darling” in Noir, Fantasie “Abigail” in Black, Panache “Fern” in Navy Floral

This one surprised us!  We expect florals for Spring, but not only were there an unusually large number of autumnal floral prints, but many of them were big, graphic, oversized, “wallpaper” type prints.  A few ditsy florals slipped in, but mostly we saw large and lush florals from Freya (Deco Darling), Fantasie (Abigail), Parfait (Delphine and Casey), Sunday Intimates (the fabulous rose-print Stanwyck), Panache’s Fern, and Curvy Kate’s abstract Wonderland.  Weirdly, either there’s been some kind of designer mind meld, or everyone read the same trend reports, but we’ve seen not one, not two, but three oversized pansy prints from Freya (Pansy, see below), Sculptresse (May), and ASOS.  You heard it here first: pansies are hot for Fall.  Apparently.

Menswear

Curve Fall/Winter Trend Report 2014- Sweet Nothings & Miss Underpinnings

Sunday Intimates “Marlowe” Bra and High-Waisted Brief

I always appreciate menswear-inspired elements in women’s lingerie, for two reasons: for one thing, some women want beautiful underwear, but they just aren’t pink or lace or dots or frills kind of people, and for another, the contrast between traditionally feminine shapes and in traditionally masculine prints and patterns can really add interest and dimension to otherwise classic designs.  Case in point: Fleur of England’s sumptuous silk Edinborough collection, a delightful departure from their stunning guipure and mesh pieces.  Elomi’s Eva, Panache’s Envy, which gets a fashion color for F/W in Cassis, and Sunday Intimates all used beautiful plaids, tartans, and houndstooth.  I love that Sunday included a menswear pattern in their film noir-inspired F/W collection– it makes me think of a sassy lady detective in a hat and trench coat.

STYLES AND SHAPES

Bodysuits

Curve Fall/Winter Trend Report 2014- Sweet Nothings & Miss Underpinnings

Clockwise from top left: Fleur of England “Caviar” bodysuit, Panache “Envy” bodysuit, Huit “New Idylle” bodysuit in Bordeaux, Fantasie “Echo Lace” bodysuit, Freya “Ooh La La” bodysuit in Flame, NaiS bodysuit in Emerald, Mimi Holliday “Fab” bodysuit in Bubblegum Pink.

While longline bras are here to stay (more in a second), we feel pretty confident saying that the bodysuit is the next big shape, especially in full-bust land.  Huit reprises their beautiful bodysuit from last season in a gorgeous deep red, ticking the boxes for the tattoo trend and the bodysuit in one fell swoop.  NaiS’ lace bodysuit remains one of my favorite pieces, and best of all, three full-bust powerhouses will offer bodysuits in some of their most popular ranges.  Freya’s Ooh La La body returns in a bright red, Fantasie will offer Echo Lace as a black bodysuit, and my personal fave, Panache will release a bodysuit version of Envy that goes up to a K-cup and just looks fantastic.  This is a shape we cannot wait to try!

Longline Bras

Curve Fall/Winter Trend Report 2014- Sweet Nothings & Miss Underpinnings

Clockwise from top left: Curvy Kate “Carmen” in Black/Boysenberry, Sunday Intimates “Lolita” in Black, Parfait “Danielle” in Peacock Blue, Claudette “Dessous” in Pointe Shoe/Malibu Polka Dot/Elsa Pink, Freya “Pansy” in Midnight

As I mentioned last season, these are still super popular, particularly for retro and pinup aficionados, but we do see the shape continuing to evolve a bit towards a more contemporary look.  Parfait’s Danielle is still totally gorgeous, Freya is sticking with their tried and true padded half cup shape, Mimi Holliday introduces new longline style Neopolitan, Claudette returns with another fetching Dessous longline, and Sunday Intimates presents with a tight, cohesive collection featuring some truly fantastic longline bras, including the cool leather-look Lolita.  Insert Sweets’ customary moan about whyyyyy will no one do a G+ non-padded longline bra, holy PANTS she wants one, and we’ll move right along.

