Thursday, August 27, 2015

Boob Revolution: Major Bust Overhauls With A Bra

Today I am writing about my super duper bra make over. I am a big fan of lingerie. Beautiful undergarments are a great way to celebrate your figure and feel special under your clothes. But the most important rule of lingerie is it needs to fit. And I always thought I pretty much had that covered. Um... no. Apparently not. I've read statistics that say 80% of women are wearing the wrong bra. And I can believe it. I honestly thought that I was wearing the right size and that my boobs were just a bit crap. Not perky enough, not firm enough, not particularly big for my size. I'd read loads of lingerie blogs, many with super helpful fitting guides - if anyone should have been wearing the correct size it was me. And yet, and yet...

Now, I can't profess to be any sort of an expert on this topic at all. I am surrounded by amazing lingerie blogging giants who have all the go-to information you will ever need (I will include some links at the end) to get the right fit, however I thought it might be somewhat inspirational (too strong?) for you to see the boost a well fitting bra can give you, from a real life case study. Me.

I've been wearing a 40C for years. For those of you 'in the know' about bra sizing that's pretty ridiculous, I am aware! However let me explain to you why. And I think this is a mistake many women make. For years my mum was a D cup. If she put on weight she might go up a bit in her back size, but she was pretty consistently a D cup. My mum has big boobs. Much bigger than mine. So I just did not believe I could be anything past a C. Turns out in recent years my mum got properly sized too and was nowhere near a D. And I had been basing my own bra size on an incorrect standard. I'd just decided that I couldn't possibly be bigger than a C or at the very most a D. Largely because I didn't even know how to correctly get my breasts into a bra. (More on that later)

Also I didn't really understand the correlation between band and bust size. I could try and describe it, but way more coherent and educated bloggers than myself have done some great posts on this (links later). And this diagram is pretty excellent at explaining it:

It is not possible to befriend the wonderful Caroline of Curvy Wordy and continue to wear the wrong bra size for too long. Caroline has a super power! She is the boobie whisperer and on our first meeting she ended up measuring me in a changing room and looking rather sympathetically at my poorly fitting over the shoulder boulder holder. The next time we met up, we went bra shopping.

So, we're in Marks & Spencer and Caroline holds up a 40C next to my bust and says "You're telling me you think those (gestures to my sizeable breastage) can fit in there" Well I felt a right tit (see what I did there!). And so began my re-education. Caroline had me trying on Es and Fs, with a variety of back sizes. She also taught me how to put a bra on. I know right? The old swoop and scoop. Again detailed instructions here but essentially you want to bend over (swoop) as you're putting your bra on and then scoop everything you got into that cup. The bad news is, if you've been wearing the wrong bra size for a while you probably have some migrated breasts tissue. I know. Terrifying. That tissue is making its way under your arms, towards your back, into your pits and God knows where else. However, the good news - scoop that right up and just pop it back in your bra. It'll go back to where it's meant to be eventually, and hallelujah you may end up going up a cup size. Whoot!

Sadly, Marks & Spencer doesn't have the most exciting range of fuller bust bras, so a few weeks later (armed with my new knowledge), I went off to Bravissimo where I was fitted by one of their amazing fitters. If, like me, you are just realising that you are a D cup plus, these are the ladies to go and see. They do all their sizing by sight, they have a large array of sizes and styles and their fitters are incredibly good at what they do. And below you will see the results. I cannot believe the difference in my bust. But see for yourself:

White 40C - Marks and Spencer

In the before picture I am wearing a Marks & Spencer bra in a 40C. It is clearly too small for me. The top  of the cups are cutting in. There is also not enough space in the cups for my breasts so they are not being correctly supported and therefore there is, what I refer to as, an obvious flop over line. Due to the smallness of the bra the central gore (that bit where the two wires sit between the cups) is not sitting completely flat against my sternum. 

