Undressed to Impress

Panache Page Swimsuit Review

I’m a big fan of Panache swimwear, and the Page swimsuit really caught my eye this season. With its cute print and retro styling it really stands out from the crowd. Unfortunately Panache don’t make most of their swimwear in a 28 back, and when they do it’s never the cute patterns that attract me. Nevertheless, a tight band is not so important to me when choosing swimwear so I still buy some of their styles in a 30, which is what I did with this swimsuit.

I was really intrigued by the empire line look of the swimsuit and couldn’t figure out how it worked until I saw it! It turns out there are two layers from under the bust, the first being a curve-skimming outer layer with the pretty pattern and the second being a bikini bottom attached to some white mesh. This is quite clever and it’s good to know you won’t be indecent if a sudden gust of wind catches you out. However, it will certainly make the swimsuit a little warmer, which might not be great for a hot summer’s day but will probably be excellent for a somewhat chilly British beach this summer! My other concern is that as the top layer of material was quite loose, it could easily float up if you went swimming in it, revealing the less attractive white mesh beneath. The swimsuit clearly isn’t designed for serious swimming, but it might be one to reserve for sunbathing with this in mind.

I’m very much between sizes at the moment, which has been rather irritating. I decided to order this in a 30FF, but as the cups aren’t padded I had some wrinkling going on at the tops. For that reason I think it’s fairly true to size. Swimsuits with underwires are never a delight to get on, and this certainly stabbed me a few times whilst I wriggled into it, but the addition of a bra back fastening underneath the outer layer made it a bit easier. I was pleased to note that the bikini bottom style part gave good rear coverage, which I generally find of Panache swimwear compared to Freya, which I find quite skimpy. Most of your bum is covered by the outside part, but it was again good to know I wouldn’t be on show when the wind blew.

This swimsuit would be ideal for anyone lacking in body confidence, which I expect is most of us when it comes to stripping down to our smalls in front of strangers on a beach. It provides more coverage than a normal tankini or swimsuit because the fabric is not clingy, although if you were slightly larger in the tummy area you might find it a little less loose. Personally I disliked the coverage of the swimsuit, as I felt it didn’t do anything for my figure, and there was slightly more fabric around the tummy area than I would have liked. I think this was partly due to the sizing – I (ideally) wear a 26 back, not a 30, so it makes sense that the whole thing was a bit too big for me. The bikini bottom part was also on the large side, although it was held up by the white mesh area. This is a common complaint I have with Panache, as I often find their size 8 bottoms too large when I take an 8-10 in other brands. In future I hope to see them revise this, or introduce a size 6 as standard.

Another bonus I can see with this swimsuit is it caters for a variety of body lengths. I know a lot of people struggle with the length of the body in swimsuits, but this is far more forgiving. For instance, if it was too long in the body you could allow the white mesh section to scrunch up a little, whilst retaining a smooth outline on the outside. The mesh has a lot of stretch, so I can imagine it would also stretch to accommodate a longer body, and then the outer material would simply sit a little higher.

Overall, I’m a big fan of this swimsuit and the bikini which is also available. I’m disappointed I won’t be able to keep it, as it was simply too big for me and it didn’t suit me because of this. Please, Panache, can we have some 28 backs in your beautiful swimwear?

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Understanding my boobs

It’s been about a year since I discovered the world of properly fitting bras, and after my ‘there’s such a thing as a 28 band?!’ revelation I thought that the label in my bras was pretty much all there was to it.  At first I thought my bras were still uncomfortable because they just needed breaking-in, but before too long I began to realise there was a whole host of things I had yet to consider.

I’ve always preferred plunge bras, because the wires on balconettes tend to dig in between my boobs. I thought this was because I’d been wearing the wrong size, so I branched out into balconettes in the right size and thought my troubles would disappear. Unfortunately, I still have this problem with most bras with a centre gore higher than about an inch. I tried bending the wires away from my body, which helped a little but didn’t make a big difference. And then about two weeks ago, I realised something so incredibly obvious I couldn’t believe I hadn’t noticed it before: my boobs are really close together! At the top the distance between them is smaller than my little finger. This means the wires in my bras are sitting on breast tissue, which is not at all comfortable.

