Posts by Holly

Plus Size Lingerie Spotlight: RavenDreams

Note: Some images in this article may not be safe for work.

Dawn Rose Suspender Belt by RavenDreams

Dawn Rose Suspender Belt by RavenDreams

I’ve talked lots in the past about how small indie designers are driving innovations in plus size lingerie, so I wanted to take some time over the next few months to spotlight some of the best ones. We’re starting today with RavenDreams, a plus size luxury lingerie business that does everything right as far as I’m concerned.

RavenDreams produces thoughtful pieces in luxury fabrics up to a US 4XL. They also do custom work, including bra size pieces that go up to a 50JJ. I was lucky enough this week to get some time with Abi Tyrrell to ask some questions about her models, her lingerie and her lingerie philosophy.

Loula Silk Red Rose Panties by RavenDreams

Loula Silk Red Rose Panties by RavenDreams

Holly: What made you decide to start RavenDreams? What is your background as a designer?

Abi: Desperation. Even three to four years later what I see online is not to my taste. Yes, I am being kind here. Also, for me to look like the girls in the photos I would need to trough on the makeup and a LOT of carpet tape. I have had two kids and am not 16. I want to turn myself and my partner on — not turn the lights off.

Background? I come from tailors on both sides of my family. I was sewing Dior dresses copied from the pages of Vogue Patterns for my Barbie doll at the age of nine. I was head of my High School costumes for every play at 16, and studied at uni. I put myself through school sewing for historical reenactors, Am-Dram, and one memorable Ralph Lauren inspired suit for Ascott that made the top five list that year on BBC 6pm news. It was a 96-hour suit I did in less than 24 — it nearly broke me. I also spent eight fun and frustrating years being a Costume Checker/Elf for Kentwell Hall. Once people knew to what level I could sew and would take almost any challenge, they beat a path to my door clutching a crayon drawing and big hopes.

Mimi Suspender Panties in Red and Lilac by RavenDreams

Mimi Suspender Panties in Red and Lilac by RavenDreams

Holly: What inspires your designs? What kind of women do you see wearing your pieces?

Abi: What my about page and blog says is true! Honestly, after a long and sad divorce I wanted to get laid. But when going to look for lingerie in the stores, it was all granny pants or worse yet, thongs. I went online and in 2011 there was only ebay that had plus sized clothing and it was all nasty and cheap, not classy or sophisticated at all. While stores boasted they had my size and I ordered correctly, it was ALWAYS a disaster. So I design for me — the things I can’t find anywhere. It has to be well made and fit comfortably. I have to be able to get in and out of it easily (or have it taken off easily).

What inspires me? History, obviously. Fantasy as well, but oddly ceramics. I had a teacher once who told me that you had to pick up a pot and feel it in your hands to appreciate that hands made these and the importance of Form and Function. If the form does not have a function then it has no purpose. So I build a lot of function, like bust support and curved seams into my work.

Angelina Ivory Silk Babydoll by RavenDreams

Angelina Ivory Silk Babydoll by RavenDreams

Holly: You’ve shot your pieces on larger models who are not the industry standard, without any photoshop. What made you decide to take a risk on your imagery? How have people reacted to it? Do you feel like your more honest approach to advertising has been an asset for the brand?

Abi: First — have you seen those girls? They are so beautiful! I don’t see how photoshop could make them more beautiful! Second, honesty is the best policy for satisfying the customer. If you lie about the fit then it will get returned and your name blacklisted in the community. My ultimate customer is me and I have just felt destroyed every time I order something. It’s like all the videos lately about how plus size [doesn’t] fit. So I really don’t want to have that happen to anyone who tries my pieces.

I would LOVE to have larger models, but there is a very small number of plus sized women willing to model in the first place. Lingerie takes a special kind of confidence and unfortunately a very thick skin. We have had some really unflattering comments, but they were always out weighed by the positive ones.

Dawn Rose Suspender Belt by RavenDreams

Dawn Rose Suspender Belt by RavenDreams

Holly: Being an indie lingerie brand comes with its own set of challenges. Does being an exclusively plus size brand make things harder? How do you feel about the luxury plus size lingerie market as a whole?

Abi: What luxury plus size market? You see silk anywhere on a size UK20? ‘Cause I haven’t. Yes, it does really make me very cross to see all the companies jumping on the plus sized band wagon and only going up to a size UK18.

Being smaller means it’s harder to get the word out. Being smaller means wholesale is not competitive with those who get containers of product made in China. As is, I make 10 sizes, 14-32, and yes, how you look at the body HAS to be different for plus size. You can scale sizes 6-12, but then the dynamics really change. I think the most difficult thing is to educate the plus size market as to what quality is and that they can demand better products.

Lydia Black Lace Low Rise Panty by RavenDreams

Lydia Black Lace Low Rise Panty by RavenDreams

Holly: Tell us about how you designed your new sizing system and how it differs from traditional high street sizing. What design elements do you use to account for the 10cm differential you see over a period of time?

Note: Abi talked about how women differ in size over the course of the month by an average of 10cm in several blog posts, but I wanted to note it here as well. Her pieces are designed to fit over the long term rather than into a more narrow set of measurements that capture a specific point in time.

