Monday, March 30, 2015

How to Boudoir: Part 1

This short series (only 2!) will be about using lingerie in a boudoir session and the prep involved. Recently I was chosen as a finalist for The Sensual Photographer's spokesmodel contest so this is also a shameless plug to GO LIKE HER FACEBOOK PAGE and when the time comes, vote for me! If you live in the Portland, OR area (or are wanting to travel through), don't be afraid to book her for a session.

As a note, The Sensual Photographer is focused on sensual photography. "Sensual photography is about indulging your senses and exploring what makes you personally feel sexy."

The History
What is boudoir photography? Boudoir is the French word for "a woman's bedroom or private sitting room." If you didn't notice from the page the word literally means "a sulking place!" Modern day boudoir photography is anything but sulking or negative energy!! But boudoir photography IS meant to be photographed in a private room, as if the subject is the sole occupant doing private activities. This is why if you see a photo of a woman in her lingerie in say... the woods, well then, that isn't boudoir.

The Knot has a slightly "trendier" explanation of boudoir photography, describing it as the next hot thing for the soon to be bride as a gift for the groom. But boudoir photography has a much older starting date. Yana Kembel makes a great mention of the early 1920 and 1930 starlets, such as Jean Harlow, being photographed in their bedrooms or in hotels. The images were (and still are) very provocative and provide an interesting glimpse into the lives of early 20th century women. Heck, you could consider boudoir painting to be the starting point!

I think early painters saw a woman's boudoir as a secret Illuminati puzzle and painted quite a few "answers" to these puzzles. The image to the left is an accurate representation of a 19th century inside toilet (painting is La Toilette intime ou la Rose Effeuillee by Louis-Léopold Boilly). Boilly made a point of documenting middle-class lifestyles, but he was nearly convicted of having too many "erotic undertones" to his work during the French Terror. Ooh lá lá!

Modern day boudoir is mostly about celebrating a woman's strength and even their sexiness (and sometimes they are one and the same). The subject of a boudoir photo could give it to a partner or even themselves. They may even hang it on a wall, and that is okay, too!

The key is to have fun, be comfortable, and feel like yourself!

The Lingerie & Prep
So what do you choose for lingerie? I honestly believe you should wear what makes you feel comfortable. Matching set? Sure! Mix n Match? Definitely! A solid black or white set is a good choice but if you have a mixed color match (and you're feeling self-conscious about it) discuss it with your photographer and maybe go a black and white direction.

To make it easier (and cheaper) try to find a lingerie set that fits, at least in the cups. Digitally editing your photographs adds time and expense, so the less your photo editor needs to  change, the cheaper it is for you!

For my session, I've packed five sets of lingerie! These are pieces that I enjoy, fit me and make me feel comfortable. The photographer, makeup and hair artist will take a look at what I've brought and help narrow the sets down. Also, the makeup artist can use the pieces you choose to match your makeup. According to Glamour, the average woman owns 16 bras at one time, buying on average 4 a year! (Ladies, we need to talk about how long you should keep a bra, because this sounds ASTOUNDING to me). So in THEORY you should have quite a selection.

Heck, you don't even need to wear lingerie! Fans, instruments, mirrors, oversized shirts or whatever holds meaning to you. The options are endless. Included in my bag are a bodysuit, sweater and multiple pairs of shoes. I'm thinking of adding some flowers because why not?

For preparation, I've been drinking a ton of water. Every day and night I've been using a heavy moisturizer. Tonight, I'll be using Frank Coffee Scrub as an exfoliater and I'll also use a lip scrub so it's easier to apply makeup. For a photosession that includes a hair and makeup artist, show up without any products in your hair or on your face. You're a blank space to show the true you!

To be continued...

Monday, March 23, 2015

You're Wearing the Wrong (Cup) Size

Here are a few ways that give away that you're wearing the wrong (cup) size! For example, I'll use some lovely, buxom ladies in show business just because they're more likely to be fitted into incorrect bras for photoshoots by stylists and designers. If I come across more later I will create another blog post.

The Wires Are Sitting on Tissue
Christina Hendricks in a photo from the WildSound (originally Esquire)

Fit is easier to determine with a wired bra, if only because you can easily see where it hits your breast tissue. The wire should NEVER sit on breast tissue (see example above). That's why lingerie experts talk about the scoop and swoop method to make sure the wires fully encase your breasts, not float on top. An incorrectly fitting cup size can jab, stab and sometimes force wires up and out of the bra itself. Bras I Love and Hate featured an example of a bra stabbing (center gore). This can happen due to a manufacturing defect but it can also happen when your breasts are too big for the cup, causing stress on the wire and fabric.

Suggestion: Go up in cup sizes until the outside wire is not sitting on breast tissue. OR, sometimes, finding a bra with wider wires.
Floating Cup Syndrome
Another sign of a cup that doesn't fit is floating cup syndrome. On Kate Upton above, you can see that the center gore (the piece between the cups) is floating above her body. It almost looks like the cups are floating in the air supporting, you guessed it, nothing! A tight enough band will hold your breast tissue up (to an extent) but won't give enough support to be comfortable.

Suggestion: Go up in cup sizes until the gore can lie flat.

