I cannot BELIEVE I haven’t reviewed this bra yet. Sorry, I know it’s January and we’re all kind of sick of get-fit-now! advertorials and activewear-for-a-new-you! articles [Update: Bras and Body Image has a fantastic, compassionate post up today about how “fitspo” can be problematic], but since we’re talking about it anyway, and furthermore since it IS January and many retailers are offering special promotions on activewear, and seeing how I just bought the new red colorway on sale at Nordstrom as a Christmas-present-to-myself, let’s talk about my favorite sports bra ever: the Panache sports bra.
Sports bras generally fall into one of two different categories: compression (the bra is designed to press your breasts against your chest wall and hold them still, with no separation between the two) or encapsulation (the bra is designed to fit more like a standard bra, with two separate cups to stabilize the breasts from all sides). Panache’s bra is an underwired encapsulation bra, so you can put it on like you would a standard everyday bra.
The cups are molded and very smooth, so there are no seams to cause friction or chafing, and the underwires are thick, sturdy, and encased in silicon and sewn inside a thin layer of padding. They’re designed to fit firmly and anchor to your ribcage without digging in painfully. The band closes with three rows of three columns of hooks and eyes, and the wide, padded, partially-adjustable straps feature J-hooks to convert to a racer-back.
The molded cups give a very rounded, uplifted look, and since there are no seams, it gives a smooth, clean line under knit or stretch gym clothes. I’ve loved almost every color they’ve released so far: there’s basic black and white for the minimalists, and then there has been a series of bold, striking color combinations, including purple, bright turquoise, an unusual raspberry/lime, and a navy/white/red combo.
I have now tried five separate colorways of this bra, from the very first season through to the current season, and I have found the sizing consistent across the board. I take what I think of as my “standard” size, which in general is consistent across Freya, Panache, and Bravissimo. Some people find the cups run a bit large though, so it might be worth your while to try a few sizes if you find your size fluctuates. Many women find that their breast tissue is fuller or denser in different places; some feel like their breasts are fuller on top, others find that they have a shallower profile on top and are fuller on the bottom. I’m pretty full all around, so I appreciate the projection and height of the cup, but if your breasts aren’t as full on top you might find that you can size down in the cup. It’s been my experience that the band feels very firm, almost tight, on the first wear or so, but that it becomes more comfortable after a few workouts and washes. With a sports bra it’s a good idea to purchase the firmest band you find comfortable: your body is working harder than normal and requires all the extra support it can get, and the fibers in the bra are getting a workout too. Heat, perspiration, and stress all break down the Lycra in a bra, so to get the longest life out of your sports bra make sure the band is firm from the get-go.
A note on the center gore: this bra might feel a little unusual if you’re used to regular underwire bras or to compression sports bras. In a regular bra, the top of the center gore marks where the bra ends; the cups may slope upwards as they head out to the sides, but in the center of the bra, the end of the wires is the end of the bra. The Panache bra is like a bra that is built into a crop top: the center gore “tacks” until about halfway up the height of the bra, and then the crop top part takes over (you can see clearly where the underwires end in the photo above). So the center of the bra might not hug your sternum all way up your body, but as long as the base feels anchored and secure, you’ll be in business.
I have never found a sports bra that feels like this one does. I’ve worn Royce (I got an odd fit and didn’t feel very supported), Freya Active (supportive with a great size range, but the wrong shape for me) and Shock Absorber (very good support in a wire-free shape, but I prefer an underwire for comfort), and while they’re excellent brands, this bra suits my body and my activity level so very well. I am generally not a molded cup fan, but this one is great, and I really like the shape it gives me (I kind of wish some of my regular bras made my boobs look this fabulous). The wide, cushioned straps are comfortable, and the breathable fabric keeps me cool, and I LOVE the J-hook. It is my best friend. Racer-back bras provide phenomenal stability and support to fuller busts, particularly for cardio, but they can be a pain to put on, and they’re not for everyone. This bra gives good support when worn either way, although I do prefer the racer-back option to ensure the straps don’t slip off my shoulders.
Is it for everyone? Of course not! No bra will work perfectly for every woman. While the current size range is really impressive (Panache is a UK brand, so the cup size progression goes B, C, D, DD, E, F, FF, G, GG, H), I still see room for improvement: there are VERY few athletic offerings for women who wear higher than an H cup and higher than a 40 or 42 band size, and I think this bra has the potential to work really well in larger cups and bands. Some women find the cups are too tall and stiff to suit their figures, and others find the wires too wide for a good fit. At the end of the day, it’s another reminder that the size on the tag is only part of the story.
I’ve bought this bra a total of six times since its release, a fact I don’t think I can say of a single other lingerie product on the market. A good sports bra radically changes the way I feel about exercising and how I feel about my body while I’m exercising. It’s my favorite bra to wear running or when I’m using an elliptical, and I really like wearing it pole dancing, because I get the support and comfort I want without sacrificing a really nice, round shape. Plus my boobs don’t fall out of my bra when I flip upside down. So there’s that.
No matter your size, if you engage in any sort of physical activity, whatever the intensity or frequency, I strongly recommend investing in a sports bra or two. For one thing, you’ll be protecting your frilly lacy things from heat, stress, and perspiration, all of which shorten a bra’s lifespan. More importantly, exercise exerts a lot more force on our breasts than everyday activities do. Studies have demonstrated that when we run, the gravitational forces actually work on our breasts in sort of a figure-eight shape– you’ll find up-and-down movement, obviously, but also side-to-side and circular motions. There is no muscle in our chests that we can tone that will help our breasts hold still, so for the sake of your tender breast tissue, find a sports bra that offers you comfort, support, and stability. In general, you’ll want to seek out a bra with a deeper band, wider straps, and fuller coverage than you might usually wear, and it will generally be made out of sturdier materials with more of a performance focus (moisture wicking, breathable, etc.). An underwire will help the bra to hug your body, but if you do choose an underwired sports bra you want to make sure it fits really, really well— too small a cup and the wire might sit on breast tissue, not on your ribs. Breasts are wiggly, ribs are solid– if your bra’s gonna hold still, let it sit against your ribs.
Below are some of my favorite resources for D+ sports bras and sports swimwear:
Bravissimo is currently offering £5 off all sports bras and sports swimwear through January 31. These include bras by Freya Active, Bravissimo, Panache, and Shock Absorber, as well as swimwear from Freya, Zoggs, and Speedo, including a fabulous-looking sports swimsuit up to a J-cup.
There are a ton of great sports bras and sports swimwear in Figleaves’ current winter sale, including Freya Active, Freya Swim, Panache, Shock Absorber, Figleaves, Elomi, Royce, Anita, and more. They’re also one of the first stockists I’ve seen to stock the Panache sports swimsuit, in case you’ve been waiting for that one.
Butterfly Collection Lingerie stocks the Panache bra as well as a front-closing bra by Enell, a fabulous, high-intensity compression sports bra with a smooth back, which some women prefer to wear for activities like yoga, pilates, or dance.
Nordstrom stocks Panache, Freya Active, and Elomi, as well as many other sports bras for the smaller-busted customer.
Breakout Bras stocks Panache, Freya, Elomi, Goddess, Enell and Royce.
For more reviews of the Panache Sports Bra, check out:
A Sophisticated Pair
Bras I Hate & Love
By Baby’s Rules
Fuller Figure Fuller Bust
Invest in Your Chest
Muscles and Curves
Obsessed With Breasts
Petite & Plentiful
Rarely Wears Lipstick
The Full Figured Chest
The Pretty Fat Fashionista