Product Review: Bolero Wrap Tops

Hello Everyone,

First, let me preface my review with a heartfelt outpouring of thanks to Patrica of Bolero.  She and I have the worst timing when exchanging dresses and tops for reviews because lately either I am sick and/or the beautiful NC weather decides to pour rain/ice/sleet/etc.  Combined, it has taken me several weeks to arrange photo shoots, but I am so happy to finally have the opportunity.

Bolero_Green_3

In the shop, I unabashedly gush over how much I wear Bolero pieces, and I am not the kind of person who gives false praise to encourage sales.  I tell people because it’s the truth, and I am not ashamed to admit I wear at least one Bolero dress every week.  Most weeks, I wear 2-3 dresses because they are the most comfortable work-appropriate clothes I own, and they continue to flatter my ever-changing figure no matter how much or how little weight I am carrying.  More importantly, I can trust the dresses to wash well and last more than a season.  I toss these babies in the wash, hang ‘em dry, and voila!  The dress looks brand new even after constant wear.

Purple Lace with Pink Underlayer

Purple Lace with Pink Layer

While all budgets and shopping preferences are different, I am the type of person who missed “the shopping gene.”  My philosophy is to purchase the best quality I can afford, but buy less overall pieces.  It doesn’t help that I am hard-to-fit and work a job which can be physically taxing, so finding one item that works could qualify as a Herculean task.  I would much rather spend $100 on one dress that not only looks amazing but will also endure several years than repeat the shopping cycle with cheaper dresses which pill or look shabby quickly.  Obviously, that’s not a universal way of shopping, but for those of you who either have a higher discretionary income or who want pieces which fit amazing and last several seasons, consider Bolero.  In fact, I have another post coming up soon with her spring and summer collection, including an incredible orange dress (a statement a person with my skin tone almost never utters).  I’m excited to share all of this with you, but in the meantime, Patricia has also released a line of wrap tops which are the focus of today’s post.

Purple Lace with Green Layer

Purple Lace with Green Layer . . . oh, and Lord Rayden the friendly dog ghost

Read more ›

As with the dresses, the wrap tops are designed to be friendly to a fuller bust and come in sizes S-XL.  These pictures were taken yesterday in the midst of another rainy day, so we decided to have some fun with it.  Per usual, I am wearing the size Small.  As of yesterday, I weighed 169 pounds with a bust of 42″ and a waist of 31″.  However, the tops even fit when I was at 175 a couple weeks ago, meaning there is flexibility depending on body shape.  Since I am clearly not on the “small” side of things, women in that 00-2 zone may have fit issues, but my aunt, who wears a 4, also tried the tops with great success too.

Bolero_Green_4

The blouses are adorned with a flattering side ruche which accentuates curves and tailors the waist of the top naturally.  The deeper V-neck allows space for the bust, and the fabric on the back and shoulders is not binding or constricting.  Since I am blessed with bigger boobs for my frame and shoulders worthy of a professional lineman, I often struggle with tops, even knit ones, because they pull uncomfortably across my back.  And the last thing I want to do at work is hulk out of my shirt!  Nevertheless, these tops give and stretch with me so I can perform a full range of movement without fear.

Bolero_Purple_Pink_1

Because the neckline is lower, you may need to consider a Perfect Cami underneath for work, but as you can see from the photos, it’s not exceptionally deep either.  The sleeves hit at the elbow, which I feel is a flattering length for most women, and the shoulder coverage will keep you warm in frigid offices.  However, the fabric is still lightweight enough not to make you sweat in the heat.

Bolero_Purple_Green_2

In fact, Patricia’s fabric selection has always been one of my favorite components of her designs.  First and foremost, it just feels so darn good!  I have never put on a Bolero dress and thought:  “Meh, this is kind of scratchy.”  Instead, they glide over my shoulders and feel like a cool, soft fabric good enough for sleeping.  Second, they drape well across multiple figures.  The lightweight fabric has its own quality of movement to hug curves, cascading over them without clinging in unflattering ways.  Finally, the synthetic blend never wrinkles and dries quickly, making them ideal travel companions.  It truly is the perfect fabric.

Bolero_Green_1 Bolero_Green_2

For the tops, she has two options.  The first uses the same fabric as the dresses, and the second uses a lining fabric with a lace on top.  I love both, and I enjoy having the option of something solid or printed as well as something with a textural element.  Bonus points awarded to the tops for not showing any bra seams or lace either.  While seams showing does not bother me, I know my customers would appreciate a fabric which does not reveal every element of their bra like a page of braille.

Bolero_Purple_Pink_4 Bolero_Purple_Pink_3

Finally, I think the length of the tops is a refreshing change from many bust-friendly pieces.  While I do love my BiuBiu and Urkye pieces too, I find the tops are sometimes quite long in the torso, making them more appropriate for wearing with jeans than with skirts.  The Bolero tops all end at an area which works for either.  The only downside I potentially see is that women who are taller than me may find them to fall short, but I am sure Patricia could work with you on something a little longer.

Bolero_Purple_Pink_2

While this has nothing to do with the tops, I do want to remind everyone that Bolero is a small business with products designed and manufactured in America under ethical working conditions.  It’s because of these elements that a dress is between $98 and $108 and the tops will be between $60 and $70.  However, the quality is there to support the price, and I feel better knowing that my money is supporting another business owner trying to help women feel more confident about themselves.

Overall Grade:  A+

Bolero_Green_6

Because taking pictures should be fun . . .

Because taking pictures should be fun . . .

Posted in Product Reviews, Recommendations Tagged with: , , , , ,

A Guide to Comexim and Anna Pardal Alterations

Hello Everyone,

Today’s blog has been long in the making and will be fairly substantial, but if you have purchased or want to purchase either an Anna Pardal or Comexim bra, grab a beverage of choice and push onward into “TL;DR” territory. Anna from Anna Pardal and I collaborated on a guide to the alterations offered by the aforementioned brands as well as on what fit tweaks they hope to make in future collections. This post represents a rare occurrence in the lingerie world: a manufacturer who actually *wants* to hear what you have to say about their products, even if it is negative.

To anyone just tuning in who has missed the copious reviews and outpourings of undying affection on my part, I highly encourage you to go to Erica’s Reviews and check out Comexim and Anna Pardal. However, if you are just too titillated by my promises of a long, technical post, here’s a little background information. Comexim is a Polish bra company focusing on deeper cups and narrow wires, which are ideal for women with close set breasts needing more projection. Anna Pardal partnered with them to create a separate line of breathtakingly beautiful pieces in high quality laces and fabrics. They use the same sewing team and cup shapes, but the lines follow different aesthetic trajectories with unique fabrics.

Unlike most bra companies, Comexim and Anna Pardal work with customers to improve the fit of their existing designs through an alterations process. However, performing frequent, large quantity custom alterations creates additional overhead, and the design team hopes to receive general feedback on both their classic 3-section padded cup shape and their vertical seamed padded half-cup shape. In particular, the brand hopes feedback on the recently added higher cup sizes and larger bands will reduce fit issues by developing a pattern which better captures the nuances of this market.

Since the classic shape fits me perfectly, I never explored the alterations options, but Anna was kind enough to send me two samples from her new collection, both modified with different common alterations requests. What alterations can Comexim and Anna Pardal perform? I’ll let Anna herself answer this:  Read more ›

Our alterations have become very popular, so we’re looking at a few different ways of making them more accessible and easier to understand.

