Saturday 11 August 2012

The Sports Bra Olympics: Freya Active, Shock Absorber, Panache Sport & Pure Lime

   With such a buzz surrounding the London 2012 Olympics and 'Olympic fever' spanning far and wide, everyone has united to support their country's athletes in the pursuit of gold medal triumph. Whether you managed to attend the spectacular opening ceremony, saw any of the games in action or have watched them from the comfort of your living room, sport has definitely been the word on everyone's tongues (and will probably continue to be for a while after the closing ceremony!)

   The Olympics definitely inspired this post about sports bras because it is so important to feel supported and comfortable when exercising. Wearing a sports bra can make the difference to any woman (Olympian or otherwise) in terms of comfort, performance, confidence and overall enjoyment of Sport. 

   I have never been a huge fan of exercise, but around 6 months ago I decided to get back into it and joined the gym to increase my fitness. One reason that I didn't like Sport previously was because I didn't feel comfortable and supported whilst exercising. About 2/3 years ago, (pre-Bravissimo refitting and living abroad)  I decided to give running a go with my flatmate, so off to the shops I trundled and came back with an elasticated Nike sports bra which offered little to no support. After the discomfort of my first run, I decided that the best option was to put a bra on underneath my sports bra, but I was still bouncing all over the place! Naturally, after a few runs I gave up. 

  Since being refitted and wanting to get back into exercising, I have realised that sport and discomfort do not have to go hand in hand and that there are some great sports bras out there for the larger busted. It is so important for women (regardless of size) to wear a correctly fitting sports bra for exercise. The breasts are made from fatty tissue rather than muscle, meaning that they require the support of a sports bra to prevent discomfort and irreversible damage to the breast tissue and ligaments. Wearing a sports bra should make you feel comfortable and supported during exercise and will also help to prevent stretching and sagging.

   After my decision to try Sport again, I have been on the search for a fantastic sports bra. In this blog post I will be putting 4 sports bras to the test at the gym: The Pure Lime High Impact Compression Bra, Shock Absorber Ultimate Run Bra, Freya Active Magenta Underwired Sports Bra and Panache Sport Purple Sports Bra. (Gym exercises include rowing, running, cross training, floor work and resistance machines)

The question is, which bra will be victorious and which will win the 'Undercover Lingerista' gold, silver and bronze medals?

Challenger 1: Pure Lime High Impact Compression Bra, (original RRP: £34.99)

   PureLime is a Scandinavian brand who manufacture a range of sportswear. Pure Lime aims to "produce the most feminine, fashionable and high quality performance sportswear for women, that reflects their priorities to look good and then perform." I found this quite an interesting statement because it suggests that aesthetics is the number one priority rather than fit! Never-the-less, this was the first sports bra that I had bought since being refitted as a 28FF - it was a bargain at £4 on ebay (brand new with tags), so I thought that it would be a good place to start.


  • Compression sports bra (functions by 'strapping down' the cleavage to restrict movement)
  • Made from 'Cool Max' material to move moisture from the skin to the outer layer of the fabric to keep you cool
  • Adjustable padded shoulder straps
  • Anti-stretch cup separation
  • Side support for lift and to reduce side movements
  • Machine washable

   This bra is apparently a test winning bra, so I had high hopes for it. I bought this bra in a 28FF and the back band felt tight but manageable. Sizing is quite difficult in this sports bra because it does not have any cup separation or underwires. As a compression bra, it constricts the chest (read also: squashes down), making it difficult to tell how it is fitting you unless you are getting obvious cleavage spillage or bulging. In future, however, I might consider sizing up to a 28G to avoid feeling so 'crammed' into this bra. 

   I would liken the design of this Pure Lime bra to the elasticated panel sports bras that I wore when I was younger, but with a few extra support features. I would say that the support from this bra is average (although much better than the Nike one that I tried a few years back!) I had a bit more bounce than I would like when I put it through its paces at the gym, but it wasn't so uncomfortable that I would resort to putting a regular bra on underneath. I did have a bit of shoulder ache during and after wearing this bra unfortunately and on one occasion a strap actually unhooked itself whilst I was rowing! I was also not a great fan of the way that the elastic at the bottom of the band rolled up when worn and I didn't really enjoy the constricting feeling of the compression cups. 

   However, there are some benefits to this bra that can't be overlooked. I like the fact that the straps can be worn normally or be made into a racer back, making it versatile for wear with different gym attire. It also has a thick band and 4 hook and eye fastenings at the back, which gives extra anchorage and security when worn. I also love that it is machine washable (hand-washing after every wear to the gym is very tedious!) and quite quick-drying.

