Sunday, August 30, 2015

2015 Fall Capsule Collection: Self-Drafted Kimono Sleeved Dress

You'll have to take my word for it that I got somewhere with the kimono dress today. I'm not quite there yet, technically, but I finished the garment a few minutes ago.

What's wrong? Well, it doesn't fit in just the same way that the last one didn't (but less severely, given that I did make the pattern bigger before constructing this version). Part of my problem is that I didn't quite understand where the fit issue was. I mean, I knew it, but I didn't get it. I don't so much need the size increase at the waist circumference (though a bit of that was useful) - but to increase the circumference notably at the high hip / lower abdomen where all my fat is. (Part of me feels it would be polite to temper my terms but, really, I'm not one for that - it's fat.)

So I've now revised the pattern again to give an extra inch in that zone (culling a bit at the actual waist).

What does this mean for the current version which is, frankly, beautifully made and FREAKIN' gorgeous to behold in every way (except, perhaps on me)? A couple of things. Scott noted that it's great everywhere but in the lower ab zone (which he doesn't feel is as dismal as I do). He suggested Spanx, which really didn't endear him to me, but also reminded me that I'm at my uber-bloat moment of the month. So I'm going to let sanity prevail for a bit and confirm that this is not a wearable garment later on.

Of course, I'm confident it's not a wearable garment. So I'm planning ahead. I've decided my best option is to cut off the current skirt (might be able to get a T shirt out of it?) and try again. Of course, that also means I'll have to buy another 0.66 yards of fabric. I need 24 inches, or exactly 2/3 of a yard.

A few other thoughts:
  • No question, this bamboo is clingy. I don't mean that it's too clingy, but it does like to grab (which means I can't be skimpy when I use it). I used the peacock blue and it's just as gorgeous to sew with, look at and to feel as the grey stuff. But it's less forgiving because it's bright freakin' blue. To wit: If I'd sewn this in black, I'm pretty sure I would be able to wear it as is.
  • The bamboo produces stunning drape. You know those jersey pieces you find in fancy stores that cost hundreds of dollars?  It's made with shit like this. I cannot overstate my hard-won perspective that high-quality (which inevitably translates into expensive) fabric is the way to go. Seriously, if you have to sew fewer things to use quality fabric, then sew fewer things. If I had tons of extra cash lying around, I'd start a little program wherein I'd give 2 yards of awesome jersey fabric to anyone who wanted it. I'd pay for the shipping and everything (cuz money would be no object) and everyone would participate and agree with me. What? It's my fantasy public program. Everyone would agree.
  • This pattern is pretty close - when I fix the lower ab issue, it'll likely be a great staple because it can be made in all kinds of knit fabric (terry!) for different appeal. 
  • You'll notice I haven't dwelt on the bodice (my usual area of constant chatter) because the fit is great! I have a lot of luck with kimono/dolman/cut on sleeves. I think it's because of my narrow shoulder, slim arm combo - that offsets the boob issue I often have. This bodice has bust darts (unsual for knit patterns, IMO) which improve fit all the more.
All in all, I'm not unhappy about this outcome. I've refined a pattern that needed work (but really benefited from it). I've got a dress pattern that is unique, flattering (in the main) and duplicable. FYI, there's also a top-only version of this that I do intend to make again in drapier fabric...

I'll aim to get back to my new fave store for more fabric before the weekend. Hopefully I'll be able to update this and make 3 or 4 other garments next (long) weekend. We'll have to see.

Today's question: Have you ever had a fitting blind spot? You know - not your normal "trouble area" but something that emerges and throws you a bit for a loop?

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Updated: Sunny Knit Top: An Interim Perspective

Updated: OMG, I finished the second version and it is fucking awesome. My self image is only marginally enhanced because my kid is actually wearing hers (the grey one in bamboo jersey described below). I offered it to her (expecting the usual rebuff), her eyes got big like saucers and she snatched it from my hands. I don't recall a thank you. I dare anyone to turn down fabric that feels like this.

In brief, the French terry is also perfect for my Sunny top - not just because I basically redrafted the pattern, but because it's very slim, drapey terry. I'm going to post a photo of me wearing this (shocking, I realize) because its real success is in its fit on me. That'll have to wait till I recover from the post-sewing glow.

I can't say I'd recommend this pattern. I actually think it's a pretty tough sell right out of the envelope. But I've come to see all patterns as road maps. I'm never going to simply cut and sew. What's the difference if I make subtle or broad-stroke edits as long as the fit works in the end?

OK, a propos of yesterday's proposed or actualized alterations, here's what I can tell you:
  • My bamboo jersey is a fucking dream. My sewing machine isn't nuts about hemming thin rayon jersey (unless I knit-stay tape it, which sometimes messes with the fit or drape). This stuff hems, serges, washes, dries and looks spectacular.
  • As such, it's too bad my first version isn't wearable for me. Don't misunderstand, it's wearable but I've got to the point that I can't stand fit imperfections. I'd just rather start again. So happily this version is going to the kid (who knows good shit when she sees it). I may be the only person I know who muslins with 22 dollar a yard fabric but seriously, when I get it right - I want to do it in the fabric I'll eventually wear, to know that I've called all of the variables. Can't say I'd take this kind of hit on large yardages, but on a yard and a half, I'm living on the edge (at least for the moment).
  • I chose not to mess with the sleeve, as a means by which I might impact armscye length, and I'm glad. Sometimes you're wise to realize a garment before you continue to tinker with it. In this instance, the sleeve's alright. BTW, it is on the tight side - esp. if one has large bones or the arms aren't the slenderest zone. But I'm on the small-boned, slender-armed side of the equation and, with fabric having 50% stretch, there's more than enough space for me. I wouldn't make the arms narrower, but I wouldn't expand the circumference.
So what constitutes imperfection?
  • I opted not to fix the back length in the bodice and it was a big mistake. I've now altered the back bodice such that there's 1.5 inches less fabric at the mid back length tapering to nothing at the side seams. That makes the horizontal "waist" seam hang level given that my boobs are using up the front length that I don't need on the back bodice. It also removes a massive pool of fabric that looks pretty meh on my body. The impact on the look of the pattern piece is that it's become almost straight at the hem, rather than maintaining the original curve.
  • I've added an inch of width to the skirt hem circumference to give a bit more room in the hip. It's not strictly speaking necessary but this jersey likes to cling and I'm looking for a soft-fall at the hip. Using other fabrics, this might not be a requirement.
  • But it's always good to include one crazy-ass, experimental alteration: I've removed fabric from the front bodice, below the full bust by creating, on each side, a vertical dart that stops at the bodice hem. This is to remove excess fabric in the midsection that really isn't doing me any favours. Here's the thing, I smushed out the darts (using some, ahem, intuitive method that involved cutting into the paper above the dart and smoothing things out to prevent three-dimensionalness of the pattern). Each "dart" is 1 inch wide. I don't know the impact of this which is why it's high on drugs that I've cut that French terry for the next version, using the altered piece. I'm a risk-taker. What can I say?
What was right about my first muslin? Quite a lot, actually.
  • I called it on the removal of width. It raised the arm, shortened the length and improved the fit of the shoulder. It also removed an absurd amount of girth throughout the bodice and skirt which would have been really unattractive. Saves a lot of fabric too.
  • The crew neck is good, though I did have to recut the fabric and pattern, mid-sewing, as my first version was too tight to get over my head?!
I had enough of the navy French terry (1.25 yards) to use it for the next version, which I hope to complete this afternoon. Not bad when you can get an oversized garment out of 1.25 yards of fabric - albeit fabric that's a good 50" wide. It's true that I don't know whether the drape and weight of the terry will be optimal. I think it will be, but it is stretchier (and has less tight recovery) than the bamboo. I guess that's the joy of cozy softness. I may have to start pulling out a bid of width at the seams and the final version may not suit the look I'm going for, but I won't know till I try.

