Abstract: This bra, though pretty, gave a very odd square shape, and the bumpy embroidery makes it impractical as an everyday bra.
Background: Masquerade is a sub-brand of Panache whose products are a bit higher-end and higher-priced. Their Rhea bra is a padded half cup sold in sizes 28-38 D-H. I purchased it about a month ago in 32FF for the normal retail price, but returned it because it wasn’t working for me.
Sizing: This bra is infamous for having a non-stretchy band that runs small. I found, however, that the 32 band was a comfortable fit on my 32″ ribcage. This might be because I tried on the “Antique” color, whereas most of the reviews that say it runs small were for the “Mulberry” color. I didn’t find the band to be noticeably more or less stretchy than other bra bands, but I only had the bra on for about a minute, so that was likely not enough time to properly assess the stretchiness. As for the cups, they run slightly small, so the 32FF (my usual size) gave me a bit of double-boob. A 32G would have been better, I think. If you buy this bra, I suggest going with your normal band size and sizing up once in the cup, or, since other reviews indicate that the band is tight, you could size up once in the band and go with your normal cup size.
Comfort: Not great. The thin straps cut in at the shoulders, and the padding in the cups is quite stiff — it almost feels like cardboard. I didn’t keep the bra, so I don’t know whether the material softens up after washing or whether there are any other comfort issues that would crop up in the long term.
Shape: I guess you could describe the shape of this bra as ’rounded’, in that it doesn’t produce a conical or pointy shape, but a more accurate word would be ‘trapezoidal’. It was pretty bizarre. The bra squashed my breasts in toward the chest, out toward the sides, and vertically upward, creating a flat section at the front and reducing the forward projection. The cups are seamed horizontally where the embroidery sits; on me, this seam folds sharply to create the weird flattened section. Going up a cup size may have produced a better fit, but I didn’t have a 32G on hand to check.
Support: Undetermined, because I tried it on only briefly. Thin straps, narrow bands, and two-hook closures are usually not good signs in this department, though.
Quality: I can’t say for sure. I didn’t notice any glaring quality issues when I tried it on, but I also didn’t notice anything exceptional that would justify the £33 price tag. I’m guessing the elaborate embroidery is what makes it a bit more expensive than your average Panache or Freya bra. If I’m going to spend those few extra pounds on a bra, though, I’d prefer to spend it on shape and support rather than on embellishments.
Appearance: It’s a very nice-looking bra. The cups and band are covered with a shiny satin fabric, and the embroidery adds visual interest and sophistication. The “Mulberry” color is a darker and cooler-toned shade of nude that would work well with medium skin tones. The embroidery is quite obvious under tight clothes, though, so it’s not the most practical everyday bra.
Conclusions: The bizarre shape given by this bra is partially attributable to me trying on the wrong cup size. I didn’t bother to order another in a larger size, though, because the bra’s thin straps, stiff material, and narrow band didn’t appeal to me.