Friday, October 28, 2011

The Trends and Politics of Bra Shape


So, bra shapes have clearly changed significantly over the past 60 years. No argument there. In the famous "I dreamed . . ." Maidenform ad campaign, you see the bullet shape that the 50s were known for.

These seamed bras push your breasts into the point of the cup, making the plane of the chest above your bra appear flat. Modern women find this whole idea quite weird.

Fast forward to 2011. The "t-shirt bra"--a molded seamless bra resembling two basketballs cut in half--rules.

As lingerie giant Victoria's Secret describes the above bra: "Special padding lifts you up and out, instantly adding up to 2 full cup sizes for maximum cleavage and fullness." It seems the whole point of the t-shirt bra is create the illusion of perfectly round breasts, while forcing your actual breasts out of the cup so they're perched above your bra. Kind of weird too, right?

The interesting thing is that each era seems to think that they've created a "natural"  or "feminine" shape, when in fact both are quite manufactured. Just as body shapes go in and out of fashion, breast shape does too. And--it seems to me--the trend is influenced by the pornography of the day. Women of the 50s tried to emulate the pin-up girls that their men so adored. And we now live in the "Girls Next Door" era of grapefruit-shaped implants. Hence these crazy push-up bras with two-inch thick layers of molded foam.

I recently discovered the amazing Bali Flower bra (seamed but not overtly bullet-y), which has been in production for many years. It's listed on a lingerie site on a special "conical bras" page:



States the copy: "Whether it's nostalgia, the fashion runaways or the TV series Mad Men, those bullet-shaped bras are baaaaa-ck. We're by no means suggesting that this is the look of the modern woman, but why not enjoy a little dreamy escapism just for fun?"

It's interesting that this look is so on the fringes of "the look of the modern woman" that a site has to suggest that these are bras only worn for "escapism", like a Halloween costume or something. No, the modern woman wears what Oprah and porn has decreed we will wear: the t-shirt bra. Which is not costumey at all! No siree! It's just two lumps of foam strapped to your chest!

Anyway, I could probably write a book on this subject (we haven't even discussed the "no-bra" bra of the 60s!), but to boil this down to a blog post: bra shape is incredibly trend-driven, and tied up in all sorts of gender and sexual politics. And now, with the prevalence of plastic surgery, breast shape itself is changeable and trend-driven.

Do you agree? Do you see one shape as more "natural" than the other? Is one woman more "liberated" than the other?

127 comments:

  1. As someone with fairly small boobs I get absolutely livid if I find it difficult to get a bra without padding. I've given in to moulded foam cup bras of the t-shirt bra sort (as long as there's no other padding)because otherwise I'd never have any pretty undies! I'm trying to find a strapless/multiway bra at the moment that doesn't come with boobs included and it's hard! I like my ickle boobs, thanks very much I don't need to pretend they're D cups to be happy. Complicated by the fact I just have to try them on as buying mail order or online always ends in disaster. I guess this is somewhat political for me. I believe we're all beautiful - from flat chested to XXL and constantly recieving the message you're inadequate is just horrible.

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  2. Now this is a fun post! What's really interesting to me is to take a close look at bra from its early days in the 1920's with early bustline support and trace the technical and aesthetic evolution of the bra. You only have to try on a fitted dress from the 50's to recognize that even the darts of this garment are shaped more towards a pointed bustline.
    The current molded and 'enhanced' shape shown here may be common, but I don't think that the spill over is actually what women want with a bra. What they are hoping for is that the details of the breast are smoothed out. Women currently want to appear very nipple-less, which is an odd feature of women's fashion to consider. Score one for "Barbie"!

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    Replies
    1. Have a look at this blog: http://blog.bygumbygolly.com/2011/10/adventures-in-recreating-1940s-bust.html

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  3. Of course neither is more liberated than the other ... it all comes back down to The Male Gaze again, doesn't it?

    On a more practical note, I've always found Bali bras to be significantly more comfortable than Victoria's Secret. Bali seems to do a better job designing bras that large-breasted women can wear all day, whereas the VS bras seem to be mostly decorative and meant to be removed as soon as possible.

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  4. i *hate* the fact that almost every bra out there these days has some sort of padding, even the "minimal" padding of the T-shirt style bra. Saleswomen tell me that women nowadays like this better because it gives a "smooth line" under sweaters etc. I, on the other hand, have zero desire to appear to have anything I don't, and don't want any padding or much shaping at all. I do wear underwires, just because it has seemed the most comfortable to me. It has just about come to the point that I literally can't find unpadded bras, however. Sigh.

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  5. My only bras these days are those same Bali bras you featured (purchased from that same site.) The first time I wore one, I thought it was very costume-y, but now I won't wear anything else. I love how my middle-aged D cups are now perky without any unnecessary padding. I just wish this bra came in fun colors.

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  6. I hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate the molded-cup round blobs of bras that are all I can seem to find in my size at local stores. My 21-year-old daughter won't wear anything BUT those bras. I miss the all-cotton, woven bras of my youth, in the 1960s-70s. I never had a bullet bra, but my 30A mother did -- she didn't fill it out, the tips were all squashy.

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  7. I love this post, cause it shows that no matter what size you are, just wait a while and it will be back in fashion. Particularly that Jane Russel and Marilyn Monroe were large women...so that whether you are large or small, doesn't matter - it's your shape that matters and looking well-fitted and nice is what we should all strive for not an idealized hourglass shape or the waif/post-apocalyptic look!!!!

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  8. Ooh I love the Bali Flower bra! I did a huge post recently about 1940s bust silhouette and mentioned that same bra. It's the only current modern bra in my combo of band/cup size that gives a good vintage silhouette under my clothing. It's my go-to bra. Here's my post:

    Adventures in recreating the 1940s bust silhouette

    I agree, the modern silhouette is overly round, and as one commenter on my blog astutely pointed out, it's often almost like it's geared towards implants. Bigger, rounder, practically spilling out. Of course the 50s bullet bra was artificial in its own way, and often required the wearer to use little pads to even fill the shape properly!

    So my favorite aesthetic is from the 40s. I think it's an attractive shape on both small and larger frames, doesn't need anything artificial to be added to the party (so to speak) to make it look good, doesn't make you spill over and out, or sag. It does lift the breasts up (though I don't think of it as particularly conical), but without looking like you're going to poke out an eyeball. And for those with a short torso, that extra bit of lift is fantastic. And while I do wear vintage and vintage-inspired fashions, I personally don't at all think you have to in order for it to look good on you. I think ultimately in the end, one is more liberated by choosing their own options and finding out what makes them feel good about how they look. Round, pointy, whatever, so long as you're happy and don't feel like you're forced into a style because society says so.

