MOAR BRAS! Today is part two of How To Find A Bra That Fits You (cue Kermit arm flailing), brought to us by reader Michelle Naidu who owns a bra store in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, and therefore knows her sh*t. Last time Michelle was here, she gave us amazing tips for finding a bra that fits (both for special occasions and in general), which you should absolutely check out if you haven’t yet. And today she’s back with a comprehensive guide on special occasion bra shopping. Personally, I was so frustrated by the bra shopping experience for my own wedding, that I ended up wearing a pair of zebra-print star-shaped pasties under my dress and nothing else. While I won’t knock a good pair of animal print pasties, I’m assuming the same probably can’t be said for most of APW. So if you want to avoid my fate, I suggest reading on.
Some days I spend a lot of time cursing dress designers. They design gorgeous dresses completely ignoring the reality that ninety-nine percent of the human population can’t wear said dress without some kind of undergarment. I’m looking directly at you backless strapless beauty. For the record, ladies, I do also spend a small amount of time cursing at you also if you buy said backless strapless dress and then get angry at me because gravity is my fault (and the dress is final sale!). Bras are not magic (though a good one can be magical). Be realistic about your support requirements and your comfort level before buying the dress. When the saleslady is telling you “Oh, you can totally wear that braless!” can you actually? Not could a human wear it braless, can you wear it braless? You know, in public. If yes, rock on sister. If not so much, well I do have some options. And yes, you should bring your dress with you*.
Your Favorite Bra
Unless you stay up watching infomercials, you might not know that there are several options to modify a regular bra you already own (and hopefully love) to work with your special outfit. These are often very low cost alternatives to buying something outfit-specific that you may not wear often or ever again. Also, never underestimate the power of a little strategically placed double sided fashion tape.
Strapless Bras: 1. Elomi Molded Underwire Strapless Bra available at HerRoom ($69) 2. Fantasie Ava Strapless Underwire Bra available at Freshpair ($86) 3. Perle Prima Donna Strapless Bra available at HerRoom ($105) 4. Patricia Stay Up Strapless Bra available at Change Lingerie ($67.95) 5. Marie Joe Avero Strapless Bra available at HerRoom ($104.50)
The search for a comfortable and supportive strapless bra can be frustrating, especially if you are larger in the chest.
Pros: A good fitting one goes a long way—you can, and will wear it for more than your special event. They often have seamless cups and very little detail, so they can be worn under most fabrics. Because it’s just a bra, you’re not adding layers or complexity to your outfit.
Cons: It’s just a bra. Even with the best strapless bra, gravity is not your friend. The more active you plan to be, and the longer you’ll need to wear it, the less appealing a strapless bra can be. For a regular event, you can likely build in opportunities to adjust if needed. If you’re going to be the centre of attention, you might want to factor this into your decision.
Things to look for: Make sure you’ve got a minimum of three clasps at the back, bustier ladies try for four. Width is what’s helping your bra stay in place. You also want to buy your strapless even snugger than a regular bra, so the width helps eliminate the ever-dreaded back fat look. Also, check out the silicone around the top – you want it to be thick/feel slightly tacky to the touch. Make sure you try on your strapless without any straps, and spend a bit of time dancing, jumping, and bending in the dressing room to make sure it’s comfy and not going to move in the first thirty seconds.
Bustiers/Basques: 1. Dominique Longline Lace Torsolette available at Bare Necessities ($69) 2. Piege Seamless Hidden Wire Bustier available at Victoria’s Attic ($163.95) 3. Jezebel Caress Bustier available at Bare Necessities ($50) 4. Elomi Smoothing Underwired Bustier available at Linda The Bra Lady ($78) 5. Fantasie Ava Underwire Moulded Bustier available at Linda The Bra Lady ($110)
A bustier is a strapless bra, with a bodice to provide extra support. Technically bustiers finish at the waist and basques at the hips, but I don’t think you’ll find many people getting too fussy about this (or knowing there’s a difference). In the last few years many bra companies seem to also be reintroducing long line bras (your grandma likely has stories about the first generation), but most don’t have the ability to be strapless.
Pros: Bustiers come both boned and unboned and provide superior strapless support than just wearing a strapless bra. They are able to all but eliminate the falling down nature of traditional strapless bras. Since they need to be snug to do their job properly, they also can have the added benefit of providing a smoother look under your clothes. Lastly, because you are getting full-bodied support, bustiers can have lower backs and more plunging necklines than strapless bras.
Cons: The added support that comes from boned bustiers can be problematic, as many wedding dresses are boned to begin with. Wearing two sets of boned clothing can be restrictive and uncomfortable, and while unboned and smoother finishes exist, they can be difficult to track down. For this reason bustiers don’t always play nicely with lighter weight fabrics.
Things to look for: If you can find them, real wire boned bustiers are typically far better constructed and will last way longer than those with plastic boning. That said, in terms of a bustier, you get what you pay for. If it looks like it’s a novelty item or is around the $50 dollar mark, it’s most likely meant to look cute and promptly be removed, not worn as a support garment. Buy your bustier from a bra brand you trust (or a recommendation for a friend or in the comments!) and you will have an investment piece of lingerie you’ll wear for years and years. If you’re buying an unboned bustier, pay close attention to the fabric portion: Is it sturdy enough to do anything? Is it going to wrinkle or crease over time? If there are seams, can you see them through your dress? Added tip: buy your bustier on the middle clasp instead of the loosest. Since you don’t wear them nearly as often, stretching isn’t an issue like it is with bras, so it’s nice to have the ability to both snug and loosen it up.
Backless, Strapless Bras
Strapless, Backless Bras: 1. NuBra Feather Lite Adhesive Bra available at Linda The Bra Lady ($36) 2. Nippies Skin Silicone Nipple Cover Pasties available at Amazon ($25) 3. NuBra Original Silicone Adhesive Bra available at Linda The Bra Lady ($65) 4. Fashion Tape available at Linda The Bra Lady ($10)
A strapless, backless bra is typically one that you will adhere to your body. Some come with silicone cups, while others are made of thin fabric cups or just thin fabric.
Pros: No lines, straps, or anything to worry about!
Cons: These are really only an option for smaller chested ladies. It’s really fancy tape. Sweat and adhesive don’t typically go well together, so you’ll want to test out your purchase’s staying power before your event just to make sure you don’t wind up trying to nonchalantly kick your “bra” under the nearest table.
Lastly, while none of these items are magic, a good seamstress just might be. Having cups sewn in, your favourite bra deconstructed and sewn in, or a bustier altered to fit the neckline or backline of your dress are all possibilities. Also, there are amazing ladies everywhere who custom sew bustiers and corsets (both for under clothes and to be worn alone). Depending on where you live, often times the custom option doesn’t seem to be much more expensive than what’s available in stores.
*Unless it’s difficult to transport, like the majority of wedding dresses. Don’t be scared to ask the store if they will allow you to purchase and return several items in a 24–48 hour period for a dress fitting or home trial if they don’t typically allow returns.
Editor’s Note: We are in the process of putting together a Pinterest board from all the amazing suggestions you guys left in the comments of our last post. So if you’ve found an amazing special occasion bra that you want to share with the rest of us, leave it in the comments and we’ll make sure to add it to the board.