A Visit to The Foundation

In making my Dixie Cousins costume, I came to the realization that the undergarment I was planning on wearing was just not working out, and I felt that a true underbust corset would be better suited towards my needs, as well, as, heck, I just wanted one.  So I returned to The Foundation: From Billie to Bettie, where I purchased my first steel boned corset last year.

I really can’t express how much I not only love this store, but how thankful I am that Portland has such a store.  Tami, the owner, is extremely knowledgeable, helpful, and as sweet as could be.  She’s also a kick! Did you get a load of her fab 1964 Chrysler New Yorker parked out front? Her shop is stocked with bullet bras, modern bras, a-lines, girdles, all-in-ones, garter belts, panties, corsets, flouncy crinolines, and of course, stockings.  Her corsets range from the practical to the fantastic, including some stellar steampunk inspired ones.

The Foundation also has a photo studio! You can work with their photographer, who is exceptional! Her work is scattered throughout the shop.  I greatly admired the work she did of Tami especially.  They have a host of goodies for one to play dress up, and find their inner pin-up.  You can also rent the studio space too! Bring in your own camera equipment and rent for as little as three hours or for the whole day! How fabulous is that?

Sadly, Tami didn’t have my size in the style of corset I wanted, but she was able to order it for me! And it will be here shortly! I can’t wait! But I did find a few treasures to tide me over. I purchased a fabulous Rago six-point girdle, and a pair of Birkshire stockings, a brand I haven’t tried before, and I’m really excited to take them for a test drive.  To top things off, both Rago (who has been in the foundation business since for over 65 years) and Berkshire items are made in the US!

I also heard from a little birdie that The Foundation will be having an amazing Small Business Saturday deal!  Spend $50 and get 10% off your order, spend $100 and get 20% off, or $150 and get 25% off! So it’s time to either splurge for yourself, or get something special for your significant other, or even for that best friend of yours!  For more info, please visit The Foundation’s Facebook page.

The BBR: What Katie Did CC09 Bra

Up to this point, the bullet bras I have reviewed have been more of the 1950s and 60s nature.  But now there is a bra for the 40s lover…  Today on The Bullet Bra Revue we have What Katie Did‘s CC09 1940s Satin Bra.

What Katie Did has slightly modified an original World War II era bra pattern to accommodate for modern cup sizes, as well as the comfort we modern gals have come to expect from our bras.

The CC09 has a soft curve, and is obviously less bullet-y, yet not as “globe” or “melon” like as modern bras.  This bra still creates the lift needed to meet the darts of vintage garments.

One thing that I noticed with this bra in contrast to the Mairtresse and Padded Bullet was the band fit.  The CC09 bra lacks the small bit of elastic between the cups that add a tiny bit of extra stretch to the bra.  A tiny bit that I felt I actually needed for a certain comfort level, so I put a bra hook & eye extender at the end of the bra, giving me the less than half inch I needed for a more comfortable fit.

The CC09 bra is $50.00, available only in “Peach”, made in India and of polyester with matching adjustable polyester straps (so no stretch) and elastic near the hook and eyes.

More Bullet Bra Revues
The Maitresse by What Katie Did
The Padded Bullet Bra by What Katie Did
The Fully Support Bra by Exquisite Form

The BBR: Exquisite Form Original Fully Support Bra

Previously on the Bullet Bra Revue, I reviewed two bras by What Katie Did which were rather on the spendy side. Today I bring you a more inexpensive bra by Exquisite Form.

The Exquisite Form was the first new “bullet bra” I purchased, after a few months of hit-or-miss vintage bra purchases.  I had heard good things about it from a friend, and she also commented on how cheap they were!

The Exquisite Form Original Fully Support Bra is not marketed as a “bullet bra” or even as a vintage style bra, but more as a “full support” bra, which just happens to result in a bullet bra like silhouette.  In fact you will find many of the reviews on Amazon complain of the Madonna-esque qualities of the bra.  The silhouette of the Exquisite Form is a very soft bullet shape, akin to the Maitresse by What Katie Did, but maybe even a little softer, and lends itself to be a good late 1940s and early 1950s style bra, or even the “everyday” bullet bra, for those days when you need the lift that a bullet bra gives, but without being too bullety, if you will.  Like the Maitresse, the Exquisite Form has cups that are soft fabric and without padding.

The Maitresse and the Exquisite Form are very similar in silhouette, however the Exquisite Form does have a bit softer, less pointy curve than the Maitresse.

