A Kiva Story Part III: Manufacturing in the USA June 06 2018
The last thing that is sewn onto a button down shirt are the buttons and they arrived a few weeks ago. When companies manufacture overseas, particularly in China, the manufacturer sources everything, including garment labels, hang tags, fabric, buttons, and trims. American factories are cut and sew factories, which means that fashion companies must provide EVERYTHING except for the thread (unless it's silk or some other fancy, nonstandard thread). Sourcing and counting buttons and labels are time consuming, but it's good practice. If I decide to manufacture overseas, I can be specific (or send samples) of the trims and fabric that I want. Instead of going back and forth (time is money), I can say, "I want 400 gsm hang tags, 5.5cm x 9cm, hole punched top middle. Here's the proof for the design" or "I want 18L high quality resin black 4 hole buttons."
If you ever start a fashion company, I recommend staying in the USA in order to learn how to source and get a hands on experience on the production process. You will have more oversight and will, most importantly, know how much things cost. The cheap prices overseas and/or the ease of dealing with a middle man who will do everything for you are tempting but, if you don't know what you are doing or what things cost, you will get shoddy and/or overpriced products.
A Kiva Story Part II: Fabric Choice May 30 2018
After looking at many fabric swatches from different suppliers, I have decided to go with 100% cotton sourced from Japan. Japanese cotton is well known for being of high quality and, as both a business owner and consumer, I can't fathom using low quality materials that I wouldn't wear myself. Also, the fabric is heavy but soft, which is good for maintaining structure but won't chafe the skin.
Many of you shared your insights on which type of fabric you'd like used for Exclusively Kristen's bust-friendly shirts. Customer feedback is extremely important because I want to make sure that I'm putting garments on the market that look and feel great! I chose 100% cotton because some people have skin allergies to synthetic materials plus cotton is better for the environment. As I mentioned in the last "Busty Girl Story", I will manufacture the shirts in black, navy, and white. I also chose this particular fabric because it comes in many different colors. It's customary for a fashion brand to offer a style in 2-4 basic colors and rotate a few "fashion" colors every season. So let me know what other One and Only Shirt colors you'd like to see at Exclusively Kristen.
A Kiva Story: An Entrepreneur's Journey May 19 2018
"Nude" Bra Alternatives For Dark-Skinned Women: Take Two October 13 2016 1 Comment
In one of my previous blog posts, I lamented that finding a "nude" bra if you are dark-skinned is difficult. However, it is almost impossible if you are both dark-skinned and full-busted. Sam from Broad Lingerie kindly shared her vast knowledge of bras and offered valuable options to mitigate this issue in a guest post. So now I offer some non-bra alternatives to the dark-skinned-nude bra dilemma.
One option is to find a regular tank top or short sleeved shirt that matches your skin tone, but there will most likely be seams and bulk. However, there are a few companies that make seamless tanks that can be discretely worn underneath garments. The first is the Commando Classic Tank, which comes in both "True Nude" and "Dark Nude." For the record, I take issue with the label "True Nude." True for who? Certainly not "true" for me and certainly not "true" for millions of women, but that's a whole 'nother issue. I passed on buying the Commando Classic Tank because I was a bit put off by the labeling and the dark nude wasn't dark enough for my skin tone. Instead, I purchased the Hanky Panky BARE Scoop Neck Tank in mahogany (I do wish that they'd label the mahogany "BARE" just like they do the taupe). It's thin and has minimal seams, so it paired well with even my thinnest shirts. Also, the mahogany blends into my skin color well and I was able to wear the White Classic Short Sleeved Shirt and the tank didn't show through. Since most of the bras that I own have patterns, lace or bright colors (I've outgrown my only "true" nude for me bra, the Freya Deco Vibe in Mocha. The bra tops out at GG, but now I'm an H cup), I was finding it difficult to wear thin, light colored shirts and dresses. Hanky Panky really saved the day!...for me at least. The taupe is too light for light brown complexions and the mahogany is too dark. So please post a comment if you know of alternatives for light brown complexions and everything in between.
Nude Bra Options For Full Bust Dark-Skinned Women October 05 2016
The following is a guest post from Sam, owner of Toronto's D+ bra and swimwear shop: Broad Lingerie.
I read Exclusively Kristen's blog post about the lack of "nude" bra options for full bust, dark-skinned women and I want to share some alternatives that may help to mitigate this problem.
As for a smooth cup style, it's going to be tricky, but I have some ideas. First, some thoughts on why it's so hard to find what you're looking for:
It's hard to make a smooth bra that supports in bigger cup sizes. A t-shirt bra is made by heat forming cups over a mould of what the brand has decided your breasts are shaped like. So it's hard to get a perfect shape match. Plus, seams allow for more shaping (just like in Exclusively Kristen's beautiful princess seamed shirts - you wouldn't be able to create a seamless version!)
- There's still a gap in the market when it comes to GG+ cups, especially in smaller bands. Lots of options have appeared in D-G, but once you get to GG+ it's limited. While there are some interesting options in the plus size/full bust market, most of them start in 34 or 36 bands. Boo!
- Add in the perfectly reasonable need for a bra that is close to your skin tone, and we've got a really tricky situation.
Here are my ideas:
Buy a bra in a sister size & get the back altered. This is less than ideal, but worth looking at, because many of the options I can think of stop at G or GG. You could try the Deco Vibe in Mocha in a 34GG (I know you tried the 32GG) and have the back taken in. Or you could look at the Gossard Glossies (smooth, unpadded) bra, which is available in a rich brown. This one stops at a 32G, but the cup is cut BIG (When I was wearing a 32G in everything else, I fit a 32FF in this). You could try this in a 32G with a back alteration. Empreinte makes a seamless bra called Kaela up to a G cup in a taupe colour. This bra runs big in the cup (so a 30G fits like a 30GG). You could try this bra in a 32G with a back alteration. Finally, Fantasie makes a bra called Premiere in an "ombre" (taupey-brown) colourway. It goes to a GG cup, so a 32GG with a back alteration may work.
