Free the nipple?
May 29, 2020 8:31 PM   Subscribe

I am a very flat-chested ciswoman, with especially visible, protruding nipples. I want the comfort of going braless, with the modesty factor of nipple coverage. What bras, nipple covers, pasties, or other solutions should I try?

The best solution I've found so far is bralettes with "modesty pads," which offer nice shaping (making my breasts look like what I think breasts look like, instead of sort of just points on my chest) and nipple coverage. But they are often ill-fitting - I'm not that tiny in band size, but I can't fill any kind of cup and often have the "gap." For instance, a size XS bralette or bikini top might fit in the cup but I need a S to go around my ribcage and not make the flesh of my back and shoulder blades bulge out.

As I'm wrapping up month three of staying home and going into summertime, I'm starting to feel like all this form-fitting fabric and structure is just a pain and hassle, with no discernible purpose. I don't need any support at all, really. (Though I'm open to being convinced that bras will help prevent sagging as I age.) I'm starting to envy my husband, who can just put on a t-shirt and be done with it, and not have to have tight fabric wrapped around his torso, day in and day out. Camisoles with "shelf bras" do not conceal my nipples. Bralettes without any padding do not conceal my nipples. I guess I'm sort of imagining some lightweight, breathable, maybe even not-tight-fitting garment that has light padding over the nipples?

Please recommend bralettes that really feel like "next to nothing," but conceal my nipples. Or nipple-covering pasties that still let me feel breezy and unconstricted. Or, alternatively, convince me that I should keep wearing a bra.

Background: 38 years old, breastfed one child (for a long time), breasts have always been too small to fill normal bra cups, except during pregnancy and breastfeeding. Now they are smaller than before pregnancy. I probably wear a 34AA or 36AA but it really varies by brand and bra. Breast shape is concave above areola, convex underneath, with pointy nipples. I've done bra fitting at Nordstrom and specialty bra shops, but the bras they recommend are still too large in the cup if they fit in the band. I have one Pepper wire free bra - the cups and band actually fit but it still feels like too much engineering, support, and padding (not to mention expense), when there's really nothing there to lift/support. It kind of feels like I'm strapping faux breasts onto my flat chest.

I'm flexible on price. It seems silly to spend a lot on bras when I don't really need one, but I do like to feel pretty and femme and also comfortable.
posted by TrixieRamble to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (24 answers total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
I don't have any specific advice, but I DO have a recommendation for a place to find more help, if you don't get what you need from here... Try r/ABraThatFits.
posted by stormyteal at 9:26 PM on May 29, 2020 [3 favorites]

Have you tried a wraparound bra like this?
posted by mezzanayne at 9:28 PM on May 29, 2020 [1 favorite]

I'll be following as I'm in a similar boat. I'm very...pokey. I came in here to recommend the subreddit stormyteal linked above - this thread might have some options. Also mentioned in that thread is the suggestion of ordering custom bralettes from Etsy.
posted by stray at 9:31 PM on May 29, 2020 [1 favorite]

I was bra free for about 2 years and then got a job where that became a less viable option. I am somewhere between a 32 or 34 less than A. I don't do underwires, those weird bathing suit style cups that just crinkle up, or anything that costs more than $20. I really like Maidenform training bras from Target. They have a molded cup, pullover style that I buy in girls L or XL. I think they are the Self Expressions line. They are super comfy, machine washable, and give all of the nipple coverage. And they cost about 9 bucks each. Other than not having hooks in the back, they look like basic bras.
posted by August Fury at 9:34 PM on May 29, 2020 [2 favorites]

Try a bra that fits in the cup area, and use a bra extender (example) on the too-short band?
posted by Iris Gambol at 9:44 PM on May 29, 2020 [1 favorite]

You might look into bras from True and co. The one I have has padding in the cups, but more or less feels like I’m wearing nothing.
posted by Maeve at 9:53 PM on May 29, 2020 [3 favorites]

I am shaped differently than you but often wear a tight undershirt or tank top instead of a bra. When I’m concerned about nipple visibility, I wear silicone nipple covers I got at target, NOT the self adhesive ones (those feel very strange and have an unflattering shape). The undershirt holds them in place just fine.
posted by mismatched at 10:17 PM on May 29, 2020 [1 favorite]

I eventually decided that my protruding nipples fall in the same category as hairy armpits or hairy legs. Or glasses instead of contacts. Or not wearing makeup. If society wants to judge my body, it's not my problem.

