Thursday, July 9, 2015

An Angry Rebuttal from Gail Carriger ~ Goodbye, Button Gap: The Best Tops for Busty Girls

I may have gone on a bit of a rant on Twitter yesterday over this post: Goodbye, Button Gap: The Best Tops for Busty Girls | Now, is some big Juggernaut of a fashion site that posts twee little blogs like "5 Shoes Every It Girl Has In Her Closet" with lots of shopping links. Clearly they are heavily sponsor-supported and quite lucrative, and frankly that's fine with me. I follow them on my feed, don't I?

1956 Marilyn Monroe photographed © Milton Greene via eternalmarilynmonroe on tumblr
Showing the dreaded button gap.

But this recent blog post intended for busty ladies like myself really bothered me.

  • They used all flat chested models.
  • Their recommendations are exactly the OPPOSITE of what busty girls should wear.
  • The tone of the images/suggestions comes off as really condescending since basically her answer to not being able to wear a button-down is to wear something too big.

The article's author claims to be busty but I can NOT believe that she is. Either that or she was so tightly confined by her sponsor sites' selection that she was forced into choosing the wrong things by vendors that clearly have no idea how to dress a curvy lady.

The article suggests the following solution to the dreaded button gap:

Oversized button-up shirt

Why this will NOT work:

It will look like a tent jutting out from the widest point of the breasts and falling straight down, eliminating any waist and slenderness. It will likely make you look a great deal larger than you actually are.

What to do instead of going over-size? 

1. Buy a button-up shirt that actually fits your boob area. Tailor in the excess at the waist, etc. Add darts if needed. You can have a professional do this for you, or learn to do it yourself relatively easily. Or trade with a skilled friend. Invest in a good shirt that you really like and that will last in order to make the tailoring time and expense worth your while.

Thrifted chiffon top that I tailored in sides and waist.

2. Buy button downs that fit, mostly, except for the gap. Which means: in a fabric that has some stretch. Then add in multiple hidden hooks and eyes over the dreaded gap area.

This top has hidden hooks and eyes so there is no gap.

3. If you are like I was with a really huge bust on a tiny frame, you can also just sew this dreaded gap part closed and pull the shirt on over your head. I know it kind of defeats the purpose of a button-up, but it keeps the look.

JC Penny top with ruffles that I just sewed the offending area closed.

4. Look for button-up shirts that have lots of darting, good pleats in the right area, and clusters of buttons right over that trouble spot (vintage and the best modern ones actually do this). Be prepared to pay good money for something that fits properly.

 Vintage pieces with good button placement. Note the massive darts in the gold dress that mean no gap? The red and white may not be the most flattering but see, no gap.

Wish I had a better picture of this top but it is button-up and tight, yet has no gap. That's vintage tailoring for you!
 A modern button up that actually fits over the rack with no gap and another vintage one shown over a corset. It's clear-on-white in the first, and black-on-black in the second, so hard to see, but the buttons are very close to each other on both of these shirts. It takes a while to put them on, as a result, but there is no gap.

Then the article suggests another solution:

Forgo the button entirely

Why won't this work? 

OK, it will work, but not with the tops that the article chooses to highlight.

The blouses shown are, in order:
  1. Cropped: Really busty girls struggle with cropped mostly because few crop tops cover the entire bust. Plus, there is no denying a crop top may look cute on an A cup, but looks stripper on a D. Unless that's what you are going for, of course.
  2. Architectural: I have a whole blog post about why this look won't work on the Rack
  3. Boxy: Sigh. I have a blog post addressing this sin too. Usually the ribs just under the boobs are a curvy lady's slimmest part, to be emphasized, not covered over, whenever possible.
  4. Baggy with a tie belt: Mellon sack, anyone?
  5. Peasant top: Can have exactly the same problem as an oversized button-up shirt or a boxy top, often worse because neckline pleating make these shirts balloon out even more. The first one they show would make me look like a walking, talking marshmallow.
  6. Tailored jacket top: Generally a good idea, but you can see with this particular choice that the stance of the belt is too high. Instead of the waist this jacket (on a busty girl) would tie just below the boobs, like a Empire gown. This is hugely unflattering on a larger chest because it pleats out very full over the stomach, making one look preggo. 
  7. All the rest fall into the above categories.

