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:

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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

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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.

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Line sheets also are a good makeshift bed.

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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.

Cherry_4

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 ›

Cherry_3

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.

Cherry_6

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.

Cherry_5

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.

Cherry_1

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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The Beige Bra Battles: Comexim Basic vs. Anna Pardal Milk & Honey

Hello Everyone,

The weather predictions were spot on yesterday when they said our area would have at least 8″ of snow accumulation, and I am presently gazing through the window at the newly minted wonderland of my backyard while I write and catch up on work.  Since I am snowed in today, I thought it would be fun to indulge in a little bra competition on the blog.  More or less, I am writing a double review on two similar styles.  So, double the pictures!

Basic

Basic

Milk & Honey

Milk & Honey

For my fellow pale sisters, beige bras often function as the closest shade to our natural skin-tone, and I am often asked which Anna Pardal or Comexim bras work best as a basic beige bra.  As it happens, when I first requested samples of the line, I received both an Anna Pardal Milk & Honey as well as a Comexim Basic, and I have been wearing them both for several months, meaning my opinions are more evolved and comprehensive.  (Note:  All of the pictures were taken when I received the bras.)

Sizing & Fit:  Both bras are my standard Comexim/Anna Pardal size of 32HH, which worked well.  The band on Basic immediately felt a little stretchier, but I still started wearing it on the loosest set of hooks.  The cup size on both was also correct with no overflow of the cups.  Both of the pictures taken from the side do seem to indicate significant gaping, but my lack of experience with modelling is more to blame than the bra.  Furthermore, both bras also have the practically trademarked Comexim narrow underwires, lower center gore and side, plunging shape, and deeper, lightly padded cups.  The profile from the side is incredibly lifted and rounded, and I am huge fan of how the underwires do not extend too far on my sides or hit too high under the arm.  Women with close set breasts will appreciate this design, but women who have more breast tissue toward the side or shallower busts may need to look at another brand.  Read more ›

Basic_5

Note the aforementioned odd cup gaping

Note the aforementioned odd cup gaping

The Difference:  The Milk & Honey is textbook perfect for me in every possible way, but the Basic had some fit quibbles.  The center gore on Basic barely soft tacks, and I had issues with space near the straps.  The cups near the gore would also gape or fold together depending how I moved, but I still managed to tumble toward the center a couple times every day.

Basic_4 MilkHoney_1

Materials & Design:  Outside of boasting fully-adjustable straps and three hook-and-eye closures in the back, these bras are obviously vastly different in this department, and I think it only fair to review them separately, starting with Milk & Honey.  Consisting of an allover lace cup with embellished straps and over-sized center bow, the Milk & Honey captures the essence of how you create a neutral bra without making it feel boring or bland.  The overall color reads beige from a distance as well as under lighter colors, but the lace features multiple tones and textures.  Cream and iridescent pink flower bursts contrast with a gold crosshatch pattern which only adds to the incredibly sophisticated feel of the bra.  Everything from the less stretchy band to the aforementioned lace to the padding in the cup oozes quality worthy of the line.  Many hearts were broken when Anna Pardal announced this style was being discontinued.

MilkHoney_2

Basic, on the other hand, is a cheaper, more . . . well . . . basic bra.  It’s not aspiring to heights of luxury or sophistication, and there’s nothing wrong with that.  Sometimes it’s nice to just have a basic bra.  Even with a simpler design, there’s still quite a bit to like about the aesthetic, including the color.  One of my (many) pet peeves with lingerie behemoth Eveden is their refusal to acknowledge that some of us pale people would benefit from a beige that is not so friggin’ yellow, and I really like the undertones for Basic.  I feel like this color would work better across multiple skin tones, and the sheen to the fabric elevates the overall style.  Even with a name like Basic, Comexim thought enough to add some finishing touches like lace embroidery on the top of the cup and an adorable center bow.

Basic_2 Basic_6

Observations:  Despite having more details, I found the Milk & Honey was more discreet under most of my tops.  The seaming on my Anna Pardal bras seems tighter and flatter than the ones I have tried from Comexim.  Even the Georgia, which I absolutely adored, was still not as t-shirt friendly as the lace cup designs of my Anna Pardal styles.  Basic also stretched out faster too, and I felt like the cup shape started to become worse over time.  Now, in its defense, Basic would retail for about $48 in the shop, and Milk & Honey would be around $62.  The price difference is because one is a higher quality bra, and I don’t think it’s fair to not mention this explanation.  As it turns out, this stretch factor was a good thing because when I was sick, this was the only bra I could tolerate (with a full extender even), so it got *a lot* of wear.  That said, in the efforts of being honest, Basic was my least favorite Comexim bra I have tried.  I felt like the fit here was not as good as the other styles, and the materials seemed cheaper too.  However, Comexim at its worst is still better for me than most brands at their absolute best, so when I make this critique, understand it is really me comparing the brands against themselves rather than against other companies.

Basic_1 MilkHoney_4

Verdict:  Milk & Honey — A+; Basic — B

Milk & Honey Matching Panties:  I was also sent the Milk & Honey Thong and Tap Pant in size Large, which are lovely.  They use the same lace as on the cup of the bra with some added flourishes for a coherent overall design.  Thongs aren’t my thing, but the tap pant was cute with the flouncy hem on the bottom.  I did find it would creep up a bit throughout the day depending on what I wore though.

