Posts Categorized: shopping

The Brayola Experience

So. Bras. Touchy subject, and rightly so. I know we’re all sick of the “90% of women are wearing the wrong bra size” statistic, but I make all of my clients get fitted for a bra before we work together because … well, most of them are wearing the wrong bra size. Or wrong bra style for their figure and bust. It is really, truly hard to fit yourself for bras and most of us don’t know enough about them to make educated guesses.

But many people don’t have access to department or specialty stores with free fittings, and many more wear sizes that aren’t typically stocked. Ordering online is the best option because it’s the only option. But it can be monumentally frustrating.

So I was intrigued when Brayola reached out to me about a collaboration. The site offers hundreds of brands, styles, and sizes – from 28A to 56H, which impressed me – and relies on crowdsourcing to help its customers find a good fit.

brayola1

To get started, you need to have a bra style and size that you KNOW fit you properly. Enter the brand, style, and size when prompted to move the process along. Now, I must admit this was a bit of a stumbling block for me. I’ve worn the same Bali bra style for four happy years and never even looked around. This didn’t provide much data for the algorithm, but a few bras that qualified as Perfect Matches.

selex

Perfect Match bras are sizes and styles that have worked for other women who also love the style and size you’ve input. So my matches were from women who also love the Bali One Smooth U style in size 34C. The site also offers tools like Fit or Not, a community where you can upload photos of yourself in certain styles and get feedback on fit from other customers and #bModel, where photos from customers are posted side by side with model images so you can see how the bras look on non-model figures and shapes.

Despite the fact that I’ve worn the same style for years, I know how I need bras to be constructed based on various fittings I’ve had over the years: I need full coverage due to my tissue shape and size, I need lightly padded cups for nipple reasons, I loathe push-up and balconette styles, and I do best with a wide band. I am a pretty true 34C and prefer the look of t-shirt bras. So I tried ordering a round of bras from Brayola using my own knowledge and the information provided by listing photos and descriptions. All bras are 34C. Let’s take a look. (Below are lots of photos of me in bras – you’ve been warned!)

As a control, here’s my Bali One Smooth U bra:

bali_r1

This is the Barely There We Have Your Back bra:

barelythere_r1

This is the
Wacoal Amazing Assets Back-smoothing T-shirt Bra:

wacoal_r1

This is the
Natori Body Double with Lace Contour Bra:

natori_r1

I’m not going to go into great detail here because I didn’t keep any of these. None of them fit as well or felt as comfortable and supportive as my own bra. The Barely There and Wacoal bras were uncomfortably tight, and it was hard for me to determine if that was due to sizing or design. The Natori was comfortable but felt like it was already stretched out after months of wear. Most of them looked passable from the front, but less so from the back. I felt that my Bali bra was a better choice than any of these.

THEN I ordered two of my Brayola Perfect Match bras, and another of my own choosing. Tank top is the same size and style, all bras are 34C.

Again, here’s the Bali bra I’ve been wearing:

bali_r2

This is a Perfect Match, the
Warner’s This is Not a Bra Tailored Full Coverage:

warners_r2

Has many of the same design features as the Bali and a decent fit, but squishes me a bit more in the back. Definitely comfortable and supportive, and a good basic bra.

This is a Perfect Match, the
Wacoal Lace Embrace Contour Bra:

wacoal_r2

Man, did I want this one to work. I rely heavily on my nude bras, especially in summer, and this one was so danged pretty. It felt supportive and looked great from the front, but the narrow band cut into my upper back.

This is the bra I picked out myself, the
Scandale Sirene Smooth Back Bra:

scandale_r2

Definitely comfortable, nice firm band, and looks decent from the back … though there’s some spillage above the band near my armpits for sure. And those cups aren’t my preferred full coverage so I’m not really used to the front view and profile. (The cups looked much fuller on the fit model.) This bra was final sale, so I’m keeping it and I think it might grow on me over time. I wore it for a full day this week and it felt supportive.

Honestly, I’m not madly in love with any of these. BUT I will say this: They all fit better than my first round of flying blind. And my Brayola contact made some really good points as we were discussing my experience, saying, “Not sure that you could find something ‘perfect’ if you keep comparing the feel to a bra you’ve been wearing for years and that has basically grown on you and molded around your body. As far as I understand from our experts and other trusted sources, that’s exactly why women need to experiment more and allow themselves to discover a bra that may be better and more comfortable, even if takes a few wears to adjust to it. It definitely makes sense when you think of your favorite pair of jeans, comparing day 1 to, say, 3 months later.”

I’m certain, too, that if I had more data about bras that fit me properly to feed into the Brayola system, my Perfect Match bras would be more tailored to suit me. My overall impression is that the site and its system would be fabulous for anyone who has had several great bras in the recent past and is interested in trying similar styles, and will also be a good resource for anyone who just plain has trouble finding bras in her size. You’ll find everything from minimizers to nursing bras in stock, and pricing is definitely competitive. I’d change two things about the shopping experience: I’d love to be able to give data about bra features or brands that I do not like, and I wish return shipping were complimentary. The company is very open to user feedback, so we might see those changes in the future.

As a self-proclaimed online shopping expert, I was frustrated – but not surprised – to find that my own knowledge wasn’t sufficient to land me a great bra. The Brayola system got me closer, and based on user feedback I’ve read works far better if you have more data to provide. I know many of you are bra and lingerie devotees, and I’d encourage you to try the system out. I’m the perfect example of someone who finds a bra style she likes and never branches out … but if Bali ever stops making my One Smooth U, I’m sunk. And having a crowdsourced system like Brayola’s could be quite helpful.

Anyone else tried ordering from Brayola? Do you have enough bra experimentation experience to feed more than two or three styles into the algorithm? Would love to hear your thoughts!