Challenger 2: Shock Absorber Ultimate Run Bra, (RRP: £37)

   Shock Absorber is a very well-known sports bra brand, having launched in 1995 after the publication a year earlier of results by Edinburgh University into the negative effects of exercising on the female body.  Shock Absorber have worked with the University of Portsmouth in addition to carrying out their own research in order to produce a range of sports bras that perform to a high level and provide 'style, comfort and quality'. The Shock Absorber 'Run' bra is the result of a collaboration with Dr Joanna Scurr, a Breast Biomechanics Professor and this bra claims to "reduce breast bounce (by) as much as 78%" (results based on a University of Portsmouth 2009 test against 'no bra conditions').

   As the name suggests, the 'Run' bra is specifically designed for running and comes in sizes 30-36 A and 30-38 B-F, so I decided to try a 30F (sister size to my usual 28FF).

  • Soft, seamless material to minimise rubbing or chafing
  • Wide non-slip padded straps 
  • Reflective strip across the bust for high visibility
  • Open back, clip and back hook and eye fastenings
  • Made from moisture-wicking, breathable sports performance fabrics
  • 'Infinity-8' support system to counteract 'figure of eight' movement of breast bounce whilst running

   Although this sports bra does not come in a 28 back, the 30 back came up very tight and there would be no way that I would downsize in the band even if the option were available! The Shock Absorber 'Run' bra in fact felt even tighter than the Pure Lime High Impact Compression bra which was a 28FF! As you can see from the picture below, the 30F Shock Absorber is actually smaller in the band than the Pure Lime 28FF! 

   Despite this Shock Absorber bra working by compressing the bust, it looks quite good on and the shape that it gives me is quite rounded. I also really like the design of this bra, which is simple but attractive - the reflective silver strips add some interest and are a great visibility feature for those running in the outdoors.  

   I enjoyed wearing this bra in the gym more than the Pure Lime and I only had a bit of bounce from it, so overall it was supportive to exercise in. The fabric is also really smooth against the skin and it has central, underarm and underbust breathable moisture-wicking panels which draw sweat away from the body, making for a more comfortable work out. I also liked the feel of the straps (which are positioned closer to the neck). They don't dig into my shoulders as much as the Pure Lime and the back clasp has padding for extra comfort!

   One thing that was a bit difficult was the putting on and taking off of this sports bra. Firstly, as it is so tight, I cannot do this bra up without putting it on from the front and twisting it round. Secondly, the 'snap clip' at the top of the back is very difficult to fasten by yourself. I would also consider upsizing in the band next time around as I feel that even in the 30 back it is a little too tight for my liking!

   Overall, the Shock Absorber 'Run' performed well across a range of activities in the gym (not just running). I am not 100% that I like 'compression bras' best for exercise, but this is the best one that I have tried so far.

Challenger 3: Freya Active Magenta Underwired Sports Bra, (RRP: £29)

   After launching Freya Active in 2008, Freya has developed a range of sports performance wear, from clothing to underwired, moulded and soft cup sports bras. Freya realised the need for innovation and consequently developed non-compression and separation sports bra styles, to give women another option when exercising. They are also the official partner to the England Netball team and have been involved in the 'Back to Netball Scheme', an initiative to promote sport UK-wide.

   After seeing the Freya Active underwired sports bra at the Eveden Autumn/Winter 2012 press day, I was very keen to try it out. This bra comes in sizes 28 D-G and 30-38 D-H, so I was able to try out my usual size of 28FF in the Magenta 'fashion colourway'...


  • Wide curvature wire for comfortable and supportive fit
  • Puncture-resistant wire casing allowing for it to be machine washed
  • CoolMax® fabric lining to wick moisture away from the skin
  • Double fabric and cooling mesh panels
  • Built-up padded straps
  • Padded hook and eye with soft seal for added comfort

   Unlike many traditional sports bras, the Freya Active underwired sports bra is an encapsulation rather than compression bra, meaning that instead of the bust being restricted, the breast tissue is separately encased by the cups. I found this very helpful in ascertaining whether this bra fit me correctly as the cups are underwired and it is easier to see if the breasts are not properly encased.

   The 28FF is a really good fit in this sports bra - the band is firm (there are four hooks and eyes on the fastening for extra security) and the cups are a great fit. I really like the feel of this bra when worn - it is double lined with a soft and smooth feeling CoolMax® fabric which wicks sweat away from the skin and the straps are slightly padded to ease pressure on the shoulders.