The most common alterations

  • Reduced/raised center gore height
  • Reduced cup height
  • Moving straps inward
  • Wider fabric on sides of bra (below armpit)
  • More hook and eye closures on band

It can be hard to know exactly what alterations you might need! So, in the spirit of collaboration, we’re putting together this informative post about common alterations and how they might help — and we’re also asking for your feedback on re-designing our “standard” patterns to better fit different size ranges.

For example, we’re considering making the following changes:

For all H+ cups:

  • Add 1-2 extra hook/eye closures
  • Move straps in by 2 cm
  • Reduce the cup height

For all 28 to 32 bands:

  • Reduce center gore by 1-2 cm

For all 38+ bands:

  • Raise the center gore by 1-2 cm

Bras that meet more than one of these criteria would have all the alterations for that size included, so that a 28 J would have extra hook/eye closures, closer-set straps, lower cup height, and a lower center gore.

Do you think this would be helpful for those customers who aren’t as familiar with the ins and outs of bra design, but who are desperate for a perfect fit? I’d love to hear your feedback!

Within the last nine months, I have worked frequently with women on identifying which alterations would best suit their shape, and I have general feedback on whom may benefit from the various fit tweaks.

Raised Gore: People with softer tissue which falls toward the center of the classic shape may want a raised gore alteration to keep tissue contained and minimize the plunging shape of the neckline. This alteration works well in conjunction with a reduced cup to create more of a balcony shape. However, there is a downside to raising the gore. Comexim and Anna Pardal do not use extremely firm underwires like Panache, and women with heavy, fuller center tissue find the center gore soft tacks or angles outward away from the body.

Reduced Gore: As I mentioned above, firm/dense/full, close-set breasts can push the underwire away from the body in a raised gore and in some cases the classic gore height. In this case, lowering the gore height can improve the fit by reducing how high the underwire will sit on the chest. Not to mention, it’s also a nice alteration if you want more cleavage or a lower neckline.

Reduced Cup Height: Because the shape of the Comexim classic shape is so rounded and tall, women with either less upper fullness or a vertically shorter breast run out of tissue before the cup ends. While the alteration is beneficial in all sizes, I find the recent expansion to HH+ sizes frequently benefit from a lowered cup height. Additionally, I think the higher cup sizes would benefit from 1-2” of material removed from the portion of cup adjacent to the strap. The rest of the cup may fit perfectly, but the extra space near the strap can wrinkle or fold inward on itself. Finally, when they reduce the cup height, they only remove the upper-section of the cup, and it is done proportionally with less material removed from the center and more from the top nearest the strap. Because the center gore keeps the majority of the material and depth, I think it can prevent the altered bra from being too small in the cup in most cases.

Straps Moved Inward: For people with narrow or sloped shoulders, this alteration not only improves the fit but also prevents strap slippage. With higher cup sizes, the alteration proves beneficial as well because the tendency to scale upward in cup is also to scale outward with the straps. Moving them closer to the neck can also alleviate some of the gaping issues with the top of the cup.

Wider Fabric on the Arm: One of the complaints I field regarding the fit of the bras is the lower coverage on the side of the cup/arm. People with looser skin or who have a little extra tissue in the region feel the lack of material height allows spillage near the top. Women in 40+ bands have also been a fan of more material on the side for added smoothing.

More Hook-and-Eye Closures: I have ranted on nearly every Cleo bra review about how much I loathe two hook-and-eye closures. Allowing customers the freedom to select the number of hooks which suits them is fantastic.

Phew! Are you still with me? Let’s move on to show some of these alterations in action. Note: I will be reviewing these bras in separate posts, and as such, I am only interested in showcasing the alterations and briefly commenting on how it changed the fit.

Comexim Arabella 32HH — Our Control aka the Classic 3-Section Cup

 Arabella

  • Unstretched Band — 24”
  • Stretched Band — 31”
  • Gore Height — 3.25”
  • Vertical Depth* — 9”
  • Horizontal Depth** — 11.75”
  • Height*** — 7”
  • Width**** — 6”

* Taken by measuring the interior of the cup height and tracing the curve from underwire to the top of the cup.

** Taken by measuring the interior of the cup width and tracing the curve from underwire to center gore.

*** Taken by measuring directly from underwire to top of the cup.

**** Taken by measuring directly from underwire to center gore.

None of these measurements include the underwire itself, and all are approximate.

 Anna Pardal Beatrix 32HH — Raised Gore/ Raised Arm

 Beatrix

  • Unstretched Band — 24”
  • Stretched Band — 30”
  • Gore Height — 3.5”
  • Vertical Depth — 9”
  • Horizontal Depth — 11.75”
  • Height — 7.25”
  • Width — 6.25”

 Felicity 32HH — Lowered Gore/Reduced Cup/Straps Moved in 2cm

 Felicity

  • Unstretched Band — 24”
  • Stretched Band — 31”
  • Gore Height — 2.75”
  • Vertical Depth — 8.33”
  • Horizontal Depth — 11.75”
  • Height — 6.75”
  • Width — 6”

The next couple of photos show few comparisons so you can see the differences reflected by the measurements.

 

Felicity overlaid on Arabella:  Not the lowered gore and reduced cup height.

Felicity overlaid on Arabella: Not the lowered gore and reduced cup height.

Reduced Gore of Felicity with Raised Gore of Beatrix

Reduced Gore of Felicity with Raised Gore of Beatrix

A slightly different shot to compare cup heights.

A slightly different shot to compare cup heights

The difference 2cm makes in strap placement

The difference 2cm makes in strap placement

Higher gore with slightly higher cup height compared to the classic shape

Higher gore with slightly higher cup height compared to the classic shape

Higher arm on the side

Higher arm on the side

Observations:

  •  When the Felicity and Arabella (or Beatrix) are overlaid, the straps of Arabella end where the straps of Felicity/Beatrix start.
  • It’s difficult to see in the photos, but the reduced cup height of Felicity is more of an angled triangular cut when compared against Arabella. I mentioned this earlier in the post and hope you can see how little fabric is removed from the center in comparison to what is removed from the straps.
  • Beatrix, despite having a higher arm, did not rub or chafe and felt very secure overall.

A quick preview of fit:

Beatrix_4 Felicity_4

Based on these popular alterations, Anna Pardal is hoping to develop a new style in addition to the half-cup, classic cup, and upcoming longline which takes into account people’s personal preferences regardless of what size they need. Additionally, both companies are interested in any feedback you can provide on their products, especially if you have tried some of their styles in higher cups or bands as these are areas where they want to continue to improve.

Please take advantage of this opportunity.  A manufacturer actually wants to hear your feedback, both positive and negative, and will use this to help improve their products. How often have we all discussed the way manufacturers are dismissive of customer needs/wants? Now we have a chance to weigh in with a company that genuinely cares. So, please comment. We all want to hear what you have to say.

Erica

P.S.  For more information or for those who prefer to listen/watch then read, check out the video below:

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Product Review: Cleo Minnie

Hello Everyone,

File this review under my “Better Late than Never” category as it was recorded pre-Fall illness; however, since the Minnie is now an ongoing style for Cleo, discussing the advantages and disadvantages of the bra remain relevant and possibly helpful for anyone interested in exploring what Cleo has to offer.  For me, I was drawn to Minnie because it reminded me of an earlier Cleo polka-dot bra called Zia—a personal favorite, and I hoped Minnie would live up to my expectations.