How to properly forgo button-up shirts:

1. Find knitwear or stretch tailored pieces that give the illusion of button-up. You can even sew on your own buttons if you like for a faux button-up shirt look.

2. Layer a button-up knitwear piece, like a lightweight cardigan, over a tight tank or cami.

3. Look for both blouses and button up shirts with pussycat bow tops that will drape down and hide a multitude of sins (and catch all your crumbs). 

 Shown (gasp!) without a bra. I'd had minor surgery on my back so couldn't wear a bra or corset for that event.

A favorite button-up blouse of mine, this cherry ticks all the boxes: it's stretchy, it has a bow at the top that drapes low enough to hide the gap, it's a busy print which distracts from the gap, especially if I wear a black bra underneath. It's very cool and lightweight. Love this one. It's not so tight it's bodycon, but it still shows my figure.

4. Another option is a crossover or wrap top. Us busty girls usually have to wear this type over a cami or a tank, but it can be very flattering when cut properly.

5. One can also hunt for zipper front tops. They are around, but not all that common.

6. Lastly you can do some quick modifications on the fly. In the following example, I used a red scarf tucked into (and safety-pinned to) my bra to hide the ridiculous amount of cleavage.

And finally I will end with this: a nice close-weave knitwear top is always a good option for a busty lady. Thus Fall is my favorite time to shop.

Good luck ladies!

Retro Rack is also on Facebook, where I post additional images and fashion thoughts.

You can also visit the following shopping lists: Travel Dork, My Steampunk, My Wardrobe.

quotes Gail likes

“Oh, Professor Lyall, are you making a funny? It doesn’t suit you.”
The sandy-haired Beta gave Lady Maccon a dour look. “I am exploring new personality avenues.”
“Well, stop it.”
“Yes, my lady.” —Gail Carriger


  1. I love that you felt compelled to writ a rebuttal to this article. I also thought the suggestions were worse than pointless.

    As a moderate to large busty lady myself, might I suggest a button through shirt that fits at the waist but not the bust looks very nice with the top buttons left open and a singlet/cami worn underneath to cover the cleavage.

    This may not be formal enough for all situations but it's a good way to make do with off-the-rack*.

    If you're looking for a cooler option for summer, a "boob-tube" (stretch, strapless bra) is another good alternative to a whole singlet.

    * HA.

  2. The UK actually have a clothes company called Pepperberry that make blouses and dresses and other stuff in sizes similar to bra sizing - so you can pick your waist size and then add in extra boob space. Their stuff has saved me from a few tight spots, wardrobe-wise.

    1. I was so excited to see this that I googled and they're on ebay and post worldwide. Not only do they have sized but you also have to pick your shape from curvy, really curvy and super curvy. You can bet I'll be getting some dresses from them!


  3. You are a goddess for posting this!

  4. Great article with truly useful suggestions! I agree with everything you said about the original article. Horrible choices for ladies with larger bosoms. Thank you for offering actually workable options.

    I especially love your suggestion to buy tops you love and tailor them to fit. Somewhere along the line having lots of clothes that don't fit well and are poorly made has become the norm. A great beauty of vintage clothes is how well made they were and how long they have lasted.

  5. Thank you! While neither as slim nor as busty, I do have quite a bit in the "tracts of land" department. I've used several of these suggestions. And since I've started sewing my own things, have really put them in to play! I even made myself a wrap dress that works, which i am thrilled with. And I've used the "Sew the darn thing shut" to really good avail.

  6. Hi Chelley here.
    Watching classy movies from the 1950's it occurred to me all the dresses and blouses women wore in those movies were tailored and had darts at the bust line. So it appears the companies got away from that as a labor saving solution. That let them pump out many more blouses than before at the expense of real women having to belt all their oversized blouses. I've actually ironed folds in the back or sides so there are no wrinkles when I tighten the belt! I suppose I could even cut the material on those folds and sew them up. With my luck it would end up too small and I have to donate them to charity.


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