Free my boobs!
August 4, 2021 6:36 PM   Subscribe

I have never in all my bra wearing years been happy wearing a bra. I’ve finally realized it’s not about fit or type, but rather a sensory aversion to any kind of pressure around my rib cage. I have a large-ish chest (42D) and while I mostly dgaf what other people think of my appearance, for snowflakey reasons I need to have some basic support/hiding of visible nipples for the majority of my days. What can I wear instead of a bra to achieve this?

I’ve been thinking about getting camisoles a size smaller than normal and wearing them under my clothes; has this worked for anyone else? I tend to wear one under my outfits already, so this would be an easy solution. But open to any and all suggestions, as long as they don’t involve anything bra like/relying on a tight fit around the ribs.

When I say basic support I mean really basic; just enough to not immediately draw the reaction of “omg floppy boobs the horror!”. In a perfect world I would just not wear a bra, but alas that is not to be at this particular moment.
posted by nancynickerson to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (32 answers total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: How do you feel about all-over pressure? It's possible that some combination of either a pull-over sports bra (which is what I wear a lot of the time now, a lot gentler on the rib cage compared to bras - Title 9 has good ones in D cups). Another option is "shapewear" which is more all over pressure and can give you some support if you want it. Here are some options which can give you an idea of the range you might be able to use.
posted by jessamyn at 6:53 PM on August 4, 2021

I like body suits for this. More support than a camisole and very comfortable.
posted by pintapicasso at 6:54 PM on August 4, 2021 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I'm a bit smaller than you and camisoles have never done it for me. Have you looked into bralettes?
posted by Anonymous at 6:55 PM on August 4, 2021

Best answer: On mobile so can’t link but check out the breast nest
posted by tatiana wishbone at 7:01 PM on August 4, 2021 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I’m smaller than you but have the same sensory aversion. What’s working best for me is no bra at all, a t-shirt, and a looser “overshirt” over the top. The overshirts that work best for me tend to be button down, in a dark fabric or with a print, and loose/flowy enough that they sort of just cover nipples/movement/etc. I thought I’d need support for comfort but I am SO much more comfortable without it unless I need to run or jump a lot. I’m not sure if it would work for you but maybe worth a try?
posted by bananacabana at 7:04 PM on August 4, 2021 [1 favorite]

As much camisole/bodysuit as makes you physically comfortable, and vests to hide nipples and other Too Much Shape?

In summer, my lightweight over shirts usually have two chest pockets and maybe something in the pockets.
posted by clew at 7:07 PM on August 4, 2021 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I (an F or G cup, for the record) am fascinated by these enormous, semi-supportive pasties.
posted by chesty_a_arthur at 7:17 PM on August 4, 2021 [6 favorites]

I only wear bras to work, if I’m going out anywhere else I just throw a cardigan on over whatever I’m wearing and it hides things pretty well (I’m about as large as you). I have lighter float fabric vest-like things I wear in summer.
posted by brook horse at 7:33 PM on August 4, 2021

Best answer: I’m smaller chested, but have the same sensory issues with bras, and lovenippies” - silicon covers for your nipples. I use the sticky kind, but they also make a plain version. They cover my (rather prominent) nipples and add enough shape/roundness that I can wear a reasonably tight shirt and feel like they appear neutral/professional/not obviously braless.

I strongly recommend experimenting with them - they have genuinely changed my clothing life after years of fighting with bras and bralettes and sports bras and padded camis and…
posted by suviko at 8:08 PM on August 4, 2021 [6 favorites]

Best answer: I’m about the same size as you and have worn tight-fitting, thick bamboo camisoles since March 2020. Never going back to daily bra wearing.
posted by third word on a random page at 8:43 PM on August 4, 2021 [1 favorite]

Perhaps a sports bra that's slightly larger around the rib cage like a 44D.
posted by obol at 9:54 PM on August 4, 2021

I switched to GenieBra on a friends recommendation three years ago and have worn a proper bra since only for job interviews and court. They are so comfortable I sleep in them now.
posted by dorothyisunderwood at 10:51 PM on August 4, 2021

i also recommend something like a geniebra, if the underwire sensation is what annoys you. maybe repositioning the source of pressure might be helpful. With the geniebra, I feel most of the pressure now is more on the shoulder straps. otoh, if you go with a bodice/corset-type, the point of pressure is more around the upper abdominals, while most of the chest feels a lot more freer, in that the support is more from the bottom upwards, with the cup more like a shelf supporting from the bottom, rather than a cup being hoisted from above. form-fitting camisoles also could have similar pressure direction.
posted by cendawanita at 12:24 AM on August 5, 2021

I am fascinated by these enormous, semi-supportive pasties.