Disclosure: I do not accept sponsored posts, but I was provided with a shopping credit to Brayola to enable me to try several bra styles.

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A Half-baked Argument for Clothing Rental Services

gwynniebee

Nestled in between the clothes that look horrific on you in the dressing room and never get purchased and the ones that work perfectly years after you’ve bought them is a group of very cagey items. These items may fit, but they don’t work. Unfortunately, you weren’t able to figure that out until after you’d worn and washed them a few times, and discovered how odd they look when mixed with other items from your closet. Because you understand your style, you know what you like, and you can tell when something fits well … but you occasionally fail to accurately gauge how well a new item will play with old items.

And occasionally a sweater that looks amazing in the store and works beautifully with your outfits will begin to pill uncontrollably after three washes, or reveal that it is knit in such a way that cat hairs weave themselves in and cannot be removed with any lint roller known to humankind. Occasionally a blazer that looked amazing with the jeans you wore in the fitting room ends up looking horrible with your actual work clothes. Making sure you can think of at least three outfits built around a potential purchase helps, as does bringing it home and immediately attempting to create those outfits. But frequently it takes time and experimentation and wear to know for sure.

And yes, some vendors will give you your money back or store credit even if something has been washed and worn dozens of times. But most won’t. Most won’t even accept something unless it has its tags and zero signs of wear. Which makes sense for retailers, but can bite consumers in the butt.

I would love a grace period, a trial run, a set amount of time to experiment with a new piece and make damned sure it really is worth my money. I would love to be able to rent clothing for a few weeks, and then turn them back in if they don’t work. Rent the Runway uses a rental structure, but is mainly limited to evening and formalwear. Closet Collective is almost there, but still not customizable enough. The Gwynnie Bee model is more what I’m envisioning – pay a flat monthly fee, pick some items, wear them for a while, send them back when/if you’re sure you don’t want them or purchase them to keep. (They meticulously clean worn clothes before putting them back into rotation, of course.) But the service is only offered for women who wear sizes 10 to 32 – which is, of course, amazing since women in that size range often have limited and/or boring choices available. But it also means it’s not available to everyone. And since it’s a subscription, it’s also limited in brands offered. I want the Gap and Nordstrom to do this. I want it universal.

Do I know how to make that happen? Nope. That’s why “half-baked” is part of this post title. This is a daydream of mine, something I chew on when I find myself donating a garment that I bought a month ago and failed to predict would be a problem child. I think about my style frequently and try to make informed, careful purchases. But since I can’t cart the entire contents of my closet with me whenever I try on clothes, I can’t always guess which items are cute and useful and which ones are just cute.

Do you ever find yourself stuck with nearly-new items that seemed like they’d work initially, but failed to really work with your wardrobe after several wears? How do you handle this? Would you try a clothing rental service? Think it could be helpful?

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This Week I Love …

… distressed leather bags.

Earlier this year, I was on a mission to find a leather bag that looked like it had been left in the rain, run over by a semi, and buried in the yard for a few months. I’ve written about my affection for distressed leather boots before, but have generally gravitated toward sleeker bags. Until I shifted my style toward the casual and edgy, at which point a beat-up-looking bag felt like just the thing.

Here are some of the options I considered, and a few I’ve been ogling lately:

stick dog leather

Stick Dog Leather Crossbody Bag – $155

I own one of Bret’s gorgeous bags (seen here and here) and can tell you from personal experience that the leather is thick but not stiff, and truly lovely in person. As distressed leathers go, this one is on the subtle side, but it has a distinct marl to it that lends personality and edge. Plus, get a load of that cool hardware.

frye cameron tote

FRYE Cameron Tote Handbag – $281.47 with code BAGS20OFF

If you thought Frye boots were spendy, take a look at their bags. This little lover clocks in at nearly $700 full price, so it’s quite a bargain. Well, relatively speaking. I’ve actually ordered a few bags from the Cameron line and sent them all back for one reason or another, but I was impressed by how beautifully distressed the leathers were. For an even more beat-up look, peek at the Deborah bags.

rough and tumble leather bags

Rough and Tumble Waxed Canvas and Leather Tote – $178

I bought one of Natasha’s sling bags on super sale a couple of months ago, and it is exquisitely made. You can mix and match materials for most of her designs, and she incorporates some gorgeous waxed canvases for a few bags like this better-than-basic tote. That vintage brown leather base has such a perfectly distressed look to it.

free people distressed leather

Free People Asher Vegan Tote – $98

Yep, even vegan leather can be distressed! Love the two-tone design of this one, the edgy black hardware, and the fact that it’s nice and roomy at 17.5″ x 11.75″4 x 5.25″.

liebeskind bag

Liebeskind Berlin Vanessa Double Dye Bag – $177.03 with code BAGS20OFF

I first saw this brand at Anthropologie a few years back, and have been smitten ever since. Their designs tend to be simple, but with thoughtful details and this roomy dual-strap bag is no exception. I love this distressed brick red, but it also comes in two beautifully mottled brown leathers.

faux leather crossbody

T-Shirt & Jeans Washed Crossbody Bag – $28

“Washed” is another term used to describe leathers both real and faux that have an aged or well-loved look to them. This bag is small and faux leather, so it’s quite a bargain. But still large enough for wallet, phone, and keys and would look perfect with a printed sundress and gladiator sandals.

distressed satchel

Leather Handbag Satchel – $145

I bought a bright red leather backpack from Beckie many years ago, and it is both durable and beautifully constructed. She’s started to work with vintage-finish leathers, and I’m drooling over virtually all of them. It’s hard to pick a favorite, but this rolled-handle satchel with a nice, long shoulder strap is definitely in the running.

Anyone else a fan of distressed leather? Got your eye on any bags for the coming season?

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