- $10 off a $100 purchase at BradelisNY w/ code SHOP10 (ends 7/5/12)
- 20% off sale items at Between the Sheets Lingerie w/ code BTSJULY4 (ends 7/4/12)
- 20% off sale items at Myla Lingerie (limited time)
- 20% off at Lingerie Diva w/ code 200K (ends 7/4/12)
- 25% off the Glamour Underwired Bra at What Katie Did (ends 7/1/12)
- Up to 30% off swim at Bare Necessities (ends 7/5/12)
- 50% off at the Agent Provocateur Sale
- Up to 50% off at the ASOS 4th of July Sale
- Up to 50% off at the Playful Promises Sale
- Up to 70% off at the HerRoom Sale
- Free Shipping at Faire Frou Frou w/ code FREESHIP (ends 7/1/12)
- End of Season sale at Hepburn & Leigh
- Agent Provocateur Soiree Collection on sale
(Click the image to view the bras!)
Continuing our special week of small bust coverage, I’m talking with Ellen Shing of Lula Lu Petites, a lingerie brand specializing in A, AA, and AAA cups bras. In this exclusive interview, Ellen shares her inspiration behind the line, the challenges of designing for smaller busts, and her favorite pieces so far!
1) I remember meeting you at my very first CurveNY back in 2010, and being amazed that there was a designer doing lingerie exclusively for small busted women because it just wasn’t something I’d heard about before then. What made you start Lula Lu Petites, and what did you do before then?
I started the Lula Lu Petites line because after opening the store and scouring the trade shows, season after season, I was unable to find the bras and the sizing that my customers were looking for. After feeling like finding a bra for my customers at the shows was comparable to finding a needle in a haystack, I decided that instead of waiting for someone to make bras for my customers, I would do it myself since I already knew what they needed!
Prior to Lula Lu, I had worked as an Assistant Buyer at DFS (Duty Free Shoppers) and my main jobs before that were in marketing, where I worked at companies such as Alexa Internet and the NBA in Hong Kong.
2) How does Lula Lu fit into the ‘big picture’ that is the multi-billion dollar lingerie industry? What distinguishes you from other brands, especially as more and more retailers are starting to venture into small bust market?
We’re definitely a niche brand in that we’re focused on an often ignored segment of bra sizes. We like to say that, even if a woman is small-busted, they are still women and they want to have the same choices as all women do when it comes to bra styles. Our goal is to provide our customer base with the same basic, pretty, sexy, etc. choices that they see for other sizes, but designed to flatter their smaller curves.
3) Congratulations on your recent InStyle feature! I recognized that bra as one I’d featured in my own lingerie trend forecast. What’s the inspiration for your collections and how do you keep things fresh season after season?
Thank you! I often start out with the body style of what I want, meaning a particular cup design or, for example, a design without underwire. Then, if the style is on the fashion side, like the Amara that you saw in InStyle, I may work with our consultant to pair colors that I am interested in. If there is a particular lace I already know I want to use, which is what I had picked out for the Amara, we play around with the colors until we come up with an eye-catching combination.
4) What are some of the challenges of designing bras for smaller busts? I know there has to be more to it than just taking a regular bra pattern and making it smaller. Are there any special or unique things you have to be aware of for the smaller busted woman?
I try to fit all of the bra sizes, especially the AAA and AA cups, before going to production. I know have driven all of the factories I work with crazy, but I insist on it because I do not always trust the grading. The smaller cup sizes can be especially difficult to grade and, when I have had samples made with a factory’s grade, it might not fit as well. I much prefer to see how something works on an actual body versus following a grade “rule” that is just based on an assumption. I know that is not the way most designers work. I’m lucky I have a good technical consultant/patternmaker I work with who understands my logic, even if it’s not the normal industry logic!
5) Aside from being smaller busted, what’s the Lulu Lu woman like?
She’s like all other women, meaning she can be a lawyer, housewife, mother, accountant, secretary, etc. She likes her body and breasts just as they are but hates the bra shopping experience, which is when she starts to feel deficient (and she wishes she knew where to go to get the bra help she needs!). She just wants a bra that fits her body type and not to be told to go to the children’s department for bras!
6) Out of all the collections you’ve designed, which bra and panty set is your favorite?
I really like the Amara and the Natasha. They are both irresistibly sexy, and designed beautifully with lace and careful detailing.
7) Where do you see the future of the A, AA, and AAA cup lingerie market going?
I think it’s still a growing segment and I think there will be even more options in the future for this size segment.
8) And last, but not least, where can we buy your lingerie?
