[Disclosure: Empreinte generously provided this item for review. I was not compensated for this post, and all thoughts and opinions are my own.]
Once I found my fit in Empreinte at the Atelier Lingerie in Paris, I was eager to try more styles from this classic French brand. I was delighted when Empreinte offered to send me one of my favorite sets from Spring/Summer 2017, the black embroidered Elena collection. This set strikes me as an interesting combination of Empreinte’s classic, slightly retro shapes and old school embroidery mixed with of-the-moment trends like layering, tattoo effects, and transparency.
This bra is one of Empreinte’s classic shapes: a three-part full cup bra with a vertical seam in the bottom of the cup and a diagonal seam running from the center gore to the shoulder strap. The bottom and outer cup panels are backed with beige tulle for stability, with an overlay of delicate sheer stretch floral lace. The top cup panel features bold embroidered anemones in shades of black, pale brown, and ivory on a black tulle base. The wide shoulder straps are fully adjustable and trimmed with scalloped embroidery. The band is made of opaque black stretch mesh and features flexible vertical boning under the arms. It fastens in back with three rows and three columns of hooks and eyes.
Bras like this are sometimes called “bandless” bras or partial band bras, because the bottom edge of the band does not run continuously around the bra. Instead, the band is interrupted where the wire channels for the cups begin, and then the band picks back up as the wires curve upwards and you move out towards the arms and around the back of the body. This can sometimes be a drawback, because the cups’ shape and placement can distort with wear or under stress, but for many people it’s a positive feature, because the lack of bulk or extra fabric under the breasts can be more comfortable for those with shorter torsos or higher tummies.
The brief is a classic bikini cut with an elasticated waist and legline. The back is sheer black mesh, while the hips and center front are the same delicate floral stretch lace as the bottom sections of the bra cup. The center front panel is backed with beige sheer stretch mesh, and the gusset is lined with cotton for comfort.
The showpiece of this collection is the deep suspender belt. It features five panels separated with four vertical pieces of flexible boning cased in black. The back and side panels are made of the delicate black floral lace, while the center panel, backed with beige mesh, features a stand-alone version of the embroidered anemones. There are four narrow adjustable suspenders, and the piece fastens with three columns and eleven rows of hooks and eyes. The beige backing on all three pieces ensures that there’s a bit of light underneath all the black and the embroidery, emphasizing the transparency of the materials and lending a lightness and delicacy to the full coverage bra and deep suspender belt.
I currently wear a 32H in most UK brands, and in Empreinte I get a pretty good fit in 34G (French 85G). Notice I said “pretty good”; in some Empreinte styles I find the band really is a bit too loose, but for the most part this size works. Elena is a little generous in the band for me, but since this style doesn’t come in a French 80H, this is the best fit available. I wear the band fastened on middle hooks, and I find the straps come up quite short– I wear mine loosened as far as they’ll go. The cups come up fairly high on the chest with a tall center gore. In general I find that French brands don’t give me as “aggressive” a fit or shape as some UK bras, like Panache Envy, do. I reach for these bras when I want a gentler, comfortable support. I get a more retro-looking shape in this bra: instead of impressive cleavage or lifted, super-round breasts, the shape is smooth on top and slightly more pointy, while still feeling natural.
I’m wear Large in both the brief (French 44) and the suspender belt (French 3), and they fit quite nicely. This is one of my favorite cuts of underwear, as it doesn’t ride up uncomfortably, although as with most bikini briefs it tends to roll under my belly, which is annoying. The suspender belt fits quite firmly and digs in a bit at the waist, since my belly and stomach are a bit larger in proportion to my hips and rear. Suspender belts can be tricky: too tight and they dig in at the waist, too lose and they slide down your hips. While a bit snug, this size offers some tummy control and secure, sturdy support for stockings.
While this whole set offers quite a bit more coverage than some of my other lingerie, it feels so light and easy to wear. I find myself adjusting the bra band every so often, but other than that this is a set that gives me plenty of support and a natural shape under clothes. The deep band and nice wide straps don’t dig into my squishy bits or my shoulders, and the materials feel great against my skin. As I do have a full tummy, the waistband of the suspender belt occasionally digs in a little and if I’m sitting too long I really notice the bones, but in general the light stretch fabrics make it feel light and breathable.
I’ll note casually here that with four-strap suspender belts, particularly ones with slim suspenders like this one, I recommend choosing lace-top stockings. Fully fashioned stockings or even those with plain tops can sometimes droop and really pull uncomfortably, but something about the lace tops tend to help the stockings stay up evenly around my thighs.
This set is a stunner, and it epitomizes what makes Empreinte so special (and what we sadly don’t get to see much of in the US, since most stores buy the same 2-3 styles in basic colors). Careful construction, trusted fit, bespoke embroidery, elegant color schemes, and a safe yet sophisticated look are all Empreinte hallmarks, and it’s all the more impressive considering this particular bra is available up to a size 46G. I had to grow into the brand a little bit; four years ago I rarely gave Empreinte bras a second look, thinking they were fussy or staid. I wouldn’t look to Empreinte for kitschy prints, boudoir elements like ouvert knickers and elastic strapping, or pinup-inspired lingerie. I don’t even look to them for tee shirt bras, mostly because I don’t care about tee shirt bras (although by all accounts Empreinte’s are pretty great). Instead, I look to Empreinte for lingerie that makes me feel elegant. It’s grown-up lingerie that feels special yet decidedly wearable.
What do you think of the Elena collection?
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Full-Cup Bra, Brief, and Suspender Belt: Elena by Empreinte (c/o). Bra available in sizes 80-115 (32-46) C-G, brief in sizes XS-XXL, and suspender in sizes S-XL. Empreinte uses French cup size lettering, so the progression goes C, D, E, F, G. This collection is hard to find at any US retailers, I recommend shopping Dessus-Dessous Lingerie for the black colorway or Glamuse for the Freesia colorway.
Photos: Michi Rezin