Monthly Archives: December 2012

Bravolution in my mind

I was raised with conviction that bras are uncomfortable by design and simply stupid. Well, most made in USSR bras were hideous and uncomfortable, imported bras were very expensive and you couldn’t just go to a shop and buy them*, so all the women who raised me gave me that conviction for a good reason. Perestroika came, then lihie (this can’t be translated in English without loosing meaning, it’s reckless and really bad at the same time) 90s came when bazaar was the only source of new clothes. Can you imaging buying bras from a stand without trying on and not being able to return if it doesn’t fit? Add there that quality was usually poor, fabrics scratchy and itchy and even being cheep those bras weren’t free and my family month income (rather unstable btw) was something like $100-150 and I had two small brothers.** So, I spend my youth having enough reasons to think that going braless whenever you can is the best option you can think of.

When I was in my early twenties I identified my bra size should be 80C (36C) using underbust measurement taken loose and bust measurement, but wait! my BFF wears C and her breasts looks much bigger, then I must be B. I found a job as a programmer and had relatively good salary, so I went to the shop and tried 80B… it didn’t fit at all, it felt very tight in the band and I’ve got a slight gaping in the cups and it was painful, so I decided that I should be 85A, but there was no such size in the shops, that’s why I started to buy convertibles for low back dresses. I was going braless most of the time and used bras as a nipple cover with tops made from fabrics that have some transparency and no strategically placed embellishments. And believe me I tried really hard to avoid tops for which bra were a necessity. I ignored nipple shape showing if it wasn’t super obvious.

It worked just fine until recently. I got a promotion and three male subordinates. Then I had a feeling that it’s a kind of unprofessional to go braless to work.

About that time I was searching to some clothes solutions for hourglass shape (I knew a lot about it, but it’s never enough) and then I came across  Thin and Curvy blog. Oh Gosh… my mind was blown! This lovely girl explained a lot to me. All my struggles with bras made sense! 80 (36) bands felt tight on me not because I needed 85, but because underwires were cutting about 1/3 of my breasts on the sides! And of cause my breasts were in pain from the regular bras! And they are not that small as it looks, especially if I’m wearing tight cotton top and a baggy cardigan without a bra.

After that I found more lingerie blogs (Braless in Brazil, Bras I Hate and Love, Boosaurus!, Hourglassy, Fussy Busty, Invest In Your Chest to name a few) and it was like a new world full of information essential for any woman. I’m very grateful for all this wonderful girls and women, I would never figured what can work for me and what not if they weren’t there making posts about shape and fit, bra reviews and spreading the word of support, hope and body acceptance.

Online calculators*** give me something around 30FF/G (I’m 30.5″ underbust take or add 1″ for very tight/very loose measuring tape and amount of air in my lungs). I have very skinny ribcage, so I definitely prefer 32 bands, if we are not talking about that superstretchy ones. And I have size down in the cups, because of breast shape (they are almost conical, I have very little fullness). So I came to 32E/F (which is more close to E)****.

The main idea is: “hello, bands are much stretchier now than they used to be when bra sizing was introduced, forget about old methods, to get a bra that fits you normally shouldn’t add inches to your underbust measurement (and you should subtract 10sm if it’s European system),  cup should encase all your breast tissue, without cutting in anywhere and central gore should be flat against the sternum”. There are a ton of nuances in finding perfect fit, but hey! right starting point means a lot!

I didn’t find my perfect fit in bras yet, but even kind of ok fit is much better than what I had before. I dream of custom made bras, but I haven’t find anybody locally and the only place I know is 350 miles away. So I saved this option for times when I’ll have some extra money and there won’t be freezingly cold (I hate to travel in winter).

*Most goods in USSR were imported in not enough quantity to satisfy demand, so people who worked in distributive trade were selling most of them not from the official shops, but from their own distributive chains at much higher price. That was illegal, but very profitable. And because it was illegal you should have made some contacts to be able to buy. The smaller portion of import which made to the shops were bought in hours usually and lines were usually tremendous.

**As you can guess for us 90s were really bad. They were really bad for the most people in USSR who hadn’t entrepreneur talent or were a part of the criminal world. It was very dark time for many and time of endless possibilities for some.

**Good ones, not Playtex or Victoria Secret sort. Good calculators are: Butterfly collection Calculator,(nice online shop, free Skype fittings and excellent blog btw), A Sophisticated Pair Calculator (Erica, the shop owner, is a real sweetheart and a brilliant blogger).

**** You can be suspicious how I can get away braless with this size, well I have mixed blessing of very specific breast shape and ribcage shape. My breasts have very wide base and are almost conical, as I mentioned, and I have deep flared ribcage. So base of my breasts isn’t perpendicular to the ground, my much more lightweight then you can expect breasts are laying on my ribcage rather then hanging. That makes me look much smaller than I really am especially without a bra and combination of wide base and lack of fullness makes finding bras really hard.