Abi: Size charts, what bollocks! At one point, one major store said I was a UK32, another UK26 and the third didn’t go far enough, but I could walk into any of those stores and try on a UK24 and it would fit. Sort of. My first thought was to do a study: both phenomenological and empirical. I invited a group of plus sized women for a chat on their experiences with how they shopped and what their experience of what sizes they wore. Then I did an online survey asking women what sizes they actually wore and got them to send me their measurements. After a heck of a lot of Excel spreadsheets later, it became obvious that high street stores HAD NO CLUE how their patterns were being cut or how the clothes were made. There is no current relationship. We all know this, but I can’t make things that will disappoint. So I decided to dump traditional sizing and go with what women actually said they wore. So far so good. Yet again — the new vanity plus size sizing in the US is throwing a spanner (note: a spanner is like a monkey wrench in US terms) at that.

10cm difference? Oh goodness. Everything has to curve. Why have straight lines on a pattern for a body that doesn’t have any? Another secret is the silks I use have 5-10% elastane. Traditionally bras are made with the cups in non-stretch fabrics otherwise they lose support — there are ways around this.

Daphne Robe by RavenDreams

Daphne Robe by RavenDreams

Holly: What do you think about the future of the plus size luxury lingerie market? Do you see it expanding? Do you think plus size women are willing to spend more on luxury lingerie in large numbers?

Abi: Ebay will always be our competition. It sells dreams for under a tenner. With that much flowing through the public consciousness, plus the many decades of indoctrination that we are just not worthy of having quality clothing, the luxury lingerie market is going to struggle. I see it as my purpose to be out there challenging the market to compete with me. Hell, I have even been copied already. I see that as a win. Is the average plus size woman willing to spend more money? The market is expanding and creating better goods — we all must keep demanding a better service.

What do you think of this brand? Do you agree with Abi about the state of plus size luxury lingerie?

Holly

Holly

The Full Figured Chest provides creative and elegant copywriting for the high end lingerie industry.

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How to Custom Order Lingerie From An Independent Designer

MILA Bodysuit by La Lilouche

MILA Bodysuit by La Lilouche

I love custom lingerie. It’s great if you’re a non-standard shape or want the perfect piece that just isn’t available on the market right now in your size range. Over the years I’ve definitely developed a routine that I follow when I order a new custom piece, so I thought today I’d put together a guide for everyone else. This contains both the basics and some more detailed dos and don’ts that I’ve learned over the years.

Research and Planning Stage:
Usually custom pieces are either done as a made to order piece from a designer’s existing line or as a fully custom piece that is unique to you. Either way, you’ll want to start with lots of research and go in knowing what you want. Remember that if you see a piece you love but want changes made to (colors, necklines, straps, etc), most designers can accommodate that pretty easily.

You also want to think about how you’re going to wear the piece, especially if you’re thinking about going the whole lingerie-as-outerwear look. Do you need to be able to hide a bra under it? What will you wear it with? Designers can often come up with extra accommodations that make a piece easier to wear as fashion that don’t effect the look of the piece, like hidden linings or alternative strap placements.

Royal Hawaiian Set by Dottie's Delights

Royal Hawaiian Set by Dottie’s Delights

You’ll also want to contact your potential designer or designers and see if they have experience with your size range or body type, especially if you’re looking at bras outside their normal size range. Remember that designers don’t get paid to answer your questions unless you order, so please be organized and try to keep things short and business-like in your initial inquiry.

If you’re nervous about whether a new designer will work out or not, you can always start with something basic like a robe or a camisole that is easier to fit. Bra size pieces are the toughest and represent the most risk (if you’re a non-standard size, especially) so starting with a more generic item can be a great way to get confidence and try out the custom lingerie process. You can also talk about payment terms here. Some designers want all the money upfront and some will split it into stages, so make sure you know about relevant payment dates and what is expected when they occur.

Cavalier Riding Jacket by With Love Lingerie

Cavalier Riding Jacket by With Love Lingerie

Design Stage:
Once you’ve had an initial conversation and committed to a designer, it’s time for the fun part. The designer will usually come back to you with a sketch of your piece, as well as some more questions about fit and function. This is another great opportunity to have a detailed conversation about what you want and how you’re going to incorporate the piece into your life. Any changes to the design need to be made here — after this you’re committed to the design that you approved. This is also the time for you to ask for fabric samples and pick which fabrics to use, if it’s appropriate for the project.

Oral Bed Jacket by Ayten Gasson

Oral Bed Jacket by Ayten Gasson

The Waiting Stage:
This is the worst part, at least if you’re impatient like me. Designers will usually list wait times on their site or on their Etsy store. They vary from a few days to a few months, so make sure you know what kind of timetable you’re working with. If you need your piece for a special event or date, that should be made clear during the planning and design stages.

Sheer Lingerie Camisole by Sandmaiden Sleepwear

Sheer Lingerie Camisole by Sandmaiden Sleepwear

As you can see, researching and planning thoughtfully can take a lot of the guess work out of this process. It’s vital to put in the time upfront to ensure a good result. I know lots of people worry about custom pieces showing up and being awful or not fitting, but I’ve honestly never had a custom piece that I didn’t love. If you pick a designer who knows your size range and you’re upfront about what you want, it’s truly hard to go wrong.

Holly

Holly

The Full Figured Chest provides creative and elegant copywriting for the high end lingerie industry.

