"But what does it look like under clothes?" is one of the questions we most often get asked, so we spent a couple of days recently in indie fashion brand Philmore Clagues' excellent seaside shop recently in an effort to show, not tell!
It's mostly me in the videos because a) asking someone else to flash their bits for my business would be rude and b) I'm the oldest* and the biggest width-wise so the effects of garments are a little more obvious.
*Maz has just informed me SHE is the oldest, thank you very much!
To give you the context I'm going to tell you a bit about my size, but you can skip over and just head straight to the different bra styles if that's not relevant for you.
Many women with fuller busts report that a "good" bra fit makes a huge difference to them; not so for me. The only things I really care about are does it hurt, is it entertaining, and as I age . . . can it please get me rearranged so that underboob sweat isn't an unpleasant major experience every day! I'm pressure -sensitive due to chronic illness, so most full bust bras are unsuitable (they use tight bands and u-shaped wires that tend to dig really short folks like me in the armpit).
I measure around 39 inches over the fullest part of my bust and about 33.5 underneath, and just to annoy everyone, neither the +0 or +4 bra sizing methods work consistently for me so I have 34, 36 and 38 backs in my drawers, as well as C-E cups and a pile of things that don't use bra sizes. I mostly wear a 36D/DD.
Right, The Bras!
Blue Velvet Doren
In the picture at the top, you can see the Van Doren on the left on Maz (shot by Lydia) in a size Medium, in all black (long lasting athletic-wear Carvico fabric); in the video it's the blue velvet version in an XL.
The Doren pattern shows up repeatedly in our collections (currently the Emmeline uses it as well as all the Doren styles). That's because its comfortable and super-easy to fit, with no wires, a thick underbust band, vertical seams on light padding to create the shape, working for about 70% of you. It doesn't work as well if you have more about 7 or more inches difference between underbust and overbust. It looks like a fancy retro bra, but its internal structure is closer to a sports bra, and deadlies do send us pics of them doing sports, including hanging upside down off things!
Pros - as you can see it's a sort of retro t-shirt bra. It smooshes things a bit upwards and together (good for cleavage) and it's relatively smooth with no sign of nipple.
Cons - other than the size limits, if you were looking for something that "lifts and separates", this isn't it; if you want your bust to point firmly forwards and head further towards your chin, you're going to need cup shapes.
We're working on a longline version with birb lace and fancy trims, and also a 2XL. The 2XL will use a different ratio to the rest as we find that most folks get bigger in the overbust more than the underbust, if that makes any sense.
The image is Playful Promises "Mint Hedy" bra for fuller busts, which is the same pattern as the Marlene.
Remember all those pictures of Marilyn Monroes where it looks like she isn't wearing a bra but she's very, very perky? Well, that's what a cut-away bra does for you. Playful Promises developed this demi or quarter cup (opinions differ as to the amount of coverage it gives) a few years back and variants of it turn up every season. The one I'm wearing is from a while back, and is a 36D, so is done using their 32-36A-D pattern, the one shown above is a 30-36 DD-G pattern, and they also have it for curve (plus size) fits. I also wear it in a 36E which fits better in the cup but ends up in the wrong place on my nipples for my personal tastes.
Pros and cons? Well, depends on if you're doing something where visible nipples are a taboo or not (and where your nipples sit, some peoples are below the fabric). These do offer a surprising amount of "lift and separate" though, as that largely come from the band/cradle/base and wire, but the absence of the rest of the cup means there are fewer issues with finding the right shape to match your bust.
Visibility; minimal, but means you probably have visible nipples, depending on size and placement.
Bettie Page Spiral Stitch Bullet Bra
Shown here in plum with our yet-to-come taffeta wrap skirt, in the video I'm wearing it in peach in a 36DD.
Bullet bras have a pointy breast shape, traditionally created by spiral stitching - these days it's done using concentric circles instead. They use non-stretch fabrics and have no wires, relying on the contours of the fabric instead. I have "teardrop" shaped breasts that do not easily turn into 50's-sweater-girl contours, albeit with prominent nipples, so like many people, to be able to get that super pointy look I used the pads that come with the bra - or stick with a less stylised fit. I've also worn the What Katie Did bullet bras, which are a touch pointier, but I'd still need a pad for that full-on cone shape.
Pros - I find bullet bras wildly amusing. Also, I love a wirefree bra, they're more comfortable for me.
Cons - the super pointy look isn't for everyone! And the absence of stretch means you might have to be a bit more careful about which back size you buy - they all depend on elastic at the back, which is very different from modern stretchy wings.
Visibility; depends on your breast shape or use of pads, but once you've got that pointy shape it's pretty obviously not natural!
Bettie Page Overwire Bra
Welcome to the bra that gets the most love AND the most hate. You can see Maz wearing it in "teal" (Emma at Playful and I have a long argument about this colour) with a Philmore pencil skirt and bolero here. In the video I'm wearing Emerald in a 36DD, initially strapless and then with a halter. You can also do these straps normal style or crossed.
The overwire is another classic 50's bra that foxes modern wearers because it's NOTHING like contemporary bras. There is no underwire, no padding, even the cradle isn't the same as modern bras. The shape comes from non-stretch fabrics made even sturdier with lines of concentric circle stitching, so you get a gently pointy silhouette. The overwire is really there to make a very structured shape at the top, historically to fit with structured, fitted dresses, and does nothing to support busts. The wire ends are padded on the inside for comfort. Like most people with full on the bottom and/or fuller busts, if I wear this without at least one strap, this tends to sit with the wire pulling forward slightly.
Pros - I love overwires for fancy frocks, peeking out of tops, etc. The detailing on the Playful x Bettie Page ones are just superb and the wires were custom made, unlike many that are just underwires turned upside down.
Cons - people tend to assume there's a right way for the overwire itself to fit; there isn't, just get the cup right and you're done. And I feel like this is the formal-wear of bras!
Visibility - if you're going to wear these, it's to show them off. That wire is only going to be invisible under complicated 50's heavy quality fabric cocktail frocks. Ironically, the big bow everyone worries about doesn't show up at all (plus, we've probably sent you an unpicker you can take it off with anyways).
Basbleu Quarter Cup Bra
Mini Blue shot by Heather Bailey wearing the Basbleu. In the video I'm wearing a 36D/DD, lightly chewed by my cat.
So . . . developing bras is an expensive business and you may therefore notice that is quite similar to the Playful Marlene/Hedy style. Yup, they let us borrow their homework, so the base pattern is very similar, so just re-read my notes on that except that in view of how the lack of cup affects fit and the fact that we're poorer than them, we went for one-size-fits-two. We added what is actually a retro harness detail (seriously, also a 50's thing. Basically every bra ever invented happened in the 50's) and a big tassle. For this cut-away bra I stuck pasties on so that we can actually show the whole thing without having to dodge the nipocalypse.
Pros - as above except the harness strap detail can give you a bit of extra support
Cons - as above except we didn't put adjusters on the straps, so sometimes they're the wrong length.
Visibility - also surprisingly minimal! With a plunge neck you'd see the extra straps. That's it.
If there's anything I want you to take from this, its that most of the things people worry about - lace, elastics, bows, tassles, stitch details - tend not to show up, but overall shape and the structure of the top of a cup is often visible.
And also if we could get over the Horror Of Nipples, that would be awesome.
What bra shape has you surprised and what one do you wish we'd covered?