High-Waist Briefs

Curve Fall/Winter Trend Report 2014- Sweet Nothings & Miss Underpinnings

Clockwise from top left: Claudette “Paloma” in Pointe Shoe, Sunday Intimates “Billy” in Black/Red, Angela Friedman “Adrienne” in Black, Sunday Intimates “Marlowe”, Curvy Kate “Smoothie” in Wild Black, Mimi Holliday “Mr Whippy” high-waisted corset knicker

Like longline bras, this is a shape that can scream “retro” or “pinup”, but we’ve seen so many brands offer their own, distinct versions.  Mimi Holliday’s are all lace, of course, Curvy Kate relaunches Smoothie with some high-waisted lightly-shaping laser-cut briefs, Sculptresse offers some colorful, flattering high-waist coordinates, and Sunday Intimates offers some of the prettiest ones around, including the cute Marlowe briefs with a delicate, subtle lace peplum detail!

Stretch Lace

We didn’t do a full collage for this one, but we thought it was really interesting to note how stretch lace has rapidly become an invaluable player in the bra world.  It offers sheer, pretty, flexible support that will adapt to suit smaller or fuller breasts, depending on the wearer.  Panache’s Jasmine and Envy styles, Natori’s Feathers, Freya’s new Icon plunge bra and balcony bra, and Sculptresse’s new Chi Chi bra (which hits several trends at once, with a neon/bright animal print and coordinating high-waist briefs [ed.- FINALLY, a Jasmine-like bra for fuller band sizes.  It's about time]) all feature stretch lace on the cups for smooth, flexible coverage and support.  Hurray for stretch lace!

What do you think of this glimpse of the Fall/Winter 2014 collections? We’ll have more coverage in the coming weeks, so please stay tuned!

Review: Coco Lace by Lulu Tout

I feel like I’ve been saying this a lot lately, but I’ll say it again for good measure: Figleaves is on fire lately.

Review: "Coco Lace" by Lulu Tout at sweetnothingsnyc.com

“Coco Lace” in Emerald by Lulu Tout ($38.00). Available exclusively at Figleaves in sizes 30-34 DD-H and 36-38 DD-G (UK). Brief ($25.00) and thong ($24.00) available in sizes 8-18 (UK), coordinating balconette bra ($38.00) in sizes 30-38 A-DD.

I’ve shopped from Figleaves for several years now, and I’ve consistently found a huge selection of my favorite brands, discovered great brands that were new to me, and had good-to-stellar customer service.  It wasn’t until late in 2013 that I began to take notice of some of the fabulous exclusive items Figleaves was beginning to carry, including lingerie, swim, and clothing items designed to fit up to a  G-cup, in a really phenomenal range of shapes and styles.

I was even more delighted earlier this year when I got to visit the Figleaves showroom in New York and see a preview of brand-new Lulu Tout, the first Figleaves-exclusive brand available from an A-cup up to an H-cup (in UK sizes, equivalent to a K-cup in American sizes).  The Lulu Tout bras I saw featured elegant details, beautiful colors, and lovely shapes, all at a great price point: about $38 for a bra and $63 for a set!

I was so delighted when Figleaves offered me a set for review, and as much as I loved all of the styles available, I didn’t hesitate to choose the pretty “Coco Lace” style in Emerald.  There aren’t a ton of sheer bras past a G-cup (although Miss Mandalay’s “Paris” is a great example), and I will always, always, always love green lingerie. I requested the bra in my “usual” (Panache, Bravissimo, Eveden) size, and the briefs in my usual (Panache, Curvy Kate) size.

[Note: while Figleaves generously provided this set for review, all thoughts and opinions are my own.]

Appearance

Review: "Coco Lace" by Lulu Tout  at sweetnothingsnyc.com

The overall look of the bra definitely shares DNA with the “Paige Italian Lace” style from fellow Figleaves brand Midnight Grace.  As I love the look of that bra, you’ll get no complaints from me.  The top of the cup features super-sheer emerald mesh with an elegant, shimmering striped lace outer sling running from the bottom of the cup all the way up to the strap, to ensure a centered, lifted shape.

Review: "Coco Lace" by Lulu Tout  at sweetnothingsnyc.com

I love this unusual construction: the bra features a fully finished three-part mesh cup, backed with an extra layer of light beige mesh for added stability, with a completely separate lace outer sling.