I was, too. I bought some on a whim (not that exact brand - something off Amazon), put them on, and thought they were amazing and were going to give me a new lease of life forever, such freedom not to have anything around my chest... then I had to take them off at the end of the day! Whooft! I almost thought my nipples were coming off with them too. There's a non-sticky bit over the nips but it's not quite big enough and the rest of it is so sticky. I've not used them since. I should maybe keep trying and hope the stickiness reduces a bit. But mine were cheap enough I'd say they're worth a go. Just don't burn your bras until you've put them on and off.
posted by penguin pie at 3:37 AM on August 5, 2021 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Cami’s been good for me yep!
posted by lokta at 4:01 AM on August 5, 2021

Best answer: definitely nippies under camis or relaxed-fit bralettes for me, who also hates tightness around the rib cage and never wants to wear a bra again. compression tanks also seem useful for support with less+less concentrated pressure!
posted by gaybobbie at 6:24 AM on August 5, 2021

Best answer: Thank you for asking this. This very week I thought, "WHY am I wearing bras??" b/c it seems so much of the tension in my body is in my shoulders and rib cage area and wearing a bra makes it 100x worse. And I've been doing it since I was like 13! I honestly was thinking... maybe I can just use tape on my nipples, but I am so glad you asked this b/c my solution was not sustainable (I haven't done it yet tbh).
posted by jdl at 7:22 AM on August 5, 2021 [1 favorite]

like wearing a hug
posted by Lawn Beaver at 8:03 AM on August 5, 2021 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: So many amazing leads here—I am excited to try some out! Glad to know I’m not alone in the hating bras club.
posted by nancynickerson at 8:06 AM on August 5, 2021 [2 favorites]

I sing the song of here a lot--a Canadian couple who make clothes to your measurements. I have 2 of their bralettes and will be going back for more, they are that comfy.
posted by telophase at 8:10 AM on August 5, 2021

My wife used to wear men's undershirts, the athletic style.
posted by NotLost at 9:38 AM on August 5, 2021

Best answer: I've tried all kinds of soft bras and they all dig in under my breasts. I have given up on them entirely and wear nothing now, but sometimes I feel a little more exposed than I'd like. I've been thinking about trying crop tops but I'm not sure it's worth it. Every time I try something other people think is great, I wind up tossing them out after a few hours.

For me, it's not the nipples so much that bother me, it's that I'm a 57 year old fat woman who breastfed two babies and my breasts hang down to my waist. But anything supportive has caused me pain, itching and lots of discomfort, so I practice not caring. I'm still a work in progress.
posted by ceejaytee at 9:46 AM on August 5, 2021 [2 favorites]

One more for your list - Decent Exposures. (I get their Un-Bra, usually with a front fastening: degree of support and compression depends on your fabric choice.)

By default they have elastic around the ribcage, but you can also request a 2" ribbing (with spandex) that is much less binding, and they also have a cami-design option. The ribbing is not quite as supportive (for engineering design reasons) but plenty for coverage/keeping things in place if you're not exercising energetically.

They're not cheap, but they hold up really well (I routinely get a couple of years out of mine, in a rotation with a couple of others.) They also have amazing customer service - everything's custom made, so if you want the arm holes cut a little deeper or other adjustments, they can usually make that happen.

(When I say 'amazing service', I mean I get emails when I order a different fabric, checking I meant to do that.)
posted by jenettsilver at 11:10 AM on August 5, 2021 [1 favorite]

Came here to also recommend Decent Exposures - I've been an enthusiastic customer of theirs for close to 20 years, now. So comfortable I willingly wear those bras when I'm just slobbing around the house (partly because it gives me a place to tuck my cellphone). They've got the 'un-bra' and their 'cami-bra'-Bra (both in either regular or racer back style). And a hearty second for them having outstanding customer service. They made me a cami-bra out of swimsuit material, for instance, along with a pair of swim shorts, when I wanted some swimwear.
posted by rmd1023 at 12:43 PM on August 5, 2021

TomboyX V-Neck Bralette has a stretchy band and not much support, but is enough of a bra that I feel like I'm wearing a bra at times when wearing a bra is what I want to be doing.
posted by The corpse in the library at 6:25 PM on August 5, 2021

For boob havers who live in the US, and who want something nonconstrictive around their ribcage, the small brand AnaOno Intimates offers the Sarah Cropped Cami Top, a pullover style in modal (a sustainable fabric made of beech trees) and stretch lace over modal. It has adjustable straps, and functions as a bra for the people who reviewed it. I think you'd wear an XXL, but check.

Ana Ono was started by Dana D'Onofrio, a young breast cancer survivor from Philadelphia, and the reviewers, who are fellow survivors, emphasize that the Sarah doesn't rub on their incisions or irritate their skin. The word is "gentle." My mom, who is 85 and underwent lumpectomy surgery several years ago, really likes the AnaOno Lisa Camisole that I gave her; it's a longer, faux-wrap style. (FYI: If you're not a survivor and you're concerned about intruding into survivors' space, D'Onofrio makes clear in interviews and on AnaOno Intimates website that her products are for anyone looking for comfortable, wireless, thoughtfully designed undergarments.)