Minnie_4

Sizing & Fit:  When I ordered Minnie, my body was in the throws of both breast and weight fluctuations, and my usual UK 30H did not fit.  The band was comfortably snug on the loosest set of hooks, but I had overflow at the top of the cup as well as the dreaded “quadboob.”  At the time, I could not determine if the fit issue originated with my body changes, inconsistent sizing, or shape incompatibility.  Having had time to reflect on everything, I think the issue was the shape of the cup and my changing size/tissue.  In addition to increasing in size, my breast tissue became fuller toward the top, and Minnie works better for balanced or lower-fullness breasts on account of how the cup darts inward.  In contrast to another Cleo best-seller, the Marcie, Minnie has a closed in shape toward the top, meaning some people may need to size up to ensure a proper fit.  Sadly, others with very full-on-top breasts may not be able to wear the style at all.  I would have loved to test a 30HH for comparison, but with my size changing, I didn’t want to order bras that may not fit for long.

Minnie_2

As with other Cleo unpadded bras, Minnie utilizes narrower underwires and deeper cups with a moderate center gore.  On the side, the underwires do not extend too far back, but they are not as narrow or low as my Comexim/Anna Pardal styles.  Minnie provides a flattering, uplifted, and rounded profile, and the cups feel secure.  Furthermore, Cleo continues to use 2 hook-and-eye closures in the back although I personally prefer at least three and continue to urge Cleo to offer this option in one of their future styles.  Finally, the straps on Minnie, as with other Cleo bras, are wider set, and customers with narrow or sloping shoulders have reported issues with strap slippage and fit.  I would love to see Cleo move the straps inward by 2-3cm on one of their models to fix this issue.  Read more ›

Minnie_5Minnie_6

Materials & Design:  The lower cup is made from a heavier, firmer fabric with less flexibility that provides incredible lift and hold while the top cup is an embroidered mesh.  Stiff embroidery on the mesh contributes to tailoring the top inward, and the sweetheart neckline is flattering under most tops.  Earlier, I mentioned how Minnie reminded me of Zia, and after trying it out, I think Minnie is a pretty worthy inheritor to the once popular style.  The variation used for the review is the original fresh red/white combination for Spring 2014, and I loved it!  The true red background with modernized white polka dots felt seasonally appropriate for spring and summer, and the contrasting yellow and white polka dot pattern on the bow was a cute touch.  For Fall, the black and white version was a popular alternative to plain black, and for spring 2015, they are releasing a light, Carolina blue colorway.  Then, later this year, there will be a dark Navy version with yellow contrasting straps which I am excited to bring into the shop.  Throughout all of the various colors, I think Minnie has achieved a balance between Cleo’s traditionally brighter and quirkier aesthetic and designs accessible to people of all ages.

Minnie_3

Minnie_1

Overall Grade:  A

For more information, please check out the video below:

Posted in Product Reviews, Recommendations Tagged with: , , , , , , , , ,

Product Review: Eucalan Wash

Hello Everyone,

Let’s be honest:  Reviewing wash for delicate items is kind of a first for the blog.  Sure, I occasionally review accessories, but does lingerie wash really warrant the space and time of an actual review?  YES!!!  (emphasis absolutely necessary)  Until now, I’ve been more in the “I’ll just use body wash for my bras,” but now I am a proud Eucalan addict.  A few months ago, fellow store owners mentioned how wonderful Eucalan products were, leading us to send inquiries to the brand.  Eucalan graciously provided me some sample pods to test the product, and I went into the experiment thinking “It’s just lingerie wash.  Big Deal.”  Once I tried it, I knew I would never use body wash again.

Before I discuss my experience, let’s rewind and talk about the company itself.  Eucalan was founded by Mary Edgar who used Eucalyptus and Lanolin to create a rinseless wash for yarn and sweaters.  Lanolin, in particular, functions as a conditioner for the fibers which helps reduce static cling—an all important factor in the yarn/sweater industry.  Over the years, the small family-owned business continued to expand, including hypoallergenic scents like Jasmine, Grapefruit, Lavender, and Natural (aka Unscented), all of which have unique properties.  Both the Eucalyptus and Lavender scents have moth-inhibiting abilities and protect against fleas (we’ll get to why that’s relevant later) while grapefruit has natural disinfecting properties, making it ideal for items which sit close to the skin.  The Natural works wonderfully for people with scent allergies or skin sensitivities.

The “No Rinse” element to the product allows for water conservation as well as making it ideal for travel.  Furthermore, the formula can easily be used for hand or machine washing (you’re not machine washing your bras, right?).  All of their products are pH neutral, “non-toxic, biodegradable, and free of bleach, phosphates, synthetic fragrance and dye.”  Furthermore, the packaging is easy to recycle and free of dyes as part of their commitment to being ecologically responsible.

16.9o bottles sitting behind "One Use" Pods

16.9oz bottles sitting behind “One Use” Pods

Being a bra store owner, my first framework for viewing the product was that of a lingerie wash, hence why the first use was on bras.  The rinseless component made hand washing easier.  All I did was fill my sink with water, add some Eucalan, and let everything soak for 15 minutes.  Once I drained the water, I squeezed the excess per usual, minus the extra step.  My bras smelled fantastic, and the fabrics felt softer when they dried.  Despite the rinseless factor working well for bras, I do rinse anything that I consider dirty for peace of mind.  Read more ›

With the test run successful, I moved on to the store’s bras.  When we do inventory checks, sometimes a bra will get accidentally marked by a pencil or pen, and I decided to use the unscented pod to test on the stains.  They vanished completely!  I let some Eucalan sit on the stain for a few minutes and then gently rubbed it into the fabric more, rinsing a little here and there.  If anyone from Eucalan reads this post, please include in your marketing how easily it removes most stains.  Next up was a lamp shade with mysterious water marks which looked brand new in 15 minutes.

Then, there was this white shirt which I dropped blood from roast beef mixed with mayonnaise on:

 

This looked clearer on my cell phone . . .

This looked clearer on my cell phone . . .

All Clean!

All Clean!

Other things it has removed include makeup, perfume scents, lotion, mustard, stir fry, salad dressing, and spaghetti sauce.  (I’m a messy eater. Don’t judge me.)  The only thing it hasn’t been able to tackle is my dad’s kimchi, but there’s like three cups of Korean red pepper flakes per batch so whatever that touches is stained forever.  As I experimented more with the different scents and the product itself, I really came to see why I was wrong to label this “just lingerie wash” because it has a lot of versatility.  You can use this on silks, cashmere, wool, satin, synthetic . . . anything really.

If I was pressed to say something negative about the product, I would say that Eucalyptus is not my favorite scent.  It smells a lot like Vick’s Vapor Rub, but I do like the properties it has associated with it because I am going to try it on my dogs for flea season.  Yes, you read that correctly.  When I was reading more about the company, I found that one of the sales managers uses the Eucalyptus scent on her dogs and horses for bathing.  It’s that gentle!  So, the next time I feel like a glutton for punishment, I am going to test it on the terrorists.

Overall Grade:  Need you even ask?

Erica

Posted in Product Reviews, Recommendations Tagged with: , , , , ,

Open Letter to Manufacturers: Bigger Bands != Bigger Cups

Hello Everyone,

I am not ashamed to admit that a few years ago I had no idea an H cup existed, and I am not alone.  Every week, a customer enters the shop who also has no idea companies manufacturer a GG cup, much less that she needs one.  In fact, head to your search engine of choice and enter “36HH bras,” and the selection is vastly greater than most would assume possible for a size many people do not know exists.  Are all of the options perfect?  Of course not!  However, the market continues to explore new fit techniques, to expand to better fabrics, and to create more innovative products for the market.

