This product review has been a loooooooooooooooong time coming. First, I’ve mentioned before how hard reviews are when you are not feeling the most body positive about yourself because, hey, there you are in all your unphotoshopped glory for everyone, but especially yourself, to see. Motivation to be in front of a camera dissipates rapidly, but the world doth not stop for a forty pound weight gain. Consequently, I shot this video and planned to review it a few weeks ago, but in the chaos of the move, Thanksgiving, gift guides, bronchitis, and now Christmas, I have had “Chi Chi Review” on my project list for some time with no forward progression. Friday, in between helping last minute shoppers, I squeezed together enough time to jot down the written portion as well as to organize the copious number of products I plan to review in the coming weeks. Basically, I told myself, and pardon my language, “Girl get your shit together.” And I am, and I will, and you lovely readers get a review in the process.
We all know how much I love Bolero dresses. My closet is practically a Bolero sample rack at this point, and I freakin’ love it. However, Bolero also makes amazing separates, including faux-wrap tops, tunics, and pants. Today, I’m spreading the love around by showcasing several different Bolero styles including a faux-wrap top, a tunic, a classic blouse, a casual dress, and a pair of wide-leg pants. Yes, we’re having a five-in-one Bolero special up on the blog today!
“You have way too many books,” my brother, uncle, and cousin all stated repeatedly during my recent move. My book collecting, or hoarding depending on who you ask, began early and never abated, even with the advent of e-readers. Despite the convenience and ease of a Kindle (which I do own), I stubbornly cling to my books, preferring the nostalgic weight of the binding in my hands as I breathe in the musty swirl of ink and paper. My passion for books began with my parents who encouraged me to both value reading and develop my own tastes. They trusted me to pick my own selections, placing precious few limitations on what I could or couldn’t read and allowing me to gravitate to the topics and authors I enjoyed most. I visited the library often, but I also perused my parents’ personal collections for new material too (well, the ones not hidden on higher shelves or in closets *cough* Gerald’s Game *cough*).
Regardless of your feelings on the issue, I think we can all agree that the modern woman is often encouraged if not outright shamed into not allowing her nipples to show through any clothes. Whether you find an erect nipple obscene or natural is another post entirely, but for today’s purposes, I want to talk about a simple accessory that offers comfortable, long term nipple concealment: the nipple cover! Nipple covers are easy-to-use accessories available in a variety of mediums, sizes, colors, and price points, and all of them (*spoiler alert*) are designed to discreetly hide nipples under clothes. Many times in the shop we hear clients refuse to consider any bras that are not at least lightly padded because of this concern; however, padded bras, especially ones utilizing molded foam, can not only present significant fit challenges but are also unavailable in many sizes. Depending on the nipple, even more forgiving spacer fabric bras can be too thin, leaving customers scrambling to fit into a heavily padded cup all for the sake of their nipples! Wouldn’t it be nice to wear any style of bra you want? Or to purchase bras because they fit and support the best, regardless of the fabric? Most nipple covers range in price from $10 to $40 per pair and are available as either a cloth pad or a silicone gel, but for today, we are focusing on Chippey’s Chips whose gimmicky but playful slogan is “Chips for your nips when you’re in a crunch.”
Flash back to 2002. I was 16, a senior in high school, and on a desperate hunt for dress to wear to my prom that was not neon, a potato sack, or too revealing. Everything I tried in my increasingly self-defeating quest would not zip over my boobs in the size which fit my waist, and after two hours of tedium and disappointment, I nearly cried when I stumbled upon a hidden size 12 dress, out of place and wedged between two spaghetti strap dresses (uh, no). My prom salvation was a sleeveless, A-line dress in an ethereal silver color, and the best part? A corset-style back which laced up as tight as I needed it around the waist without mashing my breast tissue into an unflattering blob. Sold!
Since then, I’ve often wondered why we don’t see more flexible sizing and fit elements incorporated into designs for clothing, whether that means a lace-up back, a tie element, or something else I’m not creative enough to conceive at the moment. Imagine how much easier clothes shopping would be if you had the ability to tighten or loosen certain areas of a garment without resorting to alterations. Patricia of Bolero Beachwear, who has been flush with new ideas the last few moments, tackled this problem and created the Princess Ella Dress, a knee-length A-Line dress with a wide sweetheart neckline and corset back with interchangeable ribbons.