Also: Another vote for Tomboy X! I love their pullover Adaptable Crossover Bra in Iron (charcoal gray); I wear a 36F UK/36G US bra, and I wear this one in XL.

The Traveler fabric is light and easily washed (in the shower! ask me how I know!), and it's treated with Silvadur so it stays non-stinky for days, ahem, longer than you might expect. The "Adaptable" part refers to openings in the bra for foam pads (available from Tomboy X for an additional $5). for people who are transitioning, who are post-mastectomy or who want to cover assertive nipples.

The Crossover Bra does not have adjustable straps; this isn't an issue for me, even though I have a short distance between my collarbone and my waist, but I thought I'd mention it in case it's a deal breaker for you.

The Sarah Cropped Cami Top and the Tomboy X Adaptable Crossover Bra each cost around $45 US.
posted by virago at 7:05 AM on August 6, 2021

I forgot to mention that the AnaOno Sarah Cropped Cami Top also has openings, for breast forms or foam modesty pads, each of which are which are sold separately (for $24 and $6, respectively).
posted by virago at 7:14 AM on August 6, 2021

I find the True & Co True Body Lift bra extremely comfortable, there is no underwire and it is super soft.
posted by radioamy at 8:06 PM on August 6, 2021

I love TomboyX for some of their underwear and their excellent choice of patterns (ranging from rainbow pattern "does this underwear make my ass look gay" to "octopodes holding books"), but their bras are not a great fit for me. I know a bunch of folks who are really into them, and it's particularly good if you want a coordinated set.
posted by rmd1023 at 7:48 AM on August 7, 2021

I only realized exactly how much I hated wearing a bra once the pandemic started and I stopped wearing one almost completely. (I think I wore one maybe 8 times in the last 17 months.) Like you, I have sensory issues with the feeling of anything around my rib cage/under my breasts.

But also like you I need…something, especially because I will go back to teaching face to face in September and professional norms and my own self consciousness dictate that nipples cannot show through shirts.

So I have been following this thread with great interest, and since reading the recommendations above for Nippies, I have acquired a pair. Let me tell you, I AM A CONVERT. These are the goddamn bomb. They’re so comfortable I forget I’m wearing them, and they smooth everything out so I do not feel that self consciousness I sometimes feel going out in public braless.

It’s funny, when I bought them the shop owner said they were the last pair she had at the moment and she’d need to order more. She said, “It’s funny, I’ve carried these for years, but it’s only this summer that suddenly I just can’t keep them in stock!” I said, “I think a LOT of women went braless during the pandemic and then realized how much they hate wearing bras” and she was like “Ohhhhhhh” as the lightbulb went off.

So +1 for Nippies and I hope they never stop making them.

[The only minor caveat I have is that while not exactly painful to remove, it’s a slightly uncomfortable experience for me (I have the ones with adhesive). I think I’ll try putting a circle of thin plastic over the part that goes directly over the nipple and see if that helps. But it’s really not that big a deal, just something to be aware of if your skin is sensitive.]
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 10:39 PM on August 7, 2021 [1 favorite]

Here's something I ran across on the website of Uwila Warrior, a small, woman-owned Boston brand: The Braless.

I was browsing the sale section of Uwila hoping to find some of their flagship silk underpants in my size, XL. No dice, alas, but I did find this intriguing pullover undergarment. It's made of an 82% cotton/8% elastane ribbed fabric, looks like a crop top, is meant to provide light support, and can be worn as a bra, for sleeping, or on its own with skirts or high-waisted shorts.

The colors are Smoke Grey (which looks like ivory crossed with tan on my laptop) and Tap Shoe Black. Sizes: XS-3X; band sizes 30-42. It costs $48, and Uwila says it can be washed in a machine on the gentle cycle, tumble dry low.

In a write-up titled "I wait for this to get out of the wash," Amberly W, the one reviewer so far (The Braless came out about a month ago), says:
This bra has ruined me from all other bras. I can wear it on its own or under anything. I also find it has enough support for a power walk or spin class. Seriously feels like i'm braless in a good way.
posted by virago at 11:59 AM on August 10, 2021

Secret to removing stick-on things painlessly: oil. Like, baby oil or whatever moisturising oil is your fave. It just makes the adhesive… stop adhering somehow. Gets the thing off, any remaining bits of adhesive rub off easily, and moisturises your skin nicely.

This works best if your adhesive thing is single-use. If it’s multi-use, wash it with soap right afterwards to get the oil off. And you may have to use a body adhesive like It Stays to reapply the thing.
posted by Pallas Athena at 10:40 PM on August 13, 2021

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