Until recently, my lack of options for button-down tops was an accepted reality, established sometime in middle school, when I filled out a DD bra. As I became a bit more familiar with dressing for my shape—and my cup size went a few letters further into the alphabet—the only way to wear a shirt with a button front was to utilize a set of unspoken hacks: concealing safety pins behind and between the buttons to avoid gaping, styling it with camis so as to make a popped button seem intentional, buying it a couple sizes larger so I could have it professionally tailored to fit… Honestly, option three always seemed like too much work, but they’re all a lot of work for something many describe as a wardrobe staple. (Isn’t that supposed to be synonymous with “easy, effortless”?) So, when given the opportunity to test a new made-to-measure fashion brand that would, theoretically, solve this long-standing gripe, I couldn’t pass up the chance.
This past fall, Careste—a direct-to-consumer brand helmed by Celeste Markey, Elizabeth Rickard Shah, and Hilary Peterson—launched a line of shirts with the intention to provide an answer to ineffective sizing in the market. “When you look at Elizabeth, Hilary, and me, we all have such different bodies,” says Markey, Careste’s CEO. “How on earth could we ever think that a size 6 on one body is equivalent to a size 6 on another? When we tested our product and algorithm, we discovered that none of the women we measured had a body that fit within any one size on the typical size chart.”
The algorithm Markey refers to is essentially what provides the fit for Careste products, one that’s more personalized than your typical 4, 12, or 20. In order to determine your size, the brand gathers eight measurements: shoulders, bust, bust point, sleeve length, waist, waist length, body length, and hips.
“The bust is actually the number one concern above any other measurement points,” says Shah, the brand’s creative director. “The majority of brands follow mass-produced standard sizing which does not take into consideration variations in body shapes and sizes and proportion differences from shoulders to bust to waist.”
My own experience determining fit was a bit different than the norm. I initially met with Markey and Shah to check out the debut collection, and Shah offered to measure me in person. However, it’s a task that’s easily completed solo with a measuring tape—one you own or one provided by Careste in a free-of-charge Fit Folio sent to your home. Still not confident? The brand can also schedule a fit consultation over Google Hangouts to make sure you’re getting the most accurate numbers.
It may seem a bit more arduous than your typical shopping experience, but it’s only done once (pending any significant weight loss or gain.) As Shah explains, that’s so Careste can make an individual pattern for every customer, allowing its factory to produce a shirt that’s couture-quality without a single in-person fitting. And the mild inconvenience early in the process can be worth it for a proper fit—at least, that’s what I concluded.
After collecting my measurements, I simply selected a style, which currently includes a small range of blouses, mostly button-down and in solid colors. (There are some limited edition prints.) I went for the Adela, a black button-down blouse with a subtle scalloped detail on the collar and cuffs—it’s classic, simple, and frankly, a piece I’ve never owned in the proper size.
By the time I received my made-to-measure shirt (it typically takes about two weeks from order to delivery), I slipped it on right away to check for the most telltale sign of improper fit for someone with big boobs: gaping. There was none. In order to truly test it, I wore the top for an entire day to see what kind of adjusting it might need as hours passed, how comfortable it felt, how securely all the buttons stayed fastened, and if I liked the way it looked. The results were positive across the board.