Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Fit is the most important aspect of your clothing.

Have you ever watched a live action movie adaptation of Cinderella? Or any other oppressed princess? Have you noticed that, even dressed in filthy rags, Cinderella always looked gorgeous? It's part of the story, after all- her stepsisters dress her in rags but she still looks more beautiful than them. Now, I don't know about you, but I don't look nearly so gorgeous when I'm in my housecleaning clothes.

So how does Cinderella manage to look beautiful, even in dirty, torn, stained rags? Or rather, how do costumers manage to portray her as beautiful but still dressed in rags? And where am I going with this?

It all comes down to fit.

Way, way too much of the focus of fashion magazines, blogs, websites, etc; is on styles and patterns and colors. I'm not saying those don't matter; quite the contrary. But before you can worry about any of these things, you should be prioritizing fit.

All clothing, apart from a few specialized companies, is designed to fit one specific body shape.

But women come in so many varied shapes and sizes. How on earth did it come to this? Even in America, where we are really bad about bra fitting and having a wide enough range of sizes, we still don't think bras are "one size fits all." So why design everything for a B cup? Why can't women's clothes be sized by bust and waist separately- like men's pants? Oh, I know, it's cheaper this way. But it would make so much more sense the other way. When all patterns are designed for a B, that leaves out all of the A,C,D,DD,E,F,FF,G,GG,etc.... cups!

Why is it that B-cup women look thinner? Because off-the-rack clothes are designed to fit them well. If you are a large chested woman, and your shirt or dress does not fit at the waist, you are making yourself look fatter. Period.

So please, stop ignoring fit and focusing only on styles and patterns and colors. If your clothes fit, you will look fabulous. If they don't, the nicest clothes in the world will be dumpy and make you look fat. A lot of clothing advice for large busted women focuses on styles and colors we can wear. But when we go put those things on and they still look bad, it's confusing. Some advice, alternately, will tell you you can only wear stretchy fabrics, confusing what you can fit into with what might actually look good on you, if it fit.

You can wear just about anything you want, as long as it fits you perfectly, and still look great.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Review of Bravissimo Clothing: The Biggest Company is not Necessarily the Best.

 Bravissimo is the business for large breasted gals. If you do a search for clothing or bras for large chested women, they are going to be one of the only results. They are, by far, the largest, best promoted, most well known business for large chested women.

In many ways, I love Bravissimo- I love what they stand for, I love them for spreading proper bra fitting throughout the UK. I love that they help promote the idea that big breasted girls can be thin, too. Their website is nice, easy to use, and professional. They offer a large variety of products that are up to date with clothing trends while keeping to styles that will look good on a large chested woman. Oh, and might I mention how lovely their models are? It's refreshing to see thin, but hourglass-shaped women portrayed in this way. It was wonderful for me to see what my body type looks like on professional models- it made me feel normal, and, dare I say it, pretty?

However, I have to say, my actual experience with their products was extremely hit or miss. Mostly miss.

The first thing I bought was a purple jersey dress in 8 Super Curvy (8SC). I don't have a picture of myself in it, because I returned it. It was... extremely clingy. In that makes-my-hips-look-lumpier-than-they-actually-are way. It sort of dipped inwards at the crotch level, as well, making me look like I had a bit of a belly. SO not flattering. I had envisioned the dress with a much more flowing skirt. It did fit well at the top, so I decided to try again.

I ordered two shirts on sale, and one for a good price on ebay. At the time, Bravissimo did not have a size chart on their website. They said to go by standard UK sizing, and then pick by cup size. This seemed a bit confusing to me, but I looked up a standard sizing chart online and found that a UK 8 was supposed to be equivalent to a US 4. Well, I'm sometimes a 4, and sometimes a 6, but since it would be cut with extra room at the bust, I figured their 8 should be good. Cup size... Well, I really need a 24/26 HH/J. But I went with around GG in a 28 back to estimate that I would need a Super Curvy. I found this whole process pretty confusing.

The two shirts I ordered were MUCH too big. They even bagged at the bust, which, I will grant you, is not something I'm used to! My mother suggested that I try a curviness size down... but really, that would defeat the purpose as they were too big everywhere. I think if I could have scaled all of the seams down a few inches, it would've been great.




But then, the third shirt... WTF? It was on the loose side in the waist area... but at the boob level I couldn't zip it up. I'm talking like zipper 4 inches apart couldn't zip it up. And even if I could have, the line that was supposed to fall under my breasts would have bisected them. So basically, it fit just like any other shirt from any other store that makes clothes for a B cup. Just to prove it to myself, I had my 30C little sister try it on. It fit with only a little bit of extra room!

