[Disclosure: Panache Black generously provided this set for review. I was not compensated for this post, and all thoughts and opinions are my own.]
Happy almost New Year, everyone! As a quick programming note, this is the last post of 2015! Barring any major breaking news in the lingerie blogging world (kinda doubtful, y’all), Sweet Nothings is taking a little break to recoup from the holidays and get ready for 2016. I hope you all have a safe and happy end of the year, and I’ll be back later in January with shiny new content.
In the spirit of celebration, I thought it would be fitting to end the year with a review of a special set from a new-old friend: Panache Black, the successor to Panache’s former high-end sister brand, Masquerade (which was sometimes called Harlequin in the US). The transition from Masquerade to Panache Black happened suddenly (from a consumer’s perspective), and I know for my part at least there was some confusion and a little disappointment. I always associated Masquerade with boudoir-inspired opulence: gleaming satin fabrics, elaborate lace overlays, rich embroidery, velvet trims, and other elements that made Masquerade lingerie sets feel special and luxe. Panache Black, which debuted with (and bafflingly continues to use) wan black-and-white lookbooks, minimal styling, and safe-seeming styles like plain molded cups and simple seamed bras, seemed like a poor replacement.
Now that a few seasons have passed and I’ve had a chance to try a set in person, I think I better understand how Panache Black is positioned. I’m a huge fan of Panache bras, as I think they offer a fantastic variety of shapes and sizes (and have shown commitment to innovating and improving their existing styles), but however pretty they are, they tend to be merchandised and marketed as solely fit-focused. The idea behind Panache Black is that a customer will most likely get to know Panache first, and when they say “you know, I love the fit of my Panache bras, I just wish there were something a little more special exactly like them,” enter Panache Black, the black-label version of bras the customer already knows and loves.
As an example of the “if you love X Panache style you’ll love Y Panache Black style” line of thought, the Esme bra is based directly on Panache’s super-popular Jasmine style. A four-part seamed cup with a side panel that connects to fully adjustable straps, Esme offers the same rounded shape, projection, lift, and narrower center gore we’ve come to know and love. Where Jasmine uses a stiff laminated mesh with a stretch lace top cup, Esme features a delicate geometric French lace laid over a rose-gold toned stretch mesh. The cup edges are trimmed with narrow velvet ribbon, and there’s a velvet bow with a black rhinestone charm at the center gore. My size (and I suspect all GG+ sizes) fastens with three rows and three columns of hooks and eyes, and the undersides of the straps are lined with a fuzzy lining for comfort.
Instead of a classic bikini brief, the Esme collection introduces an all-new high-waist brief, featuring the same elegant velvet trim and rhinestone trinket. The waistline hits me right at my navel, and the legline is cut a little high in back for a sultry look.
I put the Esme bra on and was reminded why the Jasmine frame is so enormously popular. I requested my current most commonly worn sizes, 32GG and 14/L, both UK sizes. The band fastens firmly yet comfortably on the loosest hooks, the center gore lies securely against my sternum, and all my breast tissue is contained within the underwires with no digging at the sides or spilling over the top of the cup. I’ll note that, since Esme doesn’t use stretch lace on the top section of the cup, it may feel a little more closed than Jasmine does. If your breasts are very full on top, or you’re between cup sizes, you might try sizing up.
I found the briefs fit comfortably and comparably to my other Panache briefs. I really like the rise in front, as it matches my shape well, but they’re slightly too cheeky in back for my tastes—I’d prefer a little more coverage.
Sometimes Jasmine and similar styles like Envy, while they offer great shape and support, can be a little uncomfortable to me, as the bottom edge of the band is lined with elastic that is super firm and strong. On my squishy torso, this bottom edge can sometimes dig in painfully, even after the bra has stretched with wear. Esme feels softer and more delicate; while the same great fit is there, I find it a much more comfortable (if slightly less aggressive) bra to wear. One thing I will note is that I sometimes have to scoop and swoop once or twice during the day to make sure the bra is positioned correctly, and I suspect that’s a side effect of the slightly gentler approach. That small issue aside, I reach for this set A LOT: I know it will give me shape and support that I love, it will feel light and easy to wear, and it looks really polished and pulled together. As I mentioned above, the briefs are a little cheekier than I’m used to and require some, um, adjusting as I move around, but I like the look so much I’m willing to put up with it.
If I had to sum up my takeaway from Panache Black in two words, they would be “subtle elegance”, with an emphasis on subtle. Esme is much more beautiful in person than I could have imagined from the promotional images—the lining fabric has a slightly pink edge to it that elevates it from standard beige, as well as slight shimmer that provides a faint glow beneath the veil of black lace. The velvet trim, while minimal, feels so special once it’s on the body. I love that it’s a “fancy” bra that eschews frills and froof, as most luxe full-bust bras go heavy on embroidery or lace, which isn’t to everyone’s tastes. The whole set calls to mind an elegant 1960s femme fatale, which is why IT MAKES ME YELL AND STAMP MY FOOT THAT THE LOOKBOOKS ARE SO UNFATHOMABLY AWFUL.
Y’all. There are beautiful details in these sets, but they’re delicate and subtle. Black and white images full of sad/bored/sleepy-looking models who are half-hidden in shadows do these products exactly zero favors. The Panache Black lookbooks look like they’re trying to compete with Calvin Klein, that successful purveyor of…plain t-shirt bras. There’s no subtlety about a t-shirt bra, so stark black-and-white imagery is fine, but it washes all the life out of sets that are more detailed or complex. As an example, Esme is returning for Spring/Summer 2016 in a lovely rich teal shade…which looks exactly like the black/beige version if you photograph it in black and white. The lookbooks take everything that is lovely and special about these sets and buries it under sullen, colorless moodiness, that, as a consumer, makes my eyes glaze over with boredom. Fix your lookbooks, Panache Black. Right now they don’t make me want to pay a little extra for a black-label product, they just put me to sleep.
Ahem. I mean, this is a beautiful bra that’s a completely successful luxe upgrade of Jasmine, tell your friends.
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Bra and High-Waist Brief: Esme by Panache Black (c/o), 30-38 D-K and XS-XXL. Panache Black is a UK brand, so the cup size progression is D, DD, E, F, FF, G, GG, H, HH, J, JJ, K. Esme is available at Breakout Bras, Nordstrom, and Bare Necessities.
Hold Ups: Glamory Hosiery (c/o), Large to XXXXX-Large. THESE ARE THE BOMB, y’all, Glamory Hosiery forever, they are genuinely fantastic, particularly if you are tall and/or plus size, I know I got these for free but I plan to buy more they are truly excellent and comfortable and long-lasting.
Robe: Elle Robe by Kiss Me Deadly via Coco L’Amour (they have both the black version and the red silk version in stock in a few sizes (prices are Australian dollars), and lest shipping from Australia put you off, when I ordered mine I was pleasantly surprised by how quickly it arrived)
Photos: Studio Rezin