La Petite Coquette, Soleil Toile, Town Shop, Bits of Lace, My Boudoir, Herroom.com, and Lulalu.com
6) Amanda, what are some common misconceptions people have about smaller busted women?
Amanda: There are several common beliefs and ideas about small-busted women that are way off the mark. I believe I have a good sense of what’s really going on with these women, because I’ve been working with them and talking with them online for over two years now. Just to clarify, the majority of my clients and blog readership are women living in the United States who are between the ages of 20 and 50.
Myth #1: Women with small breasts are usually unhappy with their smaller bust size and want a bra that will “correct” this defect with heavy padding.
In my experience, small-busted women are looking for pretty much the same thing in a bra that the typical woman of any size is looking for: a great fit, comfort, good quality for the price, and suitability of the bra for their everyday lives. Some like push-up padding, but many do not. Those of us who prefer less padded styles are comfortable with how we’re built and how we look. We do enjoy the benefits of being small-busted, such as the fact that we don’t always have to wear a bra and that it’s fairly easy and comfortable for us to do high-impact athletic activities.
Myth #2: Small-busted women are ill, hormone-deficient, or have some other health condition that makes them different from those with a more average or large bust size.
The vast majority of women I deal with are in good health and have perfectly normal breasts. Many of us, but certainly not all, do tend to be built with naturally slim and/or athletic frames. We breast-feed our children just like other women. A small bust is not a sign of illness, and for most of us it isn’t much of a stigma at all… except when we shop in Victoria’s Secret or read a fashion magazine and realize that we are apparently supposed to feel terrible and hate ourselves. And, of course most of us don’t feel this way at all.
Myth #3: Women with small breasts have no idea what it really means to need a bra.
A lot of small-busted women prefer to wear a bra, at least some of the time. We wear them for modesty and support; to look fashionable and attractive; for playing sports, dancing and working out; and sometimes to feel and look sexy (such as with boudoir lingerie sets). In other words, we share a lot of the same reasons that larger women have for wearing bras.
Myth #4: Men find smaller breasts unattractive.
This has never been true in my personal experience, and I hear the same thing from the vast majority of small-busted women I talk to. First of all, men like people… not breast size! Some men may prefer a curvier appearance, but do you think women built like me get rejected by tons of guys because we aren’t meeting that C-cup criterion for hotness? Not so much.
Chrystal: I’m going to throw a few out there too. Small busts don’t need support. Small breasts cannot produce milk to breast feed. Small busted women are up tight or boring in an intimate relationship.
7) Chrystal, you were once a smaller busted woman and, after implants, you’re now a full busted women. What differences have you noticed, whether in terms of the way people treat you or in terms of your lingerie choices, after going from smaller busted to fuller busted?
Chrystal: One change that I find the most annoying is how often I am approached for fittings now with a fuller bust. I could be shopping for a sleep top in a department store and I am offered a fitting! When I was small busted I was never offered a fitting, not a single time! If I’m in a store looking for a lingerie piece I often hear something along the lines of how it won’t be on long, so the fit does not matter. I want to feel good in lingerie, and that does not mean an over emphasis on breasts spilling out of a piece that just doesn’t fit. Previously I may have gotten a suggestion from a customer service person about how a certain design may accentuate the curve of my waist to hip, now suggestions are breast focused. That waist to hip curve is still there, and I’d love to be able to accent that part of my body too.
8) There’s so much weight (no pun intended) attached to a woman’s bra size in our society. What advice would you have for a woman who’s feeling inadequate because of her bust size?
Amanda: Don’t zero in on your breasts (or any one part of your body, for that matter) when you look in the mirror. You’re a woman, not a collection of body parts that just happen to be attached. Wear clothes and lingerie that fit well, in which you feel comfortable and attractive. The proper fit in a bra can help a lot with body image and confidence. Throw out (or donate) anything you own that doesn’t fit, and make sure your lingerie drawer has some pretty fashion items as well as the usual boring solid nudes, blacks and whites. If you’re shy about shopping for bras and lingerie, try looking online first — you’ll get a better sense of what styles you like and where to start looking.
Every single AAA and AA cup woman I talk to seems to think she has the smallest bust of anyone who’s ever existed, and that there can’t possibly be anyone else out there with her size or shape… it’s not true! You are normal and beautiful.
Check out my Getting Intimate series at http://32aabra.com/category/getting-intimate/ for some personal stories by individual women about their experiences with bras and boobs. We’ve all got body image issues and I’ve yet to find a single person who has never felt intimidated when trying on lingerie and swimsuits.