Freya makes a seamless nursing bra in 30 bands up to an HH cup in the ombre colour! I know this is not perfect...but it's close.
- Try a seamed bra with soft seams and soft lace. I own exactly 2 seamless bras, but I prefer seamed bras because they give better lift, shape and support. Plus, as a 32G/GG there's a lot more selection in seamed bras. Ewa Michalak makes a lovely bra called Naomi that should be available in your size (I'd advise the 30HH, because her cups run small). I own this in 32GG and find the lace and seams pretty discreet under clothing. Comexim makes lots of smooth, non-lace bras with very subtle seams. I don't know if they have one in darker skin tones (their Polish website is a little confusing).
Note that Broad Lingerie will host a Bolero and Exclusively Kristen pop up shop in December. I can't wait!
Finding a full cup dark nude bra is like finding Big Foot. I've been searching for months and have only found a few bras that don't show through my white shirts. I've searched high and low, I've searched in multiple states, and I've tried on dozens of bras underneath my white big bust-friendly Classic Short Sleeved Shirt, but beige just doesn't cut it and there are very few full cup brown options. I was able to find a bra at The Heavy Hanger, located in Wichita, KS, that doesn't show through my white shirts. It's the Deco Vibe in mocha 30GG but since I've gained a bit of weight, it no longer fits properly. So now I'm looking for a replacement until my gym efforts pay off. At this weight, I'm definitely an H cup but the Deco Vibe only goes up to a GG. I even tried it on in a 32GG at Petticoat Fair in Austin, TX, but the cup still runneth over. I also tried on Chantelle's Rive Gauche Full Coverage T-Shirt Bra in hazelnut nude, which goes up to an H cup, but the fit wasn't for me. Thus far, the only promising bra is the Rosa Faia Twin Seamless Comfort Bra that I saw at barenecessities.com, which comes in a latte deep taupe color. However, I'm a bit hesitant to purchase bras online these days. After working with so many bra shops and trying on dozens of bras, I can attest that not all 32H's fit the same and I don't want to deal with online returns.
Stores usually carry copious amounts of beige bras, but very few browns. It's even more limited if you are full bust. Hurray Kimmay wrote a fantastic article highlighting where to find "neutral for you" lingerie. But unfortunately, many of these brands, including Naja and Nubian Skin, only go up to a DD/DDD.
Hopefully, more brands will start making "nude" lingerie that is more skin color inclusive and the brands that are at the forefront of this movement, like Nubian Skin and Naja, will develop a full cup line of bras. Until then, I'll have to either lose weight (and hope that my boobs shrink as well) or try the Rosa Faia Twin Seamless bra and pray that it fits. Otherwise, I will have to grin and bear it with my Deco Vibe bra while continuously adjusting it and trying not to bend over.
UDPDATE: I was just informed that the Rosa Faia Twin Seamless bra is a European H, which means a British FF/G...FML.
In my previous blog, I outline some of the scams targeting aspiring models. So what happens if you make it past the gauntlet of modeling school and photography scams and actually sign with an agency? Well...you are still not home free.
ABC, CNN Money, and Mother Jones all published exposés of Trump Model Management's unscrupulous business practices, particularly in regards to foreign models. These models were instructed to lie to immigration officials and documents filed by Trump Model Management promised salaries well above what was actually paid to their models. An even more egregious finding is the near slave labor extracted from models by way of deductions that remind me of the post-Civil War sharecropping scheme. For example, models were charged WAY above the market rate to reside in agency owned apartments and one model revealed to CNN Money that he was only payed $15 for a shoot in which the agency was payed $500.
Trump Model Management is one of several modeling agencies named in a lawsuit filed by former models, so this is clearly a ubiquitous problem. When I first met Briauna of We Speak, she explained that her agency is an ethical alternative to the abusive and exploitative practices that are common at most other agencies. I was impressed with We Speak's business practices, so I made up my mind that I would be a future customer.
So now what? Labor abuses in modeling is a big issue and how can we help to solve it? Paul Argenti wrote an article for NPR which stated that "millennials are significantly more responsive to [corporate social responsibility]", which is a form of corporate self-regulation integrated into a business model. As a result, some major businesses are taking note and making their business practices more ethical. For example, Perdue Farms is increasing its output of cruelty-free meat. Hopefully, such consumer pressures will migrate into the modeling arena. Exclusively Kristen will only work with modeling agencies that are committed to ethical labor practices and promoting a healthy lifestyle for their models. As more designers and fashion companies take their business to such agencies then, like Perdue Farms, more agencies will succumb to these consumer pressures and change their business practices to ensure ethical treatment of their models. Thus macro-level change usually starts as micro-level choices.
So You Want To Be A Model? August 24 2016
Love him or hate him, Donald Trump has brought many important issues to the forefront. One of which is the rarely talked about but ubiquitous problem of modeling scams. Trump Model Management has recently come under fire for its unscrupulous labor practices but, unfortunately, this is neither new nor rare among modeling agencies.
Many moons ago, I tried to get signed to a modeling agency. Some of them just wanted to sell me overpriced photo shoots and classes, one offered me a sketchy contract, and the other cautioned me to "watch [my] weight." The larger and well-known agencies told me that if I grew a few more inches by age 18, I should contact them again. At 5'6" and 120 lbs, I was considered too short and too fat to be a professional model (luckily things are changing). This is why I was a target for some common modeling scams. I didn't fit the bill for a model who would get a lot of bookings and thus make money for the agency, so the agencies tried to sell me a dream through expensive photo shoots and classes. Luckily, my parents didn't fall for it and even though I was disappointed, it was a good learning experience on how to discern organized corporate scams that exploit people's dreams.
Chris Hansen did a fantastic exposé on Barbizon Modeling School, which, during my quest to become a model, told my mom in reference to me: "We want her", but then asked my parents to buy some photography sessions. I also want to mention that the Barbizon reps made it clear that we had to use their photographers in order to get signed, which is a red flag. My mom muttered under her breath that: "If they really wanted you, they'd provide photos free-of-charge." She politely declined and we left.