The second one is a nude Marcie from Panache's Cleo collection. Fit wise note how my breasts fill each cup completely and the central gore sits flat. My entire bust appears perkier and smoother, with none of the dreaded flop over line and the top seam of the cup sits flush against my skin without digging in. I think we can agree this is a pretty extreme improvement. So extreme I feel like it looks like I had a boob lift - but without any nasty scalpels. Whoop! 

Black 40C- Marks & Spencer

Here again in the before I am wearing the ill fitting Marks & Spencer bra. In this image you can see how the bra was not correctly supporting my bust, so my boobs were actually drifting off to the sides instead of being held to the front of my body (I know - awesome). The central gore is again not flush against my chest and I, yet again, have the dreaded flop over line. 

In the second image I am once more wearing the glorious Marcie from Panache. I just love the detailing on this bra - the little bows along the top of the cup, the sheer mesh in the top half of the cup and the polka-dotted mesh in the bottom half. It is great bra because it is incredibly wearable for everyday and yet is is still pretty sexy. 

Red Padded, 42B - Marks and Spencer 

In the before picture I am (shockingly) wearing a 42B (please, no one tell Caroline!). Before my boobie revolution I always believed that padded bras were the best way to get the shape I was so desperate for. I am a sucker for reds so looking at the label and seeing the size I can only assume that they didn't have my 40C so I just went for a sister size and bought the 42B - FAIL! Again, the flop over line is present and my boobs are not in their optimum position, the top seam of the cup is actually lifting away from the boob (another sign that the cup is too small) and I am cetainly getting none of the desired lift or shape. 

By comparison the Marcie, while in a similarly delicious raspberry shade, is a completely different kettle of fish. My breasts are well supported and have a great shape. Naturally my boobs are fuller at the bottom and quite empty (or lacking in volume) towards the top, so this is a great bra for giving me an all over fuller, more orb like shape. I think you can tell I absolutely adore this bra and honestly want it in every shade and variation imaginable. Give me all the MARCIES! Excitingly the Marcie also comes as a babydoll - sadly I can't currently find it in my size but I am going to keep my eyes open. 

Teal, 40C - Marks and Spencer

Anyone who has been following this blog for half an minute will know I love me some teal and turquoise action. In the first picture I am in a bra which is so incredibly pretty but alas will now be going in the bin because, you guessed it, it doesn't fit! As with the above it's too small - the top of the cup cuts into the breast tissue, the boobs are not supported by the cups but rather squished into it, and I have the dreaded flop over line. 

In the second image I am wearing the Madacasgar bra from Curvy Kate in turquoise. I love the swirly, wild zebra print to the mesh, and the embroidery to the top of the cups. The little coral accents are gorgeous, and typical of Curvy Kate's bras - always a lovely attention to detail. In this bra I went with a 40E as the band is a bit tighter than the Marcie. As you can see I don't completely fill the cups however I am pretty happy with the fit and the shape that this is giving me. Yay for perky boobs! 

So yes, the revolution has begun. Ain't nobody going to stop it! I've got a few tips for you to help you start your own boob revolution:

1. Don't assume anything about your size. A lot of bra sizing is kind of gobbledy gook. Don't go bra shopping thinking you can't be above or below a certain size. In my experience most of the time women seem to be wearing too big a band size and too small a cup so drop your expectations and try on a range of sizes. 
2. Watch some tutorials and read some blogs, because there is a wealth of knowledge out there and it's a good place to start. If you think you may be a cup size D or bigger (you very well could be, hello!) and are in the UK do go and visit the wonderful women of Bravissimo - it's like some sort of unnerving witchcraft who good these ladies are with baps! 
3. Invest in your chest. Initially time wise - bra shopping is a necessity, but shop for it like a luxury, taking your time and investing the best you can afford for you lovebumps. The bras above are a little more pricey than my previous M&S purchases, however I intend to look after them well so they last me a long time. 
4. Remember good underwear is where a good outfit starts. A well fitting bra makes clothes fit better, is better for your back and posture and just looks damn good.