I can't say that my version looks like the other Sunnys I've seen. Mine may be more of an homage - same lines, different proportions. Nonetheless, that's why we sew, right? To make the garment fit our needs - not the other way around.

Stay tuned...

Friday, August 28, 2015

2015 Fall Capsule Collection: Sunny Knit Top Alterations

Here's the difference that some very simple - if very substantial - alterations can make:

StyleArc Sunny Knit Top - Size 10 UNALTERED (out of "envelope" as it were)

StyleArc Sunny Knit Top - Originally Size 10 (rather substantively altered)
What you may notice is that the pieces look largely unchanged, shape-wise. Regrettably, in the original photo (unaltered) I positioned the tunic "skirt" upside down so what you're looking at doesn't seem consistent over both photos. Trust me, the only difference shape-wise, in the skirt, is the angle of the side seam (which is much straighter in my new version).

The original pattern is 58" in circumference - reflecting itself in width and length and yielding a drop shoulder of what I assume to be ridiculous proportions. Never mind what fabric I might use to make an unaltered version, it would look like over-sized crap because there's just to much fucking "over" in this over-sized pattern, IMO.

What Did I Do?
  • I removed 4 inches of width from the centre front, vertically, from top to bottom. The net impact is that it shortens the shoulder as well as diminishes extreme over-sizedness.
  • I recut the neckline (which was messed up by the narrowing) but made it less wide on the shoulder top (i.e. more crew than boat). Narrow shoulders and boat necks don't get along. If you are slight of shoulder (if they slope or they're chubby), then stay away from the boat, as I'm sure you've already surmised. Of course, do what you like from an aesthetic perspective (who am I to judge that?) but the annoyingness of your neckline approaching your shoulder near-constantly - especially if you get cold or have boobs - is enough to tax the staunchest small-statured, boat-neck lover.
  • I took another 0.5 inch out of the side bodice from top to bottom, vertically, to "shorten the shoulder" and to remove excess size in the side zone.
  • I did the same thing in the skirt but I left the original hip circumference (40") because that works well with my measurements.
  • One thing I'm going to check, before cutting into the fabric, is that this is consistent with a couple of other "cocoon" (though on the slim end of that equation) sweaters I own.
  • While the unaltered length is stated to be 27" (way longer than I need), somehow, likely because of my mods, my finished length is 24.5". I'll cut from the hem of the fabric, if necessary, to shorten further as I experiment with my first version. I don't know if  the "skirt-meets-bodice" seam is going to be in the right place but, remember, I have depth in my front chest and that takes up length.
  • I'm considering taking an inch out of the length of the back-bodice (to compensate for the extra vertical length I require to work over my boobs). Not sure if I should muslin as is - just cuz I really don't know how this sort of alteration will play out in a finished garment of this style. 
  • I'm also considering raising the armhole slightly. That would serve to shorten the side-garment further.
As you can see, I've cut 5 inches out of this pattern's girth and I don't know what the impact of this will be on a finished garment till after I make it. My seams align and I believe I've retained the original shape. But I'm a narrow, small-boned person who cannot be swathed in 1.5 metres of fabric without looking like a sloppy lump. I'd like this to be a casual, but elegant top. And I don't believe, between my dimensions and those of the unaltered pattern, that could occur, just out of the envelope.

Of course, I'll report back after I've made this, but I sense that this will require pretty serious downsizing for most anyone, unless tall and/or wide.

Anyway, thoughts or feelings? If you've made this, or if you're great at reading schematics and understanding exactly how something will look in the end, your feedback would be most welcome. Stay tuned.

Monday, August 24, 2015

2015 Fall Capsule Wardrobe: Still Tinkering

OK, give me 3 hours and I'll change it up. Whatever it is.

I've had the opp to read the very helpful comments on my last posts - namely the one wherein Anne recommends that I should consider making the Sunny knit top in a rather drapey fabric (on the basis of feedback from another sewist who's made and blogged about it). And if there's one thing I do it's take Anne's advice seriously. Fortunately, I'm sure I've got some rayon jersey lying around in the appropriate yardage - even if I have to mix and match a bit. I'm still not sure how the hell to alter that pattern to make it fit - though I suspect it will involve narrowing the pieces at the centre back. Might as well do a (wearable) muslin, no? I could just go buy more fabric!

The other thing that I remembered was this adorable pattern I've wanted to make since first I saw it. Zoe profiled her version of it today and now I must haveone too! So I might have to either add an item to the capsule collection (egad!) or replace one of the pieces with this cardi. I'll let my energy level and fabric opportunities dictate the outcome. Yet another reason that I may need to go fabric shopping. Are you seeing a theme here?

Let me say, I sure do wish I'd bought the Jenna cardigan pattern when it came out because, when the dollar was on par, I'd have saved 25% just for clicking a button at a different time. Ah, the world economy. Who can make sense of these things?

Thoughts or feelings?

Updated: But wait - there's more... People, I have a problem. It's a serious problem and I'm only sort of joking. I am a fancy-knit-fabric-aholic. I had a doc appt at the end of the day which just so happens to be reasonably close to the new fabric store I love. A propos of Anne's suggestion that the Sunny top have drape, I knew immediately what fabric I would buy (just in case):

It's the modal from last week only in sweatshirt grey (as I like to call it):

Here it is in all it's drapey perfection!!!
I wish I could describe the drape and hand of this fabric. It's so beautiful. So stretchy with snap-back. It's got 50 percent stretch in both directions but it is nothing like your standard rayon jersey. You CANNOT see through it. It weighs a ton. It feels like a million bucks.

This shot is overexposed but it gives a sense of the fabric fall. This stuff is HEAVY but sleek.

BTW, I don't know if my French terry is too thick for the Sunny. It's pretty sleek too (which is the only reason I could get with it). I don't like puffy fabric. Also, I do want a look with a bit of structure in its oversizedness. That's not to say I shouldn't have some of this fabric on hand to make the initial version. I'm steeling myself to cut into something so, well, fine. But there's no way to make a garment in gorgeous fabric unless you actually cut into it, right? Arguably the hard part is the buying, and that's done! And honestly, if I don't feel confident cutting up nice fabric at this point, I'm wasting my time.

But look at the other fabric that actually whispered (metaphorically) from across the room: Hey, Kristin - you want me for the Jenna sweater (which I've given 4 seconds of thought to):

I truly don't know what this fabric is made of. I should have asked?!? I just saw it and said: I'll take a yard and a half please. Here's hoping that's enough.

Is this teal? I honestly don't know. As soon as you think it's blue, it looks green. Then you think it looks green, or is it? I don't even like the colour green?!?!

This is a 2 way stretch. It's a very fine sweater knit. You can see the purl stitches on the wrong side, but just. It weighs less than the modal but it's thicker, spongier with 50% stretch on the cross-grain.

Here's the problem wonderful news for the local economy: I appear to have no self-control when it comes to the good stuff. I am so awed by the possibility of sewing with this stuff - like on a regular basis - that I'm all: Pack it up. But I am going to have to show some restraint for the next little while or until I use up all the fabric I've recently purchase aka 2 weeks from now. The modal is 22 bucks a yard. The other fabric (substance and colour unknown, apparently) is 25 bucks a yard. By the time tax was thrown in, I spent 80 bucks on 3 yards of fabric. Um, yeah.