Now, return to your favorite search engine and look for “42A bras.”  The choices drop pretty drastically.  What astounds me most about this situation is how much earlier AA, A, and B cups became part of my bra vocabulary than a G cup did.  In the lingerie world, we often discuss underrepresented markets and consumers—of which there are far too many, but for today, I want to focus on the men and women needing 38+ bands and AA-B cups.  Part of my desire to discuss this topic stems from personal frustrations because I am researching ways to help customers who visited the shop in the past and were sized out of our inventory.  Our existing manufacturers assume anyone needing a 42 band should naturally be at least a C or D cup.  Why this thought-process is so pervasive perplexes me particularly because it stands to reason some people are not naturally well-endowed, regardless of their band size.  After all, as the small band/big cup ladies know, you cannot assume a woman is not busty simply because she wears a 24-30 band, so why is the reverse acceptable?  Women’s bodies are all different, and blanket generalizations about shape and size prevent manufacturers from accessing new customers and addressing their needs.

What’s Available

Amoena Lara:  One of the better reviewed bras in the size range.  Available in AA cups but only sizes to a 40 band.

Amoena Lara: One of the better reviewed bras in the size range. Available in AA cups but only sizes to a 40 band.

Certain sizes within this range will obviously have more choices than others, but common contenders are Ameona, Leading Lady, Anita, Chantelle, and Prima Donna.  However, the larger the band size, the fewer choices available.  Similarly, the selection for smaller cup sizes is worse than for those in the B-C range.  Stylistically, the options represent mostly unpadded bras, with or without a seam, without much detail and in basic colors only.  Or in other words:  It’s pretty bleak.  Scanning through the products for my research reminded me of how I spent my teens and early-20s bra shopping, idly staring at two bras and wondering if I wanted beige or black this time around.  Even the designs with colors or texture pale in comparison to phenomenal pieces we see in many marketplaces now.  Not to mention, many of the aforementioned companies offer more sports bras than actual bras, if they sell the latter at all in a size range.  That way, if you weren’t already upset your size is so hard to find, you now can enjoy the fact manufacturers only want to sell you a sports bra.  Read more ›

The Fit Problems

While customers would be disappointed they cannot find a pretty bra in their size, I am sure having a basic style which fits, flatters, and feels fantastic would be a decent consultation.  Unfortunately, my experience and research has not been overwhelmingly positive.  First—and I have seen this firsthand with some of our manufacturers—an A cup is not an A cup.  It’s more like a B or C cup.  For the customer who originally needed the B or C, he/she can size down to improve the fit, but for the person needing an AA or an A cup, she/he now sized out of the style.  For example, far too many reviews for Leading Lady have indicated the cup sizes are exceedingly generous, leaving a trail of unsatisfied customer reviews in the brand’s wake.  Another possibility for why the cups are folding and not fitting in smaller cup sizes is that the designs, particularly those with a molded cup, are too tall.  Cups that are too tall can create gaping and puckering easily, even if the size would have been otherwise correct.  Most of these women in the AA-B cup range do not need chest-swallowing coverage, and in many cases, it’s this insistence on full coverage which causes more fit problems.  From working with these customers and researching the market, I know many of the women in this size range have shallower breasts and breast tissue extending toward the side.  As a result, styles with excellent side support from the wings as well as adequate coverage on the side of the cup help encase breast tissue while a lower coverage cup that is not too tall or open at the top prevent folding or gaping.  This is by no means the rule, but a woman wearing a 44A often doesn’t need something completely full coverage in order to give her shape and support.

Anita 5409:  A perfect example of what the market wants to sell this customer.

Anita 5409: A perfect example of what the market wants to sell this customer.

Speaking of shape, a lot of the styles tread more into a pointy or conical shape when a rounded, lifted shape would be better.  As a result, even if the bra fits and feels comfortable, the person is not happy with the silhouette under clothes.  This can be especially true for unpadded, cut-and-sew cups—a style which is not as popular here anyway on account of the lack of nipple protection and indiscreet seams.  Moving beyond issues with the cups, I have read a lot of complaints about the band, namely that they can sometimes run too tight.  As a result, the person who needed a 42A now needs a 44AA or a 46AAA.  It’s important for manufacturers to examine the unique needs of a market and work toward addressing them rather than either scaling a pattern to fit or slapping something together and expecting consumers to buy it out of frustration.  The most common requests I hear from people in this range are:  a comfortable, supportive band preferably with smoothing; lower coverage on the cups; inset straps to prevent slippage; and light padding for a rounded shape.

Leading Lady 5044:  Get your sexy on people!  A-DD Cups up to a 48 band

Leading Lady 5044: Get your sexy on people! A-DD Cups up to a 48 band

The Male Factor

Brace yourselves:  Some men wear bras.  Whether for medical or personal reasons, a growing number of men buy bras, and more than a few fall into this exact category.  Those suffering from gynecomastia may have a better selection depending on their cup size since C cups are a lot easier to locate than AA-B, but many still experience fit issues, some of which are identical to those experienced by females.  With men with gynecomastia, they may have fuller breasts, but they typically have broader chests and backs which require a superb band to provide support.  Underwires and soft cups alike can frequently fall short of encapsulating all of the breast tissue on the side.  For men purchasing bras and lingerie for themselves, they have an added issue: It’s all basic. I mentioned earlier how dreary the options were, and for men, it’s no different.  If you are experimenting with lingerie and want something sexy but you happen to wear a 40A, it’s going to be a challenge.  While there are some companies addressing this, like Homme Mystere, the size range is usually more limited, meaning men with broader chests are sized out of the frillier bras.  In fact, I would love to see a new company surface who specifically designs bras for men, both those needing them for gynecomastia as well as those who enjoy lingerie for its own sake.

Available in S-XL sizing. XL accommodates up to: 45"-50" chest

Available in S-XL sizing. XL accommodates up to: 45″-50″ chest

Concluding Thoughts

Now, I have mentioned in the past that less common sizes tend to be ignored for the sake of increasing the availability and diversity of more common sizes, and there are valid reasons why this happens, both from a retail and from a manufacturing process.  However, someone needs to be addressing these issues, and I know, as a retailer, that while this market is not going to overtake other demographics in sales, it’s still prevalent enough for me to have spent the last two days banging my head on the counter out of frustration while desperately evaluating which company deserves my inventory dollars.  In the future, I would love to see a company focusing specifically on plus-size small busts.  I have always said I would rather a company specialize on a niche market and offer exceptional products for them than to muddle through a broader range of sizes.  Ideally, this company would be a bridge line with prices and quality in the $45-$65 mark and would offer a mix of basics and pretty bras, even if the fashion is not updated as frequently as other lines.  Finally, I want to note my intention with this post is not to pit sizes against each other, merely to draw attention to an issue far too many people grapple with on a daily basis.  One of the reasons I think the full-bust market has exploded in the last several years is how many women were raising awareness about the issues, and I want to pay it forward to another market.

Erica

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Friday Fun Post!

Hello Everyone and Happy Friday! Technically, today is my “Thursday” since we’re open on Saturdays, but I thought we’d have a little fun today.  If you have never scrolled down to the end of the blog and read my little author bio, I’ll save you the trip and post it here:

Erica is a lover all things lingerie and is passionate about helping people find the bra which fits and flatters. Side passions include reading, writing, hiking, dairy-free food, walking her Jack Russell terrorists, and dying her hair everything from black to red.

