Bras for dummies?
August 15, 2009 3:23 PM   Subscribe

Hi, my sister is confused about bras. I am female, but I can't help her because my mom wasn't born in America and she doesn't wear bras (her breasts are tiny). I wear Barely There bras. She's looking for suggestions on bras with minimal padding and pretty plain.

My sister was fitted at Victoria's Secret and was apparently a 34A. She tried on a bunch of bras there but didn't like them because they made her breasts look "big and pointy." Is that normal? She felt like there was too much padding, as if she were wearing "breastplate" armor. She's pretty conservative and isn't into looking "sexy." She doesn't like lacy stuff or similar frills.

Can anyone recommend bras that don't have too much padding and are pretty plain? Also, she doesn't like bras that show through t-shirts. Is it weird to want this kind of bra?

I don't know much about bras either and would be interested in hear opinions.
posted by qmechanic to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (26 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
Maybe a sports bra? They pretty much just hold you in flat, with no padding. But they have all the benefits of bras (ie, no nipples showing through your clothes).
posted by lesli212 at 3:25 PM on August 15, 2009 [1 favorite]

Gap usually has some nice bras but looking online it seems like most of them in that size have padding. Not sure if you'd do better at a body by gap store, but I own several that are plain t-shirt material (this is also good for not showing through since they aren't formed out of thick padding cup material).

Otherwise, Target has a huge selection of bras and that is where I do most of my shopping.

In general I'd avoid all "lingerie stores" because those tend to be made out of formed material, scratchy lace, and have padding for all A/B cups.

I think a sports bra is a terrible suggestion (they definitely show through pretty much any shirt, squish boobs together, are generally not comfortable for extended wear) and if wearing no bra is comfortable, would reccomend an undershirt. Victoria's secret does have a great selection of "shelf bra" camisoles and undershirts.
posted by shownomercy at 3:34 PM on August 15, 2009

Victoria's Secret is going to have a lot of foofy bras and bras with padding. Women with smaller breasts often get nudged towards padded bras but there are many bras you can find that are not like this at all. Title Nine does have a lot of good plain bras that are nominally sports bras but decent, unpadded and more for support than fanciness or features. Target sells some nice unpadded bras that are normalish and pretty bare bones.

She may want to think about whether she wants underwire or not. Not necessary with a 34A but maybe helpful. As for "doesn't show through t-shirts" I'm not sure what she means, but it's pretty easy to get a smooth bra that will not show through but people will probably know if she's wearing a bra [if she's 14 this may be a concern; if she's an adult, it's probably not what she means] but a bra with simple fabric shouldn't show up much.
posted by jessamyn at 3:35 PM on August 15, 2009

I have a couple of these and I like them. They are plain and completely non-padded -- they're made out of jersey (t-shirt fabric). I like the sports bra suggestion above, but (in my opinion) sometimes those can be a little too prominent with the wide straps and coverage in the back and such. Something like this might be worth trying too.
posted by kitty teeth at 3:37 PM on August 15, 2009 [1 favorite]

Great selection, from sports to demure to hooker, here at Fresh Pair. Also, if there is a department store like Macy's in your town, try the selection there: they will have a wider choice of styles than often trashy VS.
posted by CunningLinguist at 3:37 PM on August 15, 2009 [1 favorite]

Just go to a normal department store's lingerie section. There are tons there with minimal frill. It's where I usually shop and I'm a no frill, no underwire sort of girl myself.
posted by katers890 at 3:39 PM on August 15, 2009 [1 favorite]

Try the Playtex "Thank Goodness It Fits" line - you can find it at any department store and it is specifically for women who wear A/B. There are usually lots of good, reasonably priced basic styles without extreme padding.

Lulalu is also a great site for browsing petite sized bras.

If she doesn't want any padding at all, Honeydew and American Apparel also make some nice options, though with minimal nipple coverage.
posted by susanvance at 3:45 PM on August 15, 2009 [1 favorite]

Step One: Never walk into the horror that is Victoria's Secret again.

Step Two: Get your sister to a Nordstrom lingerie department, get her measured and fitted. They will hook you up with exactly what you want and loads of technical information. You can learn along with your sister!

I have really large breasts and a number of problems that come from it, but my best friend growing up had very small breasts, and, we discovered, a lot of problems too. They were all helped wonderfully by an enthusiastic older woman who ran the Nordstrom lingerie department in our hometown. Yes, it costs more, but not much more than Victoria's Secret, and you get informed customer service, a wider variety of options, and utility and comfort are prized far more over flashy colors and pushup padding.

Once you've been really measured and tried on different brands at the department store, you can take notes home and do online shopping, if you want to try to find some deals. It's much easier to do this with smaller bra sizes than large.
posted by Mizu at 3:57 PM on August 15, 2009 [9 favorites]

Sloggi pretty much fit your criteria, and are awesome. Also, Gap have great bras.
posted by alon at 4:00 PM on August 15, 2009

Calvin Klein and Jockey both make simple knit cotton bras with no padding.
posted by Sidhedevil at 4:09 PM on August 15, 2009

I buy pretty much all of my bras from Target. They're mad cheap and they come in both basic colors and a rotating selection of fun colors. You should probably tell her to go to a Nordstrom or other nice department store and get fitted there, and then take that knowledge and try on some bras at Target. If the Target bras don't fit, Calvin Klein and Gap also make plain bras. I've also found some inexpensive plain bras at Kohl's.
posted by MadamM at 4:21 PM on August 15, 2009

it feels like i always chime in on bra-related threads to suggest decent exposures, but they make a great product and have fabulous customer service. not cheap, but durable.
posted by rmd1023 at 4:27 PM on August 15, 2009

Here's an example of a Jockey cotton no-wire bra. My aunt, who is small-breasted, wears bras similar to these (has for years; she calls them "bra things") and finds them much more comfortable than anything with padding or underwire.
posted by ocherdraco at 4:28 PM on August 15, 2009

I think she wants what are often called t-shirt bras (scroll down the page for explanation). Some are lightly padded, but others less so. They all tend towards no frills, smooth and comfortable, low visibility through clothing. Here's an example.

