Yup, I have nipples. Big deal.
January 25, 2014 3:31 PM   Subscribe

I am looking for a bra that is (a) unpadded, ie not just without weird foam cups, but entirely unlined, as in, just a thin layer of fabric (this is a must!) and (b) possibly cotton and without an underwire (those two are negotiable). I wear a size 34 D or 36 C, depending on brand. Not expecting to spend more than $25. I haven't been able to find anything like this in my size.

The last 3 years I was wearing these cheapo Walmart nursing bras and they were awesome - all cotton, no wire, no lining, $7.50 a piece - what's not to like!? Now that I'm more or less done with breastfeeding, I need something similar, just without the nursing "flaps".
I do NOT need a lot of support, I don't need "minimizer", super wide straps, or weird breast-plate like memory foam push-up contraptions. I also don't want uniboob shelf bra thingies. No "lingerie" type lacy romantic stuff. No Victoria's Secret, ugh. Just a plain unlined bra, cotton - or nylon, if need be -, in plain colors (black, white, nude). I have not been able to find one. As an aside/explanation - I'm from Europe, where I never had problems finding this type of bra from a dozen different brands and in my size, but it seems wildly unpopular in the US, especially for D cups. I think I could make the C work for a brand that skews large or stretches out, maybe. Hope me? Online shopping vastly preferred, because if I can't order it online, I'll probably just skip bras entirely and become an old hippie lady!
posted by The Toad to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (32 answers total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
These are going to be over $25, but I would recommend setting up an account and giving True and Co. a spin. You take a quiz about your previous bra fits and they then recommend some bras that should fit -- and you can try on a bunch through the mail for free. (You could also just do the quiz and see if they recommend anything suitable without ordering.)

Gap also has nice wireless bras in my small-boobed experience.
posted by thirdletter at 3:45 PM on January 25, 2014 [1 favorite]

I like this bra from Moving Comfort which Title 9 sells as their 24-7 Bra. They are slightly pricier than you are hoping, but they last for years.
posted by hydropsyche at 3:47 PM on January 25, 2014

True and Co. hardcore overprices their bras. It's nice to do the home try-on and then buy one, but once I found a bra I liked, I bought them from Amazon because they were almost $10 cheaper.

My favorite all time most comfortable bra is this. I also hate padding and lining.
posted by ancient star at 3:52 PM on January 25, 2014

Decent Exposures are also more than $25, but they make cotton bras to order.
posted by brujita at 3:53 PM on January 25, 2014

I used to wear these exclusively...single layer of fabric/two very thin layers but no padding whatsoever, no wire, pretty much no support really. I'm surprised you haven't been finding them--unless there's been a lot of big changes in the last few years (and maybe there have been), I would think they should be cheaply and readily available at any budget retailer--Target, Wal*Mart, etc. Cheap no-name/store brands, in particular, and things marketed to younger girls, sold 3 to a hanger for not much money. I know they used to come in 36C (which I used to think fit me), but the ones I have remaining are so old the tags are completely washed out, so I can't recall the exact brands. I think Maidenform was one of them.
posted by spelunkingplato at 3:53 PM on January 25, 2014 [1 favorite]

It's not within your price range but both Calvin Klein and Elle MacPherson make sheer cup bras in both sizes you mentioned. They will run anywhere from $40-$55.

I forget the name of the CK ones but the Elle MacPherson one is "Sheer Ribbons," I have half a dozen of them that are sadly too small these days but I got about 3-4 years of hard wearing out of them. They were well worth the price.
posted by elizardbits at 3:54 PM on January 25, 2014 [2 favorites]

Decent exposures are pricey, but they're really comfy and well made and last forever. They're the only bras I wear, now.
posted by rmd1023 at 3:55 PM on January 25, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: The Bali 'smart size Comfort Revolution' is nylon and technically two layers of fabric, but otherwise fits your requirements. Super comfy, and I'm a 34DD. Doesn't give the full uniboob that comes with most sportsbras. I suggest going on the smaller size of the range, eg, a small.

Also, way less than $25. Like, $13 at Kohl's. They're cheaper at the outlet store, too.

There are a few listed on herroom.com under the cotton tag that seem to fit your wants, but I have no experience with any of those.
posted by cobaltnine at 3:58 PM on January 25, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: lane bryant.

cotton full coverage, cotton demi, or cotton no-wire all meet your requirements. and they have your sizes. for being a fat lady store, they sure don't have fat lady bra sizes, which pisses me off all the time, and is why my bras are 6-8 years old and blah. but they have what you want, for just a tinch more than you want to spend. but they have sales and coupons and such.

edit: despite my rant, i do have experience with these, and they are comfy, if not sexy.
posted by misanthropicsarah at 4:03 PM on January 25, 2014

Another Bali smart size suggestion, this one the underwire version also from Kohl's. Hands down the most comfortable bra I've ever worn. After wearing it the first time, I went back and bought 5 more and haven't worn any but these from my drawer full of bras since. Made with nylon and spandex, but feels like stretchy cotton.
posted by cecic at 4:22 PM on January 25, 2014

Here's a link to Decent Exposures. The company was started by a woman who just wanted a simple bra that fit.
posted by mareli at 4:22 PM on January 25, 2014

Best answer: Also, in addition to cheapness (padding and underwire are more expensive, so cheapo bras = simple, as you found out with your Wal*Mart bra), you might have good luck looking for things that are marketed as "sleep bras," like these on Etsy. You're right, this does overlap a lot with nursing bras, like here.

