Tuesday, March 25, 2014

My Wedding Dress Part 2: Trying on Gowns

In the intervening years, I have lost my dress shopping pics to three separate hardware and back up failures. I still have lots of pics of the dress I chose, but none of the process. Part of me is sad about this, because I did want to share it with you all. But, a whole other part of me is a-okay with it because it is healthy to move on.

Before I started booking appointments, I came up with some criteria the stores HAD to meet:
  • Be within an hour drive of our home. I just didn't have the time or desire to commute more. If you do, go for it!
  • Allow pictures - preferably in multiple lighting situations. I was surprised at the number of salons that didn't allow pictures, but I guess when you're trying to sucker a bride into a spur of the moment decision you do what you must. I figure a salon that doesn't allow pictures doesn't have 100% confidence in its stock or its alterations department - and knows you won't either if you take home photographic evidence. In this day and age of internet research, saying you "might copy the dress" if allowed to take photos is a load of crap. Photos and memories are what you are left with after the big day! If you don't like how the dress photographs on you, you have a right to know before you invest. The photos of dresses allowed me to see that certain shapes truly did not compliment my figure, and that the lace patterning I sort-of noticed in the dressing room made it look like my hips were garland draped in photos. They also let me see how a particular line of the dress looked from the back on my body.
  • Not be condescending or bitchy. Obviously this one is hard to judge before you go, but once you are there you will know. Know you have every right to just walk out of an appointment if you feel you aren't being treated respectfully. Though also know if you are being a bitchy bridezilla, it may not matter where you go - because your attitude is reflecting back at you. If you go in with a positive, sunny attitude, 99% of the time your fitter will reflect that back.

The First Store: A Small, Open Stock Boutique

The stock was limited in number of dresses, but the options to customize their dresses and to work with the designers were unparalleled. However, because the sample size range was tiny, I never felt like I could get a good idea of how I looked in the dresses. It didn't help that the other bride in the store was exactly sample sized and looked amazing in every gown she tried on, whereas I had clamps all over the back because my breasts were too big.

The Second Store: The Large, Well-Established, Closed Stock In-Town Bridal Store

Although the experience was lovely, the closed stock left me wary of committing. Each time I booked an appointment there, the fitters would put me in very different dresses, even though I was asking for the same styles, materials, cuts, etc.  I hadn't yet found a dress I loved, and it always felt like they were holding back. On top of it all, I felt like the fitters didn't listen when I said I did not want an empire seam on the dress, and that I would never in a million years wear a strapless again in my life unless I had plate armor underneath it holding my breasts up.

Side note: My breast tissue is full on the bottom and saggy. I've tried many different strapless options, and have yet to find one that holds my breast tissue in a way that isn't drooping after an hour or holding my breasts out to either side. I hold out hope that one day I'll find a strapless option, but until that day strapless are off the table.

The Third Store: The Small Town Open Stock Bridal Store

The store I ended up committing to a dress at was here. It was by far and away my best dress shopping experience, and I never felt pressured to buy. I knew exactly what dresses they had, and the fitting rooms and mirror areas were exceptionally well lit, with an option to stand by several windows and see the dress in sunlight as well.

My take-away from this whole process with regards to my boobs? Unless you are sized the same as the sample, you will not get the whole picture at the try on. However, you can still get a feel for the fabrics, patterning, where the seams lie on the dresses (super important for some alterations), as well as what features you like in a wedding dress.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Fancy Schmancy Dress Shopping (For reals booby peeps, I need some advice)

Bridal post #2 is on hold while I nose around my digital archives for the promised photos (there is a distinct possibility that between the three hardware and back-up failures I had in the last two years, I lost most of them.) But, this is a related post.

I'm in the market for a bridesmaid dress, technically a MOH dress. Good things: bride wants an approximation of emerald green, no sleeves (it will be August), and knee-ish length. Basically a nice looking green cocktail dress that looks semi-formal. Everything else is up to me. Bad things: my go-to places aren't currently carrying dresses fancy enough or dark green enough to satisfy the dress requirements. For real peeps, St. Patty's day is coming! Where are your greens? Boo. Ivory and white dresses I've found that meet the requirements are not dye-able. Double boo. Dresses I've tried on so far that fit are too short or come strapless. HA. No way, Jose. I need the ladies' hatches battened down and ready for war. This wedding promises to be a rip roaring party! Strapless bras and my full on the bottom, not-so-firm boobies don't intermingle well.