I actually updated this about a month ago, and when I did, instead of generically referring to my furbabies as “dogs,” I called them “Jack Russell terrorists.”  However, since terrier and terrorist are kinda close in the realm of auto-correct, I have received a few comments and emails alerting me to what is assumed to be an error.  I am glad my readers are willing to let me know I may have inadvertently referred to a dog as a terrorist, but that is actually how I refer to them, in complete affection of course.  Since they love having their photo taken, today’s blog will have nothing to do with anything other than me offering evidence which clearly demonstrates why they earn their title.  Skip if you hate pictures of adorable puppies and dogs being publicly shamed.

Even as puppies, they caused problems.

You didn’t want this pillow to be so fluffy, did you?

Read more ›

I bury my face and body in the sand after I swim at the lake so that I get sand in mommy's car.

I bury my face and body in the sand after I swim at the lake so that I get sand in mommy’s car.

I know this is your favorite bra, but I want to wear it as a cape while I run around the house and chase the cat.

I know this is your favorite bra, but I want to wear it as a cape while I run around the house and chase the cat.

Yes, I will use your bags and tissue paper as a makeshift bed.

Yes, I will use your bags and tissue paper as a makeshift bed.

I am going to jump up here and sit pretty, and in the process, I will erase all the words where I sit.

I am going to jump up here and sit pretty, and in the process, I will erase all the words on your board.

IMG_00000085

Line sheets also are a good makeshift bed.

IMG_20150301_150707

I know you’re trying to work mommy , but pay attention to meeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!

Yeah, I’ll just step on your stuff too.

betrayeroftrust

The tag says it all.

 

 

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A Retailer’s Perspective: Buying Complementary Products

Hello Everyone,

This week I have been tackling the important issue of how retailers choose which items to purchase for their store, but so far, I have only discussed bras—an impressive feat since it took two blogs to cover!  However, bras compose the bulk of our overall inventory, meaning they tend to be the highest investment and also the most crucial to our success.  When we first opened, bras were basically all we offered customers with the occasional matching panty in the mix for good measure.  As we have been open longer, I have seen the value of having additional non-bra items in the shop.  Instead of just being “the bra shop,” I want our store to be something customers visit for other items throughout the year.  From a business perspective, having diversity in products enables me to capture more consumer dollars, and the more profit the shop makes, the more we can talk about expansion.  But, what do you choose to bring in?  How can you anticipate where customers will feel confident spending their money?  Research is one of the most valuable tools, and I am always listening to my customers about what they would like to see.  Nevertheless, there are still special considerations for each product, but since we are still gaining in experience here, I will be addressing my store more specifically without being overly general toward other retailers.

Matching Panties

JOCELYN-IRIS-UNDERWIRED-PLUNGE-BRA-8750-BRIEF-8755-CONSUMER

Elomi Jocelyn with the $29 Brief

Some women love to have a matching set, particularly for bras with unique color palettes, but most of our manufacturers think it’s completely acceptable to charge half the cost of the bra for the matching underwear.  In some cases, the added cost is evident through the use of materials or the thoughtfulness of the design, but most of the time, they’re just trying add to their bottom line.  Before anyone thinks retailer’s are marking up $6 underwear to $30, let me tell ya:  It’s expensive for us too.  The average $30 pair of matching panties costs me $13.50, and if I am being completely honest, my wholesale cost should really be the retail price.  When companies like Tutti Rouge or Affinitas can make a perfectly adorable matching underwear for a $23 retail price point, it’s hard to offer a $30+ pair alongside them without any change in quality.  Now, for this category, I am strictly speaking of major manufacturers as I know there are some more expensive underwear which are hand-made or use luxury fabrics, two qualities that naturally add to the price.  As an example, I purchased the Elomi Jocelyn last year in a large size assortment, and I also ordered one pair of matching briefs per size.  I still have some leftover because the $29 retail price does match the quality of the garment, and after spending $65 on the bra, they better!  As a result, I tend to not carry a matching panty if it is above $25.

Basic Panties

Natori Bliss Hipsters

Natori Bliss Hipsters

For basic panties, we look primarily at quality, cut, and price.  The panties that perform the best for us often have “Buy More” deals associated with them, like the Natori Bliss series (3 for $45) or the b.tempt’d Fits Me, Fits you (3 for $30).  If they come in a variety of fashion colors, I am also more likely to buy them because we can often pair them as “faux-matches” with the bras whose matching panties require the deposit of a firstborn child.  A flattering cut and soft materials are equally important as is the “ride” problem.  I religiously read reviews of any product which comes into the store, and panties are no exception.  I am also big on testing them when I can which is why I can confidently recommend them to customers.  Read more ›

Shapewear

The Amazing Stephanie Tank!

The Amazing Stephanie Tank!

Last year, we expanded to include two Shapewear companies into our inventory because we were seeing requests for them from customers.  Furthermore, we help a lot of women with special occasion clothing ranging from bridal to black tie, and we wanted to not only be able to sell the bra but also the other foundation garments.  My biggest concern was finding quality products at a great price point which could be reused in the future.  The first company we purchased was Yummie Tummie because they often utilize graduated control with their smoothing garments to not only improve the fit but also the comfort.  If you don’t own a Stephanie tank, you’re missing out!  Furthermore, Yummie Tummie also produces panties, bralettes, workout gear, and even jeans.  It’s a multifaceted company with a lot to offer retailers—an attractive quality because it enables us to expand easily.  For most retailers, it’s easier to add products from companies with whom they have an existing relationship, meaning companies with multiple products can fuel a retailer’s expansion plans quicker and with less headache.

The Rago 721 Waist Cincher

The Rago 721 Waist Cincher

Of course, some women aren’t interested in the “light hold” provided by Yummie Tummie.  They want something a little more . . . industrial.  And for that customer, I did extensive research of the shapewear industry and selected Rago.  Their products have outstanding reviews and are made and designed in the US.  They’re not seasonally driven, so I know I can order anything from their catalog at any given time and so do my customers.  They provide a large range of basic shapewear pieces as well as high quality garter belts and open bottom girdles, again making it easy to work with them to expand new products.

Lingerie

An iCollection corset in action

An iCollection corset in action

Lingerie is probably the trickiest piece we have attempted to add, and it has been one area where our successes have equaled our failures.  Where possible I wanted to work with existing vendors, but since the majority here were strictly selling bras, I had to branch outward.  In the lingerie world, there’s a huge amount of diversity.  You have everything ranging from the traditional sex shop sheer bodysuits or slinky school girl outfits to amazing, hand-made silk chemises with French lace accents, and to accompany the diversity in selection, there’s also a diversity in price.  Since we are more of a moderately priced establishment, I knew I wanted a company that would be affordable while still presenting a quality product, and after seeing a lot of samples at Curves, I found Golyta was the best choice because they have both iCollection and Tia Lyn.  In addition to a value-based product, I also want to keep the store more in line with (and I know this is a loaded term but it’s the best I can do) classy pieces.  We have a lot of moms who come with kids, and I didn’t want there to be any products which would make things awkward or would need special storage.  iCollection certainly has some of those, but they also have a fantastic range of fashion corsets which are the best quality I have seen for the price as well as satin or lace robes, chemises, and bridal attire.  For the customer with a little extra money, there’s Tia Lyn whose chemises, lingerie, slips, and loungewear are not only amazing in quality but are also plus-size friendly.  Eventually, we will include some bra-sized lingerie into the mix, especially if Anna Pardal makes one.

