After exclusively wearing lightly lined and padded bras basically forever, this year I ordered my first set of unlined bras from various brands. I’ve had mixed results wading into unlined territory, but I’m definitely on a mission to find a style that works for me. Belle was part of a Curvy Kate trying spree that I indulged in. Let’s see how it went.
To preface this review, I should say that I previously got on well with some of Curvy Kate’s padded and molded styles. However, since losing weight, my go-to styles haven’t been working out because in my new size, they are too wide and shallow. I had heard many good things about CK’s new unlined bras working for narrow and projected shapes, so I ordered a few to try (also including Florence, Cascade and Ellace – reviews coming soon!). Belle is first because she’s my favorite bra of the bunch.
I ordered Belle rather impulsively based on the product photos. I have to say that it’s a very apt name for this bra. It’s delightfully pretty and, as I’m typing this from my hotel room in France, feels a little Parisienne. The blush pink and black combination give it a light, feminine whimsy with a daring edge. I’m partial to unexpectedly detailed touches like the embroidery. I even surprised myself by really loving the semi-sheer cups. I’ve always been someone to prefer light padding for modesty and sensory issues, but now I am all about the unlined bra scene … even if balconies are proving to be a very tough fit for me.
Belle is a typical balcony bra. The bottom of the cup is made from two layers of sheer blush pink mesh with a single vertical seam. It becomes semi-sheer when on. The top part of cup above the horizontal seam is a single layer of mesh.
The front of the cups are decorated with a fine black detailing that Curvy Kate calls a “kiss embroidery” and the cups are also trimmed along the edge with the black embroidery to give a lace-like appearance. I love this. It’s unique and gives it a decadent “frilly” feel without being overly cute. Overall, the design is smart and understated.
My favorite feature of the bra is the black satin cradle. It adds a great textural contrast and a more luxurious look and feel that inches it into a boudoir-inspired piece. Not quite Scantilly-level; but perhaps its timid, girly counterpart. The gore also has a unique button and flat lace ribbon detail, a pleasant step away from typical boring bows. I’m partial to buttons on gores. I’m not sure why. I just like them. 🙂
The wings are a standard black mesh with a looped trim and two simple black ribbon bows adorn the strap attachments. The straps are soft, comfortable and fully adjustable. I like that the straps are thinner than some other brands, at least in this size range. I also appreciate the 3×2 hooks instead of 3 rows. I know some people prefer three for support, but being short and high-set, I prefer 2 rows and shorter wings.
Size & Fit
Belle is based on Curvy Kate’s Bardot cut. Bardot has long been recommended for short roots and full-on-bottom shapes, so I was hopeful that this would be an ideal option for me from CK’s lineup. I found the bra on a really good sale in a size 30E and decided to try that instead of my usual 28F that I would go for in unlined styles.
My measurements suggest that Belle runs true to size in the cup. The 30E was a good decision because the band only stretches to just over 28″ before the wires begin to distort. A 28F would probably be to tight for me and I have a 27″ snug/26″ tight underbust. So this may be a good option for those who need sub-28″ bands, otherwise I’d recommend sizing up.
I unfortunately had a few fit issues with Belle. Although Belle/Bardot are recommended for full-on-bottom and short roots, this bra did not want to cooperate with my boobs. I’ll try and go through the fit problems in detail as they recur with all of the CK unlined balconies I’ve tried.
So, obviously something is not quite right with the top of the cups here. Above the seam, I’m getting both wrinkling and in-cup quadboob (where my soft tissue is spilling over the horizontal seam). The quadding is worst towards the gore where I have a lot of center fullness because my very soft tissue is always heading towards the middle and can’t be contained. I had my arms back more in the second photo; the tops of the cups don’t cut in when I’m in a more neutral position.
I tried to show the effect of my soft tissue acting on the seam a little better in the photos below.
The wrinkling at the top of the cup is worse on my smaller side (where I’m also getting some empty space at the bottom of the cup). Wrinkling lace on a balcony or balconette is something I can somewhat tolerate due to my diminished upper fullness and short roots, but the quadding looked terrible under a shirt.
Those of us with short roots and full on bottom shapes will be used to having some empty material at the top of the cup. The temptation when the top of the cup is empty is to size down. However, a common issue for me is that the apex or deepest part of the cup itself feels very tight regardless of what’s going on up top. With Belle, the cup is actually too shallow or small for me and a bit too wide. I need a more narrow and projected cup (or at least more space at the apex) to feel comfortable. Most likely the too-shallow cup made the band feel even tighter.
Another result of the shallow apex is that the bra gave me a not-so-appealing minimized appearance from the side. I would prefer a more lifted and evenly rounded shape. That said, I am open to having various shapes in my bradrobe as long as they fit and are comfortable. I could have overlooked the minimized profile because I like the pattern so much.
Something that you can also just about see in the above photos is that there is some empty space/gaping at the outside of the cup. The cup width I measured is only 5.1″ and should work OK for me (though narrower would be fine, too). When worn, however, there is a good inch of space at the sides of the cup between the tip of the underwire and my breast root. The shape of the underwires is partly to blame here. They slope upwards into a wider U than I need. I think they are distorting somewhat when worn.
Again, I’ve tried to illustrate the empty space better in these photos:
The section in white shows the approximate difference between where the cup ends and where my breast root ends. You can also just about make out that the top of the band is looser than the bottom. Literally the whole part of the bra beneath my underarm is a giant gap. So I think something else might be going on here …
Belle and all the other CK balcony bras that I’ve tried have all had the same issue with gaping at the outer side of the cup combined with some uneven band tension. I’m not sure how to pinpoint the source of the issue (whether it’s a shape mismatch or a quality thing), but I very rarely get it with any other bras and I get it with every CK bra. With my arms down, the gaping gets worse, but it was hard to photograph while holding my camera.
You can probably see it best on the left side of this shot:
See how the outer cup edge and top of the band are visibly sagging away from my body? I’ve read that altering the band with a dart to reduce excess material can fix this problem, but that’s not something I’m likely to attempt.
I desperately wanted Belle to be comfortable. I was hoping the mesh would be soft so there might be some chance of breaking her in and relieving some of the fit issues. Unfortunately, out of all the CK bras I tried, Belle is made from the scratchiest mesh. I have some sensory issues and found it to be a bit too rough on my skin. For comparison, Florence is also a mesh unlined balcony by CK, but the materials are somewhat softer on the skin.
Naturally the cups generally felt a little uncomfortable because they didn’t feel deep enough for me. Other than that, the gore was a tad too wide for me and the straps a bit too wide-set. It wasn’t uncomfortable right away, but I could imagine it getting irritating over the course of the day. Finally, I don’t like the feeling of my soft tissue spilling over the cup seam. It’s jiggly and weird and makes my boobs feel sad. 😦
To look at, Belle has no glaring quality issues. The jury is out on uneven band tension being the source of my empty side pockets. She’s pretty and I like the black satin front, but the rest of the materials are a little scratchy. The full retail price is £32. I’d recommend finding it on sale for under £20 like I did.
Belle was not meant to be and I’m super bitter about it. This cut is supposed to work for my type of boobs – short, projected and fuller on the bottom. I love the color and the design as well as the new blue colorway that came out this season. Belle sadly just doesn’t love me back. Will I ever find a Curvy Kate that fits?