[Disclosure: Playful Promises, Dear Bowie, and Fiore generously provided these pieces for review. I was not compensated for this post, and all thoughts and opinions are my own. ]
Playful Promises has been on my they-don’t-make-my-size-but-I-admire-from-afar list for quite some time. This UK-based indie brand makes lingerie that feels vintage-inspired yet modern at the same time; like Dottie’s Delights, the collections go beyond vintage reproduction, using classic shapes, colors, or styles as jumping off points to explore current trends and techniques. I’d heard rumors that PP planned to release a trial collection of small-band/full-bust bras, but nothing could have prepared me for the debut of the fuller bust collection’s lookbook.
Shot in NYC and modeled by Gia Genevieve, the 28-36 DD-G collection is devastating: grown-up, sensual, and bold, with a little something for everyone, from delicate lace, vintage-style girdles, and bright colors to cheeky ouvert knickers and dramatic cutouts. Many full-bust brands launch with staid, safe support bras as their debut styles, and I love that Playful Promises completely eschews that and goes straight for the sexy. I was THRILLED when PP approached me with an offer to try a set from the new collection, and I didn’t hesitate before asking if I could try Juliet. I loved the dramatic cut-out bra, and I’ve always enjoyed the look of harness sets and lots of strapping, but I don’t see these styles worn often by people with my body type.
Juliet is a four-piece collection consisting of a bra, elastic harness (included with purchase of the bra), high-waist peek-a-boo brief, and roll-on girdle. The harness is constructed of slim black elastic with gold-toned adjusters and hooks at the waist and neck. The underwire bra is constructed of black mesh and offers a completely unique take on the strappy/boudoir trend: the bra is basically like an unstructured half-cup (approaching quarter-cup—it’s a really low neckline) with two vertical seams. Two exterior mesh panels are gathered up from the bottom of the cup and connect to the strap, creating dramatic cut-out effects. The straps are partially adjustable, and the bra closes with three rows and three columns of hooks and eyes. There’s light, flexible boning in the band under the arms for stability.
The brief and girdle are each constructed of a semi-sheer stretch black mesh and feature identical cut-outs in back, so you don’t lose the cheeky peek-a-boo effect when you layer the girdle over the knickers. The girdle is what’s called a roll-on style, which means there are no zips or hooks and eyes; you just pull it on. It features four black suspenders with metal garter tabs. The brief rises to just about my navel and offers pretty generous coverage, inasmuch as a completely see-through pair of underwear can be said to “cover” (there is, of course, a cotton-lined gusset for breathability).
Looking back at the pictures, I can’t get over how breathtaking the design is. It seems so simple: plain black mesh and a simple elastic harness (not a frill or a bow in sight), but the way the pieces break up the body, highlighting and concealing different features, is ingenious. I love how adding the harness and girdle allows the wearer to play with transparency and opacity, alternating black mesh with bare skin, choosing between framing, concealing, and revealing. That’s part of why I chose the Fiore Marlena stockings to pair it with: the simple opaque band and sheer leg (complete with classic backseam) echo elements of the lingerie set. I’ve never worn anything this graphic and geometric before, and while it’s a little outside of my comfort zone (I’ve really only seen this kind of lingerie worn by people who are slimmer than I am or who have mesomorphic body types), the effect is so striking.
A quick note about the sizes: while Playful Promises is a UK brand, unlike the big-name full-bust brands like Freya, Panache, or Curvy Kate, they do NOT include FF cups. The cup size progression goes DD, E, F, G. Now, some folks who have reviewed G-cup versions of other styles report that they feel generous, so you may find that a Playful Promises F or G cups fit more generously than standard UK F or FF cups. It may all get a little confusing, but if you’re not sure, you might be well-served to try more than one size, as I did.
Since my most common UK size in other brands is 32GG, I knew going in that I would probably be fudging my fit criteria. I asked if I could try both the 32G and 34G and keep whichever size fit best. I was happy to discover that the bands for Juliet feel pleasantly firm and true-to-size, so the 34 band feels comfortable. The 34G was the best fit, cup-volume-wise, and the band still offers pretty good support, even though it’s a little looser than my everyday bras.
There are a few noticeable “fit issues”: the shape is a little shallow for me, so the gore doesn’t rest firmly against my sternum, and I’m getting some noticeable overspill at the top cut-outs, partly because the exterior cup panels kind of direct breast tissue that way. Because this bra is so unusual, I honestly can’t say with any certainty how it would compare to other pieces from the collection, and by extension to my other UK bras (I’m hoping to save up to try a different PP style in the new year, for comparison). Even though I’m pretty sure I’m not in the “right” size, talking about technical fit with a boudoir bra like this one isn’t really germane to the issue at hand. Being a stickler about getting the perfect lift and rounded shaping from a low-cut bra with dramatic cut-outs is a little like complaining that a quarter-cup bra isn’t giving a lot of support. Juliet isn’t trying to do the sorts of things a full-coverage bra like Panache’s Jasmine is trying to do, or even the sorts of things a “sexy” bra like Freya’s Deco is trying to do. While other full-bust brands have created occasional boudoir-inspired styles, Playful Promises’ fuller bust collection is COMPLETELY unlike anything else that’s previously been available in this size range. As someone used to full-bust bras, Juliet is a new experience: there’s bare skin where there normally isn’t, straps where there never have been before, and there’s some, ahem, wiggle in my walk. Some fit issues that would make me pause with an everyday bra are kind of the whole point with this bra. And my god, it looks so freaking hot.