But I want you to know that I resisted this insane fabric that was part rayon, part cotton and spandex. That was 45 bucks a yard. So really, I saved money. And I'm taking the hit for all the potential buyers who read this blog, experimenting as it were. It's like my public service. :-)

2015 Fall Capsule Wardrobe: The Planning Progresses

Thanks everyone, for commenting on my proposed fall sewing plans. Here's where things stand now (after one of those really "in your face" sew-planning days that yields as many questions as answers - and paper cuts):
  • I bought the StyleArc Danni Dolman dress, Emily Knit Top, Sunny Knit Top and Fiona Cardigan. (See here for tech drawings of each.) 
  • I put together one of those documents I like to make, outlining my fabric, pattern and pattern-with-fabric options. On page 2 you can see that I landed on these capsule collection choices: 
    • StyleArc Sunny Top (in Navy French Terry, if I can do it with 1.25 yards...)
    • Self-Drafted Kimono Sleeve Dress (Electric Blue Bamboo)
    • StyleArc Danni Dolman Dress (Lavender Modal)
    • True Bias Hudson Pants (in Slate French Terry unless I can't do the Sunny in 1.25 of Navy French Terry. Then I'll switch them cuz I think I can get short Hudsons out of a smaller yardage.)
    • Vogue 8323 (Lavender Modal or this blue (what a shock) Tencel/Wool jersey I bought from Fabrications a long time ago but don't seem to have any record of, like, anywhere. It's in my closet though. Should have enough of one of these.)
I dispute the required yardages given that I always shorten EVERYTHING by 3 inches. So I'm inclined to give some of my shorter yardages a try, if it seems possible.

What does this tell me about myself?
  • I'm embracing the knits big time.
  • I'm not into setting in sleeves, apparently, because every one of these options (that has sleeves) has a kimono sleeve of sorts.
  • I like making capsule collections of 5 items.
  • 4 of these will be work-worthy (if perhaps on Friday)
I spent Sunday aft making up documents, altering my TNTs (yup, if you go long enough, you've got to revisit and alter these things) and assembling downloadable patterns. Now I remember why I buy the ones in an envelope. Lord, what a time, paper, ink and tape suck. Still, it beats waiting. I think.

Here's a glimpse at what I was up to:

Sunny Cocoon Top 
StyleArc Sunny Cocoon Top. Yeah, those are my exceedingly brown feet (only part of me with colour).
Have you ever seen a pattern that looks like this? Seriously, I cut the 10 but I am vaguely afraid. It's very loose looking. I can tell (having done very prelim measurements) that I'm going to have to cut 4 inches off the length and 3 inches from the sleeves (or maybe the centre back?!) The sleeves are measured from the centre back and they're drop shoulder. This should be an adventure, she says optimistically.

Danni Dolman Dress
39 pages to create a dress that's 2 pieces and some ribbing. This is more than half of the floorspace of my sewga room...
Here's what's left after cutting - but note the cutting is rough. I've left space around the cut lines to make alterations...
More to the point, have you ever seen a dress that's effectively 2 pieces?? This thing may look hideous when finished (or not) but it ain't gonna take a long time to put together :-) I need to consider my alterations on this one. I think I'll compare my self-drafted dress (which is also a cut-on sleeve design) and consider shortening the sleeves, waist (to remove overall length), back piece (to remove fabric pooling at the low back and a slight restructure of the boat-esque neck. I'm really narrow in the shoulders so a boat neck for me is like an off the shoulder thing for someone else.

Vogue 8323: I had my biggest shock when I went to check on V8323, which I have only sewn once, back in 2012. OMG, people, in case I wonder if I've learned anything over the years, let this be my example. I am seriously scared by what I found, alterations-wise. Let's just say that I have no idea why I cut all of the excess length of the bodice from the shoulder height?! Actually I suspect it's cuz the armscyes were insanely long (a Vogue trend) and I didn't know what else to do. My originally altered sleeve head looked like a skinny disk. It was insane. I don't know how any of this could have come together into a tolerably adequately-fitting garment. I now understand why it was always so weird feeling to wear.

Strangely, I didn't start from scratch. The Vogue pattern paper can't take it and, really, the original garment wasn't a disaster from a fit perspective. Instead, I went back to my knit sloper and copied the arm depth and armscye shape. I suppose the original had a really long waist and a low-set bust apex - which is the only way my haphazard alteration could have worked. Being self-taught is dangerous, people. We'll see if my latest alterations give me a good result.

Hudson Pants: I don't envision any serious alterations to the Hudson pants (except for shortening) because I only recently fitted them and my lower half is much less prone to changes these days than my midsection.

Self-Drafted Kimono Sleeve Dress: I did alter the self-drafted kimono sleeve dress by adding 1.5 inches at the waist tapering at the full hip. That was a hit to my ego. The bodice (from a vintage Simplicity pattern) is so whack, I daren't do too much to change it (other than making sure the waist works with the skirt). The top was a very good fit in ponte though I cannot figure out how it comes together correctly. I guess I'll relearn as I make it again.

I hope to get started on this next weekend and then complete it over the September long weekend.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Fall Sewing: I Need Your Feedback!

You know how I got that great fabric last weekend. Well, I have been thinking hard about what to make with it. I do have a few ideas - most of which are patterns I've made before, namely:
  • Vogue 8323 - This surplice-esque top would be terrific in the lavender modal or electric blue bamboo jersey.
  • Vogue 8790 - This is another surplice top might work with the drapiest of the fabrics (the bamboo).
  • True Bias Hudson Pant - I'll likely try my hand at a cropped (below knee) version next time- this is calling out for either the slate or navy French terry jersey. That stuff is sick, btw.
  • Victory Patterns Lola Dress (not yet made - or altered, more to the point). This would be great in the French terry or the thick navy jersey. And shout out for local talent...
  • StyleArc Elita jacket - While this could be made in the thick navy jersey - the imp in me wants to make it in French Terry!
  • Tiramisu dress - I love the one I made in that gorgeous, spongy black ponte. This dress needs a fabric with density and weight in order to keep the surplice well in place and to fix the underbust gathers optimally, not to mention that it shows off the full skirt to its best advantage. I made it once in wool jersey (didn't drape well and it itched). I could probably use the thick navy to good effect. It's got great recovery, surprisingly, and it's quite heavy. This isn't a useful dress for winter though, what with short sleeves.
  • I could also remake a dress I drafted a while ago from a highly-altered, vintage Simplicity, kimono sleeve top. I know I took photos of it but damn if I can find them in archived posts... That garment, while I didn't like it at first, was phenomenally popular whenever I wore it and really looked so much better as a dress than a top. Alas it no longer fits (admittedly it was a snug fit in the waist to begin with). But a redo of this one is quite appealing now that I think about it. It would be great in either the modal or the bamboo but it would have more impact in the bamboo (what with its electric blue-ness).
But I'm getting a bit sick of the few patterns I've got that I'm actually inclined to make. (Note: I feel a cull in my future.) So I decided to check out the StyleArc Etsy store. Since they opened the online shop and started populating it consistently with new and former patterns, you can get great patterns AND instant gratification. Cuz let's face it. There's no fun in waiting a month to get your loot from Australia - after having paid for shipping.

Here are the patterns I found that are a) available for download and b) currently appealing to me:

Danni Dolman Dress
This one could be rather attractive (and good for fancy meetings) - or a dud. But ain't it always the way... It would work in the modal or bamboo.

Emily Knit Top
There's apparently a tutorial to make sense of the box pleat at the neck. It's chic, no? The bamboo or modal are perfect for this.

Fiona Knit Top
This one is an outlier, given its relative boringness. But it could be a good basic. Not sure if any of my new fabrics are better for this than some I've got in the stash.

Lotti Top
I like the colour-blocking potential of this one. You can use some wovens (silk charmeuse?) along with knits.

