Designer Interview: Alice Warner of Beaujais Talks Technique.

I was so excited when I first discovered Beaujais. It’s rare to see a designer specifically take on the challenge of pretty and supportive bras for D-GG cups, and even rarer to see a company making the bras by hand with luxury English fabrics. My favorite sets are the jet black Inkling set and the blue Smokey Taboo set, both of which are featured below. The master designer behind Beaujais, Alice Warner, works out of her studio in the Cotswalds and launched her first collection this fall. I was lucky enough to get a chance to ask Alice some questions about Beaujais, as well as the secrets to constructing the perfect bra for the full-busted woman.

Holly: What are the challenges when you design lingerie for larger bust sizes? How do you balance the structural elements with the stylistic ones?

Alice: The main challenge, as you would expect, is ensuring that the lingerie is supportive enough for larger cup sizes, whilst keeping the design and styling directional and sexy. A lot of time has been spent developing shapes that really work to both of these ends, so that the lingerie can be ‘barely there’ and yet comfortable enough to wear all day, even in larger cup sizes.

It can sometimes be that a detail that looks cute on a smaller size looks completely lost on the bigger sizes, so you have to be careful that designs translate well over the whole size range. The structural elements are so key in larger sizes, you really need to use these as the ‘foundations’ and build from there, adding in the stylistic elements and yet visualizing these from the outset – it certainly is a challenge, but one I’m really passionate about, so it is a really exciting process.

Holly: As a brand, you focus on ethical production that stays within the UK. Does this present any limitations when you’re designing lingerie? Does this influence what materials you use?

Alice: I wouldn’t say UK production places any limitations on the designs – in fact it is an advantage as the communications are easier and I am often there overseeing sampling and production so it is fantastic as I can see how well designs work as they are being created and make any necessary changes there and then – it makes the design process more organic and in many ways more exciting.

Ethical production is an issue that is very important to me but it is something that becomes harder the further down the line you go with it – with so many components in lingerie it is almost impossible to know the ethical back-story of every thread, slider and fibre. I try my best – only using ethical UK production, and visiting the places where the components are made where possible. I use a fantastic supplier of elastic only ten minutes drive from the studio, and try to incorporate lace trims where possible from the last remaining English lace factory. I would say that a desire to source components as locally as possible does filter through and influences the materials used, but having said that I would not allow the designs to be compromised by this. We use sumptuous silks and the finest French Leavers laces to give the ultimate in luxurious comfort, using some of the same lace suppliers as were used for Kate Middleton’s wedding dress.

Holly: What’s next for Beaujais? Do you have any big goals for Beaujais going forward?

I have big dreams for Beaujais but am taking small steps towards these – every day is a learning curve so I don’t want to overstretch myself.

I think the big goal really is to make a difference – there’s nothing more rewarding than making people happy and it really makes my day when someone tries one of our bras and it makes them feel good about themselves and look their best. I have never understood why women with bigger busts are so often only given the choice of ugly, unwieldy bras – we deserve better, so it is hoped with Beaujais we can help women showcase their assets to their full potential.

I would love to see us taking on more stockists in future and for Beaujais to become the destination label for fuller busted ladies wanting desirable, luxurious lingerie.

Beaujais lingerie comes in 28-36 back sizes, and D-GG cups. More information about how to buy their pieces can be found at their gorgeous website here.

Friday Round-Up: Giveaways, Birdcage Knickers, and Why The Alphabet Shouldn’t Matter

It’s Friday! This would seem less remarkable if my brain wasn’t somehow already mentally halfway through November. There were some great pieces on lingerie this week, so I thought I’d make a list of them for your reading pleasure.

The New York Times ran this article on why women are pleased that they are now fitting into bigger size bras. I had a lot of problems with it, but it speaks to the fact that we’re still emphasizing letters of the alphabet. Shouldn’t we all be celebrating the new frontier of bras that actually fit us rather than what cup size we are?

My column went up on The Lingerie Journal this week. I talk about the importance of showing your influences and telling your story to win customers over. While you’re over there, make sure you subscribe to The Lingerie Journal’s new print format!

Invest in Your Chest has a great review of the Freya Naomi bra.The bra isn’t my style, but the review is well done and I suspect it will appeal to a whole lot of other people who like patterns more than I do.

Bare Necessities is having a giveaway to celebrate selling their 5 millionth bra! They’re giving away five $1,000 lingerie prizes, as well as a consultation with Jenny Altman of ILOVEAGOOD. Entries close the 29th, so make sure you sign up.

I have nothing very intelligent to say except that I need these knickers desperately. Stretch lace, bows, and a cut out bird in the back! As a bonus, they’re handmade from an independent label. I’m in love with them.

Image via Amuse-Bouche.

Coming to Terms With My Bra Nemesis

I spent a lovely hour on the phone yesterday with Ms. Kitty Plum, and unsurprisingly, the conversation turned to bras. I explained my pure hatred of nude colored bras.

“It’s not that I’ve got anything against the color,” I explained, “I just spent all these years being forced into nude minimizer bras by Wacoal by my mother, and looking at them just brings back all these horrible feelings.”