As far as the knickers and girdle go, I’ve been wearing a UK14/L in most brands, but Playful Promises’ size chart puts me firmly in the XL range. I would probably try an XL in ranges that don’t offer as much stretch, like Cordelia or Portia, but I would say Juliet is definitely more flexible. Had I been able to try on in person, I would have gone for the size L, as I find the knickers just a little loose and baggy around my waist in back. That said, both pieces fit comfortably and stay up (and since the holiday season is in full swing, I don’t mind having a little extra room for the inevitable ham biscuit/eggnog onslaught).
As this is my first experience wearing an elastic harness, it’s hard for me to compare the fit to others, but I’ll note that I do have to wear both the throat and waist sections extended as far as they’ll go. I think even if the waist section were longer it would still dig in a little, as I have a soft, squishy torso, but I do wish there were about an inch more room in the section that goes around my throat, as it’s a little too small to be perfectly comfortable.
As I mentioned above, this isn’t at all the sort of set I plan to wear for extended periods of time, so my usual comfort criteria don’t necessarily apply. That said, the mesh is light and breathable, there are no scratchy seams or rough patches, the center gore isn’t pressing too firmly into my sternum, the straps stay well on my shoulders, and the knickers feel like a lovely, barely-there dream. I’m highly conscious of exposed skin where there normally isn’t exposed skin and of the, ah, precarious fit created by the low neckline and cut-outs. But that’s me comparing this bra to my other, plainer, more everyday bras, which isn’t fair: this bra is in an entirely different category. The whole set is amazing to wear– I feel powerful and sexy, which, as someone who’s primary wardrobe is pretty sedate and corporate, is a fun change of pace.
I said it on Twitter, and I’ll say it again: this is my superhero lingerie. I want to wear it under a black trench coat and go out and fight crime (just kidding, criminals, I am very timid, please do not do crime in my general vicinity thank u). I want to wear it and gain magical powers and be able to do…cool shit that I will think of once I have said magical powers. I want to wear it to seduce, but also to feel seductive. The whole set is so beautifully planned and well-executed; my nit-picks on things like cup shape and harness strap length are unique to my (taller/broader than average) body. Playful Promises will look at the sales numbers and sizes from this collection to gauge interest in future seasons and determine if size expansions are feasible; I for one can’t wait to see where they go next.
The only thing I’ll note is that if Playful Promises are able to expand sizes in the future, departing from the full-bust sizing standards set by larger UK brands (and indies like Claudette and Harlow & Fox) has the potential to make things seriously confusing. If PP adds cup sizes, will they keep going with single letters, except for D (DD, E, F, G, H, I, etc.)? Revert to the UK standard (DD, E, FF, G, GG, H, etc.)? As many people who wear full-bust bras start to think in double letters early, thanks to the ubiquity of Freya, Panache, Curvy Kate, Ewa Michalak, and others, departing from that sizing convention runs the risk of disappointing fans and complicating overseas orders and returns. That’s my two cents, although I’d be really interested to hear what other fuller bust Playful Promises fans think!
Quickie review of the Dear Bowie Sheba robe: Have you ever seen anything more glorious? I have not, my friends, and IT FEELS EVEN BETTER THAN IT LOOKS, if you can believe that. I float around my apartment draped head to toe in billowing silk like a damned empress. I lost my heart to this robe the instant I saw it at Curve in February. I love how restrained the design is: just a billowing sheet of pure ivory silk anchored by bands of black at the lapels and armholes. It’s like a tuxedo that’s slipped into something more comfortable and helped itself to a Mai Tai. I feel nine feet tall and graceful as [insert expletive of choice]. It begged to make an appearance in the Miss Fisher-inspired editorial, and I want to wear it everywhere, assuming I could somehow make it impervious to the elements and subway grime. If I get a chance to go on a vacation to someplace warm and breezy I’m packing this robe and only this; it will see me through. It is magical. Dear Bowie: for all your witch-priestess-queen-glamazon needs.
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Bra, Harness, Brief, and Girdle: Juliet by Playful Promises,£65/£25/£38, 28-36 DD-G, XS-XL (c/o). Playful Promises’ cup size progression is DD, E, F, G. Juliet is available at Playful Promises, Kiss Me Deadly, and Hepburn and Leigh.
Garters: FYI by Dani Read via Bluestockings Boutique
Stockings: Marlena by Fiore (c/o)
Robe: Sheba by Dear Bowie (c/o)
Photography: Studio Rezin