Product Review: Sculptresse Chi Chi

Hello Everyone!

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.

Panache Chi Chi Cappuccino 34-36E-H, 38E-HH, 40DD-HH, 42-46D-HH, $66

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.

Chi Chi’s debut next to a classic Lisa Frank leopard

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.

Sculptresse Chi Chi in Lace Print

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.

Erica

Product Review: Sculptresse Chi Chi
Erica

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.


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19 thoughts on “Product Review: Sculptresse Chi Chi

  • December 27, 2016 at 2:55 pm
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    OMG, Erica I love your bra reviews and I think I love this bra. I am not a fan of the common molded “melon” shape and prefer a more natural shape. I have to track this bra down to see if it is available in a locally (I would order from you, but the exchange rate sucks so at least I can support my local bra boutiques).

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    • Erica
      December 28, 2016 at 11:46 am
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      Thank you! 🙂 It’s a great shape and very forward. Definitely track it down locally if you can. You may want to call to see if they carry Panache and if they do special orders. That way, even if they don’t have it in stock, you can still get a chance to try it!

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  • December 28, 2016 at 11:26 am
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    So thrilled to see this review. This is my absolute fave bra at the moment. I’m usually a 32 band but the 34 is really snug and it works perfectly. This bra is SO much more comfortable than other Panache line styles. It is gorgeous. It fits front and centre and beautifully. I recommend it to everyone in the size range. It’s the best bra out there for the price, IMO. Also agree that the cappuccino colourway is fantastic for multiple skin tones.

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    • Erica
      December 28, 2016 at 11:45 am
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      Thanks, K-Line! I agree that the band does seem to run pretty firm here. I actually tried the Candi (also on my review docket) in 36 band because that’s all they had left, and it’s pretty comfortable on the tightest hooks. Like Chi Chi, it has those same encapsulated wings, so I wonder if that decreases the overall stretch-factor. I really would love to see them translate that technology to other designs as well as to be mindful of the wire height like they are with Chi Chi. It really is a great bra!

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      • December 28, 2016 at 2:24 pm
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        Do they make the fashion colourways (iffy as they are) in the 34 band too? Or just the black and cappuccino?

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        • Erica
          January 10, 2017 at 2:34 pm
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          I believe so actually, K-Line. According to my catalog, the Spring 2017 colorway (which is actually a very pretty graphic palm print) is available in 34s. It’s probably one of their prettiest prints in the entire line to date!

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  • December 28, 2016 at 11:10 pm
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    Great review, as always! I’ve tried this style and some of the others from the line, each in a few different sizes. While I find the fit generally MUCH better than the offerings from other companies, especially in regard to plus size options, I still struggle with the wires on this style being too firm in the center and stabbing my sternum. The Flirtini worked slightly better for me in regard to the wires but I was so frustrated when the wire popped out of its channel under the arm after only a few wears. That being said, I’m so happy they are making this line and I hope they continue to make improvements to it.

    As a side note, I recently tried the Chantelle Parisian cut-and-sew style, which comes up to a 42 or 44 band size(can’t recall off hand), and I really like it for its low wires. It’s not super great if you have a lot of side tissue, but it’s definitely another one worth trying out if you need lower wires and/or a slightly larger band.

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    • Erica
      January 10, 2017 at 2:37 pm
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      Hi Emily! Thanks for weighing in with your feedback. I agree that Panache wires are often very firm, which can sometimes tack too hard in the center. I had this same issue with a swimsuit one year. You know who you may want to check out too? Fit Fully Yours. They have quite a few styles in 42 and 44 bands, and their wires are narrower and lower without being too firm. I have reviews in the pipe for Joyce and Maxine, and both are quite exceptional. It’s a Canadian brand that does not allow sales on Amazon, so you tend to find it only in boutiques. Quality is great, and so far my fit tests have been very positive. 🙂

      Reply
  • December 29, 2016 at 5:27 am
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    HI Erika my underwear life has a new life ! thanks. Do you plan to do some review concerning, panties, garter belt and corset ? Thanks again. Sophia

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    • Erica
      January 10, 2017 at 2:38 pm
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      Hi Sophia! Yes! Actually, I do have some reviews planned on these items. I have an iCollection corset or two, some sexier sleep, lounge, and then some underwear reviews too. I did talk a lot about the Natori Bliss series (if you search for it) plus I did a round-up of some amazing styles in different cuts. I can’t recall the exact title but if you use the search tab and look for “natori hanky panky” it should pop up!