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Extended Sizes Versus Plus Sizes: A Better Solution or Just More Confusion?

 

Cosabella Extended Line

Cosabella Extended Line

Cosabella has recently launched a gorgeous new expanded version of their bestselling line — with the label of “extended sizes” instead of plus sizes. This wording isn’t unique to Cosabella. With the campaigns like #droptheplus gaining popularity among consumers, lingerie brands and boutiques are looking for terms that go over better with customers than “plus size.” Cosabella uses “extended” in much the same way everyone else does: for bras that go up to a G cup and sizes up to size 22. While I’d love to find a better term than plus size (although I’m not bothered by it the way other people are), this use of extended is problematic in an industry that already has some serious issues separating customers who are smaller with larger breasts from plus size women who boast a variety of cup sizes. 

But before we get into why this is all terribly confusing for consumers, let’s start with the good. Cosabella isn’t the first brand to use extended sizes as a term, but they are the largest. Fittingly, they took on the new term after consulting with their plus size model, Emily Nolan, who has been active in the #droptheplus campaign. Cosabella deserves tons of praise for using a size appropriate model and for actually asking her for her opinions on issues that effect plus size women. The campaign shots are also beautiful and make you want to try the lingerie: they’re a wonderful example of message and model working together well.

Cosabella Extended

Cosabella Extended

Unfortunately, a major brand promoting this use of extended is going to confuse the whole plus/full bust lingerie landscape even further. I’ve mentioned this issue before in passing. There’s tons of confusion among both brands and consumers when it comes to using full bust, full figured and plus. “Extended” works as an alternative to plus size, but it’s also not clear who the line is for. Even Cosabella’s own blog seems confused when it states, “Cosabella launches Cosabella Extendedan assortment of our best-selling silhouettes sized (32-36 D,DD-G & 38 D,DD-F), (1X-2X-3X) & (12/14, 16/18, 20/22).”  While it’s great that Cosabella is exploring both larger sizes and larger cup sizes, the new line is clearly grouping them all together. This is a problem for lot of customers, whether you’re a 38A or a 28G.

Cosabella Extended

Cosabella Extended

The size grouping issues in this campaign are common with other brands and boutiques as well. Full bust sizing refers to women with a smaller brand size and a larger cup size, while full figure sizing refers to plus size women with a larger cup size. Plus size is usually understood to encompass all women in the 14+ clothing size range, regardless of cup size. Extended is most often used as a catch all term that may encompass as many as all three of these categories. While it’s great that the lingerie world is embracing customers with larger cup sizes and with larger body sizes, they don’t necessarily have the same set of needs when it comes to design and construction.

One of my biggest issues with the use of “extended” is that it furthers the assumption that all plus size women have larger breasts, which is simply not true. There are as many 42AA customers out there as 42G customers — and all are plus size. A 42G customer would be considered full figured as well, but you hardly ever see that term used to define a lingerie size range online.

Cosabella Extended

Cosabella Extended

Part of this is a matter of customer education: the average lingerie customer won’t know how to tell these terms apart either at this point. Part of marketing is coming up with ways to help your customers find exactly what they want, so it’s up to brands and boutiques to get their terms straight and to pass that knowledge onto their customer base. There’s no shame in gently pointing a full figured customer towards a selection that suits them while pointing a plus size customer with a smaller cup size to a different set of options. Helping customers quickly find what fits them would result in less confusion and fewer returns, which would benefit everyone.

The complicating factor here is pretty obvious: the activist and emotional side of things. Plus size lingerie customers shouldn’t have to settle for a term that makes them feel ugly, just as full bust customers shouldn’t have to settle for a term that makes them feel bad. However, whatever terms we come up with need to come with definitions, and be used with some kind of regularity to be meaningful when it comes to actually shopping for lingerie. Part of the reason “plus size” has such a hold on the industry is because it is one of the few terms that has a definition that everyone can agree on, for the most part. The way we describe the section of the lingerie boutique we shop in helps us know where to look, but it’s also part of an identity that many people relate to on a personal level. While the use of extended sizing as a term seems like a step forward in terms of empowerment, it’s a step backwards in terms of actually finding the things that people want to buy.

What do you think of the term “extended sizing”? Do you prefer it over plus size?

Holly

Holly

The Full Figured Chest provides creative and elegant copywriting for the high end lingerie industry.

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29 Pieces of Plus Size Lingerie for Sizes 20 and Up

Disclosure: This blog post contains affiliate links.

After my column last week, Cora emailed me to ask a question that I hear a lot: “Since the selection of lingerie in sizes 20 and up is so awful, where can we send TLA readers for nice stuff?” I suspect she’s not the only one asking that! Once you get past a US 18, the lingerie pickings become much narrower. Today I’ve collected some of my favorite pieces of plus size lingerie in that size range, from a variety of places. I’ve tried to use photos of actual plus size models when I can, which was actually surprisingly difficult. There were tons of plus size pieces shot on core size models… which really baffles me.

I’ve also tried to incorporate a variety of styles, which was again difficult in this size range. The lingerie out there tends towards the plain or the immediately trendy, so there isn’t a ton of choice if you’re interested in a style of lingerie that isn’t having a moment currently. There are some vintage-flavored pieces in here, some super feminine stuff, and some pieces that are more outside the box — like the crop cami from Torrid featured at the top of this blog post.

