I’m someone whose bra size shifts noticeably with even slight weight changes. For a while there I was up, down and all over the place, but over the last two years, as my band size has stabilized and breast tissue has migrated thanks to consistently well-fitting bras, my only size changes have been increases. I’ve watched, to my disappointment, as whole sections of the lingerie market disappear from my list of shopping possibilities. Adieu, Parfait. Claudette, we were ships passing in the night. Longline bras, I dream of what we might have had. As long as I was floating around the D-G size range, most full-bust brands made my size in a great variety of shapes and styles. With each cup size past a G, however, a new chunk of the market vanishes.
Let’s play a fun game: go to a major lingerie retailer and use the search-by-size feature with different cup sizes and see how many options are available. Here’s what Figleaves offers:
To some extent these results are misleading; searches for “G” and “H” are also returning American G and H-cup bras, which are significantly smaller than their UK-counterparts. Figleaves also counts each different color of a particular bra as a different “style”, so the counts are a little inflated. Regardless, the difference between G and GG cup sizes is huge: a drop from 450 to 181. There’s another drop-off after GG, another after H, and yet another after J. This is why I get so excited when new styles, and especially new brands, launch up to an H-cup. Sure, our friends who wear J+ cups are still waiting (come on, Cleo, you gotta add JJ and K-cups, because you’re awesome), but it’s encouraging when a new brand aims high at the beginning, which hopefully bodes well for future expansion.
A search for “strapless” options on Figleaves makes the size cut-offs clear:
A woman who wears a 32 band has a few choices up to an H-cup (and only Panache’s “Evie” and Masquerade’s “Deity” are available in an H); beyond that there are no more options.
To be fair, it’s important to recognize that H+ strapless bras are going to be more challenging to design and build, simply because they will be asked to do more work. Even though the band of the bra should be doing 80-90% of the work of supporting the bust, larger boobs mean that more weight (the 10-20% which would ordinarily be taken by the straps) is going to be “unaccounted for” in a strapless bra. Bravissimo experimented with their strapless bra up to a J-cup, which incorporates additional rows of hooks and soft boning in the cups for added support in fuller cup sizes, but it appears that they’re not planning to re-order this style, as sizes are selling out and staying sold out. I hope this just means they plan to redesign it and release a new style (maybe a strapless basque? please?!), but I’m not overly optimistic.
I’ve been incredibly frustrated trying to find a new strapless bra to wear with my dress (above) to some friends’ weddings. I tried Panache’s “Evie” basque, after seeing how beautifully it fit and supported my friend the bride (who wears a size in the D-G range), but even though this is available in my true size, the fit on me was a disaster. The cups seemed at least two sizes too small, the boning curled up on itself and rode up to rest at my waist, and it felt like the cups actually pulled my bustline downwards. I couldn’t return it fast enough, and then I began to seek out some options that I could “sister size” into.
I’ve been really interested to try the Deco “Shape” longline convertible bra ever since it was first announced. The regular strapless Deco bra is fantastic, and I hoped the longline version would offer even more support. By pairing the longline bra with the high-waist shaping brief I wanted to get the smoothing shapewear properties of a basque or a body in a more comfortable and convenient two-piece package, and I love that I have a pretty, matching shapewear set instead of band-aid colored spandex. I found a good range of sizes in stock at Breakout Bras and placed my order, along with my new Panache bikini.
Appearance: the debut range of Deco shape comes in a pretty, smooth ivory with a pale pink floral pattern on the center panels. It would make great bridal lingerie, and yet here we are, at the end of May, and it’s been incredibly difficult to find in the U.S. Considering that brides are encouraged to have dress fittings weeks in advance, and that “wedding season” has been in full swing for a month now, this seems to be particularly poor planning on Freya’s part– the range should have been available in March at the latest. Anyway, I’m notoriously anti-white when it comes to my lingerie, and I still think this set is lovely.