Review: "Coco Lace" by Lulu Tout  at sweetnothingsnyc.com

Inside cup view

My favorite feature?  The keyhole in the center gore!  I see this detail a lot in smaller-cupped bras, and it’s so lovely to see one in larger sizes as well.

Review: "Coco Lace" by Lulu Tout  at sweetnothingsnyc.com

The bra features fully adjustable straps and closes with two rows of three columns of hooks and eyes.

Review: "Coco Lace" by Lulu Tout  at sweetnothingsnyc.com

The shorts feature the same pretty striped lace and a double layer of green mesh across the back. They’re cut quite low and straight across both the waist and leg-lines.

Fit

I’d heard a few reviews mention that some Midnight Grace styles ran small in the cup and band, so I was trying to lower my expectations to convince myself that there was no way the cups were going to fit me.  To my surprise and delight, they are perfect!  I’m quite full all around, and so sometimes even bras in the right size are too shallow in one area or another, but I get a good, projected shape in Lulu Tout.  That beautiful sheer top cup is a little flimsier than some others (because it’s, you know, sheer), so while I wouldn’t necessarily recommend the bra for a day of strenuous activities, the fit is still a great everyday (or special occasion) fit: the wires lie flush against my sternum and ribcage, the cup is smooth with no digging or wrinkling, and all of my breast tissue is scooped into the cups.

Lulu Tout Coco Lace Emerald Review

The slightly bad news (or good for some, as I’ll explain): the band is both small and super firm.  It’s much smaller than almost any other brand I wear, and it has very, very little stretch in it.  I could hook it closed, but after about thirty minutes I realized it was digging in way too painfully, giving me deep, angry red marks around my ribcage and making the lace under the cups dig into my tender skin.  I’ve now worn it a few times with an extender, which is much, much more comfortable.

I thought about ordering a sister size or two, to experiment with some different fits, but unfortunately Lulu Tout is only available up to an H-cup in 30-34 brands, while it runs up to a G-cup in 36-38 bands, which means that my true sister size isn’t available.  I know this may be disappointing to some, but bear in mind that it’s much more beneficial for a brand to launch their first season with sizes and fits they feel confident in, before they expand their size range.  Hopefully after a few seasons and some wearer feedback we’ll see some G+ sizes in fuller band sizes.

The upside to this is that some women who would ordinarily wear 28 backs might consider giving Lulu Tout 30 bands a try!  If you like firm bands, Lulu Tout runs small enough (in my personal experience, of course) that it might work well for those on the smaller end of the size spectrum.  I’d be really interested to hear from any 28-band wearers who try Lulu Tout to see what they think!

Review: "Coco Lace" by Lulu Tout  at sweetnothingsnyc.com

I requested the briefs in my usual size (same as I’d wear in Curvy Kate or Panache, and one size up from Freya and Bravissimo).  When I pulled them out of the box I thought they looked too wide, and while yes, I think a smaller size would help with fit, there are also some, um, intimate spots where the fit is pretty darn wonky. I think a combination of factors, including a too-narrow gusset and no seaming or shaping across the seat, leads to a brief that can’t curve to accommodate or hug my natural shape (which is by no means unusually curvaceous– I’ve got a pretty flat butt, if I’m being honest with myself).  The briefs ride up and slide around with every step, and they chafe something fierce by the end of the day.

 Comfort

Bad news first: I’m probably going to toss the briefs. The fit is poor and they’re wildly uncomfortable, and I’d like to see Lulu Tout go back to the drawing board and start from scratch for them.  The good news is that I love this bra.  Adding an extender completely alleviates any discomfort I felt in the too-tight band, and while I don’t count it as one of my “workhorse” bras that I’d want to wear for a day full of movement and activity (plus Tall Girl Quibble: the straps are a little too short, such is my life), it’s definitely a bra that I can wear comfortably to work or out for drinks in the evenings.