The bottom line is that if an agency believes that they will make money off of you, then they will provide photos and training for free. Agencies get a return on their investment in you through taking a percentage of the money that you earn through bookings. However, if the agency reps don't think that they will make money off of you through bookings, then they will get money from you in a different way.
If you desire to get agency representation for your modeling career, all that you need to do is email close up and full body photos to agencies with your height, weight, age, hair color, bra size (if applicable), and eye color (back in my day, I was sending self-addressed stamped envelopes with a headshot, stats, and a full body shot...I feel old). If you do get an offer, be sure to have an attorney or someone who knows the business look over the contract before you sign and you should NEVER pay the agency any money up front.
Unfortunately, people with dreams are seen as gullible and there are many industries that exploit this. It doesn't make sense to pay money to work for somebody, so be leery of businesses that ask you to do so.
Small Business As A Force For Ethical Change August 17 2016
I recently attended the 39th Asian American International Film Festival's showing of Under Construction, which is a Bangladeshi film directed by Rubaiyat Hossain. The film follows Roya, who seems to have it all: a rich husband, a nice apartment with a live-in maid, and an accomplished acting career. She is highly educated and, on the surface, appears content. But she is deeply troubled by the social issues that plague her life and her country, particularly issues pertaining to gender and class. Moviegoers are able to feel the tension between Roya and her passive aggressive husband as she navigates being a "good dutiful wife" and an accomplished professional. Also, the film spends a significant amount of time highlighting the garment industry in Bangladesh and even shows actual scenes from the tragic Rana Plaza collapse.
Under Construction is a universal story. Women sometimes feel pressure to have children and are shamed for choosing a career over starting a family. Also, options tend to be limited if you are poor. If equal opportunities and gender equality are easy tasks then they would've already been accomplished. That is the reality of the world in which we live.
The movie also highlights the micro-level actions that individuals can take in order to move society forward in terms of equality and opportunities. Roya uses her social capital to question what it means to be an "ideal" woman in Bangladesh via how the female lead in a play is written. She makes sure that her teen live-in maid does her homework and when the maid becomes pregnant, Roya tries to convince her to stay and complete school instead of dropping out in order to work for a garment manufacturer and moving to a slum with the baby's father.
Although establishing a system that promotes and maintains equality is a daunting task that no one person can accomplish on his/her own, there are micro-level actions that we, as individuals, can do to promote this ideal. As a business owner, I choose to work with We Speak because they promote healthy models and ethical labor practices. I choose to manufacture my garments domestically because I want to help to bring good paying jobs back to the USA and to not support the groups that made tragedies like Rana Plaza happen. My hiring decisions have only to do with a potential employee's merit and nothing to do with his/her sexual orientation, race, religion, or gender/gender identity.
Exclusively Kristen's choices as to who we work with are drops in the bucket when addressing the overwhelmingly complex issues of domestic employment, ethical labor practices, and equal opportunities. However, our baby steps will mean a world of difference to the person who now has job options because American manufacturing is expanding, or the person who has faced rampant job discrimination finally getting the opportunities that he/she has worked hard for, or the model who doesn't feel obligated to work for unscrupulous agencies because more fashion companies are only working with agencies that promote body positivity and uphold high labor standards. Macro-level change usually starts as micro-level choices.
This was my second time attending CurvExpo in NYC and I must say that I'm excited for the Winter/Spring collections.
My first meeting was with full bust lingerie and swimwear brand, Curvy Kate and her naughty sister, Scantilly.
High waisted with some sexy sheer in the back, love it!
Scantilly never disappoints. I can see this bra looking good underneath a tank top or a strapless shirt/dress. It's definitely not just for fun times in the bedroom. Curvy Kate/Scantilly is very clever with their trims.
I LOVE Curvy Kate's use of color!
Curvy Kate swimwear
Next stop, Panache...
I love Panache's use of colors and patterns. Panache is my tried and true brand for the perfect fit but, in my opinion, Curvy Kate is giving them a run for their money.
Next stop, Mimi Holliday
Sheer is in at Mimi Holliday, but unfortunately these styles only go up to a DD/DDD, but they do have some styles up to a GG.
The full bust standout for me is Curvy Kate and I can't wait to try out and review their lingerie. Stay tuned!
Girl Power! Part II July 22 2016
On the next installment of Girl Power!, I highlight more trailblazing women who are part of the body positive and body inclusive movements in the fashion industry.
Brazen Bras was the host of my first pop up shop, so it has a special place in my heart. I probably sent the most green pitch but Christine, the owner, responded warmly and agreed to host me. Like many of the lingerie boutique owners that I've worked with, Christine started Brazen Bras because of the lack of full bust options at most lingerie shops. I've had two pop up shops at Brazen Bras and both times Christine's father and daughter, Angela, were there. The mother-daughter team runs the boutique but Christine's father is very supportive of his daughter's and granddaughter's entrepreneurial pursuits, which I think is awesome. I love family businesses and they are definitely Jersey strong!
Several months ago, I attended a panel discussion and meet and greet at Brooklyn Fashion + Design Accelerator. I started chatting with a tall and slender young woman named Briauna and I remember assuming that she must be a model turned fashion designer. Well, I was only 50% right. Our chat revealed that she is indeed a model, but she is also the founder of a body positive modeling agency called We Speak. Briauna mentioned that sexual abuse, exploitative labor practices, and body shaming are rife in the modeling industry, so We Speak is an ethical alternative to these abuses. We Speak models are health conscious and are not subjected to vague and arbitrary wage deductions. It was quite the coincidence that I met Briauna because, at the time, I was in desperate need of a professional model. I booked one of her models, Victoria, a few days later.
