In the past, I have criticized the Sculptresse line for being a bit scattered, for not offering solid core styles, and for generally being a bit of a half-ass attempt from Panache to compete head-to-head with Elomi and Goddess for plus-size consumer dollars. Today, I can honestly say that those criticisms have been completely addressed, and Sculptrsse is quickly becoming a powerhouse brand in its own right due largely to its cohesive seasonal aesthetic, improved fit, superb quality, and inclusion of multiple core styles in larger size ranges. After loving the fits of Gina, Candi, and Chi Chi, I was super excited when my sales rep sent me a sample of the new Estel, one of the first offerings in the line to go up to a UK K cup. Suffice it to say, my expectations were set high to see what lovely entry Panache had in store!
Unfortunately, Estel starts at 36 band, and I was forced to use my sister size of UK 36GG (US 36J) as opposed to my normal UK 34H (US 34K). While the cup fits perfectly with no overflow or gaping, the band is a little loose on the tightest hooks, something you can see in the photos of the back where the fabric puckers. Based on my past experience with the line, I would estimate the Estel runs about a half-size generous compared to other Sculptresse styles. Keep this in mind if you are between sizes and prefer a snug fit.
Nevertheless, Estel boasts an incredible cup shape. On the exterior, it utilizes a classic three-section cup with stiffer fabric on the side panel and lower cup sections with a softer, somewhat stretchy upper cup. However, on the interior, Estel also exploits an additional mesh side sling for added support of the tissue as well as mesh support on the lower cup for better lift. Because Estel not only goes up to a UK K cup but also a 46 band, the breast tissue for those sizes is naturally heavier and requires more reinforcement and support to properly lift and shape. Combing the exterior and interior reinforcements to improve containment and lift helps keep the overall shape forward and rounded regardless of size. Moreover, I love the fabric decision on the upper cup. Stretch fabrics on the upper cup, as with Chi Chi, are much better at contouring across breast shapes, compensating for asymmetry, and adjusting with breast changes. However, the downside is that many stretch fabrics lack strong containment, and some people either prefer a firmer fit or need it to keep softer tissue from moving. By giving the upper cup just enough stretch to accomplish all of those wonderful things but not enough to sacrifice hold, Estel manages to be a crowd-pleasing design for multiple shapes.
As with most Panache styles, the shape is forward and projected with excellent tacking of the underwire at the center. The gore is slightly wider than I would prefer as are the underwires, but the overall fit is quite comfortable. I was concerned on the side that the wider wire would pull the fuller-coverage Estel into the sides of my underarms uncomfortably, but the elasticized edging and softer fabric moves with me instead of cutting into the tissue. I also have no extra space at the bottom near the underwire with this style. Fully-adjustable straps are perfect for a fuller-bust and are inset on the wings to prevent strap slippage, especially for those with narrow or sloped shoulders.
One of the only downsides of the ever-improving Sculptresse line is the prices have gone from being mostly in the $60-$70 range to being closer in the $70-$80 range. In their defense, a lot of factors go into pricing, and generally, across multiple brands, prices are increasing. Moreover, the careful planning going into the new styles as well as the expanded size ranges offered all contribute to a higher retail point.
Estel tops out at $78, a price I find to be more than fair for the quality. Aside from the incredible design, Estel also boasts high quality materials and thoughtful finishing touches. The fabric on the cups manages to be supportive but comfortable, and Sculptresse opted for an encapsulated wing design like with Chi Chi and Candy. By enclosing the elastic edges inside a super soft microfiber, the wings not only feel amazing against the skin but they also improve the overall smoothing of the bra for a better fit under thinner or tighter knits. For a lace bra, the texture is surprisingly flat and the seaming discreet although not totally invisible. Elomi and Goddess tend to have pretty heavy stitching directly across the fuller part of the bust which shows more under certain tops, but Sculptresse definitely alleviates this issue as much as they can.
Aesthetically, I am not one to turn down a black bra, and Estel has a sophisticated quality to it but also a simple one, lending it versatility. In prior seasons, many of Sculptresse offerings were not available in core and/or were only available in something bright or, let’s say polarizing, making it hard for a new albeit a great style to gain traction. This new direction is a smart move, especially for their stockists. It’s easier to sell a $78 bra when the customer knows they can wear it under everything and when the color palettes are more classic. I also love they kept things spiced up with a sexy keyhole cutout at the center and beautiful hardware. For those wanting a more daring style, Estel is probably not for you, but for those needing or wanting a beautiful, quality everyday bra, you will be pleasantly surprised from this latest offering from Sculptresse.