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Squeezing Lemons

self care when life gives you lemons

I believe in the power of positive thinking. When I feel down, I take a moment to force myself to smile (studies show that just by smiling your mood improves) and think about good things. The awesome weather we’re having, last night snuggling with Karl watching Sherlock on his phone, Emerson telling me I am her best friend, hearing my unemployed friend found a great job, that sort of thing. And it usually works. I stop focusing on the craptastic and fill my brain with the fantastic and next thing I know, I’m singing along with the radio and looking forward to the rest of the day.

But sometimes, that down won’t go up with a fake smile and a thought of puppies. And while I am positive on this blog, you bet your Jockey Skimmies I have had a lot of down days in the past few months. I’m damn good at making lemonade out of life’s lemons, but sometimes I need to kick myself in the pants to get to squeezing the hell out of those lemons.

Many write about self care, and I often discuss how you can’t properly care for others unless you first care for yourself, but it’s all a bunch of gentle incense burning meditating post-it notes of YOU’RE BEAUTIFUL! bullshit when you’re in thick. I’ve tried meditation apps and videos, self-help books, morning walks but my head is spinning and what’s spinning in there isn’t puppies and blue skies.

When I was younger, I could cure this brain tornado with something drastic. A tattoo, a piercing, a new hair color, white water rafting, a new job, a trip somewhere new. But with 40 right around the corner, a family and a mortgage I can’t just up and run to Costa Rica or quit my job. But that doesn’t mean I can’t DO SOMETHING. And that SOMETHING is self care.

I’m a vain, superficial person. Come on, we all know it, I run a FASHUN BLOG for God’s sake. And when I think I look good, I feel better. For years I maxed out credit cards in an attempt to feel better about myself and it gave a temporary fix, but left me more miserable. But personal beautification IS a gateway to self care; it forces you to realize the bod you’re in, take time to focus on it, improve it, and thereby think better of it and yourself.

When the doctor confirmed that yep, the arm was re-broken and yep, I’d need to go through surgery again, I was devastated. Pull over my car to the side of the road and scream and cry until I was ill devastated. Get home, see my mom (who was watching Em so I could go to the doctor) and begin sobbing again in my Mommy’s arms devastated. Tearing up right now thinking about that day devastated. I gave myself that weekend to be a mega Boo Boo Kitty. I slept a lot, I cried a lot… and yes I drank a lot. I didn’t shower, I never put on a bra, and I listened to a lot of sad music from my angsty high school days. Come Monday, I put on a brave face for my last three days at the office and got shit done. I thought about puppies and forced many smiles while I wrapped up loose ends at the office though my personal loose ends began fraying.  That Thursday lying in the surgery center waiting for my turn I gave up trying to be brave and mature and cried some more, curled up in the fetal position (as fetal as possible with a nerve block).

But after I got out of surgery? I decided I wasn’t going to be the miserable sack on the couch I was last time. I was going to DO SOMETHING, and I made a decision that if DOING SOMETHING didn’t help, I would SEE SOMEBODY. And I told my husband this, making it concrete, holding myself accountable.

Each day of my short term  disability, I brushed my teeth, washed my face, put on a bra. Each day I drank at least eight glasses of water (we’d make a pitcher of Belly Water  – delicious and beneficial). Each day I ate a proper breakfast. Very simple things, things I knew I could commit to, even in a Percocet haze. And once I had those down pat, I added to the list. I would go outside for at least 15 minutes to get fresh air. I resumed dry brushing each morning, something I used to do a decade ago but somehow forgot about (this is a great e-book to teach you a gentle way to incorporate this habit, written by someone who had been in a very dark place). I started walking each morning, first day just to the entrance of my court and back, next day to the end of the block and back, and up to 30 minutes with no distance or intensity goals. Very very simple things, not adding one until I had gotten to a comfortable place with the previous.

After two weeks, I went back to the doctor feeling incredibly rested and positive. I chose a hot pink cast, and that night I swiped on some hot pink lipstick to match (Revlon’s LacquerBalm in Vivacious) and went to a party with friends. The next night, I accompanied Karl to a local café where he was hired to photograph the band. Though it was a place where I could wear shorts and a tee shirt, I put on a fancy dress, did up my hair, and again wore the hot pink lipstick. Fuck this cast, it’s not going to get me down. I am amazing, and I am going to continue to be amazing.

But with a cast came real life. Back to work, back to the DC commute, back to bills and car repairs, problems with the blog switching to WordPress (um hello losing all my Feedly subscribers and 75% of my comments), job stresses, home stresses, and all that stuff that on a normal day I can handle no problem, but with a hot encased arm that’s giving me a bit of claustrophobia and making daily tasks all the more complicated, well that darkness started returning.

But I’m fighting it, dammit, and with each act of self care, I squeeze those lemons a bit harder and add more sugar to that lemonade.  Some lemon-squeezing acts I’m performing:

  • Dry Brushing. Seriously, it’s amazing what a $10 brush can do for the mood and the body. I can’t do yoga or exercise much, but in three minutes each morning and evening, I have seen my legs more toned, my skin glow, and I get a charge that keeps my pumped enough in the morning that I can sometimes go without coffee or at least wait until I get to work.
  • Walking. I promise myself I don’t have to do more than 30 minutes, I don’t have to do a certain distance, and I can even take a route that is completely flat. but I have to do it. In my bathroom are my shorts, bra, and tee shirt. I fumble in the dark for socks and underwear, go in the bathroom, dry brush and brush my teeth, get dressed, and go downstairs to drink a big glass of water, put on my shoes and go out the door. No checking email, no letting out the dog, no turning on lights. I started doing this in silence but found I was more motivated with music. Now I’m mixing it up by listening to audiobooks.
  • Beauty Treat. When I feel fat and none of my wardrobe works with my cast and I see some comment on the web saying something not nice I want to go to Nordstrom or ASOS and drop some money. But a new dress or bag won’t fix things, it will only spend money I don’t have (twice-broken arms are NOT cheap). My replacement is CVS. I let myself go in there and buy ONE THING. Maybe it’s a new hair product, maybe a lip gloss or body scrub. Just one thing, and I pay cash so I can’t go bonkers. And then I go home and give myself a half hour to play with that new thing alone.
  • Hair Maintenance. Last week, my sister came over and dyed my hair for me. Two weeks prior I shared an Instagram photo boasting about my great hair, but since then split ends had grown and my hair had faded to a sad light brown and grays were all over the place. I can hardly style my hair as it is with the cast, and the dreary head of fried locks made me feel old and lame. Oh the power of a box of Natural Instincts and a good friend, I now feel like I can conquer the world.
  • Sleep When Tired. I try to be Super Woman. I get up early to blog and look nice for work, I work a minimum of eight hours with an hour commute each way, I come home and spend quality time with my daughter, and once I put her to bed, spend quality time with my husband. Weekends, I cram in errands, chores around the house, community events, birthday parties and dance class, time with loved ones and the occasional Date Night or Girl Friend Brunch. And next thing I know, I’m cranky and sick miserable; so tired my stomach hurts and my head is pounding. Who wants to hang out with a bitch? I promote quality instead of quntity on the blog, I need to do it with my life. So if I’m tired at 9pm, I go to sleep even if my only QT with Karl was a kiss when I walked in the door from work and he was walking out to teach. If just thinking about my weekend makes me hyperventilate, I cancel. I’m okay with saying no, my true friends will still love me even if I haven’t shared a cocktail with them in months, and I know my child will grow to be a fabulous human being even if she hasn’t been to the children’s museum or zoo in over a year.
  • Music. I have a Spotify membership and I make damn good use of it. I have playlists for walking, for driving, for bathing, for doing my hair. I learn about new artists from Bust or Rolling Stone and add their albums and listen to them straight through three times before passing judgment. I sing in the car, I sing while weeding, and I air guitar, drum, and wail while walking in the morning. Karl and I discuss music, we watch ACL or Palladia together (and often with Emerson) and Date Night, more often than not, includes a concert. Music keeps me current and keeps me curious. It gives me words for my pain and my joy, and it helps me realize all the feelings I am feeling aren’t felt by me alone. And it gets me up off the couch!
  • Get Gussied Up for No Reason. Last week I was battling a summer cold, bad hair, and a bad outlook on life. It was tempting to throw on my office equivalent of pajamas (knit or ponte pants and a jersey top), but instead I got up a bit earlier and did myself up as though I had somewhere special to go. I curled my hair (which with a cast is a feat of flexibility), did my whole face (more than one color of eye shadow and concealer!), put on a dress and heels. This with freshly dyed hair, new lipstick, new tunes to listen to on the way to work, and a big-ass fake smile helped make smiles later that day genuine.

Some darkness can’t be improved with a box of hair dye or a new lipstick. My father battled depression and I am all too aware of its power and need for professional care. But sometimes, we just need to give ourselves a kick in the pants to get out of a funk, to get us back to squeezing those lemons and make a big cold glass of lemonade.  I don’t know, maybe sharing my methods of self care could help you think of some ways to get through a dark patch. You’re a phenomenal person, and you deserve to feel good. Sometimes it sounds like a bunch of hokey mumbo jumbo, but you need to care for yourself  before you can truly care for another. Self care is important, you and those who love you deserve it!

This is Not a Bra

This is not a bra.

This isn’t a bra either.

This may be labeled as a bra, but it doesn’t act like one.

This may be considered a bra, but it’s a bra for very specific athletic activities, and ONLY for those specific activities.



What’s the point of this post?