Chrystal: I hate hearing, “I’m just an A cup, bras are just an accessory” or “Why are you buying a bra? Your breasts are so small.” I think a lot of our own feelings of inadequacy stem from what we find around us. It is nearly impossible for us to stand naked in front of a mirror and not look at ourselves with a critical eye. But this is exactly what I’d tell a woman to do. Go stand in front of that mirror, put all of the attachments of society aside, and just look at yourself. You may be amazed at what you see and feel. It isn’t about just looking at your body, if you can really put critical nature aside you may find some inner strength that you did not know was there.
9) For more advice, reviews, or blogs for smaller busted women, what recommendations do you have for our readers?
Amanda: I really like Eve’s Apples (http://evesappleslingerie.com/) for useful information about petite lingerie sizing and fit. And I use Twitter a lot (http://twitter.com/32aabra) to keep up on the latest from all the lingerie blogs that I read and people I like to keep track of in the business. I read The Lingerie Addict regularly, of course, plus Lingerie Talk and Erica’s blog at A Sophisticated Pear. Usually the features in these publications are not specifically geared to petites or small cup sizes, but I learn a ton from them anyway. I’m also way into The Bra Database (http://bratabase.com/) and The Bra Band Project, both awesome sites that collect information about who fits into what.
Chrystal: Of course there is blog for The Little Bra Company (how did I miss them on the brands list). Another full bust blogger introduced me to Small Bust Big Heart. They have been around for a little while, but really starting to grow. I love Catherine’s voice. http://smallbustbigheart.com/
I also like the video in the post below. This blogger is not one that usually writes about bras or lingerie, but she shares her fitting story in a fun and easy manner. You can’t help but love her personality shinning through the video. Many people will not agree with her fitting technique, so just remember to try several and find what works for you. http://www.frmheadtotoe.com/2010/08/ask-ms-bra-fitting-101.html
11) Oh! I just remembered another question, and one I’d be remiss not to include considering the topic. What are your respective thoughts on breast implants?
Amanda: The way I see it, breast implants are available and they are one option for women who feel like it’s right for them. It’s not a choice I will ever make, but just because I’m not interested doesn’t mean nobody should ever do it. It kind of creeps me out when I hear about teens, even older teens, having this done… I feel like it’s weird to put breast augmentation in the same category as, say, a new car or your own cell phone or whatever. And who feels good about the way they look in their teens? I know I didn’t, and I don’t think I was anywhere near responsible enough to make such a huge decision at that age.
It’s major surgery and I’ve heard that recovery can be quite painful. I think every woman who decides to do this is obligated to educate herself about the potential risks, both physical and psychological. But several close friend of mine have them and love them, which is great too.
Chrystal: I really think that it is an individual thing. It may be right for me personally, but it is definitely not something that is right for many women. I do think that there are stereotypes associated with implants, those same stereotypes put me off surgery for several years. I think women should be free to make that choice with out fearing stereotypes, these stereotypes are why many women hide their surgery.
When I was researching implants I found that I was actually in the minority, being smaller busted on considering implants. When I was searching statistics on loveyourlook.com I found that about 90% of women get implants do so after having at least one child. Now 3 years post surgery I am pregnant with my first. About 40% have surgery for cosmetic reasons, 15% to regain what was lost through pregnancy/breastfeeding or weight loss, and 45% for a breast deformity (Tuberous breasts, significant asymmetry, Poland’s syndrom, etc). While I may have made the choice for cosmetic reasons, there is a significantly larger amount of women that make the choice based on other factors.
Love Your Look (sponsored by a breast implant company) and Just Breast Implants (not sponsored by an implant company) are two wonderful patient education resources. I’d highly encourage any woman to educated themselves before making the choice for surgery.
11) Any final thoughts or things you’d like to say?
Chrystal: I’d love to see this post reach out to your readers. One of them may realized that their unique voice just may fill a gap in the blog world, that they may be the one to become a resource for other women like themselves.
Lately, I’ve been getting a lot requests for articles that address that unique bra concerns of smaller busted women. Since I’m fairly new to the world of small bust lingerie, I asked two of my favorite lingerie bloggers – Chrystal of By Baby’s Rules (who I first met during this conversation on the War on Plus Four) and Amanda of 32AA bra (my go-to resource for small bust bra reviews and articles) – if they’d be willing to share their insights with TLA readers.
When you ask a lingerie blogger to talk lingerie, you’re gonna get a lot of really great insight. I didn’t want to shorten this interview (there’s just too much good stuff), so I split it into two parts with the 1st going up today and the 2nd tomorrow. As always, I’d love to get your point of view in the comments.
1) Let’s begin at the beginning, how do you feel about the way the lingerie industry is currently handling the needs of smaller busted women?
