Big Bust Bloggers Part II March 24 2016
In a previous blog, I listed 5 bloggers "who are trying to save us from fashion and bra fitting hell...one busty lady at a time." Below I will highlight 5 more bloggers who offer valuable insights on navigating the lingerie and apparel landscapes (which can be more like an obstacle course) when you are a D+ cup woman.
Sweets is a certified bra fitter and "lover of all things silky and frilly." I highly recommend following her on Instagram, which features sexy but tasteful boudoir photoshoots of the lingerie and apparel that she reviews. As a 32GG, Sweets knows firsthand how difficult it is to find the right fit and support for her large bust. She blogs about both lingerie and apparel, and I find her reviews honest and detailed enough for me to make the right decision as to what to buy.
Newcomer to the big bust blog scene, H Cup Chronicles follows 30H Niamh who, like Sweets, is also a bra fitter, which adds a layer of legitimacy when reviewing bras. Even though she only has a few posts, they span a wide range of boobalicious topics from self breast exams to lingerie reviews to the Moda UK Exhibition. I look forward to seeing what the future holds for H Cup Chronicles.
Founded in 2008, The Lingerie Addict isn't a big bust blog per se, but it does cover brands that make full cup bras and big bust topics. I like that some of the discussions come from a socially aware vantage point. The blog not only reviews lingerie but it covers a range of topics within the lingerie industry including "How to Choose Lingerie for Your Boudoir Photoshoot" and "Pillowbook: Chinese Lingerie as Art." I always look forward to what will be covered next.
30GG Becky of Becky's Boudoir focuses on the full bust/small band lingerie market with occasional reviews of apparel, nutrition, and beauty. I am particularly fond of her review of a wireless bra by Royce Lingerie. I had no idea that such bras exist for full cup women!
30GG/H Finnish blogger Sophie writes about "lingerie, bra fit and all things D+." She is a fan of pinup and rockabilly culture, which makes both her website and some of the photos interesting and non traditional (in a good way). Her reviews are broken down into three easy to follow categories "design", "fit", and "comfort." On a serious note, I found her post about rape culture, which featured anecdotes of the sleazy men who contact her through the blog. This is something that deosn't surprise me, but I'm glad that she is bringing awareness to this issue of online harassment of femaile bloggers.
Just Say No To Playing Peek-A-Boo With Bra Bands March 09 2016
One of my biggest fashion pet peeves is when (on the rare occasion) I find a sleeveless dress or shirt that looks like it can fit my G cups, I try it on, and everything is perfect...except my bra band and straps are exposed at the arm holes. This is an all too common infraction that is the result of apparel brands not taking into account that fuller busts equal wider bra bands and straps.
So, I would like to give a huge thanks to Canadian luxury brand Joseph Ribkoff for designing the Black and Hibiscus Dress (see photos) in such a way that the arm holes fully conceal wider bra bands and straps. I discovered this brand because I was visiting my parents for the weekend and my mom wanted to go to the Joseph Ribkoff trunk show at Bonnie's Goubaud in Cleveland. The aesthetic and cuts of most of the garments offered at the boutique are more mature than what I usually wear, but they had a few pieces that I liked. My mom was especially fond of the Cocoon Silver Jacket and I liked the Diamond Sleeved Top and the Retro Chic Flare Dress. After checking out the Joseph Ribkoff spring and fall collections and a few other brands, I made my way to the back of the store. There I discovered the Black and Hibiscus and a cute cream colored dresses. I tried on the cream colored dress first and was disappointed that my bra band played major peek-a-boo with the mirror. Then I tried on the Black and Hibiscus Dress and it was like a miracle happened. Not only are the arm holes covering my bra band but the stretchiness of the fabric and the belt eliminate the pregnancy look that is so common with dresses on a busty figure (see right photo).
I really liked my experience at Bonnie's Goubaud. The salespeople are so nice and helpful, and the boutique also has nice jewelry and interesting purses. I fell in love with a necklace that has pearls (or are they mother of pearls?) positioned like a flower. It is so elegant and beautiful!
I will keep Joseph Ribkoff under my radar because they do have some big bust friendly shirts and interesting prints. Also, I will definitely buy the Cocoon Silver Jacket for my mom's upcoming birthday. Hopefully, she will not read this blog and it will be a surprise.
As I mentioned in my last blog, I am pleasantly surprised that there are lingerie companies selling full cup bras that do NOT resemble what you would find in your grandma's lingerie drawer. Even my lingerie drawer consists mostly of plain black, nude, and white t-shirt and lace bras. The most exciting bras that I have are two red lace bras and a gray and purple sports bra. I hate to admit it, but I haven't purchased a bra in over three years. So I am a bit behind the times and long overdue for a lingerie wardrobe update. My lingerie drawer is dismal because I used to live in a small town in Ohio and there are no lingerie boutiques that sell G cup bras within 100 miles of where I lived. So I had to order all of my bras online. I chose to stick with the Panache brand because I was fitted for their bras at a lingerie boutique in Houston. Also, I know that sizing can vary between brands and I didn't want to deal with online returns. Prior to living in Ohio, I lived in Philadelphia, which has a few specialty lingerie shops. However, I was a cash poor graduate student and still thought I was a DDD cup (more on that later). I moved to NYC in 2012 and I've recently been to a few lingerie boutiques in Philadelphia and NYC, but they mostly carry nudes, whites, and blacks, which don't excited me. Also, the ones in my size are expensive and hardly ever go on sale. Since I was starting a business, I wasn't trying to drop $100 on a bra. Now, I'm in the market for a new bra and I see that there are more fun options available in my size than when I got my first real fitting...in 2010 when I was 28 years old. Sad, huh? Unfortunately, many women are unable to get properly fitted for a bra due to lack of access to specialty lingerie boutiques with a wide range of sizes. Stores that one finds in the mall usually carry limited cup and band sizes, so their bra fitters will squeeze a customer into the bras that they carry, regardless of whether or not that is her proper size. I was told by a bra fitter at a chain store in the mall that I was a 36DDD when in reality I was a 32G.
Cleo by Panache (see top photo) launched in 2009 and is geared toward the young and young at heart. Some of the major online marketplaces like Bare Necessities and Her Room carry this line and have great sales. As I mentioned in my previous blog post, Tuttie Rouge (see bottom photo) and Curvy Kate have an excellent selection of bras that make use of bright colors, cute patterns, and bold prints. Curvy Kate also incorporates details into the overall construction of the lingerie that really make the bras and chemises exciting. Unfortunately, Tuttie Rouge is not sold on any U.S.-based online marketplaces but Curvy Kate can be found at both Bare Necessities and Her Room. Finally, for all of you NYC folks, The Rack Shack is a lingerie and sneaker boutique located in Brooklyn that carries both Curvy Kate and Tutti Rouge, and has a curated selection youth-inspired pieces. I am excited to announce that Exclusively Kristen will be holding a pop up shop at the Rack Shack on April 30. You can RSVP here.