Sunny Cocoon Top
This could be good in the French terry - with some denim leggings. You can eat all the cookies wearing this (and the sleeves are very fitted, for sleekification, from online versions I've seen).

Toni Designer Dress
This one could be hideous. I don't see this in the near future (it's too late in the season to make a dress that's best for summer), but good to have for next spring. Perhaps.

I'd love your feedback on these options! Can you assist me in determining which patterns to buy? FYI, the whole lot would be 70CDN, which is very reasonable, IMO. But I've made some dubious pattern choices in the past - something I'd prefer not to repeat.

Let's talk!

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Bra Review: Empreinte Emily (Balconette Cut)

I'm not a serious art person. I mean, I have a subscription to the AGO and I go to see the latest exhibits that I hear about, but it's no true fixation. Having said this, what I would give to have a ticket to England in the next five weeks to see Dismaland. The distopian grandeur! And it's mere miles away from where I went to boarding school (a place I do intend to revisit soon - like if the British pound ever goes below 2 dollars CDN). If only Banksy could have been a little less secret-agent spy (yeah, I know that's not his thing) - or this installation a little more local. No question, it's dark - and not for kids - but I love art that hurts a little, that pushes the boundaries. Not to mention art that can be followed by an awesome (and not distopian) tasting menu at a boutique hotel. Please UK readers, go see it and tell us what it's like.

On a totally different note, you may be pleased to know that the substance of this post is not about the distopian but about the happy collusion of right place, right time and right size...

Sometimes the bra goddess smiles upon you, and happily that's what happened to me a couple of days ago... My Empreinte Emily balconette arrived, not quickly, mind you (so my anticipation was all amped up), and it is a thing of beauty that fits perfectly.

Sure, I do this online bra buying thing routinely. And I do know how my core brands tend to fit in their various styles. Having said this, the Emily is an Empreinte style I've never seen, either in store or online. I think it must be discontinued. On my seemingly-endless quest for replacement black bras, it was one of the options I discovered.

Sidebar: On the topic of restocking the black bra hole in my wardrobe, I'm happy to say that the drought is done. Between the Freya Rio, the Prima Donna Divine and this Empreinte Emily - not to mention that my Roxane will last for a while yet, as I won't need to wear it 3 times a week - I've got an array of daily options to meet all of my needs in black. Best thing is that 2 of these bras are replaceable, should I choose to repurchase them. Yeah, I know, a woman with 30 bras that fit (some of them basics, some of them colours) should probably not freak out when she's down to 1 daily black bra (I do have a couple that I wear infrequently), but I take this seriously, people. I need to be ready for anything.

Back to the Emily: I couldn't find a decent pic of it online. I believe there's a full-cup version as well as the balconette. As with all the Empreinte full-cups, it looks matronly to me so I can't recommend it. It's amazing what a difference there is, IMO, between the full and balconette styles of the same bra. I have reasonably short breast roots, which is why a balconette is inevitably my best fit. Thing is, Empreinte is not skimpy. Its balconettes are on the fuller side, IMO, when it comes to cup height. So the full cups are seriously too much bra for me.

See how the lace makes up a good portion of the bra cup. That upper cup is of a different shape and at a different angle (slightly) than the other Empreintes I've tried.

Looks delicate. Wears hard.
You can see the close-setness of the gore. Also, it's pretty apparent from this shot that the balconette does not veer into demi-cup territory. It's, in my perspective, a "full balconette" - the kind the UK manufacturers love to produce...
Photographing black bras is challenging. I don't know how doing it on a black table can yield a better result than on a pale wood floor, but there you go... The fabric is quite lovely, especially the satin band. I don't love that appliqued florette at the gore. I sense I'll be removing it.
This bra is definitely a basic. What do I mean by that? Well, it isn't sheer or all lace. It's discreet under clothing (re: seams, shape and fabric). While it's a terrific fit: it gives great lift, projection and support while also being extremely comfortable - it's not the sexiest bra I own. Please don't misunderstand, it's a really nice undergarment and those with a different definition of "sexy bra" might find rather hot. To me, it's an elegant basic.

Unsurprisingly, since it fits perfectly, it conforms to all of my best measurements from cup width (6"), depth (11.5"), strap width (0.6"), wing height (4") to my preferred snug but not tight band (stretches MAX to 33" but more easily to 32") with 3 hooks and eyes. 

Band: The band fabric is ridiculously comfortable. The stretch satin is so soft - but firm and with excellent recovery.

Straps:The straps are embroidered for an interesting nuance. They're very strong, as always and, again, crazy comfortable. (See a theme here?)

Cups: The lace upper cup is of a slightly different shape than my other 3-cup Empreintes and attaches to the strap at a slightly different angle than most of my other bras (Empreinte or no). It gives it a lot of curve over the upper bust, while preserving centre cup depth. The end result is very flattering decollete. 

I don't know that you'll be able to find this style, but if you can - and Empreinte is your thing - snap it up. I'm sure you won't regret it...

Monday, August 17, 2015

Get Your Knickers in a Twist: Scantilly by Curvy Kate

I've been meaning to mention a new lingerie brand (not that I'm all about promoting sub-brands of other brands that have never much worked for me): Scantilly by Curvy Kate.

Hear me out. Lots o' ladies love the erotic lingerie but can't for the life of them find it, what with being sized out of Agent Provocateur and totally disenchanted by the shit you find at sex shops.

Lingerie blogger - and Curvy Kate fan - Sophie has done an informative post on the new line (which includes photos of models wearing the first offerings). Alas, (as is so often the way), the lingerie doesn't optimally fit the models in all cases (In one photo, the bad fit actually looks painful!) No mind, you can still get a sense of what you think of the product on real, if gorgeous, people by clicking on the link.

As for the photos on the website, I can't say that the retro styling does anything for me, but I'm keeping an open mind about the loot:

This is the Peek A Boo set with backless undies. Hilariously, Scantilly calls backless undies "bare faced briefs".

I do think there's lots of potential here to fill a niche in the market that has been utterly overlooked.

But I'm curious to know your thoughts. Does this appeal? Would you buy it (it's not expensive but it's more pricey than the everyday CK line)? Do share your opinions.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Local Fabric Shopping Score

Y'all know that the Canadian dollar is not having its strongest moment. After years of being able to spend online with relative abandon (within my means), I've hit the point that I am VERY discerning about online purchases. The truth is, while I'm certainly willing to go on the adventure of fabric buying sight-unseen, I'm not willing to pay 20-plus bucks a yard, pre-shipping, for the pleasure.

Absolutely, local fabric shopping is available to me - and I avail myself of it (though I did less so during the years of the strong dollar, given that my local big box shop disappeared from downtown and I was routinely disappointed by the offerings at some of the larger fashion district stores). But times change so I've been doing more local recon in the District, and I'm very pleased by what I've been able to find of late.

To clarify, on the knit front, 5 years ago I couldn't source good local bamboo jersey, tencel, modal or terry (I'd never even seen it!). It was cotton, rayon or poly all the way and, really, a girl gets sick of rayon. I'm not big on most cottons (they don't tend to have good recovery and the colour goes chalky) and I will not touch polyester, durability notwithstanding, because it feels hideous to me. I also found the quality of the rayon to be hit and miss, often corrupted with synthetics.

But let's get on with the fun because, these new fabrics, do make dreaming of new garments very enjoyable:

Oooooh - lots of pretties!!
I bought 10 yards over all. Most of what I purchased was at this place I've never paid any attention to before. I mean, I'm sure I've been in, but I don't remember. Alas, I can't recall the name but I can say that it's next door to Moog. OK, I street-view Google-mapped it and it's called Chu-Shing Textiles. BTW, I can't find much about them online but what I have found completely corroborates my experience: likely family run, extremely well-organized (they had me at hello) and expensive. What's not to love? Let's not forget the elephant in the room: Yeah, I've bought 10 yards of fabric in shades of blue and not a pattern to be seen. If we were to catalog every yardage I've ever bought, 80 per cent of it would be in shades of blue/grey/aubergine, 10 per cent would be cerise or fuchsia and the rest would be, well, who the hell knows?