Take a look at the following links for some grade A fitting advice and general knowledge about bra sizing: 

So, do you think you might be wearing the wrong bra size? Has reading this made you think you ought to check? Do any of the above 'Before' pics look familiar? Let me know in the comments...

Monday, August 24, 2015

Sweet Summer Sundress: Joe Browns Panagia Dress From Simply Be

Tan cut out pumps - Primark
White cropped cardigan - Primark

I love me a sundress. In the summer there is nothing better than a pretty, floaty, cotton dress and bare legs to help you truly appreciate the warm weather. This bit of prettiness from Joe Browns at Simply Be is great for sunny days.

This dress is super cool  as it is pure cotton, and just two layers. The under layer is edged with a broderie anglaise trim that looks like a sweet little petticoat peeking out the bottom. The dress hits on the knee (on my 5'8 frame) and so is good for those who prefer not to show too much leg.

The straps are a wide spaghetti strap, which means you can comfortably wear a bra with this dress, which is good because I am not a fan of overly obvious bra straps, and bra-less certainly is not an option for me. The back is also shirred, so while I am not the biggest in the bust for a size 22, there is certainly more space for those who are better endowed than me. The neckline is also pretty decent, so I would be comfortable wearing this to work on casual Friday, as it's not overly booby

My  favourite things about this dress are the colours and pattern. The white and wedgewood blue is such a pretty combination of colours, and the print is reminiscent of china.Here I have chosen to pair the dress with a white belt and cardi and tan flats, however this would go with a wide array of colours I love - red, yellow, turquoise, pink, blue etc.

This dress is easy to wear, cool, and unusual. It pretty much ticks all the boxes for an ideal sundress. Currently it is on sale over on Simply Be so head over and check it out.


Friday, August 21, 2015

Style XL: A weekend of fashion and body positivity and awesomeness!

This year Style XL was held in Birmingham. A plus size fashion conference, it's a great chance to be exposed to new brands and check out some forthcoming stuff from more familiar ones, to network with people with familiar interests, and to soak in the general positivity and good vibes. The event was tirelessly and lovingly organised by Leah of Leah XL who did an amazing job putting on an incredibly smooth running event (depsite the fact that The Paragon Hotel is actually the worst hotel in the world - NEVER stay there! Imagine a cross between The Shining and Fawlty Towers and you're halfway there).

A collection of moments from Style XL. With some amazing bloggers - 

Leah's biggest achievement (in my opinion) was creating this beautifully safe space. A body positive haven where a lot of women who are used to feeling perhaps a little out of place could relax and enjoy themselves. Celebrating fashion and community. It was a great weekend, and I left on a mega high from spending so much time with such wonderful women.

Black cut out flats - Primark
Hair flowers - Collectif and Accessorize

On Saturday, during the day, I wore my red Ophelia dress from Lindy Bop. You can find a full review here. I wore it with a black Lindy Bop petticoat, my lovely Wingz and some Primark shoes. It's quite busty, but I felt great in it to be honest, always feels like a fun and flirty outfit this one.

The Saturday was largely about the catwalk shows and checking out some of the brands and what they have coming up - it was great to see some wonderful brands represented at Style XL.

Scarlett and Jo are one of my favourite brands (you may have noticed!). I love the fact that they are a dedicated plus size brand that does true cross over vintage styles. Wearable retro styling that ranges from work wear to evening wear. There was a real buzz around the stand at Style XL. Creator and owner Gifi (a true character if I've ever met one) was surrounded by a bevy of ladies at all times, all keen for a peek at the new collection and to share their thoughts on styles with him. Gifi is really keen to get any feedback on his beautiful clothes from actual plus sized women and so listened intently and explained some of the motivations behind his latest pieces.

