Ask Belle Roundup Vol. IV, No. Twenty-Six

Jun 12, 2014

Hi Belle!

This summer, I would love to transition from one piece to bikini, but it is really impossible to find an affordable two piece that is modest. My big sticking point is generous top coverage.

Thanks! I adore your style! Danielle

A modest two-piece sounds like a bit of a misnomer, but if you’re looking for something with more coverage on top, I think I can find that.

The first place to start would be with a high neck halter like this tribal print suit from Forever21.  I also found this prAna halter top with an athletic style to it.  You could also try a flutter bikini top; I like this one from Antonio Melani.  My last piece of advice would be to try a tankini like this one from La Blanca.

Belle,

Can I get your opinion on the Boden brand?  I got their catalog in the mail yesterday and I’m not sure what to think.  The clothes look great but I’ve never heard of them before.

Thanks, Amy

Boden is a British brand popular with women who like classic shapes with a bit of whimsy.  The fit can be a little inconsistent, but the brand does a good job of helping you find the right size with tools like the Fit Predictor.  The pieces wear well and are made with good quality materials.  Some of the pieces would be perfect for the office, here are a few of my favorites:

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Fleet Street Dress ($182) // Wow Pencil ($104) // St. James Dress ($160) // Ravello Top ($70)

Boden has a great selection of fitted dresses.  There are two of my favorites.  I also like this notch-neck shift dress that comes in solids or prints.  This Columbia dress has a great swingy shape and a simple print.  But my favorite dress is this crisp, white eyelet dress.

The line also sells great separates like this printed pencil skirt and cap sleeve blouse.  I’m also a huge fan of this colorblock pencil skirt.

Also, if you’re petite or tall, you’ll find many of their pieces in your size.  They also have one of the best sale sections on the Internet.

Dear Belle,

Last week, you suggested some cardigans for chilly offices.  Do you have any v-neck cardigans to recommend?  I’m rather large in the chest-area and I don’t wear crew necks, ever.  

Sincerely, Kathy

Ann Taylor offers the widest variety of colors and sizes in a v-neck cardi (they have tall and petite).  I also like Banana Republic Factory’s cardi, it’s well made and a good length.  And C. Wonder makes a nice cardigan that comes in several bright, unique colors…in case you’re covered on neutrals.

Plus-size? Land’s End offers a v-neck cardi in both long and short sleeves.  They also sell their affordable cardigans in misses and petite sizes.

Hi Belle,

Love your blog! One of my biggest pet peeve is showing your bra straps.  Now that it’s getting warmer and i’m wearing a lot more sleeveless tops/dresses, I’m reaching for my nude strapless bra regularly and it’s seen better days.  What do you recommend that provides shape and relative comfort?  I’ve yet to meet a strapless bra that is comfortable worn all day.  Bandeau bras don’t work as they provide absolutely no shape for someone with a modest cup size like me.

Thank you! Mina

If it’s strapless you’re after, Lucky Mag has a great guide for how to find the strapless bra that’s right for you.  I’ve heard several fashion editors recommend the Le Mystere Soiree bra and the Chantelle Intimates C Essential Bra for larger sizes up to 40E.  My favorite strapless bra is the Wacoal convertible bra.

Need something under-$40?  Try Warner’s This is Not a Strapless Bra, a lot of pageant girls wear them because they won’t slip.

If you have a favorite strapless, leave your recommendation in the comments.

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  1. V says:

    For v-neck cardigans I HIGHLY reccommend Ann Taylor Loft (or Ann Taylor) and Jcrew. I have the same issue with the larger top and so v-neck fits better. Jcrew can bit a bit pricey but I have many that had stood the test of time with heavy wearing.

  2. abvv says:

    I’ll second Belle’s recommendation for Land’s End cardigans. They’re great quality for the price, and if you sign up for emails, you almost never have to pay list price. I’ve found that their sizing is pretty consistent (and they’re clear about how fits differ if they do), so once you know your size, it’s easy to pick up different styles/colors as you need them. They make great basics to complement more flashy pieces; I’ve got them in everything from navy to chartreuse.