Some quick notes on sizing: I’m converting sizes extremely roughly here, as ladies in the 20+ size category can fit as low as an 18 occasionally. Most of this will cover up to a 28, with some pieces going up to a 32.

As usual, just click on the photo to see more about each piece of lingerie. I’d also love to hear about where you buy lingerie if you’re in that size range. What have I missed? Where is all the great stuff hiding?

Edie Bra & Panties by Elomi

Edie Bra & Panties by Elomi

Holly

Holly

The Full Figured Chest provides creative and elegant copywriting for the high end lingerie industry.

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Plus Size Customers Are Not All Alike: Sizing and Grading Issues in Plus Size Lingerie

We’ve seen another plus size breakthrough this week: the gorgeous Tess Holliday is on the cover of People magazine! Tess is an inspiration to many, including myself. She’s gorgeous, a size 22 and incredibly confident.  I’ve also talked before about how I don’t see myself in Tess the way some people do — in terms of weight and build, we represent totally different spectrums of the plus size market.

Today I thought I’d run with that and actually talk about some of the ins and outs of lingerie design and development when it comes the entire range of the plus size market. I’m not using real numbers here today because most designers and brands keep those extremely confidential. I see lots of protected data as part of my job, but today I’m going to use some pretty vague (made up) numbers to make my points. I would love to see designers and brands talking more about this subject honestly, but that’s a discussion for another day.

Heavy girl measuring.

Another quick note: I use full bust and plus size both in this article, simply because these industry issues effect both sizing segments. That doesn’t mean that all full bust women are plus sized or vice versa. Research and development in these areas frequently overlap, as do various retailer concerns and issues.

The Variation Within the Plus Size Community Is Incredible:
The accepted plus size market runs anywhere from size 10 and up: in reality, for most retailers plus sizes start somewhere around a US size 14 or 16. If you make dresses, this actually makes your life reasonably easy. If you make bras, it’s way more complicated. Plus size women, like all women, have a wide variety of shapes and body types. They range from an A cup to an L cup, are different heights, have extra long or extra short torsos and carry their weight in a variety of ways.

Plus Size and Full Bust Lingerie is Expensive to Develop and Test:
When most bra companies develop bras, they start with a fit model for the A to D range and develop the bra from there. D through G usually uses another fit model, although fits can still be fairly standard in this range. Once you get beyond this though, most standard size assumptions go out the window. There are lots of companies who have put tons of money into researching and developing larger band and cup sizes, and just as many who have abandoned it when it got too expensive or when retailers didn’t show any interest. Development costs can include new types of underwires, expensive fabrics like high quality powermesh, and beautiful laces that still provide support and strength. All of this becomes multiplied when you’re a tiny brand or start talking about luxury lingerie. For example. a bralette style bra in an A cup could use a less supportive lace, while a plus size version might require both a stronger lace and a lining to achieve a similar level of lift. Consumers don’t hear about this side of things: the personal frustration that designers go through, the money that gets wasted on products that never make it to the market, or the fact that retailers just don’t want to take the risk on plus size pieces. 

Getting the same lift and support in a plus size piece can require new materials to be added to an existing design. It can require redeveloping underwires or starting the entire design process over from scratch. I’ll be honest though: most of the time when I hear that development has been halted internally on a plus or a full bust bra line, it’s due to lack of retailer interest. Companies can’t put money into products that won’t sell, and they generally can’t sell them without retailers getting on board.

Plus Size Pieces Require More Tailoring and Built In Structure:
I work with a lot of boutique owners, so I’ll share another piece of honesty that I’ve learned from them: The majority of plus size women don’t walk into a lingerie boutique wanting to enhance their natural pear or apple body shape. I love how The Lingerie Addict and its readers champion women of all shapes and sizes, but often customers in a lingerie boutique haven’t embraced themselves to that extent. Mostly, women are looking for lingerie that will make them look slimmer or give them an hourglass figure. In many ways, they see those same values reflected back to them in the form of advertising, so this isn’t a huge surprise. Creating an hourglass silhouette and a slimming line involve more expensive fabrics, more detailed tailoring (like bias cuts) and more shaping overall. All of this makes garments tricker to fit and more expensive to produce, especially for lower end lingerie lines.

Part of the issue here is that consumers generally want lingerie for a certain price, which tends to be set by retailers like Walmart and Target. While some retailers have been really successful with this model, such as Hips and Curves, it’s incredibly hard to develop plus size lingerie that supports and feels great without it costing more. This extends to retailers, who frequently don’t want to buy expensive plus size pieces because they don’t feel like their local market can support it.

Plus Size Customers Are Not All Alike:
Bodies tend to get squishier as they go up in size, so bra bands may fit different depending on whether you’re a size 14 or a size 26. Fabric may pull or fall differently depending on how someone carries their weight, which varies much more as you go up in size. For lingerie, you have to add bra sizes to this whole mess. A 44B customer and a 38D customer may have a similar weight and height, but could have absolutely nothing else in common when it comes to lingerie fit. If you’re a consumer, you’ve still got a reasonable amount of choice until you get to a size 18 or so — after that it’s mostly a wasteland of awful lingerie that doesn’t hold together for long. In fashion, designers tend to deal with a wider variety of body types and weight distributions by just adding a lot of extra ease to each piece. The lingerie version is where brands just grade something up by X number of inches and hope that it fits most people. Again, most of this can be traced back to a basic issue: the overwhelming and scary costs of intensive research and development.