   I was also lucky enough to try out the matching Freya Active thong, which is seamless and made from Coolmax Fresh® to keep you cool and comfortable. Although I probably wouldn't wear a thong to the gym, it was super soft and had a cute key-hold detail at the back.

   The Freya Active sports bra performs really well in the gym and I get an excellent level of support with very minimal bounce. Aesthetically, I love the magenta and grey colour scheme which is feminine and chic. (Freya have also created other colour options for this bra; black, white, nude, red and charcoal, so there really is something for a wide range of preferences!) I also like the coverage from this sports bra - it dips slightly lower than other sports bra styles. Having a little more skin open to the air is quite nice when you are working up a sweat in the gym, but the support is still there as the underwired cups keep everything in place.

   Although I really like this bra in all other respects, the one thing that I am not so keen on is the pointy shape that it gives my bust! After doing a little bit of research on the internet, it seems that a lot of people have experienced the Madonna-esque cone bra look from this sports bra and as you can see from the picture (below), even my plastic mannequin got the same effect!

   The main reason for this pointy effect is most likely due to the construction of the cups, which have a central seam that runs straight across the middle of the breasts. For me personally, this is not the optimum shape that I would desire from a sports bra, so I tend to wear this bra under more loose fitting gym t-shirts to hide the shape. Pointy-ness aside, I really like this bra and it is an added bonus that it is machine washable!

Challenger 4: Panache Sport Purple Sports Bra, (RRP: £35)

   Ever since attending the Panache Spring/Summer 2012 press day, I have been really excited to try out their new Sports bra! This bra was created after 3 years of research and testing with Loughborough University's Progressive Sports Technologies, using 3D motion and biomechanical tracking techniques to measure the effects of the sports bra on breast bounce. This bra claims to reduce breast bounce by 83% (compared to wearing no bra) and it has an impressive range of sizing from 28-40 inch backs and B-H cups, meaning that more women can benefit from the support of this bra. Fortunately for me, I was able to try my usual size of 28FF in the purple colourway of this bra..


  • Wide, padded straps to disperse pressure on shoulders for added comfort
  • Smooth, moulded cups to reduce friction 
  • Underwires wrapped in silicone
  • Smooth shape with flat seams
  • Lightweight microfiber fabric wicks moisture away from skin
  • Breathable mesh panels

   The Panache Sports bra (like the Freya Active) encapsulates and separates the breasts rather than compresses them. This bra in a 28FF fits me really well - the band is snug and my breast tissue is fully encased in the wired cups with no bulging anywhere. I especially like that the underwires are wrapped in silicone and sewn between the fabric layers, meaning that they are extremely comfortable and soft against the skin. I also liked that I could tell that the hidden wires were sitting flush against my chest, without causing any digging in at all.

   I really loved the look of this bra when worn too. The cups of this bra are moulded, giving a great rounded shape to the bust without minimising or squashing the bust down as compression bras tend to. Aesthetically, Panache have done a brilliant job by introducing 'fashion colours' in addition to their classic black and white sports bras. I particularly like this purple, grey and pink version, which is ideal for women who also want to feel stylish from head to toe when they're working out!

   To top it off, the Panache sports bra feels great on and performs really well whilst exercising too. Although it does not 100% 'banish the bounce' (I don't think any sports bra is 100% bounce-free), it does feel very supportive and comfortable and greatly reduces movement too. The band feels snug and supportive without being in any way uncomfortable and the slightly padded straps reduce digging in at the shoulders. I also like that the hook and eye fastening is cushioned for added comfort. Another great feature of this bra is that there is a little clip at the back on one of the straps to create a racer back option. 

   My only criticism of this sports bra is that it is not machine washable. Although that would have been the icing on the cake, I really like this bra and I would be willing to trade in the ease of machine washing for a great sports bra.



Which sports bras won the 'Undercover Lingerista' Bra-lympian medals? 

Pure Lime: No medal won (Not a bad sports bra and I can't really complain for £4, but equally, there are some disadvantages to this bra that need ironing out before it gets my vote.)

Shock Absorber: Bronze Medal (A good sports bra with some great features. Perhaps if I went up to a 32 back in this bra, it might have scored higher.)

Freya Active: Silver Medal (A great sports bra that scores very highly on fit, support and comfort, but just missed out on gold due to the pointy shape of the cups.)

Panache Sport: Gold Medal (This bra is an all-rounder with fantastic support, fit and shape and it looks lovely on too!)