Custom made clothes. Perils of

The best thing about custom made clothes is that they are custom made. 😀

That means that in theory you are getting a perfect fit in any cut you want and any fabric you want. But in reality there are some pitfalls as:

  • fabrics choice, it’s limited and it’s especially limited in good quality cotton, wool and silk with small percentage of elastane and poly to make them wrinkle free and a bit stretchy, furthermore: each cut has its limitations in terms of fabric;
  • qualification of the tailor/seamstress; you need a pattern maker, not just person who can sew, because if you are very busty/very curvy then you need patterns made from scratch, not standard patterns with inches subtracted/added here and there (it’s much easier to do, and many prefer to that, but results often unsatisfactory); I have two cases of garment ruined and unwearable because seamstress tried to use standard pattern from Burda magazine;
  • not any cut is meant for a curvy body and seamstress/tailor should know that;
  • you need to know exactly what you want and have a very good skill in scaling cut to your proportions in your imagination (because what looks good on a model from some fancy fashion show can look like crap on you even if it technically fits);
  • you should be able to be adamant about what you want, and even that sometimes doesn’t help (I have some really beautiful, but not work appropriate items in my wardrobe thanks to the seamstress who wanted me to look my best);
  • you normally have four appointments before garment is ready, the first one in a store (or two, or three stores) to choose fabric, the second one to take measurements and then two fitting sessions), it’s time consuming and tiring; it gets better though if you are returning customer and you shape doesn’t change over time;
  • it’s expensive even in third world (a lot less expensive than in EU or US, but still), price will be from $30 (something as simple as flared skirt) to $500 (wedding dress, winter coat or business suit) per item in the third world and from $100 up to $5000 in EU or US.

I think that it’s definitely worth it if you can afford it and there are some good professionals in the area. But I also think that it’s better to buy ready-to-wear and alter it where ever you can (it’s usually much cheaper and less time consuming).

There are also some businesses that propose made-by-measures clothes. I’ve never used them, but I know from experience that fitting sessions improve fit a lot, so I think that in this case some alterations may be necessary and there should be cases when it’s ruined and nothing could be done about it.

What about you? Do you have some positive or negative experience with custom made clothes?

Alterations. Flaws that can be cured by seamstress and flaws that can’t be helped

Flaws which can be cured easily:

  • absent buttons (you can do it yourself!);
  • broken zippers, snap fasteners too loose or too hard/impossible to snap (there are usually extras and you can change one or two of them, it’s quite cheap);
  • too long hem and sleeves if garment lines are simple and there is no problems with pattern, no lining, alteration isn’t big;
  • two big waist if alteration is not bigger then two inches and there is nothing to complicate things;
  • lining is too long.

Flaws which can be cured, but require a really good seamstress/tailor:

  • too long hem and sleeves if garment lines are not that simple, garment has lining, too long sleeves have cuffs etc
  • too big waist if it’s more that an two inches to be taken in (beware of pockets! and button holes! sometimes they are reason why waist can’t be taken in more then couple of inches)
  • horizontal folds under buttocks (trousers and jeans); it occurs if buttocks more flat then garment was made for;
  • too broad shoulders;
  • small horizontal folds where sleeves are attached.

Flaws that normally can’t be cured:

  • it’s too small (beware that shirt or jacket can be too small in the front and too large in the back, so when you fix the back you won’t be able to button it, or you will be getting ugly folds and flattened breasts);
  • button holes are not in a line;
  • major asymmetry of garment or lining, lining is too small for the garment;
  • it’s way too big (well, it can be cured, but it costs as much as make it from scratch or even more);
  • details have different colour (can occur on velvet because details have different direction of pile e. g.);
  • you put your hand up and garment moves up, movements are strained;
    wrong sleeve
  • small horizontal folds under the crotch.

One of the problems of busty women is that most tops from high street have such flaws as “too small (in the bust)” and “way too big everywhere except bust”. It’s not that bad if you have broad shoulders and long arms (because waist can be taken in quite easily and you can elongate back darts to make back more narrow). But if you have narrow shoulders and shorter arms, then sizing up 3-5 sizes and then taking in isn’t going to work for most of garments. Exception: garment has no seams on shoulders (kimono sleeves, bat sleeves, raglan) and there are no cuffs.

Small pleats (large pleats usually don’t look good on us and elastane/jersey are also good things because you can get away with significantly smaller alterations then.

So I think that for woven fabrics (if there are no additional factors mentioned above) it’s better to stick to speciality shops and for jersey and garments without shoulder seams and cuffs it depends on how expensive are alterations where you live. If it’s cheap or you are any good with sewing machine then you have a nice option of buying from high street and altering.

Nothing ever fits. But why?

The basic thing about ready-to-wear is that it’s ready to wear, so it was constructed based on average person measurements and there is not much room for adjustments. It’s ok if your measurements are close, but if you are any good at pattern making you take about 10 different measurements to make a dress, it’s not only bust – waist – hips from size charts. It’s also arm length, width of the back (yep! it could be different for different people with the same bust circumference), width of the shoulder, height of the bust, distance between nipples and so on. Most manufacturers offer sizes based only on bust or hips, and if you think that manufacturers use statistics for all the other measurements except bust/hips for the each size you are wrong. They just scale patterns adding or subtracting inches everywhere for many sizes, that’s why large and small sizes tend to fit worse. So almost any woman, even if her bust and waist measurements are exactly the same as size chart specifies, inevitably will find some fit imperfections if she looks in the mirror wearing any ready-to-made item. Small fit issues are normal, they are price you have to pay for wearing not customized garment. I think that jersey and loose fit become so popular because they mask these small issues quite well.

But if your shape is very different from the average, then small fit issues become huge. There is a point where no amount of stretch that can mask it. And if you are curvy then loose fit is your worst enemy, because it makes you frumpy and can even create illusion of five month pregnancy.

Solution? Well, tailoring. Either from scratch or alterations of ready-to-wear clothes. Both options have their pros and cons, but results are definitely better then trying to find something that fits of the rack.

The only exception: you are incredibly lucky and fit model (woman who was chosen because her measurements are very close to average customer from company statistics) of some brand is your body twin. But if you are far from average it will never happen to you.

There are also speciality shops (mostly in online) which offer clothes for curvy, plus-size, petite or tall customers, but what if you curvy and tall? or curvy and petite? But even if you are lucky enough not to be combination then small fit issues will hunt you even there. Many women are so tired of horrible fit that they gladly welcome kind of ok fit, I understand them completely, but I still search for better fit!

So my next post will be about tailoring.