The Add-On Products

Kix'ies Back Seam Stockings in the C/D size range.

Kix’ies Back Seam Stockings in the C/D size range.

Anyone with retail experience can tell you all about upselling or cross-selling, which is basically a retailer’s way of getting you to spend a little extra money on a product you didn’t anticipate purchasing.  Typically, it’s on something that’s not overly expensive, and while I don’t ask “Do you want to buy lingerie wash today?” at the register, I do have some smaller products available to complement a purchase.  In the case of accessories, we wanted a company with a wide variety and fast shipping, and Brazabra fit the bill.  However, they aren’t ideal for higher quality products, like lingerie wash, stockings, or nipple covers.  When it came to these products, the companies who won out were the ones who had the best samples.  I adored my Kix’ies, and so we brought them in just as we will with Glamoury.  Eucalan is the best lingerie wash I have tried (review coming next week), and Chippey’s nipple covers are made from high quality silicone gel so they can be washed and reused indefinitely.

Affinitas Sasha in purple (naturally!)

Affinitas Sasha in purple (naturally!)

Confession time:  Complementary products always make me nervous.  You just don’t know what your customer will buy or what they will consider a good deal.  I pre-ordered the Stephanie tanks at Curves last year, but I was never sure people would buy them.  In fact, I got cold feet and was about to cancel the order when I received word they shipped.  It’s not that the product isn’t great (it is); it’s that I wasn’t sure people would like them as much as me.  Well, they flew off the rack.  People didn’t want just one.  They’d come back for multiples, and we had trouble keeping them in stock for a few months.  On the flip side, Affinitas released the Sasha babydolls which are adorable for a smaller to average busted person, and with Christmas around the corner (at the time), I thought they would increase my lingerie sales.  *ahem*  Let’s just say they haven’t performed as expected.  I rarely make mistakes with bras anymore, but this is definitely a sketchier area for me.  It’s also helpful for me to keep in mind I have only been selling non-bra products for about a year now.  After a year of operation, I felt the same way with bras too, and I am hoping that as we are in business longer, I can make more confident purchases.  A lack of confidence is not going to deter me, however, as I already have plans for Fluert with Me sleepwear, Bolero dresses, and Urkye button-fronts!

Erica

 

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A Retailer’s Perspective: A Guide to Bra Buying Part 2

Hello Everyone,

In yesterday’s post, we discussed some of the factors involved in how retailers choose which bras to buy, focusing mostly on past sales experience, quality, and price.  Today, I want to continue the discussion with even more considerations that go into a yearly buying plan.

Budget

In a perfect world, retailers would have an infinite budget to bring in all of the gorgeous lingerie on the market.  In the real world, we only have so much budget and open cash flow, and with literally, hundreds of new styles and colors available every year, impulse control is essential.  Overbuying quickly leads to issues, ranging from decreased ability to write special orders to excess debt to potentially closing the shop’s doors permanently.  As a result, it’s important to set a budget and choose styles which have the most likelihood of optimizing that budget.  Here, inventory turnover is key.  If it is a fashion style, you want it to sell quickly and at full price; if it’s a continuity bra, you want it to sell often.  This also applies to your size assortment too.  If you sell a 32DDD 10 times more than a 28E, it stands to reason you want more selection in the former size.  Unfortunately, this means some truly exceptional pieces never make it to your store, but it’s more important to stay in business than it is to bring in everything you want.

The Size Rotation:  Whose turn is it?

I couldn’t think of a more professional title for this section, but when you carry 120+ sizes in your shop, not every size is going to get something new all the time.  There has to be a system for rotating in new basic and fashion items based on your current assortment.  If I just spent $1000 this month on my 32-38E-J customers, then I am not going to be spending another $1000 on them next month too (unless, of course, a miracle happens, and everything I bought last month sold out).  Instead, I’m going to shift my focus to another size cluster and then another until I eventually rotate around to that size range again.  Not only does this ensure the inventory stays fresh, but I think it also helps customers not feel left out from my buying plan.  If I only bought new things for one size range, my other customers wouldn’t feel appreciated or like the store was interested in addressing their demands.

Sculptresse Chi Chi purchased specifically for the 38-46 F-HH size range

Sculptresse Chi Chi purchased specifically for the 38-46 F-HH size range

Space Constraints

Retail stores only have so much space without broaching the topic of expansion (don’t even get me started on upfitting), meaning they have to maximize the dollar value of inventory vying for space.  One of the worst things is dead inventory hogging valuable space on your sales floor.  Sometimes, you can purchase new storage units which help you organize products more efficiently, but in other cases, you have to use sales and clearance to clear the excess before bringing in new products.  Read more ›

Release Date

When a bra releases can be almost as important as everything else I have written in both posts.  In some cases, there are scheduling conflicts where several amazing bras are all releasing within the same, lets say, six week time frame, but you only have so much budget to spend.  Other times, an otherwise fantastic bra may release in what is a traditionally slow period for your shop, making it unwise to tie up cash flow.  For example, I reign in spending and new purchases between October and January because our sales drop from the successful summer months.

One of my favorite Elomi prints, but a December release meant we would not carry it.

One of my favorite Elomi prints, but a December release meant we would not carry it.

Inventory Mix

Lest my earlier statements about the popularity of purple lead some to believe I would adopt a monochromatic fashion palette, I also take into account the overall mix of my inventory.  Striking the perfect inventory mix is a complex, ever-changing dance in which retailers participate.  With fashion items selling out, old styles being phased out or discontinued entirely, and new demands arising, it’s challenging to determine the right proportion of sizes, colors, and styles in your shop.  When planning new inventory purchases, you must examine your existing inventory as well as any open orders you may already have.  This is true for both basic or fashion purchases.  It’s important to have a diverse selection in your best-selling sizes, not just of basics but of fashion items as well, but you also need to cater to the less common sizes too.  In some cases, this means complementary new products or styles, but in others, it involves bringing in something completely new to satisfy increased demand for a particular size cluster or bra style.  With specific regard to fashion colors and prints, I also think it’s helpful to consider group appeal.  I try to choose prints and colors which are harmonious with the other inventory, and since my customers seem to have similar preferences, this is actually pretty easy.  Many manufacturers, when discussing new fashion colors, often talk about “groups” or “hangs well together” because it helps sell multiple products to one consumer.  In any given season, most manufacturers—if they don’t use a unified color palette and theme altogether—have clusters of colors/prints that are pretty similar.  Two companies which succeed well here are Eveden and the Little Bra Company.  Eveden subscribes more to the groups philosophy and has even started a panty program in Freya, known as Fancies, designed to work interchangeably with certain collection.  Little Bra Company, on the other hand, finds a way to work with a seasonal palette so that every style works well, and the matching coordinates for one bra could easily substitute for another.

Notice how complementary the colors are of each other.

Notice how complementary the colors are of each other.

The Company Itself

To be totally blunt:  If I hate dealing with a company, I scale back what I buy from them or cut them out altogether.  If you make me put out metaphorical fires week after week, drop my orders, don’t answer my emails, do not process payments, and/or generally are a pain in my butt, I don’t care how good a product you produce, I am going to find ways to replace you or work around you.  I won’t name names (this time), but there are definitely companies we no longer work with or those where we only carry the products we absolutely have to carry.