    Can you tell I've thought a lot about this topic lately? ;)

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  9. I want to second Jen O's comment about the style now being very nipple-less. On one hand I get it. I work in a very conservative office of mostly men. I am also a 34D-DD, so while I would prefer to not have any of that showing at work the t-shirt bra styles make mine look even bigger. I also feel like the t-shirt bra syles make mine look really rounded and fake. I just don't care for that look on me. I haven't tried the Bali ones, but I tend to stick with that style and put on a cardigan when the need arises.

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  10. I wear a 34 D and do like the bras with minimal padding. I like a smooth shape under my clothes. I don't like to be pushed up too much though because then I just feel like I am spilling out. I like my boobs to look like they did when I was 20 before I had children, I want them to sit between my elbows and shoulders. I really dislike that pointy look, kinda scary IMO. The worst is the huge grapefruit round fake "porn" boobs, YUCK!

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  11. most of my bras are from princesse tam tam, and i'm really happy they offer an unpadded version of most of their styles... they lift and support my boobs, but maintain their natural shape. i hate the look of padded, seamless bras on me.

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  12. Like others mentioned, I hate all the padding in modern bras. I am a DD and definately do not need the illusion of padding to make my bust look even bigger! I occasionally find a style that doesn't have any padding and buy up a few. Some days however, I feel it may be easier to learn how to make my own.

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  13. I'm not really a big fan of my niples showing through my tees either. I have a size E cup, so I don't need any more attention. My favourite brand is a Belgian one, Marie Jo L'Aventure They give great support, and you can choose whether you want padded or not. And believe it or not, I choose the padded once, since they keep my boobs tighter to my body and make them look a more average size.

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  14. The vintage maidenform is a lot closer to my natural shape than VS. And what is up with all this foamy shaped cup business?? They sure aren't any fun when one finds themselves in the position for some hankypanky! My best bras are a vintage maidenform, timpa (a good 'modern'-style bra maker for the small-breasted), and oldschool playtex crossyourhearts, but I'm gonna go check out this Bali business asap.

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  15. This is a very interesting topic! I definitely do not feel like the modern molded nor the 50s seamed shape of bra cups represent what my breasts look like, so I can't say I find one more "natural" or liberating than the other. I don't think one shape could ever be "natural" for all women!

    Honestly I quite like going bra-less for comfort. However, I am pretty concerned, especially with colder weather coming, about, uh, peaks showing, even though I perhaps shouldn't..

    In a society with very troubling ideas about women's sexuality and what women should wear, I'm afraid of what would be said nowadays about the bra-less look, even though I know it'd be wrong. With all different kinds of advertising and social pressures and standards, most women have been taught to be ashamed of their breast size, shape, and color.. which, of course, ends up working out great for companies like Victoria's Secret.

    I hope you continue this discussion with another post, and perhaps someone will be able to expand on what I want to say with more eloquence!

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  16. I actually use Maidenform, which are comfortable and fit well, but they do have that shaping thing and they do eliminate the nipple. I guess for me I get embarrassed by undergarments that reveal my nipples, so I don't mind the roundness. It's worth noting that the round-thing isn't new (is anything?), it makes your breasts look like angels in a renaissance painting, all round and perfect and oblivious to gravity. Like this:
    http://www.everypainterpaintshimself.com/images/sized/article_images_new/Venus_and_Cupid_with_an_Organist_c1545-8_Prado-440x0.jpg

    and this:

    http://artmodel.files.wordpress.com/2010/07/titian_venus_urbino1.jpg

    and this:

    http://www.medievalists.net/wp-content/uploads/2011/01/Titian_Venus_Mirror-200x235.jpg

    Minus the implants it's pretty modern, I think. I mean, they are smaller, but the SHAPE is the same, and equally unnatural.

    I think I might try this Bali Bra that's going around, though. I hate the modern bras that make my (36 D) breasts look like they are spilling over some kind of waterfall. Why buy a bra whose sole purpose is to force your breasts to try and escape?

    I feel like you could dye some of the Bali bras, if you want more fun colors, and even embellish them slightly to make it cute. No?

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  17. Evidently what I want is too much to ask... comfort. Sigh...

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  18. This is such an interesting post! Bra shape has always been a really intriguing part of fashion to me. I wear a 34D, so my personal bra preference is the molded cup with zero padding that allows me at least demi to full coverage. As an earlier commenter stated, bra fashion these days discourages "nipple-ness," and I think I play into that concept. It's not so much that I don't want the world to know I have them--they're mine and I love them, but nipples are a private affair, in my opinion, and I want me covered unless I choose to show them off, so I prefer the smoother bra for that. I do not like any of the absurd padding of some of the VS bras, though. At a D cup, I don't need any extra filling, thankyouverymuch. As an actor, I wore a period bullet-style bra for a show once and I was so self-conscious, it was really hard to get used to. I felt naked and like my breasts (and nipples) were just put out there for everyone to see. Strange, isn't it?

    I agree with the comments about all styles being very gender stereotypical--I just want something comfortable that keeps me smooth and clean and held together for my daily routines. The sexier and more provocative lines are for different scenarios altogether, I don't need them while I'm at work.

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  19. I am not a huge fan of the molded cup bras. They always seem to cut into the top of my chest. I am, however, a fan of Wacoal soft-cup bras. The "Embrace Lace (http://www.barenecessities.com/wacoal-embrace-lace-underwire-bra-65191_product.htm?pf_id=Wacoal65191)" is the only one I wear these days!

    Garnet

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  20. I have been wearing the Flower Bali since I was a teenager! Well, took a break from it, now I'm back. I feel like those molded, rounded cups just make me look wider. Being a 34F, its difficult to find things in my size that aren't molded cups the size of my head or a minimizer.

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  21. As a rather busty girl (a 34E, if you must know) I like ones with decent support, to make them seem as if I'm not wearing one, as natural as possible; so neither pointed away out like machine guns or pushed up to under my chin...so a little padding to mould the shape is essential for me! Also because nipple piercings give you constant stiffy nips and everyone stares, and I kind of need to hide that at work....

    Such an interesting post, a great variation from the typical 'sizes through the eras' posts!
    xxx

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  22. Such an interesting topic, to be sure. I find the changing nature of bra shape and, ultimately, breast shape, to be so intriguing--I was recently reading the book "Vintage Notions" and came upon some of the articles related to bras of the 1920's. If you have never seen them, they were like a camisole, straps on the shoulders, with a square of fabric (no cups) over the breasts, that was then hooked into stockings or a girdle at the bottom. The result was breasts that were flattened and "smooshed" to the torso, to better enhance the flat boyish design of the dresses of the period. Interesting, no? I find modern bras to be of poor design, especially as a plus-size woman with large breasts (in the DDD-G range). So difficult to find something without padding, which I am NOT in need of, or a wide enough back strap so everything doesn't pull upwards. Also, this spilling over effect is not attractive to me. I look for bras that eliminate the double-boob effect, not enhance it! But as another commenter stated, and as you pointed out Gertie, it's about the sex-appeal of the times, which is definitely not dictated by women. It is the purview of men to decide what makes a woman appealing, and women run to make themselves fit this ideal. Perhaps we need to consider more closely what we find appealing and comfortable, and support those styles with our dollars.