  3. SassyinDC says:

    This is a comment in reference to the bra question– For ladies who are in the DC area, I recommend a trip over to Trousseau in Vienna, Virginia. I’ve been a loyal customer for more than 10 years and consider a trip from DC to the suburbs time well spent. The ladies at Trousseau provide expert bra fittings, and practical as well as exquisite intimates.

  4. Justine says:

    Angie at YouLookFab wrote that Boden’s “prices and quality are in line with Banana Republic.”

  5. Maureen says:

    I’m a huge Boden fan. I agree that sizes can be inconsistent. I bought 3 different pairs of sandals in three different sizes after many exchanges. Be sure to look at comments to see if things run high or small. Their shoes are super, cute but most are extremely uncomfortable.

    Regarding bras, I’ve seen people wearing bras with clear straps Any recommendations?

    • MidWestChic says:

      I would say no to the clear straps. They remind me of junior high, and even though they are clear, they are still visible. I often have issues with my straps sliding down, so I use fashion tape or small safety pins to keep them in place 🙂

  6. V says:

    The Chantelle strapless bra is wonderful. Bought it for my wedding day and it is one of the best bras I’ve every purchased.

  7. KC says:

    I like Boden for tall sizes. I have a wrap dress, several Ravello tops, a long-sleeved silk blouse, and a long-sleeved silk button-up. I would agree that the quality is at or better than BR, I think the materials feel a bit more “substantial.” While the list prices of Boden and BR may be similar, I find that I can always get 35-40% off at BR, and am lucky to find 15-20% off at Boden. So I think it ends up being a little bit more expensive. Other than the Ravello tops being very wrinkle-prone, I really like the Boden items I’ve purchased. I get more compliments on my Boden wrap dress than any other item in my closet.

  8. Helena says:

    I find that Boden’s quality is better than Banana Republic, particularly for tops.

  9. LS says:

    About Boden, I agree with the other commenters above re: quality and price. I wanted to add that while I love their style and quality, nothing I’ve ordered fits my hourglass shape. In order to fit my chest and hips, the waist is huge – so much so that I don’t feel comfortable getting it tailored. Not sure if it’s just me or what, but I wanted to throw that out there. I also find it annoying that they technically carry petites, but on a limited basis. Literally none of the 20 or so pieces I liked from the spring catalog comes in petites…

    I absolutely love their style though, so if you see stuff you like, go for it! They have a distribution center in the US so shipping can be quick depending on what you order. They also have a 365 return policy – even for worn clothing – which I love. Can’t say that about BR!

    • Amanda says:

      I have the exact same problem — their dresses are VERY boxy. Such a shame, since I love their styles, but I’m not willing to take the risk (and spend the extra cash, given that they’re not the cheapest items to begin with).

  10. CBH says:

    I have that Boden St. James dress (was able to get for 40% off) and it’s divine. One of my very favorite things to wear! I find that with a sale and their liberal return policy, definitely worth a shot.

  11. JL says:

    I’ve had great luck with bikinis from Tommy Bahama. Their swimwear (tops and bottoms) has a generous cut, which suits my smaller frame and a larger chest (32D). For my taste, I find the suits to be “just right”. Enough coverage to maintain dignity, but no so much that it feels matronly.

    • ml says:

      I have similar bathing suit issues. I’ve had luck with Lands End bathing suits. I also like some lines at Victorias Secret that sell their tops in bra sizes. If you want decent coverage, be mindful of the style. Most come with removeable padding which helps and I often size up a cup size to get more coverage.

  12. jlb says:

    I just wanted to suggest swimsuitsforall.com for the person looking to go to a bikini…I’m assuming you might be a bit larger so this site only has size 8 and up. They have midkinis which cover a lot more. Might be worth a look!

  13. A.J. says:

    I just got a Calvin Klein strapless bra at TJMaxx for $15 this weekend and it is 100% better than the $55 one I’d gotten at VS last summer. It stayed put all day through a wedding and dancing and I wasn’t antsy to take it off at the end of the (very long) day.

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