Whether you are an AA or an FFF, unless you are 12 years old, you need a proper bra. Breast tissue, unless supported by silicone or saline, doesn’t sit up on its own. When you are younger, it will have some bounce and your skin will have enough strength to hold the breasts up a bit. However with time, babies, weight loss and gain, your breasts will sag a bit. To keep the skin and tissue in great shape, and to flatter whatever figure you have, it is imperative to wear a proper bra. And the above examples are not proper bras.

A bra that fits and flatters, lifts and separates will do wonders for your figure, the fit of your clothing, your opinion of your body. A supportive, well-fitting bra can make you look ten pounds slimmer, three inches taller, five year younger. It can also reduce back pain, improve your posture, and help you when struggling in the fitting room for clothing to flatter.

Many women who like more relaxed and casual attire feel that wearing a sports bra or tank with shelf bra will “do.” That their clothing is loose enough for one to not notice. My dear, we notice. Women with small breasts often feel that a bra is pointless; they go without or wear little lacy triangle bras just for a bit of modesty in a breeze. No matter your size, such underpinnings do not give shape to your breasts, and do not flatter.

If you are feeling a little less than pleased with your figure or your wardrobe, before you run out to the mall or your local Jenny Craig location, consider a bra fitting with a professional. There are many boutiques in metropolitan areas that specialize in bra fittings; major department stores such as Lord and Taylor and Nordstrom also have bra fitters on site. Do not feel obligated to purchase a bra after the fitting; only buy that which you need and at a price you can afford.

One doesn’t need a dozen bras, just a handful so you can let them breathe between wearings. One in black, at least one in a color as close to your skin color as possible, one that is adjustable/strapless/appropriate to formal and special attire. The rest is icing on the cake, so instead of purchasing many cheap bras, buy few and buy looking for quality. Baby your bras – hand wash (or if you must, wash on the gentle cycle in the machine in a lingerie bag), line dry.

Who cares what you’re wearing on the outside if you’re not flattering and highlighting your body? Take some time and care with your underpinnings and you will be amazed how much better your entire wardrobe will look and fit!

And speaking of bra fittings, I need to do as I say, not as I do.  I haven’t had a proper bra fitting since giving birth to Emerson.  Due to nursing, weight fluctuations and being lazy, I just haven’t found the right time.  However, I will be having one after Bonnaroo and will be sharing the whole experience here on Wardrobe Oxygen.  Stay tuned!

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A Bra Fitting with Soma Intimates and a Giveaway

Soma contacted me and asked if I’d like to come to their boutique at the Westfield Montgomery Mall and get a bra fitting and try their Enhancing Shape Bra. I heard about this bra through InStyle, who considers it to be the solution for “ski slope” (the gap at the top of bra cups). I’ve always been a busty woman, but after years of breastfeeding, age, gravity, weight loss and gain, I’ve lost some of my breast volume and was interested in a bra that would address this issue and improve the allover shape of my bust.

Soma Intimates Bra Fitting

In 27 sizes from cups A-DDD there’s a Soma Enhancing Shape Bra for many women; the padded comfort straps and cushioned hook and eye closure ensures the bra is comfortable all day, while the smooth style makes it invisible under fitted knits. In eight solids and four prints this bra is anything but boring.

Wardrobe Oxygen Soma IntimatesSoma Intimates Enhancing Shape Bra

Visiting Soma Intimates was a pleasure; though it was a busy Sunday afternoon, the boutique was well staffed so each of us customers received quality assistance and an unrushed experience in the fitting room. I was partnered with Karien, who took me to a spacious fitting room to determine my bra size. She had me remove my shirt but I kept on my bra as she used a tape measure to size me. Karien then went out to the sales floor and brought back bras in the size she determined and one a cup smaller since the Enhancing Shape Bra does occasionally run big for some. We found that a 38D fit me best, and as you can see from my fitting room selfie above, the bra was pretty much invisible under Soma’s Smoothing Seamless Cami. The bra did give a look of fullness to my bustline without making it look bigger (and without the dreaded “quad boob”), and the bra is super comfortable. No digging in the back, I can’t feel any of the hardware, and I wore the bra all day and there wasn’t any discomfort under the arms or in the shoulders. I was tempted to get the Light Nude which was very close to my skintone and would make for a perfect tee shirt bra, but sweater weather is here and I decided to indulge in the black and white Indulgent Lace pattern which is so beautiful and can be worn under thicker fall and winter clothing without showing. It’s fun to have pretty bras that are also useful!

Soma Intimates Westfield Montgomery Mall Maryland

Karien (pictured above, I had to get a photo with her after such a pleasant bra shopping experience!) was so knowledgeable about bras in general, proper fitting, and of course knew the Soma collection inside and out. I loved how all the employees I interacted with were so friendly and professional, knowledgeable but not pushy. They told me about their Get Gorgeous Parties where you and at least three of your friends can schedule an event at your local Soma boutique to get fitted, all of you receive 15% off your purchases (or you can choose to donate that 15% to your favorite charity), and you receive a free bra for hosting. I also signed up for Love Soma Rewards, a free program where you earn points towards cash rewards, birthday gifts, exclusive offers, and free shipping when you shop online. After my experience at Soma, I know I’ll end up a regular customer!

Giveaway

If Soma sounds great to you, then today’s your lucky day! One Wardrobe Oxygen reader will receive a $60 gift certificate to Soma to use on their own Enhancing Shape Bra or any other merchandise from the brand. To enter, leave a comment letting me know what color of the Enhancing Shape Bra you’d choose if you won. Giveaway ends November 2, 2014 at 11:59pm ET. Winner will be chosen by random and must have a valid email address (in comment, signed in as guest in Disqus, or in Disqus profile). Winner will be contacted by email; if winner does not reply to notification email within 48 hours a new winner will be chosen. Winner may use gift certificate online or in Soma Intimates boutiques.

To learn more about Soma, click here to find your local boutique, click here to get their catalog, or visit them on Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, and Pinterest. And if you live in the Maryland/DC area, I highly recommend you visit the Soma Intimates location at Westfield Montgomery Mall!

This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Soma via Burst Media. The opinions and text are all mine.

This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Soma. The opinions and text are all mine.

One-armed Style: What I’m Wearing

Man it’s hard to look stylish with only one working arm! The cast is too thick to work with any blouse, shirt, coat, blazer, or many sweaters and knits in my wardrobe. Dresses ride up with the sling or when brushing against the cast. I can’t button jeans or pants that are fitted, can’t maneuver a belt or sash or shoe laces, and can’t tuck or blouse a top without looking as though I got caught in a tornado. Yeah, all of these things are standards in my wardrobe.

After a couple of weeks of just trying to function and heal, I began to care about my looks. Here’s what worked:

Bottoms: I bought NYDJ ponte pants and the NYDJ Hayden straight jeans in petite (to work with flat shoes) and a size larger than I need (extra fabric to be able to zip and button closed on my own). I also have worn my Spanx Star Power leggings quite often; pants with built-in slimming features help me look a bit more pulled together (literally and figuratively).

Tops: Boatnecks with elbow-length sleeves have been perfection; the longer sleeve covers the top of the cast, keeping it from riding up into my armpit or having the entire shirt twist. Lightweight v-neck tees have also been great and regularly worn as a base layer. A simple black ribbed tank is a lifesaver, especially when shirts shift and ride up and necklines get stretched. I have two sweaters – a slouchy black merino and a slouchy marled gray tunic that fit over the cast; both are oversized so they work with leggings and jeggings and also fit over base layers.

Dresses: 99% of my dresses are unwearable, but I do have a bracelet-sleeve stretchy black and white dress from Ann Taylor (seen here) that fits over the cast. It is fully lined which helps prevent riding and shifting. I wear it with leggings and tall boots or flats.  Not pictured but terribly awesome has been a brightly-printed caftan I thrifted; one-piece dressing and far more cheery than faded stretched out sweats!

Outerwear: It’s darn cold outside, too cold to throw a coat over my shoulders. My mom made a thick wool cape back in the late ‘60s and loaned it to me during this time. I also have a black packable down vest that I wear over tees inside or under the cape for extra warmth.

Shoes: Shoes should to be flat for security and balance, have decent grip, easy to slip on but unlikely to slip off. I’ve been wearing tall boots with dresses, jeans, leggings, and jeggings, but recently got these stretchy Mary Janes that aren’t subtle and don’t really match, but will work this spring and summer after the cast is removed.

Accessories: A pashmina is excellent as a wrap to ward off chill, especially since I can’t fit a lot of sweaters. I then loop it around my neck to make my winter scarf. A beanie traps body heat… and also hides bad hair days. There’s no way I can lug around my heavy day purse; I switched to my Rebecca Minkoff purse which is light and is a crossbody. Finally I recommend a bold lipcolor which makes all the cozy knits look cohesive and shows you’re stepping up your style!

One of my favorite accessories are my two CastCoverZ, they hide the grody cast and show my personality.  Also great for sleeping since a cast can be scratchy.   Get two so one can be in the wash; I got leopard and a sparkly gold but sort of wish I also got something more subtle to blend in when I’m wearing a print or don’t want strangers to ask about my injury.