The only thing that fit acceptably was this jacket, although it still is slightly weird at the armpits and is a bit big, especially at my waist:



So, basically, I found their sizing really inconsistent. I think, overall, that most things tended towards too big for me, and I have read a lot of complaints on Bravissimo's Facebook fan page about this. Although they claim to use UK sizing, I think that their sizes tended to fit more like smallish US sizes.

If they are going to stick with such overinflated sizes, they ought to at the very least keep them consistent, and introduce a size 6! Seriously, they advertise themselves as being for women with big breasts and small waists... and they sell band sizes down to 28... but your typical 28-band-size-wearing woman probably would need a Bravissimo 6. Also, I feel like they don't know quite what body shape (other than large breasted which is just one element of your shape) that they are designing for. They claim to design for a 5'5” woman... and I definitely can tell that their clothes are designed for somebody shorter than me because the boob area always seems a little too high for me... as though for somebody with breasts higher up on their ribcage (like a more petite woman.) But petite women complain about weird fit issues, too. In addition, the hip area tends to be rather slender by all accounts, (what I experienced with the jersey dress!) even though most of their customers tend to be hourglasses or pears.

So, to sum up the issues:
    • They really need more consistent sizing
    • They need smaller sizes
    • Correspondingly, they need an extra super curvy or some such.
    • More hip room for hourglass-shaped ladies
    • For me, the clothes are too short- for petite ladies, they are too tall.
    • The clothes are very expensive for the quality

Until they fix these problems, I end up feeling like their brand is a bit of a lie, honestly. They were started for women with large breasts but not large bodies... but they don't carry smaller sizes that so many women need! The whole, entire reason for buying clothing from a specialized company like Bravissimo is to get a perfect fit. If their sizing is inconsistent, random, and doesn't come in the range their customers need, what's the point? Not to mention, returning things is a hassle and very expensive if you don't live in the UK.

I would encourage you to contact Bravissimo and ask for what you want. Eventually, they do listen to what customers want- for example, it is because of Bravissimo that there is a 28 band size! I hope that soon, they can get these issues with their clothing line worked out. But until they do, there ARE alternative companies out there. They may not be as well known, but that just means that they might be more willing to respond to customers' needs! And even if Bravissimo does get their act together, it's important to have options.

(edited to add: for good alternatives, click here or here)

Friday, November 12, 2010

Why do so many bra measurement guides tell you the wrong way to measure?

If you look up how to measure your bra size on the internet, most of the guides you will find tell you to measure under your breasts, and then add 4-5 inches to that measurement to get your band size. Adding 4-5 inches won't give you the support you need if you are a large-busted lady! And actually, if you are smaller-chested, it's not so great either, since proper bra sizes are much more comfortable and give a much better shape, which is crucial for all breast sizes!

But why is it that so many places tell you the wrong way of measuring? Even so-called “experts?” How can manufacturers tell you the wrong way to find your size in their own products??!

I honestly don't have a perfect answer for you. But here's what I have found out in my research:

When the recognizable bra was invented, in about the 1930's, and through the 60's, stretchy materials weren't widely used, and bra bands were much tighter and without any give. So, in order to get a comfortable fit, you had to add inches. But now, bra bands are made of stretchy materials, which are nice for comfort. However, you need the band to be quite snug for proper support, so now you should take your (snug!) underbust measurement and round up or down to the nearest even number, whichever feels more comfortable for you.
Honestly, I think the newer system of simply having your underbust measurement be your band size makes a lot more sense and is a lot less confusing. But I still don't really understand why manufacturers haven't caught on.

Here's my speculation: I think that it would be a lot to change and companies would end up losing money at first. 32-48 A-DD doesn't actually reflect the sizes that most women should be wearing, so companies would have to change the sizes that they carry to reflect the real sizes of women. A more realistic size range for average women would be, say, 28-36 D-G. And a lot of women are confused by their true size, saying “I can't be a D, my breasts are small!” and “30G? I've never heard of such a size!” and they refuse to change, preferring to continue believing that they are a “normal” size 36B, even when their poor boobs are telling them otherwise. So a lot of marketing and a complete change of size ranges would be in order, basically. And companies like Victoria's Secret are just plain too lazy.

