And Then There Were None: Strapless Bras for G+ Cup Sizes (plus a review of Deco Shape)

I’m someone whose bra size shifts noticeably with even slight weight changes. For a while there I was up, down and all over the place, but over the last two years, as my band size has stabilized and breast tissue has migrated thanks to consistently well-fitting bras, my only size changes have been increases. I’ve watched, to my disappointment, as whole sections of the lingerie market disappear from my list of shopping possibilities. Adieu, Parfait. Claudette, we were ships passing in the night. Longline bras, I dream of what we might have had. As long as I was floating around the D-G size range, most full-bust brands made my size in a great variety of shapes and styles. With each cup size past a G, however, a new chunk of the market vanishes.

Let’s play a fun game: go to a major lingerie retailer and use the search-by-size feature with different cup sizes and see how many options are available. Here’s what Figleaves offers:

32G

32G – 450 styles

32GG

32GG- 181 styles

32H

32H- 177 styles

32HH

32HH- 112 styles

32JJ

32JJ- 47 styles

To some extent these results are misleading; searches for “G” and “H” are also returning American G and H-cup bras, which are significantly smaller than their UK-counterparts. Figleaves also counts each different color of a particular bra as a different “style”, so the counts are a little inflated. Regardless, the difference between G and GG cup sizes is huge: a drop from 450 to 181. There’s another drop-off after GG, another after H, and yet another after J. This is why I get so excited when new styles, and especially new brands, launch up to an H-cup. Sure, our friends who wear J+ cups are still waiting (come on, Cleo, you gotta add JJ and K-cups, because you’re awesome), but it’s encouraging when a new brand aims high at the beginning, which hopefully bodes well for future expansion.

A search for “strapless” options on Figleaves makes the size cut-offs clear:

Strapless bra options for a 32 band: AA-H.

Strapless bra options for a 32 band: AA-H.

A woman who wears a 32 band has a few choices up to an H-cup (and only Panache’s “Evie” and Masquerade’s “Deity” are available in an H); beyond that there are no more options.

Curvy Kate will be launching their strapless bra for Spring/Summer 2014!  I'm really excited to hear more, and as soon as I know anything (like, oh, a size range) I will report back!

Curvy Kate will be launching their strapless bra for Spring/Summer 2014! I’m really excited to hear more, and as soon as I know anything (like, oh, a size range) I will report back!

To be fair, it’s important to recognize that H+ strapless bras are going to be more challenging to design and build, simply because they will be asked to do more work. Even though the band of the bra should be doing 80-90% of the work of supporting the bust, larger boobs mean that more weight (the 10-20% which would ordinarily be taken by the straps) is going to be “unaccounted for” in a strapless bra. Bravissimo experimented with their strapless bra up to a J-cup, which incorporates additional rows of hooks and soft boning in the cups for added support in fuller cup sizes, but it appears that they’re not planning to re-order this style, as sizes are selling out and staying sold out. I hope this just means they plan to redesign it and release a new style (maybe a strapless basque? please?!), but I’m not overly optimistic.

My dress!  "Alika" by Bettie Page in Navy (I ordered mine through Modcloth).  It's AMAZING-- super nipped-in at the waist, plenty of room through the boobs, and flowing gracefully out over my hips.  I love it!

My dress! “Alika” by Bettie Page in Navy (I ordered mine through Modcloth). It’s AMAZING– super nipped-in at the waist, plenty of room through the boobs, and a skirt that flows gracefully out over my hips. While I could absolutely wear a regular bra with dark straps, I really wanted to make the pretty net yoke the star.

I’ve been incredibly frustrated trying to find a new strapless bra to wear with my dress (above) to some friends’ weddings. I tried Panache’s “Evie” basque, after seeing how beautifully it fit and supported my friend the bride (who wears a size in the D-G range), but even though this is available in my true size, the fit on me was a disaster. The cups seemed at least two sizes too small, the boning curled up on itself and rode up to rest at my waist, and it felt like the cups actually pulled my bustline downwards. I couldn’t return it fast enough, and then I began to seek out some options that I could “sister size” into.

"Deco" longline convertible bra and high-waist control brief in Ivory.  Bra: 28 D-G, 30 D-GG, 32-36 B-GG, 38 B-G.  Brief XS-2XL.  Convertible plunge bra, molded strapless slip, short, and thong also available.