Georgina from She Might Be Loved  was masterminding a catwalk line up when she realised they were in fact a model short. Unbeknownst to me, Georgina and Gifi had decided that I would be a good fit for the dress and might fill the gap! I was despatched to try on the dress - a form fitting velvet number. You may have noticed, but I don't do body con. A lot of insecurities around my tummy mean that while I love the look on plenty of plus size girls I have just never felt comfortable in a really fitted dress. And then I put this dress on. Oh. My. God.

I felt like I should be draped over a piano singing some sort of sultry jazz number in my most throaty voice. I couldn't believe the way it hugged my curves (and without hard core shape wear too!) and celebrated my body. I know, all quite dramatic, but a true revelation for me. That is easily the most glamorous I have ever felt in my life. And this is what I really love about Scarlett and Jo - these dresses are not imitations, they're not trying to pacify buxom girls with something just adjusted for their proportions.  Scarlett and Jo are not adapting fashion - they are designing for bodies like mine!

I was still pretty nervous at the thought of taking to the catwalk in front of all those people but my nerves were calmed with reassuring words from Georgina and Nancy from Sugar, Darling (who I have the BIGGEST style crush on), and some super quick and amazing styling from Chiara who transformed my hair into a chignon with about 3 bobby pins in about as many seconds (Chaira is a wonderful photographer, stylist and makeup artist who I am hoping to shoot with soon. Seeing what she could do with less than a minute I can't bloody wait to see what happens when she really gets her talented hands on me).

Dress by Scarlett and Jo, image by Alfie B-Smith Photography

Oops, a little bit of smug face.

Me, doing a final walk with Leah and Georgina (what glam company to keep!)

I won't lie to you, moments before I had butterflies. I am quite outgoing and bubbly, but this sort of thing really isn't my comfort zone. However, as soon as I got up there and did my little strut I realised that really this was the most supportive and lovely environment to have this experience in. It was a room full of women who were too pleased to be seeing clothes on bodies that looked like theirs. It was also a room full of friends who whooped and cheered as I took to the catwalk. I felt totally exhilarated and very proud of myself to be honest. And it was great to get the opportunity to wear such a magnificent dress too. Big thanks to Gifi and Georgina for being lovely and opening this up to me.

Sian Yapp absolutely rocking a Chubby Cartwheels bikini. Images by Alfie B-Smith Photography

So that was my little sashay down the catwalk. I was so bust chatting (suprise suprise) that I sadly saw very little of the catwalk shows. However, one show that really stayed with me was Chubby Cartwheels. I have always loved this independent American brand which makes incredibly fun and playful pieces, that are very much pulling their tongue out at what is "appropriate" and "flattering" for fuller figured women to wear. Go and check them out. The piece that really stuck out for me was the fast food bikini (above) modelled by the absolutely sensational Sian Yapp. She smashed it. What a gorgeous body and what a gorgeous girl. Her energy was just amazing and inspirational. It's so good to see someone just own and inhabit their body like that.

All the selfies with my lovely Caroline from Curvy Wordy

Having recently been soundly told off by queen of bras and busts Caroline of Curvy Wordy (pictured with me above) for wearing the completely wrong size, she was kind enough to fit me into my proper size. I am ashamed to say I was previously wearing a 42C where I should be wearing something around a 38F / 40E! I am honestly so conscious of badly fitting bras I am too embarrassed to have made this mistake. Anyway I now have very happy baps. It's amazing what the right size can do for your boobs! I plan on writing a post on my boob make over in the very near future so stay tuned.

Me looking ridiculously happy to have found the turquoise Madagascar set from Curvy Kate!

But the exciting news is I am now eligible for Curvy Kate bras! I have long lusted after their designs, and enjoyed their body positive ethos, so it was brilliant to meet some of the team at Style XL. CK's tata loving duo, Hannah and Chantelle, were on hand to fit all the boobilicious ladies and to advise on styles as well as tell us a bit more about upcoming styles and ranges. My favourite piece was the gorgeous turquoise Madagascar set (pictured above). Back in July, it was yet to be released but as soon as it was I popped on to Littlewoods and ordered it in a 40E (going on a trying on a session I had at Style XL) and I am very pleased with the fit. I'll give you a look of the fit in my upcoming boobie post.