In the near future I will try these three brands (Tutti Rouge, Cleo by Panache, and Curvy Kate) and get back to you :-)
The Kitty Bra and Pantie by Tutti Rouge (Available Summer 2016). Me like a lot!!
CURVExpo And My Pursuit Of (Not Your Grandma's) Big Bust Lingerie February 24 2016
This past weekend, I attended CURVExpo and it was great to see all of the beautiful lingerie on display. The most significant thing that I came away with is that the British really know how to do big bust lingerie and make it palatable to the young and young at heart. My colleague and I sat down with London-based Curvy Kate, which specializes in D-K cup lingerie and swimwear. Now I know what you are thinking...that Curvy Kate is for plus size busty women, but it turns out that in the UK, "curvy" can also mean slender with a big bust. What I liked most about Curvy Kate is that they are not lazy with details. For example, we were shown the berry colored Ritzy Babydoll and the Bardot Babydoll (in black) chemises. The former has the same pattern detail going down the front of the body as the bra while the latter has a satin ribbon detail around the bottom perimeter of the body. Usually, babydolls for large busted and plus size women have the same plain sheer fabric with no details in the typical colors of solid white or black. This general lack of effort is definitely not part of Curvy Kate's design ethos.
Curvy Kate brought a 30G model to CURVExpo in order to show how the lingerie will look on a real woman (see top left and right photos). The bras seem very supportive and I love how much detail and function goes into their lingerie. Curvy Kate seems to know their stuff and noted that molded bras aren't good for super heavy breasts, and instead seams are necessary to maintain shape. They got really scientific with the explanation. Now I can definitely see the difference between a lingerie brand that caters to full busts and a lingerie brand that offers larger cups as an extension of their A-C sizes. One just can't take a C cup bra with a 34 band, scale up and expect it to fit correctly. I also want to mention that Curvy Kate has a "naughtier friend" called Scantilly (right photo).
I picked up a look book from Leicester-based (England) Tutti Rouge, which specializes in D-HH cups, and one of the photos (left) in the look book sums up the brand precisely: fun, playful, and colorful with a splash of vintage. The green with white polka dot bra that I mentioned in my last blog entry is from Tutti Rouge. While I was chatting with the creative director, I pointed to that bra and mentioned that I liked it and had tried it on in a 32GG. She asked how it fit and I explained to her why it didn't work out for me. She responded that my bust shape is best suited for balconette bras and she had a number of them that were so cute! I wanted to buy them right then and there. My favorite is The Betty and, unlike Curvy Kate, you can buy Tutti Rouge lingerie directly on their website. I really like Tutti Rouge because their designers make good use of patterns and colors, and brings youth into big bust lingerie. This is not your grandma's lingerie company!
During my time at CURVExpo, I was partial to the big bust brands but I liked the styles at The Little Bra Company and Hanky Panky. Also, it seems like the founder of The Little Bra Company and I are kindred spirits. We founded our companies for similar reasons, but on opposite ends of the bust size spectrum.
I stopped by the the Nubian Skin booth, which sells hosiery and lingerie in different nude tones for darker complexions. I was so excited when I first heard about them because, as an African-American woman, traditional "nude" undergarments certainly don't blend into my skin color. So I am glad that a company makes nude products for women like myself. Unfortunately, Nubian Skin bras only go up to a DD, but I spoke with their model and she showed me a prototype of a G cup bra in the works. Yes!
I also spoke with a rep from Girly Go Garter, which is a garter belt that can discretely store items like a phone, credit cards, etc. It sounds like a great idea, especially for women who frequent clubs or are exploring travel destinations with high instances of purse snatchings and muggings.
CURVExpo was a wonderful experience and now I have two new big bust lingerie companies that I'm dying to try!
The Rack Shack: Lingerie For The Young And Young At Heart February 19 2016
I recently attended the grand opening of The Rack Shack in Brooklyn, NY. The boutique sells reasonably priced lingerie, including bras sizes 28A - 38HH, that is geared toward a younger crowd. Items span the color and pattern spectrums, and the shop even sells funky sneakers with lights (see photo below)! Many boutiques mainly carry lingerie in white, nude, and black, and tend to have styles that cater to the 40+ crowd. At The Rack Shack, I found a super cute green bra with white polka dots in a size 32GG with matching panties (see photo below). The bra didn't work out for me because I didn't like how it molded my breasts. However, I liked that Laura, the owner, was honest and didn't try to sell me a bra that wasn't the right fit for my bust type.
It was great to see all of the Bushwick community support. Local business owners and Laura's friends and parents (who flew in from the Netherlands) came to the grand opening. Also, I was impressed with the number of Laura's male friends who were in attendance. Men, for the most part, have no vested interest in The Rack Shack because they aren't usually direct customers of lingerie stores, but they came out in support of a young, small business owner with a novel idea to bring youth, funky patterns and styles, and color to big bust lingerie.
I had no idea that vintage-inspired lingerie came in my size (usually a 32G depending on the brand) and I will definitively be a customer of The Rack Shack. I look forward to seeing what styles Laura will choose to sell next. I wish her the best of luck in her new venture, but something tells me that she will do well and that the Rack Shack will grow into an established and successful business.
My Culinary Tour: Stellar Steaks February 11 2016 1 Comment
I love a good steak and I've eaten it on four different continents. I've had steak at both world renowned steakhouses, chain steakhouses, and lesser known restaurants. So below I will give my assessment of where to get the best steak. However, my disclaimer is that I have not eaten at every steakhouse in the world so take this with a grain of salt.
A few months ago, I was watching the documentary Steak Revolution and they RAVED about Peter Luger Steakhouse in Brooklyn, NY (they also have a location on Long Island). So I asked Santa for a gift certificate to the steakhouse for Christmas and called in January in order to make a dinner reservation. Unfortunately for me, Peter Luger is so popular that the next available dinner reservation (except for the 4:45pm or 9:45pm time slots) wasn't until March; however, I was able to get a weekend lunch reservation in February. We ordered two steaks, one Brooklyn Lager beer, one ginger ale, one dessert, and two sides, and the bread was tasty and complementary. Our bill was $180 + tip. My assessment: the steak was cooked impeccably and the service was stellar, but the food didn't knock my socks off, especially given the price. The sides at Ruth's Chris are better; however, Peter Luger has better steak.