Also seconding the suggestion to go to Nordstrom or another upmarket department store for a fitting. Then check the sale rack for bargains, go home and look online for more.
posted by Joh at 4:59 PM on August 15, 2009 [1 favorite]

I'm just going to nth everybody else who recommend a department store lingerie section for proper fitting and selection. Some other pointers (when I say "you" I mean your sister):

- In the department store (which doesn't have to be high-end, but it helps, because typically the saleswomen work on a commission or at least have a sales goal, so they're motivated to not only make a successful sale but to create a returning customer): find the oldest saleswoman you can to do the fitting. They've seen it all, they don't necessarily care about trends, and they know what they're doing.

- For frack's sake, if you don't want padding then don't buy anything with padding.

- Good brands typically are: Bali, Warner's, Maidenform - they have withstood the tests of time. A smooth cup won't show through shirts, so avoid anything overly lacy.

- You may or may not be able to duplicate your results in a box store. I've had so-so luck finding a decent fitting bra at Target, for example. The quality control just isn't there; you can look at the sizes but if you buy 3 bras of the same style and marked size they will all fit differently. However I'm a much larger size than your sister (36 C), so that might be a factor.

Good luck!
posted by contessa at 5:07 PM on August 15, 2009

A suggestion-I have found that beige bras are less likely to be noticeable through clothing. Naturally this may depend on what your natural coloring is but at least for Caucasian and lighter skinned people this seems to work.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 5:18 PM on August 15, 2009 [1 favorite]

Thanks for all the great replies! My sister was skeptical when I told her about Metafilter but she told me that there were "quite a few good answers" here. She was hoping that Metafites could write her thesis for her, next time. Just kidding!
posted by qmechanic at 5:24 PM on August 15, 2009

I'm a 34A and I practically live in Gap T-shirt bras. They're plain, very comfortable (I wear the wireless and underwire versions), and have very little padding (just enough for a little shaping).
posted by scody at 5:24 PM on August 15, 2009

I like the Gilligan O'Malley unpadded bra listed above. I'm larger chested than your sis, but still find those to be supportive, but not too much padding/thickness. They are thick enough to keep your nipples from showing, though. Victoria's Secret does have a similar bra that I used to own but I'm sure it's more expensive.
posted by ishotjr at 5:46 PM on August 15, 2009

I'm late to the game here, but if she's particularly concerned about her breasts being conspicious and she lives in a cooler climate, she shouldn't be scared of padding. Light padding is a good way to avoid conspicuous nipple-age. She should try to look for bras that are marketed as "natural cup" so that she doesn't get the overly-padded effect.
posted by thisjax at 6:06 PM on August 15, 2009

Don't throw the baby out with the bathwater -- has lots of plain unlined (or "lightly lined" -- which is light compared to the styrofoam-tit-armour so popular nowadays, but it is still a thin layer of foam and not a fabric lining as one might think) bras; check in particular the "VS Cotton" for plain styles.

The suggestion for beige is a good one. Avoid seams of any sort on the cup, but it sounds like she would've done that anyway...

Re. "big and pointy" -- I can see the 'styrofoam tit-armour' sort of bra under a t-shirt a mile away. Perhaps there are really nice ones that do work and I'm not seeing those ones. But the ones I do see say 'HEY, HERE IS A PADDED BRA!' I'll risk the odd evidence that I have nipples and stick with the unlined... She should mull over what sort of non-conspicuous she prefers.
posted by kmennie at 6:30 PM on August 15, 2009

Ugh, I'm a 36A and I hate victoria's secret bras- they just don't fit right and look all lumpy. I agree with the recommendations for Gap t-shirt bra, Gillian O'Malley (you can get them at Target for cheap!), and Calvin Klein.
I prefer lined or lightly-padded bras to totally unlined, though- they prevent the "nipping out" phenomenon completely.
posted by emd3737 at 7:02 PM on August 15, 2009

These ones from American Apparel are very very comfortable. I never buy any bra with a wire. Ugh.
posted by Flying Squirrel at 8:46 PM on August 15, 2009

36A here and reasonably satisfied with the Playtex Thank Goodness It Fits, as bought from Lula Lu. (Only reasonably satisfied because I'm currently wearing a 36A, and I think I really need a 36nearlyA.) Also the Timpa Duet bra — surprisingly comfortable for an underwire and quite attractive.
posted by Lexica at 9:09 PM on August 15, 2009

I've had good luck with Warner. This one is lined but a very plain/minimal style, no lines, no wires, and comes in beige, and looks good under T shirts.
posted by gudrun at 11:43 PM on August 15, 2009

I used to work in an old-fashioned department store in the lingerie section. I second the person who said to try the lingerie section in a store like Nordstroms or whatever nicer department stores there are where your sister lives. For her size the Jockey bra someone recommended would be good. We had many light, unpadded bras in smaller sizes and they were very popular with younger women. The saleswomen will be glad to fit her and bring in the kind of bras she likes to try on. Good luck!

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posted by hexatron at 7:41 AM on August 16, 2009

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