Simple bra alternatives?
August 4, 2009 1:46 PM   Subscribe

Are there any alternatives to bras? Bonus points for historical or non-American bosom support solutions.

I've worn regular bras in sizes 36D and 34DD to moderate success, but lately I've been going without because, for the most part, I find it more comfortable. (I do usually wear a tight-fitting tank top under my shirts).

But I know it looks a little funny, and there are times when I wish I had just a little bit of extra support.

I'm not looking for a sports bra (I'd prefer to avoid uniboob). Ideally, I'd like to find something simple (wrapping a piece of cloth around my chest in some particular way, perhaps?) and inexpensive.
posted by bubukaba to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (20 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
You might just need to get fitted. Most women find bras painful since they are simply wearing the wrong size. .. usually needing to go up a cup size and down a band size (i.e. You might be a 32DDD) The band should run the same height all around your body, not coming up in the back and the triangle between the cups should lay flat against your body.

You could also go the corset route and support from below.
posted by debbie_ann at 1:55 PM on August 4, 2009

Why not experiment with fabric tying on your own? Personally, I don't think this would work well for supporting a large chest and it might be hard to avoid the uniboob. I 2nd debbie in getting fitted. It will be more uncomfortable at first because you won't be used to such a tight band but after a few days you won't be able to go back to the 36D. I went down 3 band sizes and up 2 cup sizes.
posted by Bunglegirl at 2:00 PM on August 4, 2009

I find camisoles much more comfortable than bras, but I'm endowed with B-cups that don't need much support--just coverage. Perhaps you'd like something like this? It might give you the shape you're looking for that plain tank tops don't.
posted by eiramazile at 2:02 PM on August 4, 2009

I would suggest first going to get measured by an experienced person in the lingerie section of a department store OR a specialist lingerie store; if that does not work here is the ancient Roman strophium. To be honest, breast support has been happening for awhile so there are plenty of alternatives but I think that better engineering goes to a well fitted brassiere.
posted by jadepearl at 2:11 PM on August 4, 2009

American Apparel has a lot of bras that barely qualify as bras. I find them pretty comfortable when I'm grudgingly keeping my nips from poking people's eyes out.
posted by Juliet Banana at 2:56 PM on August 4, 2009 [1 favorite]

decent exposures has sports-bra-type bras that avoid the uniboob. comfy, and available in a couple of different fabrics.
posted by rmd1023 at 2:58 PM on August 4, 2009 [1 favorite]

seconding Decent Exposures (their tank plus 'unbra' combo is awesome).
posted by rumposinc at 3:09 PM on August 4, 2009

Get properly fitted for a bra. Alternatively, find a good costumer and have them build you a corset -- a proper supportive one, that is, not a costume or fetish Victorian-excess one. Women have been wearing corsets in some form since at least the 1400s, and there is documentation for tightly laced underdresses from before then. (AFAICT, historically, most cultures accepted sagging boobs or the unibosom look.) Really, the only way to avoid the unibosom look is to wear a contemporary bra or a corset.

One Hanes Place has a decent assortment of "leisure bras" that might work, but really, get fitted first. It will make a lot of difference. Also, realise that what size fits you will vary from brand to brand and style to style, so learn what a properly fitted bra looks like when it's on.
posted by jlkr at 3:11 PM on August 4, 2009

I have been wearing bras from Decent Exposures for going on 20 years. They will help you figure out fit, make alterations as needed, and generally provide a high-quality comfortable bra. The support and shaping is not what you'll get from an "engineered" bra, but if you're just looking for something for a little extra support, they might very well have something for you.
posted by not that girl at 3:12 PM on August 4, 2009

"...It will be more uncomfortable at first because you won't be used to such a tight band..."

