Any woman with a larger bra size knows that shopping for clothes throws up a dilemma. Do you size up to accommodate the chest and swamp the rest of your frame (goodbye waist!), or squash them in for that straitjacket feel?
And that’s just the tip of the wellendowed iceberg. There are plenty more practicalities to consider. Will this top reveal your extra-wide, load-bearing bra straps? Are the buttons on this blouse going to fire off like missiles — if they ever do up in the first place?
Then there is the cleavage conundrum: cover it all up to the neck and you can look (and feel) matronly; but exposing them, say, in a deep V-neck knit, can have a provocative effect, whether you like it or not. Sexy and suggestive is not the vibe you want to convey, for example, if you are attending a christening.
Juggling these factors while standing in a harshly-lit high street changing room is dispiriting. Often it feels like the only options you are left with are ‘baggy sack’ or ‘Jessica Rabbit sexpot’.
Alice Fawke, 33, (pictured) from Marlborough, who left her career in PR to launch her own fashion line in 2018, revealed how her inspiration came from a lack of flattering fashion choices on offer for her size 10, 32FF frame
Step up Alice Fawke and her genius eponymous label.
The 33-year-old from Marlborough, who is a size 10 with a 32FF bust, was so frustrated with the lack of sartorial choice on offer, she decided to leave her career in PR and launch her own fashion line in 2018.
‘I could never look exactly like I wanted to. It was always a compromise,’ she says. ‘I wanted to feel confident and well presented, especially in a work environment, but I ended up wearing oversized shirts and floaty tops that were too big.’
Now on her second collection, sold exclusively online, there is not a floaty top in sight. Instead, you’ll find an incredibly sharp edit of beautifully tailored dresses, jackets, shirts and jumpsuits. Elegant but not too formal, her designs are clean and sleek, form-fitting but not overtly feminine. There are no patterns, just block colours in a minimal palette: neutrals with a few reds and oranges.
‘When you have big boobs, people often get distracted,’ Alice points out. ‘You can tell when someone is thinking, “Don’t look! Don’t look!” and they aren’t really listening to what you’re saying.
‘A simple silhouette and a clean neckline, without loads of print, puts the focus back on your face.’
Without a background in fashion, Alice worked closely with design consultants to nail the details of each piece, which are all manufactured in South-West London. They are designed to provide an extra 1.5 sizes around the bust. So choose a dress in a size 14, and the waist and hip measurements remain true to size while the bust is the equivalent of a UK 17.
Alice has worked closely with design consultants to nail the details of each piece, Pictured: Teal jumpsuit, £220, at alicefawke.com
Why has no one thought of this before?
Beyond sizing, there’s all sorts of expert tailoring working its magic. Take the Amanda Jacket (£250), a tuxedo style in fine wool with a chic velvet collar.
‘Instead of a standard side seam at the bust, which goes horizontally toward the nipple, we used a princess seam, which curves vertically all the way from the shoulder or armpit to the bottom hem,’ says Alice. ‘It creates more capacity and structure, and follows your curves.’
It means the jacket doesn’t tug and pull awkwardly over your frame, but accentuates your figure.
per cent of UK women are unhappy with their breast size
Wrap styles are often hailed as the saviour of bigger-busted women. But anyone who’s had to fiddle with a safety pin to stop the crossover gaping obscenely, or resorted to wearing a camisole underneath to preserve their modesty knows differently. ‘They’re constantly coming open!’ says Alice.
Her solution is the Tina Wrap Shirt (£100), which fixes the crossover at the side of the waist at exactly the right point to keep enough tension through the fabric; you get that cinched-in effect, without worrying what’s spilling out as you move.
Alice decided a V-neck with a drop of 20cm was ideal: a flattering amount of decolletage is on display but not a hint of cleavage.
The shape of the split hem (so the bottom of the shirt doesn’t cling to your hips) is echoed in the dramatic split cuffs, which gives the design some edge. If you’ve written off ever finding the perfect white shirt, try this.
Alice (pictured) who is keen for her collections to be ageless, has built a loyal customer base that ranges from women in their 30s to their 60s
Re-proportioning the figure (‘or at least creating the illusion of proportion’) is a key element to Alice’s designs. The wide square neck and peplum on the Nadia Top (£85) cleverly balances the hip-to-bust ratio to avoid a top-heavy ‘carrot shape’ as Alice calls it.
A square neckline is a big trend right now, but Alice’s are cut to ensure bra straps and the top of the cups remain hidden rather than peeking out and ruining the sharpness of the neckline.
She is also quite passionate on the subject of sleeves, which she says should be ‘set in’ crisply to the body of the top, rather than sloping off the shoulder, which ‘makes the whole area look much more rounded’ when what you want is more definition up top.
With few collections that work as hard as Alice’s, her customer base is incredibly loyal and ranges from women in their 30s to their 60s.
‘I was keen that the collection be ageless, she says. ‘My mum is 65, and we both wear the clothes — we just wear them in our own way.’
Alice (pictured) aims to help women feel comfortable, elegant, powerful and free, she claims having larger boobs can make you feel restricted
The obvious styling tweaks — switching white trainers for heels — will give you extra mileage if you invest in some of the more expensive pieces, like the Petrie Jumpsuit (£220, pictured above). Made from a lightweight wool (available in either rich maroon or a gorgeous muted teal), the quality of the cut justifies the price tag: fully-lined, concealed pockets at the hip, fluted through the leg, with a blind seam keeping the wrap front secured.
Ultimately, Alice wants her customers to be able to forget about their chest; to lose the self-consciousness it can so often cause.
‘I want women to feel comfortable, elegant, powerful — and free. Having larger boobs can make you feel restricted — in your movement, in your comportment. To be able to say: “Right, I don’t need to think about them,” it’s liberating.’
Right now Alice is toying with conquering the ultimate fashion challenge: designing a roll-neck top that larger busted women can wear without feeling like a frump. ‘Maybe it’s about designing a little bit of space between the neck and the fabric rather than it clinging right onto it?’ she muses.
If anyone can find a way, it’s Alice.