South America, particularly Argentina, is well known for its high quality steak. So when I went to Brazil, I was excited to try some and it didn't disappoint. I went to Porcão Rio's in Rio de Janeiro and the quality of the meat was stellar. Unfortunately, we went at night so we weren't able to enjoy the wonderful view of the waterfront and Sugarloaf Mountain. I've since been to Brazilian steakhouses in the USA including Texas de Brazil (Addison near Dallas), Ruth's Chris (Boca Raton and Fort Lauderdale), Chima (Ft. Lauderdale), Fogo de Chão (Philadelphia), and Fernandes Steak House (Newark), and none of them came close to the meat quality and flavor of Porcão Rio's. I guess Brazil has access to better quality cows. However, I'll give the medal of "Favorite USA Steakhouse" to...Fernandes Steak House (considering the price). But if your culinary skills are on point, I highly recommend buying steak at Florence Meat Market in the West Village, NYC and cooking it yourself. Their meats are AMAZING.
The BEST steak I've ever had was the Kobe steak from Gyu-An restaurant in Ginza, Tokyo. I chose Gyu-An because foodies said that it had the best Kobe one can get for a reasonable price. Many of the best Kobe Steakhouses are $300 a plate and I didn't want to spend that much money. I dropped $140 USD on that meal and it was worth it. Even though the portions were small the steak was magnificently flavorful (no seasoning or steak sauce needed) and it melted in my mouth. Kobe is definitely worth trying at least once. Note that there are VERY FEW Kobe beef distributors in the USA and Kobe is expensive, so if you see "Kobe" on a U.S. menu for $30, they are pulling your leg.
I want to also mention that the best seasoned steak that I've ever had was at a quaint restaurant in Prague located close to the U.S. Embassy. I went prior to free international data phone plans and tagging places on Facebook, so I cannot remember the name of the restaurant and I couldn't find it on google searches. I remember that my travel companion and I walked down the street where the U.S. Embassy is located and there was a fork in the road. The restaurant was just past the fork. I've included a throwback photo below so if you recognize the restaurant, please share its name in the comments section. We had one bottle of wine, two steaks, one dessert and two sides, and our bill was $40 USD. A great bargain for what we got.
So here's a categorical synopsis of the best steaks that I've had:
- Freshest/Highest Quality Meat=Porcão Rio's in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
- Best Seasoned=Unknown restaurant near the U.S. Embassy in Prague, Czech Republic
- Best Flavor/Taste=Gyu-An in Tokyo, Japan
- Best Steak in the USA (for the price)=Fernandes in Newark, NJ, USA
Me, circa 2007, at a restaurant in Prague near the U.S. Embassy that had the best seasoned streak I've ever had. If anyone recognizes this restaurant please share in the comments.
The Underratedness of HBO's How To Make It In America February 03 2016
Around the time that I founded Exclusively Kristen, my friend told me about a show on HBO called How To Make It In America and I was hooked after the first episode. The show is extremely well-done with interesting and multi-dimensional characters, and realistic depictions of what it's like to navigate life in NYC and the fashion world. How To Make It In America is about 20-something friends, Ben and Cam, who are trying to survive NYC's fashion scene. I can DEFINITELY relate to the ups and downs of not just living in the Big Apple, but also navigating the competitive fashion world.
Ben and Cam are starting a brand of retro jeans called Crisp. They begin with a $3,000 high interest loan from Cam's cousin Rene who just got out of prison. Next, they must find a manufacturer, which is difficult (not so much on the domestic end nowadays because of Maker's Row), because many designers will not reveal who their manufacturers are. On the show, Cam tries to hustle one shop owner into revealing his manufacturer, but the owner is hip to the game and sends Cam all the way to the Bronx with a false address. They finally find a tailor to make the sample in time to show a prominent Japanese buyer, but Ben is not happy with it. However, the buyer likes Ben's t-shirts and orders 300. Ben must now scramble to get the money for production. Rene is also an interesting character. He's an ex-con trying his hardest to become a legitimate businessman, but seems to get sucked back into his sordid ways due to a series of bad luck.
When one is working with a small budget one must really know how to stretch a dollar without compromising vision and quality. Ben and Cam need a lookbook for Crisp, so they get their friend to model and opt for an outdoor urban backdrop as opposed to hiring a professional model and renting out a photography studio. Ben and Cam also have side jobs to support themselves and earn money to invest in Crisp.
The first season focuses on the ups and downs of starting a fashion brand while the second season focuses on growing a fashion brand. Season two begins with Ben and Cam organizing a pop up shop and brand party for Crisp that goes awry, but ends up getting the brand a lot of good press. Ben catches the eye (and bed) of legendary designer Nancy Frankenburg who gives Crisp its big break, but there's a catch: Crisp's designers must work under Nancy's husband. Will they trade their creative control of the brand for ample funding and access to the people in the fashion industry who can make Crisp a global brand? You must watch to find out!
I love How To Make It In America and I couldn't believe that it was cancelled after two seasons because the show couldn't amass a large fan base. Honestly, How To Make It In America is a lot more realistic than most shows that depict life in NYC. One of my favorite scenes is when Cam illegally and cheaply sublets an apartment in a housing project because he wants a view of the river, which is out of the question unless you have $5,000 a month to spend on rent. Sometimes you have to think outside of the box in order to get what you want out of The City.
Now I leave you with How To Make It In America's very apt theme song:
What's Up With USA-Based Big Bust Apparel Companies? January 21 2016 1 Comment
Before I launched Exclusively Kristen, I did some research and quickly discovered that big bust fashion has a much stronger presence in Europe, specifically the United Kingdom. This is surprising because the USA has a much larger population than the UK and the average bra sizes for both countries are bountiful 36D (UK) and 34DD (USA) (Note: owners of USA-based lingerie boutiques that carry a wide range of sizes dispute these findings. They state that the average cup size range from a FF to an H cup). So despite the larger customer base, why are there so few thriving companies in the USA that specialize in apparel for large busted women?
A few months after Exclusively Kristen officially launched, Hourglassy mentioned us in a blog post that shed light on the fledgling big bust fashion industry in the USA.
"I know of only one new arrival on the American scene, a small Brooklyn startup called Exclusively Kristen. There is also the growing line of DD Cup and Up dresses from Bolero. Otherwise, large bust clothing manufacturing appears to be contracting in the United States. The ecommerce platforms for Carissa Rose and Jailyn Apparel are currently inactive, and all InStyle Essentials shirts have just gone on final sale for $15! The websites for AJRumina and Campbell & Kate have been the same for years–AJRumina because the founders are balancing full-time jobs and families, and Campbell & Kate because I’m still trying to fix my pattern and production issues."
