Monday, April 30, 2012

The Misadventures of Plus Four

This fitter is wearing a white coat and smiling, she must know what she's doing...that or she's thinking "Sucker!"
Before elastic became a major part of bra manufacturing the bra fitting advice was 'add 4 or 5 inches to your underbust measurement to find your band size.' This Plus Four Method never works for women over a D cup. Plus Four only works for some women under a D cup (women with very close-set breasts or an athletic frame can benefit from the plus four method).

Unfortunately Plus Four comes in very handy for unscrupulous boutiques and brands (Playtex I'm looking at you) who use it to put large breasted women into bras with huge, unsupportive bands and smaller cups. Because cups are relative to their bands (for example, a DD cup on a 38 band has more volume than a DD cup on a 30 band) you need D-K cups in order to give enough cup coverage on a smaller band. Just increasing the band size to get more cup volume is the Worst Kind of Fitting Betrayal. For more information on how to measure yourself at home, click here.

I see images like this all the time and it's just bunkum! Measure your band size where the band lies, around your ribs.
To try and legitimize this dangerous and outdated form of measuring (adding inches to your band size was necessary for breathing in the 1930s and 40s when lingerie was made with whalebones!) some clever marketing bod came up with the idea of measuring right underneath your armpits and OVER your chest to find your band size (like measurement 1 on the diagram above). Common sense tells you this is as bonkers as measuring your feet to find your hat size!!

This kind of lazy bra fitting promotion is usually coupled with daft suggestions like 'exhale and pull the tape measure really tight' or 'form a loosish gap over your bust measurement'. This kind of advice is needlessly complicated and it drives me up the wall, so I've come up with my own version of how to put plus four to use... introducing The Misadventures of Plus Four!! xx

View the larger image on our website

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Why I Feel Sorry For Victoria Beckham

I was never a Spice Girls or football fan but I've watched brand Beckham grow over the years with keen interest. There aren't a lot of Husband and Wife brands not least because in crazy celebrity land your 'his and her' brand could have a very sticky end. The Beckhams have a strong and growing brand, especially since Victoria has become legitimized in the fashion world and has focused her entire professional attention on design. So why do I feel sorry for this successful and well-heeled woman? Because she is a stark example of how the media and the public can reduce a woman to commentary on her body rather than dialogue about her actions.

Jennifer Hudson wearing a Victoria Beckham dress
I come across Victoria Beckham stuff fairly regularly in the boob world; she has designed some bust friendly pieces (like Jennifer Hudson above) she's been very vocal about female body diversity (she may be thin but she realizes not everyone is!) her lingerie shoots for Armani, and of course stories about breast implants. She's never confirmed it but I think the mid to late 90s pictures show pretty conclusively that she had breast implants, and if she did.... big deal. If she had them taken out.... big deal. We're entitled to our own decisions about our bodies. Whilst writers and commentators alike write thousands of column inches about her body, VB has been doggedly building a diverse life.  

What do any of us we want our daughters to have? A happy home, healthy children, confidence, a sense of purpose and humour, a profession that fulfills them, extraordinary experiences, failures that they learn from, great shoes?! Then why when someone achieves all of these things, and I really think VB has worked hard at her life and brand, do we feel compelled to shoot them down? Is it good old fashioned jealousy or are we taught to believe that women shouldn't try and have too much?

The Evoque interior in the special edition Victoria Beckham Range Rover
Having just worked with Range Rover to design the interior of a special edition Evoque a whole new wave of self-satisfying hurtful jibes have swept the internet: "who does she think she is" "is it big enough for a real person to fit in" "give me a break, she's just a washed up singer". I know Victoria Beckham isn't working her fingers to the bone creating design mock-ups and cup-holders, but she's obviously got a sense of flair and design. The Beckhams have driven Range Rovers for years so it's pretty savvy of Range Rover to create a cross-promotion with such a powerful brand. What's the big problem!? If a giant car company asked me to design a luxury car interior I'd jump at the chance!