Overall

I think Figleaves has launched an exceptionally lovely new DD+ collection. The bras are feminine and delicate with wonderful shape, projection, and support; I also really love the similarly constructed “Fleur Rose“. “Coco Lace” is also available in A-DD sizes, and both the A-DD and DD-H bras are available in Emerald as well as a chic Grey. I am so impressed by the designs, the size ranges, the fit, and the affordable price point. Lulu Tout is a winner, and I can’t wait to see what styles will come in future seasons!

Special thanks to Miss Underpinnings for acting as photographer.

Sweet Talking: An Interview with Lauren Rich, Founder of Lingerie Fashion Week

As a final piece of my Lingerie Fashion Week Fall/Winter ’14 coverage, I’m really happy to resurrect my sadly neglected interview series to share a conversation I had this week with Lauren Rich, the mastermind behind Lingerie Fashion Week.  She shares her thoughts about some of the huge strides the event has made in a single year, as well as some hopes for future seasons.  Take it away, Lauren!

Backstage with Naked Princess at Lingerie Fashion Week F/W 2014

1.  What drew you to lingerie?  I know lots of people have very individual stories about why they love it or why they think it’s important.

I think it’s more what drew lingerie to me! It seems to have been a recurring theme in my life – starting with a part time job in high school working in the intimate apparel department of the Bon Ton, then interning for FreshPair.com’s National Underwear Day in college, and ending up with an influx of lingerie brands early on in my PR career. I actually started (RICHPR) doing womenswear, but after working with so many great lingerie brands and really loving the market, I decided to focus on intimates exclusively.

Backstage with Layneau at Lingerie Fashion Week

2.  How did the idea for Lingerie Fashion Week come about?  Did you ever see yourself working in the lingerie industry specifically?

Coming from a womenswear background where there is so much focus on Fashion Week, one of the first things I noticed when specializing in intimates was – where is a Fashion Week for lingerie? Swimwear has one so I thought surely someone will do one for intimates. After a few more years went by expecting to see one emerge, I never did. So I pulled on my PR & events backgrounds, merging my womenswear experience with intimates experience, to launch the first Lingerie Fashion Week – with the goal twofold: to elevate the profile of lingerie designers amongst both industry and the greater consuming public, and to merge the lingerie, fashion and creative communities.

Runway set up at Lingerie Fashion Week

3.  You’ve got three seasons under your belt now, with new designers and more press each season. How do you feel about these successes? I know it’s mean to play favorites, but do you have a favorite show (or shows) that you really enjoyed or that surprised you?

Seeing a steady growth of brands, sponsors and press results each season is really rewarding. In one year alone we went from 6 designers to 17 designers, press mentions now totaling over 900 million media impressions to audiences from North & South America to Europe and Asia. It’s hard to choose favorites – I honestly have to take my hat off to ALL designers that have jumped on board thus far. It’s never easy to be the first to try a new concept and we are truly indebted to those who have taken this leap with us so early on. But, I have to say the shows that stand out the most are the ones that do something particularly unique. You! Lingerie putting (beautiful!) expecting models on the runway in August, Secrets in Lace holding a “halftime” burlesque performance in the middle of the their runway show (not to mention a video intro by Dita Von Teese), NOE Undergarments staging a futuristic presentation, Kix’ies Thigh Highs showcasing their collection on hoop artists and contortionists, Affinitas & Parfait this past season turning their runway this season into an “enchanted forest,” and LAYNEAU making their collection debut on models up to age 60. I also really loved FYI by Dani Read’s unique utilization of a presentation this season, staging a grand entrance and consistently transitioning her convertible pieces throughout the one-hour show.

Backstage with Clare Bare at Lingerie Fashion Week

4.  What did you feel were the successes and challenges of the most recent season of Lingerie Fashion Week?

The successes are as mentioned above – growth! Increased designer and sponsor participation, a bigger and more efficient venue, greater industry attendance, more press coverage, etc. But with growth comes growing pains, which for us this past season translated into a few logistics glitches, primarily timing delays. We also had greater on-site attendance from press and industry than ever before, but also an influx of non-industry guests that we previously didn’t experience.