I’ve personally had private exchanges with designers who are desperate to do better for the plus size market, but can’t find the funding or the interest to do anything about it. I’ve heard from designers who want to use bigger models but fear that retailers won’t accept their images or that they won’t sell anything without a model who doesn’t have an hourglass figure. To the consumer these are issues of representation, which are obviously important. To a small brand, these issues can be life or death for their entire company.

I think all of this will change when companies and retailers start seeing plus size customers as equally valuable. As customers, it’s up to us to be vocal about what we want and pay full price for it when we’re able to. Save up for one special order bra and get it through your local boutique instead of buying three at Walmart. Buy from a plus size specialist Etsy seller every six months if you can. Share and comment on advertising that resonates with you and compliment boutiques when they use models that you love. Retailers will change their buying behaviors based on customer feedback and revenue changes, so we need to show them that supporting quality plus size lingerie isn’t a risk for them.

Holly

Holly

The Full Figured Chest provides creative and elegant copywriting for the high end lingerie industry.

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Polish Bra Review: Anna Pardal and Comexim

Florence Bra by Anna Pardal and Comexim

Florence Bra by Anna Pardal and Comexim

This set was purchased with my own funds. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

This is the second blog in a series covering all of the various Polish bra brands that cater to full busts, so please go check out my first piece on Ewa Michalak if you haven’t seen it already!

Comexim is the second Polish bra brand I’m covering, mostly because they’re the easiest to come by in the US. They’re sold at four boutiques: A Sophisticated Pair, Busted, Wellfitting.com and Zathiya Lingerie. However, each boutique carries different kinds of stock and has a different relationship with Comexim and its collaborative line by Anna Pardal. Zathiya carries Comexim in stock, which means if they have your size and you want your bra quickly that’s the one place you can buy from. Wellfitting functionally deals with Comexim on your behalf, along with offering sizing advice. A Sophisticated Pair can access all of Anna Pardal and Comexim, but all items are special order and have a reasonable wait time.

Comexim sizing, like most Polish bra sizing, works differently than US or UK sizing. I actually contacted Wellfitting ages ago about ordering though them and asked about sizing: they told me I’d be a G cup. Despite not knowing anything about Comexim sizing, I assumed that was totally off base. I’m glad I did, because after two tries through A Sophisticated Pair I’ve finally figured out that 38HH is my size.

Finally, let’s talk about the Anna Pardal line versus Comexim itself. Anna Paradal is a designer who works in collaboration with Comexim. She designs bras using their great construction, with higher-end materials than the original Comexim line.

Okay, now sit back and breathe. Got all that?

To make it easy, I’ve ordered both Comexim sets I’ve tried through A Sophisticated Pair. Erica is great with sizing, knows both lines inside out and can talk you through the scary and varied world of customization options that Comexim offers. When my first bra was almost there but not quite, she took a look at some pictures that I sent and helped me figure out what to change, including adding in some customization options that really helped. I ended up having the gore lowered and the straps moved on this bra, which helped alleviate some issues I had with the first one. While I thought the customizations helped, they didn’t quite solve all of my fit issues like I thought they might. For more details on available customization options, check out this post from A Sophisticated Pair that takes you through all of them. In my case, the customizations were designed to make the straps more comfortable and help the gore tack. While the strap adjustment did help with comfort (I’m working around a very specific nerve issue in my left shoulder, so this may not apply to others) the gore adjustment didn’t make the central gore tack. It’s better, but the customization didn’t take care of the issue entirely.

Florence Bra by Anna Pardal

Florence Bra by Anna Pardal

This Florence set is so new that it’s not actually up on the Anna Pardal website yet. As I said before, this is a 38HH with customization. My UK bra size is reliably 36H, so this is the closest I’ve gotten. That said, you can see that this still isn’t perfect. The gore customization was to help the central gore tack, but it still doesn’t. I also still get some issues with my breast tissue migrating towards the center, which I never get in my Elomi plunges. Having said all that, the issue isn’t the bra — just that my breasts and this line don’t get along as well as I’d like. I’ve still worn this a fair amount, since lots of the issues aren’t visible under a t-shirt or a tight dress. My slouching in this picture probably doesn’t help.

Various views of the Florence Bra

Various views of the Florence Bra

I’ve heard that Anna Pardal and Comexim are still experimenting with designs above an HH+ cup, so Id be willing to give this line another try in the future if they made some changes. I’m also someone who wears lots of UK-based bra brands with zero issues, so I may not have the right shape or breast tissue type to make this line work. Lots of women swear by these and think they’re a godsend, but they also tend to have more trouble with UK-based bra brands than I do. Do I like Comexim? Yes, especially when it comes to their fantastic and original designs. Would I take this over my beloved Elomi plunges or a Bravissimo half cup? Probably not.

Have you tried Comexim or Anna Pardal? What customization options do you use when you order from the brand?

Holly

Holly

The Full Figured Chest provides creative and elegant copywriting for the high end lingerie industry.

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Should Lingerie Companies Charge the Same Price For Standard and Plus Sizes?