In a sea of fame-hungry reality stars who categorize success as getting their drunken Friday night exploits into the newspapers, shouldn't we cultivate more hardworking, self-made, female role models? It seems wherever I turn in the press there's always someone ready to tear a strip of a woman for being too thin, fat, successful, diverse, ambitious and I always wonder what the author does - do they contribute to the world or do they just erode it with cynicism and cruelty?

Of course I'm sure the extensive wealth, beautiful home, thriving business and gorgeous family takes the edge off comments from her critics, but on some level I wonder if Victoria thinks "I'm just trying my hardest, why does that piss off so many people?" I know that fame is synonymous with criticism but do you think that women are criticized more deeply and often by the media (and the public) than their male counterparts? xx

Monday, April 23, 2012

The Mental Leap from Wrong Bra to Right Bra

Any bra fitter will tell you that the most rewarding moments are when you fit someone who's been languishing in the wrong bra into the right bra. It's wonderful to see the mixture of disbelief and joy when a client realizes her boobs don't need to rest on her midriff anymore! However, just physically getting someone into the right bra isn't the whole story. For some women being in the right bra can be as mentally distressing as the physical strain of being in the wrong bra.

Don't Get Used to Low and Wide Boobs
Some women spend decades in the wrong bra, it becomes their norm and even though they experience shoulder dents, riding bands and sagging breasts, their 'wrong' bra is familiar. When you wear the wrong bra for a long period of time you'll get used to your breasts either lying low against your body or spreading wide across your body. Either way, your breasts will appear to have less volume because they're being spread over a larger area than if they were in a correctly fitting bra.

Breasts look so much bigger when they're unsupported and spread out
It's this 'dispersion' of breast tissue that leads to shock when put into the right bra. The right bra will lift your breast tissue up and away from your body and cup all your breast tissue close to your body (the closer your breast tissue is supported to your body the less bounce you encounter and therefore less damage to your breasts). When all the breast tissue is lifted into the right cup you can see the true volume of your breast and countless women are shocked that their breasts look 'big'.

Don't believe the Big Boob Stereotypes
While it's totally understandable that wearing the correct sized bra for the first time can be a shock, it's really saddening that so many women are upset at the idea of having larger breasts. Large breasts don't say anything about who you are just as having large feet or a small nose don't define your personality. And yet, we have these preconceptions that large breasts are a 'bad' thing. This is a crippling myth that we just have to eradicate because it's so harmful. Being in the right bra can be rewarding on so many levels:
  1. Your posture is improved when you're in the right bra and this improves your circulation and takes pressure off your back and neck.
  2. When you stop worrying about your shape you free your mind to think about more important things.
  3. You'll see your waist again!
From a professional point of view a large breast that sits high on your chest (midway between your shoulder and your elbow) and is well supported is a far more flattering and healthy look than undefined, low-hanging breast tissue (which I think looks much bigger) that makes you appear much heavier.
Embracing your figure and supporting your bust is good for you physically and mentally.
Why Accepting Your Body is Good for Your Health
For over 15 years my Mum has worked with physically disabled children and has always told me "You only have one body and when you're fortunate that it works perfectly you must celebrate it and look after it every day." I know this is an extreme example but it's always stuck with me that your body is unique and nothing to be ashamed of. Your breasts are not out to make a mockery of you, they don't define you and they don't hate you. They are part of you and deserve to be treated well so try and accept and love your shape rather than hiding it. I'd love your thoughts on why wearing the right bra is such a scary prospect for some women xx

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

My Organic Wedding Makeup

As I've mentioned before I have very sensitive skin; daily hives, swollen eyes and rashes are commonplace for me. Blotchy and red isn't exactly the look I want as a bride when Mr Butterfly and I get married next month so I needed to get the skin situation under control and find beauty products and makeup that don't make me look like I have the plague!