Tips:

  • A molded cup bra is easier to get on by yourself.  For the first couple of weeks  I had Karl help me with my bra, but I hate feeling helpless so I figured out how to do it myself.  Using a piece of furniture about hip height to hold one side against your body, wrap the bra below your breasts, hook in front.  The furniture holds that side in place, and then use your good hand to do the hooks (you’ll get better with practice).  Then rotate, pull up the straps and wiggle breasts into place.
  • Necklaces are a pain in the neck… literally.  With a sling, necklaces get tangled and dig into your skin.  Scarves are a great alternative to add interest and not sacrifice comfort (or a delicate chain).
  • Go up a size.  Be it a dress, top, pants or underwear, extra fabric means more give over a cast, less riding up, and easier to put on and take off with your non-dominant hand.
  • Consider a caftan.  A couple weeks before my accident I bought one but never wore it.  Then I broke my arm and wore it all the time.  It’s easy to pull on and off alone, you can get away with going bra-free, it’s easy to slip up when you use the bathroom, and doesn’t stick to the cast.  It was the BEST right after the surgery when I spent most of my time on the couch.  There’s plenty on eBay and at thrift stores; choose a heartier fabric like polyester or cotton so it doesn’t cling, won’t snag on the cast, and can be tossed in the washer and dryer.  Go shorter than you think (calf to ankle bone, not a true maxi), you don’t want to trip or have it tangle around your ankles. 
  • With this, a kimono-style robe is also nice to have.  The only robe that fits me now is a shortie, I was super temped to cut the sleeve off my terry robe so I’d have SOMETHING since I can’t even wear a cardigan or sweater coat.  Someone wants to buy you a get well soon gift or want to give one to someone who broke their arm?  Simple jersey calf-length robe with wide kimono sleeves will make their month!
  • If you have long hair and want to tie it back, I got this tip from my neighbor who broke her wrist shoveling snow this summer… take and old-fashioned scrunchie and loop it around your hair.  Then stick a pencil in the middle and twist around and poke into the new knot to keep it in place.  Not terribly elegant but times like this you gotta do what you gotta do!

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My Bra Had a Baby!

As you know, I am on the search for new lingerie.  My bras are too large and my underwear is too old and un-pretty.  Well after being measured, it seems that I am still the same band size (though am close to going down) and down one cup size.  So I checked out Nordstrom’s sale department online to see what I could find in my new size.

These are the two bras I received.  THEY ARE THE SAME SIZE.  Same band, same cup.  One is Natori, one is DKNY

Seriously, doesn’t it look like Mama Bra & Baby Bra?

Seriously DKNY, WTH?  The Natori fit great and I am actually wearing it today and wore it Saturday.  It made my brown dress fit better because my bust wasn’t so… busty.  I couldn’t feel it on, and it hides under knits.  Total win.

The DKNY, I put it on just for giggles.  You know how a too-small bra may give you quad boobs from overfill?  Well this bra, I had overfill in my armpits, on top and even under the wires!  Talk about a major FAIL!  A funny fail, but a fail nonetheless.

Why I Care

It’s Saturday morning, and I am having a mild panic attack. My father-in-law’s memorial service is in less than two hours and I am the officiant for the service. The idea of speaking in front of hundreds of people while trying not to sob was not causing my anxiety… my wardrobe was.

I couldn’t find my black dress. Okay I could find one black dress – the matte jersey one with the tie-belt and the polo collar, but I couldn’t find THE dress, the one I imagined wearing. Lightweight black jersey, surplice neckline, empire waistband, blouson sleeves. Appropriate for an outdoor memorial service, but still stylish and flattering to my 32-week pregnant frame.

“Who cares what you’re wearing,” my husband said. “People won’t expect you to be stylish, you’re in mourning.”

But it’s not about what other people think, it is about what I think, and how I feel.

I put on the dress with the polo collar, tied the belt in a bow, untied it and did it in a knot. I hated it. The collar was limp, the belt hokey, my breasts looked strange, and the hem was now a bit too short this late in my pregnancy. I did my hair and makeup, hoping it would improve my reflection in the full-length mirror. I felt tacky, I felt awkward, and I felt wrong. I added black hose and the only black shoes that fit at 32 weeks – my Naturalizer flats. I didn’t look like myself. My husband came by the door, “you look beautiful Alison.” I knew he meant it, but I didn’t feel it. I got on my hands and knees and dug through the closet, hoping THE dress fell off a hanger and was hiding behind some shoe boxes or suitcases. No such luck.

Time was running out, so I wore the dress with the polo collar. I jazzed it up with a skinny croco belt with a pave buckle and my large silver cuff bracelet. A feeble attempt to make it more “Allie” of a look. I arrived at the service where friends and relatives greeted me, telling me I looked so lovely, and they were so sorry for my loss. I tugged at my hem, wishing it was closer to my knees and looked down at the swollen masses that used to be very cute feet.

I attended my 15-year high school reunion this summer. At the restaurant, I went to greet a fellow classmate who I hadn’t seen since graduation. I asked her how she was and how her life had been the past decade and a half. She told me about her travels and job and then said, “Well I already know how YOU have been doing.” I asked her how; she replied, “[Fellow classmate] sent me your blogs. Some days your hair is curly, some days your hair is straight. Not much else going on, huh?” She smiled and walked away. My first feeling was embarrassment. Then I stopped and thought, why should I be embarrassed? The only difference between me and she is that I put my daily look on the Internet. I looked at her sculpted hair, her lined lips and bold earrings – she had to spend at least as much time as I did this evening to look good for the reunion. How dare she belittle me for doing the same darn thing she does? I then felt pity for her – for someone to be so snarky to a person she hardly knew in high school and hadn’t seen in 15 years… well she must have some issues with her self worth, her self esteem or her placement in this world.

I am often teased for caring about how I look, and I get more emails and comments than I can count where people blast me for being superficial, for being clueless, and as one email said, “for killing everything women have fought for the past few decades.”

I don’t do these blogs to gain fame, to force my views on others, or to try to make Allie clones. I do these blogs because for me, clothing is armor. When I feel good in my skin and in my attire, I gain strength. I can stand in front of large crowds and officiate my father-in-law’s memorial service. I can feel pity, not fear for the classmate who teases me after all these years for caring about my hair. I can work harder, care more, and do more because my appearance is one thing that I know I have control over. I cannot control the weather, I cannot control other people’s actions, but I can control the armor I put on each day. I can walk, can talk, can smile and feel good about myself and concentrate on other things such as my thoughts, my beliefs, and how I interact with the world.

I cared about what I wore this Saturday because I didn’t feel confident I could get through that service. I loved my father-in-law terribly so, and it hurt so much to see my beloved husband hurting so much. I knew I would be surrounded by people hugging me, kissing me, feeling for me and I needed that armor to get through it all, to present a service, to present a strong face for my husband and his family. Some drink, some smoke, some get angry, some withdraw, some make jokes. I find it far more healthy and intelligent to spend a little more time smoothing my skirt and fluffing my hair to gain that strength to get through it.

Women are amazing creatures. We are often portrayed as the softer sex, but studies have proven that we have a higher pain tolerance than men, we live longer than men, we are able to create human beings, feed them from our bodies, care for our loved ones while being able to manage multi-million dollar companies and even countries. Women are beautiful, and work so hard, they deserve to feel beautiful, know their beauty on a daily basis.

Beauty doesn’t come from having the perfect little black dress or pair of pumps. It doesn’t come from finding that perfect foundation that hides imperfections and is invisible on your jawline. Beauty comes from loving yourself, being proud of whom you are, and having comfort in your own skin. It’s finally falling in love with your crazy curls, getting off the diet train and understanding that maybe you are most wonderful at a size 14 instead of 4, respecting the heritage that gave your porcelain skin, and knowing that nurturing your body and it’s appearance is just as important as nurturing your soul and your mind.

And what’s wrong with a little armor to fight through the battle which is Daily Life? My goal with these blogs is to help every woman realize her immense beauty, and help provide her with a little armor to maintain that confidence and self-love. I blog because I care. I care about women, I believe in our worth, our strength, and that we are capable of anything we set our minds to.

Today I did a deep cleaning of my bedroom, and did all the laundry. It felt good, to wash away all the stress and anxiety and sadness of this week; to prepare my armor for the upcoming week where I have to return to the Real World, still mourning the loss of a very special man. I already feel the confidence as I look as my organized closet and neatly folded drawers; knowing I have what I need to go into Monday’s battle.

However I still can’t find that darn dress…

Backless Bra for Busty Gals?

backless bra Maidenform

Maidenform has launched the first-ever completely backless bra. The Breakthrough™ Backless Bra, a one-of-a-kind design, allows women of all bust sizes, and especially large-busted women, the chance to take advantage of this season’s sexy backless fashions. As a woman with a bust on the larger size, I wonder if this bra really could support and allow me to wear outfits with lower backs.

From the Maidenform Press Release:
Backless fashions are all the rage this spring! From special occasion to ready-to-wear, designers are including sexy backless styles in all of their spring collections. But who can really wear these fashions? Most women today are in desperate need of bra support! The first ever Breakthrough™ Backless bra by Maidenform® is here in time to offer women all the support they need this spring.

Thanks to the ABC’s hit reality series “American Inventor”™ — from “American Idol” producers FremantleMedia North America, Simon Cowell’s Syco Television and Peter Jones TV Ltd. – our fashion worries will soon be over. Originally created by runner-up contestant Elaine Cato, the new Maidenform Breakthrough™ Backless Bra is the first product ever to be brought to mass market. This new foundation features a completely backless construction with silicone wire channeling that prevents slippage. Now women don’t have to shy away from the latest backless fashion trends and can feel sexy, feminine and supported – all at once!

