Bralettes have taken the lingerie world by storm, but like so many fashion trends, folks have questioned whether plus size women can get in on the action, too. In theory, it would seem that bralettes for fuller cups might not be supportive enough — but never one to buy into so-called style rules or limits, I wanted to test them out for myself.
Unlined, unpadded, and wire-free usually make up the characteristics of a bralette, as described by The Lingerie Addict's Cora Harrington for Slate. While underwire-free bras are not necessarily new, the idea that your bra can be both cute and comfortable is one that has seemingly surfaced more and more as topics of body positivity have risen into the limelight.
I have a history of a co-dependent relationship between myself and a padded push-up bra. Learning to ditch push-up for comfort has been a huge part of my self love journey, though. I felt for a long time that my breasts needed to look a certain way in a bra; and I have to admit that a few years ago, I wouldn't have felt able to try out bralettes. But I am so glad that I did.
I tested out seven different bralettes in the hopes that the plus size bralette naysayers would be wrong. I'm wearing a size 2X in all of the sized styles, and am a 42D for reference. During this experiment, I hoped that bralettes would be supportive. But what I got was a whole new level of comfort and freedom that I didn't imagine was possible while wearing a bra.
This bralette is from Torrid, which seemingly has the most variety of plus size bralettes on the internet. Its styles definitely veer on the fashionable side and could double as outerwear. The color was a vibrant hot pink with a black outline on the floral lace. It was lined and it features a racerback style with adjustable straps for additional support — making it incredibly comfortable to boot. This one is more longline style and I had no issues with the fabric under the bust riding up at all.
2. Lace Halter-Style
This super-sexy style is from Hips & Curves. Of all of the bralettes I tried, I felt most exposed in this one. But that's not necessarily a bad thing. I told myself for so long that I couldn't wear halters, so looking in the mirror and seeing myself fit into a halter bralette felt like tangible evidence of the shift in my way of thinking about myself. This sexy style not only fits my frame, but is available up to a size 6X. Plus, the T-back style and side-boning add the structure and support that I so appreciate.
My best friend owns this caged style bralette, so it came with high recommendations from a fellow plus size woman who usually also shies away from anything without underwire. The caged straps on the front and sides gave me a little added coverage in an area that I normally don't expose while also providing additional support. The style definitely gives off the illusion of being see-through, but I can totally see styling it as a crop top anyway.
4. Pastel Lace
Of all the bralettes I tested, this one felt the most supportive. I think that probably had to do with the fact that it didn't sit quite as low-cut on me as some of the others. Its added support and cut made this one feel like a substitute for an underwire bra. In fact, I wore this one under a dress in a professional setting for a full day and felt totally awesome from start to finish. It was incredibly refreshing to not work all day while dreaming of taking off my bra since I was already wearing one of the most comfortable pieces of lingerie I've ever sported.
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This black and white geometric print is totally fun! Featuring a U-back and adjustable straps, this one provides full coverage in the back. Like the other styles from Torrid, it has the additional six or so inches of extra fabric under the bust, making it easy to double as a crop top both in and out of the bedroom. I was very pleased.
This is another bralette from Hips & Curves, so it features side boning structure and a clasp in the back similar to a standard underwire bra. I appreciate the clasp because then I can attach it in the front and spin it around like I would any other bra, rather than slipping it on overhead. The scalloping and ruffle details on this one made the design really stand out, too. Even though the shape of my breasts obscures the bottom ruffle partially, I still like the look and it's a sexy detail I know is there.
7. Blue Caged
This cage bra is from Re/Dress and since the company is an independent plus size business located in my home city of Cleveland, I actually got to be a part of the fit testing for it a few months back. Unlike the other bralettes that are sized individually, this is available in one size that fits band sizes 34 to 52 and cup sizes A to J. From the fit test, I can attest that it fits that full range.
If you've ever tried anything made out of the teggings fabric at Re/Dress, then you'll know that the material of this bra has mega stretch to it and is super soft. I felt the least support in this one, but what I lost in support, I definitely gained in comfort. This bra felt the most like not wearing a bra at all. As with all of these bralettes, I wore this one without another bra underneath it. But I could totally wear a plunge strapless under most of these if I wanted some additional support.
Am I A Bralette Convert Now?
On their own, bralettes are extremely comfortable. While the support and coverage differed among all styles, the comfort factor really didn't alter too drastically. I'm defining comfort by how the bra felt on my body, and not how my body looked in the bra — something important to note given how society views comfort in relation to plus size bodies (an act of laziness or of "letting oneself go," mainly). Within that framework, bralettes are far more comfortable than any underwire bra I've ever worn. Particularly the Addition Elle Lace Bralette, which offered the most support.
In trying these bralettes, I honed in on valuing my own comfort over my culture's idea of how my breasts (and fat body) "should" look. I do not look like most of the models in these bralettes and that's OK. I just look like me, and that's OK, too. Ultimately, there's no reason why any plus size babe can't get in on this trend.
Images: Alysse Dalessandro