What I really like about this haul is that the SA at Chu-Shing confirmed that she sells all of the fabrics I purchased, in many colours, and that they're continuity stock. So no need to freak out when and if I want more.

Lavender / Grey Modal Jersey

You know I freakin' LOVE the modal. And it's almost impossible to find anywhere (though more available now than ever before). I bought 2 yards at 70" wide (like unicorn width!) which is enough yardage to make a dress and a top, I suspect. This fabric has awesome recovery and lovely drape. It doesn't photograph particularly well, the colour is smokey but it's more on the lavender than grey side of the spectrum. See the bottom fabric of the first photo in this post for a better sense of the colour... It was (don't quote me on this - all the prices started to blend) $20/yard. Chu-Shing does cut yards, not metres, which when you're looking at fabrics of that dollar-value, can start to make a difference if you purchase in volume.

Bamboo French Terry Jersey

Gillian's always talking about the terry and I don't know where she finds it because I've NEVER seen it in a store before. She maintains that it's got lovely hand and drape but all I could envision, before I met this particular fabric, was a short robe from 1976 or a tennis skirt - you know, really bulky, non-stretch and kind of creepy to the touch. Now Gillian knows her fabric, so I've kept an open mind. But I was still shocked when I found this navy bamboo terry. It's very sleek. It has beautiful stretch and recovery (it's not overly firm). The loops on the wrong side are so tiny that they fade into the fabric (see the second photo below).

Navy Bamboo French Terry Jersey
See how TINY those loops are? But they're so cozy soft...
I loved this fabric so much, I bought it in slate blue too.

Bamboo French Terry Jersey
In truth, on purchase, I had no idea of what to make with either yardage (not that I thought it would be that hard) until G suggested another pair of the Hudson pants. That's PERFECT. And a dress is definitely in the cards. And maybe some yoga pants.

Apparently French terry isn't generally made from bamboo. This stuff is definitely of excellent quality and the price supports that. I believe it was $24/yard for 50" width. Keep in mind that tax adds 13% on all prices here (after the fact), so this wasn't a cheap haul. I got 1.25 yd of the navy (that was all they had left) and 2 yds of the slate.

A propos of fabric and pricing, I do want to detour very slightly: For years, and I know I'm not alone here, my sweet spot price for stretch fabrics was 8 - 12 bucks a yard or metre. As I've improved in my craft - and as I've had the chance to wear a lot of self-made garments many, many times - I've come to realize that my sewing may not be perfect, but the finished product warrants the best fabrics I can afford. The reason I spend a lot of money on high-end RTW is because I appreciate not only the design, but the execution (which has everything to do with the hand, weight and drape of the fabric). Good fabrics recover well. They look beautiful from a distance, and up close. They last without pilling. So if you're going to spend 15 hours making that damn dress, use a fabric you won't loathe the look of in 6 months.

Now, having said this, I've had a lot of difficulty finding fabrics of the quality I feel happy to spend $25 bucks a yard on. So I'm really pleased (understatement) to say that I've found a place locally to fit this niche. Online, it's hit or miss. Blackbird Fabrics, in my limited experience, has had the best jersey I've found online, but the cost is prohibitive (and it's in Canada). If I'm going to spend more than 15 bucks a yard, optimally, I need to feel it first. So perhaps the tanked dollar has facilitated a new awareness - not to mention that the improved quality of fabric in the fabric district seems to be playing along nicely.

Navy Cotton Jersey

Navy Cotton Jersey
Like I said, this isn't my go-to fabric. This is the kind that's manufactured in the round, so there are 2 natural folds (and no selvedge). But I have to say, this yardage is substantial (great for T shirts) and the recovery is excellent (must have more spandex than usual). In the photo it looks washed out, but the colour is pretty rich. It would make a great dress, given the fabric heft. I bought it to, perhaps, make another Tiramisu (a dress I made previously using a gorgeous pure-cotton ponte that was gifted to me. That ponte is a joy to wear, years later, and it shows off the lines of the dress beautifully. FYI, finding cotton ponte in TO has yet to happen, for me. Apparently, peeps don't want to spend the 30 bucks a yard it likely costs).

FYI, I bought this at my regular place, the name of which I cannot remember but it's on Queen West, right next to the Wool House and it's in the basement. It's run by the nephew of the King Textiles owner. They sometimes have some good jersey (of all types) and sweater fabrics but it's hit and miss. I believe I spent $12 bucks a yard for this and I got 3 yards... It's 52"wide.

Electric Blue Bamboo Jersey

Finally, back at Chu-Shing, I found a DELICIOUS bamboo jersey. Lord, once you've found bamboo jersey, the regular rayon stuff just seems cheap. This has awesome hand and even better drape than the modal. It's substantial but not bulky. It would make great leggings or yoga pants or a dress or a top or anything, really. The colour is saturated and beautiful.

Bamboo Jersey
This was $24 bucks a yard, I believe and I got 2 yards. It's 50" wide.

What you'll note about all of these fabrics is that they are predominantly natural - bamboo, rayon (modal is made of rayon) and cotton. (Sidebar clarification from Tanit-Isis: "Modal, Tencel, and bamboo are all varieties of rayon/viscose." I didn't know that! I mean, I knew about modal and tencel being part of the rayon family, but I thought that bamboo was fluffy like cotton! Don't ask me why.) Yeah, they've all got spandex in them (that's what gives them awesome recovery and drape), but there's no other synthetic to obstruct the natural properties. And yeah, we can debate the naturalness of rayon, but I'm in the camp that says, extrusion or no, it's more natural, to the feel and with wear, than "synthetics" (as I have known them). Sadly, now I have to come to terms that bamboo isn't a cute fluffy that can be turned into fabric fibre without excessive chemical intervention. Live and learn.

FYI, Chu-Shing sells a synthetic, very substantial and firm stretch fabric (a bit like scuba but more like the stuff they make bandage dresses from) for 45 bucks a yard. It is awesome, though I'm not so much in a bandage dress phase. It would go extremely well with leather, intercut, to make pants or a skirt. It's also sold in many colours.

So that's the latest haul. $200ish bucks and 10 yards later, I have at least 7 garments worth of material. Not bad when you view it through that lens.

Thoughts or feelings?

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Transition as Transformation

The last year has been incredibly formative from the perspective of my yoga practice. Since last September (when I hit the nadir of my pain condition - we hope), I've been required to reframe my experience of my body through a variety of different methodologies, some of which I've written about (MELT method, Roll Model, active release chiropractic, yin yoga - amongst others). Really, there's been nothing outside the scope of my exploration. I do mean to write about as-yet-undocumented, life-changing bodywork things I've discovered but really, there are only so many hours in a day. At a certain point, I can research and do it or write about it.

I don't think of myself as one of those silver-lining people. I've been through some dark night of the soul moments vis a vis pain (and acute illness) over the last few years. You know that. I mean, this blog is a litany of fear and complaints (amongst other things). But I'm frankly amazed by the way my completely unpalatable experiences have deepened my awareness of myself and my body-mind.

Before you reach to vomit at that last sentence, let me contextualize. I'm a woman who's deep in the middle of hormonal transition. For better or worse, this has precipitated (or sharpened) many health issues. I'm also a person who contracted an acute illness 3 years ago (right at a critical juncture of hormonal transition, I suspect) who's never really felt the same since. I know there are many who've experienced pertussis in adulthood. Some of them recovered easily. Some of them were unpleasantly ill for a while, but it wasn't decimating. I can't speak for those people.