I discovered Essential Bodywear (EBW) from an Hourglassy post and contacted the two closest representatives to me: Tina (Staten Island) and Cheryl (Woodbridge, NJ). Essential Bodywear sells bras up to an H cup with a business model that is similar to Mary Kay. Their independent contractors have the freedom to make their own hours and work as little or as much as they want. Both Tina and Cheryl are proud moms who want to be involved in their kids' lives but also want to earn money to help support their families and local charities. These days doing both is becoming more and more difficult. Another good thing about Essential Bodywear is that representatives are located all over the country. So if you live in a full cup lingerie boutique desert, there is probably an EBW representative near you.
Christine and Angela from Brazen Bras
Now that warm weather is upon us, I broke out with my strapless/spaghetti strap dresses and tops, which gave me the opportunity to wear the Deco Shape Ivory Moulded Strapless Longline Bra in a 30GG.
(1) During the course of the day, the band did not sink down, but stayed in place. (2) The band sits low enough for me to wear shirts that are cut lower than normal in the back. (3) There are multiple places to attach the straps for versatile positioning. This allows you to wear a variety of garments without fear of the straps playing peek-a-boo.
I don't like the way the cups molded my breasts. I prefer lift and pushed together but instead they were flattened and pushed apart, which made me look wider from the front. However, they made my breasts look smaller when viewed from the side.
Overall, my issues are strictly aesthetic. The support and comfort is fine, but I don't like it as a foundation for my garments. I would probably only wear this bra underneath a shirt or dress that is already molded at the bust and can give me the look that I want in terms of my bust shape.
Multiple hooks for the strap.
I prefer lift and pushed together. This bra makes me look wider from the front.
The bra does minimize the bust when viewed from the side.
Girl Power! July 08 2016
One of the great things about Exclusively Kristen's East Coast and Midwest pop up shop tour is that I get to meet some amazing female entrepreneurs. Women-owned firms account for only 31% of all privately held firms but in the lingerie retail space, women dominate.
ALL of the lingerie boutiques that I've worked with have been owned by women. Most of them cited frustration with bra shopping due to being plus size or top heavy or both as the reason why they went into the lingerie boutique business. So it's been a great experience working with fellow go-getters who see a void in the market and want to actively do something about it.
Cheryl started G Boutique in Chicago because of her frustration with adult stores being male-oriented. She wanted to create a space where women can plan romantic escapades and not have to deal with a grimy, uncomfortable atmosphere. Adult toys, lingerie (not stripper apparel but actual lingerie up to a G cup), and adult-themed classes are all under one roof. Adult DVD's are pre-screened by women to make sure that the content is women-friendly.
Laura from the Rack Shack in Brooklyn noticed that most lingerie boutiques carry very expensive full bust brands, no full bust brands, or full bust brands with boring and frumpy styles in basic colors. So she decided to open a boutique with a wide range of colors and sizes, and youth-inspired styles. Bushwick is known for its young and hip residents, so a boutique that has performances by burlesque opera singers and sells sea green polka dot bras and sneakers that light up is the perfect fit for the neighborhood.
Naomi (see top photo) left a high level IT job to open Marie Angelique in St. Louis, which is named after her grandmother. During my time there, I met two of Naomi's sons (one of whom just graduated from an Ivy League university) and her mother. Naomi happily expressed that owning the boutique gave her more time to spend with her family compared to her IT job.
Lee opened Busted Bra Shop in Detroit in order to fill a local void. The few lingerie boutiques in the Detroit area were all located in the suburbs. This void caused both long drives for people living in the city and wait times of 45 minutes or more for the bra fitting. So Lee decided to open her shop near downtown and became part of the new Detroit renaissance. I'd also like to mention that the building where Busted Bra Shop is located is absolutely gorgeous and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Also, Frida Kahlo lived there while working on a mural for the Detroit Institute of Arts.
Lee from Busted Bra Shop
Laura from The Rack Shack (yes, she is an Exclusively Kristen model!)
Cheryl from G Boutique
Cartoons Are For Grown Folks July 01 2016
Someone once asked me what I like to watch on TV. I responded that I rarely watch American TV and was currently on a Kdrama and anime kick. I went on to name specific animes that I was watching and he cut me off and said, "So, you watch cartoons?" I unapologetically responded, "Yeah."
I've never really been fixated on labels. If something is good it's good, whether it's a shirt from a no name fashion brand or a cartoon. I've never been one to restrict myself because of social dictates. "I'm a man so I'm not going to wear pink because it's a girls' color." "I'm not going to play a sport because girls shouldn't play sports." "Why would I take a cooking class? I'm a man." "Why do you (a girl) want to go to a baseball game? You should be going to a cooking class." I think that self-barriers are silly, which is why there is no shame in my anime watching game.
Most of the anime that I have watched had adult themes such as violence, working in a brothel, and gratuitous panties and cleavage shots. If I had kids, I wouldn't let them watch most animes. So actuallly these cartoons are for adults and many are very well-written with sharp animation and interesting story lines.
My favorite animes are Samurai Champloo and Hunter x Hunter. I love Samurai Champloo because it incorporates a lot of historical facts about Japan into the story line and the soundtrack by Nujabes is AMAZING (see Youtube links below for some of my favorite songs from the soundtrack). The female character, Fuu, is a bit flat, but the main male characters, Mugen and Jin, are full of personality and have very interesting backstories. Hunter x Hunter is a brilliantly written fantastical anime with 7 arcs and 148 episodes, and I'm sad that there aren't more. The Chimera Ant arc has 60 episodes, which really could've been condensed into less. It sort of drags, but the series overall is EXCELLENT.
Some of my favorites from the past year include One Punch Man, Food Wars, Gangsta, and My Hero Academia. Most of these animes can be watched on Crunchy Roll, Hulu, or Daisuki. Don't be ashamed to watch these animes, they are definitely not just for kids.