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  23. I suppose I'm uncomfortable with people noticing my chest all that much -- which is why I conform to the grapefruit look. I don't feel like my chest is really, uh, attention-grabbing if it is shaped like everyone else's. I don't like padding and avoid it wherever possible -- I'm not into false advertising.

    Mostly, I'm just happy to find one that is comfortable, fits relatively well (whatever that means), and doesn't make it so I can rest my chin on my cleavage.

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  24. When I was younger and 25 pounds thinner, I wore vintage bullet bras as clothing. (This was when Madonna was doing it.)Back then I could wear any skimpy contemporary bra and it would pretty much look fabulous on me.

    I haven't ever worn molded cup bras. I hate them because they're so thick. They feel like the female equivalent of a sports cup. For women with C cup or more, I don't see the point of adding further bulk at the chest.

    The only reason I can understand for the popularity of the molded foam bra is that women are horrified at the thought they may ever show nipplage. (These bras seemed to come out at the same time that Elaine Bennis had her nipplage fiasco.)

    My little boobage weapon is Lane Bryant (owned by Victoria's Secret), which sells bras starting with size 36. (I didn't know this for many years because I'm not in their size range for clothes.)

    I buy all my bras there. My favorite is the "cotton demi bra," which offers good natural-looking comfortable support (three hooks!) for my 38Ds, is made from a smooth, cotton-y fabric and comes in a range of colors. Whenever they have a sale, I stock up this bra because it makes my breasts look as good as they did in the 80s.

    I'm not including a link to this bra because I'm not pushing anything (no pun intended!)but it's on their website.

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  25. Hi Gertie, this was a great post! Check out this one, it's an adventure to get into, but looks great under suits, dresses and other tailored clothing, particularly those with a vintage feel. It's a bit of an adventure to get into this bra, but it's also great for breast health and improves posture. http://www.jeunique.com/en/pages/bodyfashions/sub_products/J32.html

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  26. Completely agree with trending on shape and style.
    For me, I don't like seeing seams through my clothing, and I like lace on my bras but not showing through my clothes.
    I make bras for myself from time to time, not all of them fit sadly when I get to the end, but one day I'll get it exactly how I want it.

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  27. I can't say I've ever worn a t-shirt bra, as I can't find anything like that to fit (small ribcage, large bust).

    I also never wear molded cups, because they don't fit my lopsided breasts properly (I almost can't believe I typed that).

    My favourite bras are from Freya whihc carries both my size and unpadded but pretty bras. Back support ftw.

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  28. I'm a 36DD (sometimes straying up to a DDD). I don't like my nipples showing, and so for that the molded cup is best (though I don't need any "extra 2 cups" worth of padding!). Also my breasts are saggy like 40 or 50 year old's. While that is not inherently bad... It's not what I want as someone in their mid-20s! Again, the molded foam is the only material strong enough to combat the sag. (Seriously, fabric bras just haven't been up to the job in my experience!)

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  29. Absolutely! I would love to read a full book on this topic! As a matter of fact, have you read "The Body Project" by Joan Jacobs Brumberg? It is one of the few texts for college that will permanently grace my bookcase. Great post, great topic.

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  30. Wow--so interesting. Reading and thinking about this, I'm wondering if one way to analyze bras in fashion is to think about the role of the nipple! It seems we are in a cultural phase of cleavage and abundance of breast flesh and we don't really want to think about nipples. On the other hand, in the 70s and early 80s, the braless or "natural" phase was more in, and nipples were provocative and sexy. I think that was true of the 20s, too. My husband came of age in the 70s, and he yearns for a return of "real" breasts, meaning a return to variation of size, shape and texture--and nipple awareness! Me, I'm comfortable keeping my nipples to myself, particularly at work. And maybe that's important to consider: as women gain power and confidence in the workplace, they want to deemphasize the distractingly sexual element of breasts (nipples), but still acknowledge/showcase the pillowy abundance of their female assets.

    The sadder thing about breast culture right now is the popularity of breast enlargement, and the steady drumbeat that surgically altering their breasts is something women should spend money on. It seems that fashion, both in under and outer garments, tends to create a pressure of breast homogeneity--women literally have to "fit in" to the ideal size and shape. But now, we are actually permanently creating an "ideal boob" that is less about a bra shape or a dress and more about a surgical implant.

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  31. Second plug for Lane Bryant/cacique, but I don't like being nipply so I wear a molded cup (still not always enough), but no padding/push-up. 42Ds here I don't need enhancement, mine are plenty awesome on their own. I think I get a reasonably natural shape with my everyday bra (balconette).

    Bullet bras and grapefruit boobs are both extremes, which match some women's natural shape but most of us fall somewhere in the middle. (I have to say, I've never understood the 'falling out' look, seems to defeat the purpose of an everyday bra.) I think, if women would stop worrying so much about what other people think about our choices, that would be truly liberating. (This applies beyond bra/breast shape questions.)

    Does anyone else remember Bali's (iirc) "full" cups? Basically if the top of the breast was flat to concave, you wore a 'regular'; if it was convex, you wore a 'full. Even in high school (34-36C) I had nice round melons, and these solved the spillage issue.

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  32. Great post!!!You know this is one of my favorite fit-influencing issues. It's interesting to see the difference in styles from one generation to another. And let's not even get going on the smush-em-down-and-out-to-the-sides-so-absolutely-nothing-will-fit world of "minimizer" bras. I think all styles are useful, depending on the shape you want under your clothing. And the wonderful thing about making your own clothes is that you can adjust the fit to whatever undergarment you choose!

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  33. Gertie, I love to see these kinds of thought-provoking posts on your blog! I don't find either of those looks to be natural, and who's to say what is anyway! Breasts come in all shapes and sizes! Personally, I go with whatever I can find at Target that fits. I used to prefer a cotton unpadded bra, but now that I've breastfed two babies for 18 months each, I frankly go with whatever will get my girls into a breast-like shape. I prefer to not wear anything with those thick push-up pads. They drive me nuts, and I like my girls to be "contained." I don't want anyone popping out of the top.

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  34. The blog By Golly By Gum had a really interesting post on this very recently! I was persuaded that there is a better shape for me, and for my next bra purchases I definitely will be trying on some of the seamed "retro" styles. Good old Playtex still carries these slightly pointy, seamed bras that we all thought were old lady bras.
    I hope that all this awareness will result in a wider selection from bra manufacturers, eventually.

