Shopping can be painful at times for a full-bust woman. For some reason it boggles the mind of clothing manufacturers that just because our busts are full, our bellies and backs may not be correspondingly so. Popular stores like H&M, Zara, Urban Outfitters, and J. Crew are particularly unfriendly to curvy chests. Button-down shirts and blazers are a nightmare. Stylish, high-quality dresses are in short supply. The whole experience can complicate our feelings about our boobs and ourselves, and it can leave us feeling a bit left out of the fashion scene. So what’s a girl to do?
Here are some of the online resources I’ve either shopped or heard good things about. Where possible I’ll try to link to reviews so you can see how clothes fit on several different women.
I mention Pepperberry because they’re part of Bravissimo (did you know I like Bravissimo? I’ve only said it 793 times), but I mention them with pretty severe reservations. Of the maybe 12 orders I’ve placed, I’ve kept a single dress.
It’s cute, it’s cotton, it’s polka-dotted, and the straps are adjustable. It’s also CRAZY SHORT, so now I have a dress I can’t wear to work, and the fabric feels flimsy, like lining fabric. These are kind of indicative of my major gripes with Pepperberry: they make consistently weird design choices (bizarre length, strange hemlines where an outer lace layer extends six inches below the lining, ugly prints and stripes that aren’t matched at the seams, sparkles and rhinestones on a wool work dress, etc.), they really cheap out on the fabrics (one dress I returned in spite of its near perfection because it was lined in acetate, which felt beautiful for five minutes, but would have made me want to die at a Virginia wedding in August), their prices are high (understandable since they have to produce so many different sizes, but a PITA considering the quality), and their sizing is wildly inconsistent.
Lots of customers have reported being sized out of the Super Curvy sizes, which is just heartbreaking. We already struggle to find good fit, and now the store that’s supposed to cater to us doesn’t anymore? Lame. The probability of having to return items to the UK (I cringe when I think of how much I’ve paid in shipping & returns) is so great that I’m not sure it’s worth the risk at this point.
Some of the clothes here are pretty specific to the rockabilly/pin-up aesthetic, but there are also lots of options that say “vintage-inspired” instead. I really like that their product shots showcase models that deviate from the typical catalogue-model look, and the size charts for each garment are very clear. They carry their own in-house lines as well as labels like Trashy Diva (more in a minute). Prices range from pretty-darned reasonable to moderately pricey. I placed an order with free shipping on a Thursday night and received it the following Wednesday, and faster delivery is available for a price (make sure to sign up for an account before you order to simplify the return process. I learned this the hard way– it’s do-able without an account, but much more of a pain). I have to say that trying on the three dresses I ordered was an incredibly pleasant experience, especially in light of my recent string of shopping failures. One dress I’m keeping is by Trashy Diva (see below), the other by Pin Up Couture, one of their in-house brands.
I was between sizes on the size charts and ordered up, which turned out to be a wise decision. Both dresses fit my bust, my shoulders, and my waist beautifully, the necklines are work-appropriate without being dowdy, and on both dresses the skirts fall below my knees, which again is so nice for the office. I’m returning the third dress because it just didn’t suit me, but the size was good and the knit material was thick and generous. I was tickled to find a cute pink mesh shopping bag with the PUG logo on it and a set of five business cards to share with friends included in my delivery!
I don’t know if they do this every time or just for new customers, but you better believe I just found my new pole dancing tote. Georgina is a big champion of Pin-Up Girl; see her reviews here and here.
Trashy Diva is based out of New Orleans, and I hate the name so, so, so much, but I love, love, love the clothes. They’re pricey, but the construction is lovely. I ordered and returned a dress that just wasn’t the right look for me earlier this year, but I can say that it was silk, beautifully made, and very classic/vintage looking. Many of their clothes accommodate both straighter figures and busty figures equally well (see Brittany’s review here), especially the knit dresses. I went for the short-sleeved Jenny Dress in my order from Pin Up Girl, and I’m in love. I twirled. Twirled, I tell you!
The size charts are accurate, but if you think you may be between sizes I’d recommend ordering up. They stock tons of dresses, several jackets, skirts, and coats, bridal and bridesmaid options, and a selection of lingerie, shoes, and accessories. Sizes range from 2-18, with a few dresses in sizes 2-24.
Lady V London has popped up on a bunch of blogs lately, and I can see why. If you’re looking for girly, vintage-inspired dresses, this is the place. There are several different styles incorporating different necklines, skirt styles, and hem lengths, and each style comes in multiple adorable prints. The prices are reasonable, but the worldwide shipping is brutal, and I imagine returns are a pain too. Sizes range from a UK 8-32, or US 4-28, so there could be a little something for everyone. See Georgina’s, MissKathryn’s, and the Curvy Kitten’s reviews for some in-real-life looks.
Biu Biu is really buzzing on UK and US lingerie blogs. Like Pepperberry, the clothes are designed to fit a “standard” waist size, and then there are different curviness levels to accommodate different bust sizes. Unlike Pepperberry, however, I think Biu Biu is doing a good job of making smaller, more affordable collections of mostly classic pieces with a few wacky prints thrown in. I’ll admit that some of the clothes are a bit more mumsy than I’d like for myself, but if I needed a button-down shirt or a solid dress, I’d go for these. See reviews at Sophia Jenner, Bras I Hate, A Sophisticated Pair, Fuller Figure Fuller Bust (here and here), and Thin and Curvy (here and here). They’re based in Poland, but there is an English version of the website (priced in pounds sterling), and I’ve heard that if you email the company with sizing questions you’ll get very prompt and helpful customer service.
eShakti got a shout-out on the Hairpin a while back, and then I totally forgot about them until A Sophisticated Pair mentioned them on Facebook. I clicked through and was very, very impressed by what I found. There’s a HUGE range of styles, lengths, cuts, necklines, sleeves, embellishments, etc. etc., all dresses, skirts, and tops are available in sizes 0-26W, and eShakti offers customization to fit your specific measurements. Some dresses are available in multiple colors and would make great budget bridesmaids’ dresses. I clicked on a few dresses, and many of them give specific sizing advice such as “Those with a curvy figure/large bust may wish to customize.” Customization costs $7.50, and since most of the dresses are $70 or under, it’s a pretty good deal (although as I have never ordered from them, I can’t vouch for quality or consistency, and while the Customization feature is nice, the few measurements they request will never replace a tailor-made garment). You can even return a customized garment if the fit isn’t right (although you may need to pay your own return shipping). If you’re looking for an Anthropologie aesthetic, this place looks like it could be your salvation.
Whew. So, I think the takeaway is that Europe and the UK are well ahead of the US in terms of full-bust-friendly apparel, at least right now. Also, most of these styles are professional/corporate, overtly retro/vintage/feminine, or pin-up. That leaves full-bust customers who are interested in more streamlined, modern cuts, androgynous styles, or something with a little oomph (like biker wear or rocker chic or goth girl or what have you) out in the cold.
Anyone have any reliable full-bust-friendly clothing resources they’d like to share? We’d all love as many options as possible!