Back in March I wrote about the potential links between cosmetic/beauty product chemicals and the rise in breast cancer as discussed in the documentary Pink Ribbons Inc. As the descendent of breast cancer survivors I am keen to minimize my risks wherever possible so I have been on a chemical free skin regime for a month. My daily hives have gone from all over my torso, neck and face (and taking about 2 hours to disappear) to just 5 on my back and chest which ease after about 30 minutes. It's safe to say I love my Rocky Mountain Soap products especially the Cocoa Butter Soap and Coconut Lip Butter.

Finding chemical free makeup has been SO much harder than finding good beauty products. I trawled the internet but found that the products were either insanely expensive or came with hefty mailing charges. I turned to our fabulous makeup artist Lien (btw her new blog, The Soulcialite, is jam packed with fashion and makeup tips) to help me track down some chemical free options.

Curlique is a store/education facility where you get top notch products and expert advice
Lien took me to Curlique in Vancouver, a totally amazing and unique place with top name cosmetics handled by makeup graduates from a local school, Blanche MacDonald. After listening carefully to my skin history, our makeup graduate, Paula, came back with a brand that has changed my life! Sappho is a line of chemical free cosmetics designed here in British Columbia by a TV and Film makeup artist, JoAnn Fowler.
All Sappho products can be bought online
Regular foundations make my skin tight and sting within seconds of application. Sappho foundation is made of natural mineral pigments suspended in essential oils; it's light, doesn't sting and the colour's fab. Because the foundation worked so well I was like a kid in a candy store and wanted to see everything Sappho had to offer! The prices aren't crazy and considering that they're organic, animal-friendly and mostly sustainable, I think the price is great:
  1. Foundation $48
  2. Concealer $27
  3. Eye Shadows $20
  4. Blush $28
  5. Brushes $11-$33
Concealer, foundation, blush, five eye shadows and four animal-friendly makeup brushes later I felt excited about makeup again! Lien has me on a strict skin regime between now and the wedding and I'm excited that I'll actually look the way I feel - glowing with happiness not hives! Do you have a product you love for sensitive skin or have you made the switch to a chemical free cosmetics line? xx

Monday, April 16, 2012

Sorry to break this to you, but people know you're wearing a bra

This t-shirt was a Dorothy Perkins hit
Living in Canada there are lots of occasions where I feel conspicuously English; every time I say lift and not elevator, bin and not garbage, cooker and not stove. In the world of bras the time I feel most English is when my clients say they don't like "bra seams you can see under clothes." Bra seams being visible under clothing was never something I was aware of when I lived in the UK. No one passed comment on it, to me at least. Here in North American it's evident that visible seams are a big concern as though women feel it would be an embarrassment if other people knew they were wearing a bra?

Are You Hiding More than Just Seams?
Almost every lingerie rep I've spoken to in Canada and the US has told me that North American women like seamless, neutral colour bras. There has to be something deeper at the root of this 'seam-phobia'. I think it has something to do with the sheer lack of bra size choice North American women have experienced that has bred a continent-wide disillusionment with bras. Canada and the US have a disproportionate lack of readily available bra sizes in comparison to the UK and Europe. Add to this the giant influence of the t-shirt bra from huge manufacturers like Victoria's Secret and women have been trained away from the benefits of other shapes of bra.

It's no wonder that generations of women forced into bra sizes that were available rather than ones that fit have learned to hate bras. There is a distinct lack of Big Bra Celebration in North American compared to the UK and I think the knock-on effect is this desire to blend into the background and hide your breasts, hence the epidemic of seamless bras.

I love that the seams are part of the design on this bra from Freya (Lyla 2011)
Are Seams Really That Big a Deal?
I always think of these two things when someone says they don't want their bra to be visible:
  1. Everyone knows you're wearing a bra, especially when you're busty
  2. No one who matters is looking directly at your bra seams and judging you
People are definitely going to notice that you look better in the right bra but people aren't looking directly at your boobs or even more specifically, your bra seams. What makes no sense to me is choosing to wear an ill-fitting seamless bra that causes sagging and spillage rather than wear a seamed bra for fear of it being embarrassing. For women with heavy breasts you need seamed bras because the seams are what give you shape and support. The seams 'direct' the breast tissue up and away from your waist to give you definition and lift. Don't get me wrong, seamless bras are great, but they're not for everyone and they're not the only option.