My solution may or may not work in your situation, but it works for me.
posted by aniola at 10:19 PM on May 29, 2020 [16 favorites]

I like these things:

You take them off and wash them with soap and water and air-dry, and they get sticky again. I used mine for a few years before they started to lose their stickiness (I wasn’t wearing them every single day though). They never hurt when peeling them off and I’ve never had any “oops there goes my pasty” moments, they stick on well. The edges are tapered down, so they give me weird ultra-smooth mannequin boobs when applied and don’t show a seam around the edges. My boob shape and sweatiness level is different than yours, though, so YMMV.

But yeah, I went for decades wearing horrible strapless bras or having my straps show under spaghetti strap camis/dresses and this was a game-changer for me.
posted by music for skeletons at 10:21 PM on May 29, 2020 [2 favorites]

This DKNY sports bra is great - cotton, breathable, has light removable pads, very comfortable. It stands out from others because it has the normal hook system in the back so you don’t have to contort yourself to get it on. It’s been sold at Costco for many years (Was there last time I went but you may have to check your local store) or find it online.
posted by hampanda at 11:13 PM on May 29, 2020

Have you gotten a bra fitting at a store that stocks European/Japanese bras? There reached a point when my life-long size 34B wasn't fitting anymore, but when I finally went for a bra-fitting at a company that stocked lingerie from around the world they put me in a French bra, which unlike American bras comes in more and more precise sizes, and is not prefabricated in that weirdly shaped way that's been dominant for years now. Anyway, nowadays when I look for a bra, I get one in 30DDD. Problem solved.
posted by Puppetry for Privacy at 12:32 AM on May 30, 2020 [1 favorite]

My go to are lululemon bras, which do well in covering protruding nipples. I also get "the gap" but not with their bras, and this one is especially comfy.
posted by stinker at 1:30 AM on May 30, 2020

Or forget the bra and look for short sleeve shirts 100% cotton seersucker, a cotton/linen blend or all linen (wrinkly) . The crisp fabrics are much cooler than tanks or tees and don't cling which is great for comfort and modesty. Two pockets are even better cover and very convenient if they are large enough for glasses, etc. but avoid anything with rayon or nylon which add drape, exactly what you don't want.
posted by Botanizer at 3:48 AM on May 30, 2020 [7 favorites]

Though I'm open to being convinced that bras will help prevent sagging as I age.

I suspect that bras conceal sagging as much as anything else. Most Western women wear bras all day long, and the evidence is that it doesn't prevent all sagging. You can always wear a bra in future if you decide you prefer the look it gives.
posted by plonkee at 4:43 AM on May 30, 2020 [1 favorite]

Try this one from Jockey. It’s very stretchy and the cup part is substantial enough to mostly smooth out nipples even without the included pads.
posted by lakeroon at 6:26 AM on May 30, 2020

I like the bras from True and Co too. I like a no bra feel and have a small cup and a big band size. They're thin, comfy, stretchy and cover the nips. You can take the padding out and it's almost like wearing nothing.
posted by starlybri at 8:52 AM on May 30, 2020 [1 favorite]

Silicon pasties for sure. I find even padded bras don't hide nipple protrusion (and fuck bras forever) but the silicon covers are great and stay even when super sweaty. I like Bristols 6 nippies. I buy five at a time and replace every 4-5 years.
posted by (Over) Thinking at 10:42 AM on May 30, 2020