My own experience of pertussis was life-changing - and not to my physical betterment. It was a premature opportunity to come up against the margins of my mortality. For weeks, in the depth of sickness, I woke (after struggling to sleep) horrified, unable to breathe for what would seem like minutes at a time. I couldn't eat for a month. I couldn't muster the energy to walk down a block, by the end of it (and I have walked a minimum of 8 km a day for my entire adult life). I'm still afraid to touch door handles (not that this is necessarily the way I got sick in the first place). If I watch a TV show wherein someone has a breathing issue, I actually experience extreme anxiety and I must change the channel or leave the room.

Maybe if I'd contracted this illness earlier in my life, I would have had an easier ride. Maybe if I'd been farther along in my transition to midlife there wouldn't have been so much disequilibrium to maneuver around. I will never know. What I can say is that, since that illness, I am existentially fatigued. Since that illness, I have experienced chronic pain to some extent or another. My fingers are always swollen. I've experienced physical injury more frequently. My vision has taken a hit. There are very occasional moments when I revert to my previous body-state, and it's stunning to me. I have always been so young - so lively - in my body. Now when I stand up after periods of sitting, the bones in my feet hurt. I can't eat food as I did before (which is to say, always without issue).*

I realize it doesn't sound like we're moving in a fun direction with this post. Bear with me. It's going to be long because I can't devalue my evolution in sound bites. And really, necessity is the mother of invention.

I went to a rheumatologist recently. I didn't think I had a big-ticket autoimmune condition but, at a certain point, one must rule things out. I'm happy to report that (in the words of the doctor): I can't say what you do have going on, and it's apparent that you're experiencing periods of intense chronic pain, but it's not being caused lupus, scleroderma or rheumatoid arthritis. Intriguingly, he also told me that my flexibility is off the charts (though I've witnessed its regression) and that, while my joints may hurt, there's no evidence of arthritis in my body. How he can know that without an MRI (which I didn't have) is beyond me, but I'll take it.

I don't expect someone to fix this issue for me. I'm on a journey, with my body and we're the only ones in the car. Sometimes it's lonely. I'd really like a map, I think. And then I remember that I have one, in the form of my asana practice.

I've spent so much time in the last 5 years, considering the trajectory of yoga asana. When I became a teacher, I was by far the youngest practitioner in the room - like by 10 years. Generally the Iyengar method won't permit one to train as a teacher before the age of 30 (that's how it was back then). I convinced them that I was up to it. I think of myself as being part of a yogic silent generation - that between the first-generation, Western masters and today, wherein a naturally acrobatic 26-year old learns the Ashtanga 5th series and calls it a teaching and media career.

When I first learned asana (do you sense something about walking barefoot for 3 miles in the snow?), there was no disconnect between the pranic elements of the practice and the movement. I truly can't believe how many people do 2 hours of yoga, 6 times a week as some sort of misguided physical fitness. As an Iyengar practitioner, I have always been exceedingly aware of the relationship between physical movement and potential injury. That's what we do really well in that methodology. I was also excellently taught.

Don't kid yourself. The asana you do healthfully at the age of 26 will hurt you when you're 45 if you're not adapting to the evolutionary landscape of your body (which may include elements of "falling apart" after a certain age - perhaps for a certain reason - or not). We can view yoga as a metaphor for the Self (which I do) but it is also a biomechanical practice. I have no idea why so many people feel that they can do extremely acrobatic postures, simply because they have natural strength and flexibility, without considering their intrinsic biomechanical abilities and potential limiters.

There's a truly ground-breaking series I found recently, written by Toronto yoga teacher, Matthew Remski, called What Are We Actually Doing in Asana (WAWDIA). He's also writing a book on the topic. As an early-adopter, and a practitioner who has broken from the broader Toronto "yoga community" (for various reasons - not what this post is about), this is what I've been waiting on for years. The deliciously, in-depth articles (and I can almost assure you that they will not appeal to the casual yoga-doer), illuminate topics such as prominent, Toronto (former) Ashtangi, Diane Bruni's life-changing injury (which led her to leave Ashtanga altogether). Diane was the teacher I took my first Ashtanga classes with in the Fashion District 20-plus years ago.

Between my own propensity to view the biomechanical element of yoga practice (you know I'm a technician by nature) and my recent physical "set backs", I've come to see my practice in an entirely new light. The joy of youth is in its expansive potential - particularly physical. But as one ages - a slow process of punctuated moments - one's yoga becomes about adapting to the new normal. As one simple example, how do I find the endocrine balance (best provided by inversions), when a headstand may now cause me days of back pain, after the fact? How do I adapt to being someone who could do that headstand with joyful abandon (and no small amount of ego, as I now understand), who knows that what was once healthful is, right now, potentially harmful?

Well, first off, I recognize that what's harmful right now, for certain reasons, may not always be that way. I'm open to the notion that this transition may propel me into a new state that is closer to my former one than the one in which I currently find myself. And then, I adjust. It's not rocket science (though it is some beautiful physics). One day, this body will fail me - I will leave it. Until then, I'll use yoga to maintain it, to find my own deepest awareness with breath and movement. My practice is as beautiful today as it was 25 years ago, for entirely different reasons. For one thing, I don't spend every moment wondering why I cannot move further into a pose. Now I know that the pose is always where I am. Striving is such a waste of energy but only experience and constancy will teach you that. Secondly, one's practice becomes ever more elegant with time. One learns how to transition from pose to pose with subtle efficiency, to be in poses with the appropriate props or un-propped enhancements (increasing awareness of muscular contraction vs length).

Practically, the way I have adapted headstand (cuz that pose is bananas delicious) is with my fancy headstander (scroll down to mid post). I will never regret having spent on this baby and I recommend it for many intermediate / advanced practitioners who want the benefits of headstand without the potential joint compression. (Note: There are some peeps who shouldn't ever do unsupported headstand for any number of reasons. Neck compression is no joking matter.) FWIW, when I use the headstander (and I do lots of variations using it), I do put a block under my head because a) for me that's not an issue - my issue is in my shoulders and upper back and b) yogic perspective is that the endocrine benefits of headstand are augmented by weight on the head. Mind you, by using the prop, I can control the amount of weight on my head without compromising the softness I must maintain in my shoulder area to avoid triggering pain.

I could write a long post about the ways I've adjusted the postural elements of my practice - in fact, I think I might!

But I do want to leave this endless diatribe with one other thought: What I have learned about aging and pain that comes and goes is that this isn't the time to overdo (see above) but it's also not the time to underdo. I know that I must maintain my momentum, my strength, my flexibility and balance - and to increase them, to the best of my ability. For a while, I was afraid of active practice because I knew less about the origin and nature of my pain than I do now (not that I have it all figured out). I may be in pain if I practice. I may be in pain if I don't. I may not be in pain in either scenario. But I must do yoga, not only for my mind and spirit (because it is my connection to my understanding of "God" and universal energy, because it is my second language) - but also because it is a physical practice to encourage biomechanical health. And now that I'm doing it rather actively again, without fear (but with modifications, as necessary), I feel the expansiveness it provides.

So that's today's book. I realize that these yoga posts have limited appeal, especially given their interminable length and subject-matter, but I would so love to hear your perspectives on your own practice. Do you have chronic or frequent pain? How does yoga (or your yoga equivalent) intersect with it? Do you modify? How does your ego muddle through aging as it pertains, not to wrinkles, but to physical ability in your method of fitness? Or to the expansiveness of your mindfulness, more to the point. Let's talk.

