Review: Empreinte Carmen Bra and Brief

[Empreinte generously provided this set for review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.]

Sweet Nothings wears Empreinte Carmen Bra and Brief. Photo (c) Whitney Green

The last time I reviewed Empreinte (the stunningly embroidered Ashley collection), I mentioned that while the lingerie set was beautiful, the bra was a touch too small for me, so it wasn’t a set I wore frequently. My size has continued to change as we move into the end of the year; I’m dealing with a persistent health issue that prevents me from exercising for at least the next few months (naturally, it hit right when I wanted to ramp up my training for the Manhattan half marathon in March, sigh). I’m irritated that running is off the table as my go-to source of stress and anxiety relief, and I’m also Full o’ Feelings about my clothes and bras fitting differently.

Happily for me, Empreinte reached out to let me know that several new styles this season are available in H cup sizes, which means that the same light, elegant embroidery is now available for those of us who are finding the G cups a little small. I was immediately drawn to the Carmen collection, with its rich, autumnal aubergine shade and subtly sparkling copper embroidery.

Sweet Nothings wears Empreinte Carmen Bra and Brief. Photo (c) Whitney Green

APPEARANCE

The Carmen collection offers several different shapes and frames, and I’m wearing the underwire low-neck bra bra here with the coordinating panty. The bra is a fully sheer stunner, with a three-part cup shape trimmed with scalloped embroidery both along the neckline and along the full length of the continuous band. The single-layer tulle cups have a vertical seam running up the front of the cup for lift, with a diagonal seam cutting across the cup from the center gore directly up to the shoulder strap. This is one of my favorite seam patterns for cut-and-sew bras; it provides both lift and a centered, rounded shape. There are light, flexible pieces of boning (“stays”) stitched under the arms to provide a little extra stability to the band. The band is lined, with an outer layer of the same sheer embroidered tulle and an inner layer of sturdy opaque powermesh. The band fastens with three rows and three columns of hooks and eyes, and the wide, fully adjustable, plush elastic straps are covered with with gathered, pleated ribbon for extra support and a luxurious decorative touch.

The matching knicker is Empreinte’s “panty” cut, which, while not a high-waist style, provides more generous coverage than a bikini or Brazilian cut. The waist hits me a few inches below my navel, with good coverage over the hips and rear. The knicker is made from a soft, smooth microfiber, stretchy enough for comfort but sturdy enough that it doesn’t feel flimsy or like it will roll or wiggle around. The hip panels are the same embroidered tulle as the bra cups, and the center front and gusset are lined with breathable cotton, overlaid with gathered stretch mesh for a ruched effect. The legs and waist are finished with elastic for a close, secure fit.

There are lots of construction elements and design details that make this lingerie set truly luxurious, from dyed-to-match finishings, to the pleating along the straps, to the purple beads at the center gore of the bra and the waist of the knicker, but the standout element, the one that makes this a truly decadent, festive bra, is the glittering copper thread that accents the larger embroidery elements — sweeping scrolls and arches — that run along the neckline of the bra and around the full circumference of the band. Designers usually save embroidery only for the front or straps of a bra; having it continue around the band means the bra looks gorgeous from every angle, and that every single part of the bra has been thoughtfully embellished.

Sweet Nothings wears Empreinte Carmen Bra and Brief. Photo (c) Whitney Green

FIT

I take a French size 85 H in the Carmen bra and 44 in the knicker, which translate to 34H for the bra and Large for the knicker. Empreinte, as a reminder, does not use the double letters that UK brands do, but their cups run full and the increments between cup sizes are more generous than other brands, so conversion charts may not give you a great sense of what size to try. For reference, I’m currently wearing bras in the 32H/32HH/34GG/34H range in UK brands like Fantasie, Freya, Elomi, Panache, and Bravissimo. The band fastens comfortably on the loosest hooks, and since it’s a cup size bigger than the 34G Ashley bra I reviewed earlier this year, the cups are a much better fit for me– the center gore rests gently against my sternum, and the underwires fully contain my breast tissue without lifting away from my ribcage. In the past I’ve had to wear the shoulder straps on my Empreinte bras extended as far as they’ll go, but I was pleased to find these straps to be a little longer, so I have more room to get a fit I’m happy with. I do feel like Empreinte bands stretch more quickly than some other brands, so I usually move to the center or tightest hooks fairly quickly. If you’re between band sizes, definitely go with your smaller size (I’m wearing a 34 instead of a 32 because I need the volume of the 34H).

Sweet Nothings wears Empreinte Carmen Bra and Brief. Photo (c) Whitney Green

COMFORT

This bra is unbelievably light and delicate. It seems counterintuitive, but the fuller (and heavier) my breasts are, the lighter I prefer my bras. Bulky padding and heavier fabrics don’t get along with me; I feel like I’m “held” better by lighter fabrics with a little more flexibility to mold to the body. Glittery threads in clothing can sometimes feel rough or scratchy against the skin, but because the copper embroidery here is so fine, the fibers still feel soft. I do find that I have to adjust this bra a bit more throughout the day than I do with a bra that uses stretch lace or more powermesh. Non-stretch materials just behave differently from stretch ones, but if you’re someone who wants more rigid support than stretch lace offers, a cut-and-sew bra like this might be the one for you! I also notice the side stays dig into my sides a bit after a full day’s wear, since my bra band sits over some of my squishiest bits, but your mileage may vary there. One thing that I really value at my current size is slightly thicker shoulder straps—narrow ones are likely to curl up and dig into my shoulders, so I love the soft, cushioned feeling of the Carmen’s supportive straps.

I prefer knickers that have elastic in both the waist and leg, so this cut works really well for me. The waistband rolls down under my belly when I sit, so I wear these knickers more frequently with jeans or trousers than I do with skirts, just to help keep the waistband in place. The full coverage rear means that these knickers don’t, um, wander, so they’re a really comfortable pair to wear for a long day.

Sweet Nothings wears Empreinte Carmen Bra and Brief. Photo (c) Whitney Green

OVERALL

I think I’ve talked about this before, but when I first began exploring the lingerie industry in earnest, Empreinte didn’t speak to me. The overall aesthetic wasn’t for me when I was in my late teens-mid 20s; I was starved for bright, cute, youthful styles like the ones my friends could wear, and I had neither the budget nor the knowledge to appreciate luxury lingerie or a brand with full-bust fit expertise. Now that I’m 35, I’ve spent a lot more time in my body and know what I like and want in a bra, and I’ve had the opportunity to try all sorts of different brands and bras. I have more appreciation for special design elements like bespoke embroideries, the more sophisticated colorways better match my personal style, and I feel confident that the unlined cups will provide the support and shape I prefer. While I don’t wear Empreinte as my workhorse bras for long, busy, or taxing days (I stick to Elomi or Panache for that), I reach for Empreinte when I want a truly beautiful lingerie set with a special-occasion feel coupled with great fit, shape, and support.

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Lingerie: Carmen bra and panty in Iris by Empreinte (c/o). Bra available in sizes 32-42 C-D, 30-42 E-F, 30-40 G, 30-38 H, panty available in sizes S-4XL. This set is also available in Rose Amour (pale pink) and Havane (warm brown). Available at Glamuse (all colors)Bare Necessities, Figleaves (UK), and Jenette Bras (in-store only).

Photography: Whitney Green

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