My intention was to post this review about two weeks ago, but if you follow our Facebook page, you’ll remember we spent about a week hanging new fixtures and reorganizing the store. Every time I undertake a new project, I always forget to multiply whatever my initial time estimate is by three, and I distinctly recall thinking while my dad and I plotted out the placement of our new efficient and stylish wall mounts was “Oh, this shouldn’t take more than two hours to hang and maybe another two to put everything up.” Oh how foolish I was!! Even though it is totally unrelated to the review itself, I thought I would share a before and after picture here of our progress:
We now return you to our regularly scheduled review. In my recent reviews of the Freya Fancies bralette and the Fit Fully Yours Kristina, I mentioned how wireless requests have exploded in the last several months, and as part of my scrambling efforts to expand inventory, I began eying the Goddess Sports Bra. One of the challenges of running a lingerie store and planning inventory assortment is determining what to sacrifice carrying on-hand in order to stay open—an agonizing process the result of which customers do not always understand. Sports bras (and to some extent strapless bras) have always been underrepresented because they both are utility pieces, often not purchased until the client needs them. A notable exception to this is the Panache Sports bra which is one of our best-selling bras, and my personal favorite sports bra of all time. As with normal bras, sports bra are available in multiple styles in a range of sizes and fabrics, each designed for different tissue types, breast shapes, and activity levels. Because of this, sports bra could easily have a dedicated department all their own, budget and space constraints notwithstanding.
In the last five years, I have reviewed over one hundred products on the blog, including bras, undies, dresses, tops, accessories, and even a salad spinner. With our anniversary a few months away, I have become increasingly introspective on the experiences of small business ownership, retail management, and blogging. When I first entertained the idea of writing product reviews on our blog, my intention was to describe the fit and shape of the products we stocked using professional but approachable language. Basically, I thought it would be an inexpensive marketing tool for a cash strapped business desperately trying to keep the doors open. During the summer and fall of 2011 when I began writing, “bra blogging” was taking off in a big way. Cora Harrington had already become a leading expert through her blog The Lingerie Addict, and Georgina Horne of Fuller Figure Fuller Bust, Cheryl of Invest in Your Chest, and Becky of Busts for Justice were not only posting fabulous bra reviews while modelling the products but also wrote insightful commentary on the fuller-bust market and bra fitting in general. Their courage inspired me to begin writing my own reviews and articles. As with any endeavor, I have received both criticism and praise for the blog, and while being somewhat prolific in writing reviews, I realized that I never discussed the process itself, how my motivations have changed over time, and what I hope our readers get out of reading them.
In conjunction with the bralette trend sweeping the lingerie world, many retailers are fielding more and more requests for normal wireless bras. During our first two years of operation, the stock of wireless bras in the shop was abysmally, embarrassingly low because demand was non-existent when compared against traditional wired options. However, in the last year, we have seen tremendous growth in the need for wireless bras, leaving me scrambling for a strategy to expand successfully. Comparatively, wireless customers still occupy a lower percentage of sales, and even factoring in the demand we are presently unable to meet, I estimate that at most wireless requests would only occupy approximately 15% of cumulative bra sales. Despite the lowness, the aspect worth noting is that before last year, wireless accounted for less than 2% of bra sales, meaning the increase itself is phenomenal. However, the inherent challenge for me as a retailer is to manage our budget for stocking more wireless options, knowing that for every dollar I spend on this market, I am taking away from a wired style which may sell better or faster. Furthermore, like underwire bras, there are multiple sizes which need to be represented as well as different breast tissue types, colors, and budgets. As if the challenge did not seem insurmountable as it is (so much so that I have questioned whether I even want to tackle it all), there is the added issue of finding quality, affordable wireless bras that fit well and meet the demands of our customers.
Earlier this week, I reviewed the fabulous Samanta Mintaka A925 bra, and today, I am following through with my promise to review the other bra gifted to me by Sweet Nothings: The Hana A111. If you have not already done so, I recommend reading the Prelude to a Product Review post I wrote before continuing forward as I discuss Samanta’s sizing, pricing, and brand strategy in depth—all of which I will not rehash here. Also, please check out the original review written by Sweet Nothings on both the Mintaka and Hana as she has additional insights and photos you may enjoy.
When launching a new product or brand in the store, I prefer if I can see samples to determine quality, fit, and materials, especially if those samples are in a size I can try myself. However, given my current size of UK 32H, my ability to try before buying is somewhat limited, but Polish manufacturer Samanta—in addition to molded cups, push-ups, and delightful vertical seam half-cups—makes a few bras designed to fit larger sizes. Since shipping from Poland can be pricey, I was thrilled when Sweet Nothings sent me two of the Samanta bras she reviewed on her blog as gifts. Since we’re size twinsies, it was a fabulous, risk-free way to determine if the designs and products met my exacting standards. As a result, today I will be reviewing the A925 model from the Mintaka collection with a second review of the A111 coming later this week. (Note: If you have not already done so, I highly recommend you read the Prelude to a Product Review post I wrote last week as it covers information on Samanta’s brand strategy, sizing, and pricing that I will not be covering in today’s review.)