I used to sell lingerie, so this should be easy, right?
August 25, 2009 1:27 PM   Subscribe

Suggestions for a strapless bra for a smaller-chested lady?

I've finally had it with my strapless bra. It's fine for wearing to work under a tank top, but I've got several weddings to attend next month and I'd like to find something that I'm not going to end up fiddling with all day long.

My problem is that I'm on the smaller side of things [34B on a good day] and the majority of strapless bras that I've found -- including my current bra, one of those multi-way, convertible jobs from Victoria's Secret -- are kind of huge on me. They cover so much area vertically that the girls are pretty much completely encased from top to bottom and I end up worrying about the top of the bra peeking out from the top of whatever I'm wearing. [I've been fitted several times, so I'm fairly certain that I'm not wearing a ridiculously inaccurate size.]

Can you suggest any brands or styles [or stores, even] that I should try? Thanks!
posted by alynnk to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (21 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Have you tried a demi or a balconette bra?
posted by iconomy at 1:35 PM on August 25, 2009

As someone with the opposite problem, I'm wondering why you're even bothering with a bra at all? Isn't that one of the wonderful things I'm missing out on by not having small breasts?
posted by booknerd at 1:47 PM on August 25, 2009

Are you sure you even need a strapless bra? It'll depend on the outfit you wear, but sometimes it's better just to let the girls hang free with more formal clothing, as long as you're smallish (you're about the same size as me, and I do this all the time).

Alternatively, I've heard it's possible to create your own invisible strapless "bra" with medical tape. Maybe someone who's done this will be able to elaborate.
posted by oinopaponton at 1:49 PM on August 25, 2009 [1 favorite]

I've actually had the most luck with just taking the straps off convertible bras, since they tend to have less surface area. Bandeau bras are just going to encase & smoosh, as you know.

Unfortunately, I've grown (!! what!?) so there is danger of pop-out & the underwire is working its way out of my current strapless (which I'm wearing at the moment, funny fact!) so we are in the same bra boat.
posted by opossumnus at 1:50 PM on August 25, 2009

Best answer: I have the same issues with strapless bras. I use what's called a strapless longline bra, which is like a corset, but more about comfort and support and less about the sexy sexy sexy. I always get ones with light boning because it shifts the burden of supporting the rack to my hips. They aren't the best choice on hot summer days, but they're a great solution for something to wear under a formal dress, especially one with a low-cut back.

I have one similar to this.
posted by Alison at 2:02 PM on August 25, 2009

Best answer: One option might be to have your dresses tailored to be worn without a bra. You can wear breast petals or those larger glue-on StayKups to avoid nipples poking through the fabric.

Otherwise, I'd try the lingerie department at a nice department store (I'd recommend Nordstrom) and try on everything remotely matching your criteria: different amounts of padding, convertible or strapless, underwire balconette styles, little un-lined bras; etc. I like Nordstrom's personal shoppers (free), as well as their general sales staff when I've run out of my own ideas--in my experience they're helpful, well-trained, and super-motivated to help you (they're on commission) without being especially pushy.
posted by Meg_Murry at 2:04 PM on August 25, 2009

Where are you getting fitted? If it's at Victoria Secret, I'd go instead to a proper lingerie shop and get fitted or even a department store (but you'd get the most accurate fit at a specialty shop).
posted by pised at 2:19 PM on August 25, 2009

Lula Lu has great bras for small-chested women if you're willing to lay down some dough.
posted by lilac girl at 2:38 PM on August 25, 2009

lilac girl, it looks like most of Lula Lu's stuff is for *really* small-breasted women. The OP is a small B, I think.

I'm about that size, myself, and I've gone braless with the adhesive cups for nipple issues in formal wear. Worked fine for me.
posted by katillathehun at 2:56 PM on August 25, 2009

Best answer: Calvin Klein makes a seamless convertible bra that is available in B cup and comes in beige and black (possibly other colors). I've purchased it at Nordstrom. It can be worn strapless, one-shoulder, halter and racerback. It doesn't show up at the top of the strapless tops that I've seen... but is that photo what you would consider too much coverage?

Gilly Hicks also specializes in smaller cups.
posted by pineapple at 3:04 PM on August 25, 2009

I'm an A, which makes strapless impossible. Pasties or those stick-on cups will take care of nipples showing, but a thicker and darker fabric eliminates the need for even those most of the time. Even tape works.

