Thursday, 28 August 2014

The retro bra buying guide: Strapless bras

Ah, strapless bras. The natural enemy of the busty lady! If strapless dresses weren’t so beautiful, I would happily burn all my strapless bras and dance around the flames. But the fact is, we need them. If we want to wear Shaheen dresses, or showstopping cocktail frocks, we need to make peace with strapless bras. I’ve done a lot of experimenting over the years, so here’s my guide to (non-vintage) strapless options for the busty lady.


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You’ll be able to find these in any lingerie or department store. The one I own is a push-up style, but the push-up stopped working when the plastic boning buckled on the second wear. (Ouch my ribs!) A couple of years ago, I invented a clever but un-sexy workaround, where I would wear a strapless Wonderbra with the corsolette over the top. It actually works pretty well! You feel a bit crazy doing it, but once you get your dress on, you’ll have cleavage for days.


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While planning my outfits for a trip to Hawaii, I came to the sad conclusion that I would need to wear a strapless bra in tropical weather. Gross. I didn’t want to wear a corsolette, so I paid a visit to Brava, the D cup and above specialty store. I always thought I was a lost cause when it came to modern strapless bras, but it turns out I just needed a smaller band size! I brought along a Shaheen dress just to check how each bra looked with my outfits, and came away with the Fantasie Smoothing strapless bra. It’s not the most comfortable bra I’ve ever owned, but at least it stays in place! The Fantasie looks okay with Hawaiian dresses and sun tops, but it doesn’t give the cleavage required for fancy cocktail dresses. 


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I’ve had such bad luck buying strapless bras online that I really wanted to try this one on before I bought it. I waited nearly three years, but I finally got the chance to visit the What Katie Did boutique in Los Angeles. Hooray! The Cabaret bustier is perfect to wear with vintage dresses, and the boned cups look particularly good with Hawaiian dresses. It gets two thumbs up from me! I'm actually wearing it in the main image on this post.

The only thing I haven’t tried yet is the Goddess Lace Longline Bra. I’ve read good things about it, but since it doesn’t come in my actual size, I’m going to step away. Sometimes when my size isn’t available in a particular bra, I just guess the closest alternative size and hope for the best. This is never a good plan with strapless bras. If you’re forced into buying a larger band size, that strapless bra will end up around your waist in no time. I’ve learned that one the hard way!

Do you have any tips for strapless survival? Share them in the comments, because the ladies need to know. And while you're here, don't forget to check out the Bullet Bra Buying Guide.

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

The retro bra buying guide: Bullet bras

Every vintage lady needs at least one bullet bra, and luckily there’s a number of options to choose from these days. You can always hunt for vintage, but if you’re not a vintage-friendly size, or just don’t have the time, here’s my thoughts on the options available today.


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This is the classic What Katie Did bullet bra, worn by vintage girls and celebrities alike. I find this particular bra doesn’t look quite right under most of my outfits, because the cups are so pointy, I look like I’m smuggling ice cream cones under my top. Having said that, I LOVE the look of this bra on its own, and it’s absolutely the best choice for burlesque costumes and pinup shoots. With so many stores carrying the What Katie Did range these days, it’s well worth finding a local stockist and trying it out for yourself.

PROS: Totally authentic vintage styling, beautiful satin fabric, looks great on stage and in photos.
CONS: One of the more expensive options around. Larger cup sizes can be very pointy and show under clothing.


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Years ago, I wandered into my local department store looking for “a sort-of pointy bra to wear with my swing dancing dresses.” Lucky for me, the saleslady knew exactly what I was talking about and hooked me up with the Fayreform Hickory Lace bra. The saleslady explained that pointy bras are easy to find in stores, because they generally have 2-3 seams on the cup, and look pointy even on the hanger. The Hickory Lace has been my go-to vintage style bra for years now, because it gives the correct shape under clothing without appearing comically pointy. I also like the fact that it doesn’t create a minimising effect, which so many vintage styles tend to do. Not that there’s anything wrong with minimiser bras… But I figure Jayne Mansfield wouldn’t approve, so I don’t either! 

PROS: Vintage style shape without being too pointy. Does not have a minimising effect.

CONS: Horizontal centre seam can sometimes show under clothing. Comes up quite high in the centre front, so you can’t wear it with low neck tops. The band size begins at 34, so if you have a small frame you have to take it in, or tolerate the looser band. 


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For comfort and vintage style on a budget, you can’t go past the classic wirefree bra. I’ve heard them referred to as ‘granny bras’ but don’t let that put you off! The quintessential wirefree bullet bra is the Triumph Doreen, which has been in production for over 40 years. I’ve worn the Doreen in the past, but at the moment, I’m just wearing the St. Marks brand from Big W. I paid $11 for it! Professional bra fitters would be horrified, because it’s at least two band sizes too big, but I still wear it because the smooth nylon fabric is virtually undetectable under clothing. The centre seam does show under certain outfits, but on the whole, it gives a smooth finish, and it's the least ‘intrusive’ of all my vintage style bras. (I'm wearing it in the photo at the top of this post.)  