A born entrepreneur and single mother of two, Elaine Cato was not afraid to put her invention to the test. Like the producers and judges on “American Inventor,” Maidenform immediately saw the undeniable promise of her creation, working diligently with her to bring the design to fruition and later to mass market. Today, the Breakthrough™ Backless Bra, armed with Elaine’s concept, has created an undergarment aimed to perfectly round-out every innerwear wardrobe.

backless bra MaidenformThe Breakthrough™ Backless Bra features light-weight microfiber fabric that is soft to the touch, with seamless molded foam cups that deliver smooth shaping under clothes. Combined with a two-way stretch technology, the bra provides a maneuverable fit with excellent flexibility. Designed with the full-figured female in mind, the bra allows women with even large busts to flaunt their sexy backs like never before!

“During the warmer seasons, women crave those backless styles,” says Norah Alberto, Maidenform’s Senior Style Director. “To help these women bare their back for spring we are launching the new Breakthrough™ Backless Bra which delivers the perfect complement to everyone’s bra closet and is the answer to so many women’s style dilemmas.”

At a suggested retail price of $32 (though currently only $25 if you pre-order on the Maidenform Web site!) and sizes ranging from 34B to 38DD, I plan to try it out and I will be sure to come back here and let you guys know what I think!

Ask Allie: Creating a Bra Wardrobe

 

Allie, I hope this isn’t too personal but you have large breasts and they always look great no matter what you wear. Can you let me know more about your bra collection? What styles work best for you?

I breastfed my son for three years and my breasts are now saggy. I know you breastfed Emerson, but your breasts look perky even in fitted tops, what bra do you wear?

What kind of bra do you wear with all these spaghetti strap dresses?

I can’t stress this enough – get a professional bra fitting. Sure, there’s instructions online on how to do it yourself, and chain stores like Victoria’s Secret claim to be bra experts, but you will get a better and more honest fitting, especially if you are large busted or have special needs, if you go to a bra boutique or lingerie section of a high-end department store. Who cares what brand you’re wearing or what trends you’re sporting if your foundation isn’t its best?

Seriously, I don’t believe in scrimping on bras. Go ahead, get cheap jeans, cheap tops, cheap dresses. But things that you wear every day and determine the look and fit of everything else deserve the money, time, and effort. If need be, get fitted and don’t buy anything but note the brands, style number, and size and look for it cheaper online, but the same size but a different brand won’t necessarily fit the same or give you the same shape and lift. And while I am preaching, just because it looks online that you and I have similar figures, I still stress you should get fitted and find the right style for YOU. Some bodies are built for Bali, others look wonderful in Wacoal.

That being said, here’s my bra wardrobe:

Molded Tee Shirt Bras – Two Nude, One Black
I have two in nude because I mainly wear nude in the summer, and you shouldn’t wear the same bra two days in a row, and often one is hanging from the shower curtain rod drying while the other is on my body. These are my everyday bras, worn under blouses, sweaters, tee shirts. They are free of bows, jacquard, lace, or any adornment that would show through a lightweight white tee. The straps are plain as well so if one peeks out of a neckline it’s not as obvious. I strive to have the nude be my nude color, but find the less I allow sun to tan my skin, the harder it is to find a good match.

I do not own a white bra because I don’t see the point – it positively glows under white shirts, and is dreadful under a black knit. My skin isn’t white, so there’s always going to be a contrast. Black under dark colors, nude under the rest.

I choose a molded cup because I think it gives my breasts a nice lifted, youthful shape. I also find the extra support awesome when it’s that time of the month and my breasts are 50 pounds each. Also, less issue with headlights, which can be darn sexy and a natural occurrence but not the best for the office.

What I Own: Fantasie Moulded Smoothing Tee Shirt Bra and the Fantastie Esme

Molded Strapless Bra – One Nude
The type of bra I get has removeable straps, so it can be strapless, but can also be halter, crisscross, one shoulder. Again, I like molded because of the shape, and I think it makes a strapless bra more natural looking and more comfortable.

And yes, large-busted women can find strapless bras that stay up, hold breasts up, and don’t hurt after an hour of wearing. This is when I again stress getting yourself fitted, I have spent hundreds on disappointing strapless bras and with one try I found my Holy Grail strapless at a bra boutique.

I don’t wear strapless bras often enough to find a need for more than one, I choose nude because it’s the most versatile.

What I Own: Simone Perele Velia Strapless Plunge

Sports Bra
I’m not one to workout on a regular basis – I’ll wear a normal bra for yoga and walking, but sometimes you need a bra that can handle high impact and sweat. I choose black because it usually DOES end up being seen, and I think it looks less bra-like in black.

What I Own: Freya Active Underwire

Bras That May be Seen
I have two bras that I call “fun bras.” One is red with violet lace overlay and lacy violet straps, one is a molded cup, but a berry color with lace detail and prettier and slimmer straps. Both have matching panties, and a couple other pairs of underpinnings that coordinate nicely. Both I got on clearance because I can wait on these.

These are worn when I want to feel a bit more sassy, and are also worn when I wear pieces that sort of work with an exposed bra strap. I don’t usually promote visible lingerie, but sometimes when you’re walking to the farmer’s market on a hot July day, you wear a breezy hot pink cotton voile camisole with denim shorts, and a berry bra strap, aviators, and a straw hat just seems to work.

What I Own: Josie Etoile Underwire and Wacoal Embrace Lace Tee Shirt Bra

And that’s it. Six bras, and I must admit some of them seem to collect dust from time to time. I replace the nude bras every 6-8 months because they get grody, the others every year or when they start to get misshapen, lose elasticity, or my size changes.

Bra Tips:

  • Be gentle with your bras. Hand wash if possible. If you’re like me you’d end up with crusty stinky bras before you have time for hand washing, so put in a lingerie bag and wash on the gentle cycle and hang them off a hanger on your bathroom shower curtain rod until they’re fully dry.
  • Don’t turn one cup inside-out to be able to fold your bra in half – let them lie flat in your drawer so one boob doesn’t get misshapen.
  • Your bra should be comfortable on the middle hook, then you can go to the tightest hook when it gets a bit stretched out and then when that’s stretched out it’s time to get a new bra.
  • Your straps should not be what is holding up your bra. If your back strap is up over your shoulder blades or you have mega dents in your shoulders from your bra, you need a different size.
  • Quad boob is not sexy. If your breasts are being dented by the top of your bra cup, you’re wearing the wrong size or the wrong style.
  • Not every woman can wear a demi or balconette, not every woman can wear a molded cup, not everyone looks best in unlined. Just because your best friend’s boobs look great in a certain bra doesn’t mean yours will. Your breasts are like you – unique and wonderful and deserving of custom style.
  • Quality, not quantity. You don’t need 50 bras, honestly you only need two… maybe a few more if you do sports or wear strapless dresses. Buy quality, get professionally fitted, care for them and enjoy better fitting clothes, people saying you’ve lost weight, and less back and shoulder pain!

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Bad Hair Don’t Care

Shirt: Ann Taylor | Jeans: Gap | Bracelets: c/o lifetherapy | Sunglasses: Gucci | Flats: c/o ECCO | Necklace: Etsy

Bad hair, don’t care! This is Day 2 and I used some dry shampoo and it gave it the body and the non-greasy look I desired, but the ends looked super scraggly and I didn’t want to iron everything flat. So I used one of those curling wands… and it was bad. Like retro super strong frizzy curls but from the ears down only. So I tried to go retro and pinned back my bangs and I looked strange so I said fuggit and threw it up in a ponytail.

I felt pretty much the same about my outfit.  I had plans to wear the shirt with a skirt, some fab heels… but then I just decided it wasn’t worth my time.  I threw on some jeans and flats, added a necklace to show I wasn’t trying to look like a bum, and spent the time eating breakfast with my family.  Gotta have priorities!

BTW, got these jeans Monday.  Wanted some “summer jeans” that would look good with a simple tank or camisole and flip flops.  Plan to further distress them along the hem, but I like the fit (though I am wearing my Beltaway!).

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Review and Giveaway: Dove® VisibleCare™

The older I get, the dryer my skin becomes. I am always searching for a product that will keep my skin feeling hydrated and looking soft and supple. I have used Dove® body washes with NutriumMoisture™ and am impressed by how they keep my skin looking soft and dewy all day long.

Well Dove® has come out with Toning Crème Body Wash, a body cleanser designed to help promote skin’s elasticity and strength. Built on the brand’s heritage in cleansing and caring for skin, Dove® VisibleCare™ Toning combines the best of Dove® technology into a luxurious experience for beauty seekers. With the highest concentration of NutriumMoisture™ of all their products, Dove VisibleCare Toning actually improves the look of your skin. The body washes are available in three variants each of which cue different skin care needs, thanks to BlogHer I was able to try out Dove® VisibleCare™ Toning Crème Body Wash.

Dove® VisibleCare™ Toning Crème Body Wash is designed to promote skin’s elasticity and strength, which is important to me as I get older and see the lack of elasticity in my skin. While it contains a mild cleanser, this body wash also includes glycerin, stearic acid and Vitamin E to heal and hydrate the skin. The scent is a blend of ylangylang, wood, mandarin and bergamot which I honestly found a bit overpowering. Some like their body products to be fragrant, I prefer a more subtle scent so it doesn’t compete with my perfume. I love the rich lather, and that the product rinses clean, leaving my skin feeling fresh but still soft and supple. And VisibleCare™ is the proper name for this product – after one use I saw my skin looking softer, plumper, and all over happier (which does make it look younger and firmer). On days where I was in a rush and forgot body lotion, my skin still felt and looked soft and hydrated thanks to Dove® VisibleCare™ Toning Crème Body Wash.