But hey, if we all figure out our real sizes and stop shopping there, sooner or later they'll have to change, eh?

Saturday, November 6, 2010

On Photoshop, Retouching, and Retouching Disclaimers

 Once upon a time, there was a cave man. His people wasn't as dumb as some people have in their heads that he was. I mean, hello, fire? The wheel? Language? The birth of Human Civilization? Could you have done all that stuff? One day he realizes something amazing. Using ashes, and berries, and sticks, and whatever he has around, he can create visual representations of things that have happened to his tribe!

So, he gets busy, creating visual records of what has happened to those he knows. Using the natural curvatures of the rock inside the caves, he creates breathtaking paintings of the hunts that he has participated in. It is the first 'written' language, the first way of recording their history and of giving others valuable information. The others are thrilled and our cave artist shows them how to do it, too.

But then something happens. Young cave artists start to... ever so slightly exaggerate the size of the last Wooly Mammoth they took down. I mean, cave chicks totally dig good hunters. And it's not like they were hurting anything, right?

But then, other young cave men start to feel inferior. They become depressed, have trouble attracting mates, and sometimes die tackling prey too big for them. The cave drawings have given them a distorted view of reality. Even when the saber tooth tigers painted are bigger than is ever possible in real life, they don't realize it because the distortion has happened so gradually.

For a time, the cave elders debate requiring a disclaimer on the paintings, saying “Cave paintings are an artistic creation and do not represent actual reality.” But this is a problem since they haven't actually invented written words yet.

Eventually, though, it all works itself out. Folks realize that since the artist has total control over what they are painting, and therefore, it's nothing more than artistic license and vision reflecting simply a more badass version of reality. After all, every civilization believes themselves to be more badass than the rest. And the artists' job is to show the qualities that their civilization has decided make a person especially badass.

This continues throughout history. Just look at the Ancient Greek statues. The problem is that these... 'statues' look so lifelike that people mistakenly believe that they reflect reality. So young men overexercise and generally have low self esteem in the attempt to look as Zeuss-like as possible. I mean, those statues looked so lifelike, how could they not represent total reality, right?

Eventually, though, they realize that statues are just statues and the artist can do whatever they want to make them look more badass than is actually possible for real people. And they just accept them as simply art and everybody's happy.

Now fast forward to the 20th century AD. This thing called photography is invented. And after a while, it becomes digital photography, which is cheaper, faster, more convenient, doesn't require darkrooms with chemicals, and is basically pretty awesome. Of course, we have to create software to process these images to replace the chemicals of the darkroom. And before long, folks discover that you can use that software to do a lot more than just process the image. You can fix mistakes! How cool is that? And then, before you know it, artists are using the software to represent the 2000's view of what makes one totally badass. This time around, it's having an impossible waistline and rubbery-looking poreless skin, but hey, who am I to judge?

The problem, though, is that these... 'photographs' look so lifelike that people mistakenly believe that they reflect reality. So youngsters diet, do crazy things to their skin, and generally have lousy self esteem in the attempt to look as Vouge-model-like as possible. I mean, these photographs look so real, how could they not represent reality, right?

So there' lots of hubbub- I mean, these young girls are hurting themselves in the attempt to look like fake pictures! They think that's real! So there's talk about putting disclaimers on the images to tell people they don't actually represent reality. The written language has even been invented at this point! The problem is, though, that it's impossible to process a modern digital photograph without some form of editing touching it at some point, even if just to correct lighting and process it into a format that magazines can use. So it's basically impossible to define what amount of editing requires a disclaimer or not. Not to mention, the photographer can use lighting, photography, and lenses to change a lot before the photo is even taken.

So instead, everybody eventually comes to realize that, even if they might look real, photographs are just another way of creating illustrations that represent a more badass version of people. So they stop harming themselves to try to look like that, and then the standard of beauty changes such that magazines that feature less heavy retouching and more diverse body shapes start to sell better than their heavily retouched counterparts. And everybody's happy.

That is, until 3D photographs come along...

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Signs of a Poor Fitting Bra

You know your bra doesn't fit when...