Beach Blanket Bingo Swimsuit in Plus Size

Beach Blanket Bingo Swimsuit in Plus Size

Beach Blanket Bingo Swimsuit

Beach Blanket Bingo Swimsuit

A few weeks ago we talked about the term plus sizes and whether it was useful to the current lingerie climate or not. Today I’m going to talk about a related issue that comes up a lot when plus sizes are discussed: pricing. Specifically, we’re going to tackle the great debate surrounding whether plus size lingerie should be priced the same as standard size lingerie. I’ll start with my honest opinion: I don’t have an issue with plus size lingerie being more expensive than lingerie in smaller size. Honestly, I think if everyone understood the way retail pricing really works, we wouldn’t be having this debate at all.

Today I’m going to break a complicated emotional and retail issue down into three smaller discussions that I hope will help illuminate this issue.

1. When most retail companies price a standard size item and a plus size item at the same value, that value normally is set at what the plus size item costs.
In reality, smaller sizes do come in at a lower wholesale cost. This makes sense: they use less fabric, take less development and sometimes need less tailoring than plus sizes do. When you pay the same price at an online retailer, you’re generally paying the price for the plus size item. Yes, this makes the pricing “equal,” but in this case equal is far from fair.

2. If we start pushing “equal” pricing, retailers will just start skimping on fabric and construction on plus sizes pieces.
If you want to see this at work, look at any Walmart or Target. Cute stuff that is reasonably decent in the standard size clothing departments and a swath of ugly that is hidden away in the plus size departments. Access to great plus size lingerie and clothing is enough of a battle currently — if customers attempt to force down pricing any lower, our options will be even worse.

Ever noticed how cheaper plus size lingerie is really plain and disposable? The stuff that costs extra is what will go first: soft fabrics, pretty patterns, extra support and underwires that actually fit. I don’t want to live in that world and I suspect you don’t either.

3. Developing larger sizes takes time and serious funding.
Developing lingerie in larger sizes takes more time and effort than it does in smaller sizes. Bodies become less standard in plus sizes and cup size design becomes much more of an effort beyond a G cup or so. This is why so many lingerie lines stick with D through G sizing – it’s cheaper and easier to develop. I’m happy to pay more for bras that are fashion forward and well made.

The reality is pretty simple: a larger piece of lingerie takes more material, time, and frequently more development than a smaller size. Quality fabrics are expensive, as are all of the parts of well made piece of lingerie. Instead of comparing pricing, I’d love to see customers embracing more speciality designers. It’s unrealistic to expect one brand to do everything in terms of sizing (especially without changing price points), so to me it makes sense to support brands that are experts in your size and shape.

Holly

Holly

The Full Figured Chest provides creative and elegant copywriting for the high end lingerie industry.

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The Dark Side of Body Positivity: Body Snark in the Lingerie Blogging Community

Korpulente Taille

In 2012, The Lingerie Addict became a Body Snark Free Zone. Lots of other websites have followed: in fact, most lingerie blogs proudly display Cora’s anti-body-snark free graphic and frequently declare that all bodies are good bodies. So why am I so depressed about the the body positive movement and lingerie blogging?

I don’t talk a lot about myself in these columns, but today I want to start with the basics as they’re relevant to some of my complaints: I’m 29 years old and a size 14. I’m a 34HH/36H bra size. While I like to think I am perfectly fine looking, I am not a part-time model. I do not have a traditional model’s body shape. I work as a marketing writer and a consultant for the lingerie industry, so I deal with bloggers both from a personal perspective and from a business one every day. I have been both a size 6 as a teenager and my current size (and everything in between), so I’ve experienced both sides of the skinny/fat coin.

All of this is to say that I am completely unlike most of the lingerie bloggers out there, including many of them who run blogs that are dedicated to plus size lingerie. Lingerie blogging, like most aspects of the fashion industry, continues to get younger and whiter as time goes on. It also continues to get both skinnier and more idealized in terms of shape.

At the same time, the body positive movement has become trendy. While some bloggers truly believe this, many bloggers feel compelled to pay lip service to it to make their audience feel better. I interact a lot with bloggers in many different facets of my life and I truly can’t count the number of times I’ve seen “body positive” bloggers freak out over having to go a size up in underwear sample (because they don’t want to be “fat” and “disgusting”) or talk about how they love plus size ladies but would just hate themselves if they gained any weight beyond their small size.

We live in a world where being body positive means starting your statement with “I love plus size women, but…” and then making whatever fat phobic statement you were going to make anyway. These bloggers are generally in their early 20s, white and wear small sizes — but they’ve figured out that jumping on the the body positive train is the one that will help them get more readers. This frequently leaves me frustrated on both a personal and professional level. When I have a client who wants to work with bloggers to advertise a body positive product, do I send them to bloggers I know are making nasty comments about plus size women behind the scenes? Or do I tactfully steer them elsewhere, to bloggers with sincere attitudes but generally smaller numbers? I struggle with the nasty hidden side of lingerie blogging on a weekly basis due to my job and I don’t have an answer yet.

The two most visible figures in the plus size lingerie blogging world are arguably Georgina Horne of Fuller Figure Fuller Bust and Tess Holliday, who recently signed a groundbreaking contract with MiLK Model Management. I know from experience that Georgina is a genuinely lovely person and Tess has a face that feels like something out of classic Hollywood. They are both doing something important for plus size ladies who are interested in lingerie, but as time goes on I can’t ignore the nagging question at the back of my head: where are blogs that show the rest of us?