When I mentioned to friends and family that I was starting a fashion company for large busted ladies, a number of them responded with: "Someone else does that. I saw it in Oprah Magazine." That "someone else" is Carissa Rose, which is now defunct. So what's going on?
The major player in the big bust fashion industry is Pepperberry, which is located in the UK. Pepperberry is an offshoot of Bravissimo, which is a thriving and profitable lingerie company. Thus, Pepperberry started out with a lot of capital and a pre-existing customer base and business platform. Perhaps the successful rise of Pepperberry's brand caused a capillary effect in the UK that was taken up by bloggers and other fashion influencers, which kept the big bust fashion industry thriving. On the other hand, the USA-based companies appear to be small businesses devoid of the millions of dollars that Pepperberry had at its genesis. It seems like many, if not all, of the now defunct USA-based companies simply ran out of money or didn't have the money or time to scale the business.
I am definitely learning from the unique issues of running a small business in a niche and underdeveloped (in the USA) market. Luckily, I have a few tricks up my sleeve to keep Exclusively Kristen viable and growing. Many thanks to all of our supporters!
Shirts for Men 5'2" to 5'8": Ash & Erie Review January 13 2016
A few months ago, I came across an article about a company that makes shirts for men who are 5'2" to 5'8", called Ash & Erie (formally Ash & Anvil), which I mentioned in a previous blog about niche fashion. They had a sale during the holiday season, so I decided to buy a shirt for my brother. I was originally going to buy the Blue Dotted Everyday Shirt, but it was out of stock in his size. Instead, I purchased the Maroon Flecked Everyday Shirt in a size small, which was a better choice because my brother really likes red and the material is more lightweight than the Blue Dotted shirt (he lives in a warm climate). I had to guess his size, but I guessed right. The fact that we have been the same height and size (except I have boobs and hips) for most of our adult lives makes it easier.
The shipping was fast and the shirt arrived in a nice box with the Ash & Erie logo. When my brother tried on the shirt, I was initially taken aback because it looked too short. Then I realized that that's how a shirt is supposed to fit. I was so accustomed to seeing him wear over-sized shirts that they looked normal to me. My brother is 5'7" and 145 lbs and, as you can see from the photos, the sleeves and torso are the right length. The shoulders are a bit too wide, but he might just have narrow shoulders like his sister.
In terms of the shirt itself, I liked that the buttons had "Ash & Erie" emblazoned on them - a very cute detail. Also, I liked the fabric. The Maroon Flecked Everyday Shirt is 100% pre-shrunk cotton, but has a linen look to it - lightweight and airy. I could definitely see my brother wearing it on a cool night at the beach.
He liked the shirt, I liked the shirt, and our parents liked the shirt. Overall, I'd say it's a win :-)
My New Favorite Netflix Original: Atelier January 06 2016
A friend told me about this new show on Netflix called Atelier. I heard the words "small business", "fashion", and "Tokyo" (my favorite city) and my interest was piqued. I started watching the show and couldn't stop. Even though Atelier is about a haute couture lingerie shop located in the swanky Tokyo neighborhood of Ginza, I can definitely relate to the characters and the trials and tribulations of growing a small fashion company.
Aterlier is about a country bumpkin named Mayuko Tokito. She's fresh out of college and moved to the big city to start her career working with fabric. Much to the chagrin of her new co-workers, Mayuko shows up to her brand new job at a high end, custom-made lingerie shop called Emotion wearing a frumpy, unfashionable suit. Her new boss, owner and lead designer, Mayumi Nanjo who has a striking resemblance to Vogue's Anna Wintour, schools her in a Devil Wears Prada lumpy blue sweater-esque sort of way about the value of presentation, beauty, and personal style. So over the course of the show, viewers see the evolution of Mayuko's fashion sense. One of the things that I love most about the show is its wardrobe. Mayumi and many of the ancillary characters (including the men) have impeccable style, and I wish that the lingerie created by Mayumi was available for purchase (in bigger cup sizes, of course!).
Mayuko's business acumen evolves as well. As she earns the respect of her peers and Mayumi, she is given high level tasks such as working on a feature about Emotion with the editor of a major fashion magazine and putting on a runway show. One of my favorite scenes is when a well-dressed regular at the bar that Mayuko and her friend frequent is really a well-known and highly regarded runway show producer. The producer goes on a diatribe when he overhears that an amateur is tasked with putting on a runway show with VIP attendees.
"You know what I can't stand? Amateurs who think they can impress people without spending any money; thinking they can move people hearts and put on a polished show all on their own! You are just an amateur and you think you can pull it off? I can't stand that kind of naive thinking! This isn't some school festival! Don't underestimate my job! A job that impresses others can only be done by a skilled pro...determination alone won't get you there!"
I've definitely made the mistake of trying to do everything myself and hiring service providers because they were cheaper than their competitors in order to save money, and I paid dearly for it. My advice: stick to the pros. You can always negotiate but remember, you get what you pay for. In the show, Mayumi knows the worth of her craftsmanship and the overall quality of her lingerie (her custom-made pieces range from 70,000 to 114,000 Yen ($590 to $961 USD)), but is also willing to work within the budgets of less wealthy customers.
Atelier is not simply a show about fashion. Each character is multidimensional and the show tackles the micro and macro level issues that arise while trying to maintain and grow a business. For example, does one stick to her roots or change with the times? Can a custom-made fashion company grow without compromising quality? How can a company grow with a limited budget? Should one stay loyal or seek new opportunities? How can a small company compete with a large company with deep pockets? How can a fashion editor please the ad execs (get revenue through ad sales) while promoting quality products from companies that can't afford ads? What can one do if someone or a company steals intellectual property?
There are also personal struggles such as can women have it all? Can they be good mothers and good businesswomen at the same time? I see a lot of myself in both Mayumi and Mayuko, and was definitely taking notes on what to do and what not to do in business. I know that this is a fictional show but a lot of the lessons and issues featured, I had read about in entrepreneurial blogs and magazines. Even though the last few episodes are weaker than the rest of the season, I definitely recommend Atelier. I hope that Netflix makes a second season, but considering how it ended, I doubt it.