I've been fitted and I say the hell with it. Sorry, all that smaller-band-size, larger-cup-size is bollocks. A tight band in a tropical climate is torture. If you've been going braless, try a negligee bra (on preview, a "leisure" bra aka sleep bra)
posted by TWinbrook8 at 3:19 PM on August 4, 2009

Response by poster: I've been fitted (hence the switch from 36D to 34DD), but haven't had much luck. And I just don't like bras that much, aesthetically.
posted by bubukaba at 3:44 PM on August 4, 2009

I don't mean to be one of those, 'Can someone recommend Italian recipes featuring veal?' 'Have you considered becoming a vegetarian? It's much healthier.' AskMe answerers, but I got a lot of help and some awesome Wacoal bras out of this thread I posted last week.

As far as alternatives, if you've got serious boobs (they do the NYT crossword in pen?) all you have to go with is compression unless you want to make a bra-ish shirt out of plastic or something.

Title Nine has a great reputation for sports bras. I've never bought from them, but they have really comfortable looking bras.

Really, I spent the money and I bought the recommended brand, having been sized professionally, and got bras that look and feel great.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 3:46 PM on August 4, 2009

Here's one of the ones I got that's especially comfortable.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 3:59 PM on August 4, 2009

Oh, and hey, they're calling it the Whoopi Goldberg bra.

So, there's that.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 4:02 PM on August 4, 2009

I've been fitted (hence the switch from 36D to 34DD), but haven't had much luck. And I just don't like bras that much, aesthetically.

Well, the problem with what you're asking is that modern clothes are cut in ways that assume that your breasts will be positioned in an upright, locked position. This can only be achieved by the use of bras or corsets.

How about wearing one of the leisure style bras mentioned above? They don't have much of a bra feel, and they will provide some support.

However, as one woman with large breasts to another, I am amazed that you feel the most comfortable while braless. Bralessness = pain for me, and I'm glad that it doesn't for you.
posted by crankylex at 6:07 PM on August 4, 2009

As crankylex says, you can't really wear a strophium under modern clothes, because it has a big ol' knot in it which would ruin the fit of your nice blouse.

So your choices are: corsets; bras; sports bras; leisure bras; support camisoles and tees; and breast binders (also "traditional" breast binders).

"Wrapping a piece of cloth around your chest" is going to be uniboob city under clothes, even more so than an actual breast binder, let alone a sports bra.

So if you're not going for the uniboob or non-boob look, I recommend the support camisole.
posted by Sidhedevil at 6:35 PM on August 4, 2009 [1 favorite]

uniqlo bra tops? not sure if they are large enough for your bust size...
posted by sardonicsmile at 6:36 PM on August 4, 2009

When I tend to think of non-bra, bindy type things, I tend to think 'bandeau.' Wikipedia would have you know that bandeau is a broad term that also encompasses bras, but there are things in the bandeau fold (so to speak) that aren't bras.

There are, for example, all kinds of weird not exactly bra things on this page (I searched for 'bandeau' in Google, and ignored the bikinis).

At the very least, it's another search term for you to explore in your search for alternatives.
posted by librarylis at 9:31 PM on August 4, 2009

Wacoal, I am wearing one now. I hate bras, they usually hurt. But this one is supportive and comfortable. You can get them cheaper on sale or at outlet stores like Ross. I am a 36 D. I have found that the tighter band and larger cup works best for support and comfort.
posted by fifilaru at 11:10 PM on August 4, 2009

I've been fitted and I say the hell with it. Sorry, all that smaller-band-size, larger-cup-size is bollocks. A tight band in a tropical climate is torture.

I agree, it can be torturous in a hot climate. However, walking around with large breasts and no bra is pretty torturous too. Its a trade-off in my opinion. I was surprised that someone with a d-cup would consider anything like a cami or tank top, especially since she's trying to avoid uniboob. I really hope someone comes by here with a magical contraption that feels like you're wearing no bra, supports enough to keep anyone from getting hurt and that doesn't cause uniboob. OP if you find the holy grail keep us updated.
posted by Bunglegirl at 7:02 AM on August 5, 2009 [1 favorite]

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