Eeesh, this picture turned out horribly– it’s much prettier in real life. Click the picture to see better images on Freya’s website. “Deco Shape” longline convertible bra and high-waist control brief in Ivory. Bra: 28 D-G, 30 D-GG, 32-36 B-GG, 38 B-G. Brief XS-2XL. Convertible plunge bra, molded strapless slip, short, and thong also available.

I’ve been really interested to try the Deco “Shape” longline convertible bra ever since it was first announced. The regular strapless Deco bra is fantastic, and I hoped the longline version would offer even more support. By pairing the longline bra with the high-waist shaping brief I wanted to get the smoothing shapewear properties of a basque or a body in a more comfortable and convenient two-piece package, and I love that I have a pretty, matching shapewear set instead of band-aid colored spandex. I found a good range of sizes in stock at Breakout Bras and placed my order, along with my new Panache bikini.

20130528-175751.jpg

Appearance: the debut range of Deco shape comes in a pretty, smooth ivory with a pale pink floral pattern on the center panels. It would make great bridal lingerie, and yet here we are, at the end of May, and it’s been incredibly difficult to find in the U.S. Considering that brides are encouraged to have dress fittings weeks in advance, and that “wedding season” has been in full swing for a month now, this seems to be particularly poor planning on Freya’s part– the range should have been available in March at the latest. Anyway, I’m notoriously anti-white when it comes to my lingerie, and I still think this set is lovely.

Oh FREYA.  You are so close.

Oh FREYA. You are so close. Side boning, sticky bands, and multiple points of strap adjustment? Check. A measly two sets of hooks? FAIL.

Construction: I’m super ambivalent about the design and construction of the bra. On one hand, the shape, support, and fit of the regular Deco strapless bra are all there. The cups are set very close together, a huge plus for my full and close-set boobs, and there are light side support panels inside each cup. The top of the band features a nice wide “grippy” strip, with a slightly narrower strip around the bottom of the band. Both band and cup feature two separate points on each side to attach straps, which allow for some flexibility with different necklines and top styles. There’s light vertical boning in the sides of the band for stability, and there are two columns of five rows of hooks-and-eyes. Five rows of hooks? Great! Only two columns of hooks?  What gives, Freya?  I’m actually kind of stunned. A brand-new bra that’s built to last should offer three columns of hooks-and-eyes, if not more, period. The band of a strapless bra, in particular, is doing more work, and there’s a chance that it will stretch out faster. Considering I’m in a slightly-too-big band size to begin with, I was pretty disappointed. That gripe aside, if I’d ordered a plain-old strapless bra, I’d be very pleased with this bra.

Well that's . . . disappointing.

Well that’s . . . disappointing.

HOWEVER: this is not a longline bra. It’s not. The band extends below the underwire by a single inch.

Look, I am aware that there are some differences between a standard lingerie model’s body and my body; however, I feel pretty comfortable assuming they’re my height. I’m 5’10”, and as far as I know most commercial/mainstream models are around that height as well. So let’s look at Freya’s and Figleaves’ models, wearing my bra.

Deco shape- model (freya)and

Deco shape- modelCall me crazy, but when I saw those bands on models who are around 5’10”, I imagined them being more in the neighborhood of three inches deep (below the underwire, that is), rather than a measly one inch. I wonder, looking at these pictures, if all of the bras, regardless of band/cup size, got the same band slapped on them. The same band on a D or E bra would in that case look significantly deeper than the band on a G or GG bra, which will have taller wires that take up more real estate. Don’t get me wrong, the bra still offers great support. It does not, however, offer the extra boost or extra smoothing properties of a true longline.

Speaking of smoothing:

Band, you are super, super wrinkly.

Band, you are super, super wrinkly.

I’d heard that the bands on Freya’s “longlines” were prone to wrinkling and flipping up at the front. I figured, having a bit of a belly, I’d probably experience the same phenomenon. I was not expecting to see a band that puckered and flipped up even when no one was wearing it.

20130528-175812.jpg

This is me, trying to take a picture looking straight down on the underside of the bra, whilst curving the band into the position it would hold when worn. The band is still flipping! My belly is not even there yet, bra, slow down.

Something is up with the band, clearly. It’s practically sticking straight out. It might be an issue that could be fixed with boning beneath the underwire (like in Parfait’s gorgeous longlines, which are both deeper and sturdier than Freya’s; review forthcoming), or with the addition of seams to help contour the band to lie more smoothly against the body. I’m fortunate in my short-waistedeness, for once, in that my high-rise briefs come up much higher on me than they do on the blonde model above, so I’ll be able to layer them over the bra band to help keep it in place. Otherwise I could see myself ducking away to adjust my bra constantly, and that’s no fun.