Hot Mess: Shopping As A Busty Woman June 23 2016
Last month, I held a pop up shop in Kansas at The Heavy Hanger, which is a big bust lingerie boutique. I arrived in Wichita the day before the event, so I had some time to shop. I made a pit stop at Banana Republic and saw this amazing wrap dress on the sale rack. Usually, wrap dresses and big boobs go together but, just to be safe, I wanted to try it on first. So I go into the dressing room and put on the dress and, as usual, MESS from the waist up. As you can see, my bra is playing peek-a-boo in two places: at the cleavage and arm holes. Since the difference between the bust and underbust of the dress is small, there's a lot of fabric that's gathered at the waist by the belt because the difference between my bust and underbust is large. Also, the mess on top caused the bottom to bunch and not line up correctly. I've blogged here, here, and here about busty girl problems when it comes to apparel, so I shouldn't have been surprise that this Banana Republic dress didn't fit. But, seriously, a wrap dress!? Wrap dresses are usually okay. However, this one is sleeveless and larger busts tend to pull the arm holes forward, which exposes bra bands. This issue is further exacerbated because the fabric has no stretch. Another issue is the steep angles at the front of the bodice, which is conservative on a B cup but will expose cleavage and/or the bra of a bustier woman.
I'm not picking on Banana Republic, because nearly all apparel brands do not take into account women with large breasts. This is why I created Exclusively Kristen: so that busty women don't have to look like A MESS from the waist up.
The Wonderful World of Korean Soap Operas June 16 2016
I got hip to Korean soap operas or Kdramas last year through my boyfriend's mom. The first one that I ever saw was Boys Over Flowers starring the very handsome and popular Lee Min Ho. I've been hooked ever since. What I like most about Kdramas is its wholesomeness. It's easy to make a TV show "popular" with low brow humor rife with foul language, fighting, and gratuitous sex. These ratchet elements can easily overshadow bad writing and acting, and push the show to instant popularity. My understanding is that Korea is more on the conservative side and rules regarding what's showed on TV reflect that. If there's swearing in a Kdrama, it's one bad word every other episode. I've only seen two dramas that suggested sex and social situations are not usually based on petty conflict like in American reality TV shows. Most Kdramas that I've seen are buoyed by interesting story lines and characters. There's just no need for ratchetness to keep the audience interested.
So where can I watch these Kdramas with English subtitles? Well, there's Viki, Drama Fever, and Hulu. They are free with commercials but you can purchase a subscription for commercial-free viewing. If I've piqued your interest about Kdramas and you want to investigate further, I recommend Boys Over Flowers and City Hunter to start, both star Lee Min Ho. The former is a modern day Cinderella story where a spunky working class girl gets the opportunity to attend an elite private high school. She has to navigate being the poor scholarship student in a sea of arrogant privilege, bullying, and an established and rigid social hierarchy. Of course, there's the backdrop of teenage love triangles that adds another element of intrigue. City Hunter is an action packed drama about an orphan raised in the illicit drug producing region of the Golden Triangle by his biological father's army mate. As a young man, he returns to Korea in order to exact revenge on the people responsible for his biological father's death. In my opinion, this was Lee Min Ho's peak level of hotness. Both Boys Over Flowers and City Hunter are highly entertaining and binge worthy.
GG Cup Adventures June 09 2016 2 Comments
I recently had a pop up shop at The Heavy Hanger, which is a fantastic full bust lingerie boutique located in Wichita, Kansas. Before my arrival, I relayed to the owner, TeOnya, that I was in desperate need of a nude bra and that I usually wear a 32H. Well...before the start of the pop up shop, she measured me and determined that I'm a 30 band. Then she hands me a number of 30GG bras. In my previous blog post, H Cup Adventures, I state that I was sized at The Rack Shack and Iris Lingerie (both in Brooklyn, NY) as a 32H; however, that was 18 lbs ago. Monthly hormonal changes and weight fluctuations can cause one's breast size to fluctuate as well. This is one of the many reasons why frequent bra fittings are a must.
I will admit that the 30 band does feel a little tight, but it's something that I can probably get used to. I noticed that the 30 band sits lower on my back than the 32. Remember, a band that rides up the back is a sign that it's too big.
I went a little crazy and bought five 30GG bras from The Heavy Hanger (they have an EXCELLENT inventory of full bust bras), and I have one on the way from Bare Necessities. I've only had the chance to really wear two of them: Freya's Deco Vibe Molded Plunge Bra with a #jhook in mocha (my nude) and the Idol Molded Balcony Bra in black.
As I mentioned before, me and plunge bras don't usually go together. Some of them lack lift and my boobs seem precariously about to spilleth over even if the fit is perfect. However, the Deco Vibe has excellent lift and hold as well as some beautiful details like the mesh band and j hook. I would probably go up a cup size to a 30H because I get qaudra boob whenever I bend over or move around a lot and find myself frequently adjusting. I would wear this to the office or a place where I'm not moving much, but on a fairly active day I wouldn't wear it.
The Idol Molded Balcony Bra is a classic staple. It's comfortable, has great lift, and covers enough boob so that I can move around a lot and my boobs stay in place. Freya has great attention to details. I like the subtle vertical lines in the fabric and white stitching. I almost purchased this bra in red but I REALLY needed a black bra.
A few months ago, I got an alert on Instagram that said, "theheavyhanger started following you." The Heavy Hanger is an interesting name, so I clicked on it and discovered that it is Exclusively Kristen's lingerie counterpart. The Heavy Hanger by Melons: The Complete Bra Shop is a lingerie boutique located in Wichita, Kansas that only sells D+ cup bras and swimwear and the owner, TeOnya, is an expert full bust bra fitter. I thought that Exclusively Kristen and The Heavy Hanger would be an excellent pairing, so I contacted the boutique and TeOnya agreed to host an Exclusively Kristen pop up shop.