My go-to solutions are waistcoats in a good thick heavy fabric like denim. These can look great over a short-sleeved or sleeveless tee-shirt, or with nothing underneath if you want to go more rock-n-roll. Alternatively, loose tops (A-line, with enough fabric to kind of fall in folds/gathers) in dark, bold contrasty prints that run plenty of interference. Go for crisp woven cotton or linen. Avoid jersey.
posted by Grunyon at 2:02 PM on May 30, 2020

Either the TomboyX Ruched Bralette (scroll down to the third photo) or the TomboyX Essentials Soft Bra might work for you. (All commentary on these bras is from an informative review by Lingerie Addict columnist Shannon, to which I also refer in this comment.)

According to the size chart, I'm guessing that you'd wear an S in TomboyX bras, but reviewers, including but not limited to Shannon, seem to be more comfortable if they go up one size from the chart-suggested one. (I'd hate to mislead you! Please don't take my word for it. If you decide to pursue this option, contact TomboyX customer service, which gets very good reviews.)

Each is a pullover bra that is made of thick, opaque, soft organic cotton (5% Spandex), has elastic that doesn't roll, and is true to size. The double lining on the front panel offers more comfort and support.

The Essentials Soft Bra
is straight-up more comfy but provides no lift, just gentle hold.

The Ruched Bralette isn't quite as cozy, but it has adjustable straps (which the Soft Bra doesn't) and the fabric is gathered in the middle, helping to prevent uniboob.

And for those who are transitioning, recovering from a mastectomy or looking to prevent nipple protrusion, the Ruched Bralette's Next Gen Black and Next Gen Iron colorways are sold with removable inserts that can be swapped for pads or breast forms.

The Soft Bra and the Ruched Bralette cost $32 apiece. The Essentials Soft Bra is $58 for a three-pack. The Adaptable Ruched Bralette (sold in white or as an $89 three-pack of black, white and charcoal gray), also includes pockets for inserts, pads or breast forms, but TomboyX sells the inserts separately ($5 per pair).
posted by virago at 3:49 PM on May 30, 2020

Uniqlo has a "bra top" line of apparel with built-in bra padding, which I've found to be a good balance between comfortable braless feel and coverage/support.
posted by hellopanda at 8:54 PM on May 30, 2020

Seconding the Uniqlo bra top line (especially the Airism ones) IF you can find a size that fits. (I have the opposite problem you face, in that the cup will be too small if I get a band that's snug enough to support my chest.) They have some with adjustable straps as well, which I prefer as a very short woman.
posted by LoonyLovegood at 1:22 AM on May 31, 2020

Unless you buy pads the Tomboyx bras are unlikely to work for you. I wear them as my only bras and my nipples show unless I wear pads underneath. I prefer cloth modesty pads but my wife likes silicone sticky ones like the ones recommended earlier in the thread. I've worn them and they are pretty great, they don't sweat off and they are reusable and very comfortable. I just like cloth bra inserts better. My inserts and the silicone ones came from Amazon.
posted by possibilityleft at 10:49 AM on May 31, 2020

Thanks for the input, possibilityleft. I have recommended TomboyX several times on AskMe recently and I was wondering what people's experience was like with the inserts. (I wear a 36F and have seriously been considering the Crossover Soft Bra.)

It's good to know that you can buy cloth inserts. I bet that crafty people (of whom I am definitely not one) could make their own. In any case, they sound more appealing than the foam inserts sold with some colorways of the Ruched Bralette, or separately from TomboyX's pocketed bras.
posted by virago at 7:11 AM on June 1, 2020

Thanks, everyone. I marked the suggestions I'm going to try first. That Reddit thread was a huge help, particularly in finding language for my "shallow" breasts with "wide root." Will definitely try the silicone pads.
posted by TrixieRamble at 9:01 PM on June 2, 2020

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