PROS: Very comfortable. Usually inexpensive. Least visible under clothing. Gives a vintage style shape without appearing too extreme. For ladies who like to wear a soft but supportive bra for lounging or sleeping, a light wirefree bra is a great choice.
CONS: Band size usually begins at 34, so if you have a small frame you have to take it in, or tolerate the looser band. Can have a minimising effect on larger cup sizes.


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I stumbled onto the Ardyss brand after searching ‘bullet bra’ on ebay. From what I can tell, it’s a specialist label for heavy-duty foundation garments, mostly sold through Tupperware-style parties. The Angel bra caught my attention because it appears to be made in exactly the same way as 60s bullet bras, but they’re available in a huge range of sizes. (According to their website, there’s over 300 size combinations!) After thinking and measuring and thinking some more, I finally bought one. I was happy with the sizing, but I find it so ‘uplifting’ it makes my bust look at least three cup sizes smaller. I think these bras are the perfect choice for vintage ladies looking for a minimising effect, or to reduce back pain caused by a fuller bust. They definitely make you feel lighter, and improve your posture! 

PROS: Total gravity-defying uplift that gives a slim, youthful silhouette. Almost infinite range of sizes.
CONS: The uplift and sleek profile comes at the expense of bust projection. Easily the most minimising bra I’ve ever owned. Comes up quite high at the front, so you’re limited in the choice of top you can wear with it. The label has their own sizing system, so you need to measure yourself using their instructions, which is a little tricky.

So what’s next? Well, my ‘holy grail’ bra would be one that has a pointy vintage shape, only smooth and undetectable like a modern t-shirt bra. A girl can dream! The closest thing I’ve found so far is this Freya sports bra… There’s lots of reviews complaining it’s too pointy. (Oh really? Sounds good to me.)

Stay tuned for the next instalment of the retro bra series... Strapless bras!

Sunday, 24 August 2014

The retro bra buying guide

Okay vintage ladies, let’s talk about bras! Or rather, let’s talk about the perpetual challenge to find the perfect foundation garments to wear with all our vintage outfits.

Friends and strangers often ask what type of bra I wear, but I’m not sure if that’s because I’m a former burlesque dancer (and therefore expert on underwear in general) or bras are just something ladies like to talk about all the time. I think it could be both.

As a busty lady with an unusually small rib cage, I have always struggled to find a bra that even fits, let alone gives the correct vintage shape under clothes. When I was a teenager, I had to shop at the specialist foundation garment store while all my friends bought cute bras with stars on them from K-Mart. Luckily I didn’t mind wearing pointy granny-style bras, because that was all that was on offer in my size. Through years of ‘foundation garment adversity’ I’ve been forced to do a lot of research into the different options available.

As every lady knows, finding the right bra can be difficult, and a love of vintage adds to the complexity! So many 1950s dresses are heavily darted on the bodice, and to make them sit right, you need a pointy bra. But which pointy bra? And what's the best strapless bra to wear underneath a Shaheen dress? There's so much to talk about, I've divided the topic into different posts. And as always, feel free to share your experiences in the comments section... Let's work this out together!

Don't miss the other posts in this series: Bullet bras & Strapless bras

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

All rugged up at Greazefest Melbourne

There’s only two ways to stay warm at a festival in the middle of winter: outfit layering and stupid dancing. And last weekend at Greazefest Melbourne, I managed a little of both.

Greazefest is the biggest festival on the Brisbane rockabilly calendar, and for the first time ever, they’ve expanded into Melbourne. Lori Lee and the team did a great job of orchestrating such a huge event, with cars, bands, food and stalls all running seamlessly alongside each other.

I was lucky enough to be invited to share the Powderpuff Boutique stall, so I spent most of the weekend selling accessories. It was great to meet some longtime customers, and I was thrilled to see lots of ladies wearing Forbidden Charm throughout the weekend.

I’m always interested to hear what you ladies are looking for in your accessories. Right now, I’m hearing you need large black hoops, large silver hoops and possibly gold ones too. The black hoops are coming, and I’m looking into the others. If you have any more requests, feel free to pass them on, and I’ll see what I can do!

Since I was working most of the time, I didn’t get to take photos of the bands or car show - only outfits! But that’s what you want to see, right? 

Miss Paula-Jane of Powderpuff Boutique shows off the merchandise her pink holster earrings
Anna Go-Go wears a vintage black and yellow halter dress from Etsy

Manning the stall packed with Powderpuff Boutique, Forbidden Charm and Mikala Design

So good catching up with awesome ladies from near and far!

Matching suits with Leah from L-Bomb Fitness

Michelle from Mikala Design and Jodie from Press-Tone Music in matching Mexican jackets

We love theme days! The chimayo purse was super handy for hands-free vending