Big Bust Bloggers December 22 2015 2 Comments
When I was a teenager, the internet was barely a thing. I attempted to shop at Guess and other trendy stores, but quickly realized that my boobs+trendy didn't go together. I went to Catholic school, so the uniforms were actually a benefit. However, on weekends and dress down days, I had the tendency to look a bit frumpy (which extended into my post school/working adult fashion) and this definitely wasn't by choice. Unfortunately, there was no in between with my boobs, either I looked age/work inappropriate or bland. I had a few "trendy" shirts in high school and college from Express, but they were tight fitting V-neck pullovers in solid colors...for me that was trendy. I also played sports in high school and had to wear two bras during games and practice, and it goes without saying that I wasn't wearing my proper bra size. Back then, there were no big bust blogs or, to my knowledge, clothing brands specifically for busty women. I'm so glad that the internet has made information exchange so easy and thus made it possible to better avoid the fashion struggles of my youth.
Below are some bloggers who are trying to save us from fashion and bra fitting hell...one busty lady at a time.
I like Hourglassy because she features garments on different body types and is one of the few bloggers that focus on garments as opposed to lingerie. Also, the Big Bust Clothing Swap is brilliant! I'm sad that I missed it this year (a close friend was getting married on that day). Hopefully, she will do it again next year.
The Full Figured Chest
The Full Figured Chest is run by a copywriter for the high end lingerie industry. She reviews full bust lingerie, but also provides business advice for lingerie companies.
Bras I Hate
Bras I Hate is pretty self explanatory...she writes about lingerie (both loves and hates), but also incorporates a lot of personal anecdotes.
Bras and Body Image
Bras and Body Image is not just a lingerie blog, it is also a feminist blog that focuses on female empowerment and body positivity. I can definitely get behind that! Blog entries such as: "Consent, Rape Culture and Sex Education" are good spins on the usual fashion-centric approach.
The Breast Life
The Breast Life has reviews and recommendations on full cup bras and big bust friendly garments. I like this blog because it discusses interesting issues that are usually overlooked, such as nude bras for every complexion and gynecomastia (male breasts).
An Ode To Niche Fashion Companies: Clothes For The Small Statured December 16 2015
On the next installment of "An Ode To Niche Fashion Companies", I will highlight brands that cater to short statured people.
I recently came across an article about a dwarf fashion show that took place in NYC. It outlined the fashion (and life) struggles of Little People. Children's clothes do not have the correct proportions, women's shoe stores usually sell size 6 and higher, and adult clothes are obviously too tall. Little People, unfortunately, must buy off the rack and pay to have their garments tailored, which is very expensive. There are websites, like Petite Plus Patterns, that sell patterns for crafty short statured people but, for the most part, Little People are relegated to expensive tailors. I could not find any fashion companies specifically for Little People; however, I did find a store in NYC that sells women's size 6 and smaller shoes. It's a start!
Shirts for Small Statured Men (5'2" to 5'8")
In my blog that features RFM, a company that specializes in clothes for tall and athletic men, it's noted that standard clothing patterns in menswear are based on a 5'10" male. I have male family members who are shorter than 5'8", so I see firsthand how hard it is for shorter men to find clothes that fit. Most off the rack styles have shoulders and torsos that are too wide, sleeves that are too long, and pants that need hemming. Ash & Erie is the answer to most (if not all) short men fashion woes. Their shirts have a shorter body and sleeves, and a refined collar. Like fashion for busty women, there is a definite need for styles specifically tailored to men who are shorter than 5'8" and I look forward to seeing what Ash & Erie will produce next.
An Ode To Niche Fashion: "Why Can't I find Size 15 Men's Stilettos?" December 10 2015
As a student at Oberlin College, I was an attendee of its annual Drag Ball. It was a HUGE event that spanned almost the entire multilevel Wilder Hall Building. Since I was a cheerleader, friends with many athletes, and a regular at the gym, I was able to procure an old Oberlin College Basketball uniform once for the event. It was also a given that I received many requests from my guy friends for my Oberlin College Cheerleading and Catholic high school uniforms. Oberlin is a special place and those were fun times.
One of my fondest memories of Drag Ball are seeing various professors and the athletic director in drag, watching my very masculine male friends stumble about in their girlfriends' heels and asking for tips on how to shave their legs, not to mention the more seasoned drag participants lamenting about not being able to find proper size 15 men's stilettos. I remember thinking that I should "totally start a company that makes shoes for drag queens!" Even though I had my own issues finding fashion that fit my top heavy frame, I was empathetic to the plight of others.
I started Exclusively Kristen because I was tired of, as one 20 something put it, "dressing like an old lady." I couldn't find any stylish shirts or dresses that fit my 32G frame properly and, at the time, I lived in a small town so finding a good tailor required me to drive 45 minutes to the nearest city. The few stylish shirts I had came from Colombia, South America, but those were summer shirts. In the winter, I was relegated to sweaters and over-sized cardigans. I was frustrated, so I decided to do something about it.
I commend those entrepreneurs who see a void in the market and create something to fill it. Like Janet's Closet "A Cross-Dresser's Paradise" and Heels For You, both of which sell men's size 15 heels. With the recent news about Caitlyn Jenner and the activism of Janet Mock and Orange Is The New Black's Laverne Cox, issues surrounding trans women* are coming to the forefront. I'm interested to see how this will affect the evolution of fashion, particularly high fashion, for trans women and drag queens.
*Note that although there is some overlap, drag queens and trans women are not the same.
An Ode To Niche Fashion: A Celebration Of The Badonkadonk December 04 2015
In the next installment of "An Ode to Niche Fashion", I highlight some other awesome companies that cater to underserved body types, particularly women with a little more junk in the trunk.
Not only do I have trouble finding shirts that fit because of my 32G's, but I also have a hard time finding pants that fit. If I buy for my waist, then the hips, thighs, and butt are too tight but if I buy for my hips, thighs, and butt, the waist is way too big. Luckily, there are a few brands that cater to the pear/hourglass figure.
For business casual pants, I usually buy Ann Taylor's curvy line. They have a variety of mostly basic colors (grey, navy, khaki, black, white) and cuts (flare, straight, skinny) that are work appropriate, as well as a line of jeans. I recently stumbled upon Poetic Justice Jeans and was delighted that they had a great deal for first time buyers. I bought a few pairs of skinny jeans including my absolute favorite, the Maya Grey Skinny Midrise Jeans. The other skinny jeans that I bought are too skinny for my thighs, but the Maya looks absolutely great on me and it's very comfortable.