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  35. I own 2 Bali Flower bras, but tend not to wear them to work or family events. It is a look that some people interpret as fetish-y. I recently tried on some t-shirt bras and they were poorly designed and ill-fitting. Finding good bras that are flattering and fit well is always a struggle for me- as I suspect it is for a lot of women! Also, men like boobs of any shape and size and color. No 'trends' there I think. ; )

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  36. I meant to say this in my previous comment, but my favorite bra as far as fit and style is surprisingly from Victoria's Secret--I dislike a lot of their stuff because it just does unnatural things to my chest, but their Dream Angels Demi line is fabulous. It's demi-coverage, so I'm contained and can still wear a lower neckline without anything showing, and the cup is soft because it's made of memory foam. Seriously the best bra I've ever owned--I mean, come on. MEMORY FOAM. That's a 'natural fit' for ya, I guess! The bra that conforms to me rather than the other way around. The only issue is that these are definitely expensive so my purchases are few and far between, but if I've got a coupon or if they're on sale, I definitely go for this brand.

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  37. I've never really thought about the politics of bra shape. I have unusally large breasts (30F), so I'll buy pretty much any bra that actually comes in my size and doesn't include extra push-up padding. Most of the bras I have are t-shirt bras, simply because they're the easiest to find, but I have a few sheer, unpadded, seamed bras as well.

    I will say that I like the smooth line of a t-shirt bra under thin knits, not to smooth out the line of my breast (aren't they already smooth?), I just don't like the look of visible seams of a bra under clothes. It reminds me of panty lines, and I think it's just as tacky. As long as no one can see any part of my bra, the bra fits properly, and it doesn't have any extra padding pushing me up out of the cup, I'm sold.

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  38. As usual, you have tapped into a subject of great interest and opinion. I was remarking to myself just the other day when working on my dress form. I purchased the dress form contour foam pads to better replicate my figure. Right off the bat the bust-line has become an issue. Depending on what bra I have on, my measurement can vary up to an inch, and even more, the shape the girls take on varies as well. My favorite is a Bali bra, not the one you featured, but it fits, it is not padded, the straps are comfortable and adjustable. I lived the "rocket" shape in my early teens, there was nothing in the tips I might add, except for tissue! Then the no-bra look, that was OK before children, then just about everything in between. Now the middle-age situation has added extra pounds and gravity to the equation. A work in progress I think!

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  39. I'd love to see a post detailing the history of bra shape since, say the fifties.

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  40. I wear a mixture of bras to suit what clothing i'm wearing: I have bullet, wired & non-wired and thin molded cups. depending on the top shape or the look I want to acheive (e.g. full on vintage with the bullet bra or nod to vintage by wearing a more contemporary shape under a retro outfit.

    I have tried the 2 cup size bigger and it felt silly (UK 34D), however I do find in winter I like a molded cup as it keeps my boobs warm when i'm out and about.

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  41. I love this post because I share the exact same sentiment. I hate modern bras!!!! I hate the shape and huge padding. The silhouette is ugly to me, just lumpy, round blobs. Our natural breasts don't look like that. Plus like you said, the boobs spill over in bras like that anyway and that's super unflattering. I want to be comfortable. My favorite silhouette is the one I get with the Rago all in one girdle http://www.dollhousebettie.com/48-retro-pinup-lingerie/782-rago-9357-lacette-all-in-one-girdle.html

    I like the subtle perkiness, the defined shape. It's so sexy and beautiful to me.

    It looks like they make a bra too now that I think I might try. I really love the brand. http://www.dollhousebettie.com/48-retro-pinup-lingerie/5917-rago-2190-pink-satin-lace-bandeau-bra.html

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  42. The only reason I would want to wear a mold foam cup is to hide my nipples. I rather people not know which direction they point. However, I find that they do not fit right.
    I am a 36G and I love Freya bras. They are pretty and they come in my size. Sadly, they don't come cheap.

    There is an older lady in my baking class and she wears the bullet bras. I find them just scary.

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  43. A couple years ago I was sewing a bathing suit from an old 1970's Stretch & Sew pattern and had a difficult time sourcing the correct insert cups for it. I ended up settling for a more modern cup and it doesn't feel right.

    I have shopped and tried to find a bra at VS but they seem to be made for women without breasts. So I go to Macy's and buy Bali bras which are more comfortable and actually have room for a natural breast in the cups. So I second the commenter who has Bali love.

    I'm not a big fan of falsies unless a great outfit demands them. Back in the day, if you were caught wearing a bra with foam inserts or "chicken cutlets" or "stuffing your bra" it would be a source of great embarrassment and your reputation would suffer.

    I like the old silhouettes better than the half a cantalope look. Plus, some women's breasts are naturally shaped in a more pointed/perky shape. I think that is the most I've talked about boobies in a very long time.

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  44. Obviously there are as many breast shapes as there are women---just like the rest of our bodies. Personally I like the rounded shape better---probably because I'm a child of my times. Being on the smaller side and rather fond of my breasts' natural shape, I go without more often than not. If I'm going to bother with a bra, though, it had better give me inches ;). The few bras I wear are serious, foam-cupped, push-up monstrosities. It is a little ridiculous (especially as I don't wear them all the time, to maintain the illusion) but it's fun. Which is what it should be, when it all comes down to it.

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  45. This is truly an interesting post. Do tell us more about the whole subject! I can't find it now but there was a really interesting article about this a year back or so. I find it quite sad that there are people who scorn a certain bra shape. From my changing room experiences (Did I mention I can't survive a day without team sports?)I can tell you that each and every one of the bra shapes is the natural shape of some women. I know mine really do look like "basketballs". So I'd say each her own. Here's a new theory on why we currently have such a rounded look: the RTW industry. I think it's much easier to fit as the bust apex isn't so defined as in bullet bras. So it doesn't matter that much. With the younger people it might also be that they greet each other with a hug. I have a feeling that bullet bras would cause our boobs to get in the way ... Did I really just write that much about boobs? ^^

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  46. But you skipped over the whole 90s, which offered in my opinion the perfect bras -- spandex-y fabric, either cotton or synthetic, with underwire. Enough support for those of us who needed support, with about as natural a silhouette as you could get with support.

    I still miss my old cotton Jockey underwire bras. Mind you, I've never concerned myself much about whether my nipples showed.

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  47. What an interesting topic! I recently purchased a "granny" bra that has a very conical, almost bullet cup shape and this is the first bra I've ever owned that doesn't conform to the modern, very round/padded shape. It's really interesting to wear--and far more comfortable!

