There's a dirty little secret we never talk about: our bras. Besides the fact that most of us wear the same bra day after day (we don't wash them often enough — admit it!), we complain about poking underwires, bands that hike up, bra bulges and straps that dent our shoulders. Most of all, we can't wait to get home and take the darn thing off. Sound familiar? The right bra feels comfy and looks appealing. It also makes or breaks the fit of everything you wear. No one needs all the bras listed below, so find the best ones for your breasts and buy a backup. Here are 10 ways to make your bra a bosom buddy.
1. Seamless underwire T-shirt bra.
This full coverage anti-sag style provides maximum structure for a generous bosom — it's the tailored jacket of bras. The wire hoists your “girls” up and off the torso, adding more space between your waist and chest, and the molded or lightly lined cups create a rounded natural look with no see-through possible. Try the T-Shirt Bra from Ava & Viv ($22, target.com), Bali's Live It Up Seamless Underwire Bra No. 3353 ($38, target.com), or splurge on the new online brand ThirdLove's 24/7 Classic Perfect Coverage Bra ($68, thirdlove.com) to wear beneath clingy tees, knits and fitted sweaters. And yes, while some T-shirt bras say so on the label, others don't. Go by the description.
Insider tip: If a T-shirt bra gives you double boobs, the cups are too small, so go up a size or try another brand. Be sure the bra band and underwire fit snugly under your bosom, the cups totally enclose your breasts, and both bra fabric and underwire feel soft, not squeezed or too constricted.
2. Wireless full-coverage bra.
The new alternative to bra No. 1 mentioned above uses a high-tech engineered design instead of wires to shift breast tissue upward for lift and has seamless molded or light-foam cups for a firm natural look. It's a good choice for full-busted or full-figured women who find underwires a tough fit (does yours always creep up?) but need the extra support. Hanes Women's ComfortFlex Fit Full-Coverage Wireless Bra G260 ($12, target.com) and Simply Perfect by Warner's Women's Invisible Edge Lift Seamless Wireless Bra ($20, target.com) hug your body and won't be detectable, even in pale silk blouses, light knits, jersey dresses or bodysuits.
Insider tip: Put your wire-free contoured bra on, bend slightly forward and use one hand to scoop your breast (including sides and bottom), then swoop it into the cup. Rotate between a handful of bras instead of wearing the same bra daily in order to give the spandex a break, as well as time to recover its snap back.
3. Racerback bra.
For those of us with largish chests, shoulder straps that cross or morph into a Y or V shape in back take the pressure off our neck and shoulders while providing plenty of support. Women with narrow or sloping shoulders (and chests of any size) love racers, too, because there's zero strap slippage, which is especially important when wearing sleeveless dresses and tops. Try the new online brand True & Co.'s True Body Lift V Neck Racerback Full Cup Bra ($58, trueandco.com), with sizes up to XXL, and the cult favorite Spanx Bra-llelujah! Racerback Bra ($68, spanx.com), with sizes up to 38 DD, for all-gain, no-strain style.
Insider tip: Look for seamless, smooth and stretchy racerbacks with wider and secure nonadjustable hardware-free straps for extra comfort and “invisible” molded or engineered cups. You may have to spend a little more to get these details, but the result and — aaah! — feeling is worth it.
This equivalent of leggings for your breasts turns bra haters into lovers. Smooth and seamless pull-on styles that are thick but stretchy, have no cups or hardware with a wide bra band — such as Hanes Women's Full Coverage SmoothTec Band Unlined Wireless Bra G796 ($14.99, target.com) or Spanx Bra-llelujah! Bralette ($48, spanx.com) — hold breasts in a comfy sling of support fabric. Go up a notch to a bralette with lightly padded cups, adjustable straps, a hook and eye closure like Bali Bra: Comfort Revolution Smart Sizes Wire-Free Full-Figure Bra 3484 ($39, kohls,com) or Olga Easy Does It No Bulge Seamless Wirefree Bra style GM3911A ($40, kohls.com) for a little more control with your comfort.
Insider tip: Bralettes are great if your weight yo-yos up and down or if bloating due to excess salt, alcohol or hormonal changes affects your breasts (instead of your face, tummy or ankles). They are a dream if you like to layer tanks and slouchy tees, have a casual lifestyle or like loose minimalist modern clothes (think: Eileen Fisher).
5. V-neck plunge bra.
If a neck-lengthening, super-flattering V neckline is your signature style — and for many women with a full bust it is — choose bras in sync. A plunge bra with a deep and wide V between the cups and contoured soft foam or lined cups for coverage and natural-looking shaping — like Paramour Women's Carolina Plunge Wirefree Bra ($22, target.com) or Bali's Comfort Revolution Full-Figure Front-Closure Bra style 3P66 ($42, kohls.com) — won't show under V-neck tees or pullovers, or when you unbutton your shirt or blouse to expose your upper chest.