We do hold one show each season that is specifically designed for and open to the public – the Closing Benefit, where of course we expect and encourage consumer attendance. All of the other shows, however, are designed to target (lingerie and fashion) press and industry members only. That said, we as Lingerie Fashion Week do not control the guest lists. You can think of us as an umbrella – we are the platform that hosts individual shows and events. When a designer comes on board, they are in control of their show, from creative direction and models, décor to guest list. We as Lingerie Fashion Week do however receive many incoming inquiries from press wanting to attend. For these individuals we send a Press Application, which, if approved, puts them on a Press Accreditation List that is distributed to each season’s designers. Designers can then review the list and reach out to those they’d like to invite – all of whom, of course, have been pre-screened by us. Many individuals, however, will reach out to designers (and/or their PR teams) directly, in which case it is up to that designer’s direction alone to accept or decline an RSVP. While we cannot completely control a designer’s guest list, we will be taking steps to better monitor and advise in seasons moving forward to streamline attendance.

Behind the scenes at Lingerie Fashion Week

5.  I know you were as dismayed as I was by the incredibly misogynistic blog post that was written about LFW, its designers, and its models.  What is your response?  I know free speech and all that, but do you have any plans to further enforce some journalistic standards for future seasons?

Well. Of course constructive criticism is one thing, but talking about models (and women, for that matter) in a misogynistic way is never acceptable, especially in the sensitive context of lingerie. We are proud that our designers hire models of all body shapes and sizes, and wouldn’t have it any other way. As with any venture, along with growth also means being further out there in the public – resulting in a greater opportunity for anyone to say anything. Unfortunately there is nothing we can do to prevent people from saying what they want, positive or negative, appropriate or inappropriate, true or untrue. We hope the public can use best judgment to discern for themselves what is constructive criticism, and what’s simply inappropriate. And we can of course do our best in future seasons to advise designers on guest lists per above, and continue to implement our Press Application process to pre-screen press members on our end.

Behind the scenes at Lingerie Fashion Week

6.  Where do you see the show in five years?

Hopefully continuing to grow by leaps and bounds! What exactly those leaps are – I couldn’t predict. Generally speaking however, I hope each season to bring on even further diversity in brands and models, more creativity in show concepts and execution, building on greater and greater press coverage, and of course offering a seamless, valuable experience for designers, sponsors and guests.

Backstage with Clare Bare at Lingerie Fashion Week

*     *     *     *     *

A huge thanks to Lauren for sharing her thoughts with me this week in response to my post about the final runway show.  Now that I’ve wrapped up coverage, are there any shows that really stood out to you?  Brands you’d like to see in person?  Pieces you loved?  I’d love to hear what you think!

Lingerie Fashion Week F/W 2014 Day 3: Affinitas & Parfait

Affinitas & Parfait at Lingerie Fashion Week Fall/Winter 2014

“Charlotte” (Parfait) in Purple Wine

It’s become something of a tradition for Affinitas & Parfait to present the closing runway show of Lingerie Fashion Week.  It’s pretty fun seeing them on the runway: both brands make creative twists on classic shapes and styles at incredibly accessible price points.  While I enjoy seeing the unusual or outlandish (like last year’s Rococo Dessous show), it’s also a real treat to see lingerie go down the runway and think “oh! I could wear that!”  While the first two seasons’ shows were marred by some pretty terrible fit (not just in the bras) and some very bland styling, I was really happy to see that this season’s show stepped up its game.

Affinitas & Parfait at Lingerie Fashion Week Fall/Winter 2014

“Coco” (Affinitas)

First of all, we had lighting and set design!  Hurray!  The runway was lined with electric blue lights, with pretty projections of bare tree branches against the walls, and pedestals with white branches and violet flowers spilling out stood on either side of the runway.  It lent the show the look and feel of a formal evening event, highlighting both collections’ more glamorous look.

Affinitas & Parfait at Lingerie Fashion Week Fall/Winter 2014

“Sasha” (Affinitas)

In seasons past, the two brands have been styled differently, with Affinitas skewing younger and sweeter and Parfait sultrier and more grown-up.  I enjoyed seeing how the show brought the two lines closer together in tone, so that the both sets of sizes felt equally sophisticated.  Fall/Winter collections often feature darker colors, heavier embroidery, and sultrier looks, and Affinitas/Parfait was no exception, but the execution was wonderful, and there were some great surprises.