MilkHoney_8 MilkHoney_7 MilkHoney_6

Addendum:  I mentioned earlier that the Milk & Honey was unfortunately discontinued; however, Anna Pardal has an alternative style called Stiff Cappuccino.  Eventually, I will do a mini-review of this bra, but I find it to be comparable in fit, shape, and quality to Milk & Honey.  It uses the same overall lace cup design but adds either embroidery or a satin copper ribbon at the top, depending on your preference.  The lace is a little darker than Milk & Honey but still works well for us pale people.

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Why I am not marketing Valetine’s Day

Hello Everyone,

Even though, as a retailer, I should be trying to sell you lingerie and all manner of items pink and red for the imminent deeply polarizing holiday tomorrow, I decided not to engage in Valentine’s Day marketing this year—a decision downright unheard of in an industry hoping to benefit from the commercialization of love, relationships, and sex.  While the shop is stocked with lingerie suitable for the occasion for the customer who wants it, I opted to consciously not push Valentine’s Day sales through our social media.

When I was younger, my family celebrated Valentine’s Day traditions together.  My parents and grandparents would buy my brother and I little presents along with a box of chocolate as a way of showing how much they loved and valued us.  We celebrated it as a holiday of love itself, not of romantic love or relationships, and it wasn’t until I was older that I became more influenced by the societal pressures and constructs placed on the day.  Slowly, the holiday became more about whether I was in a relationship or not, and if I was in a relationship, upping the game with romantic outpourings and gifts.

Affinitas Sasha - A traditional Valentine's day chemise

Affinitas Sasha – A traditional Valentine’s day chemise

In the business of selling bras and lingerie, Valentine’s Day represents a golden opportunity for retailers to exploit the holiday and milk additional sales from customers.  Everyone expects me to send out emails to our newsletter, post photos on Facebook, pin pretty sets on Pinterest, and tweet about all the lovely products we offer to help you make the holiday special, and for the first few years of operation, I participated in this practice because, well, everyone does it.  This morning, my personal inbox runneth over with all of the emails I have trying to sell me sexy stilettos, tight dresses, gorgeous stockings, chocolates, flowers, makeup, last minute gifts, etc. so that this one event will be as special as possible for me and my date/significant other/feisty single girlfriends who totally don’t need dates/etc.  The ubiquity of the message lends to its credibility, making it easier for retailers to compete for consumer dollars.  Shouldn’t I take advantage of such a highly marketable occasion to increase my bottom line?  Sure, I guess I could.  The more money we make after all means there is more money available to bring in other products, but the truth is I feel less ethically comfortable pushing Valentine’s Day sales.  Read more ›

One of my goals with the shop is to encourage women to buy lingerie and bras for themselves.  I know a bra and underwear set seems an unlikely way of building self-confidence, but I believe some women (not all, of course) can benefit from finding a piece of lingerie or a pretty bra which suits their personality and flatters their figure.  It enables the busy modern woman to pamper herself and buy something exclusively for her benefit.  Every week customers tell me they don’t want something pretty or sexy because “no one sees it.”  In my opinion, that is reason enough to figure out what you love for yourself and wear it  with pride.  While society has become progressively more accepting of personal differences and self-expression, many of us still have to be conscientious of how we dress when we leave home.  Businesses have uniforms or dress codes, and we often strive to make a solid first impression with our peers.  As a result, the clothes we wear for people to see may not always be the truest reflection of who we are or how we see ourselves.  With lingerie, the pressure is off, and we have the freedom to explore.  We can be the person we are, not the person we’re expected to be.  We can buy and wear what suits us precisely because no one can see it and judge us for it.  And I just don’t want to reduce that wonderful, powerful, exhilarating feeling to a sales gimmick.

The Eleanor Set from Harlow & Fox

The Eleanor Set from Harlow & Fox

I would rather you come into the shop when you’re ready to look for something new or to take advantage of our special order program to find something unique to your aesthetic.  I want you to buy lingerie you love because you want to, not because you feel like you should.  It’s a fine line to walk here because I do love holiday wish lists, both reading and writing them.  They open up readers to new styles and brands at a time when they are receptive and interested, but when it comes to actively encouraging a person to buy something for the sake of the date, I am not as keen to participate.  Not to mention, Valentine’s Day seems to push feeling sexy more than any other emotion, and what makes a person feel sexy and desirable is unique to the individual.  A slinky red chemise with garter straps like Affinitas Sasha may be perfect for one woman while another may like the softer, vintage quality of the Eleanor set from Harlow & Fox.  We’re all different, and that’s okay.  It makes the lingerie world rich and diverse, and with so many varied tastes, designers have the leeway they need to create these beautiful works of art for us to enjoy.

If you like dressing up for your partner or dressing for your partner’s tastes on special occasions, I think that’s wonderful too.  However, I hate making women feel like Valentine’s Day means running out to buy something new to wear for someone else.  In every relationship I have had, there have always been more significant days for us, as a couple, than one now turned into something universally shared.  Find something unique to you and your partner or be spontaneous.

I’m not trying to hate on Valentine’s Day either.  If you love the holiday, then you should be true to yourself and participate in ways that make you happy.  At some point, I felt, as a retailer, that I developed a conflict of interest with the pressures of the holiday and how it related to my everyday recommendations in the shop.  I want our customers to explore the lingerie world on their own terms without me exploiting the omnipresent marketing of the holiday.  I don’t care if it’s February 14th or May 19th, you deserve to wear something lovely every single day.

Erica

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