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.
My foul-mouth rambling aside, I have desperately wanted to review the Sculptresse Chi Chi forever because I love it both as an individual and as a bra fitter. Panache has always favored a stretch lace cup design with old time favorites like Andorra and Jasmine leading to newer models like Clara, Envy, and Olivia. Chi Chi is yet another variation, specifically designed for their plus-size Sculptresse line, and with each new iteration of the concept, Panache continues to master it more and more by genuinely incorporating fitter and customer feedback.
Due to the aforementioned weight gain, I am presently wearing a UK 32HH in most styles, and for the review, I am using the 34H on the middle hooks for a comfortable fit. Given how bands stretch over time, I would prefer a 32 with an extender, but Sculptresse does not offer any styles in a 32 band. Since most styles are available up to often excluded 46 band, I have little room to truly criticize. In general, Chi Chi usually runs firmer with a less stretchy band than other styles, and I find the cup size consistent with Jasmine and Envy.
Where the differences emerge is fit. The chief complaint I hear regarding Panache is their use of tall, firm wires, especially in H+ cups. Petite or short-waisted people with naturally less space between underarm and waist suffer the most from the underwire shape, and I have more than a few customers wearing J to K cups who switched to competitors like Elomi and Freya despite preferring the Panache profile simply because the wires of the latter hurt too much.
Panache, to their credit, seems to be actively working toward balancing the need of a stronger underwire for support and tacking with the comfort issues mentioned by customers. Chi Chi, in my opinion, tends to be one of the lowest in terms of overall side and center coverage. In fact, I observed Friday that Chi Chi rests a little over half an inch shorter at the center gore than Jasmine in size 38H. This small height change has a big impact for some customers.
Utilizing a four-section cup, the Chi Chi boasts some of the best lift and forward projection in the entire collection, owing in large part to the stiffer side panel and lower cup fabric. Of course, some customers find the projected shape a bit too much as well as bordering on pointy, making the Superbra Envy or Clara a tamer choice for them. It’s also worth noting that not everyone likes the use of stretch lace, finding the flexible fabric does not provide enough tissue hold and containment. However, for that customer who wants ultra boost from the bottom and a pull-it-all-in side projection, Chi Chi is the bra for you.
In addition to a fantastic fit, Chi Chi also succeeds as a crowning jewel for Panache because the materials are simply lovely. First, they layer ultra soft fabric on top of the elastic, essentially encasing the wing, which not only feels amazing and limits the potential scratch and itch factor, but it also provides significantly better smoothing under tops. The fabric and lace also work together to be nearly seamless under knits, and considering the price is identical to Jasmine and Envy, I find the overall quality of Chi Chi superior. Like all Panache bras, fuller-cups feature a fully-adjustable but felted strap, and Chi Chi’s is a bit easier to adjust over the felted part than other models *cough* Clara *cough*.
When chatting about the aesthetic of the bra, this subsection could aptly be titled “The Good, The Bad, & The Leopard” because anyone who has followed this bra from its release knows I speak the truth. Since Chi Chi’s inception, it has heavily favored leopard print, starting with a hot pink and blue variation befitting a Lisa Frank notebook—not a criticism, by the way, since I did own many a Lisa Frank product as a child and found the concept translated well in the first season.
Then Chi Chi debuted in a black and white leopard print with contrasting colored flowers followed by navy and black leopard print for the fall. It’s important to note that there were no other fashion colors or neutrals available in this style during the initial three seasons. Panache baffles me with those decisions and are presently repeating the cycle with the stellar Olivia (also on my review docket) where the fashion colors have been cream, teal, cobalt, and then another blue for next fall. What bothers me isn’t necessarily the leopard on Chi Chi or the overuse of blue on Olivia but rather that the first question we hear is “Does it come in a neutral?” Not having any core colors, especially in a successful style, is a mistake to me because your risk alienating potential customers who either do not buy fashion or who do but prefer to not duplicate the same colors over and over. With Chi Chi, most fans were so devoted they would buy whatever Panache released, all the while grumbling about the choices. Finally, Panache switched focus to a floral print earlier this year, and then a beautiful graphic lace design (which we also have in the shop) for fall.
A few months after the floral print debuted, Panache also produced basic colors Cappuccino and Black, both adorned at the center with a leopard print bow—perhaps a cheeky nod to the three straight seasons of animal print? Cappuccino was my hands-down choice for the shop for a few reasons. First, I feel pale folks like me are often overly catered to with light color bras. There’s often not a lot of middle ground for anyone with a tan or who has a naturally darker skin tone. Cappuccino was a great compromise point, and I think the undertones in the color are such that they look beautiful on so many more skin tones than the classic yellow-toned beige. I know this blends fine under my few light tops, and I am pretty freakin’ white. I practically sparkle in the sunlight.
Lastly, I want to urge Panache to consider expanding the cup size here. The Envy and Jasmine both are available up to the K cup and yet Chi Chi stops at the H. I’m not saying they have to offer a 46K, but the sister size to a 46HH is a 40K. Just sayin’. Overall, this a superb bra, not only for the Panache collections, but for the bra market as a whole.