Affinitas & Parfait at Lingerie Fashion Week Fall/Winter 2014

“Lara” (Affinitas)

First of all, a huge round of applause from me: A+ styling.  Boring beige shoes were replaced with some pretty kickass strappy black heels, the models with long hair all sported incredibly sleek low ponytails, there was some really great jewelry (the model at the top of the post in the new purple wine colorway for Parfait’s Charlotte bra?  She is perfection), and stockings!  The models who wore garments with suspenders wore stockings!  All is right in my world.

Affinitas & Parfait at Lingerie Fashion Week Fall/Winter 2014

“Jeannie” (Parfait)

Animal print looks to be huge for 2014, with popular Leslie getting a new blue animal colorway, but I really liked the rich “panther” colorway for Parfait’s molded plunge “Jeannie” style, above.  Both brands presented some classic jewel tones, with Affinitas offering pretty purple and red versions of new style “Sasha”.  Parfait brought out purple and turquoise for Charlotte and Danielle respectively, and I thought I wasn’t going to care for them, and then I got to see them up close and in person at Curve, and I have to say, the Peacock Blue version of Danielle is TO DIE FOR.  I lurved it.  Parfait, if you’re taking requests for the the next style to take up to a K-cup, Danielle Danielle Danielle gets my vote.

Affinitas & Parfait at Lingerie Fashion Week Fall/Winter 2014

“Delphine” (Parfait)

While black and jewel tones aren’t unusual for Fall/Winter, floral prints are, and I frankly think Parfait does a bang-up job with theirs.  They offer an unusual mix of teal, brown, and pink against a lilac base, and it should be musty and fussy, and instead it just WORKS.  But my favorite is the unusual black and red floral print for “Casey” below; I even looked across the aisle and mouthed “ooh, I LIKE that” to another writer, who responded with vigorous nods.

Affinitas & Parfait at Lingerie Fashion Week Fall/Winter 2014

“Casey” (Parfait)

Two other styles really stood out to me, because my first response was also “ooh, I like that!”, only to be followed by “oh. That’s because I RECOGNIZE that.”  Behold:

Affinitas & Parfait at Lingerie Fashion Week Fall/Winter 2014

“Kitty” (Parfait)

Affinitas & Parfait at Lingerie Fashion Week Fall/Winter 2014

“Lea” (Affinitas)

Affinitas & Parfait at Lingerie Fashion Week Fall/Winter 2014

“Lea” (Affinitas)

These are fantastic sets, don’t get me wrong.  I love the polka dots on the “Kitty” babydoll, and if it came in my size I’d wear it in a freaking heartbeat.  The scalloped edges and pinstripe details on the pink and black “Lea” collections are so striking.  The problem?

Marcie Cleo babydoll

“Marcie” babydoll by Cleo

"Ritzy" by Curvy Kate

“Ritzy” by Curvy Kate

They’ve already been done.  Seriously, as these sets were coming down the runway I thought “Oh, look, Parfait’s done their own Marcie,” and then “Wow, that Affinitas set reminds me of Ritzy.”  I know the lines between copying and inspiration can sometimes be fuzzy, but considering the Marcie babydoll was one of the most insanely popular full-bust pieces to hit the market in 2013 (not to mention Ewa Michalak’s babydoll, which also featured ribbon trim and a ruffled skirt), Parfait’s version hits a little too close for comfort.  What do you think?  Am I overreacting, or do you see it too?

Affinitas & Parfait at Lingerie Fashion Week Fall/Winter 2014

“Coco” (Affinitas)

That discomfort aside, I feel like Affinitas and Parfait finally realized that they had a chance to present, you know, a SHOW, and they upped the glam beautifully.  The show felt edited, which consequently made each look feel more special.

Affinitas & Parfait at Lingerie Fashion Week Fall/Winter 2014

“Erin” (Affinitas)

The changes Parfait/Affinitas made for their show, along with strong choices from other brands that showed (like the string quartet for Layneau and the aerialists for Kix’ies) make me really hopeful about future seasons of Lingerie Fashion Week.  I’d love to attend a season where every brand embraces the opportunity to tell their own unique story.  I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: it’s not enough to put a pretty girl in underwear and send her down the runway.  The shows that feel like walking catalogues are forgettable; the shows that feel like, you know, shows, where I leave with a stronger understanding of the brand and their style, those are opportunities for lingerie brands to reach out to fashion buyers and consumers who might be new to lingerie, and who might begin to treat lingerie as an integral part of their personal style and fashion identity.