I also got a sneak peek at CK's new strapless bra. I didn't try it on, but did see it on Kathryn of Miss Kathryn's Miss Takes and all I can say is... that baby defies gravity! My boobs aren't the perkiest, so I am yet to find a strapless bra that doesn't make me look like I have wrapped a inner tube around a sausage, which is gradually heading south, but I think this might be the one. I am desperate to give it a go when it comes out.

Another exciting development on the Curvy Kate horizon is their new high end lingerie range, Scantily. Think Agent Provocateur blended with a bit of bondage burlesque and you might have an idea of the boudoir sexiness they have produced with this new collection. And it's available in big sizes, And at reasonable prices. I know, right?! I am too excited!  The whole collection is indulgently luxurious with lots of satin and lots of gratuitous sexy detailing. Right up my aesthetic alley - so looking forward to its release later this year! Check out a sneak peak over at Invest in your Chest.

Saturday was a pretty insane day, filled with chatter, laughter and a multitude of highs. I changed my outfit for Saturday night's festivities (what a diva!) and opted for this Asos Curve photo floral print dress (pictured above, it's old I'm afraid), which I adore, with some leggings and black flats. I also paired it with my black harness from Pornagraphie who sell via Etsy. I love pairing the rough bondage-ness of the harness with the comparative floral softness of this dress. I felt quite sexy, but I think the outfit was a bit shocking to some of the hotel's more conservative patrons haha. 

In the evening there was Model XL a pageant  that focussed on body positivity, which was wonderful and uplifting. Everyone who took part was a winner for me, but you can read an interview with Sian Yapp (who was crowned overall winner) here. A real stand out for me was Sarah Doyle from Plus Size & Proud, who is equally fabulously gorgeous inside and out, and wrote about her experience here.  

On Sunday I wore my new full circle flamingo print skirt, which I bought from a seller on eBay. This skirt is a full circle, made to order, and incredibly good value for money. I have my eyes on another couple of prints. I wore it with my Bardot top from Asos Curve, and old Primark belt and flats, and my Lindy Bop petticoat. For a more detailed review, check out Debz from Diary of a Wannabe Princess.  

Sunday was a little slower (Thank God! We were all pretty shattered) and consisted of a series of seminars on a variety of topics, from Using YouTube to Make Up to Jewellery Making. The stand out session, however, was a session on Body Positivity run by total warrior goddess Daisy Holland of I Will Not Wrap Myself In Smocks and Apologies. Daisy spoke to us about building your personal confidence, about speaking kindly to yourself and about dealing with those who don't. One of the things that really stood out for me was Daisy saying that anyone (from a family member to a random in the street) who tries to make you feel bad about yourself is just a kn*b. Because that behaviour is unkind and nasty. And when you realise that you know that the opinions of kn*bs just shouldn't matter that much. As Daisy spoke of coming to accept herself and her own beauty I saw many of the women in the room nodding along. Afterwards I was amazed at the similarity of the stories told. And I was heartened by how far along the journey we had all come,. But reminded that it is a journey, and that people get started and move along at their own pace. What I do hope is that this little corner of the internet is helping to start or smooth some of those journeys.

My main take away from this weekend was just how affirming it is to be surrounded by women whose bodies resemble yours, In a media landscape where even most plus size brands are showing clothes on padded and stuffed size 12s it was just great to see how fabulous clothes look on bodies like mine. And how we can all be gorgeous and confident. It is not about dress size or really anything physical. It's about a state of mind and about accepting yourself. So thank you to all those at Style XL. It was a brilliant event filled with some amazing moments. Another step on this journey...

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