Interview with Darlene Campbell, Founder of Hourglassy

Working as a corporate lawyer, Darlene Campbell was surrounded by men in crisp, white dress shirts that exuded power and confidence. As a woman with a large bust, Campbell was frustrated she couldn’t convey the same professional look without the help of a safety pin holding her shirt together. In 2008, Campbell left the corporate world and founded Campbell & Kate: a line of classic, tailored dress shirts for women with full busts. Soon after, she started her blog, Hourglassy, where she reviews clothes, shares fashion news and offers women bust-friendly style advice.

We recently chatted with Campbell about the challenges women face when it comes to finding clothing that properly fits.

Why are dress shirts such a challenge for busty women?

Dress shirts with enough room at the bust — but not too much room at the shoulders and waist — are very difficult to find. I read a comment recently that said dress shirts just aren't meant for a woman's curves, and we should stick with knits and flowy fabrics instead. Of course, I disagree. It's simply a matter of working with darts and seams. All women should be able to wear crisp shirts that evoke power and authority.

Do you feel that the fashion industry shames — or at least ignores — women with large breasts? Why do you think there’s this gap between what’s needed and what’s available?

Oh, the fashion industry so doesn’t get it! I met a woman on Friday, who I thought “got it”, since she used to be a buyer for a high-end department store. I took my shirts to her (for advice). She was like, “So this is just for busty women?” I was like, “Yeah, this is for women with an eight, nine and 10-inch difference between their bust and their waist.” And that’s when I realized that she didn't understand. She had to be a B or C cup, so she never had a problem fitting into shirts. Unless you’re paying attention, people just don’t realize the challenges of having such a high bust-to-waist ratio. She didn’t understand that a basic, high-quality shirt for busty women is just not available. Why would I make something basic unless it was needed?

Women with large busts don’t typically fit in the same category as “plus-size”. Why is it important to make that distinction?

Oh, they don’t. People will get offended if you decide not to address them. There’s a blogger who won't shop from Pepperberry — the UK company that pretty much pioneered the busty fashion field — because they exclude plus-size women. But that’s the point — this is not for plus-size women, this is for women who are in that in-between.

Most women’s breasts can fluctuate in size. How does fluctuation affect the struggle of finding something that fits when you have a full-chest to begin with?

The biggest challenge for women who are already an H cup is when they get pregnant and are getting ready for breastfeeding — there are no nursing bras out there for them. Nursing bra manufacturers think they are doing people a favour by going up to an H cup, but if you start at an H cup, what are you supposed to do? I have a post about a do-it-yourself nursing bra written by a woman who had that problem. It’s a common issue: what do you do when you’re suddenly ginormous, but were large to start with?

What’s the feedback like from your readers? What sort of things do they ask you to write about?

Women want to find work-appropriate blazers. Most people don’t button blazers anyway, so you can get away without buttoning, but if you’d like to find one you can button, the women with a J cup especially have a problem finding that. People would also like more trendy, fashion-forward ideas. I think the challenge is to use what we have, and what’s available to us, and show women how to work with that.

Darlene Campbell, the founder of Hourglassy.com and Campbell & Kate, specializes in dress shirts for full-busted women. Vivian Stephens

Darlene Campbell, the founder of Hourglassy.com and Campbell & Kate, specializes in dress shirts for full-busted women.

Vivian Stephens

Campbell's line of dress shirts are tailored to fit women up to an H cup. Sergio Bochert

Campbell's line of dress shirts are tailored to fit women up to an H cup.

Sergio Bochert

Model Kate Upton has a full-bust, but her small frame makes her the ideal in-between body type for bust friendly fashion. Larry Busacca / Getty Images

Model Kate Upton has a full-bust, but her small frame makes her the ideal in-between body type for bust friendly fashion.

Larry Busacca / Getty Images