Dove® has three versions of their new VisibleCare™ Body Washes:

  • Dove® VisibleCare™ Toning Crème Body Wash – the one I tried, which promotes skin’s elasticity and strength
  • Dove® VisibleCare™ Renewing Crème Body Wash – this wash nourishes and replenishes skin
  • Dove® VisibleCare™ Softening Crème Body Wash – this formula softens skin and gets rid of dry spots

This new line of body washes from Dove® helps you be proud to show off your skin this summer! Visit Dove® VisibleCare® to get a coupon for $1 off!

This giveaway is now closed, thanks to all who entered!

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A Proper Bra Fitting – My Experience

I believe a woman should be fitted for a bra every year. Our bodies are constantly changing with age, weight loss and gain, changes to our exercise routine, childbirth and nursing and so much more. Getting properly fitted for a bra does not mean heading to your local Victoria’s Secret to have a teenager who works 4 hours a week try to figure out your size and get you to buy a bra at that store, even if your size isn’t in stock. Getting properly fitted doesn’t mean trying to measure yourself at home and cross your fingers that your online purchase fits.

What it means is going to an expert who can measure you, and then offer you a few styles and brands to try so you can find not only your band and cup size, but the specific type of bra that gives you the best shape, support, and style.

I have been putting off being fitted for far too long; the last time I was fitted was a little over a year before I got pregnant. Since then, I lost weight, carried a child, nursed it for over two years, gained weight, and lost it again. My breasts were sitting like deflated water balloons in my molded-cup bras, they were obviously the wrong size and on top of that, stretched out and in need of replacement.

My community parenting group scheduled a bra-fitting party at A La Mode in Annapolis, Maryland and I jumped at the chance to go. I had been meaning to be fitted but kept putting it off… too busy, not enough money, too lazy. The event was yesterday and it was amazing.

A La Mode Intimates in Annapolis 
Click for a larger version (and to see my mom being rung up at the counter!)

I had heard of A La Mode before, but never visited. They have a new location at the Annapolis Towne Center and it is gorgeous. Bright and airy, yet romantic. The sales area is broken into little rooms which made shopping more fun, and you felt less on display when fingering a lovely charmeuse camisole or reading about nursing bras. Through curtains is their lounge. They set up a lovely little spread for us of brie with crackers and grapes, wine and ice water. They had a couple chairs, a couch and coffee table that were surrounded by gigantic fitting rooms with large mirrors and flattering lighting.

Rebecca assisted me; she whipped out her tape measure and in about three seconds flat had measured me over my shirt. From that she brought me a bra to try. I didn’t look at the brand, I didn’t look at the size, I just tried it on. And I was amazed. My breasts looked smaller, firmer, younger. I had a waistline! Then I looked at the tag…

When I was last fitted, they said I was a 38D. When I got pregnant, my breasts grew and I made the decision to go to 38DD. After Emerson was born, I seemed to be at 38DD and stuck with the same bras. As I have lost weight and stopped nursing, my breasts shrunk. I bought a 38D but kept falling out of the top, and it irritated me under my arms. I went back to my 38DD bras which looked crazy, but at least were reliable.

This bra was a 36F
F as in Frank
F?!?! 

How could that be? I have these deflated, smaller breasts! An F?? But this bra was a perfect fit, it almost felt as though I wasn’t wearing a bra, it was so comfortable. Rebecca informed me that different countries have different bra sizing methods. The US goes from D to DD and then skips E for F, but Europe skips DD and goes straight to E. In the UK they use both single and double letters. This means that a bra from Wacoal, a bra from Elomi, and a bra from Chantelle may fit the same but have different cup letters on the label.

Rebecca checked the bra on me, informed me that the straps shouldn’t really be doing the support (which I do, tightening my straps in an attempt to lift), the bra itself will do the work. She showed me how the band should sit low on my back, not up near my shoulder blades – this prevents your skin from pouring over the bra, and also helps with support. She asked me my bra needs (something that is invisible under thin knits, something that won’t show when I wear a scoop neck, and something that gives me a great shape) and came back with a couple more bras to try. I am a fan of the molded cup and she brought me some of those, as well as a couple other types I may not have considered. I got plenty of time to try on by myself, I didn’t feel as though a salesperson was breathing down my neck, yet if I just said, “Rebecca?” she was right there to bring a different size or color.

 Me in my original bra

 
Me in the bra I purchased

I had two bras that I loved, but unfortunately they didn’t have either in a skin color.

The Winners:
Fantasie Moulded Smoothing T-shirt Bra. Very basic, but gives amazing shape. No lace, no frills, no nothing so it’s invisible under knits. Incredibly comfortable, with incredible lift. I fit a 36DD.

Fantasie Ava. Another simple t-shirt bra, but with a bit of lace detail and pretty straps. Again, I fit best in a 36DD.

I don’t need two black bras right now, so I chose the one with the thinner, less-decorative straps (makes more sense for summer with sleeveless tops). A La Mode will let me know when the bras are back in stock in skin colors.

I went to be rung up… and remembered I needed a strapless bra. Since Rebecca had helped me try on a good dozen different bras, it was easy for her to guess which styles and brands would work best for me. She handed me a skin-colored strapless and I tried it on. Did you know that there are strapless bras out there that are comfortable? I put on my shirt and came out into the lounge to show the other women in my group. “THIS IS A STRAPLESS BRA!” I exclaimed, and they all ooohed and aaahed because really my bust looked almost as good in this strapless as the Fantasie bras above. On top of that, this strapless has straps that can be attached, so you can make it a one-shoulder, criss-cross back, halter or standard bra.

I tried on another strapless, but it didn’t compare to this one in regard to fit and comfort.

THIS is a strapless bra!

The Winner:
Simone Perele Velia Strapless Plunge in Praline. I wanted a strapless that wouldn’t peek out of a sweetheart or surplice neckline and this one did the trick. I tried it last night with my new Gap maxi dress I was going to return because it can’t be worn with any bras I own. Now the dress looks adorable and I am still uber comfortable!

Now this strapless is more than I have EVER paid for a bra… but to have a strapless that is invisible under thin knits, hides under plunging necklines and is so comfortable that I am wearing it all day today as a standard bra… sounds like a worthy investment to me! Also with researching online, I found that A La Mode’s prices are competitive with what I found at department stores and online boutiques (I paid the same price for this bra as it is listed on the Simone Perele site Bare Necessities, Neiman Marcus, and HerRoom).

The benefit of going to a bra boutique or lingerie department of a higher-end department store is you will find an educated bra specialist, and a large variety of brands and sizes. When you visit your nearby Victoria’s Secret, all you have to choose from is Vickie’s bras. Your breasts are just like every other part of your body – unique. What may be Holy Grail jeans to one woman may be terribly unflattering on you; the same holds true with bras.

Bras aren’t cheap. As Rebecca said yesterday at the bra fitting, “You get what you pay for.” Before Bonnaroo, I was desperate for a bra and went to Target and got one from their Gillian and O’Malley line. It itches, it makes my breasts look a bit square in shape, and come the end of the day I can’t WAIT to get it off. I have purchased bras at Frederick’s of Hollywood that lifted my breasts practically to my neck, but I found them horribly uncomfortable after a couple hours, and they would fall apart after a few months (even with proper laundry care). A bra that properly fits, supports, and is comfortable will completely change your figure, your posture, the way your clothes fit. This morning, I wanted to wear a light-colored top and put on my old nude bra. It was… fine. I then tried the new strapless and I looked as though I had lost ten pounds and was five years younger. Seriously, this is the difference between and okay bra and a great bra.

So what are you waiting for? Get yourself fitted, and get yourself some quality bras. You won’t regret it!

Note: I was not compensated in any way for this post; A La Mode did not contact me or know I was going to write this post.

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My Experience with the Backless Bra by Maidenform

As you know, I mentioned the Maidenform Breakthrough Backless Bra a couple of posts ago. I received a press release from Maidenform and was excited to try this. As a woman with large breasts, many fashions are impossible for me to wear because my bra would be showing. The concept of a backless bra geared toward busty gals seemed to be too good to be true.

It is.

The bra arrived this weekend. It is a molded cup bra and as soon as I saw the wide yet shallow cups, I had a feeling it wouldn’t work for my breasts. Molded cups don’t work for all shapes of large breasts, especially if those breasts are natural and have some age; many molded-cup bras are made to cover, but not support and lift. Second concern was the straps – all elastic, and very narrow. Now narrow straps are great for sleeveless and tank styles of tops, but those of us with large busts know they usually don’t provide enough support. Being of all elastic also means they will usually provide less support and quickly stretch out.

The bra looks like a classic bra in front, but the straps attach under the arms where the bottom/side of the cups are located, instead of on a back band. No rubber or adhesive to keep the bra in place, no weird gizmos, just a little bit of useless silicone on the underwide portion. The bra goes on like a backwards vest, over each arm.

On me, the bra sat away from my body because of the size of my bust. When I tried to lift and place my breasts in each cup, they just slid down so they were hanging below the underwires. I moved my arm to readjust the cups and the strap slid down my arm. Went to slide up the strap and my breast fell out of the cup. I bent over and the entire bra pulled away from my body. Stood up and I now had breasts under the bra, and straps hanging down my arms. Oh gosh, imagine if I actually left my bedroom in this contraption! I suppose this backless bra would work if you were very very thin with sharp protruding shoulders and shoulder blades and had very very small breasts. Anyone else… don’t even waste your time or money.

This morning I received an email from Maidenform asking me to complete a survey regarding my experience with the bra and I was very honest and very detailed with my response. I hope everyone that tried this bra does the same.