Chrystal: There have been some improvements in the last few years, at the same time there has been a decline. The brand I used to buy ill fitting 32A bras now starts at a 34B. But Victoria’s Secret (to name one) has introduced 30A and B bras while reintroducing their 32AA online. Those 30A’s would have been ideal for me. Brands are in a constant state of flux and I for one am not up to date on how they determine their product lines. But with each change we have to remember that a single company cannot provide for the needs of an entire market of women. We definitely don’t have to like it, but we should try and ensure we are up to date on what is available in a size market.
Amanda: For the most part, I think the lingerie market is not doing nearly enough for small-breasted women. The UK and Europe have handled this consumer niche better than other places, but even they have very limited options available. Here in the US where I’m from, you go to almost any department store and typically you can’t find anything under a size 34A in the women’s department. If you need something smaller than that, you have go look in the “Kids” or “Girls” section. It’s the same thing with most brands that are sold in chain stores across the US; they have intimate apparel lines for adult women, which generally start at a 34A or 34B on top and a size Small (5-6) on the bottom.
2) Here’s something I’ve noticed lately…while there are a lot of B-D lingerie bloggers and DD+ lingerie bloggers, there are very few A cup and under bloggers. Why do you think that is?
Chrystal: This is something that I’d love to see changed. With every blog you look at there is always something that pushed the author to start writing. In the smaller bust circle there is a common stereotype that lingerie does not have a function, for example a small breast does not need support or all that is needed in a bra is padding for size. With the few blogs that do exist you see a common thread of information about supporting, shaping, flattering the smaller figure, while providing a message with a mix of function and fashion. These are pretty big shoes to fill, especially when you are fighting a stereotype. I’d also like to see more in the plus size small bust. A 40AA does exist, and their lingerie needs are vastly different.
Amanda: I think the main reason there aren’t many small-cup lingerie blogs is that a smaller bust size is much less common, so there are actually fewer women looking for information on this topic online. But I also believe that the small-cup/petite size niche of the lingerie market wants and needs a lot more attention than it is getting right now. Although small-busted women are more rare, they are out there and they are definitely seeking help. I’ve done what I can to address that need.
3) Bra shopping is hard for most women, but what are some of the biggest concerns of smaller busted women?
Chrystal: The biggest things that I see are women who buy without trying on the garment. We all tend to stick to a safety net, the same brand, same bra, season after season. But brands change and so do bodies. Every woman, no matter what size, needs to consider how their needs change. The 32A that worked last year many not work now that you’ve gained a few extra pounds from summer BBQs. Smaller busted women have the same issues you see in the full bust range, wires may be too wide or cups too shallow, bands could stretch quickly, shoulder straps may not come short enough, not to mention the needs of a plus size small bust. Unfortunately there is not a lot of fit information for small busts, which puts women in the position of buying what’s available and living with the discomfort of an bra that is not suited to their body.
Amanda: Many women with smaller breasts are unable to find their band size in stores, especially those who need a size 32 band or smaller. They usually end up in a 34 band, which is quite often too big across the front. A lot of them don’t understand that a 34C runs like a 32D in the cups — which means you basically have to go up in the cup size when you go down in the band. I’ve had women who measured at size 32B or 32C tell me, “no way… I’ve never been able to fill that cup size! I am flat as a pancake!” But once they try the smaller band and larger cup, they discover it does work on them.
Another group that suffers a lot is women who need an AA cup or smaller. You can almost never find anything in these sizes in stores that is not designed to fit little girls. Even petite brands tend to have the cups set too close together in front to fit well on women with average bone structure and very small breasts. Past size 34, it gets especially difficult.
For more advice on bra shopping for size AA, A and B cups, please see my Size and Fit page at http://32aabra.com/size-fit/.
4) Do you have any fit and sizing advice for smaller busted women? What about unique considerations they should take into account?
Chrystal: Get fitted, and not just once. Get several fittings, and with each fitter ask questions. Find out why they recommend a certain product, how it is going to work with your body. Know your body, know what you do not like with your current bras, know what you need for your wardrobe. The more information you give to the fitter the better they can fit your needs. Try different sizing/fitting methods, one may not work for you when it works for everyone else. Don’t look at a bra tag and think that you couldn’t wear that size, judge by the fit and comfort. That tag could read larger or smaller then what you are used to, but those numbers and letters are brand unique and have no defining purpose. Bottom line, you should feel comfortable!! So many smaller busted women think that because they have smaller breasts that a bra is just going to have to be uncomfortable. If you sigh with relief when you take of your bra at the end of the day then it is not the right bra for you!