The downsides to the Exquisite Form is that the cup does come up rather high and is best suited for attire that is not low cut.  Additionally, the straps are rather on the thick side, with even wider cushions on the strap. The cushions aren’t too cushy to be honest, and just lend a bit of extra padding for comfort, but nothing fancy like those gel pads in some bras.  The cushions can however be easily removed by cutting them off.  The majority of straps themselves are made of somewhat stiff cotton that becomes softer with washing.  There is a small elastic portion about two inches long near the back of the strap.

I found the Exquisite Form to run true to size, and a 34C suits me just fine.

The Exquisite Form Original Fully Support bra is available at Sears or can be purchased on Amazon from $12.80 to $16.95, made in Sri Lanka, and has a body made of 65% polyester and 30% cotton, with elastic made of 80% nylon and 20% spandex with plastic adjustments.

More Bullet Bra Revues
The Maitresse by What Katie Did
The Padded Bullet Bra by What Katie Did
The CC09 Bra by What Katie Did

The BBR: What Katie Did Maitresse

Welcome to my new series The Bullet Bra Revue! Awhile ago, I wrote saying that the bullet bra is a “vintage must have”.  And offered up a handful of places to purchase bullet bras.  But what I did not supply were my personal reviews on the bras currently out there on the market.  Starting today I will be reviewing various bullet bras and offering up my personal experience with the garments, hoping to help you fellow vintage lovers make the best possible purchase to fit your wardrobe and budget. Today’s bullet bra is the What Katie Did Maitresse Bullet Bra.

I would like to note that I purchased this bra from The Foundation, not through What Katie Did’s website.  The first thing I noticed about the Maitresse bra was how similar it was to a vintage 1950s bullet bra I already owned. With its circular stitching and triangular cut out near the band, the Maitresse is almost a dead ringer for a period bra.

To hammer home the difference between a modern bra, and the Maitresse bra, I have gone with a sweater set (after all, we all love a sweater gal!)

You will notice that my breasts are elevated, which is what is so key to a period correct foundation when wearing vintage. Most garments from the 1940s through the 1960s were made with bullet bras in mind, thus bust darts are higher, and overall construction is suited to a bullet shape.  This bra is more suited to a late/New Look 1940s through 1950s garment, but could be worn with some 1960s garments, and therefore I think the most versatile bra for a vintage wardrobe.

I know some fellow vintage bloggers have had some complaints, finding the area on the top of the bust to be wavy and loose, having a “deflated” look. I however did not encounter this problem. There are two possible solutions to this.  The first is that the bra was not put on properly.  Bullet bras need to be put on bending over, and allowing your breasts to fall into the cups. You can also put on the bra, and then bend over, gently shaking your breasts into place.  Or it could be that you need bullet bra pads. These pads fill in the bra for you, and remain stiff and in place. What Katie Did also sells these.

Regarding sizing, I found the What Katie Did bras to run small.  I traditionally wear a 34C, and found the 34Cs to run a tad tight. I then tried on a 34D and it was much more comfortable.  At home, I compared my vintage 1950s 34C bullet bra and found the cups to be within two millimeters of the same size.  I recommend ordering a cup size up.

Overall, I am very, very happy with my Maitresse bra, and will be ordering at least one more in the future.

The Maitresse bra is $55.00, made in India and of polyester with elastic straps (which I’m personally not a fan of), elastic near the hook and eyes and an elastic panel along the bottom of the triangular cut out.

More Bullet Bra Revues
The Padded Bullet Bra by What Katie Did
The Fully Support by Exquisite Form
The CC09 Bra by What Katie Did

The Foundation

Recently my dear friend Angelica introduced me to what has become one of my new favorite shops in town. The Foundation: From Billie to Bettie. It’s a little shop located at 4831 SE Davision here in Portland that sells everything (and more) that I included in my Vintage Must Have Foundations Series (Read more on bullet bras, girdles, seamed stockings, slips, and crinolines).

If you’re a Portland gal who has ever been hesitant to purchase a bullet bra off the internet, then The Foundation is the place to go! Not only does the shop carry the What Katie Did bras, but a selection of new-old stock 1960s bras, all in addition to more modern bras.  When I walked in I felt like a kid in a candy store. Corsets, garters, stockings, girdles, bras, crinolines! Even pasties and tiny burlesque hats!  There is a wide array of shape-wear available, including vintage inspired Rago girdles.  There is also a large selection of stockings, crinolines of varying lengths, and steel boned corsets! Since I’ve been dying to own a steel boned corset since I was a freshman in high school, I went ahead and purchased one, along with a few bras.

And for those of you who have ever wanted to bring out your inner pin-up girl, shop owner, Tami has teamed up with Tammy Kravitz, a photographer who does classic boudoir and pin-up photos in their portrait studio.