I’ve talked before about why I feel compelled to post lingerie pictures online, both here and on my own blog. It’s not because I love my body 100% of the time. In fact, some days the ideas of posting pictures of myself in lingerie online feels really uncomfortable. But I think it’s necessary. Realistically, I don’t represent that much diversity from these other bloggers. I’m on the small end of plus size and I’m still fairly hourglass shaped. I’m not a model — even part-time. I struggle to keep lipstick off my teeth (when I remember to wear it) and have stretch marks I can’t get rid of. I vividly remember how much more people liked me when I was thin and struggle to maintain relationships from my childhood now that I’m heavier — at least without a fair amount of anger involved on my part. I hate the raised eyebrows I get when I want to order dessert in a restaurant on a special occasion. I hate that I eat fish four days a week and people openly assume all I eat is pizza and fried chicken. I am not alone in any of this, which is why posting underwear photos feels so important to me. I am the kind of plus size that is not society approved. I’m not in the “acceptable fat” category. I’m just fat and getting through life like everyone else.

I would love to see a world of lingerie blogging that genuinely included everyone: all races, all sizes, all ability levels. But it seems like, as the body positive movement becomes more popular on the surface, the playing field for bloggers shrinks. I used to feel like blogging was just a matter of being courageous and putting yourself out there, but now I feel like it’s harder than that. Would people really read a lingerie blog written by a woman in a wheelchair? Would they actually show up for a blog featuring ladies over size 20 who weren’t built like models? In many cases, I think the answer is no.

When I was younger I used to feel like combating fat phobia was just a matter of educating people and putting yourself out there. Now that I’m older, I’ve realized how deeply ingrained it is in our society. The only difference is that we’ve put this shiny body positive gloss on it so it makes it harder to find and harder to combat. Body positivity may be popular, but the real question is if society is ready to embrace it yet.

Holly

Holly

The Full Figured Chest provides creative and elegant copywriting for the high end lingerie industry.

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Fashion, Fatphobia and Finance: My Thoughts on ‘Droptheplus’

droptheplus_still_just_a_circle.jpg

It’s been a big month for plus size news! We’ve had the Lane Bryant #imnoangel campaign and the response to it and now the #droptheplus awareness campaign is taking over the internet. If this doesn’t sound familiar, here are the basics: the #droptheplus campaign was started in Australia and aims to convince the fashion and modeling industries to stop using the term “plus size.” In their ideal world, any model would simply be labeled as a model and plus size sections would be combined with standard size clothing sections in stores. #droptheplus argues that calling people “plus size” sets them apart in a negative way, so it needs to be removed from use.

There is an issue here with differentiating what fashion considers plus size from what the average person considers plus size. While a size 10 may technically be plus size, I suspect many women who wear a size 10 don’t identify that way. A size 10 woman also wouldn’t experience harassment, rejection and all of the fat shaming that comes with being a size 18+. It’s notable that this campaign focuses on models who aren’t really plus size — even Robin Lawley says that she doesn’t identify that way.

I can’t tell you how many conversations I’ve had with people who say “I’m technically a plus size, but…”. When someone says that, I tend to hear something that sounds more like “I totally support plus size people, but I’m not fat like they are.” The idea of “acceptable fat” is alive and well in our society. I would argue that all of the women at the forefront of this hashtag are in the “acceptable fat” category, who may not have the same experience as those women at the larger end of the plus size range. Having been thin, “acceptably fat” and legitimately plus sized, I can assure you that it’s a very different experience in each weight category.

Setting all that aside, this campaign is such a beautiful and simple idea: surely we can live in a world where people can just be people, right? Sadly, I’m not sure the world is really there yet. My own experiences tell me that despite all the ad campaigns telling us that plus size ladies are just as gorgeous as ladies of any other size, society in general just doesn’t agree. Today I’ll be talking about three big reasons I think this campaign may be far further along than society is, but I’ll also cover some ways to help further the goals of the campaign that anyone can accomplish on an individual basis.

Three Major Reasons Why #droptheplus Isn’t Currently Practical in Fashion:

1. There’s no alternative term.
Yes, the term plus size is frequently used in an insulting way. It’s also a way to describe a clothing store department, just like petite is used to describe a section of clothing that is built for smaller people. It would be great to have a neutral term that we could use to apply to this section of the store, but no one can seem to agree on one. I’ve seen “curvy” suggested, but that has its own problems — curvy is a shape, not a size range.

2. Women with larger bodies need different tailoring than women with smaller bodies.
Larger women aren’t the only ones with this concern — it applies to muscular women, petite women and tall women as well. While I have the advantage of being able to wear a larger version of a standard dress at a size 14, a woman who wears a size 24 needs a dress that is built completely differently. One of the major complaints about plus size clothing and lingerie lines is that not enough thought goes into the way clothing fits on larger bodies to start with, so taking away that point of differentiation will exacerbate the issue.