Order Minimums/Terms Agreements/Markup/etc. — Aka Future Post

This category doesn’t apply so much to brands with whom we have existing agreements, but we are always searching for new growth opportunities through brand expansion.  Engaging in a supplier relationship usually involves analyzing not only the products the company offers but also what kind of agreements they have with retailers and the marketplace as a whole.  There’s a lot involved here ranging from how much product we have to buy to carry their products to how their payment structure works, so much so that I think I will save this for an entirely separate post later this spring.

Special Considerations for New Basics

While most of the above constraints, like budgeting and quality, all factor into choosing new basic or core styles for the shop, there are also some special considerations applied here.  First, past sales can still be a useful tool for figuring out which core styles to carry in your store.  Just as you can look at what basic styles sell well to determine which fashion items to purchase, the same can be true in reverse.  For example, the Cleo Marcie has always performed strongly in our shop, which is why I jumped at the chance to carry it in both new basic colors.  Of course, as with the earlier example of the Amelia, there are some bras which perform well specifically because of the fashionable aspect and thus would not make good basics, but by and large, with my shop, I have found people prefer basic colors.  They may buy one or two pretty bras a year, but the rest are some variation of a neutral color.

In addition to tracking sales, the inventory mix is another key factor in determining new basics.  Sometimes a fantastic style is discontinued (I am looking your way Natori), and you need to replace it  Other times, a style is under-performing and needs to be phased out then replaced.  I have mentioned before that I tend to focus my inventory mix into size clusters, and that is especially true of basics.  Basics are our stock and trade and compose the majority of our business.  As a result, it’s important for us to have multiple options for multiple breast shapes for multiple women in each size cluster.  It’s also important to have the right mix of neutral colors too.  Beige and black dominate, but it’s good to look at some in-between colors like mocha or cappuccino too.  With basics, I am always looking for new products to make the inventory more rounded, and for some size clusters, I’m on the lookout for any style.  Period.  There are definitely areas where our inventory is weakest, wireless bras and small cups to name a few, and we’re working to rectify that this year as our budget allows.

aka "The Best-Seller for the Shop"

The Elomi Amelia in Beige aka “The Best-Seller for the Shop”

With basic bras more than fashion, we tend to branch out and try new styles.  Whenever you try a previously untested style, there is going to be some risk, especially if it is a size I cannot personally test.  In these cases, I sometimes rely on feedback from sales reps or other retailers, but that is not without risk either.  I have some truly exceptional sales reps, and then I have some who . . . well, not to be mean . . . just aren’t.  One rep convinced me to buy bras when we first opened that were discontinued less than six months later.  Ultimately, they were donated to TROSA, and I learned a valuable lesson about trusting my instincts and doing the legwork.  Even with experienced retailers, the recommendations sometimes to do not work from store to store.  Each boutique is different, and each customer base is different.  It’s hard to ensure a recommendation from one shop will work in another.  For me, I love to read reviews and check Bratabase for feedback on fit.  Sometimes I will try out new styles on customers through our special order policy before making a decision.

Hopefully this series has provided you with a better understanding of some of the factors which influence a retailer’s decision to stock certain bras.  It’s not that we don’t want to carry your size or to carry that gorgeous bra you absolutely adore.  It’s that we have to consider so many different buying components, and with a huge plethora of choices, some are not going to make the cut.  But, hey, that’s what special orders are for!

Erica

 

 

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A Retailer’s Perspective: A Guide to Bra Buying Part I

Hello Everyone,

With the Curves Expo, aka one of the biggest lingerie trade shows in the US, officially completed, many retailers have returned home to plan their purchases for the next several months, and I thought this would be the perfect time to discuss how many of us decide what to purchase.  Furthermore, I hope this helps my own customers better understand the decisions I make with regard to what products are available in the store and why I believed this to be the best course of action at the time.  Because the buying process is significantly more complex than one would anticipate, I have split the factors into two posts, and I am strictly focusing on bras.  Lingerie, shapewear, accessories, sleepwear, clothing, and other miscellaneous products will be discussed in another post altogether.

Using Past Sales to Predict Present Fashion

Fashion items tend to be one of the more risky investments for many American retail stores, particularly if the style is new.  Not only must you contend with potential fit or fabric issues, but you also have to balance the many tastes of your customer base.  Not every color or print bra suits every person, and on more than one occasion, I have been conflicted about how I personally feel about a bra and how I anticipate customers will react.  One helpful tool can be to examine your past sales and see which fashion styles performed well and in what colors.  Although it is now becoming more maligned by industry insiders, the ubiquity of purple in the lingerie world is no coincidence.  At the moment, I have both the deep wine variation of the Parfait Charlotte as well as the new ice blue colorway, and the purple outsells the blue 2 to 1.  Why?  I am going to conservatively estimate 35% of my customers’ favorite color is purple, and another 40% still love it even if it isn’t quite their favorite.  In the past, we have purchased other purple fashion bras, and every single one has performed exceptionally.  In our shop, jewel tones resonate with customers, and purple is truly the shining gem.  Which prints work can also be analyzed through past sales and customer feedback.  We struggle with animal prints but sell most floral designs easily.

Ice Blue Variation of Charlotte

Ice Blue Variation of Charlotte

Past sales also go a long way in helping to identify which fashion-only styles should be brought into the shop.  The Elomi Valentina/Jocelyn/Lexi bra has always been popular on account of the fit and comfortable fabrics.  In fact, through special order, we have seen an increase in sales overall on all of the Elomi plunge bras (that were not done in an animal print), like Betty or Tiffany.  Since Elomi has yet to offer a basic Valentina/etc., I always plan to purchase a variation each year.  The Panache Cleo line is another great example.  We usually bring in several Cleo styles every year because the sales history is strong, and people will continue to buy what the line has to offer.

The upcoming Lexi from Elomi

The upcoming Lexi from Elomi combines both a popular purple color with electric blue.

Current sales of basics can sometimes be helpful too for deciding fashion too.  If a style performs well in a basic color, this can sometimes translate to quick sales in a fashion version.  However, there are exceptions.  Some bras sell well simply because they are basic.  The Elomi Amelia is one of the top sellers for the entire store, but we have never indulged in a fashion color.  In some ways, this may seem counter-intuitive.  After all, if it is already performing so well, why not double your money?  This is where time, experience, and a hefty dose of customer feedback can be invaluable.  Since we have been carrying Amelia, Elomi has offered it in multiple fashion colors.  Only a handful of people have ever requested it.  People like Amelia in beige and black because it’s a quality, everyday t-shirt bra, and they save their “pretty bra” money for something with more detail and pop.  They may think the upcoming Dahlia (purple again) is gorgeous, but that never translates to an actual sale.  However, in other instances, people love a bra and want more color options than the basic.  The Freya Deco, another best-seller, is an excellent example of this phenomenon.  Deco is one of those styles people will buy in fashion colors as well as basics, which is obvious by how many variations Freya has created over the past seasons.  This would be a better investment than the Amelia.

Amelia in Basic Black

Amelia in Basic Black

Read more ›

Once you have analyzed which prints, colors, and styles work best, you must still choose the size assortment, and again, past sales can help you make smarter decisions.  Let’s examine the Cleo bras I mentioned.  These bras sell out the fastest in G-J cups in 32-38 bands, which makes it a good idea to double up in certain sizes if I can afford it.  In D and DD cups, they never sell, and E-FF, it takes the right kind of customer.  As a result, I usually start my Cleo purchases at the E or F cup mark depending on my budget.  Furthermore, I also know from past sales that 28 and 30 bands take the longest to sell, but I also know that since the market doesn’t always have strong contenders for this customer, it’s still worth bringing in some core sizing (usually E-GG cup) with the understanding, they may wind up in the sale drawer.