Fitting example: Last fall I helped my twin sister refit two years after having her baby. She measures a 28D. She was wearing a 34A with the band between her upper shoulders. A 28D and a 30C just do not work for her body shape, the cups are placed on the band in a way that does not work for her, though they “fit” she is miserable while wearing them. She comfortably wears a 32B, feels supported, and likes how she looks in clothes. The highly debated method to add inches to a underbust measurement works well for her, while it does not for me. And she is my twin sister!!
Amanda: It’s a good idea to get professionally fitted for a bra. Keep in mind, however, that professional bra fitters are not always trained to address the petite slender body type. Before you go, get a non-padded bra that fits well on you and take that along in order to have something you can show the salespeople without being totally uncovered (if it makes you self-conscious to be seen with nothing else on). This can make the process a little less scary. If the salesperson tells you that you need one size in particular and that nothing else will fit, don’t believe it. Bra fitting is not an exact science, as most legitimate professionals who do it will tell you. Most women, including those with smaller breasts, can wear at least two different cup sizes when AAA and AA cups are included. Some can also fit into more than one band size. That’s why I have bras in four different sizes in my personal lingerie drawer.
5) What are some of your favorite lingerie brands and boutiques for smaller busted women? Feel free to link us to specific styles!
Chrystal: I am currently in love with the Affinitas line, 30-38 A-D. They have daily wear, strapless, bustiers, camisoles, wired baby dolls, and chemises. Affinitas has a full bust line, branching into both market segments in a way similar to Wacoal with their petites line, Huit by Eveden, and Atlantis by Panache. Claudette makes their gorgeous neon mesh starting at a 30A. For ladies looking for shorter straps I like Calvin Klein. For ladies between cupsizes I like brands that run a little smaller like Elle MacPherson. And of course the made to measure and specialty designers, they do not have to be as expensive as they sound. There are plenty more that I’m sure I have not mentioned, and again these are not in the plus sized small bust category. I have a huge knowledge gap when it comes to fitting women and their needs in that size range.
Amanda: Here are several of my favorites- The Little Bra Company (http://thelittlebracompany.com/) has bras scaled down in total height, underwire length and cup width. Some bras in their collection also run small in the cup. This company makes beautiful underwire bras in a variety of styles, most of which have some degree of push-up padding. You can find The Little Bra Company for sale in sizes 28-38 A, 28-36 B, and 28-34 C on the brand’s official website. The website also provides a list of recommended boutiques across the United States that carry their lingerie.
If you prefer bras without wires, I highly recommend The Zee Bra by Lynn Saussy (http://thezeebra.com/). Lynn, a small-busted woman herself, makes extremely comfortable and stylish pull-over bras that are made to fit AA, A and B cups. They have a wide band for better support, and light removable padding in the cups for more coverage if you want it (or not if you don’t).
Itty Bitty Bra (http://ittybittybra.com) makes excellent underwire bras with a light layer of contour padding in petite sizes 32-38 AA, A and B. Recently this same company introduced the Flatter Me Bra (http://www.flattermebra.com/) for women with small breasts and larger backs; these come in sizes 40 – 48 AA, A and B.
I am so excited that summer has finally arrived in Seattle. 5 a.m sunrises…9 p.m. sunsets…it’s my most favorite time of the year. And Summer is also the perfect time to indulge in some new lingerie, which is why I’m so excited for today’s giveaway!
My dear readers, you have the opportunity to win the gorgeous bra, thong, and suspender belt shown above (value: $212.00) from the very lovely people at Fraulein Annie.
This pearl gray and ivory set (such romantic colors!) fits an incredible range of sizes. The bra is available in sizes 32-36A and 32-38 B-G, the thong in sizes 8-18, and the suspender belt in sizes S, M, and L (quick note…Fraulein Annie is based in the UK, so they use UK sizing). Oh, and did I mention that the giveaway is open internationally? Because it is!
How do you enter? It’s easy!
1) Leave a comment on this blog post saying what you like most about Fraulein Annie. (required)
2) Like Fraulein Annie on Facebook.
3) Tweet about this giveaway.
4) Sign up to become a Very Important Addict.
5) Like The Lingerie Addict on Facebook.
Please use the Rafflecopter widget below for all your entries so we can keep track of them. The Fraulein Annie “Hello, Summer!” Giveaway ends next Monday, July 2nd at 11:59 p.m. The contest winner will be chosen at random on July 5th and publicly posted to The Lingerie Addict. The contest winner must respond within 48 hours to claim their prize or a new winner will be chosen.
Thanks so much for reading The Lingerie Addict and good luck!