3. Making “plus size” less visible out in the world may undo progress that has already been made.
I feel like this campaign assumes that things are really getting better for plus size women, not just in fashion but in the way they’re treated in general. Let’s not sugarcoat the issue: while “plus size” is a problematic term, most of the problems with it come from society-wide hatred of fat people that is both visceral and truly frightening. Over the weekend I read an article that fat women have a harder time having children – in part because no one would be willing to have sex with a fat person. Fat women are harassed in stores, on the street, at work and by families and friends. Yes, “plus size” is a problem, but the real problem is that many people don’t believe that fat people deserve to be treated like human beings. In getting rid of a labeled plus size section, we’d be moving one step closer to helping plus size women disappear altogether.

So What Can We Do To Make Things Better, If We Can’t #droptheplus?

1. Patronize stores and brands that cater to a wide range of sizes and don’t divide them into plus or standard size.
Admittedly, this is easier if you’re willing to shop online or live in a city with good boutique options. This is really a version of my much-repeated advice when it comes to lingerie and fashion: spend your money with companies whose policies you respect. If you want to get rid of plus size clothing sections, don’t shop in stores that have them. If there aren’t any local options that treat all sizes equally, shop online with brands that do. If companies saw a serious shift in profits that came from treating larger customers well, they’d be more motivated to actually do it.

2. Think about how you feel about your life and the terms you want applied to your body. Articulate your preferences and become part of the conversation.
While I see “plus size” as akin to “petite” in a fashion context, I know that probably puts me in a minority. #droptheplus has been invaluable as it’s started a conversation about what terms plus size women identify with (which may be different than someone else’s terms) and what terms would be better for the future. Smart retailers will be paying attention to this kind of thing and using it in future advertising cycles. Having the conversation publicly raises awareness, even when people disagree.

3. Be aware that companies make decisions based on financial factors rather than on feel good factors.
Big companies have shareholders who expect profits. While campaigns like #droptheplus are great for awareness, lingerie and fashion companies won’t change anything until their bottom line suffers. Vote with your money. Don’t buy plus size items that are badly made and named insulting things. Speak out on social media so companies know what they could do differently to earn your dollars. Save up and buy a slightly more expensive item from a company that actually respects women of all sizes rather than a cheaper item from a company that sees them as an afterthought.

I applaud #droptheplus for bringing this conversation to the forefront of the internet lately — they deserve tons of credit for standing up for women of all sizes. Unfortunately, like many conversations, this one is complicated and can’t really be simplified down to a hashtag. Until we address the financial factors that motivate change as well as the pervasive fat phobia that society suffers from, it will be hard to see any lasting change in the way fashion companies treat larger women.

Holly

Holly

The Full Figured Chest provides creative and elegant copywriting for the high end lingerie industry.

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20 Pieces of Affordable Plus Size Lingerie from Target

Disclosure: This blog post contains affiliate links.

Editor’s Note: This post was updated on 4/29/15 with additional selections.

If you don’t live in a lingerie mecca and you don’t like shopping online, then you’re probably familiar with the lingerie offerings of both Walmart and Target. Today I’m curating items from the more fashion focused of the two stores: Target.

While Target still isn’t on par with any online plus size brand, they’ve made an attempt recently to elevate both their plus size fashion and plus size lingerie collections. If you’re in the plus size range (roughly 36C to 42DD) Target can be an option to find a serviceable lingerie set these days.

If you’re in between misses sizes and plus sizes, don’t forget to check both lingerie sections. Target’s sizing is generous, which means that an XL can often fit up to a US size 16 or so. If you are craving more on-trend items, it’s worth looking through both sections of the store to see what all of your options are.

Read on to see what lingerie made the list. You can click on any items you like to find out more about them.

Madison Unlined Bra by Target

Paramour Madison Unlined Bra by Target – Available up to size 40DDD

Captivate Unlined Bra

Paramour Captivate Unlined Bra – Available up to size 40DDD

Paramour Sweet Revenge Unlined Bra - Available up size 40G

Paramour Sweet Revenge Unlined Bra – Available up size 40G

Inner Secrets Flyaway Babydoll

Inner Secrets Flyaway Babydoll – Available up to size 22/24

Black Robe by Xhilaration

Black Robe by Xhilaration – Available up to size 3X

Lilac Robe by Xhilaration

Lilac Robe by Xhilaration – Available up to size 3X

Pajama Coatset

Gilligan & O’Malley Pajama Coatset – Available up to size 3X

Marie Meili Curvy Women's Latoya String Thong - Available up to a XXX Large

Marie Meili Curvy Women’s Latoya String Thong – Available up to a XXX Large

Elodie Wire Bra by Marie Meili Curvy

Elodie Wire Bra by Marie Meili Curvy – Available up to size 40C

Callie T-shirt Bra by Marie Meili Curvy

Callie T-shirt Bra by Marie Meili Curvy – Available up to size 42C

Fayne Briefs by Marie Meili Curvy

Fayne Briefs by Marie Meili Curvy – Available up to size XXX Large

Gilligan & O'Malley Fluid Knit Wrap - Available up to size 3X

Gilligan & O’Malley Fluid Knit Wrap – Available up to size 3X

Pretty Polly Plus Size Diamond Tights

Pretty Polly Plus Size Diamond Tights – Available up to size XXL

Which piece of lingerie do you like the best? Have you bought plus size lingerie at Target before?

Holly

Holly

The Full Figured Chest provides creative and elegant copywriting for the high end lingerie industry.

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