    Even though I'm a small 34B, I really hate bras with a lot of padding. One time I went into a Victoria's Secret to try on bras and was given one of their super-padded bras to try and told that is what I "needed" since I was so "small"! (Whatever. I actually am totally okay with the size I am! However, the sales girl could not wrap her head around that I didn't want to make things look bigger.) Needless to say, I didn't get it--I'm perfectly fine with being a B cup! lol.

    Looking back even further than the modern bra, it seems women's breasts have always been manipulated in some sort of fashion. In the Elizabethan era they were flattened. In the early 19th century they were lifted for maximum cleavage. In the early 1900s women enhanced their bosoms with extra padding to achieve the "pigeon breast" effect. For some reason, we've always seemed to go along with whatever the mode is for the "unnatural" breast shape.

    I think ultimately one is not liberated more than the other when it comes to bra shape. As another commenter said, the issue really lies with society/fashion telling and pressuring us into one specific shape, rather than embracing the fact that women come in so many different shapes and sizes! I for one find the round, molded cup shape unnatural for me. But I'm sure some women's natural shape is suited to this style perfectly. Perhaps one day we'll get past the idea of "ideal breast shape/size", but until then, we just have to muddle through and figure out what works best for us! ;)

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  48. I'm all about NOT showing nipplage. It's provocative, just as showing spillage over the top of a bra is. So I'm all into padded bras, because I don't ever want to show my nipples. For me, this whole thing is less about oppression and more about modesty.

    And I guess when it comes down to it, I'm not sure what breasts are "supposed" to look like.

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  49. Liberated is not something I'm looking for in a bra. After all, my post 3 baby saggy DDs need mongo support! But the changing shapes are interesting. I kind of like that 18th century heaving bosom myself, as well as the Marilyn look. But I certainly would want to walk around all day without a bra. It wouod be very unco,fortable and bad for the already lax breast tissue.

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  50. Both shapes don't match my own shape, to be honest. My boobs are pretty small, 34A, but I'm fine with that. It's obnoxious, the assumption that I must want bigger breasts. The last time I went bra shopping, I could not find a bra without copious amounts of padding. The message from lingerie brands seems to be bigger is better, no matter what size you are.

    Honestly, my favorite bra is my sports bra.

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  51. Can't wear those foam covered cups that are everywhere, as my boobs havre so little resistance they just get flattened out. I hadn't really thought about it but this style is defintiely becoming the easiest to find and I reckon it is economics, as usual. The foam cups are sort of one size fits allish, and so the manufactureres aren't wearing themselves out, poor things, coming up with different cuts. I wear soft cup, underwired bras mostly, my favourite being a Playtex brand bra with a little rouleau cross between the cups. And long line bras that give one that pointier silhouette are fab, although I have noticed the 'girls' don't enjoy it for a whole day. Bottom line I guess is that there's a continuum of sanity around bras and breast shapes - from wear nothing and get on with it through bras with a particular shape, chicken fillets, to breast implants. I think there is a sweet point of sanity somehwere along there, and for me it most definitely occurs WAY before the implants!

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  52. Well the point is moot for me. I wear a FF cup which means that standard bras and trends make no difference. I buy what fits well supports me and gives a nice line in my clothes. I feel quite liberated actually as all my bras are different and give a slightly different shape. I figure love your breasts and buy what fits well, supports and gives the type of line YOU like. The T-Shirt round orb bras make me look HUGE and matronly so they are not my favourite. The only way to be liberated is to be happy with your choice no matter what it is based on what feels good for you. When it is time for my daughter to be making choices I will be teaching her to think of her comfort and good fit and she will look gorgeous no matter what she chooses.
    Besides, breasts come in such different shapes, no bra fits each shape perfectly.

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  53. I'm also not a fan of the modern day look and abhor padding, for obvious reasons as a 32F-G.

    The biggest failure of the modern bra for me is the the lack of support - especially against jogging i.e. my breasts moving at a different pace to me when I walk or do any form of exercise.

    And I'm conscious over nippleage, basically anything that draws attention to my chest! My ideal bra would lift, slightly separate and not make me too round (I've noticed modern bras also tend to sag). I tend to wear balconettes as a compromise. I would like to wear something like the Bali or Maidenform, even a minimiser, but they are almost impossible to find in the 32 band in the UK.

    Like Tasha, I have a short upper body so I need as much lift as possible to show off my waistline and not look dumpy while not wanting to be able to rest my chin on them. I too really like the 40s silhouette and the jumper girl look (not the bullet bra though!).

    I have been in nursing bras for two years now, and in looking for new bras now (and more conscious than ever about support). I have noticed a new trend emerge here - the D+ and G+ bras - basically variations on bras suited to A to C cups with more support, better cup shape, higher cup top, wider straps, etc, this strikes me as a major step forward by bra-makers - assuming they've got it right, I've yet to try one on.

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  54. So wow..... The natural shape of my boobs- we are discussing a natural shape- right? After breast feeding 2 babies and now in my mid-forties... UTTERS... that about sums it up- "you can tie 'em in a knot or you can tie 'em in a bow you can throw them over your shoulder "........ I hate the padded bras- they make me hot and the pointy ones are kind-of weird- one thing is for sure a bra is a necessity, I usually buy the gap ones without the padding....

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  55. My mother has been wearing bullet bras for 50 years...I can't imagine her without that shape! She will be glaf to hear yhat she might be able to find them a little easier. :)

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  56. Florence King wrote that during the 60's she felt like she had odd-looking breasts because of what bras suggested hers should look like; "... tits weren't up to snuff unless they could poke out Glouchester's eye in 'King Lear'." Any shaping is false to a degree, I suppose. Given the choice, I just use a shapewear tank instead; they're really comfortable, and that odd double curve of a single breast that foam lined bras gives a woman with a larger chest is avoided at the same time.

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  57. With four years of breastfeeding between my children, my small B-cup went to an itty bitty A. And while, honestly, I think it's cute on my petite figure...my husband loves the way I look in a padded push-up bra WITH enhancements inside (what little I have is defintely spilling over in all that). Guess he's not much of an itty-bitty-booby guy :-P

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  58. It seems to me that no matter what size you are no bra will fit. I have a very petite bust (i.e. flatter than a pancake). I had smallish breasts to start with then after nursing 2 kids they are like non-existent. I HATE wearing a bra. There is no point. I'm not fooling anyone into think i have boobs nor do i care if i appear to have them. I'm a size 2, how big to people expect them to be anyway?! its ridiculous that i can not find a bra that doesn't try to pump me up to a D. i hate padding, it looks fake and its silly. society demands a large chest, but really it's women thinking that big breasts are what men want. seriously.... men don't care and i'm pretty sure they never did.

    has anyone tried checking the little girls section in stores? i find the traditional "training bras" are unpadded, much cheaper, and nice and basic. what has the world come to that a 30 year old woman shops for bras in the little girls department.