Take Good Care of Yourself, You Belong to You

Last week on my Facebook page, I shared a New York Times article about Martha Stewart’s beauty routine.  I was surprised when so many news outlets reported on her OMG $2,000 beauty routine, and surprised by how many of you were critical of her skincare process. 

We don’t blink when a celebrity has thousand-dollar designer purse, a closet containing dozens of pairs of heels, or owns more than one car. These days, a bit of Botox or Restylane, lasering off body hair, or monthly facials is the norm for the rich and famous. So why are we all freaking out over the fact that Martha Stewart’s skin care regimen costs $2,000 and has so many serums, creams, and masks?

I believe in quality, not quantity, no matter your income. I also believe in spending your money on things that have the biggest bang for your buck. A dress may be worn once a month, a pair of boots once a week, but your skin is worn 24/7. Be you in haute couture or thrift store scores, your skin is always part of your look, and often gets noticed more than what you wear. Why not pamper it and buy the best products possible? Dresses can be donated when they wear out, but your skin is yours for the rest of your life, and how you treat it determines not just how it looks today, but decades from now.

I love it when I can find a great beauty product that gets the job done for far less than department store brands. I don’t care how awesome La Mer is, I doubt I will ever own anything from the line because it would require me to take out a second mortgage. But for my budget and lifestyle, I always am willing to spend more and do more for my skin and hair than I am for my wardrobe. A designer bag is not an investment, a proper skin care routine is.

And so I say, go on with your bad self, Martha. You have always been a gorgeous woman, and you look phenomenal at 72. And while you do dress in a tasteful subtle manner and have lovely hair that flatters your personal style, people remark on your beauty because you have taken impeccable care of your skin. You inspire me to care more for my own skin, and I found your piece in The Times to be interesting, honest, and proof that caring for your skin is the best thing one can do to look great at any age.

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Product Reviews – Night Time Skin Care

Philosophy’s The Microdelivery Pads
I bought these on a whim after hearing a couple online reviews and overhearing a conversation on the Metro where a woman, “Owed her skin and her renewed sex life” to these pads.  I figured, what the heck.  I read online that the pads were sort of big, so cut them in half to have the container last longer.

The directions say to use once a day or once a week depending on how sensitive your skin is.  I usually have sensitive skin, but these pads do NOT cause any burning, irritation, or redness.  I wash my face as usual at night, use half a pad on my face, then my neck/collarbone.  I then add my nightcream (more on that).

I didn’t really see much difference after a week.  After two weeks, I still didn’t see much of a difference, but I did realize that my skin wasn’t breaking out pre-period.  After a month, I realized I went an entire month without any breakouts, and need far less foundation to look healthy.  I also see that my brown spot on my cheek is a bit more faint. 

So… I am a fan.  I love a product that makes me look like me, only better.  I love how utterly gentle it is.  I love that I have found a product that keeps me bump-free and doesn’t have Salicytic Acid in it (allergic).  And I love that though it IS $55, I have enough for 200 evenings of treatment – that’s a major bargain!  This product can be used anywhere on the body – I think it would probably be great for those weird bumps/clogged pores I and many other women get on their upper arms, I use it sometimes on my forearms and hands to counteract sun damage, and think it is doing great things for my décolleté!

Aura Cacia Natural Skin Care Oil, Sweet Almond, 16-Ounces (Pack of 2)Almond Oil for Night Cream
So I was reading a blog of a woman who obsesses over fabulous long, thick lashes.  She did some reviews of the new prescription-only products and had many comments about OTC products that also guarantee fabulous lashes.  Since having Emerson, I notice my lashes are a bit more brittle, and they have never been as lush and long as I would like (my sister has amazing lashes and Emerson has fab lashes and I would love to have even half of the lashes they do).  Anyway, in the comments I read that someone uses almond oil on their lashes at night and it keeps them supple and strong.

So I got a bottle of pure almond oil.  Hey it can’t hurt, right?  Put a little on my lashes and while I’m at it, rub some into my cuticles.

Well I ran out of my night cream (Olay Pro-X from the starter kit) and I thought hrm, why not almond oil all over my face?  I guess I was feeling bold since the Philosophy Pads were keeping me zit-free.  So I put a bit in my hand, rubbed it into my hands and cuticles and then rubbed it all over my lashes and whole face, neck and collarbone.  The next morning I didn’t wake up all greasy and zitty… in fact my skin looked fantastic.  It was really soft and dewy looking, plump and healthy.  My cuticles and hands looked healthier too.

The almond oil from Aura Cacia is organic and very pure – no almond smell… no smell at all.  A little goes a very long way (been using for over a month and have only used maybe 1/6 of the bottle).  My lashes don’t look that drastically different, but I seem to have less breakage and lash loss. 

I know this wouldn’t work for all skin types, but for my sensitive, combination skin that is super dry and unhappy in winter… this is a total winner!

I am slowly cleaning out the linen closet and medicine cabinet of my half-finished bottles of not-yet-expired products and am going to need a face wash in about a month.  Any suggestions?  I would prefer something that isn’t full of chemicals (figure I am getting my daily chemical allowance from the Philosophy pads), and no individual use/wipes stuff (want to keep it as eco-friendly as possible).  I don’t need a scrub, just a gentle face wash.  Used Cetaphil in the past and for some reason it doesn’t like me and I don’t love it in return. Right now I am using Purpose and a travel sized bottle of Philosophy Purity Made Simple and neither is bad, but neither really makes me write home to mom.  Your suggestions will be very welcome!

Ask Allie – Bra Tanks for Large Busts

Reader April came to me with a question I have been asked many times:

Just out of curiosity, have you ever found a shelf bra tank top for larger busted women? I like to wear them to bed, so I want something soft with a bit of support. But I can’t find tops with enough “shelf” to cover my larger bust and wide straps like a traditional tank. Is it hopeless?

No April, it’s not completely hopeless, though it is a really tough struggle to find that which is comfortable, attractive and actually does as it claims.

I had a hard time finding classic wide-strapped tanks with built-in bras. When I asked those in the lingerie “know,” I was told it is because wide straps do not support properly. A wider strap does not have the thickness or the proper structure/weight dispersion to offer large-bust shape support. Spaghetti straps, as with bra straps dig in when the bust is not properly supported. If there is no support, all weight is placed on the straps. If the tank, camisole or bra has proper support built in, a thinner strap will not be uncomfortable.

To assist all women who want to comfortably and elegantly (meaning not fall out of one) wear a tank or camisole with shelf bra, here are a few that readers or I have tried, or get great ratings for support, comfort and style:

Bravissimo Strappy Top With Built-In Bra: Bravissimo is an awesome company in the UK, made specifically for women with large busts. Not only do they have a great line of bras, but they carry clothing (including button-down shirts and dresses) made for women who may be large busted yet not plus sized.

This tank is a simple basic that could work around the house with yoga pants, with a little cotton skirt for a beachside barbecue, or even under a suit for work.

Bravissimo’s line is not cheap, but I have never heard anything but the most wonderful reviews for their quality and customer service.

Glamourmom’s Built-in Bra Glamourtank: Glamourmom has been known for a while for a company that sells stylish and well-fitting nursing tanks. Due to popular demand, they have now come out with a non-nursing tank with some of the great features from their classic tank.

The tank has a soft cup bra and an elastic shelf to provide more support and shape than a classic shelf bra, adjustable straps, and even mesh pockets if you desire more enhancement (hello chicken cutlets) or help (hello nursing pads or pads to cover “highbeams.”

Glamourmom is offering 10% off if you purchase two or more tops and they always have a money back guarantee.

Soft Surroundings’ Cotton Underwire Cami: Underwire can often be seen as painful, but reviewers have told me this tank is really comfortable while giving a decent amount of support, shape and coverage.

Adjustable straps mean you won’t be hanging to your belly button or pouring out of the neckline. The built-in underwire bra goes completely around the torso, offering good and even support and a smooth line.

As with regular bras, this garment should not be tossed in the wash and dryer with other casual knits. Best to wash in a lingerie bag on the gentle cycle or hand wash, and let air dry. This will help it keep its shape and elasticity.

All American Comfort ™ Bra Tank from Woman Within: Hailed as a great lounge tank by those with larger busts, this bra comes in fun colors, a broad range of sizes and is a really great price.

Some say quality is equal to it’s $14.99 price tag, but for a casual lounge tank, you usually will find the same quality at your local Big Box retailer.

The top is made for the larger busted woman, so it provides far more coverage than a classic bra tank. Many use it as a cami under lower-cut tops to provide cleavage coverage.

Valmont Lace Trim Bra Camisole from JMS: Pretty, supportive, colorful, great range of sizes. I have friends who own literally a dozen of these tanks and consider purchasing more because they are so comfortable and supportive.

The tank runs snug in the torso, so it’s most popular as a base layer, under a jacket, or for those with a true hourglass frame.

Review and Giveaway: Suave Professionals® Moroccan Infusion Body Care

I was slow to the argan oil craze, but looking back I wonder why I waited so long. Known to be rich in nutrients and antioxidants, Moroccan argan oil is great for the body from head to toe. I know own many beauty products that include Moroccan argan oil and love how it penetrates deep, hydrates, and protects. When BlogHer and Suave asked me to review the new Suave Professionals® Moroccan Infusion Body Care line I was excited!