I'm on the fence right now about what to do. Three options remain: 1. Wait it out and hope something appropriately colored and sized is released in the next six months, 2. Buy a conventional dress from a store and tailor it, 3. Sew a new dress. The added complication is financial (when is it not?) and my budget is limited.

None of these options makes me feel at ease. All run a risk of failing spectacularly. Option 1 is most likely to fit without alterations, but I think is best left as a back-up. Although, I am currently waiting out a possible dress candidate from Modcloth. Option 2 is likely to result in a nice dress in the right color, but my previous experience getting a conventionally produced dress altered was negative. I fought the supposedly experienced tailor for every shaped inch of my body. Option 3 is doable, but time consuming. I do sew. I have several beautiful dresses at home I'd love to replicate. But, it makes me nervous to sew something seen so publicly.

From a financial standpoint, Option 1 or 3 is likely to cost the least (probably 3.) Option 2 could work out to be least expensive if I can get a dress secondhand and alter it myself. Oh. That has possibilities. As of right now, I'm tempted to explore all three options. Go out, try on some dresses at bridal stores, keep an eye on Trashy Diva, Pepperberry, Modcloth, etc. in the coming months, and get started on my goal of sewing more.

Thoughts? Advice? Anyone else been in this dilemma? Any emerald green, cocktail length dresses I should see?

Sunday, February 16, 2014

My Wedding Dress Part 1: Knowledge For In-Person Fittings

As many of you endowed with a larger bust know, going clothes shopping is a special nightmare.  I usually buy from specialty stores because I hate the feeling of putting on ill-fitting things over and over again, and seeing myself in them.  Wedding dress shopping was a little like this.  However, the catch is that there are significantly less easy to find resources on the internet regarding our large boobs and your wedding day.

Let me offer you this advice right off the bat: none of the dresses you try on will fit perfectly.  They are sample sizes.

All the dresses I tried on had to be clamped onto me, despite my "ideal hourglass figure."  But, that is not why I'm writing this post, instead I offer you this wisdom: if you have a large bust, be aware that the bridal market is not created equal with regards to it.  Apply your clothing knowledge here as you would elsewhere.

My big no-no list:
  1. Heavily beaded tops that sparkle like crazy - because the ladies don't need more attention than they already get.
  2. Straight across necklines - go for a sweetheart or v-neck, usually shows them off better. However! necklines can be altered.  So if you fall in love with the cut of a specific dress, but it has a straight-across neckline, ask about the possibility of altering the neckline.  Also, for all I know you look fabulous in a straight neckline.  Use your good judgement!
  3. Empire waist seams - I don't care what your fitter tells you, that empire seam will most likely sit part way up your breast tissue even in the correct size and tailored to your body.  It is the one thing I cringe the most about when I see it in wedding photos and bridal portraits.  Two exceptions to this: if either the dress can be custom made to your measurements or if you know the shoulder to underboob measurement will match your measurement.
  4. Low-dipping backs - You need support from a band.  Sewn in cups will not cut it if your dress has a very low back and no straps. (I broke this one.  I went and bought a low-backed wedding dress. Whoops!) There are several ways to accommodate droopy boobs in a low-backed dress, but they require lots of extra work on your part, but hopefully less stress than I went through.  When I have the blog entry on how I dealt with my own wedding dress posted, I'll put a finely crafted link in here.
Other bits of wisdom:
  1. Bring your own well-fitting, strapped bra that gives your breast tissue the shape you want people seeing on your wedding day.  The actual bra you wear may or may not be that one, but you want to put your best breast shape forward.  I strongly recommend a strapped bra because if the dress has to clamped onto your bra, a strapless bra may sit weird as it bears the weight of a heavy dress, causing your breasts in the dress to look funky or even pop out (voice of experience here.)  Also, droopy boobs look very different in a wedding dress than perky boobs.  HOWEVER, if you already have the bra and undergarments you plan to wear, bring those!
  2. Your fitter usually has their own agenda and ideas, which may or may not agree with yours.  I preferred the stores which had open stock and labels still on the dresses, as compared to the closed stock, un-labelled gowns I tried on at others.  I felt like I had power over my dress choice, and therefore my body.  In the end, the dress I bought was one my fitter picked for me, and I LOVE it.  But, I felt more comfortable in my final choice because I had seen all the stock the store offered in person.
  3. Also, your fitter probably doesn't understand issues surrounding large cup small back fit.  Hence avoiding empire waist seams, often there is not enough fabric for the empire waist to sit underneath all the breast tissue once the waist is taken in.
  4. Not all wedding dresses fit the same.  Some dresses are made for honest-to-goodness hourglass figures, others are made for apple shapes, and some are meant for waifs.  So check the size charts!  There is a huge difference between having to take 6 inches or more off the waist of a gown that fits your bust/hips versus only taking 1 or 2 inches off.
  5. Try on lots of different styles.  Seriously, do.
  6. Half-muslins and full-muslins are your friend (toiles to all you non-US peeps.)  If you fall in love with a particular style that will be difficult to impossible to alter properly to your body, ask if the designer offers customization of the dress through a half or full-muslin.  Essentially, they make a muslin (a type of inexpensive fabric) copy of the top of the dress to your measurements, fit the cheap fabric properly, and then use that as a pattern to make your custom gown that fits your boobs.  This choice allows larger chested women to wear an empire waisted style that sits properly.
  7. Your wedding dress should make you feel like you want to feel on your wedding day.  I don't know what that means for you, but trying on dresses, planning your wedding, etc. should help you pinpoint the feeling you want to evoke in yourself when you put on that dress and commit to the person you love.  Your dress should show off the things you love about yourself in a way you are comfortable showing them off.