A few years ago, a friend of mine who also sports a badonkadonk started raving about PZI Jeans. She not only has junk in the trunk, but she's also tall. So shopping for pants was a nightmare until she discovered PZI Jeans, which offers a line of tall as well as regular sizes. Also, she lives in Atlanta so she was able to buy in store. Unfortunately, no stores in Ohio (where I was living at the time) carried their jeans, so I had to order online. PZI Jeans offers more room in the hips, thighs, and butt than Ann Taylor and Poetic Justice, and I love the array off styles and colors that they offer.
As a fellow niche fashion company, I contacted PZI Jeans in order to inquire about their inspiration for starting a company that makes "jeans for women with curves." Similar to the busty women that Exclusively Kristen caters to: "women with curves have an ongoing issue finding stylish jeans, and PZI Jeans has amounted to being a lifestyle changing brand for most curvy women." Katrina, Marketing and Public Relations Representative for PZI Jeans, goes on to say that PZI Jeans "...accommodate[s] our customers by designing denim that has more room to compliment the hourglass curves. Our team members are very conscious that curves come in many shapes and sizes, and we want to ensure our customers feel great when they put on a pair of our jeans. It’s important that women with a streamlined waist, fuller hips and curvy bottom have the ability to enjoy their lifestyle by wearing stylish jeans with comfort. I wouldn’t say women with curves have been excluded from mainstream fashion, but more so overlooked and misrepresented; however we encourage women with that body type to find a home with PZI Jeans.”
In the upcoming blogs, I will introduce other niche fashion companies including a label that caters to short statured men and another fashion company for trans-gendered women. Stay Tuned!
An Ode to Niche Fashion Companies November 19 2015
I recently saw a statistic stating that fashion is made for 17% of the population. Even though the average bra size in the USA is a 34DD, 67% of women are plus size, and an estimated 700,000 people are transgender, the fashion needs of these groups have largely been ignored. Even though these numbers are substantial (especially plus size), brands that cater to these segments of the population are, interestingly, considered niche. But have no fear, there are "niche" brands answering the calls of consumers. Below I will highlight some emerging and established fashion companies that, like Exclusively Kristen, cater to underserved aesthetics and body types.
Menswear-Inspired Clothes For Female Bodies
Laura and Kelly Moffat founded Kirrin Finch, which will launch in Spring 2016, because "...we couldn't find clothes that fit our style. As women who gravitate towards button-up shirts and bow ties, we are often frustrated because women's clothes are too frilly and men's clothes just don't fit. We are making menswear-inspired styles fit for a range of female bodies." I've seen samples of their shirts and the fabric is high quality with interesting patterns that aren't usually available in the women's department. I'm excited to see what Kirrin Finch will offer when it launches.
Kipper Clothiers was founded by Erin Berg and has a brick and mortar store in San Francisco. The company specializes in custom menswear-inspired suits and button up shirts for female bodies, but has recently offered ready-to-wear apparel in preppy, collegiate-inspired styles. According to its website: "As a woman who exclusively wears men's clothes it is often very difficult to find shirts, let alone suits, that even remotely fit. Putting on a (Kipper) shirt that is made specifically for you is an incomparable experience and the level of care and attention they take with each individual client sets them apart."
Menswear For Tall and Athletic Men
I recently met John Reynolds, Co-Founder and CEO of RFM, and we talked about his disdain for the concept of "big and tall" menswear. Big & Tall cater to just that: BIG (read: overweight) and tall. Not all men who are 6'0"+ are 300 lbs and the brands that offer slimmer, tall sizes base their proportions on 5'10" men, so the fit is usually off. John and Co-Founder, Kevin Flammia, founded RFM because of "...the incredible personal frustration of finding clothes that fit our frames. We are both former college athletes - tall and athletically-built...but there isn't an apparel brand in existence that is focused on creating cultivated, enduring style for this modern athletic man. The perception that branded retailers are inclusive of all body types is well-intentioned, but highly deceiving. Not all men in America are 5'10", 165lbs - there are more than a few athletically-built guys out there, as well!" Unlike other brands, RFM's sizing and proportions are based on the actual anthropometric analysis of taller men. According to John: "Trying to utilize linear grading in pattern development and clothing fit is outdated and misguided. The fact that ASTM clothing grades have largely remained the same since WWII is pretty shocking. We felt that using data science and regression analysis to provide more realistic and intelligent sizing was the right way to build our collection." RFM will launch on December 1, but interested parties can sign up for pre-orders now via the company's mailing list. I'm really excited about this brand and am happy to hear that RFM has been contacted by college sports teams and the stylists' of pro athletes. A perfect match!
I'm so glad that there are emerging fashion brands that cater to underserverd body types and expanding gender norms. I hope that body inclusiveness and the fluidity of gender in fashion become a trend. Stay tuned...I will be writing about other niche fashion brands in the near future.
Working With Factories If You Are A Small Company November 12 2015
A few months ago, I went to a Maker's Row event that featured brands showing and selling their wares. Each representative gave a brief speech about his/her brand and how Maker's Row helped to streamline and expand his/her business. One statement really struck me because, at the time, I was dealing with the same issue. "If you only have small orders, factories don't care about you."
That statement may sound fatalistic, but it's true. If you are a small company with a small order that will barely pay the factory's light bill for the month, they really don't care. Many factories will get one order from one company that will bring 10's of thousands of dollars in revenue. Money talks, but there are ways that a small company can mitigate being lost in the shuffle.
Small Batch Factories
There are factories in the USA that primarily fulfill small batch orders of a few hundred or less. It behooves a small company to stay away from factories that primarily fulfill large orders because, as mentioned before, money talks. You will see your order pushed to the side over and over again and/or haphazardly constructed by a newbie employee because their priority is large higher revenue orders. Stick to factories that work with small businesses and focus on small orders.
It is important to check up on your order, especially as you get closer to the due date. Make sure that they have everything needed in order to complete the order and have a phone conversation to ensure that they are clear on the specs of the garment. As the due date grows near, ask for a progress report. Never get into the tardy dance with a factory, because tardiness will become a habit if they know that they can get away with it. If a week has passed and they haven't even started your order, I would reconsider working with them. You always have to be on top of your orders not just in terms of quality control but also timeliness.
Know When To Give Up
As a small company you will not have much clout in terms of a factory prioritizing your orders, so do not hesitate to ask the tardy factory to forward your pattern and fabric to a different factory. I was working with a large batch factory to make one sample shirt and after 1.5 months of calling and emailing almost everyday, I finally pulled the order (I should've done it a long time ago). They even stopped answering my calls because they recognized my number on the caller ID. It is important to note that I was never rude or short with anyone, I was polite. It does not pay to get nasty ESPECIALLY if you are a small company with not that much clout. Persistence can only go so far when you are competing with large orders that will bring $10,000+ in revenues for the factories.
