Since the Sculptresse Candi narrowly missed being chosen for our first bra review of the year to the Freya Fearne, it seems only fair that Candi should be the second. Candi is a new style from Sculptresse and focuses more on a softer, rounded look as opposed to the structured, forward-projecting Chi Chi. When I first saw images of Candi in my catalog, my gut reaction was: “Dayum! Panache has the tenacity to challenge Elomi’s powerhouse Cate/Caitlyn style.” Then there may have been some childish “Let’s get ready to rumble” nonsense going on, but in all seriousness, I think it is natural to invite comparisons between the two. However, since I have never formally reviewed Cate, I will focus more on Candi and only compare to Cate when I feel appropriate.
My wonderful friend Patricia of Bolero gave me a new Erica dress for Christmas/my Birthday, and immediately I knew it deserved a mini-review because of some pleasant updates. Bolero is headquartered in perennial summer state Florida, meaning many of the styles use lighter fabric and much of her early work was sleeveless. However, as the brand gained popularity, one critique was the lightweight fabric did not transition to cooler temperatures in moderate climates or the tundra (aka anything higher than New York . . . maybe even some parts of New York itself). Enter the new Erica dress fabric.
In what was one of the closest polls we have ever asked on Facebook and Instagram, the Freya Fearne review narrowly beat out the Sculptresse Candi to earn the prestigious position of first in my expansive review queue. Thank you to everyone who commented and participate in the poll! Freya and I started as lingerie besties but drifted apart as my upper tissue became fuller and my cup size bumped up above the GG range. Their super cute and fun designs often featured wide wires, higher sides which rubbed my underarms, a splayed profile, and an interesting downward pointing shape, like my boobs were checking out what color my toenail polish was today. They also were lacking in innovation, content to rest on their past victories and recycle bra frames from season to season in the form of new prints and colors. At some point, my reviews felt rehashed, as though I was revisiting the same bra over and over with the same critiques. We parted ways, but I was ever hopeful for a joyful reunion. When they released the magnificent Hero, I cautiously hoped more change was on the horizon. My faith was rewarded because Freya retooled some of their classic designs to fit better, especially in higher cup sizes, by listening to consumer and bra fitter feedback.
Last night, I had the distinct privilege of visiting some wonderful women at the New Jerusalem Women’s Emergency Shelter, a program designed to help homeless women stay warm and safe this winter while also providing resources for growth and success. Everyone from the volunteers to the staff to the women themselves were smiling, joyful, and lovely to meet, and I thoroughly enjoyed being able to give them a proper bra fitting, well, as proper as we could manage with only my eyes and a measuring tape. Still, it was a service many of them had never experienced, and we were able to chat briefly with each woman about sizing, fitting, and the many bra styles available. Our store is no stranger to accepting bra donations, and we work with both local domestic violence shelters as well as Triangle Residential Options for Substance Abuse (TROSA) to collect intimate apparel donations from around the state. In fact, my friend Kat who owns Luxury on the Outer Banks has also volunteered her time as a fitter to participate in a joint bra fitting event at TROSA in a few weeks.
[Trigger Warning & TL;DR: A long time brewing, my writing is rawer and edgier than in any other post, and I do broach topics like PTSD, assault, stalking, anxiety, depression, weight gain, and body image. Despite the negative sentiment in my warning, the post is optimistic, focusing on finding hope and purpose after adversity. I suffered silently, afraid to be open here, but I know others have gone through the same struggles. If my story encourages you to seek help or share yours, then we can heal together.]
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.
It’s no secret. Holiday gift guides are not my favorite posts to write. I find myself counting down the minutes until I am finished mostly because the writing feels like a tedious not-so-subtle marketing ploy. This year I put aside my personal feelings to write a couple posts for our shop because we often struggle to attract holiday shoppers in the era of online meccas and big box discounts. Of course, our small business isn’t unique in feeling forgotten, so today, I want to close the series with a final buying guide spreading the love to other retailers, manufactures, and designers with totally cool gifts for everyone on your nice (or naughty) list.
When I was crafting our $100 or less gift guides this season, I wanted to include a category specifically for our younger customers who are often dragged here by a family member to be fitted. Shopping for bras and underwear is certainly not everyone’s favorite activity no matter the age, and I know I personally hated it for many years because of the bad interactions I had as a teenager. However, if fitters and family work together to not only provide multiple foundation options but also to allow young clients autonomy to make their own choices, then the entire shopping experience becomes easier and more enjoyable for them. As a result, I wanted to assemble a mix of bras, underwear, and accessories which work for anyone, regardless of age. In fact, I own several of these at 30 (nearly 31), and some of these gifts are popular with customers in their 60s and 70s too. So remember, “it’s hard, you will find to be narrow of mind if you’re young at heart.”
No matter if it is a dreamy cashmere sweater, sassy sequin dress, or killer suede heels, the holiday season is awash in rich reds, dark greens, ethereal whites, glittery metals, and sparkly accents. Why not play along with your lingerie wardrobe? For today’s $100 or less gift guide, we’re taking our cue from holiday traditionalists with a mix of seasonal colors, luxurious textures, and ornate details!
My Facebook status stream is pleasantly awash today in a flurry of hashtag ridden posts reminding friends to #shopsmall for #smallbusinesssaturday often accompanied by images with inspirational quotes about how patronizing small businesses supports a family, pays for dance lessons, funnels money into the community, and improves the economy. Small businesses are often passion driven and innovative, started by people who want to make a change in the world around them, but success is hardly guaranteed. Failure rates are high, and customers often assume the owner is rolling in the cash or “getting rich” from sales. Small businesses can lend you financial stability, but they can also place you on the verge of financial ruin, to say nothing of the tremendous strain they place on personal relationships. What you perceive as a successful business owner could be one on the verge of bankruptcy and divorce. We’re all faking it until we make it, but the problem is some of never will make it. It’s a hard path to walk, and small business Saturday at least tries to reward those who choose it.