My Outfits and Seamed Bras
I mostly wear seamed bras because my boobs are side heavy so they need some forward propulsion and I never feel that my outfits look compromised by my seamed bras. Here are some fabrics, styles and designs that I think are completely compatible with seamed bras:
  1. Patterned Clothing - patterns distract from any seam underneath
  2. Dark Fabrics - black, navy, charcoal and brown sweaters (or jumpers in my world) hide seams perfectly
  3. Ruched Tops - Lots of busty friendly clothing has ruching at the neckline which detracts from underlying bra seams
I'm wearing a seam-free bra in only one of these outfits - can you tell which one?
I own seam-free bras which I wear with some stretch jersey fabrics, but that's about it. I find that seamless bras tend to spread out my bust more than a seamed bra. I prefer a narrower look from my bras so I mostly wear seamed bras.

Feeling happy and confident in your bra depends a lot on bra style and it has to feel right for you. Being trapped in one style of bra because of some mental barriers about your body image is quite a different thing. Are you someone who used to be seam-phobic but got past it? I'd love to hear your story xx

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Ralph Lauren Bust-Friendly Dresses

I spend most of my life in dresses partly because I am a total girly-girl and love being in a skirt and partly because jeans and I no longer speak to one another. My figure doesn't look great in pinup style clothing (although I often wish it did because then I could wear this dress!) I need a dress with either a V neck or boat neckline and a flattering skirt. Flattering on me is something that doesn't cling to my hips but follows the line of my curves without adding bulk.

The Bay in Vancouver (the big Canadian department store) recently got a giant facelift and added tonnes of well-priced mid-designer dresses to their collection. One of the additions which surprisingly works with my figure is Ralph Lauren's dress line. I'm a 32GG and lots of these dresses work across my bustline in a size 10. Here are some of my favourites:

$145 CAD - I love the colour and the 3/4 sleeve helps to draw the eyeline away from my bust. The ruched tummy panel is my eternal friend

$149 CAD - I'm a big fan of colour and this green is so pretty. There is more wiggle room in here for boobs as it's not an empire waist. The buckle gives a nice detail and I'm hooked on the little shoulder pads!

$183 CAD - One shoulder dresses have been a revelation to me. I didn't expect them to be as flattering as they are. The lace is elegant and modern and I think the colour is spring sexy.

$149 CAD Pattern is my friend because it hides the lumps and bumps that create my hips! I think this is a great day to night dress.
I still struggle to find bust-friendly dresses in Vancouver so I shop online a lot. Do you have a favourite brand whose dresses I need to check out? xx

Monday, April 9, 2012

Why Curvy Kate's 'Star in a Bra' is More than a Competition

For those of you not familiar with this British brand, Curvy Kate is a line of lingerie designed specifically for D-K cup women. Their fun, beautiful and sexy designs bring excitement and joy to women shopping for big cup bras, which is why we stock this brand at Butterfly Collection because bras should be fun for big boobs too!
Georgina from Fuller Figure Fuller Bust came 3rd in last year's UK SIAB
Since 2009 Curvy Kate has run a model search called 'Star in a Bra' which looks for naturally busty women to become their spokes-boobs and model for a year. Last year's UK finalists included the fabulous Georgina Horne from Fuller Figure Fuller Bust and the lovely Lizzie Haines who ultimately won the competition. The competition has generated a huge amount of interest over the last three years and last week the competition went stateside with the first Star In A Bra USA!

We are incredibly proud to sell Curvy Kate bras - Lottie above is my absolute favourite
Why North America Needs 'Star in a Bra'
It is beyond fantastic that this competition has come to North America because injecting some celebration into big boobs is much needed. I have always been shocked at the vast differences between how European and British women view their busty figures as opposed to how American and Canadian women perceive themselves.