The two bras in this picture are a Curvy Kate Thrill Me, which digs in, at the top and a Masquerade Rhea, which doesn’t, at the bottom.  Notice the big difference? Even the Rhea is slightly too wide at the top but it doesn’t cause me pain like the Thrill Me. I’m going to try altering the centre gores on bras like the Thrill Me, but because of the width of the wires I will have to make them overlap, and I’m worried this may cause them to dig in for a different reason.

Which brings me on to my second problem. I’m quite a small person, wearing a UK size of 6-8 in most of my clothes, and my underbust measures 25-26 inches. 28 bands are, a lot of the time, too big for me and hence don’t provide me with as much support as a bra should. But when they do fit, they’re often so painful I can’t wait to get it off at the end of the day, just like back when I was wearing the wrong size. So the next realisation was that sometimes the right size bra hurts. This is because I don’t have much natural padding on my rib cage, and when a bra band doesn’t have a lot of stretch, it digs in and causes angry red marks.

Here are two bras in a 28 band. The first is the Curvy Kate Thrill Me again and the second is a Masquerade Lula-Mae. The bands have fairly similar measurements at rest. But when I stretched them, it was a different story. The Lula Mae would only stretch to 27 inches, while the Thrill Me stretched to a whopping 33 inches. I probably don’t even have to tell you that the Lula Mae has a very supportive band for me, whilst the Thrill Me does not. But I still love and wear my Thrill Mes (I have three!) because they are so comfy that I’m willing to compromise on support. I suspect this is a decision a lot of women, particularly smaller ones, make when told they need to be wearing a tighter band. In my case, I just try to alternate them with my more supportive bras.

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I should also mention that it’s a bit unfair of me to use the Lula Mae in this example (it was just the first one that was at hand), because it actually is still pretty comfortable. I can just feel it all day when I breathe, which isn’t always what I want!

Another realisation I’ve made is that not all bras are created equal. This was a pretty dumb thing to assume, especially as I do a lot of sewing and I know what clothing constructions suit my body best, but I’d never really considered bra construction before. Back when I wore a 32E/34DD and I could shop on the high street for my bras, I bought the pretty ones in the £5 La Senza sale. I never thought about what they’d look like under clothes because they all looked the same: unsupportive!

Nowadays, as the bras I buy are far harder to find and hence more expensive, and I can rarely try before I buy, I am far more picky. That’s partly why I started my blog and read so many others, because the candid, detailed reviews that other women give have been my bra-buying guide for as long as I’ve been in the right size. I know that my boobs are fuller on the bottom, so I can’t wear bras with shallow cups at the bottom. I know I like a rounded shape and bras with vertical seams are good for this. I know my shoulders are quite narrow and wide-set straps will often dig in. And yet, I’m sure there is still more for me to discover about my boobs, as the recency of the first discovery I talked about shows!

What have you discovered about your boobs as you’ve got to know them better? Has this changed what you look for in a bra? Let me know in the comments!

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Bravissimo Part 2: Re-fitting and sub-28 bands

The second Bravissimo store of my trip was the Oxford Circus branch. I used to wear a 28FF in most styles, but have been sizing up to a 28G in so many lately that I decided it was time to get fitted. This served only to confirm my worst fears: that I’m a ‘small’ G. Not what an internet shopper who can’t try before she buys likes to hear! I went in wearing a 26GG Ewa Michalak bra, so the fitter went to find me the tightest 28s she could. I was impressed with her knowledge of the stock, and nearly everything she bought me was tight enough – unheard of! Unfortunately I didn’t get to take any pictures, but I wanted to share some styles that may work for the sub-28 market (and above, of course).

The Cleo Juna was the first bra my fitter put me in. I tried a 28G and the cup fit was OK. The lace was quite loose at the top, probably because my boobs are fuller at the bottom, so this would most likely be a good bra to try if you’re fuller on top. I definitely couldn’t have sized down without getting overspill. I didn’t get my preferred rounded shape from this bra and the band felt like a fairly typical 28, so this wasn’t a bra for me.

Next up was the Porcelain bra by Panache in a 28G. I LOVED this bra. The cups were a perfect fit on me and the band was wonderfully tight. The shape was rounded and smooth and I feel like it would be a fantastic alternative to the Deco for women who find the 28s too big. As with all Panache bras, the wires were quite wide and so the profile was slightly more flattened than the Deco. At £26 it’s quite reasonably priced too. I would have bought it if it weren’t for Frugal Feb!