For the first time, Suave® Body Care is launching products in the Suave Professionals® line, offering women everywhere access to premium quality products with the finest skincare ingredients. Suave Professionals® Moroccan Infusion features authentic argan oil from Morocco and this new premium range claims to leave skin looking and feeling beautifully silky and and leaves skin radiant. The Suave Professionals® Moroccan Infusion Body Care line includes Body Lotion, a daily moisturizer that absorbs quickly for up to 24 hours of non-greasy hydration, and Dry Body Oil Spray, a non-greasy formula that absorbs instantly, locking in long-lasting moisture. I received one of each for this review.

I’m not usually a fan of dry oil, I worked for a beauty company many years ago that carried it and while it felt dry going on, it always left some weird oily residue on my clothes. I have to say Suave Professionals® Moroccan Infusion Dry Body Oil Spray truly is a dry oil spray. I can spray it on my arms and legs, rub it in, put on clothes and not be a smeary mess. If you want gleaming shoulders and knees, this is the product for you. It made my skin look so soft and supple, a perfect product for a winter getaway to a tropical locale where you can don sundresses and want radiant skin.

The Suave Professionals® Moroccan Infusion Body Lotion has a lightweight silky formula that really does absorb quickly. No need to apply to warm skin right out of the shower, I found this lotion could even be applied to dry winter skin and not just see results but have it absorb enough to put clothes on right away. While I did feel the lasting effects of the lotion and do believe it provides 24 hours of non-greasy hydration, this lotion didn’t offer enough hydration for the cold winter days we’re experiencing. I found it worked best as a layer over a heavier cream, or as a touch-up of moisture later in the day. I do feel it makes the skin look silkier and more supple than a traditional lotion, and it has the classic Moroccan argan oil scent.

I must say Suave® has yet again figured out how to provide quality at a nice price. If you are a fan of Moroccan argan oil, I suggest you try out the Suave Professionals® Moroccan Infusion collection. Find more information about the Suave Professionals® Moroccan Infusion Body Care products at Facebook.com/SuaveBeauty. When you visit the Suave Beauty Facebook page, check out the tips for radiant skin as well as style advice from celebrity stylist Brad Goreski. Also be sure to enter the “Radiant Wishes” sweepstakes for a chance to win Suave Professionals® Moroccan Infusion products, a spa day or a trip to Los Angeles.

Giveaway
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Ask Allie: How to Clean Suede, Sweat Stains, and Care for Fabrics

What is the best way to clean suede shoes? I have a pair of teal suede wedges that I adore but that are looking a little rough. The teal is very bright and I don’t want it to fade. Any suggestions?

1. Get thee a suede-cleaning kit! Suede cleaning kits can be found at most big-box retailers (and I found this one on Amazon). Kits will have the basic tools you need to clean and protect your suede footwear. The two most important parts of these kits are the suede brush and the suede eraser.

A suede brush is not a typical brush – some have various types of bristles, some only come with one type of bristle. However all have fine metal bristles that will help remove stains and maintain the nap of the suede. Brush in one direction to pull up dirt and restore the look of your suede.

A suede eraser is not your typical pencil eraser – it will crumble while being used, but those crumbles will grab all the dirt and debris lurking in your suede’s nap.

2. Fight water with water. If your suede is stained from water, take a spray bottle of plain water and spray evenly over the entire shoe. Blot dry with a cloth, stuff the shoe with paper to maintain the shape, and let air dry. Your shoes will end up a slightly darker color, but will no longer have the water spot.

3. Rough it up. Suede shoes often end up with shiny spots from wear. A suede brush can help rough up the nap, but sometimes you need a bit more help – use a fine grade of sandpaper and it should help make your shoes look even.


4. Erase it away. Small spots can often be removed with a classic red eraser. If your suede is a light color, consider a white art gum eraser. Again, brush the suede afterwards to restore the nap.

5. DIY at your own risk. Looking online I found all sorts of DIY methods for cleaning suede. Many people claim to find shaving cream as good of a suede cleaner as the kits sold at mass retailers and shoe repair shops. If you decide to go this route, test in an inconspicuous location on the shoe before proceeding.

Many people find a new nail brush to be a quick fix when you do not have a proper suede brush. As with a suede brush, only brush in one direction to prevent shine.

I’d love if you could do a post on caring for fabrics. How do you handle armpit stains on white shirts? What about pilling on synthetic fabrics or cashmere? How do you know when a garment has reached the end of its useful life?

Sweat Stains
It’s funny, I don’t really own that many white shirts any more so I haven’t dealt with this in a long time. I can remember soaking shirts in a slurry of Oxiclean and hot water for days before washing with bleach. Usually I would just donate the shirt and move on.

However these days I wish to have my clothes last a long time, and don’t want to fill landfills with my pit stains. I have done some research lately and here’s some suggestions I have found:

1. Relieve the pain. Dissolve two standard aspirin in one cup of hot water. Apply to the stains and let soak. Then wash as usual.

When researching this, I found an alternative to this recipe which requires three aspirin tablets, one tablespoon of Cream of Tartar, and a cup of warm water. Scrub into fabric with a toothbrush, let sit for a half an hour (or even overnight) and then launder as usual.

2. Let it bake. As a cloth diapering mom, I have found the ultimate best stain remover on this planet – the sun. It seems too easy to work, but leaving items stained by human protein or waste can get back to being snowy white with some hours soaking up the rays. Dampen the item and place in direct sunlight (a windowsill can work, though not as quickly). This may not work in one sitting, but a couple days of re-wetting and line drying in the sun can work wonders on sweat stains.

3. Don’t bleach. Bleach seems like a good idea, but chlorine reacts with the proteins in sweat, and can cause the stains to become even darker. Better to use an oxygen cleaner or hydrogen peroxide.

4. Try an enzyme fighter. I always have a bottle of Bac-out in my laundry room. It smells delicious (like lime lollypops), it’s gentle to the earth, and it’s a workhorse. I found out about it from cloth diapering, but I use it for all sorts of stains. Works especially well on protein stains. I will saturate the spot, rub it or brush it with a toothbrush if the fabric can handle it, let it soak overnight and then launder as usual.


Pilling Sweaters
I have a sweater stone, and a sweater shaver and love both of them.

A sweater stone can make quite a mess, but you never are searching for AA batteries five minutes before you have to leave for work. It does a great job on large areas – I will take my stone to any thrifted sweaters that are looking old and sad.

Green tip: Don’t toss your sweater lint into the trash – if you compost, stick it in your compost pile; if not leave it out on a deck or balcony and a bird will happily take it to fluff his nest!

A sweater shaver is better for more precise pill-removal and for small spots. Be careful, a snag can not only jam the motor of a sweater shaver, but the shaver could nip the thread causing a hole or run in your knits.

Pilling Polyester
I hate when this happens, and I have yet to find a good solution. Both the sweater shaver and sweater stone can cause even more damage to synthetic materials like polyester. Usually I see pilling of such fabrics as a time for the item to be retired.

If it’s a small location, you can try using a standard razor for the body (choose a blade sans moisturizing strip). Do in a well-lit area and pad the fabric underneath so you only shave off the pill and not nick the fabric.

The best way to prevent pills on synthetics is to baby them. Launder them inside-out, launder only with like fabrics, use liquid detergent and line dry.

When It’s Time to End the Relationship
Sometimes, no matter how you baby a garment, it’s just time to let go. I find it’s time when it just LOOKS old – the color is faded, it’s covered with pills, the fabric is thin in places, the stains won’t go no matter what you do. I find with white shirts it’s time to make them rags when they are just too soft to keep their shape, even when ironing with starch.

Green tip: Don’t toss those ratty tee shirts, oxfords, and knit dresses. Make them into cleaning cloths! No need to hem the edges, just cut into squares that are best for your needs (I like a 12” square or so). Knits are great for dusting, flannel is a wonderful choice for wiping PB&J hands of toddlers (or washing your face), soft well-worn cotton ends up being lint-free and can make for a good rag when cleaning glass.

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Wear Red on February 1st – Heart Disease Doesn’t Care What You Wear

One of my favorite colors and a great campaign to support; National Wear Red Day. Join me next Friday in wearing red and spreading awareness about women’s heart disease.

Friday, February 1, 2008, is National Wear Red Day—a day when Americans nationwide will take women’s health to heart by wearing red to show their support for women’s heart disease awareness. Although significant progress has been made in increasing awareness among women from 34 percent in 2000 to 57 percent in 2006—most women fail to make the connection between risk factors and their personal risk of developing heart disease.

National Wear Red Day is an annual event held on the first Friday in February. On this day, women and men across the country will wear red to unite in the national movement to give women a personal and urgent wake-up call about their risk of heart disease. Everyone can participate by showing off a favorite red dress, shirt, or tie, or by wearing the Red Dress Pin (available at www.hearttruth.gov).

Join this national effort by wearing red on February 1, and encourage your family, friends, and coworkers to do the same.

By participating in National Wear Red Day, you are joining The Heart Truth. The Heart Truth is a national awareness campaign to alert women about their risk for heart disease and motivate them to take steps to lower their risk. The centerpiece of the campaign is the Red Dress—the national symbol for women and heart disease awareness. What’s a Red Dress got to do with it? A simple Red Dress works as a visual red alert to get the message heard loud and clear: “Heart Disease Doesn’t Care What You Wear—It’s the #1 Killer of Women.” Sponsored by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, part of the National Institutes of Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the campaign is reaching women with important heart health messages in community settings through a diverse network of national and grassroots partner organizations.

Please join in and help spread the word about women and heart disease. For ideas and tools to help you participate in National Wear Red Day or to order a Red Dress Pin, visit www.hearttruth.gov.