When I told people (particularly in NYC) that I was going to hold a pop up shop in Wichita, they looked at me like: "Why?" and then followed up with questions that revealed their skepticism such as: "What is their population size?" "But you don't do plus sizes." "Are they willing and able to pay $100 for a shirt?" "Why aren't you focusing on The City (Manhattan)?" As someone from the Midwest, I understand that access to up and coming fashion brands can be limited so Midwesterners are usually very open to more options. A lot of companies only focus on the coastal areas like NYC, DC, and California, but the USA is vast and we cannot disregard the people who reside in the middle. Coastal cities have much larger populations, particularly high income populations, but that doesn't mean that there aren't opportunities elsewhere. One must go where there are gaps in the market and where capitalizing on those gaps, especially if one is a small business, isn't going to cost an arm and a leg and require the business to have Anna Wintour on speed dial. On a side note, the night before the pop up shop, I went to Dillard's at Wichita's Towne East Square Mall and noticed that they had some H cup bras! So clearly, there is a big bust market in this small Midwestern city.
What I first noticed when I walked into The Heavy Hanger was that it's a family business. TeOnya is married with three kids and they were ALL helping her prepare for the pop up shop. Her husband and sons were moving boxes and cleaning the windows while her very smart daughter (she skipped a grade in school) helped tidy up the shop. She stayed the entire day to greet guests and assist her mother. TeOnya even had a close friend/mentor volunteer to help her for the day. This is definitely not a soulless corporate environment!
For all of those skeptics who didn't think that an Exclusively Kristen pop up shop in Wichita would be worth it, well...you were wrong. I'm used to having friends and family come to my events in order to give their support, but complete strangers came to the Exclusively Kristen pop up shop at The Heavy Hanger just to support me. It was such a friendly environment where I chatted with many of TeOnya's customers and they all offered kind words and encouragement. I even sold a shirt to a man who was video chatting with his daughter in Idaho. He had visited the shop with his fiance in order to purchase bras for her and his daughter. His daughter even did a virtual fitting with TeOnya. We started chatting and he said that he'd ask his daughter if she was interested in Exclusively Kristen shirts. Not only did he send her photos of my shirts, but he also sent her photos of the different styles and colors of bras for her to choose. Gotta love technology!
From 2pm to 6pm TeOnya was BUSY. There was a line of women waiting for bra fittings but despite being on her feet the entire time, she exuded positive and upbeat energy. She is clearly passionate about what she does. Also, The Heavy Hanger has an impressive inventory of D-K cup bras; the biggest I've seen thus far at a brick and mortar store. I can see why TeOnya has customers who drive a few hours just to visit her shop. I had plans to get a fitting prior to the event and buy ONE "nude" bra (which is mocha for me), but I ended up leaving with four Freya bras for myself and two Goddess bras for my mom who's an M cup. I could've easily purchased a dozen bras and a few swimsuits if my bank account allowed for it. I even called TeOnya after I returned to NYC and ordered another bra. Like The Rack Shack in Brooklyn, many of the bras carried at The Heavy Hanger are colorful and youthful-looking. I've been to boutiques that carry my size, but usually only a few fit me and maybe one or two were stylish.
I'm so excited to have met a kindred spirit and fellow member of the Big Bust Revolution. I'm glad that a boutique exists that caters to the needs of full bust women and hope that this trend continues. I will definitely return to Wichita in the near future :-)
Note: Exclusively Kristen shirts are in stock at The Heavy Hanger
HUGE selection of D-K cup bras
Big bust swimwear
Tankinis are in this season
Lots and lots of full bust sports bras
I was only supposed to buy ONE bra
Cleveland Rocks! Part II May 23 2016
Recently, I watched ESPN's 30 For 30 documentary about Cleveland sports called: Believeland. I wasn't sure if I was watching a sports documentary or a documentary about the death of a family's beloved house pet. It was sad with lot's and lot's of shots of sad looking Cleveland fans. Even though I have my critiques of the documentary (the part about Art Modell seemed a bit one sided), overall, it's an accurate depiction of what it's like to be a Cleveland sports fan. There's a saying that Cleveland teams are "always almost"; they make it to the finals and then something crazy happens and they lose. Then fans show faith by proclaiming, "Next year!" I'm too young to remember the 1980's Browns, but I do remember the disappointments of the 1990's Indian's championship loses, the most recent Cav's Labron departure (and return), and last year's basketball championship loss. You almost have to be a masochist to be a Cleveland sports fan, but we are some loyal die-hards and will never give up on our teams or our city.
That loyalty and hope have translated into some business, tech, healthcare, and infrastructural investments that are putting Cleveland in the upswing after a massive depopulation due to the eradication of manufacturing jobs and the foreclosure crisis. The airport is now undergoing a facelift and new swanky downtown hotels are under construction in order to prepare, at least in part, for the influx of out-of-towners to the Republican National Convention in July. It seems like people are taking notice of what Cleveland has to offer and I'm seeing a lot more tourists, particularly downtown. There's some good restaurants, sports stadiums, a casino, and new quirky shops like Rocket Fizz located downtown, but I recommend that visitors explore what Cleveland has to offer outside of downtown.
As I kid, my family and I frequently went to the quaint little town of Chagrin Falls, which is 30 min from Cleveland. It's a suburb where you see people walking their golden retrievers in front of beautifully maintained historic homes. We usually had ice cream from the now closed Baskin-Robbins and fed the ducks while sitting by the waterfalls. There are some nice fashion boutiques, restaurants, a historic popcorn shop, and the annual Blossom Time Festival where you can watch the set up and launch of hot air balloons. Chagrin Falls reminds me a lot of Hudson, OH which is technically a suburb of Akron, but close enough.
There's this friendly rivalry between the East and West sides of Cleveland, so I have to admit as someone who grew up on the Eastside, I didn't know much about the Westside. But recently I've been drawn to the Westside because of the Westside Market and some amazing vintage shops. Sweet Lorain is packed with items like old Playboy magazines, antique telephones, and clothes going as far back as the 1920's. They mostly have clothes from the 70's, so I found a wonderful yellow winter coat and hot pink Lacoste dress from that era. My good friend frequents vintage shops all over the country and she commented that Sweet Lorain is one of the best. The owner even mentioned that burlesque dancers from NYC frequent his shop. Not too far from Sweet Lorain is Sweet Moses, which is a vintage-inspired candy, soda fountain, and ice cream shop straight out of the 1950's.