Amazingly, she proceeded to tell me about the bra that made her feel that way too.

I realized then that lots of women probably have a bra nemesis. The bra that your mother made you wear, the bra you wore before you realized what size you actually were, the bras you were forced into when you were told you were either too small or too large for “normal” bras.

Yeah, that bra.

The worst part was my bra nemesis was still in my closet when I started writing lingerie columns. It was on the back of a high shelf being ignored, but it wasn’t gone. When my lingerie collection finally grew past a tiny drawer, I cleared out that closet and filled it with new bras that fit. Then, I threw out my old minimizer bra. New closet, new beginnings.

I still have that reaction to nude bras though. The closet I own to a plain bra is a black Freya that is ugly but useful under dresses. I’m pretty sure it all goes back to those early bra experiences where I felt like a freak every time I went bra shopping. The woman my mom buys bras from still refers to me as “Oh, the G cup girl!”.

I was thinking about all of this the other day when I ran across this amazingly gorgeous Wacoal bra. It truly shocked me. It was classy, feminine, and came in a gorgeous array of colors. If they made it in my size, I would have snapped it up right away. I started thinking that maybe all of my negative feelings had more to do with the horrible feelings I had about my body as a teenager rather than the bra I blamed it all on.

Wacoal Embrace Lace Underwire via Bare Necessities

So, since Thursday is a good day for discussions, I’m asking you to weigh in on these questions. Do you have a bra nemesis? Have you made peace with it? Are there certain kinds of bras you won’t buy due to bad personal experiences? Let me know in the comments.

Shapewear That The Jetsons Would Be Proud Of.

My weekly column for Bella Bella Boutique is up today! It focuses on Lytess shapewear, which is a French company making shapewear with “intelligent” fabrics. I was raised in a scientific family, so the new fabric technology they’re using is fascinating to me.

Go read the blog, and then come back and tell me if you would try it!

Designer Interview: Fraulein Annie Takes The Stage

What do you get when you combine an old Marlene Dietrich song and an amazing lingerie designer? Some of the most innovative large cup lingerie on the market, of course.

As soon as I saw Fraulein Annie’s lingerie line, I was hooked. Their pieces oozed old Hollywood glamour, and looked like something out of Cabaret. It’s rare to run across large cup lingerie with such a strong point of view, so last week I caught up with the creator of Fraulein Annie, Frauke Nagel, to get the story behind this unique brand.

Holly: What drew you to the styles of early 20th century Berlin for your lingerie line?

Frauke: It’s an era that I find intriguing and inspiring since I found a book about it in the library at art-college during my studies. Berlin was the creative hot spot of Europe at that time. It was extreme and outrageous, also very stylish and eccentric. I love the clean, streamlined style of art deco that I enjoy translating into undergarments.

Holly: What are the challenges that you face when designing lingerie for a wide range of cup sizes? Are there any challenges that are particular to the E-G cup pieces?

Frauke: I embrace the development of larger sizes. It’s almost like architecture, you have to think about distribution of weight and a supportive construction and the right material that does the job.  To offer a wide range of sizes is a nightmare though from a manufacturing point of view. It’s very difficult to handle logistically – expensive and almost impossible for an independent designer with small production quantities.  But I feel passionate about giving women the choice and don’t want to design for certain sizes or build only. The range includes cup sizes from A to G including the DD and FF. In the future, I want to branch out into more band sizes but I have to stick to 32 to 38 for now.

Holly: What’s next for Fraulein Annie? What sort of colors and pieces will we see next season?

Frauke: Film and music are always at the heart of the brand and for next fall, we’ll create a love story with suspense and drama. The colours will reflect that mood. We’ll show new bras, in particular a new non padded style for larger cups following the request of retailers in the US and Germany. I’m looking forward to the next photo shoot that will be very creative.

If you ever wanted to witness a photo shoot and live in England, you can win to be invited and watch the team at work. Just email info@frauleinannie.com with your bra and dress size, and we’ll give away a lingerie set as well. Good luck!

What are your favorite Fraulein Annie pieces? The Falling In Love set with suspender belt in Blush is at the top of my must have list right now. 

Fraulein Annie is available in A-G cups, in a 32-38 back range. Select pieces are currently on sale at Figleaves

A Bra Review, A Press Release, and A Round-Up.

It’s Friday! Has this week gone by really quickly for anyone else? It flew by here at TFFC headquarters.

I’m reviewing the Alegro Boudoir Starlet bra over at the Butterfly Collection blog today (as well as their Curvy Life newsletter which is my favorite inbox treat). It went to meetings, supported me through serious housecleaning, and a county fair. I seriously recommend it to anyone who wants a supportive and soft everyday bra. Please leave a comment if you’ve also tried Alegro, because I’d love to know what other people’s experiences have been.

Second, The Lingerie Journal put out a really flattering press release today about Kathryn Kemp-Griffin and me coming onboard over there, so please go check it out. I’m thrilled to be writing a regular marketing column for them, and Luis had lots of great things to say about my copywriting services as well (because one cannot live on bras alone!).