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  59. A Long Time Reader Blushing in AnonymityOctober 28, 2011 at 8:52 PM

    Finding bras that fit AND flatter are one of the top 10 banes of my existence. (Finding pants that fit would be #1.)

    My breasts are c-cups and naturally shaped like the 1950s bullet bra. It's taken me a long time to get over that. And that I will never properly fit a t-shirt bra. Ever.

    You've seen the Evolution of the Boob via Playboy, right? I would have been vogue in the 1960s... Pity I missed it.

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  60. I love that you've addressed this topic because I find it fascinating but also very relevant to sewing and finding a good fit in the garments I make. I personally have the worst time finding any bra at all in a store that will fit me - I'm a 36 G in European sizes, which translates to a 36 I in many American bras. Herroom.com and Figleaves.com are the only 2 places I've been successful at finding bras. The best part about herroom is that they have a chart that compares most brands and shows how their cup sizes compare, plus every bra is very well-described in terms of fit, and they even indicate whether something seems to run large or small. Bali doesn't make a bra that fits me, but I've found that Panache and Fantasie are great options for larger cup sizes. Goddess is another good option.

    The thing about these brands is that they make a 3-part cup, which helps eliminate that molded, round shape - something that I hate. I personally think that the 3-part cup gives the most natural silhouette, but that is probably because the seaming provides more support where it's needed. There seems to be a correlation to the popularity of stretch fabrics with a molded bra. People equate stretch fabrics with comfort and there is definitely a perception that a woven fabric would make a bra stiff and therefore uncomfortable.

    For me, a good bra can make fitting the bustline so much easier, and a good bra makes you look slimmer and younger, no matter what size you are. Unfortunately, it doesn't keep me from having to do an FBA pretty much every single time.

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  61. What a thoughtful post! Ok, I do get my bras at VS... their Incredible bra is the most comfortable I've ever worn. Nope, I don't go for the push-up that adds a couple of cup sizes, I just get the demi style that does have some padding and adds a bit. But.. to be honest...adding a little extra up top simply makes my body more balanced, and not so much of an Olive Oyl!

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  62. A thought provoking topic -- I discovered Freya and Fantasie bras -- as another commenter mentioned, they are non-padded, underwired, and sewn in three seams -- the seams do not show too much through t-shirts, and they give a great shape -- I am a 34H cup, and I don't know what I would do without these two brands -- I have 15 bras, all freya/fantasie, and though the shape varies slightly with each one, they compliment my natural shape, which is quite rounded.

    I have to replace them often -- it is because my bust is rather 'heavy' in terms of weight, and the elastic wears out -- they still look great, but bras should be changed up quite often (at least for me)-- I notice right away, what a difference a newer bra makes, when the elastic is not yet stretched.

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  63. Clearly a great topic! I used to wear that Bali Flower Bra, waaaaaay back in the day. These days I stick with primarily UK brands. They seem to appreciate the plight of the large breasted woman, and know how to make a well fitting and supportive bra, particularly for the busty crowd.
    While we are on the topic of the girls, I have to get a plug in...remember to get your mammies grammied. ;)

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  64. Hmm, now this is thought provoking. I'm an a/b cup, and I find it quite hard to find bras without crazy padding. But while I don't really want padding, I do like the push-up effect of modern bras. To me the look seems almost reminiscent of the regency silhouette, and the historical enthusiast in me can't resist. Which of course was also incredibly fake. But as far as I'm concerned, any clothing is about appearance first and foremost. I would be perfectly happy to just be naked, but if I have to wear clothing, it' damn well going to be fabulous/amusing.

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  65. what a great post! no matter what your preference is, for me comfort with shape are the winner and there is no substitute for trying on all shapes whether t-shirt, push up etc with the clothes you are going to wear!

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  66. I love my boobs and i love bras! I'm a 36G or 34H depending on the brand of bra they are all a little diffrent, best to take a range of sizes to try on. I struggled a lot when i was younger thinking i was a 38dd as that size cup fitted my bust but not my back, (the back measurment is the size in inchs round your body just below your bust) Also i wanted pretty bras not granny bras! fortunatly times have changed and meny bra manufactures now see that there is a lot of demand (and there for money to be made) by suppling bigger bras, I tend to stick with two. Triumph doreen, it looks like a granny bra but dont discount it, its amazing, i wear it for the gym and it is so much better than any spots bra i have tryed! Its also great for any high fronted dress where i need a high pointed look. The other is Fantasia ava molded plung it is as it says molded not padded it dosnt add any extra size, just great lift and shape. I use these website brastop.com bravissimo.com
    Having the right bra on can make or break a outfit.
    What the world needs to see is real breasts (all shapes sizes) in all forms of media, and in real life, recently a friends art work ( a painting of a woman breast feeding) was removed from facebook, and in the uk a woman was told to go in to the toilets to breast feed her baby. We are bombared with images of breasts as sexual objects all the time,and seem to be offended by them been used for the very reason we have them! I worrie the youth are been set up for dissapointment and body image issues, young women want to look like pop stars or super models, and young men think women have the bodys of porn stars.

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  67. The round breast is more youthful. It is fashionable today because everyone is supposed to look young and in shape. Is it natural? Yes, if you're 16! The thing about the t-shirt bra though is that it erases the nipple, which to me is more puritanical than pornographic.

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  68. So many comments and all so different. I'm a UK size 36G so i'm in the camp of what fits I wear. I love the 50s look but I would have someones eye out in one of those, even if I could find one in my size! I have to spend a lot on good bras so actually I get a good shape I think. There are cheaper options in my size but they look and fit awful, maybe as I'm forced to buy good quality bras cos of my cup size I buy bras which look ok even in vintage clothes, I do wonder if the amount of cheaper bras - which is good for the budget! - means a loss of shape and support?

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  69. I think it goes deeper than just what bra form you wear -- I think there's a deep and problematic relationship between breasts and an(ideal heterosexist) femininity -- which we all know we fail to live up to and which is highly sexualised. And I think there's also a sense that breasts are something which other people will notice, judge &/or be repulsed by.
    I think this particularly problematic when you look at things like breast cancer & the emphasis on a kind of hyper femininity and on breasts (rather than just on the person), which arguably makes things much more difficult for women who have to make the choice to have mastectomies.
    Like everyone else, I agree there's nothing more "natural" in the 50's bullet bra -- but believe part of our problem is the cultural insistence within the West on seeing breasts as something intrinsic to femininity, and as our identity as women (as always desired rather than desiring!)