Construction: I’m super ambivalent about the design and construction of the bra. On one hand, the shape, support, and fit of the regular Deco strapless bra are all there. The cups are set very close together, a huge plus for my full and close-set boobs, and there are light side support panels inside each cup. The top of the band features a nice wide “grippy” strip, with a slightly narrower strip around the bottom of the band. Both band and cup feature two separate points on each side to attach straps, which allow for some flexibility with different necklines and top styles. There’s light vertical boning in the sides of the band for stability, and there are two columns of five rows of hooks-and-eyes. Five rows of hooks? Great! Only two columns of hooks? What gives, Freya? I’m actually kind of stunned. A brand-new bra that’s built to last should offer three columns of hooks-and-eyes, if not more, period. The band of a strapless bra, in particular, is doing more work, and there’s a chance that it will stretch out faster. Considering I’m in a slightly-too-big band size to begin with, I was pretty disappointed. That gripe aside, if I’d ordered a plain-old strapless bra, I’d be very pleased with this bra.
HOWEVER: this is not a longline bra. It’s not. The band extends below the underwire by a single inch.
Look, I am aware that there are some differences between a standard lingerie model’s body and my body; however, I feel pretty comfortable assuming they’re my height. I’m 5’10”, and as far as I know most commercial/mainstream models are around that height as well. So let’s look at Freya’s and Figleaves’ models, wearing my bra.
Call me crazy, but when I saw those bands on models who are around 5’10”, I imagined them being more in the neighborhood of three inches deep (below the underwire, that is), rather than a measly one inch. I wonder, looking at these pictures, if all of the bras, regardless of band/cup size, got the same band slapped on them. The same band on a D or E bra would in that case look significantly deeper than the band on a G or GG bra, which will have taller wires that take up more real estate. Don’t get me wrong, the bra still offers great support. It does not, however, offer the extra boost or extra smoothing properties of a true longline.
Speaking of smoothing:
I’d heard that the bands on Freya’s “longlines” were prone to wrinkling and flipping up at the front. I figured, having a bit of a belly, I’d probably experience the same phenomenon. I was not expecting to see a band that puckered and flipped up even when no one was wearing it.
Something is up with the band, clearly. It’s practically sticking straight out. It might be an issue that could be fixed with boning beneath the underwire (like in Parfait’s gorgeous longlines, which are both deeper and sturdier than Freya’s; review forthcoming), or with the addition of seams to help contour the band to lie more smoothly against the body. I’m fortunate in my short-waistedeness, for once, in that my high-rise briefs come up much higher on me than they do on the blonde model above, so I’ll be able to layer them over the bra band to help keep it in place. Otherwise I could see myself ducking away to adjust my bra constantly, and that’s no fun.
Fit: wrinkly annoyingness aside, the fit is lovely. I’m not getting a perfect tack at the center gore when I wear it strapless, but then again I’m in a sister size (I went one band size up and one cup size down from my usual Panache/Eveden size) and my boobs are heavy. When I wear it with the straps the fit is nearly spot-on. The Deco strapless doesn’t offer the dizzyingly plunge-y cleavage of the classic version, but in terms of shape, projection, support, and lift, I’ve yet to find a better strapless bra for the full-bust market.
I really, REALLY like the shaping briefs, and no matter what I decide to do about the bra, I’m definitely keeping the briefs. They’re a new product for Freya, and they’re great. There’s ruching along the vertical center back seam for contouring and shape, the legline is laser-cut in the rear to avoid panty lines, and the waistband is lined with the same silicon grippy bands that appear on the bra, to keep it from rolling down. They won’t cinch your waist in like a girdle or more vigorous shapewear would, but they definitely give a lovely, smooth shape under clingier outfits. I see myself getting a LOT of use out of these, and I can’t wait until Freya offers a darker colorway!
Verdict: It’s good. It’s definitely (very) good compared to what else is out there, which isn’t much, but I confess that I’d really hoped for more. Ideally I’d love to have the option of a convertible bra that’s a cross between this (alleged) longline and a full-length basque, with maybe six-to-eight rows of hooks and a sturdier band that truly acts as shapewear. Apart from Curvy Kate’s planned strapless bra for 2014, I don’t really see many new strapless options on the horizon for the GG+ market (correct me if I’m wrong though, because I’d love to hear about more). I have another strapless bra in a sister size on order from A Sophisticated Pair, so I’ll be really interested to compare the two when it arrives. I know Elomi plans to offer a beautiful strapless bridal range up to at least an H-cup this year, but it’s launching in August . . . just in time to miss summer/wedding season. Good call, Elomi.
[UPDATE: Amy reviewed the Deco Shape longline in a smaller size for Fussy Busty earlier this month.]
Have you tried a longline bra? Do you have a favorite brand or style? Am I justified in being disappointed, or am I asking too much?