*Just want to add, that even though this is how I often feel, people are always shocked if I discuss this with them because I "seem perfectly normal". Just goes to show how you can never tell a book by its cover.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Why Don't I Live Here?

Here's hoping this aspirational post doesn't make you want to kill yourself. I always feel that I should include a "warning" when I post about design, something like: Potential trigger for people who swoon over stunning interiors but don't have the money, time or wherewithal to live like this. Proceed at your own risk!

But just to bait you, this is the freakin' pool:

Photo from this post at Desire to Inspire...

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

You Knew It Was Only A Matter of Time

Commenter Laura raised a really interesting point on my last post, wherein I briefly compared the Prima Donna Divine to the Empreinte Melody. She said that they looked "strikingly similar". My immediate response was: No way! They're so different!

At which point, I decided to pull both bras out of the cupboard, look at them objectively side-by-side, and consider their distinguishing features. And take pics. And compare all their measurements. (What? Does this really surprise you?)

And then I was reminded of what I learned here, that the tiniest shifts in dimension can turn a bra that fits well into a hot mess (which might alter the relative appearance of similarity when applied to one's body specifically).

I won't bore you unduly - well, unless you get bored easily. If that's the case, sorry. The short story is that, yeah, I guess they do look kind of similar - like if you are comparing two lace, black, molded, seam-free, French-brand bras that cater to the small-back / full bust market. But they fit totally differently, largely because of these key dimensional distinctions:
  • Strap shape and width
  • Gore height
  • Gore width - not so much at the top of the gore (where the bow sits) but at the mid point of the gore as it moves towards the base
  • Cup depth
  • Cup shape
Keep in mind that I'm comparing sister sizes (of a sort) here. These bras are both EU sized (different than UK or US sizing) and the main differences are these: The Melody was purchased in a 34 band (when I was really experiencing a lot of pain last year). The Divine is a 32. Furthermore, the Divine is technically one cup size larger than the Melody (even accounting for sister size conversions). I attribute this to the fact that Empreinte bras are notably DEEP, even the shallow ones. But I also sense that the Prima Donna Divine fits, not small, but slightly shallowly, due to the fact that the cup is molded. I have tried other, seamed Prima Donnas in my regular EU size and they have been the correct size (though wrong shape) for me. One could make the point that I can't really compare these as they're not the exact same size. All I can say is that these are each sizes that "fit" (in the main) and that they're objectively pretty close in size, which is to say "my size".

For sure, the Melody is too big in the band for me. It always was. Its saving grace is that Empreinte bands are exquisitely engineered and even a band that's too big still provides support (how I don't quite know). One other interesting detail about the Melody band vs. the Divine is that the Melody has flexible boning (on the side band) while the Divine has a reinforcement channel, but there's no actual boning within it.

One last proviso: I do NOT like - and do not wear - the Empreinte Melody which, in hindsight, is a bra, the fit of which I find unattractive on me. (It's VERY popular amongst others.) I also dislike the specific chantilly lace pattern and other elements of the design (albethey subtly different from those of the Divine). I do like the Divine - but, as mentioned zillions of times, I don't much like the shape and vibe of molded cup bras (even expensive lace ones).

OK, on with some photos...

Empreinte Melody (on top) / PD Divine (on bottom)
Wire width: The Melody is on top and the Divine on the bottom. Notice how the wires of the Melody are much wider than those of the Divine. About 0.5 inches wider. That doesn't sound like much but when one's optimal wire span is 5.8 inches, the 6.5 inch width (measured from wire tip to wire tip over the front upper cup) is meaningful. It also denotes, given that these bras are supposed to be about the same size, a shallower cup.

Cup Shape: Another thing to notice is the upper cup shape of each bra. Do you see how much softer the lace is on the Empreinte (the cups don't stand at attention the way the Divine ones do)? How much wider the span from the top of the gore to the base of the straps is (a bit hard to tell cuz the photo cuts off just below the straps on the Melody).

Empreinte adjusts wire width for every bra size (even sister sizes) so the wires on an Empreinte 34F (for example) will be differently proportioned than those on a 32G (which has the same cup volume). This is because the brand recognizes that when your back width is smaller, your cup width probably is too. And your breast height is probably shorter. So the fact that I got the Empreinte in the 34 back size disadvantaged my fit experience from the get go (which I realized, but it was a necessary evil). The bra is cut for a wider shape and a taller breast (with a lower apex) than mine. It's also better for a bottom-full breast shape. The Divine, as you can see, has more openess on the top (the span between the strap and gore top has a more acute angle).

Prima Donna Divine

Empreinte Melody
Gore Height and width: Do you see how the centre gore is wider (more space between the wires that abut at the centre) at all points on the Melody, but specifically at the mid point between the gore top and base. My breasts have a pinky width of space between them there. The Melody's gore is a good thumb width. By contrast, the Divine is narrow all the way down. Those wires actually touch until you get 3/4 of the way to the base. Intriguingly, and you would never notice it in these photos, the gore height on the Divine is actually 0.75" taller than that of the Melody. I should say, Prima Donna generally has much wider gores than Empreinte. So I don't think this is representative of the two brands. I find myself in the unusual position of defending a brand I don't much like (Prima Donna) and criticizing a brand I generally love (Empreinte). I guess that's the bitch of impartiality.

For those interested in the darting on the Divine cups (which enhance depth): You can just make out the dart that comes out at @90 degrees at the centre of the gore toward the centre cup (look at the left cup). I can just make out the dart at the base of the gore (see right cup). It's next to invisible, I think you'd agree...

PD Divine

Empreinte Melody
Cup Depth and Material: Above are close ups of the lace on each bra. I find the lace on the Melody to be kind of matronly in its geometric-patterned lower cup. It's also slinky and soft to the touch (like the fabric of the molded Fantasie 4520). The fabric of the Divine is actually firm - though not padded or lined. It is less comfortable, at least at this point, though not uncomfortable to me. As per the first photo in the post, the cups maintain their shape unless flattened (at which point they stay flat). You can see by the way my fist sits in each cup that the Melody is wider and shallower than the Divine and that there is much more space between the apex and the underwire of the Melody than between the apex and the upper cup. There's more evenness in the Divine cup.

The depth of the Melody is 10.8" (shallower than my preferred 11.0 - 11.5") vs the depth of the Divine, which is 11.25". Having said this, molded bras fit strangely and shallowly, whatever the technical depth. That's the curse of no seams. So the Divine is a great shape and depth, even though the gore tacks only lightly (my preference is for MEGA tack, as you may know). Note: The Fantasie 4520 (also molded) tacks lightly too. Getting a strong tack with a molded bra, if you have a centre projected, deep shape, is almost impossible.

By contrast, the Melody most notably reveals its fit flaw, on me, with a gore that really doesn't tack at all (even if it's not far from the chest wall, and even if it will tack when I hold the gore in place). This isn't because of wussy wires - the wires on the Empreinte are zillions of times stronger than those of the PD - but because there's not enough immediate projection at the centre cup. More than a size issue, it's a shape one. Perhaps the Melody bra in 2 cup sizes up (and 1 band size down) might be a better fit. But I doubt it would ever be as good as that of the Divine.

PD Divine on the left (next to my birth mark), Empreinte Melody on the right
Strap width: Well, even if the other distinctions in shape are unobservable to the untrained eye, the difference in strap width certainly is. In truth, the Empreinte strap (the wider one) is a very good option for women who struggle with chronic pain conditions or who have very heavy, dense breasts which routinely leave them with indents at the shoulder, on removal of their bras. Even with my pain, I found the Melody strap width and padding to be unnecessary for me. Moreover, my breasts aren't light, but I don't get strap marks on my shoulders at the end of the day. I attribute this to my individual proportions and the fact that I wear firm bands (which, as we know, are there to do the work that many large-breasted women leave to the straps).