"Danielle" by Parfait, which features vertical boning directly beneath the cups to keep the longline band smooth and in place.

“Danielle” by Parfait, which features vertical boning directly beneath the cups to keep the longline band smooth and in place.

Fit: wrinkly annoyingness aside, the fit is lovely. I’m not getting a perfect tack at the center gore when I wear it strapless, but then again I’m in a sister size (I went one band size up and one cup size down from my usual Panache/Eveden size) and my boobs are heavy. When I wear it with the straps the fit is nearly spot-on. The Deco strapless doesn’t offer the dizzyingly plunge-y cleavage of the classic version, but in terms of shape, projection, support, and lift, I’ve yet to find a better strapless bra for the full-bust market.

I really, REALLY like the shaping briefs, and no matter what I decide to do about the bra, I’m definitely keeping the briefs. They’re a new product for Freya, and they’re great. There’s ruching along the vertical center back seam for contouring and shape, the legline is laser-cut in the rear to avoid panty lines, and the waistband is lined with the same silicon grippy bands that appear on the bra, to keep it from rolling down. They won’t cinch your waist in like a girdle or more vigorous shapewear would, but they definitely give a lovely, smooth shape under clingier outfits. I see myself getting a LOT of use out of these, and I can’t wait until Freya offers a darker colorway!

Verdict: It’s good. It’s definitely (very) good compared to what else is out there, which isn’t much, but I confess that I’d really hoped for more. Ideally I’d love to have the option of a convertible bra that’s a cross between this (alleged) longline and a full-length basque, with maybe six-to-eight rows of hooks and a sturdier band that truly acts as shapewear. Apart from Curvy Kate’s planned strapless bra for 2014, I don’t really see many new strapless options on the horizon for the GG+ market (correct me if I’m wrong though, because I’d love to hear about more). I have another strapless bra in a sister size on order from A Sophisticated Pair, so I’ll be really interested to compare the two when it arrives. I know Elomi plans to offer a beautiful strapless bridal range up to at least an H-cup this year, but it’s launching in August . . . just in time to miss summer/wedding season. Good call, Elomi.

Deco Shape is available at Figleaves, Breakout Bras, Leia Lingerie, and Bravissimo (plunge bra only).

[UPDATE: Amy reviewed the Deco Shape longline in a smaller size for Fussy Busty earlier this month.]

Have you tried a longline bra?  Do you have a favorite brand or style?  Am I justified in being disappointed, or am I asking too much?

29 Comments on And Then There Were None: Strapless Bras for G+ Cup Sizes (plus a review of Deco Shape)

  1. WideCurves
    May 30, 2013 at 8:21 am (6 years ago)

    I haven’t even gone here’re yet, and I’m very very afraid – and is have more choices – theoretically, since my cup size is smaller.

    I find myself passing on clothes like your dress (so pretty), too. I always shake my head and wonder “what were they thinking?”

    Reply
    • Sweets
      May 30, 2013 at 10:10 am (6 years ago)

      I definitely recommend trying one of the Deco strapless bras (the regular one has three columns of four rows of hooks, if memory serves), if you do want to wear something strapless. Granted, I’ll never feel like cartwheeling in a strapless bra or top, but they do get the job done, and if you’re in the right cup size range they really are excellent. Even though they’re not longlines. Rant.

      Reply
  2. Rachelle
    May 30, 2013 at 9:52 am (6 years ago)

    Elomi currently has a strapless that goes to GG cup & is supposedly come out with a stapless basque and bra in the new Maria collection in August.

    I’m hoping the August releases are fantastic, because since nursing & finding their nursing bras, I have come to rely on Elomi for all my essential shapes in bras. Currently, I haven’t found a strapless in an H cup that doesn’t start to sag after about 5 minutes of wearing.

    Reply
    • Sweets
      May 30, 2013 at 10:12 am (6 years ago)

      The Elomi bra is the one I have on order from Erica, so I’ll definitely report back when it comes in. She and I were both shaking our heads over the Maria range: why on earth would you launch your bridal collection in August?!? I would have loved to try it now, but I’ll probably still give it a whirl when it’s released. It’s a shame it still leaves the sub-34 band G+ crowd out.

      Reply
      • Rachelle
        May 30, 2013 at 11:52 am (6 years ago)

        All of those winter brides will have great choices! Hey, I was one…but in Michigan, one does not go strapless in the winter.

        I’m looking forward to your reviews, because I have always just assumed that full-bust folks couldn’t go strapless.