BE ON TOP OF THINGS! Never let the due date pass without contacting the factory and seeing what's up. A lot of places will take on more than they can chew and I've had tardiness issues with pattern makers and small batch factories. If you are hands off then factories and other service providers will cut corners. You should only work with factories that are meticulous with quality and stick to their lead times. There are many factories in the USA and you should only work with those that value your business and your time.
Business Ethics: Product Reviews November 04 2015
A few weeks ago, I attended an event sponsored by the NYC Department of Small Business Services called "Building a Sustainable Fashion Brand." The event featured panelists with expertise in manufacturing, marketing/branding, and financing including the founder of The Lip Bar, which is a lipstick company that was featured on Shark Tank. Not only did I learn a lot from the panelists, but I also learned from the attendees. I met a young lady who started We Speak, which is a modeling agency that "represent[s] models of all sizes who are healthy and drug free in an environment free from exploitation." I also spoke at length with a fashion journalist who gave me tips on how to navigate contacting bloggers and other journalists.
Our conversation veered toward product reviews because I mentioned that I had recently received an email from a blogger who I will not name. I had sent this blogger an email several months ago in regards to collaborating on an article about big bust fashion. In response, I was sent advertising rates that included rates for reviews. As I relayed this story, the journalist became horrified that anyone would charge money for reviews and lambasted the blogger for being unethical. I had not planned on working with this blogger, but the reaction from the journalist further solidified my stance. It's not a matter of being cheap, it's a matter of ethics and I want potential customers to have an honest overview of Exclusively Kristen's products.
Reviews are great, especially coming from a reputable reviewer who does not take payments (*cough* bribes) for reviews. I'm not really a tech person, but I recently found out about Marques Brownlee who is VERY well respected for his reviews of tech products. Companies send him free merchandise (including the IPhone 6s) to review because, with over 1 million views for many of his videos, they know that a good review from Marques will equal big profits for the company.
I'm currently in the process of manufacturing some new garments, which I will send out for reviews. However, stay away from anyone who wants payment for a review. Do your homework by going to bloggers' advertising pages in order to make sure that they do not have rates for reviews or posts. Also, sponsored posts should be clearly labeled as such. However, keep in mind that some reviewers are clandestine about their unethical activities and will not post rates on their websites. Our friends at Hourglassy state that their "writers do not accept sponsorships for their posts or cash payments to write a review of a product." I want reviews of my products to be honest and I want reviewers to have a respected reputation that readers can trust. This is why I like blogs like Hourglassy and companies like We Speak because they are bringing ethics back into business.
Tokyo: All Things Cat October 07 2015
Like the internet, Japan loves cats. From cat cafes to cat themed clothing boutiques to cat marshmallows, cats are everywhere. Apparently, most landlords in Tokyo prohibit renters from having cats and dogs, and as a result, cat cafes became a popular outlet for those who want to de-stress with a furry feline friend.
The first time I went to Japan, I visited two cat cafes: Hapineko (Shibuya) and Calico (Shinjuku). Overall, I liked Calico better because they had more cats, the base price was cheaper, and the space was much bigger (two floors of cats!). They also had interesting breeds and gave me a free drink ticket for when I come back. Also, I didn't like that Hapineko had a higher price for foreigners. Both cat cafes had mostly aloof cats that were only friendly when you had food in your hand. They weren't playful at all, which may be due to them being stuck at the cafe until God knows when. Which brings me to a rare form of cat cafes: the ones where the cats are rescues and are adoptable. During my second trip to Japan, I discovered a small cat cafe in Nakano called Neko no Kanzume. Unlike most cat cafes, they had playful kittens which I loved. The cats are rescues so some of them looked a little banged up, but I like that the cafe is trying to find homes for loving cats who may be overlooked because of an injury.
Cat Themed Treats
Yawahada Marshmallow Shop (note that they have more items on their Japanese site) has the best and most clever treat EVER! The cat marshmallow. Unfortunately, they are strictly ecommerce (no store front) and you must go through an expensive package forwarding service for international shipping. Essentially, you will pay twice for shipping: Yawahada will charge you to ship to the forwarding service in Japan and the forwarding service will charge you for international shipping. Anyway, I bought a bunch of their cat marshmallows and picked them up via the Poste Restante hold service at the post office. I was staying at an AirBnB apartment with no doorman and didn't want to spend my vacation waiting for a package, so I instructed Yawahada to ship to the local post office for pickup. I also found some cat cookies that cleverly hang from your coffee mug at the Kit Kat store located at the First Avenue Shops in Tokyo Station. So Cute!
Cat Themed Shops
I stumbled upon a few shops that exclusively sell things with cats on it. Hikosen Cara is a little expensive but they have some cute clothes and accessories. I bought a cat scroll set up at Kamawanu shop in Harajuku. I just couldn't resist because the cat depicted on the cloth (Tenugui) reminds me of my precious Allie.
Japan loves cats. From cat cafes, billboards, home decor, and Hello Kitty!, you can't get away from them. Which for me is awesome! They even have a cat who is a train station master. I vote to have feline station masters at NYC transit stops. It would make my commute more pleasant.
I'm In Love With Japanese Candies September 29 2015
I just got back from a trip to Tokyo and I probably spent more time and money on procuring candy than actual food.
I was on a mission from the time my plane touched down at Narita Airport. I was going to find purple sweet potato Kit Kat's and buy them all. The first time I went to Tokyo, I discovered that convenience stores only sell 3 types of Kit Kat's: green tea, dark chocolate, and regular. The airport has more variety, however they are more expensive. So for my second visit to Tokyo, I came prepared. I had researched different places to buy a variety of Kit Kat flavors. I found a few small candy shops that had pumpkin and cookies & cream flavored Kit Kat's, but your best bet is a candy store located in the First Avenue Shops at Tokyo Station. But be forewarned, they don't stock much in the summer because of melting issues (see photo). I almost cried when I read the sign, but I went back a week later and the sign was gone and they had stocked more! Yay! In the end I was able to buy wasabi, chili, strawberry cheesecake, cookies & cream, cheesecake, sakura green tea, pumpkin, red bean paste, and green tea Kit Kat's. Unfortunately, purple sweet potato is a discontinued flavor. When I returned to the USA, I gave some to my cat sitter, friends, and family, and I definitely scored some brownie points. I also discovered my absolute favorite candy of all time: the Oreo Chocolate Bar (vanilla). It's HEAVEN.
As you can tell, I have a HUGE sweet tooth. I enjoyed trying different cheap candies at Tokyo convenience stores and I was pleasantly surprised to find a lot of snacks that utilized the purple sweet potato flavor. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that Kit Kat will reintroduce that flavor in the near future.