Another potential problem with the Melody padding and graded strap width is that they render those straps only partially adjustable. So if you're short from upper bust to shoulder, you're likely to reach your shorten-limit pretty quickly, at which point the bra's pretty useless. Not great from the price point perspective. The Melody bra costs about the same amount as the Divine - they retail at about $185 CDN after tax.. I should clarify that both bras are very well-made, so it's not as if the Empreinte straps would stretch as quickly as those of many other brands, but it's a consideration.

By contrast, the Divine straps are actually some of the nicest (and most comfortable) I've come across. They're very firm. It's hard to see but they have little nodules running down the centre (in part, design, in part to affix the sliders on the strap to prevent strap extension with wear). They're on the thicker side of the equation, 0.7" all along, but nothing compared with the Melody's 1.2" width at the widest point (on the shoulder top), tapering to 0.8" at each end. Having said this, the Divine straps are beautifully proportioned vis a vis the rest of the bra, so they work really well.

On balance, the Divine is a well-proportioned shape for me, while the Melody is too wide, too bottom-full and too shallow. Yeah, they may look exactly the same at a glance, but on careful review,  IMO, their distinctions are glaring.

But I'm curious to know, now that you've seen them deconstructed, do they look the same? Let's talk!

Monday, August 10, 2015

Bra Review: Prima Donna Divine

I'm sure you can barely wait to hear about Black Bra Success take 2, so I'll cut to the chase.

The second bra I recently bought during my visit with Veronica is a SERIOUS outlier. Really. Y'all know I've never said a nice thing about Prima Donna. I mean, I'm not dissing the quality or questioning that the styles work for many. But every single Prima Donna I've ever tried has had a delightful combo of a) wussy wires, b) wires that are too wide and c) really centre-shallow cups. Like the gores do not tack under any circumstances cuz the shape is too wide, too shallow and effectively weak.

What a great way to start a post wherein I discuss my new Prima Donna bra!

OK, to preface the photo, allow me to say that I was not interested in trying on another PD (Veronica generally doesn't even bother with this brand for me) but I was DESPERATE. And desperate times call for, well, you know. Aren't I glad I expended a bit of effort I was almost certain would be wasted because this bra fits really well:

Prima Donna Divine
But never mind that I bought a bra by a brand I don't like. It's also molded and seamless - my other hate-ons. I suppose the only thing they could have done to make this less appealing to me is to have padded it!

V said: It's not like the other Prima Donnas. It's got a pretty narrow gore. It's quite deep. It's really firm. When I picked it up, to put it on, I wiggled the wires and they felt wussy. I was not on board. But then I tried the bra and I was amazed by the synergy of the crazily firm lace fabric, the snug band and the depth. And then I tried a cup size up (because, as I've said 8 zillion times - molded bras, those with no seams, are by nature more shallow than their counterparts with seams) and the fit was spot on.

I have only two points of unseamed / molded reference for the fit of this bra: Fantasie 4520 (about which I've written numerous times - it's my beige staple) and the Empreinte Melody (which I really tried to like but no dice). It's almost impossible to create an unpadded, unlined, seam-free shape that isn't a veritable pancake. It's even harder to do it with lace. And, to their credit, both PD and Empreinte have figured that engineering out.

But first lets talk about the detractors - as I see them - of the molded cup bra:
  • I will never like the look (or fit, I suspect) of an unseamed, molded bra as much as one with seams. I love the curvature that seams produce. I much prefer the shape. I don't think boobs should look like spherical fruit. And yet I get it: there are times when a seam-free bra is really useful. Note: If you can't find one that fits - by which I mean your breast shape must conform to it, not the other way around - then I firmly advise you to give it a miss. But if you discover one that works, why not expand the catalog?
  • I find them universally matronly by comparison with the seamed bras. Yeah, I'm sure this perspective is partially driven by my age and stage, but whatevs. I see a Victoria's Secret special and think ugh. The beauty of bras is in the shape distinctness provided by a myriad of fabric choices and seam placements. From this vantage point, I'm a tailor to my core.
  • More to the point, the beauty of breasts is in the distinctness of the breasts. Once you compel breasts to fit the one-size/one-shape mold of a seam-free bra, what's the point?? Are we all the same? 
  • Molded bras feel weird. It's like they have a life of their own - even if they're in that rare non-lined / non-padded minority. This gets back to that notion that the expectation is that breast must conform to it.
  • They're almost universally on the shallow end of the spectrum, which is pretty well a non-starter if you need depth at the centre cup.
How does the PD Divine get around these issues?
  • The Look: It's kind of pretty with that wacky lace motif. If you're going to make a molded bra - then damn well make it in lace. I can only imagine the technology that goes into molding the fabric (a chemical and heat process) without completely destroying it. Note: The lace of the Divine is much firmer (dare I say, less delicate, starchier-feeling) than that of its counterpart, the Empreinte Melody (which I find ugly, alas, and which is shallower for size than the Divine).
  • The Vibe: I don't know that it overcomes the matronly factor. I still feel it - but the fit is very good (which never hurts the look of a bra). FWIW, my husband finds it rather sexy - though he does like the weirdest lingerie.
  • The Fit Conundrum: The Divine cannot overcome the true downfall of the molded-cup bra: Your boobs are going to have to fit the shape perfectly, or the bra isn't going to fit. There's no nuance. And how many peeps have seriously round, evenly full, plump on top breasts? Well, in this bra, I do - apparently :-)
  • The Feel: The seam-free lace has been molded into oblivion. It feels weird. I'm getting over it.
  • The Depth: Now - this is the PURE GENIUS of the Divine - and the reason I am pleased, as a tailor, to have purchased it. The PD peeps have recognized that you cannot get narrow depth with a molded bra unless you come up with a work around. So they did something I've NEVER seen in any bra before. They added darts! Yeah, this bra is shallowly-darted on each cup in 2 places - at the under cup (about a 0.5 inch dart that's an inch long) and at the centre gore (same as the first dart). It's done expertly, so you cannot see either. The average client would never notice them, I'm sure. I mean, they do add an extra complexity to the feel of the bra against the skin. But like I said, molded fabric is weird. Note: It's not uncomfortable and it's totally invisible under clothing.
What do those darts do? Well, they act like freakin' SEAMS people. The reason this seam-free bra works is cuz it's got seamed shaping with none of the visibility of seams. I think that level of creativity almost justifies the $180 bucks (once tax is included) price tag.

Let me take a moment to delve a bit further into the cost proposition: As with Empreinte, it's pretty difficult to find inexpensive online versions of Prima Donna bras. It's not impossible, but it's rare. The reason I went to a boutique - and enlisted the services of a fitter in whom I have the utmost confidence and for whom I have total respect - is because I required her skills. She knows the brand. She's seen the style on numerous bodies. She can facilitate my trying it on in 2 cup sizes and 2 back sizes. That's value. And it's for that value that I'm paying. Yeah, if I opt to buy this bra again, will I at least try to seek it out online? Probably. But I want to ensure that fitters like Veronica continue to practice their very valuable - and undervalued - craft. You can't have it all ways. 

The shape of the Divine - for those of you who know the Empreinte Melody - is much deeper and a bit narrower. The straps are slender (unlike the comfort-wide monstrosities on the Melody). The Divine has a narrow band and 2 hooks and eyes (the Melody has 3). They're both comfortable. The Divine is more youthful and sexy. It comes in a bunch of colours, fyi, not that I'm likely to buy it in another shade. I have come to appreciate this bra increasingly with each wear - and it totally fits the black bra bill - but I'm never going to gravitate to its style. When I go colourful, I'm having my seams.