Next came the Paige bra from Miss Mandalay. I’d spoken to the fitter about my general dislike of unpadded bras, due to it being more difficult to get the rounded shape I like. With this one she proved me wrong, as the 28G gave a really nice, rounded shape from the side. The top of the cup cut in ever so slightly, but not to the extent that it would be noticeable under clothing. I found the 28 band to be pleasingly snug on the loosest hook. I really hate this colour, but the new yellow shade is much more up my street.

The only downside was the £36 price tag!

The Ditsy Blossom Bra by Bravissimo. This bra absolutely did not work for me. We’re talking elf shoe combined with gaping on the top. We didn’t waste time trying to fix this, as I don’t like the pattern either. It’s worth mentioning that I think this bra is true to size, rather than coming up a little smaller in the cups (as with the other bras I tried), and this is also true of the back band.

Finally, I asked to try a strapless bra and I was brought the Deco Strapless in a 28FF (which is my usual Deco size). I’ve tried this bra before, but in a store which only stocked 30s and above, so I was really pleased to be able to try a 28. It was an absolute sub-28 joy, fitted tightly on my 26 inch underbust. I threw myself around the changing room a little (with restraint as the fitter was still there!) and it didn’t budge an inch. I found the bottom of the cups to be slightly too shallow and I had a small line there, but it couldn’t be seen under clothes so I wasn’t bothered by it. It’s quite low-cut for a strapless, so is another good option for full-on-top boobs.

And that’s where the 28G/FF options ended. The fitter told me that the 28 and 30 bands always sell out very quickly in that branch and, illogically, less of them are ordered in. I really wanted to try some of the prettier styles and some of the Bravissimo exclusives, but alas, it was not to be. On the plus side, I discovered some basics and one prettier style that are great for the sub-28 market, and got the wonderful fitting and service I have come to expect from Bravissimo.

 

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Bravissimo Part 1: Rococo Charm Bra

During my recent trip to the UK, I made a special effort to visit two Bravissimo stores while visiting friends. I love Bravissimo for offering a brilliant fitting service and a huge range of sizes that are usually only available on the internet, where they can’t be tried on, but I had some problems in both the stores I visited.

The first store I visited, in Reading, left me feeling very disappointed. The shop itself is large, with plenty of stock on display. I was one of only two customers in the store, but my presence was not acknowledged during the 10-15 minutes I spent browsing. Usually when I visit Bravissimo I am told at some point by the staff that not all the stock is on display and that I should ask if I can’t find my size. I was clearly checking for my size in each style I looked at, and had I not known the system from previous shopping experiences, I could easily have left disheartened. Instead, I approached the assistant and asked her to look in the stock room for my size in three different styles. She did this and came back empty-handed, telling me none of them were in stock. She then didn’t tell me that I could order my size for home delivery, as I usually am told. Maybe I’m picky, as I don’t usually expect this level of service in other stores, but I have had such great experiences with Bravissimo that I was a little disappointed.

At this point I tried on the only 28FF out on the shop floor: the Rococo Charm Bra by Bravissimo. I’ve been curious to try this style from Bravissimo for a while now. The super-high centre gore puts me off as I often have a problem with wires digging in if they come up particularly high in the centre, hence my love for plunge bras. This one didn’t feel too bad, but it is hard to say until you have worn it for a couple of hours. An immediate comfort issue I did notice, however, was that the straps were far too wide for my narrow shoulders and would undoubtedly rub. A plus point of the straps is that they continue on from the cup, instead of being tacked on like an afterthought, as is the case with far too many bras.

Fit-wise, I definitely needed to try a 28G, which wasn’t available. The cups were too small and gave me quad-boob and a shape I really didn’t like (shown best by the picture on the right). The wide wires mean it is quite flattening, and whilst the shape was very rounded, I didn’t feel it gave much uplift. This might be improved with the correct cup size. The band felt like a standard 28, so a little loose on my 26 inch underbust.

I’d be curious to try a padded version of this style, such as the Moulin Rose, as I felt like I wasn’t get enough support or shaping from the unpadded Rococo Charm. It is, however, a stunning bra and in an unusual colour. I’d definitely like to try it in a 28G to see if the fit issues I experienced are resolved.

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