Last but not least, I must mention some of my favorite restaurants. First, I love Ethiopian food. I've had it at restaurants throughout the country and Empress Taytu Ethiopian Restaurant near The Cleveland Clinic is by far the best. The food is flavorful and the meat is tender. Plus, the decor makes you feel like you've stepped into a restaurant that is actually in Ethiopian and they usually have videos playing Ethiopian music with dancers showcasing the Eskista (shoulder) dance. They are only open for dinner and closed Sundays and Mondays, but they are not too far from downtown. My other favorite restaurant is a new find. Nazca is a Peruvian restaurant, which transform into a dance club at night. I'm a huge fan of Peruvian food and Nazca does it well.
Cleveland is definitely worth visiting. I will admit that good restaurants, landmarks, etc. are more spread out than in bigger cities, but gas is cheap now...so enjoy and explore :-).
H Cup Online Adventures May 13 2016
Since my boobs are in size flux, I thought it better to go to a lingerie boutique for a proper fitting and the opportunity to try on the actual bras before buying. The only downside is that boutiques tend to be small and thus carry a comparatively smaller inventory than the online giants. Lingerie boutiques usually carry a wide range of cup and band sizes, but they may not have your size in the bra that you want. Also, many people do not live in large metropolitan areas and their only options are mall stores with limited bra sizes, so the next best option is buying online.
Amazon, Bare Necessities, and Her Room are great places to buy bras online but with any online retailer, you risk dealing with the time and cost of returns due to inconsistent sizing and improper fit. However, if you have Amazon Prime, returns for Prime purchases are free. Panache tends to have consistent sizing and I had purchased the Della Bra at The Rack Shack in a 32H, so I decided to stick with Panache for my online purchases in order to mitigate the risk of having to return it. I had been eyeing the Maddie Balconette in both burgundy and spot/teal, so I ordered them from Amazon. I'm glad that I chose to purchase them on Amazon because the Maddie Bra in burgundy dug into my armpits and the cups were too small, so returning it was free, fast, and easy. Strangely, the Maddie Spot/Teal Molded Bra (see photo above) fit well, so I kept it. The matching spot/teal panties were out of stock on the three major American online lingerie marketplaces, so I had to order them on Ebay from a seller in England. Anyway, fabric stretching and discrepancies in the manufacturing process can cause slight differences in the size and fit of garments, so even if you are ordering the same style of bra in the same size there's no guarantee that they will fit exactly the same. This is why online ordering can be risky, but its saving grace is its vast inventory and ease of purchase.
Big brother is definitely watching...while I was searching online for the perfect H cup bra, I visited Bare Necessities and a few days later, I got a 30% off coupon in the mail from them. I used it to purchase the Marcie Balconette Bra in nude with matching panties. The bra looks nice but the fabric is a little loose at the top of the cup. However, when I push my shoulders back, that loose fabric is properly filled. The bra is not bad otherwise and it looks good underneath my shirts; perfectly rounded bust and nice lift.
Now that I live in NYC, I try to avoid buying things online because I have access to a lot of brick and mortar stores that carry almost every brand imaginable. But not everyone has that luxury. There are online bra fitting guides where you can size yourself and definitely make sure that you read a company's return policy before making your purchase.
H Cup Adventures May 04 2016
As I outlined in my previous blog, my boobs grew so I'm no longer a G cup (bye, bye G cups). Now I'm in a desperate search for cute and affordable H cup bras to give a solid foundation to my clothes and proper support to my back. I am a frequent customer of the online lingerie retailer, Bare Necessities, but this time I decided that I wanted to try it before I buy it. Cup sizing is not uniform between brands and even within a brand (more on that later), and not all styles are for my bust type. Therefore, since by boobs are in flux, I decided that an in person fitting was best.
The first stop on my H Cup Adventures was Essential Bodywear. I had had a pop up shop with Staten Island rep and professional bra fitter, Tina, so I tried on one of her bras. The lift and comfort were good, but their cup sizes run small. Essential Bodywear bras only go up to an H cup, which, in their brand, is too small for me. Next up is The Rack Shack in Brooklyn, NY. The shop has a solid inventory of reasonably priced full cup bras that cater to a younger aesthetic. I tried on a number of Cleo by Panache and Tutti Rouge bras, and I'm so glad that I tried them before I bought them. Tutti Rouge is all over the place with their sizing. I'm a 32 HH in their Jessica Bra, a 32GG in their Nichole bra, and a 32H in their Beatrice Bra. My favorite of the three is the Nichole Bra. As you can see, those are big cup size jumps. I love Tutti Rouge's styles, but their sizing is too inconsistent for me to risk buying from them online since they ship from the UK. I'll just stick to buying in store until they fix this issue. Anyway, The Rack Shack didn't have any Tutti Rouge bras that fit me, so I went with my tried and true brand: Panache. I tried on Cleo by Panache's Della Balconette Bra and it was perfect! This is a popular bra for big bust bloggers and now I see why. Simply put, I like the way it makes my boobs look and it's comfortable. I prefer a lot of lift in my bras, but sometimes a lot of lift translates to uncomfortable straps and the bra digging into my armpits and rib cage, but this is not the case with the Della Balconette Bra. It provides wearers with lift and perfectly rounded breasts. I highly recommend.