Anyone else have wisdom to hand down from the ages when dealing with a large bust and wedding gowns?  Specific styles that worked well for you? Styles or designers to avoid?

Also, did any of you buy the support garments you wore on your wedding day before you bought the dress? And if so, did you wear those garments while trying on dresses?

Next Up:
Part 2: My Experience Trying On Dresses (with pictures!) 

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Back From The Internet Dead

Short story:

Life happened in some completely amazing, and completely devastating ways. All in a very short amount of time. I’m still working on recovering from what happened between August 2012 and October 2012, but I’m finally up for blogging again.

In short: I got married. Less than two months later I went through the “worst-case scenario” for a thesis-track grad student: my advisor died before I could defend. I’m (mostly) recovered, and back on the blogging scene.

Long Story (sort of):

  • Got married, family drama – happiest day of my life far and away. Still happily married. Love my Bear.
  • Wrote my M.S. thesis. Then mid-editing and defense prep process, my advisor died of a myocardial infarction. I lost a parent-figure/mentor/boss/friend/colleague in one horrible moment, and was left with a work environment where no one felt comfortable talking to me or about the situation. Thankfully my department decided to support me to degree completion (not always the case.) This put my life and degree on hold for almost a year as I struggled to piece together a lot of stuff emotionally, professionally, and personally. I’m a better person for the experience, but I would not wish it for anyone. It heavily strained my marriage during the first year.
  • Went to Europe. Made some new friends. Finally started to heal.
  • Started running to work off stress/weepiness and found out I love it. Healed some more.
  • Got my M.S. after another round of editing with a new advisor and a successful defense. Woohoo!
  • Started my current job hunt, which remains complicated since my original thesis/grad advisor can’t write recommendation letters from beyond the grave. FML.
  • Mostly crawled out of that emotional hole, and then had to make the awful, awful decision to euthanize our gorgeous elderly cat. Right choice to make, but emotionally tore me up.
  • Have since spent the last five months chilling and decompressing from my grad school experience, as well as working.
 I've got some new stuff queued up, as well as "old" stuff I never posted. Back to the blogging!

Sunday, June 24, 2012

A Response to A Post on Fitting

I'm fuming a little after reading this post over at MsBehaved.  Bianca makes a valid point about bra fitting: when all is said and done, only YOU know what is right for your boobs and body to get proper support from bras.  It sounds like her fitter at Nordstrom's did not listen to her feedback about wanting a looser band, especially given that a 40 inch underband is not asking too much and they could easily have fit her into a (probably more comfortable) 40G.  I think it an absolute shame she had to go through this experience, and I hope that it hasn't turned her off from finding a proper fitting bra.