Affinitas & Parfait at Lingerie Fashion Week Fall/Winter 2014

“Danielle” (Parfait)

*****

Along those lines, some thoughts on the closing of Lingerie Fashion Week: whenever a new endeavor of this scale is starting out, there are bound to be hiccups.  This is only Lingerie Fashion Week’s third season, and it was the first season in a brand-new venue.  I hope the event continues to grow, to attract new designers and collaborators and journalists and artists, and to really showcase lingerie as a force in the fashion world.  However, this season was undeniably odd, and I left the final show feeling underwhelmed, irritated, and stressed out.

Every single show began at least an hour late, and the Affinitas/Parfait show was a full two hours late, leaving guests standing around to wait with ever-decreasing patience for doors to open.  The new venue is bigger and ostensibly more efficient, yet it’s in an isolated location, meaning that there were no nearby bars or restaurants where guests could leave to get food in the event (as it happened) that shows ran late and no food was served on-site.  Finally, the crowds are growing larger, which is great, but lingerie writers and buyers are increasingly getting shifted to the back rows, to standing room only, or to the entrance to the catwalk, where views (and photos) are obstructed, making it increasingly difficult to cover the shows thoughtfully or well (I was able to slip into a front row no-show’s seat to cover Parfait and Affinitas; my assigned seat was behind a pillar).

Worst of all, invited guests at the Parfait/Affinitas show had two hours to kill during which the only thing to do at the venue was drink, and many of them did just that, which led to a show filled with chatter, disturbances, yelling, and, jeez, I can’t believe I’m about to say this, cat-calling and wolf-whistling at the models as they walked.  Some of the invited guests seem to have confused an actual industry event with lingerie football; I even read a really sickening piece (no, I’m not linking to it, because it’s garbage, and I don’t want to give him the pageviews) by an alleged fashion writer bemoaning the fact that Lingerie Fashion Week was too boring and serious, the guests weren’t dressed fashionably enough (fuck you dude: I wore HEELS for this), and the models were unattractive: “LFW must start bringing in better looking quality models, for the sake of the show and the brands they work with. Goodlooking models make clothing look better, plain and simple, its the reason the fashion world and modeling worlds exist. Let’s be honest, more so with lingerie than any other fashion wear, people need to want to f*ck the models because the lingerie looks so good, that unfortunately happens rarely with the current model groups.”  Gross.  [UPDATE: I have just received confirmation that the blogger in question was not invited by Lingerie Fashion Week organizers. Rather, this person RSVP’d directly to a designer.]

And actually, jackass, LFW’s models are consistently great; with the exception of the Bradelis show, I saw a really wonderful (and undeniably beautiful) range of racial, age, and body diversity, even more than you might see at “real” fashion week.  I’d love to see more!  A full-figure brand’s show!  A show with more ages represented!  A show that included models with disabilities!  A show with athletes and artists!  Another fun burlesque runway performance like last year’s Secrets in Lace show!  But more importantly, the kind of “journalist” who thinks lingerie is about turning him on, or presenting him with spank bank fodder?  Why is that guy there?  Seriously.  It’s a free country bro, so you have the right to be a dickhead, but I don’t understand why he was an invited guest at the shows.  In what possible world is “people need to want to f*ck the models” a professional or appropriate piece of fashion journalism?

I love that there’s a fashion event solely dedicated to lingerie, and I am grateful and thankful that I am lucky enough to attend it.  I don’t envy the uphill climb the organizers face as they continue to expand and take on more challenging logistics.  I really, really hope that this season’s event and some of the accompanying traffic jams and hiccups have provided a clear road map of some of the logistics that will need to be tackled before August’s shows.  I want so much for the LFW to become a major player in the industry, but right now at the end of the season I’m feeling pretty exhausted and disappointed.