        Reply
        • Sweets
          May 30, 2013 at 11:57 am (6 years ago)

          I wore a strapless bra (a good one, that is) for the first time just two years ago or so. I’d just always assumed strapless/halter/one-shoulder things were for everyone else, not for me. I really love wearing them, now that I have the option to! I hope some of the major full-bust brands continue working on making strapless options for all their customers. You’re so right– winter brides will be in great shape 🙂 Winter weddings are so gorgeous!

          Reply
        • Rachelle
          May 30, 2013 at 12:12 pm (6 years ago)

          Come to think of it, I don’t think I have EVER worm a strapless bra that truly fit. That probably is why I have always had a problem with them falling/sagging. During my high school and college years I always wore a 34D, when I probably was closer to a 28/30 band.

          It wasn’t until I started nursing that I was properly fitted in my local bra shop that is owned by a former US Sales Manager of Eveden.

          Tag that as, “Things I won’t do to my daughter.”

          Reply
  3. TheAbsurdCurvyNerd
    May 30, 2013 at 10:07 am (6 years ago)

    I’ve started refusing to wear anything strapless or too open up top for a bra, and it definitely cuts down options :-(. I am technically in a few strapless size ranges, but I’ve never gotten a good shape in one (or enough lift from one to fit clothing well). The only time I did was in the altered strapless Fantasie corset that I wore under my wedding dress. I fervently wish more companies would make those in larger size ranges! I think the extra support from the boning made all the difference. I’m tempted by the Evie basque, but the regular strapless one was just too pointy, so I’m skeptical.

    Reply
    • Sweets
      May 30, 2013 at 10:14 am (6 years ago)

      I’d definitely recommend giving Deco strapless (either the Shape range or the regular range) a try. The shape (and size, I found) is vastly superior to the Evie. I think there are one or two good strapless options out there, but there need to be many, many more, and the ones we do have need some work. I bet the Fantasie basque looked so lovely under your dress!

      Reply
      • TheAbsurdCurvyNerd
        May 31, 2013 at 9:33 am (6 years ago)

        Thanks Sweets. It’s odd, because the regular Deco is my favorite bra, but I once tried five different sizes in the strapless version and the most comfortable cup size in which the wires were right and the gore tacked covered absolutely everything with no cleavage, and going any smaller cut in awkwardly at the top, which was an issue I’d never seen anyone having :-/. The shape still trumped Evie’s even with that, though. But it has been a couple years, so what with size fluctuations maybe I should give it another go :-).

        Reply
        • Sweets
          May 31, 2013 at 9:39 am (6 years ago)

          Oh yeah, it’s definitely full-coverage. How does Panache’s Porcelain strapless do for you? In my experience it was shallower and slightly less sturdy than Deco, but it was a little more plunging and a better fit under sweetheart necklines and the like.

          Reply
  4. felinefatale
    May 31, 2013 at 6:56 am (6 years ago)

    I tried to find a strapless in a 28HH and failed miserably, I don’t think the deco shape would work for me. I tried the regular deco in a 30GG to see if it would work but it didn’t at all. I get that strapless bras in H+ cups are harder to make, but what I don’t get is why don’t companies make bras with removable straps? You can put halter ones or clear ones on it and wear them with a variety of dresses. I mean it’s something. And you could make them in every size, because it’s just a normal bra with removable straps.

    I’m trying to order the CH or PL Onyx from Ewa Michalak instead to see how it goes

    Reply
    • Sweets
      May 31, 2013 at 7:36 am (6 years ago)

      Good luck with your Ewa order! I hope you find a really good solution. I’m not sure how well you get on with Curvy Kate, and its not fully strapless, but the new Desire range offers halter and racer back options up to a 28J. That might be worth a try?

      Reply
      • felinefatale
        May 31, 2013 at 7:38 am (6 years ago)

        Every Curvy Kate I’ve tried sadly hasn’t worked for me, I need narrow wires with a lot of projection so often it doesn’t work. I’ll definitely give it a go if I can try it on before I buy, but sadly not many places stock 28HH and 28J (that’s another rant, why do you not stock the largest sizes?!) and it’s so annoying ordering online only to find it has to be sent back. If I can get one cheaply or try it on first though I’ll give it a go, thanks for the recomendation 🙂

        Reply
        • Sweets
          May 31, 2013 at 9:40 am (6 years ago)

          I hope you find a good solution! I have trouble with Curvy Kate too, but I know they’re actively trying to fix the fit this season and in future seasons, so maybe a new shape will come along soon that works better for us!