However, my bone to pick is her attitude toward larger cup sizes and fitting in general.  Most women do wear the wrong bra size, but they don't do it knowingly.  I'd love it if all women knew their correct bra size, and then used that as a starting place to find the right bras for them.  I was also appalled at the attitude toward the so-called mythic cup sizes (i.e. F-cup or larger) in both her post and in the comments.  H-cups are not freaking unicorns.  I do not have a pair of centaurs strapped to my chest.

I do believe that finding a proper fitting bra absolutely changes your life.  However, the one your fitter hands you in the changing room at a big box store may not be it.  In fact, it is likely to not be "the one."  If it is, great.  Go ride off on a horse with your fairy bra charming into a vivid sunset, knowing your breasts aren't going to jiggle too much or fall out when that horse rears dramatically.  If the bra is not "the one", be a (polite) dick. You are their customer.  Find the right bra for you - try on lots and lots of bras, apply swing sizing, and remember not all brands are made the same.  You might leave empty-handed and that is okay.

My other big bone to pick has to do with Bianca's claim of vanity sizing in the bra industry.  Fabrics used in bras and bust support systems have changed dramatically since clothing sizing was standardized during WW2.  (Fun Fact: the modern short brassiere was developed in the early 1920s.)  Fabrics used in bras today are significantly stretchier than fabrics used during the 40s and 50s.  Adding inches to an underbust measurement made sense back then because most people like breathing.  The added inches gave women literal breathing room in a garment that did not stretch.  Today, bras are made with fabrics that have lots of natural give.  Sizing has consequently changed, and is different from manufacturer to manufacturer.  Adding inches to the underbust measurement is often unnecessary, and may dramatically reduce the support you should receive from the band.

As I stated at the beginning of this post, only you know what is right for your body.  I do believe that fittings change lives, but I also believe they shouldn't dictate them.  I wish the statement that "most women wear the wrong size" was all bullshit.  Blogs like this wouldn't exist.  My so-called unicorn boobs would actually get recognized as actual unicorn boobs.  Maybe they'd grow horns... hmmm...  Large cup small band bras wouldn't cost so much and "be a scam" if there was more demand and a competitive marketplace.  Where might this come from? Oh, maybe from more women learning their real bra size and not wussing out because current culture tells them that having a smaller band size and larger cup size is a bad, slutty, fat shaming, and impossible thing.

Embrace what you got, ladies.  Get fitted by someone who knows their shit.  Trust your instincts, and realize that finding "the one" will probably take time and money.  Then you will hopefully get your own glorious sunset horse ride moment, and be able to not worry about your breasts falling out when the horse rears in the sunset.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

I'm Getting Married

So, in 7 weeks I marry the love of my life.

I think I laughed a little when I typed that out.  I love my Bear, and he is the love of my life, but gosh that sounds so cheesy.  Bear is fantastic and wonderful and amazing.  We have a meeting with our minister on Tuesday to figure out the ceremony and I'm supposed to come up with 3 reasons why I love him. This has been the hardest assignment I've ever had.  Even harder than finding a wedding dress and then the accompanying lingerie.  Thankfully (maybe?) Bear is struggling with the assignment too.  We both love each other, but not for any specific, sappy reasons.  He doesn't run for the hills when I give off noxious gas.  I think his love for electronics and tinkering is freaking awesome.  We both laugh at obnoxiously immature jokes, and we both share a deep passion for inexpensive but excellent red wines.  We also both love Doctor Who and Game of Thrones.  We don't get sick of each other during multi-day car trips.  We also both adore cats and children.  Hmmm... maybe I have more fodder for our ceremony than I thought.

In planning a large family wedding, there was of course a dress to buy.  I'm planning on writing a series about how 1. I found my wedding dress, 2. the experience of trying on wedding dresses with  larger bust, 3. how I freaked the fuck out once I realized I ordered a cut-out back dress that required a bra that is not manufactured in my size, 4. how I frankensteined a bustier to meet my needs, 5. my fitting and seamstress experience (my current saga), and finally 6. thoughts and reflections on other people's reactions and perceptions of my wedding dress/bridal ensemble on me after my wedding is over and I've got some professional shots to share.  It seems this kind of series would fill a giant hole in the internet.  So, my dear, invisible internet friends, keep an eye out for that in the coming 2 months.