Ask Allie: All About Bras

The bras that I recently purchased came with care instructions, stating that I should hand wash them in a delicate detergent specially formulated for bras and fine lingerie. Any thoughts on what I should use? Also, it states that I should avoid wearing a bra more than twice between washings, and to not wear a bra for two consecutive days. How true do you find these statements to be?

What detergent do you use to wash delicates and bras? I hear Woolite is the worst, but then I hear Woolite is the best.

I was my bras in a lingerie bag on the gentle cycle of my machine, cold water, and hang to dry. Hook all hooks to prevent any snagging, and make sure the washer isn’t overloaded.

For detergent, I use Biokleen, which is what I use for all laundry, be it Emerson’s pajamas, my husband’s workout gear, or my lingerie. Gentle, versatile, reasonably priced, and good for the planet. Woolite has petroleum-based ingredients which can eventually break down synthetic fibers; you’re better off using something like baby shampoo than Woolite. You can get a bottle of baby shampoo at the dollar store and use to wash lingerie, any hand washables (I use to wash my pashminas) and even your makeup brushes.

As for how often you wear bras, giving them a day of rest keeps the elastic in good shape. Overwearing a bra can make it lose its shape, have straps stretch out too soon, and break down the fibers.

How many bras does a woman need? How many different types of bras do you have and do you think you are missing any styles for a versatile collection?

I have molded tee-shirt bras that I wear almost every day – two in beige, one in black. I also have the same bras but not molded – one beige, one black and these are for weekends. I have a beige strapless bra that has hooks to connect clear or beige straps (good for one-shoulder or racerback tops). I have three “fun” bras that are also molded cup, but are in pretty colors and have thinner and prettier straps – these I wear when I want to feel sexy, or when I am wearing a thin-strap top in the summertime. Finally I own one sports bra. I don’t feel as though I need any bras, in fact the non-molded ones hardly ever get any wear (they were bought on accident anyway – I knew the online price was too good to be true!).

How often do you wear a bra before you wash it? When is it time to get rid of a bra?

I do lingerie wash each weekend, and there’s at least one bra in there. I guess I wear a bra for a week (2-4 wears) before being laundered.

As for when it’s time to retire a bra, you can tell even though you don’t want to. The cups aren’t shaped the same, the straps keeps falling down and you need to tighten them, you’re on the tightest hook but still feel as though you need more support. I don’t find that bras really do their job after a year of regular wear. This summer I replaced my bras purchased last summer and put the new next to the old and could truly tell the difference – the old bra had a thinner band, longer straps, the cups had become more… horizontal in shape, the inside of the cups had pilled fabric. A new bra will change your posture, your figure, will make you look thinner, taller, and have your clothes fit better. If you’re questioning it, I bet it’s time for a replacement. While you’re there, get yourself fitted again, women’s shapes change regularly and you may need a different size to better accommodate your current figure.

The closest bra boutique is three hours from me, what do you do when you live somewhere where your only bra store choices are Victoria’s Secret and Walmart? I’m a big girl, and I know Victoria’s Secret won’t carry my size.

A coworker told me about True&Co, which is a site that will virtually fit you for a bra, you pick out a few styles you think you would like and their bra fitting experts will choose some and send you a box. You then have a week to try the bras, send back what you don’t like and keep what you do. It’s like Warby Parker for underpinnings and it perfect for those of you who live far away from high-end department stores and lingerie boutiques. In fact, I have yet to try True&Co and would love to hear from those of you who have tried this company!

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Ask Allie – All About Bras

As a large busted woman, I understand the difficulty in finding bras that lift, fit, flatter and properly support. I know many of you readers have the same issues and many have contacted me recently regarding bras. Here are some of the questions I have received and my answers; please offer your own suggestions in the Comments – we women should share the great brands and stores that we have experienced!

I need a good sports bra! I have a large chest and can’t find a bra that will adequately support high impact activity (running, aerobics, doing jumping’ jacks or jump rope). I have one sports bra now, but it still gives “the girls” too much bounce. Other bras I have are sized medium and they only work because I compress my boobs like an Ace bandage and it is quite uncomfortable. I want to run again but can’t do it with my current bra situation. I’d love to hear your suggestions to save me from wasting my money on several bras that won’t work!

I have always had success finding great bras at Title Nine. This company is completely geared towards female athletes and they have one of the most extensive selections of sports bras. They separate their bras by barbells – those with three or more barbells offer the most support and compression and are geared toward high-impact activities and large breasts. The product descriptions are wonderful – not canned text from the company but true opinions on how the bras work, what shapes and activities they are best for, and what they do for your figure. On top of that, Title Nine has an amazing return policy so you don’t end spending your money on that which doesn’t work.

X-chrom is a company that specializes in sports bras, plus size bras, surgical bras, and activewear and do a great job in offering details, reviews and organization by construction, activity, and even for surgical procedure. The company also does online custom bra fittings. The owner works hard to offer a ton of selection, information and support for female athletes. I love this quote I got from the X-chrom site: “This is a very personal garment. We aren’t all 34Bs. We don’t all love underwires. Some of us insist on no-bounce control; some of us do not care.“ Isn’t that true! Right now X-chrom is offering free shipping on all purchases so be sure to check them out!

I am a plus-sized (16-18) girl who is 27 weeks pregnant. Can you tell me about nursing bras and tanks? Which have worked best for you?

I was utterly stunned by the lack of supportive nursing bras and tanks for plus size and large-busted women. It doesn’t make much sense since postpartum women have larger breasts than usual and they are quite sensitive. On top of that, the entire body is still larger (nope, that body does not bounce back right after the baby is born!). Nothing makes a body look better than a properly supported bustline and when you are feeling less than beautiful in the postpartum days, having a physical lift can really provide a mental lift too!

bravado nursing tankMost nursing tanks are similar in structure to classic bra tanks and camisoles – a basic knit shelf bra, just now with a couple clasps and cut-outs. For women who are C cups and larger, these usually do not provide enough support, shape or coverage. Also most companies do not offer nursing tanks in plus sizes. I did find great success with Bravado nursing tanks. They offer extended sizes and the torso is long enough and comfortable enough for curves as well as postpartum bellies. I chose to order a cup size larger that what I actually wear to ensure I had plenty of coverage. This tank is not as supportive as a classic bra, but it does a pretty great job for hanging around the house, sleeping and wearing under cardigans and button-down shirts. I found a great selection of sizes and colors as Nest Mom, Diapers.com always has coupons in the free baby magazines and they do fast free shipping, and you can often find great prices and color selection (and Free Super Saver Shipping) at Amazon.

For nursing bras, Anita, Anita, Anita! Anita is a brand of nursing bras that I have found beat all the rest in regard to support, comfort, durability and appeal. Most nursing bras look like a combo between your cheapo padded training bra from middle school and a sports bra. Hideous and cheap. Anita bras… well they look like regular bras. They also do a wonderful job of making large breasts look beautiful while still making it easy to unhook with one hand and discreetly nurse. I found mine at Nordstrom, and found this the easy route because I knew I could send The Husband to the mall with any that didn’t fit correctly. However if you know your size, you can find them cheaper at places like Fresh Pair and Mom’s Milk Boutique.

I never found a sleep bra that worked for my figure; I chose to get a classic Bravado cotton nursing bra and use that. Nest Mom will tie dye Bravado bras for you – this effect made me look even more like a field hockey player, but it was far more fun to look at than pale pink or dingy white. I also would wear a Bravado nursing tank to sleep. After a few months, your child and you will have gotten the hang of nursing and you will be able to quickly feed your little one even when wearing a traditional tank or camisole.

If you plan on nursing, be prepared with some nursing pads. I started with disposables, but switched to washable to save money and reduce waste. I tried many popular brands (Lansinoh, Medela), but found the best absorbency, comfort and the ones that disappeared under my clothing the best were by an Etsy shop called ArtsyFartsyFooFoo. I ordered two pairs in nude, one pair in black so they totally became invisible under my bras. These could hold hours worth of leaks and only got softer and more absorbent with each washing.

However I highly recommend to NOT stock up until after you have given birth. Web sites will tell you to order a cup or two larger, but you really can’t predict the shape and needs of your breasts until a week or so postpartum. I spent my first week in one Bravado classic nursing tank and a bunch of old knit dresses from the summer that had surplice necklines.

I have large breasts – where can one find sexy bras that support and don’t cost an arm and a leg?

I am one who feels that bras are worth the money. Your bustline completely affects how your clothing lies, how your figure is shaped, how old/young you look. If you properly care for your lingerie, they will give you months and months of happiness.

That being said, time and again I return to Frederick’s of Hollywood. They have a decent selection of Full Figure bras and most are under $30. Their Smooth Sensation bra is one I have worn for over a decade (and I just purchased one in my current size to wear with a bridesmaid dress for an upcoming wedding). Shaped to work well with low-cut tops, in a bevy of pretty colors and plenty of lift and support (I remove the extra cookies to have the support without extra padding). These bras usually only last a couple months before falling apart, but every time I wear them I feel like a pin up queen!

We are similar sizes; what is your favorite tee shirt bra?
The Chantelle “Senso” Underwire bra. It is molded (usually what I HATE), It is very stiff in the band when you first wear it (not too comfy), but within two wearings, it is the BEST bra and gives me fantastic shape. On top of that, the straps are adjustable so you can have them cross in the back or just be connected closer together if you are wearing racer back or cutout styles. No crazy stitching, no lace, no bows, no flowers, completely invisible under the thinnest white tee shirt. I am wearing one today, and I have been replacing my one tattered nude colored one every six months (about the life on these if you wear them several times a week and launder by hand).