I was able to find shops in NYC (Brooklyn Chinatown, Manhattan Chinatown, Flushing) and Cleveland (World Market) that sell green tea Kit Kat's but they cost $7.99 compared to $2 in Japan. Actually, it is cheaper to buy them on ebay from Japan. I found a seller selling them for $5 with free shipping. However, the other flavors are way more expensive on ebay.
I highly recommend Japan. The candies are on point and Tokyo has the most Michelin Star restaurants of any city. There are also fantastic cheap eats. You will eat very well there.
I found the coveted purple sweet potato Kit Kats on Ebay!
Trunks Shows Are An Entreprenuer's Best Friend September 22 2015
I recently wrote an article for Maker's Row that highlights how to save money without reducing quality and I note that trunk shows are a bootstrapping entrepreneur's best friend. Trunk shows have multiple benefits: market research, broadening your client base, and connecting with potential buyers.
You have a great idea for a product and are sure that everyone will love it. You build a website and dump tons of money into advertising, product development, and manufacturing. You wait, and wait, and wait, and no sales. After spending thousands of dollars on creating, producing, and marketing your product you realize that there's no market.
This could have been avoided by a number of ways, but the least expensive (other than internet research) and most in depth is by organizing a trunk show early in the development stage. At trunk shows you get valuable feedback from potential clients and the shop owner. For example, during the prototype stage of the Exclusively Kristen Tank Top, I showed the samples to local shop owners and they gave me valuable suggestions on length, color, and other features based on their vast knowledge of the business and what their clients typically buy. Also, trunk shows allow potential clients to try on the garment and you can see first hand the fit and the client's reaction.
Trunk shows are a win win for you and the shop owner. You invite your customers and the shop owner invites hers, thus exposing each other to new potential customers. Also, it gives the shop owner the opportunity to see if your items will sell and if so, you may get a wholesale order! Getting your prototype into the hands of experts and potential customers prior to manufacturing and paying big bucks for ads will save you both time and money.
Runway Passport June 05 2015
Exclusively Kristen is happy to announce that our jewelry collection is featured on Runway Passport, which is a hub connecting emerging designers from around the world with fashion forward customers. We appreciate their support of up and coming designers!
Busty Girl Problems Part II May 14 2015
I love empire waist shirts and dresses! They are great for accentuating curves and are a fashionable addition to maternity clothes. Unfortunately, up until last year, I owned only a handful of empire waist clothes and none of them looked right on me. Like many people with underserved body types, I just made it work. I remember one shirt in particular that had a horizontal seam that was supposed to rest underneath the nipple line, but I thought I would start a new trend of horizontal seams across the bust. Also, the horizontal seam had elastic so that it would constrict underneath the bust and accentuate a flat stomach and small waist, but for me, since the elastic band rested just underneath the nipple line, the fabric across the stomach bulged outward so I looked pregnant :-( If I bought a size or two larger it would look like I was wearing a burlap sack and the horizontal seam would still not rest below the bust. How frustrating! Busty girl options are to pull down the empire waist shirt resulting in too much cleavage and the bra peaking out or acquiesce to the seam sitting at or near the nipple line. Large busted women now have another option: empire waist shirts made for D+ bra cup women that look great! Try Exclusively Kristen's Urban Gypsy Top. Also, there are other empire waist shirts in the works, so come back and see us!
The Beauty of a Trunk Show April 24 2015
I am excited to announce that Exclusively Kristen will be hosting a series of trunk shows this summer. What is a trunk show? A trunk show is an event in which vendors present merchandise directly to store personnel or customers at a retail location or another venue. It is a great opportunity for companies to connect with potential customers and gain useful feedback about their products and customer needs. Trunk shows are especially good for ecommerce businesses such as Exclusively Kristen because it gives customers a chance to get to know the person behind the company and to try on the garments before buying. Fit is very important for women, especially large busted women who have been underserved in the mainstream fashion industry. So I want to make sure that every woman is getting an Exclusively Kristen shirt that fits and flatters her figure.
I will offer discounts on clothes purchased at the trunk shows and will present new items for sale on pre-order. Also, you will have the opportunity to vote on which designs you want manufactured. How exciting! Go to Exclusively Kristen's Events page to see the dates, times, and locations of our trunk shows. So far, two locations have been secured: Iris Lingerie, Brooklyn, NY and Lovejoys Lingerie, Rio Grande, NJ (near Cape May). Both locations sell large cup bras and have expert bra fitters. So you can kill two birds with one stone: you can get properly fitted for a bra and a shirt specifically for large breasted women. What a great opportunity!
Note that more trunk show locations may be added, so check back frequently.
Busty Girl Problems March 25 2015
I played sports in high school: track & field, softball, and cheerleading. I distinctly remember that I was a 34 shell (top) in my cheerleading uniform but had to order a 36 because I couldn't zip it past my boobs. My mom still displays my senior year photos on her living room end table and there I am...smiling in all of my 17-year-old glory in my baggy cheerleading shell. My track and softball uniforms were fine because they weren't meant to be form fitting, but the problem was what to wear to practice. For me, it was a baggy t-shirt and two bras: a regular bra and a sports bra over it. The sports bra soaked up the dreaded underboob sweat and gave added support. Occasionally, I'd wear a racerback tank top but I had to avoid the ones with the shelf bras because they created more problems than solutions. The shelf bra didn't cover the entirety of my breasts and as a result it made my them look weird. There was an indentation just below the nipple line where the elastic band rested because there wasn't enough fabric for it to rest where it was supposed to: just under the bust. Also, the shelf bra made my chest look bunched and distorted, and I had to be sure that the neckline was high enough to cover cleavage.
As usual the trials and tribulations of my youth got the wheels turning in my adult head. Why not manufacture a racerback tank top with a shelf bra for busty ladies like myself? The shelf bra could offer light support, reduce the nipples from showing though, and catch any extra underboob sweat. For a busty woman, there's no such thing as too much support. I have since found a sports bra that is super supportive and I don't need to double up bras when I work out anymore. I also like to wear Exclusively Kristen's camisoles when I want to go braless and let the girls be free, but not too free...like when I sleep or lounge around the house on a low key day as well as underneath a suit jacket or cardigan. I don't have any kids yet, but a friend of mine with two kids said that she would've loved having Exclusively Kristen's shelf bra tank tops while nursing to ease the process and catch leakage. I am all about solving problems and I think I have cracked the code to busty girl comfort while working out, nursing, sleeping, and lounging.