    • The straps are digging into your shoulders
    • The straps keep falling off your shoulders even when you tighten them
    • The center part in between the cups does not lie flush with your ribcage
    • Your 'breasts' are causing you shoulder or back pain
    • the underwires dig in or hurt anywhere
    • you get rashes or soreness where your bra was
    • your breasts hurt after you take your bra off at night (If not PMS related)
    • The line of your nipples sits below halfway between your elbow and shoulder
    • your underwires frequently pop out and stab you
    • You have scarring along where the underwires go, or on your shoulders from your straps.
    • You can't run or jog without pain and a lot of bouncing
    • You have “armpit fat”
    • You have “back fat” around your band
    • You have to go readjust your bra during the day
    • Your underwires are sitting on top of breast tissue
    • Your bra's band rides up in back or is not level
    • You had to start at the tightest hook
    • Your bra or breasts are causing you pain or discomfort in any way

If you have any of these, your bra doesn't fit and you need to go down in the band and up in the cups. Period! Click here to learn how to measure yourself for a bra.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Signs of a Bad Bra Fitter

By the way, Victoria's Secret never counts as a proper bra fitter. Their “fitters” are sales people and only want to make a sale. VS carries an extremely limited range of sizes and will try to shove you into whatever they have.

A good fitter should:
    • Bring you several different styles and sizes to try on, and keep doing so until you find something perfect.
    • Be attentive and listen to your needs
    • Be somebody you feel comfortable with
    • show you how to put on a bra correctly

A fitter should NEVER:
    • Make you feel bad about your body or breasts
    • Tell you that you need a reduction
    • Touch your breasts without permission or in a way that makes you uncomfortable
    • Pressure you to buy a bra that you don't feel fits right or is uncomfortable **
    • Please leave without making a purchase if any of the above occur! And tell me so I can tell others!

The following may not be signs that your fitter is bad:
    • They don't use a measuring tape- actually, this probably means that they are more experienced.
    • They encourage you to give a bra with a band that feels much tighter than you are used to a fair try before declaring it “too tight”**

**(Caveat: Many bra fitters have told me that women will think that their band is too tight, and be unwilling to give it a chance. Remember, the band is what is giving you all of the support! If you can get it closed, it probably fits. Consider buying one, and trying it for a few weeks. Or if you really can't stand it, try one band size up from that only and try getting used to it for a few weeks to a month, and then see how you feel. If it's still uncomfortable then, it doesn't fit. But even if it feels “too tight,” It might actually be too loose, with too small cups (which would make it feel “too tight.” bras can be weird that way, trust me on this one.)

If the only fitters in your area are incompetent, you may just have to learn to measure yourself!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

How to Put a Bra on Correctly (It's Important!)

 You cannot tell if your bra fits right if you do not put on your bra correctly. One of reasons so many women wear the wrong size is that your bra can seem okay when you first put it on. (incorrectly.) However, when you wear too small cups and a too large band, you are smashing your poor breasts' tissue to the sides and top and into your armpits, even. This is terrible for your breasts! Here's how to do it right.

  1. Put on the band and hook it. It doesn't really matter whether you prefer the put-it-on-straight method or the put-it-on-in-front-and-twist-it-around method.
  2. The straps should not be too tight at this point. If they are, loosen them up. Once you are used to this bra you can keep them on the length you like.
  3. Lean forward and put the straps on your shoulders and fit your breasts into your cups.
  4. This is the most important part! Neglect this step at your peril! Reach into the cups, to the side, under the wire in your armpit. Pull the flesh forward and up. If you have “armpit fat,” pull this in too. Trust me.
  5. At this point, if you have bulging or "four boobs" above the top of the cups, it means you are wearing the wrong size! 
  6. Now you can tighten the straps. Don't tighten them so that they are pulling on your shoulders, just tight enough so that there isn't any slack and there is a slight bit of tension.

 Please note that, if you are wearing the correct size, the cups will probably seem a little bit "empty" and too big until you scoop the flesh into them. But as long as the top of the cups sits smoothly on your breasts after you scoop in, the cups should be a good size.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Horizontal Stripes

A recent article dispels the myth that horizontal stripes are unflattering. In fact, horizontal stripes are slimming- and vertical stripes are the ones that make you look wider. I have always kind of suspected that this was a myth.

This is cool because you can wear horizontal stripes and those who don't know your secret are thinking “Wow, she must be really thin- I could never wear horizontal stripes, I would look so boxy, but she looks great!” ;-)

I also think that horizontal stripes can be a great pattern for a curvy girl to rock- with the contrast between our natural curves and the straight lines, it would be impossible for us to look boxy even if it were true that horizontal stripes caused that effect. Stripes are also cool if you want to experiment with mixing patterns- since they are a fairly simple pattern they can go well with floral prints, polka dots, or animal print.

What do you think? Could this be a good look for us curvy girls?