Next week I’ll be reviewing my new teal Charnos bra, and maybe some other stuff as well, so stay tuned.

Last, but certainly not least, here’s some other stuff that I didn’t write that you should go read: 

Undercover Lingerista wrote this great review of Beaujais, one of the newest full-bust bra designers. They’re a beautiful European luxury brand that actually goes up to an H cup! There are some great photos to go with the review which made me have serious lingerie sample envy.

The Lingerie Addict did a round up of her 25 favorite tights for Fall/Winter, so if you’re into hosiery this is for you. I ended up buying one of the ASOS ones myself.

I Love A Good wrote a fun piece on the new neon trend. I saw some amazing pictures from Claudette yesterday of their new neon line (that goes up to an I cup!), and I’ve decided I’m looking forward to this trend. Brightly colored bras are my kryptonite.

Lingerie All The Way (And A Starter Sale)

There will be a brand new bra review up later this week, but until then we’re celebrating some big news.

I’ve got a list of my most popular copywriting services up here, so this means you can now hire me! For the first week (so until October 25), you will get a 10% discount on all lingerie copywriting services. If you want something that isn’t on the list, email me and I can tell you if I’m the right person for you.

I’m in the midst of putting up a full testimonials page, so until then you can either look at my work outside the chest or email me for references and samples at holly@thefullfiguredchest.com.

I can’t wait to work with all of you!

Fun With Sizing (Or, The Saga of My Brastop Order)

After literally chasing my Brastop package all over town (one missed delivery, one federal holiday, two separate post offices) I returned home mostly triumphant. Even though I had to order a whole mess of different sizes, all the bras that came fit. I’m still missing a black Freya Antoinette and one garter for the Curvy Kate panties, but I’ve heard such great things about Brastop customer service that I’m sure both are temporary setbacks. As a reward for my efforts, I came home to find a lovely package from Butterfly Collection with a nice note from Claire in it! I’m going to be reviewing all of this in depth, but I wanted to put up some pictures and size comparisons today so you can see what everything looks like and how the cup sizes run.

When I put it all together, this is what it looks like (Click the image for a larger view).

From top to bottom, we’ve got:

The Curvy Kate Showgirl Tempt Me Bra in Black/Scarlet

I had heard that Curvy Kate ran very small in the cup, so I ordered up. The 34GG fit me well (That’s also my size in Freya). I’ve heard that the typical rule for Curvy Kate is two or three cup sizes up, and following that rule worked for me. This is my first Curvy Kate, so there will definitely be an in depth review in the future.

Charnos Cherub Full Cup Bra in Emerald Green

I was so excited to try this, because this corsetlette is one of my favorite lingerie pieces of all time. I ordered this bra in a 34FF(H) and it fit perfectly. Strangely enough, it reminded me of a higher quality version of this Figleaves brand bra, which I also owned and wore the hell out of until I dropped a back size.

Gossard Wildflower Plunge Bra in Cream

This was the bra that I felt the most on the fence about, because I normally stick with non-patterned bras. I was also nervous about the fit. Gossard only makes up to a 34FF, so if it didn’t fit I wouldn’t be able to wear anything from them. I was happy to find out that it was gorgeous in person, and that the 34FF was just fine.

Alegro Boudoir Starlet Pink Bra

I’m going to be doing a full review of this for the Butterfly Collection blog, but it was pretty much love at first sight when I opened it. I ordered it in a 34G, and was worried when I put it on that it might be too big! It fit beautifully, so maybe I was just adjusting to wearing an unpadded bra.

Shock Absorber Sports Bra

I ordered this in a 34GG, and without going out and playing tennis in it, it seems to fit fine. I’ll report back once I get out on the court tonight! I’m still dying to try the new Panache sports bra for fun though.

Hopefully all of this helps if you’re considering buying any of these brands! Until we develop some kind of standardized bra cup, we’ve got to stick together and help ourselves.

Do you have any experience with these brands? How do they fit you? Can you give the rest of us advice on sizing?

Another Opening, Another Show.

I’ve recently moved my lingerie collection into a full size closet, so I thought it was time to grow my web presence with it.

Welcome to The Full Figured Chest!

I’ve learned so much about beauty, body image, female empowerment, and fashion from the lingerie community in the past few months. I can’t wait to continue those conversations here.

A few quick notes before we get started in earnest on Monday:

1. I’m doing weekly posts at Bella Bella Boutique, and my first one is on the amazing new Marika Vera line. Her Venus in Furs line is not only airy and beautiful, but she also makes made to measure items so you don’t have to worry about sizing. This is good news for us full busted women, and possibly terrible news for our bank accounts.

2. I’ve started a Facebook page for The Full Figured Chest, and I’d be thrilled if you went and “liked” the new page! It’s here: http://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Full-Figured-Chest/228929543827358

3. I have changed my Twitter from @copygeniusgirl to @fullfigurechest. Don’t be scared you if get a tweet from me and it seems strange!

4. If there are any lingerie subjects that you’d love to see covered here, please email me or leave a comment. I want this blog to be a resource for everyone, and knowing what you want to hear about helps.