Look at this lovely thing. Drink it in.
So what happened was I was talking with Erica from A Sophisticated Pair after I reviewed my first Comexim set, and I asked her about her Comexim stock for Spring, and then she put me in touch with Anna Pardal, who designs her own collection for Comexim, and then the next day I had an email in my inbox from Anna saying oh, would I like to review Anna Pardal’s brand new longline style?
I’ve been yammering about wanting more options and more sizes for longline style bras pretty much since I started the blog. In particular, I’ve yelled at anyone who will listen about how few options there are for people who wear cup sizes larger than a UK G-cup. While the longline bra’s ubiquity and popularity might be declining in core-sized lingerie markets, I know many full-bust customers, myself included, are still waiting eagerly for our turn to try out this retro-influenced style.
After my first Comexim bra blew me away with its fabulous shape and support, I was eager to try Anna Pardal. Her collections are slightly more luxe and sophisticated than the main Comexim line, and Erica spoke of them highly, both in terms of their elegant designs and their exceptional quality. As soon as my set was made Anna shipped it out to me, and I was on pins and needles waiting for it to clear US Customs.
[Note: while Anna Pardal generously provided this set for review, all thoughts and opinions are my own.]
Hibiscus is a longline-style lightly-padded half-cup bra with a pale, biscuit-colored lining topped with black abstract floral stretch lace that reminds me a little of Tiffany stained glass. Each cup contains two vertical seams for shaping, and the black lines of the seams offer an elegant graphic contrast to the floral lace. The top edge of the cups is trimmed with a thin ribbon of sheer tulle, edged in black, and there are gold-and-black tuxedo bows at the center gore and where each fully-adjustable strap meets the cup. The longline band extends about 2 3/4 inches/7 centimeters below the deepest point of the underwire. The front portion of the band is crafted from the same materials covering the bra cups, while the back portion of the band is black powermesh. The band closes with two columns of six rows of hooks and eyes. Unlike some other longline bras I’ve tried (like Elomi’s or Parfait’s), the band isn’t boned, and the bottom edge is elasticated to help it grip the body and stay in place.
The brief features the same lace fabric as the bra cups in the front center panel with sheer black mesh over the hips and in the back. The center panel is trimmed with the same ribbon and tuxedo bows as the bra. Unlike the shorts I reviewed from Comexim, the Anna Pardal brief features an elasticated legline, which I find both more comfortable and better fitting.
I have to say that I gasped out loud when I opened the package and saw this set for the first time. I have never seen a bra in this size and price range that is this breathtakingly beautiful. Pictures do not do it justice. I wore this home from my shoot with Lydia and went to a friend’s for dinner; when the topic inevitably turned to bras and I flashed her to show her Hibiscus, she gasped “Oh my god, that IS beautiful!”
Even though a longline bra in larger cup sizes can read as “a lot of bra”, the floral lace overlay and clean lines help this set feel light and delicate. I can’t praise the finer details enough: the tuxedo bows, the craftsmanship (the stitching is neat, meticulous, and clean), and the elegant black-and-gold color scheme all contribute to a sophisticated set that is a true stand-out.
I currently wear a 32H in almost all UK brands, with the occasional 34GG if the band runs super tight (for example, the Lulu Tout Amelie). The consensus of most English-speaking reviews I’ve read of Polish brands, including Ewa Michalak and Comexim, is that going up one band size and keeping the same cup letter as your UK size will give you a close guess at your Polish size. While I reported that my 36GG
Augusta [edit, erm, Arizona is the name of the style, what was I doing when I wrote this?] bra got loose in the band too quickly for my liking, I decided to stick with the 36GG/ for a longline, since my belly and waist are a little bigger than my underbust.
The band size feels good for me: it fastens comfortably yet firmly on the loosest column of hooks. I think the cup volume is good, but unfortunately I’m running into the same issues with this bra that I do with most half-cup styles: they’re just. too. danged. shallow. It’s hard to create a shape using only vertical seams that projects sharply away from the ribcage without sacrificing support, even with padding in the cups. Balconette and plunge bras use different seam patterns from half cup bras, and their cups tend to offer more depth and projection. Furthermore, the gore is a little wide for me, and it’s pushing my breast tissue out to the sides. As a result of the shallow shape and wide gore, the underwires aren’t lying flat against my sternum, and consequently the bra doesn’t feel quite as secure or supportive as I usually prefer. My breasts are close-set with a high, narrow root and lots of projection: half-cup bra shapes just aren’t a great match for my breast shape and size. However, those of you who are fans of half cup shapes? I think you’re going to love this one.
Where I had some trouble with the fit of my Comexim
Augusta [again, the Comexim style I tried is Arizona, get it together, Sweets] shorts, I found the Anna Pardal size chart to be extremely accurate (I took a size L/4). I love the rise of these briefs, which come up high enough that my belly doesn’t roll over the top, and they provide a great, comfortable level of coverage over my hips and rear.
I was nervous when I saw there was no boning in the band: surely it would flip up when I sat down or moved around? And yet NO: that bad boy stays perfectly in place. I’m astonished at how well it works, if only because the longline styles I’ve tried before have not fared as well– the band has either curled up or bunched uncomfortably up under my breasts, or the boning has the potential to dig or pinch. Even though I have a squishy torso and even though there’s no boning, there’s no discomfort: just a feeling of smooth, even support. I also really like how the deeper band gives such a smoothing effect on my back and seems to minimize the “fluffy bits” under my arms that sometimes stand out in well-fitting bras. Yes, the elastic edge does dig into my belly a little when I sit (this isn’t a corset, after all), but not uncomfortably so.
I am really starting to regret how long it took me to try Comexim and Anna Pardal. Where their English counterparts often struggle with fit and shape in G+ styles, these brands work tremendously well for those G+ customers who find that UK brands’ underwires are too wide and tall. The Polish designs also seem, to me at least, to offer elegance and sophistication instead of “safe” basics or overly whimsical prints. There’s a place for whimsy, of course, and a place for simplicity, but since turning 30 I’ve become increasingly interested in refining and curating my lingerie collection to match my changing tastes. Even though Hibiscus’ shape isn’t 100% perfect for me, this is one of my favorite new sets to wear when I want something a little special, because it makes me feel so, so elegant.
Bra and Brief: Hibiscus by Anna Pardal. Bra available in band sizes 28-50 and cup sizes A-M (with custom sizes available upon consultation), brief available in sizes 1-6 (XS-XXL) (click here for the Anna Pardal size chart). The bra will retail for between $74-76 USD and the brief for around $20 USD. Hibiscus is also available in the classic Comexim padded plunge shape as well as a half cup bra (with a standard, non-longline band). Interested in pre-ordering? Hibiscus will be available at the Anna Pardal official site in May, 2015; you can contact Anna directly to order, or you can pre-order through A Sophisticated Pair!
Speaking of Erica, she currently has a comprehensive post up talking about the various Anna Pardal/Comexim bra shapes, as well as several alterations that are available to customers, from gore height to cup shape. Check it out!
Photos: Lydia Hudgens