"Quad Boob"
Again, we'll use Miss Upton as an example. Cups that are too small can not only sit on tissue but shove tissue up. Although this is the intent with push-up bras, they shouldn't cut into the tissue itself (case above). Sometimes when you scoop and swoop you'll end up with quad boob, so try going up in cup sizes until it fits. If you have softer tissue, changing the style of bra (but staying in the same size) may help. If you have breasts that are different sizes (it happens to most of us), then size your cup for the larger breast. Inserts and padding can be added to the smaller breast to create symmetry. Breast tissue may also start a bit higher on one side and that can make one breast appear bigger. Again, try to size for the largest breast and add inserts.

Suggestions: Go up a in cup sizes until you have the appropriate number of breasts or change styles.

Monday, March 16, 2015

How to buy bras (for less)

More often than not, I hear many women complain that bras are expensive. "I pay $100 for one bra. That's so expensive! Who can afford more than a few bras at a time!?" and ooooooh, do I sympathize. In college, I had one bra that fit and I wore it so frequently that it wore out quickly. If you're on a budget (or maybe you like variety that won't break the bank), then there are definitely options beyond the general department store in town.
How to Buy
  • Consider prior seasons: Just like normal clothing fashion, lingerie companies release new items twice a year (once for Fall/Winter and again for Spring/Summer). Usually these items are shifted to other stores (for example, Nordstrom to Nordstrom Rack) or even to different chains, such as TJ Maxx or Marshalls. I have seen a Panache T-Shirt bra that regularly retails at $56 be $10.
  • Ugly bras are still good bras: Items that don't move quickly are more often moved to the sales/clearance section before more popular items. For example, I don't prefer the Freya Tabitha (below) and wouldn't choose to buy it normally. HOWEVER, if the fit works (and this one didn't on me), then heck yes! Buy it! It's under your clothes, so does it really matter? P.S. You can totally buy this bra for (at this moment) $18 under retail!
  • Sister sizes are your friends: If you are in-between band sizes then sister-sizing is your friend! Are you a 32FF? Maybe you could slide into a 34F or a 30G. Sizes that move more slowly (namely small band/large cup) can be found in sales/clearance sections. If you're right on the border line of easy to find bras (around a D cup), then you have a lot of flexibility in finding brands that can fit you, too. Orlinas has a quick run-down of sister sizes.
  • SALES, SALES, SALES: The best time to look for a bra is right before it goes on sale. Know your size and have a lot of patience. Sign up for online newsletters for the companies you prefer and they will email you when there are sales or offers.,, and more will let you know when the game is on.
  • Exchange Rates: When the exchange rate swings into your favor, then take advantage! Although it's not often, you can get a great deal. For example, if you're in the US and buying from Canada, the exchange rate might work out. Pay attention to shipping, though! That might mean you lose out in the end if you pay a lot for shipping.
  • Price Matching: Nordstrom has a new policy where they will match Amazon prices. You might have to check with floor managers to make sure it applies in your store, but it is a guaranteed match online!
Where to Buy
Discount Stores
Zulily, Gilt, and RueLaLa are fashion stores that feature prior seasons of lingerie/swimwear. Common brands are Kris Line, Curvy Kate, Chantelle and more. You can sign up and be alerted when there will be a sale.

Online Stores
Amazon: Brand names sell direct through Amazon. Usually they have discounts, too!
eBay: Know your size or even specifically the exact bra you want, you can swing a great deal.

Specialty Online Stores
Figleaves: Cheaper house brand AND great sales prices. Figleaves is a great place to stop.
BraStop: There is a large selection of prior seasons of bras available!

Bratabase: You can buy or exchange new/used/well-loved bras from Bratabase. In addition, you can get actual bra measurements to make sure it fits. The reviews are also incredibly helpful.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Brand Highlight: NightLift

While this post is NOT about whether you should or should not wear a bra while sleeping (there isn't strong evidence to support either case), it is good to know that options exist for those who choose to wear a bra at night! For those of us who DO need a bra to go outside, it's helpful to know that you can throw something on at night and if you wake up in a rush, there's a fire, etc., you can be wearing something comfortable and supportive and not need to change. Although there are a wide variety of brands that exist, I chose to highlight NightLift this week.

New to the CurveNV Expo just this year, NightLift is the brainchild of plastic surgeon Dr. Randal Haworth and the "best technical engineers in women’s foundation wear" (no names are mentioned on his website so who knows who that might be). The NightLift construction/engineering has even been patented (B.U.S.T.) and boy does it look different!

I have to be honest and say I DON'T like the sling look of the construction. This implies that you have hoisted your breast tissue UP and the straps are holding them that way. The band should be doing most of that work!

There seems to be a lot of thought put into the inner straps, which must help control breast tissue from slipping towards the inside of the cups while side-sleeping. According to the website, "Dr. Haworth actually prescribes NightLift® for all his post-op breast surgery patients to wear after their bandages come off and their bodies are on the mend."
There are even J-hooks on the outer straps in the front so you can connect it to the inner straps.
Now, sizing! This system seems to add 2-3" inches to the underbust but could very well run tight. This IS a sleep bra, so perfect support isn't necessary (you won't be jogging in your sleep, I hope). The range is from 32" to 44" in the band and E to FF in most sizes. Because it's not an underwire bra, the gore isn't specifically meant to tack to the ribcage, so it's hard to tell how the sizing would go. HOWEVER, your bra band should NEVER ride up like the image below (from the website here).

Overall, I'm interested in seeing how comfortable this bra might be while sleeping. Glamour magazine did a review here. I'm a bit skeptical about how effective this would be at preventing sagging but would welcome something I could lounge in and not feel constricted.

*I have not been paid/sponsored by NightLift. This post is to just mention the brand.