          Reply
  5. faustineli
    May 31, 2013 at 7:53 pm (6 years ago)

    Underwear models are actually not the same height as fashion models, I’m told glamor models are a little over five feet tall on average. Someone might have specs on these ladies.

    Reply
    • Sweets
      May 31, 2013 at 8:39 pm (6 years ago)

      Oh interesting! Yeah, it would be fun to find out 🙂

      Reply
      • Layla
        June 5, 2013 at 10:14 pm (6 years ago)

        Our models have ranged from 5’2″ to 5’11” most in the middle of that range. But that band length is definitely different than sample on model!

        Reply
  6. amymeemee
    June 4, 2013 at 11:36 am (6 years ago)

    I have been disappointed with all of Freya’s longlines, for the lack of boning and tendency to flip up like you said. But I still can’t stop myself from ordering them, the Patsy is currently on it’s way…. Hopefully I can figure out a way to add boning to them without it being too difficult.

    Also the gore doesn’t tack properly on me, with the deco shape. Looking at it, I think the gore is too wide, the cups are too separated for how full-coverage they are compared to the plunge. Maybe.

    Reply
    • Sweets
      June 4, 2013 at 12:40 pm (6 years ago)

      Oh, I hadn’t even thought about how the coverage affects tacking, but you’re right– I think that’s a huge part of it. I really want Freya to revamp the design completely. My understanding is that all of their longlines have had some issues: loose/stretchy bands, shallow cups, one shape (half cup), only two columns of hooks, no boning, etc. etc. I think a design overhaul or even an entirely new style (non-padded or similar) would reall broaden the customer base for longline bras. I still can’t get over the two-column of hooks thing. It seems so cheap to me.

      Reply
      • amymeemee
        June 4, 2013 at 3:22 pm (6 years ago)

        Oh I know, I’m sure my Carys has 3 hooks so why they decided to remove one set in the new models baffles me.

        I’d love to see a lot of their bras, like the deco plunge, unpadded plunge balcony ect. just made into longlines, and obviously an expansion of the cup sizes. A girl can dream 🙂

        Reply
  7. Brielle
    July 17, 2013 at 9:32 am (6 years ago)

    I am so glad that I found your post. I have been looking for a plus sized bra, preferably strapless, for an event I am going to in a couple months. I kind of just thought I would have to find one with straps to support myself, I am so glad that they actually make strapless ones. Thanks so much for this great information! Time to go shopping!

    Reply
  8. Mistress Harley
    January 18, 2016 at 2:40 am (3 years ago)

    THANK YOU for writing this post! I’m not even looking for strapless bras, just comfortable all-day bras for size 32HH and it’s an exhausting search!

    Reply
    • Sweets
      January 18, 2016 at 9:13 am (3 years ago)

      You’re welcome! If you ARE looking for strapless bras in 32HH, you might have some luck with Bravissimo’s Contour Strapless or Curvy Kate’s Luxe Strapless. For everyday bras in 32HH, I really like Panache’s Olivia and some of the Tutti Rouge bras, but Bravissimo is a great resource to check out for lots of pretty options in your size!

      Reply
      • Hayley
        April 20, 2016 at 7:31 pm (3 years ago)

        My cup size is 40H and Bravissimo doesn’t have my size. Have you tried Lane Bryant’s strapless bra?

        Reply
        • Sweets
          April 21, 2016 at 9:57 pm (3 years ago)

          Hi Hayley,
          Unfortunately Lane Bryant doesn’t make my size, so I haven’t been able to try any of their bras. Do you wear an H cup in Lane Bryant? Because H-cups in UK brands (like Bravissimo) are a little different– a US H-cup is more like a FF or G cup in UK brands. If you want to try a strapless option in UK size 40H, I’d recommend trying Elomi’s Maria range, which offers both a strapless bra and a basque.

          Reply

3Pingbacks & Trackbacks on And Then There Were None: Strapless Bras for G+ Cup Sizes (plus a review of Deco Shape)

  1. […] Like the Freya Deco “Shape” Strapless I reviewed earlier, it features smooth, molded cups and multiple points of attachment for the […]

  2. […] hoped a bit that the shaping brief would be super high-waisted on me, like the Deco Shape was, but instead it’s a much more modest height.  The waistband sits comfortably around my […]

  3. […] shaping slip, all of which use the beloved molded plunge bra as a starting point.  I reviewed the ivory version earlier this year, but I think I like the black even more.  I’m short-waisted enough that the high-waist brief […]

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