The most popular Cleo bra for us with Lily close behind.

The most popular Cleo bra for us is Marcie with Lily close behind.

If you’re looking at a totally new fashion style, past sales can aid in the color and print department, but sizing needs to be taken more generally.  Usually, companies or sales reps will tell you if a new bra is based on an existing frame, which helps immensely.  One thing I commend Eveden on is the use of specific technical details in their catalogs along with descriptions like “Abi frame with shorter straps” or “based on Caitlyn with a lower front and side.”  With a better idea of the origins of the new styles, past sales become a better predictor to ensure you have the right mix.  In other cases, you simply don’t have that knowledge to accurately predict whether a bra will fit like something else you have sold.  In those cases, I try to rely on my instinct about the brand itself.  Who does this line usually work for, and what sells the best?  It’s still a risky prospect, which is why I (personally) tend to go with bras I can trust.

The Price and Quality Factor

One of our manufacturers could create a bra which fits well in the most beautiful shade of purple ever in the most luxurious fabric, but if the retail price is higher than $70, more than likely, we will not be purchasing it.  For us, $70 is the threshold for where we see people not wanting to spend extra money.  Naturally, other boutiques will have their own unique pricing schematics too.  They may have a price maximum or an ideal price range, or they may realize they have certain customer niches who will spend extra money for the right piece.  For them, data mining their past sales and customer preferences can help form a cost-benefit analysis of whether a luxury or higher-priced bra is worth the equally higher investment.

Freya Deco Vibe in Watermelon

Freya Deco Vibe in Watermelon

Moreover, this should almost go without saying, but quality really is important.  One of the reasons I like to test styles myself or use small special orders is to ensure an unknown product will meet our standards.  When Panache first released the Cleo Neve molded cup bra as the successor to Jude, there were some pretty egregious design problems where the cup would curl outward toward the center no matter the size or overall fit.  In their defense, they rectified the problem and allowed us to return the handful we had already ordered, but (and not to pick on Panache here), it serves as an important reminder that retailers must be vigilant about quality, even if a company has an excellent record.  Finally, the quality must match the price of the bra.  If the manufacturer wants a bra to retail for $70, but the quality is more on par with $50, it’s worth passing up.  In some cases, the opposite can be true.  I have seen several instances where a bra retails for $50 but looks and feels like a $70 style.

The b.tempt'd Ciao Bella retails for $38 but has quality on par with a $50 bra.

The b.tempt’d Ciao Bella retails for $38 but has quality on par with a $50 bra.

So as not to bore you too terribly, I feel like this is a great place to stop for the day.  Tomorrow, I’ll follow-up with some more considerations retailers examine when planning a buying agenda.  I have to admit that until I started writing this post, I did not realize myself how much work I am doing and how many variables I utilize to make new purchases.  Inventory management is so crucial to the success of a business that it intuitively makes sense it would also be one of the areas with the most complexity.

Erica

 

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Product Review: Comexim Cherry

Hello Everyone,

I know what you’re thinking right now:  “Another Comexim review?  We get it.  You like the brand!”  Yes, my wonderful readers, I do love the brand, but the timing on this has more to do with me clearing out the backlogged reviews I mentioned last month than heartfelt affection for the company.  I have been trying to post things in the order I had originally taken pictures/videos although I have some new reviews I will interject here and there as well.  Returning to the topic at hand, today I am discussing the decadently gorgeous Comexim Cherry.

Cherry_2

Sizing & Fit:  Per usual, I purchased the UK 32HH (one cup and one band size up from UK size) which has consistently been the best for me in both Comexim and Anna Pardal.  The band of the Cherry was a little looser than my other bras, and I did alternate between the first and second hook depending on the day, but I don’t know that dropping to a 30 band would have been comfortable.  While the band was larger than the styles I tried in the past, it also seemed less stretchy and held up better over time, most likely on account of the heavier fabric on the wing.  The cup did not have any gaping or wrinkling although I did have very minor overflow on my larger side.

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In the past, the only other Comexim unpadded bra I tried was Diana from their collaboration with the wonderful Anna Pardal.  I adored the look and lightweight feel of Diana, and I was eager to see if products from the original Comexi Linea Artisana line could do the same.  Spoiler alert:  This bra is incredibly comfortable.  So many times, customers will try on bras in the shop, usually Natori, and compliment the design on being so wonderful that “it doesn’t even feel like a bra is on!”  While I don’t have uncomfortable bras, I do usually notice them, but with Cherry, the bra does feel like air, magic air that props up my boobs and gives incredible cleavage.  Read more ›

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The center gore on Cherry tacks well and seems a little higher than some of the other styles I tried, but the cup shape is very open and low.  As you can see from the pictures and in the video, the bra probably feels this good because there’s not a lot to it.  Nevertheless, the support is impeccable, and the shape I receive looks rounded and flattering.  I do worry that the embroidered top cup will create issues for certain breast types though as there is no give or stretch, and I can see it either cutting into tissue or, on the other side of the spectrum, gaping easily.  My breasts are mostly balanced in upper and lower fullness, and I didn’t have any issues with the fit here.

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However, I will note that the extreme open shape does not add to security.  The bra does a great job at lifting, but if you want something that is also going to keep your tissue secured and still, this ain’t it.  My boobs definitely jiggle, making the bra impractical for days where I am moving constantly, but I found a tighter t-shirt or cami compensated fine.  As with all Comexim styles, the underwires are low on the sides and narrow in shape while the cups are deeper, allowing breast tissue to be more forward projected.  I did get a little space between the underwire and my breast tissue on this bra, but that is only a minor quibble for me.

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Materials & Design:  I originally received this bra as a sample in a totally different size when we first started carrying Comexim, and I instantly wanted it.  Saying this bra is “gorgeous” seems a bit of an understatement.  It is truly one of the most beautiful bras I have ever seen, and I have obviously seen more than a few.  The bold floral embroidery on the top artfully combines shades of crimson with dark oranges while the lower cup provides counterbalance with an inlaid brocade pattern which carries over onto the wing.  The luxurious quality of the color and design propel Cherry from looking like the $50 bra it is into something far more expensive.  However, there’s a strong practicality to the design as well.  Fully-adjustable straps allow for customization in fit, and the embroidery itself is not as braille-like as it seems under t-shirts.  The bra has also held up well over time too although admittedly, I only wear it once a week or so.  Because of the sexy cleavage it creates, and by proxy the boob jiggle, I don’t think Cherry would be a great everyday bra unless you have a pretty sedentary job, but I do believe this is one of the nicest and most inexpensive special occasion or weekend bras out there.

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Matching Panties:  There weren’t any!  However, I find the Curvy Kate Ritzy briefs in Ruby were close enough to succeed, but the mix of colors and prints does make it more challenging to find a faux-match.

Video Edit:  So, I shot this video after a long day of work, and there were a couple of things I wanted to note. First, I did actually own a red bra before, and how I could forget the first Cleo Marcie I ever purchased truly astounds me.  Second, I gave the bra an A in the video, but after wearing it for several months, I am going to drop that to a B/B+ on account of the potential fit problems and the jiggle issue.  I absolutely adore this bra, but when I give grades, I am thinking more about the style as a whole and how it will fit and feel to other people in conjunction with my own opinions.  Even though, this bra is a solid A for me, I feel like other people are not going to like it as much.

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