Also, I'm planning on writing a loving and caring entry in the near future extolling the virtues of Trashy Diva dresses.  I've gotten three in as many months and want more.

Sunday, April 22, 2012


As I mentioned earlier, I've lost a substantial amount of weight (enough to make my major issue when running water loss instead of joint/hip pain - AMAZING!).  This has left my closet in a sad state of disrepair - I'm losing weight at just the right rate where I only own 2 pairs of pants that fit right (because I'm shrinking out of them at the rate I wear them out), and I continue to try to wear clothes that are 1 to 3 sizes too big for me.  Except there's a couple catches: my old dresses no longer fit or even flatter, my work shirts sag in such a way that I show too much cleavage/bra (even with a plunge bra), and all of this needs a lot of denial behind it.

So, I resolved to change this.  I recently met a young woman, B, who is also large-cupped.  We got to the point where we were talking about our bodies, how hard it is to find clothes, and I asked her what her bra size was.  36G, the perfect size for all of my clothes.  We set up a clothing exchange date with a mutual friend of ours, A, at my place.

The night before, I went through my closet, tried things on, set aside everything, including lots and lots of bras. To say I was excited would be an understatement.  I love those clothes and bras because they helped me better understand my body, my boobs, and learn to love myself.  I hoped they could do the same for someone else.

Come day of, both the fantastic ladies arrive and we had a nice time hanging out, chatting etc.  After an hour or so, we headed to my bedroom to start the clothing marathon.  I had no idea what I was getting into, or just how transformative it would be for all of us.

I handed B a stack of my old 36G bras, some barely worn, others very worn, told her that whichever ones she liked and fit were hers to keep.  It turned out she'd never owned a bra that fit.  I'd expected never owning clothing tailored to her body, but never owning a proper bra? I felt like a Fairy Bra Mother, though a poor one with what I had to offer.

B was over the moon about how good she looked in the clothes.  A and I were both delighted each time she emerged from my closet in something new - everything looked so amazing on her body.  In the end, I gave B about 3 full shopping bags worth of clothing and bras - things that I no longer used, but I knew that she not only would use, but needed.

While B was trying on clothes in my closet, I casually asked A her bra size. 36DD my ass.  I asked if she was up for getting measured, she said yes.  So I whipped out my trusty tape measure and after getting her measurements, I dug through some of my bras and asked if she'd be willing to try it on.  She said why not, and gave it go.  The bra was a Panache tango plunge that never quite fit me right after my initial fitting in it.  But it fit A perfectly.  The bra was a 32G, a far cry from a 36DD.  I think we were both in shock for a moment.  A wrapping her head around the new bra size, and me because I suddenly had a friend who wears a very similar bra size.  I grabbed my Pinup Girl Jessica and Heidi dresses from my closet for A to try on - perfect fits.  They currently fit me as well, but I told A to let me know if she wanted to borrow a dress or a top.  Turned out she has a formal coming up, and needed a dress for it.  It was exciting to see her confronted, for the first time in her life, with a choice between well-fitting dresses.  There's a sense of being overwhelmed, of joy, and of wonder.  To feel you have a choice is to be empowered.

From my perspective, I just helped two amazing ladies better appreciate and understand their bodies.  I gave them the power to dress well, and opened the door to important, life-altering options.  But even more than that, I also helped myself.  I think we all hold onto things we don't need to hold onto.  I was holding onto clothing and bras in this case.  Things that didn't fit, or sort of fit, clothing I tried to fake my way in.  I was holding onto things because they were such a huge part of my life - my college graduation dress, the shirt I taught my first class in, my first properly fitted bras.  But, holding onto items doesn't give them power.  It just gives them power over me, and began to impair my own life.  They create decisions and impediments, rather than preserving memories.  At that point, it was time to let go and move on.

I'm still a little raw from giving away those clothes.  I know it needed to happen.  On the other hand, I still cannot get over how incredibly happy B was each time she came out in a new piece of clothing.  Or the look on A's face when she tried on the dresses.  To empower other women was an amazing experience and I would do it all over again in a heartbeat.