Proprietress Tami is a wonderful gal who doesn’t just cater to the specialty market of bullet bras and corsets, but she also sells beautiful contemporary slips, sleepwear sets and panties. So there’s something for the vintage gal as well as the modern woman.  She was also very nice and patient with me when I was trying on my corset. She explained the best way to loosen the laces, how to properly fasten the front, and tighten the back.  The Foundation is open Wednesday through Sunday, twelve to seven.

What this all brings me to is a new series I am starting on bullet bras.  There are a few out there, and most with mixed reviews, so I figured I’d throw in my two-cents on various ones on the market.  So tune into tomorrow for the first in my new Bullet Bra Review Series!

Vintage Must Have: Crinoline

A crinoline (also known as a petticoat) is a must have if you’re a fan of fuller skirts.  The full skirts and circle skirts of the 1950s and early 1960s require a crinoline to produce that classic silhouette seen in so many magazines of the time period.

I have several crinolines, because, well, I need them.  Yes, need.  I have full skirts of varying lengths, and for me, one crinoline simply doesn’t do the job.  (As much as I wish it would since crinolines tend to take up a lot of space.)  Not all of my dresses that require crinolines are of the same length.  If a crinoline is too long, it peeks out and looks bad.  Although a one inch peek is considered acceptable.  If a crinoline is too short, the last few inches of the dress fall straight down, and it looks unattractive.  I have two large and long crinolines that serve well under my classic circle skirts that I have made (view them here, here, here, and here), and are very similar to the ones that Jumblelaya sells.  I have a smaller, shorter one that I picked up second hand that is perfect for some of my squaw dresses.  One very similar can be purchased from Pin-Up Girl Clothing.  I also have one that is in between these two that I recently found in the attic.  You can also layer your crinolines to add more poof in your skirt.  I once wore three for an AlexSandra fashion show.

Crinolines can be successfully stored in pillow cases or vacuum bags and it won’t harm them one bit.  They tend to be very good at springing back to life.  However if they do have any severe wrinkles, a quick pass over with a steamer will do the trick.  Don’t have a steamer? Take your crinoline into the bathroom with you while you shower!

I would also like to note that this dress is a perfect example of how to use of a half-slip (read more on slips here!).  Obviously my bodice does not allow for a traditional full slip, so I have put on a half slip between myself and my crinoline.  Additionally, crinolines can be a tad rough, unless you purchase one made of super soft nylon.

So get out there, and add some poof to your life!  You’ll find yourself swishing as you walk.  It’s quite fun.

Vintage Must Have: Slip

Now that we’ve discussed bullet bras, girdles, and stockings, there is one more element in creating the perfect vintage foundation to your garments: a slip.  I know many ladies who do not wear slips, and I’ll openly admit, I did not start wearing a slip on a regular basis until a few years ago, but now I can hardly image going out without wearing one.

Slips serve several purposes, the most important being protection.  Slips serve as a layer to protect garments from perspiration, and reduce the amount of times an garment must be cleaned, therefore furthering the longevity of the item.  I also find getting dressed is easier when wearing a slip.  Slips create less friction than your skin, thus garments slip or pull on easier, lessening the strain put on garments when dressing.  Additionally, slips can create a level of comfortably.  A slip can reduce, if not prevent, the itchy discomfort produced by some fabrics, such as wool.  Slips also act as a smoothing factor.  Bras and girdles can create some bulk, however, slips work to smooth them out.  I also like slips when I go out shopping.  I like being able to have a plain top or bottom when trying on separates.

For the most part, slips fall into one of two types – full slips and half slips.  Full slips are built like a dress.

They are perfect to go under dresses, as well as top and skirt combinations.  White slips are lovely and the most practical, but I particularly like colored slips for my vintage sheer blouses that I wear during summer.

Half slips are akin to a skirt, with elastic in the waistband to stay up.  These are nice for when you are wearing a top or dress that is strapless or has a unique neckline that would show the slip’s straps.

I recommend purchasing vintage slips for several reasons. First is that vintage slips are of significantly better quality.  Not to mention, they were made under better labor conditions.  Additionally, vintage slips are simply designed better.  All of the vintage slips I have come across are cut with shape in mind, and have curves, unlike contemporary slips, which are cut straight, creating more bulk, and tend to get stuck in zippers.

Vintage slips can be found nearly anywhere and everywhere.  From thrift stores to high-end vintage shops, such as AlexSandra’s.  She has a great selection of vintage slips in a range of sizes in both her regular shop and her bridal shop.

For more on vintage foundations…
Vintage Must Have: Bullet Bra
Vintage Must Have: Girdle
Vintage Must Have: Seamed Stockings