A bandeau might also work... if you don't mind the squishing effect.
posted by caveat at 3:17 PM on August 25, 2009

As someone with the opposite problem, I'm wondering why you're even bothering with a bra at all? Isn't that one of the wonderful things I'm missing out on by not having small breasts?

I'm an A-cup, and I'll never go without a bra in public. Mostly because even small breasts need a little shape and lift (particularly to fit well in closely cut blouses and dresses), but also partially because I never got over being freaked out when I went braless to work one day about 20 years ago and several male coworkers thought it was perfectly cool to come up and poke at my nipples through my t-shirt.
posted by scody at 3:19 PM on August 25, 2009 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Not sure if you can get it in the States but I recently tried on the Wonderbra Ultimate (out of curiosity after seeing the advert!) and it is very cool indeed. I did the jumping up and down test in the changing room and everything stayed in place quite impressively.
posted by hibbersk at 3:30 PM on August 25, 2009

If you have a Nordstrom near you, they have great salespeople in the lingerie dept who will help you find the right bra. It won't be cheap but it will be worth it.

If you have an item of clothing that gives some support but you don't want to go totally braless (I don't understand how anyone does this), I've had success with those weird sticky non-bra things. It feels weird when you put it on but if your top is tight you forget about it in a few minutes.
posted by radioamy at 4:51 PM on August 25, 2009

Best answer: On the advice of AskMeFites, I also use the chicken-cutlet bra under nicer dresses where I want some nipple coverage but no straps. Surprisingly awesome. The fact that the cups hook together in front gives you some cleavage control, too.
posted by desuetude at 6:19 PM on August 25, 2009

No matter what size you think you are, try on a variety and check bras for their fit on you specifically - Victoria's Secret has (twice) said I'm a 36B, but pretty much everything in that size ends up being loose and wrinkly on me. (I wish 38A's weren't such a pain to find).

Breasts come in different shapes and sizes - you may have slightly narrower ones that need a deeper cup but not as much coverage. So try a lot of different types and sizes and brands.

For smaller cup sizes in particular, I don't know what to recommend to you - I got some of my favorite, cutest convertible bras from a department store in China, where almost the entire bra dept was A's and B's. But I recognize that's not a solution for most people. So I'd go with the Nordstrom option or another similar store - once you've found a bra that fits and that you like, you can look online or at other stores for similar ones that aren't necessarily at the Nordstrom price.
posted by Lady Li at 6:33 PM on August 25, 2009

Best answer: i find victoria secrets to be sized larger than average. maidenform tends to be great for smaller chested women. this one in particular has been very reliable.
posted by cranberryskies at 7:11 PM on August 25, 2009

Best answer: Seconding the Chicken Cutlets! - those lovely stick-on silicone breasts. One of my greatest dream is to be left overnight in the lingerie department of a Taiwanese department store (All those pretty comfortable a-cup bras!!! And no sales assistant to sneer "have you considered a.... specialty store for the difficultly endowed?") but until that glorious day, chicken cutlets will continue to be my best friends on all occasions where straps can't show.
posted by tabubilgirl at 11:57 PM on August 25, 2009

If you're perky enough you can get some nipple stickers. Better than band-aids because they have smooth edges. I usually find them at like Nordstrom's in the bra department. The last ones I got were shaped like daisies. :P

The thing I don't like about the sticky strapless backless ones are that if you are going out dancing and you sweat, they will lose their sticking power.
posted by like_neon at 1:46 AM on August 26, 2009

Response by poster: Have you tried a demi or a balconette bra?

I have, and I think a strapless demi would be ideal [my 'regular' bras are mostly demis], but I'm having a hard time finding one.

As someone with the opposite problem, I'm wondering why you're even bothering with a bra at all?

scody nailed it: shape and lift. There's also the added bonus of being able to better fill out certain tops.

desuetude and tabubilgirl, I've been looking at those cutlet bras for a little while now with a little bit of fascination, I might have to give one a try.

It's been a while since I've been to Nordstrom's lingerie department, but it sounds like it's time to go back. Thanks, everyone!
posted by alynnk at 7:41 AM on August 26, 2009

Response by poster: Just wanted to stop back and add that I've purchased two bras from NuBra [an original and a feather-lite] on the advice in desuetude's thread, and having worn them on several occasions, I have to say that they're wonderful!
posted by alynnk at 12:17 PM on September 25, 2009

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