Insider tip: Plunge bras require attention to fit since they have the least coverage and control upfront. The bra should feel snug when worn on the loosest hook. With washing and wear and time over time, the band will stretch — sometimes by inches — which is when you tighten up and move a hook inward. Wear your lowest V-neck shirt to try on a new bra.
6. Multi-way bra.
Ever buy a strapless bra for a specific dress and then find you never wear it again? So have millions of women who are now fans of convertible bras such as Warner's This Is Not a Bra Full-Coverage Strapless Convertible Bra No. 1693 ($40, kohls.com) and Wacoal's Red Carpet Strapless Full Bust Underwire Bra ($68, nordstrom.com), which morph from a strapless to a cross-back, halter or one-shoulder bra. As a strapless bra, it stays up, with cups melting into your body, and there are no telltale ridges or lines. And you always have a bra that works with trendy tops like your off-shoulder party blouses to wear with jeans.
Insider tip: Since strapless bras require the band to do everything, you might consider going down a band size and up a cup size. Look for bras with nonslip silicone strips that line the inside that grip but leave no marks. Keep the bra and its strap in a separate plastic baggie in your lingerie drawer to avoid last-minute panic.
7. Sports bra.
Even if your idea of exercise is a walk or yoga, a bra that minimizes bounce and gives breast tissue extra support is necessary. Choose from low- to high-impact styles that vary in compression and design in order to complement the intensity of your workout. A low-impact bra works for yoga or golf, while a high-impact one would be best for running, tennis or interval training. Look for bras with cup separation — to avoid a uni-boob effect — in a moisture-wicking fabric, such as Old Navy Medium Support Sports Bra ($23, oldnavy.com), Champion Women's Plus-Sized Max Support Power Shape Underwire Sports Bra-C9 ($27, target.com), or GapFit Sculpt Bonded High-Impact Sports Bra ($50, gap.com).
Insider tip: Choose moisture-wicking fabrics and bras with nonirritating details like a plush band, wide shoulder straps or a racerback, tag-free label in a stretchy spandex blend. Larger busts benefit from sports bras sized like bras, with numerical band sizes and alphabetized cup sizes, for a more personalized fit.
8. Show-off balcony bra.
When you do want something pretty or feminine that reveals just a hint of cleavage, look for a balcony bra (aka balconette bra) with shallow, curved cups and wide-set straps that frame and support your bust like Playtex Bras’ Love My Curves Beautiful Lace & Lift Full-Figure Underwire Bra US4825 ($42, kohls.com) or Paramour's Ellie Unlined Full-Busted Bra ($22 target.com). It gives a subtle boost, especially if your breasts are deflated on top and fuller on bottom, or wide set or have lost their natural oomph. It gently rounds without looking like a push-up bra.
Insider tip: Don't worry if your breasts are not the exact same size. Go with the larger one for cup sizing and make up the difference by adding a gel insert. There is no standardization of cup size — one brand or style's D may be another brand’s DD or E. A point midway between the elbow and shoulder should be level with nipples in this bra style, even if you're a 42H. Slightly sexy is the idea.
9. Bulge-breaker bra.
When your “extra” is spilling out of your bra, try one cut wider at the sides and/or back, with hidden power-mesh panels to control rolls and overhang like Simply Perfect by Warner's Women's Full Figure Underarm Smoothing Spacer Bra ($25, target.com), Beauty by Bali Women's One Smooth U Underarm Smoothing Bra ($25 target.com), or the Vanity Fair Beauty Back Smoother Full-Figure Bra style 76380 ($42, kohls.com). These are great if you love sleeveless dresses or fitted clothing and are bugged by (let's call it what it is) excess back or armpit fat.
Insider tip: Armpit bulge has nothing to do with your weight or size. It's usually caused by cups that are too small and/or a band that's too loose. Is the band level all around or riding up in back? If you see back bulges, the band size may be too big, and you're probably tightening the straps to compensate, causing more overflow. To remedy this, size down in the band, and go up in cups.
10. Front-closure bra.
Some women simply prefer a front-closure bra for the smooth, no-bumps line at the back or the fact that it's easiest to slip on and off — especially when you have limited mobility. I found this out when my shoulder and arm were broken! Styles like Glamorise Front-Closure Wonderwire Bra style 1245 ($50, kohls.com) or Spanx Bra-llelujah! Full-Coverage Bra ($68 to $70, spanx.com) are fashionable classics that provide lift, coverage and an edge.
Insider tip: A front-closure bra is an easy fix when gravity, weight fluctuations or shifting body proportions have increased the gap between breasts to inches, creating an empty space in the middle. Eliminating excess volume at the sides and shifting breasts to front and center makes any top fit better.