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  70. It's clearly very tricky as everyone wants something different. I think for me its not so much that modern bras are hideous and cause you to spill over the top, but that for some reason everyone wears the incorrect size! As some point along the way someone (shops probably to minimize stock issues) decided that everyone's boobs fitted between A and DD, and that everyone should be a 34-36 back. An awful lot of people seem to take the approach that if DD is massive and AA is small and they are in the middle then they must be a C as they are in between, rather than paying any attention to the actual fit of the bra.. I continually want to tell people in the street with bizarre looking chest areas that they should get fitted out at a proper bra store with an actual range of sizes so that they will stop walking around in a 36C (because they don't feel their boobs look like pamela anderson) when they are actually a 30 E! People have no comprehension that bra size reflects the ratio between your bust and under bust measurement, not the volume of your breasts!
    As a 34F, I like a modern moulded bra, but you have to be careful that the moulding is the correct shape for the proportion of your breasts. I like the nipple coverage, partly because I can other wise look like a porn star, but also because they aren't perfectly the same height (as the boobs aren't exactly the same size) which I would prefer people in the street not to stare at! I don't like the padded ones (really no need!) though I do have one where the moulding has been shaped so that your boobs sits better in a lower cut balconette style without tipping over at the edges or middle, so you get oceans of fabulous boob for more vavavoom moments without oozing out everywhere or feeling non secure.

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  71. This is really interesting, I don't find either bra shape to be really natural. Some of us have naturally rounder or more pointed boobs than others but they still wouldn't be accurately represented by the bra styles offered, which are always proffered with the idea that the shape we have could do with some improvement. What about comfort? Oh that's right, head to the granny bras. I prefer the more pointed look of the 50's style bras as my FF's do not need to be rounded up and out with all the padding so many bras have today. And what is the point of a plunge bra? Maybe someone with smaller boobs wouldn't find them a problem but I just fall out of them. The bullet bras by What Katie Did are the best, wire-free and so comfy I don't even know I'm wearing one.

    http://www.whatkatiedid.com/product/60-l6001-maitresse-bullet-bra

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  72. Doesn't any one find it weird that we are encouraged by society to wear anything on our boobs at all? I read an article recently that talked about the 'pornification' of women in this era but I can see that it's been going on since the dawn of time. I hate it that women are now encouraged to look like 'porn star barbie'. And those heels! What used to be only available at stripper stores is now on every shelf - giant stilt like platforms - again to look like a weirdly long legged barbie doll. Pair that with a super short skirt.....instant slutification. NO, I don't think any of those bras are natural. I despise padded bras and I'm an A cup. I am fortunate that I have never suffered 'boob envy' but I do have difficulty finding bras.

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  73. I actually don't have a problem finding nice non-t-shirt bras. Granted, they often stop padding them before they get to my size, but I usually get unlined demi cup bras (sexy ones even!) and they sell those in smaller sizes too. Shopping at VS and similar doesn't really work out so I always go to the local boutiques. It's expensive but is just so much nicer. French people know what they're doing.

    If anyone is having a really hard time finding unpadded bras, do some googling- look for a boutique in your area or an online store if you must (please get fitted!). Look for stores that sell brands like Chantelle, Freya, Simone Perele, Aubade.

    More on topic... I don't find bras or bra fashion to be particularly oppressive. They're not uncomfortable or restrictive (in my experience, they're the opposite) and men have to be VERY young and inexperienced to think that breasts are supposed to be shaped like that when they're bare. Because bras hide "unfashionable" breasts, women who have them can blend in and wear fashionable clothing without worrying about it.

    Breast implants though... I see them as objectifying and raising the bar to an impossibly high level (the whole phenomenon- not the doctors or the women).

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  74. The whole concept of having to wear a bra is strange. If you’re running or riding a horse I can see the need. I can understand nipple chaffing as an issue (camisoles) but why do they have to have a certain shape and lift? Having foam strapped to your chest is beyond weird but having your boobs hoisted up near your chin? Hello?

    Interestingly women never seem to like what they have (I think we can blame society here). I've yet to see a pair that weren't absolutely lovely (and me a flaming hetro!). It's Power and Politics. I don't wear one around the house and at 62 they certainly no looker look anything like they did at 17 and you know, that's the way it's supposed to be.

    Great subject Gertie, keep it up (or down if you're non-supported). Now, what about nylons? : - }

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  75. I think boobs, like women, are all different. for some, the bullet look may be a more natural fit/look b/c they have more conical looking boobs to begin with. I personally really like bullet bras.

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  76. The best bra for me is Lane Bryant Cacique. It comes in a variety of colors and wears forever (if you don't but them in the dryer). I despise the underwire bras which dig into all parts of the breast and underarm. Defnitely designed by someone who is a size 28-A.

    Did anyone notice that the ad from the 50's (2nd one in the post) has the model wearing an apron for goodness sakes. Yikes! Just what I do when wearing a pointy bra is make dinner.

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  77. I've worn the flower Bali for years both because the fit works for my breasts and because of the non-elastic straps. With 42DD (my current size after 3 children), elastic straps stretch out after a short time; leaving me with poor fitting straps that slide down my arms. I don't need or like the foam padding. These days, I wear sports bras(moving Comfort or Champion) most of the time when I wear bras at all because they're so comfortable; and save the Balis for more dressy occasions.

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  78. this is a fun topic! I loved reading everyone's comments! I'm an average sized girl with an average sized bustline. I like my boobs, nipples and all! I generally try and wear a bra with underwire and a stretchy fabric cup, but I'm also not overly concerned if you see some nipple when I get blasted by overzealous airconditioning.
    I love that so many commenters pointed out the fact that bustline manipulation is not something specific to the 20th and 21st century. Enhancing, de-emphasizing, and manipulating the female chest has been a part of fashion for... possibly ever! And of course this is all tied up in sexual and gender politics, regular politics and economics. Its also cultural.
    I don't think this is just an American phenomenon, but I certainly feel that we are the main perpetrators of the grapefruit look, and of breast and body shame in general.
    My bra wardrobe is pretty sad, actually. I could really use some nice new ones - but I find that even shopping for bras usually gives me an anxiety attack. I often have a similar experience as Casey in stores like VS. I feel bombarded by images of round boobs and bullied by sales women to try on crazy padded bras. There's a sort of atmosphere of "cheap sex" about those stores that makes me want to run far away. I much prefer the atmosphere of smaller boutique settings that try to focus on fit, comfort, and elegance, however generally these types of stores are out of my price range.
    I have been intrigued by lines like What Katie Did, but never really got the gumption to give them a try. I'm also intrigued by the Bali flower bra. It seems a lot of people are fond of this bra, and the shape doesn't seem so overtly "bullety" to me.