Although, seriously. I may be misunderstanding what you're looking for, but I would think you should be able to find what you want easily if you lower where you look! Another search term would be "lightly lined;" brands like Hanes and Fruit of the Loom sell lots of them: here, here, here...it goes on. $7-$13. The difficulty might be finding the right size, as the selection is small and stereotypical; but if you can find a 36C (or tighter 38D, or larger-band+Rixie Clip combination) that works for you, that's pretty common.
posted by spelunkingplato at 4:25 PM on January 25, 2014

My wife seconds misanthropicsarah's lane bryant recommendation, she likes these ones, which I think matches your criteria.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 4:27 PM on January 25, 2014

Hey, so, Calvin Klein and Elle McPherson are both sold at TJMaxx. Have you combed the racks? I like what you like, and have no trouble finding the brand names, discounted, in the sizes you cite.

Also, no glam, but Jockey at $6.99. I also like Bare Necessities, and this $30 number is buy one, get the second half off.
posted by thinkpiece at 4:31 PM on January 25, 2014

The Bali one from Kohls is great.
posted by tamitang at 4:31 PM on January 25, 2014

I think the word "bralette" is what you're looking for:

posted by chesty_a_arthur at 4:35 PM on January 25, 2014

They are not sexy stuff, but the Playtex 18 hour bras that I've been buying for a bit now are no-underwire, the straps actually stay up for the first time in my life, and they're very minimalist. And cheap.
posted by Sequence at 4:37 PM on January 25, 2014 [1 favorite]

These have underwires, but are fabulous stretch cotton bras that last forever, and are dirt cheap at Wal*mart.
posted by QuakerMel at 5:37 PM on January 25, 2014

Hanro is one brand to check out- from Europe, they have a Us website, and Garnet Hill sells them. They are a lot more than $25.00 though.
posted by momochan at 6:52 PM on January 25, 2014

If you're near an Urban Outfitters, you can check out their bras. I've had success with this kind of thing there.
posted by little_dog_laughing at 7:04 PM on January 25, 2014

Nthing Bali - I get ones with underwire, but they have lots without. I get them at an outlet store for $20ish dollars.
posted by rtha at 7:20 PM on January 25, 2014

Fruit of the loom FTW. I like the strappy model 3-pack but also have the tank style and a couple of racer backs. They are cheap, long lasting, no wire and comfy.
posted by Cuke at 7:21 PM on January 25, 2014

I went through a phase where my demands were similar to yours (I have since entered a more professional realm and come to terms with underwires and hidden nipples), and I exclusively wore American Apparel bras. Specifically: these and these.

Personal tolerance for American Apparel obviously varies widely but in my opinion these bras are peerless for being good looking, absolutely unlined, non monoboob, affordable, etc etc.
posted by telegraph at 7:24 PM on January 25, 2014

I buy those cotton Fruit of the Loom bras that QuakerMel links to, and snip a tiny hole on the armpit side of the plushy fabric where the underwire ends and pull it out. Cotton bra, no underwire. I have other more foundation type bras for wearing under formal clothes, but for under a t-shirt at home and to the grocery store? Uh-uh, no pokey stuff for moi. Try it! They're cheap.
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 5:11 AM on January 26, 2014

First thing to do is properly size yourself. Most in-store fitters in the US are atrocious. 36C is for someone with a 36" underbust and a 39" bust. A 34D is for 34" underbust and 38" bust. As they are sister sizes, they hold an equivalent volume. If these are not close to your measurements, then you're not in the right size.

Go the measuring guide at Reddit's A Bra That Fits. You'll need to take 5 measurements.

Also take a look at the shape guides, because shape is just as important as size (wide root, narrow root, projected, shallow, full on top, full on bottom, splayed, wide set, close set, etc). Like most articles of clothing, just because it's in "your size" doesn't mean it's a good cut for your shape.

There's also a buying guide. I like Amazon, Nordstrom, and Asos because they have free shipping and free returns. Figleaves has a great selection, and although it's a UK site, their returns are shipped to a US warehouse, so not super-expensive. Once you find a size and bra you like, you can often find them on ebay for less.

Beige, White, and Black are called "continuity colors" in the nicer brands, so you can use that term when searching.
posted by melissasaurus at 8:12 AM on January 26, 2014 [3 favorites]

Have you tried looking for "nursing sleep bra" like these? Just because it says "nursing" on the tag does not mean you need to nurse. I find them very comfortable.
posted by jillithd at 8:26 AM on January 26, 2014

seconding telegraph's recommendation of the American Apparel cross-back bra. Those things are gold. And there are a few colors and patterns in their online sale right now.
posted by dizziest at 9:42 AM on January 26, 2014

I get these at Target: Playtex T630. Cotton cups, they have 2 layers of fabric but no padding, no underwire, they come in all the standard sizes.
posted by CathyG at 10:00 AM on January 26, 2014

I have the same requirements as you, though my cup size is smaller. I love love love this one. Unfortunately, it is a bit pricey ($36).
posted by redlines at 12:38 PM on January 26, 2014

Best answer: I, too, have the same requirements as you, but smaller size. I love this bra from American apparel. it's cheap and comfy (they have others with clasps that are more expensive). comes in S M L and lots of colors.
posted by sabh at 3:05 PM on January 26, 2014

Playtex 5204.
posted by tilde at 3:46 AM on January 27, 2014

Response by poster: Very helpful, thank you, everyone. I see that I have definitely overlooked some good options - I don't have time to comb the racks at TJ Maxx or so because I always have an easily bored toddler in tow...I think I will order some of the suggestions and see which one fits best. Yay!
posted by The Toad at 9:00 AM on January 28, 2014

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