I'm not suggesting that every British busty woman spends every minute of every day being delighted at her G cups but there is definitely more widespread acceptance and celebration of being busty. There is without doubt a greater sense of embarrassment and 'shame' about big boobs here in North America. I don't know where it comes from but I know (and see it on a daily basis) that it holds women back from accepting and loving their bodies.

There are so few places in the media that celebrate naturally busty women with positivity, education and empowerment. Curvy Kate's Star in a Bra competition gives naturally busty women a voice and shines a light on the beauty, diversity and plight of D-K cup women.
Lizzie Haines won the UK 2011 SIAB - Her humour, passion and humility are infectious
How Star in a Bra Works
  • Details about how to enter and how to vote are available on Curvy Kate USA's Facebook Page
  • Top 30 contestants will be chosen by the Curvy Kate staff 
  • Through Facebook the public will vote for their favourites - the 10 with the most votes become finalists
  • The Top 10 get flown to a professional photo shoot for a Curvy Kate makeover
  • These 10 go back to the public vote and a winner is then announced
  • The winner will appear in print and web promotions for a year and attend events as the SIAB winner
If you fancy entering (and I highly encourage all my beautiful, talented and brilliant American readers to do so!) then it's worth reading these submission tips to give yourself the best chance! 

More than a Competition
We need to change the cultural perceptions around larger boobs in North America (who wants their busty 15 year old to spend the rest of her life with a crippling shame weighing on her!?) A lot of the emotional baggage around being busty is fabricated and you have to choose not to listen to it. The rest of the strain comes from not being in the right bra and that's where companies like Curvy Kate (and dare I say Butterfly Collection) can help. Please let me know if you plan on entering because I will throw every inch of my busty support behind your boobs!! It could be the best thing you do for yourself! xx

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Be a Small Band, Big Cup Warrior!

It’s a common story that larger cups are very difficult to find in stores. What’s 10 times more difficult is trying to find large cups on small bands. Try finding a J cup on 26 band and it’s like searching for unicorns.

On our return from Curve in Las Vegas I wrote about my shock that Freya referred to 28 bands as a Junior Size. Coming from a leading large cup retailer I was seriously dismayed. Someone who experienced the same Junior reference was Sarah from StackDD, a pregnant 26/28 J/JJ woman who is anything but Junior (she’s making juniors for Goodness’ Sake!)

Both these bras are G cups but the one on the left is Plus Size, the one on the right is Full Bust
There is obviously an industry wide misconception that big boobs live on big women. This is apparent by the number of brands who still call ‘Full Bust Bras’ ‘Plus Size Bras’ – they’re not the same thing! Plus Size refers to bands not cups. Large cups do not = plus size. Big Boobs live on small ribcages too (and having a small ribcage doesn’t necessarily mean you’re tiny all over, but that’s another story!)

The fabulous bra bloggers, StackDD, Braless in Brasil, By Baby’s Rules, Bras I Hate and Boosaurus, have decided enough is enough and are making strides to get more 24, 26, 28 and 30 bands on D-K bras. This is their Bra Band Project to make the manufacturers sit up and listen:

“To prove that we are not all juniors and that we exist as a market we have decided to create the Bra Band Project. We are looking for photos of women who wear 30 bands or under to prove that we are real. We will make a flickr album and eventually a collage with our photos to show that we are not just juniors but women of all shapes and sizes that need small bands. We'd love your help so please submit your own photo and band size using this link or email it to We need both your bra size and your photo. We cannot include a submission without both of those.”

This is a great opportunity for you to be a Bra Activist and make the lingerie industry get crackin’ on some small band bras that will fit your body. You don’t have to take your clothes off to participate either. Clothed or in a bra, take a full body shot or waist and up (at least your torso should be included) then the Bra Band Ladies will crop out your face to keep everything anonymous. SUBMIT YOUR PHOTO NOW!

Monday, April 2, 2012

Facebook: Which Bra Brands Are Actually Listening to Customers

There are two kinds of lingerie brands as far as I'm concerned... the ones who want their customers to love wearing their lingerie and the kind who think anyone who doesn't love wearing their lingerie is an idiot.