Bye, Bye G Cups :-( April 27 2016
I always knew that one day my boobs would take over the world. It seemed like I went from a training bra to a D cup* within a period of a few months. In college, I was an DDD cup*, then a G cup, and now I'm an H cup. The reason for this growth had to do with a combination of hormones and weight gain. Basically, I gained weight, my boobs grew, then I lost weight and my boobs didn't shrink. I knew that I had outgrown my G cup bras, but I put replacing them on the back burner. What helped me snap out of it was an encounter with a local bra fitter. A few months ago, I paid a visit to Iris of Iris Lingerie in order to show her a sample of The Flirty Bow Collar Shirt and she took one look at me and said, "You know not to come in here with a bad bra." She then hands me some bras to wear with the shirt sample because it wouldn't look good without the proper foundation. She knew right away that (1) I was wearing a bra that had lost its mojo, (2) I was no longer a G cup, and most importantly, (3) the most fantastic garments will not look good if the foundation is out of whack. How can I expect to properly showcase my shirts to big bust women if those shirts are not being supported and shown at its fullest aesthetic potential with the right bra? I was so focused on growing Exclusively Kristen and fulfilling my duties as a graduate student that I neglected my foundation. That's when I made a point to update my bra wardrobe and retire my G cup bras. I went through my bras and realized that even if I was still a G cup, they ALL needed replacing. I had some 34 bands (I'm a 32 band) and I even had an old DDD sports bra. The rest were worn and had lost their tautness. I needed a complete overhaul.
Because I've been reading full cup lingerie blogs and hanging out with bra fitters, I notice more easily women who are not wearing their proper size, are wearing bras that have lost its tautness, or are wearing bras that are not the right fit for their breasts. As a result, the aesthetics of their outfits suffer: shirts and dresses don't hang properly, I don't notice their fantastic outfit because my eye immediately goes to their quadra-boob, the women appear heavier than they are, and they suffer from poor posture. Everyone has that one friend who looks good in every outfit that she wears and I can almost guarantee that it's mostly due to her posture and her undergarments.
So the moral of this story is...just because it's not seen doesn't mean that it doesn't affect your outer appearance. Get regular bra fittings from someone who carries a wide range of bands and cup sizes, because age, medication, pregnancy, and weight fluctuations can all change the size and shape of your breasts.
More to come. This is only the beginning of my H cup bra finding adventures :-)
"It starts with the right foundation." - Iris, Iris Lingerie
*I was probably a DD cup and then an F cup, but was mis-sized due to shoddy bra fittings, which I outline in a previous blog post.
The Year of the Boobs April 19 2016
Body and skin tone inclusivity are things now. Consumers are demanding that companies cater to more than just the "standard" (however that is defined) and some companies have finally acquiesced. Plus size models are gracing the pages of sports illustrated, Christian Louboutin and Nubian Skin make nude products for different skin tones, and, much to my personal delight, there's been some high profile media coverage of #BustyGirlProblems.
From Ariel Winter to Lindsey Pelas busty girls and our problems are coming to the forefront. Hopefully, this type of media exposure will continue to be a trend, because I am tired of busty women only being fetishized, dumbed down, and on display for perverted consumption. Now, there are guides on how to dress your big boobs (with a shout out to yours truly) and full cup bra fitting issues. Keep up the good work!
Cleveland Rocks! April 01 2016
When people ask me where I'm from and they actually mean what city and state as opposed to my nationality, my response is sometimes met with "Oh, I'm sorry." Despite the rudeness of that condescending sympathy, I usually smile and say, "Well, I'm not. I'm glad that I was raised in an environment consisting of fresh air, peace and quiet, friendly people, a favorable cost of living, and grass." I must admit that most of my adult life was spent outside of Cleveland. I had to move for employment and educational reasons, as did most of my friends from high school. However, I'm glad to hear that Cleveland is on the up and up, and that the brain drain seems to be slowing down. For example, the starving artists who have been priced out of Brooklyn, NY are now moving to Cleveland, which has a burgeoning art scene. Also, there has been an influx of investments in tech startups and movies being filmed in Cleveland, including the Fast and the Furious 8. When I visit my parents, I barely recognize the once dead after 5pm and unsafe downtown, which now has a casino, a fancy grocery store housed in a historic building, a number of new shops and restaurants, and a growing number of tourists. My dad told me a story about a shop owner who had a restaurant downtown in the 80's and early 90's, which was robbed so frequently that he sold it. Then less than a year later, the city broke ground on the Cleveland Indians stadium across the street from his old restaurant...
A lot has changed in Cleveland, but there are still some things that have stayed the same. Below I will outline some of my favorite things to do in my hometown.
In high school, I frequented Coventry Road, which has cool alternative stores such as Passport to Peru, Big Fun, Marc's, and a few bong and smoking pipe shops...for all of your "tobacco" smoking needs, and the Inn On Coventry is a great place to get brunch. Marc's is the best thing known to man. It's a local chain grocery store that sells name brand items, but significantly discounted. The only downside to shopping at Marc's is that they only accept checks, cash or Discover cards. I rarely carry cash, never carry my checkbook, and only have a Visa card. Coventry is located in Cleveland Hts., which is where I attended high school, and the area around my alma mater has some of the most beautiful and majestic homes I've ever seen. I recommend driving or taking a jog around the Shaker Lakes Park area, the scenery is gorgeous and the homes are magnificent.
Any Cleveland travel guide is incomplete without mentioning Slyman's Deli and The Westside Market. Slyman's has THE BEST CORNED BEEF I'VE EVER HAD! I've been to Katz in NYC and many other deli's across the nation, and I've only been impressed by one deli located in Miami. I now refuse to order corned beef anywhere else because I know that I will be disappointed. It can be 0 degrees outside and there will still be a line out of the door because Slyman's is just that good. So here's a little insider knowledge: you can order a box of corned beef shavings to go, which is cheaper than ordering a sandwich. But note that they have limited quantities, so get there early. The Westside Market, which opened in 1840, is a Cleveland staple and landmark. You can get fresh produce, cheeses, meats, desserts (including a great selection of cannolis in a variety of flavors), fudge, coffee, pastas, etc. The area around the Westside Market used to be really sketchy (still is a little bit) but I've noticed some new upmarket restaurants and businesses.
Stay tuned! Next, I will cover some quaint towns outside of Cleveland, vintage shopping and eateries, and fantastic ethnic restaurants. So now I will leave you with this classic Cleveland spoof...I'll admit some parts are true, but things are changing for the better.
Slyman's corned beef always makes me smile!
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