   Although it was hard to pick a winner as all of the sports bras that I tried had their pros and cons, the real decision for me was choosing between the Freya Active and Panache sports bras as I loved both and would highly recommend them. The two bras performed very well across an array of gym activities, so the clincher actually resided in aesthetics - primarily, the shape. An important factor for me is that I also feel good about the way that I look in a sports bra. I loved the shape from the Panache sports bra (..if you were daring enough, you could even get away with wearing this on its own!) 

   Wearing a supportive and well-fitting sports bra has contributed to me enjoying sports again and I am so glad that none of the bras that I tried required me to wear my day-to-day bra underneath! Now that I have discovered the rewards of exercising with a great-fitting sports bras first hand, I will definitely be preaching the benefits to anyone that will listen. Hmm..I wonder what would happen if I left a few leaflets lying around the gym for women to see...?!

Kitty xo 

Friday 3 August 2012

Boux Avenue A/W12 press day & Robyn Lawley..Embrace your curves!

   A little while back I was lucky enough to be invited to Fluorescent PR's Autumn/Winter 2012 showcase, which included Boux Avenue. Boux has been all over the media recently after revealing Robyn Lawley as the new face (and curves) of the brand's new collection, 'Embrace your curves'

   Robyn is a stunning 6ft 2", size 14/16 (AUS) plus size model who hails from Austalia. Having graced the covers of Italian Vogue, French Elle and Marie claire, Robyn seems to be a great choice for the brand not just for her looks, but for her great outlook on body image. Robyn has mentioned that in the past she has struggled with eating disorders, but she has grown to love her body and her curves:

 "My body looks better as it is because that's the size I'm supposed to be, with curves. It's my natural body shape." (Australian Madison Magazine)

   It is refreshing to see her as the new brand figure head and it sends out a really positive message to women to be proud of their body, whatever shape or size.. 

   The Boux Avenue Autumn/Winter 2012 showcase was also nothing short of gorgeous, with an array of exciting new prints, colours and fabrics to make you feel fabulously flirty and feminine in true boudoir style. The 'Embrace your curves' collection is very size inclusive for a 'high street' name, offering sizes 30A-40H and sizes 8-20 in coordinates and nightwear. There was even a fabulous boudoir dressing table set up to display Boux's fashion and beauty accessories!


   Looking at Boux Avenue A/W12, three themes pervade the collection. The first is animal print, with everything from leopard print bras to bodies, chemises, loungewear, fluffy marabou mules and cat slippers!

(I love the black contrast piping on this body and bra set)

   Another key trend is luxurious jewel tones - purple, turquoise, raspberry pink and yellow chartreuse are married with opulent satin and lace fabric combinations...

'Lyla' satin balconette bra, £26 (30C-40G) - This raspberry coloured set makes fir a great update to traditional festive red and the delicate black contrasting lace gives a glamorous and seductive feel. This bra also comes with the option of 'fifties sex kitten' style high waisted shorts (£16)!

The unusual 'Carina' plunge bra in chartreuse, £26 (30E-38G) - I'm a sucker for a pretty plunge, so I'm keen to try this as I love the shape of it on the model (pictured above).

Lacey plunge bra in violet lace, £24 (30A-38F) (another rich purple tone bra)

   The third main theme of the collection was a vintage revival in the form of elegant balconettes in satin with sophisticated patterns of polka dots and vintage floral lace overlays, coupled with mesh, tulle, frills, bows and charms that hark back to bygone eras. These sets feel very 'old Hollywood'...

'Carmen' bandeau bra, £26 (32A-30E)

(Lace rosette bra)

'Nancie' satin and lace balconette bra, £26 (32A-38F) - One of my collection favourites, the 'Nancie' is a stunning peach tone satin and lace balconette bra that oozes vintage chic with its floral lace pattern, little frills and bow and cameo charm at the centre of the cups. This would make a great bridal bra alternative - if only it came in my size!


   The Boux Avenue A/W12 collection has some really gorgeous styles to suit a variety of tastes. I was a particular fan of the decadent jewel tones, satin and lace combinations and soft blush tones and vintage detailing. My only niggle is that not all of the lingerie starts at a 30 back and only select styles go up to an H. That aside, it's great to see more larger cup sizes readily available from a big name commercial brand! 

   Whilst I didn't have a great amount of luck with my first Boux Avenue try out, I am keen to try some newer styles in a 30 back as a few people have mentioned that some of them may work for a 28 back too.

Perhaps this A/W will see me 'embracing my curves' in some new Boux Avenue lingerie...

Kitty xo