The arrogant lingerie brands are also deaf, dumb and blind to the fact that women exist outside of the 32-38 A-D paradigm. "We don't get any call for G cups, it's just a marketing ploy" is an arrogant comment I've heard more than once. We experienced a lot of this shortsightedness at Curve Las Vegas.  I have total respect for the brands who say "We don't have the expertise to make bras for women over a D cup" or "our designs are for A-D cups" they are cognoscente of their strengths and don't want to deliver a sub-standard product - bravo! That's quite different from dismissing the existence of larger cupped women completely.

Separating the Social Wheat from the Chaff
With the ever-expanding social media world those brands who truly listen to their customers are fast distinguishing themselves from the old guard of stubborn brands. Here's my list of brands who have an engaging and enjoyable Facebook presence:

Curvy Kate
Curvy Kate continues to raise the standard of what it means to be a social lingerie brand. Their engaging and informative social activity also includes the wildly successful Star in a Bra campaign which is run entirely through their social media channels. A great mix of fashion, fun and knowledge I always pause to read their posts. Curvy Kate has also recognized that different countries need their own social media messaging. Curvy Kate Australia and Curvy Kate USA share country specific as well as brand-wide information something lots of brands overlook (to their detriment in my opinion).

Most of you know that I love Panache and the biggest reason is they are one of the few companies who have actively realized that Canadian and American women get ripped off when it comes to price on D-K cups. Lots of Panache bras retail for under $70 which makes being a busty woman much easier on your wallet (then throw in Free Shipping like we do every day, and you've got happy boobies!) Panache have been super interested in our feedback as a retailer and from our customers - heck they even let us tour their HQ and meet all the bra designers!

On the social front I think Panache is still working out their voice. They have fab photography and their work with British Olympians on their sports bra is fantastic, but there still doesn't seem to be a great deal of interaction. I would love to see Panache grow their social media strategy and come up with some fantastic interactive competitions and activities for Panache customers and retailers. We want to love you even more!!

Freya has fantastic photography and uses their Facebook to share some great fitting and style advice. Lots of customers post questions to the Freya page which Freya then answer which makes it really useful for other Freya customers. Freya is involved in a lot of media shoots and has recently teamed up with the England Netball team to promote their sportswear.

Alegro Lingerie has a tiny Facebook presence right now but the reason I'm including them is because they are responding to every single thing that customers ask, write or think about them. So few brands answer speculative questions honestly but Alegro is obviously setting up its social media activity to be transparent and honest. Check out their response to my review and public questions over on Thin and Curvy's blog. I think we can expect really good things from this burgeoning brand (not least because their bras are so lovely!)

Claudette is a relative newcomer to the lingerie scene but already they're making a big impression. Their Facebook is a vibrant place driven by varied and gorgeous photography. We're trying out Claudette's Neon Green Mesh bra this spring and hope to grow our relationship with them as they venture into even bigger cups.

Regarded by many to be the ultimate in sports bra control, Enell is using their Facebook page to mentally and physically support women. I really love their approach to well-being and health. They don't use this page as a constant selling tool (something which bugs me about some brands). Enell shares tips about leading a healthy life both in and out of your Enell bra. 

Some Other Brands to 'Like'
There are some other brands whose Facebook activity I enjoy. Not all these are in English but that doesn't matter when you can enjoy the photography.

Ewa Michalak - Polish brand with phenomenal bras and refreshingly diverse models
Kris Line - Another Polish brand with good photography
Pleasure State - US company with a growing Facebook presence
Affinitas - A UK brand whose photography is great.

Lingerie is such a personal thing and the companies that connect with the emotional element of buying intimates will having much deeper customer loyalty and a greater understanding of the changing needs of women. I take Butterfly Collection's Facebook responsibility very seriously. It is a place to share the joy, facts, frustrations and stories of being a busty woman. Our business is selling D-K bras but our passion is making women feel happy and confident about their figures xx