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  • December 29, 2016 at 1:20 pm
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    Great review! I haven’t yet moved towards noticing differences in wire malleability but do pay attention to cup width, height, and projection. Would you recommend this for functionally FOB with narrow and short roots?

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    • Erica
      January 10, 2017 at 2:40 pm
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      Hi Nichole! I think Chi Chi tends to be a pretty flexible fit across the board, BUT depending on tissue type, some FOB ladies do not like stretch lace tops. This usually is for women with softer overall tissue, and they feel the stretch lace does not provide enough hold. If you don’t mind the flexibility of stretch lace, the wire height here is shorter than many other Panache styles, and the overall design is narrower. If you do want a heavier fabric hold, you may prefer something like Thea, Floris, or Flirtini . . . although they aren’t quite as narrow/low as Chi Chi.

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  • December 30, 2016 at 6:17 pm
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    I’m sized out of Sculptresse now (34JJ-ish) but I’ve always vastly preferred Chi Chi and Flirtini to Envy and Jasmine. The materials seem to be a bit nicer, and like you said, the whole bra is just designed with lifting a heavier breast in mind. Seriously, when I first put on Chi Chi I was like my…boobs?? my boobs can go that high??!! Panache Thea is similar, but gave my breasts a very, very weird shape.

    Thank you for your review! I always appreciate reviews of core styles in addition to what’s trendy or what’s new. Very helpful when I’m shopping online!

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    • Erica
      January 10, 2017 at 2:42 pm
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      Glad you enjoyed the review! I agree that Chi Chi does seem to have heavier tissue in mind because it really does give crazy good lift. I just don’t get why they can’t go to that K cup. Or, conversely, why they can’t make Chi Chi a universal style? I mean, this would work for 28s to 46s with a little tweaking here and there. It’s the same price as comparable Superbra styles but it’s clearly better made. Those wings, on those wings!

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  • January 2, 2017 at 3:48 pm
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    Nichole,

    I’m functionally FOB, with short and narrow roots, and I’ve special ordered this one based on the experience.of K-Line (above).

    She’s commented on Chi Chi here before and reviewed it on her blog, comparing it favorably with Empreinte. The French brand fits me wonderfully (I have a Daisy that I bought myself for my birthday), but it’s too pricy for me to make it the mainstay of my bra collection. 🙁

    So I can’t wait to get my Chi Chi (34F; cappuccino) and will report back when it comes in. Hope this helps!

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  • January 2, 2017 at 4:09 pm
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    PS K-Line compares Chi Chi to Empreinte in the comments on Erica’s Aug. 18, 2016, post.
    Several of us joined in, figuratively rolling our eyes at the all-leopard-all-the-time early colorways in the style — I hope these basic shades will be around for at least a couple of seasons..

    Reply
    • Erica
      January 10, 2017 at 2:44 pm
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      Hi Sarah! From what I understand, the basics are here to stay! Another good one from them (also on my review docket) is Candi. It’s a rip-off of the Elomi Cate (they look pretty damn similar), but it’s so wonderful. It’s also like $15 more expensive, but the changes they made are fabulous. While it’s not in animal prints, there’s also no basics for it either. It’s red this season and cobalt next season. I wish Panache would invest more in basics for this wonderful line!

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      • June 24, 2017 at 2:45 pm
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        I know this is an old post, but I wanted to circle back and let y’all know how much I love the Chi-Chi! I agree: It should be a universal style.

        As a short-waisted person who recently turned 52 and has dense, 34F breasts, I appreciate the lift it gives; I think my clothes fit better when there’s a clear dividing line between my breasts and my waist. 🙂 It’s probably the best-constructed bra I have (second only to Empreinte), and in cappuccino, I’d even say that it’s quite glam in an understated way. The next bra I buy will be another Chi-Chi — the only question is whether in cappuccino or black.

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        • Erica
          June 30, 2017 at 11:01 am
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          Sarah, that is so awesome!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I knew you would love it. 🙂 And yes, the cappuccino is such a sophisticated neutral. I like that Panache is experimenting more with those colors instead of using the same old yellow beige that became industry standard for a while.

          Reply

What are your thoughts?