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  79. I guess I would be the rare exception who sees the tshirt bra as the closest representation of what my breasts look like. I've had large breasts since puberty (hitting a D cup as a sophomore in HS) and I now wear a triple D. My breasts are round and full -- I'm sure people would think they are implants due to their size, depending on the bra I'm wearing. However, I know not all women's breasts are the same. I have friends with smaller breasts who almost certainly would view the retro styles as more accurate representations of their breast shape. But breasts are breasts. They are all different. Hell, my right boob is larger than my left! No two are alike, so one bra is never going to represent the populace, no matter how popular.

    And yes, I too hate padding in bras. Not needed in my size, thankyouverymuch, bra makers!

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  80. I've come to the conclusion that the best shape that a bra can give (for me at least) is one where the tissue isn't squished to the sides and up to my collarbone but rather forward. And the most liberating bra is the one that I forget I'm wearing. T-shirt bras don't do it for me with how I carry the tissue so the best one I've found so far is a seamed bra from Freya. DH doesn't complain either, he hates the look of t-shirt bras.

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  81. Thank goodness for molded-cup bras and minimisers! The thicker the straps and sturdier the bra, the better... As another 34H, I just want something that can give me a decent shape without jutting! And if it can give me 2 seperated boobs instead of the dreaded slit cleavage, I'll buy 3 :)

    Seriously, I see no need to heap praise on the bullet bra as creating a more natural shape (as a number of commenters have done). Perhaps this is the case for some but, trust me, there is no way a perky, pointy breat is natural for most bigger-breasted ladies!

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  82. I have to say that I don't really agree with the idea that the majority of bras available are this highly arificial padded shape. I have a 36F bust and have sisters who vary from an 8F up to a 38H and the majority of bras in our collections and those which I look at instore and online are not heavily shaped and reinforced constructions, in fact when I was younger I felt a lot of anger towards the lingerie industry for the way larger bra sizes were often constructed with not enough strength in the cups. Most of my bras come from the brand Freya and consist of single or double layers of mesh. I prefer a 3 piece bra cup as I find this gives better support and a roundness which to me is fairly natural if only I could resist gravity. All that said, there is certainly a percentage of bras which seek to create a heavily arificial look but I don't believe they dominate in quite the same way as the conical bras of the 50s or the flattened look of the 20s.

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  83. This is a really interesting topic! I used to think I'd be doomed to wearing a sports bra my whole life because every time I tried on a fitted bra I never fit completely! Then I discovered padded bras and while I didn't fit, it gave the allusion that I fit and also that I was bigger. Well, fast forward to about a year ago, I was tired of wearing ill fitting bras that made me look bigger than I was and I went out to find what my true size was. After several purchases I've discovered I'm a 34AA. Well, that doesn't necessarily make things easier! But at least I have narrowed down the search. Funny that the bras that fit me the best are from Gilly Hicks! I'd really love to find a vintage style bra, but I don't think any of them come as low as AA. Ah, well. Perhaps I'll try the smallest size they offer and see if I can make it fit. ;)

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  84. I'm a 40E and hate moulded bras... the padded kind make the tops of my boobs wobble like mad when I walk as they're naturally round and the fullness starts rather high up my chest. I feel like the t-shirt ones flatten me, and the stretchy fabric makes me look like I have three nips on each breast because of my piercings.

    My favourite bras are some I bought about ten years ago from British stalwart Marks & Spencer, they're a two-piece cup construction that gives good support, the moderately pointed late 40s shape I like and also have a plunge front so I can wear low tops - I don't know how they came up with these miracle items, but they're totally worn out now and the only way I can replace them is by making my own!

    I also love bullet bras but they're not right under every item in my wardrobe, and I always liked Panache's three-section cup unpadded designs.

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  85. After reading through 84 comments, I'm surprised that on this SEWING blog that no one has mentioned sewing their own bras! Has anyone tried to re-create a favorite bra? If not, why?
    I've enjoyed following kaythesewinglawyer's blog on sewing her own bras. I've also been doing some research about sewing my own and where to purchase the supplies.
    My totally favorite bra is no longer carried locally (a Lillyette minimizer that is very lightly padded). Now I order it from a far-away department store. Until they discontinue it, which they will do, since it is comfortable and supportive (not unlike my hubby.) *SIGH*

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  86. You should attend a bra seminar with Anne St Claire from Wichita KS. I did, and even though I have no desire to sew a bra, I learned more than I ever thought possible about how they fit and why you should have good ones. No padded cups for me, ever, and I like wide straps. I'm a Lane Bryant Cacique girl.

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  87. I love those pointy bras and I was always curious of trying them out.
    What I hate about modern bras is the ubiquitous underwiring. It's so hard to find a cotton, simple bra with no underwiring, little padding. Normally there's one to choose from in the whole shop, if they even sell them.

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  88. I think you are liberated if you wear what you want to, regardless of what people think. That's hard to do, to be honest, so it's a matter of finding a balance. I also think the debate is very different for large-breasted and small-breasted women (I am a B cup). I like a tad of padding, but not a huge blob at the bottom that is meant to add a cup size. I like for the bra to be flattering. I don't have a cleavage - what can I do! -and I'm not going to push my "girls" up in order to get a fake cleavage. I like my bras to be comfortable and flattering, yet not overly fake - when it comes off, it shouldn't be a big surprise as if they were supposed to be much bigger...

    Due to what I'm used to, I wouldn't wear a pointy bra of several decades ago - it would just feel weird to me. Maybe I'm wrong, but the rounded bra (without spillage!) seems more like the natural shape than the pointy bra. And I wouldn't want my nipples showing! I have some thin sports bras that I sometimes wear and when it gets cold I sometimes feel uncomfortable if any nipple outline is showing.

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  89. Ooh I missed this when you first posted it the other day! It's an interesting topic - I actually posted a (somewhat comprehensive) history of breast/bra shape a few months ago, Abreast of Developments: The Changing Shape of Decolletage in Fashion.

    Personally I'm a big fan of the bullet bra, and I don't wear any other style now. I like that the shape makes my (large) breasts appear smaller, since there's no bulging out at the sides.

    I suppose you could consider a modern woman wearing a bullet bra to be more 'liberated' than a modern woman wearing a padded bra, since we're not bowing to fashion industry pressure!

    xx Charlotte
    Tuppence Ha'penny Vintage

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  90. fantastic post and great coments - I agree with "the perfect bras -- spandex-y fabric, either cotton or synthetic, with underwire"

    I need a bra - breastfeeding has left me a little saggy - but as I've gotten older, I forgo padding and have given myself over to my "pear-shaped" body. Not quite hourglass, but close.

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  91. I don't find any of them more liberated than any others, except possibly athletic bras, but even those aren't comfortable for many women with larger breasts.

    They're all pretty weird, too. I have zero brand-loyalty when it comes to bras: I buy what I find that fits and doesn't look weird. I seem to have wide-set "assets": I find that bra cups are often set too close together. Going up a size doesn't work because then the band is too big. So I have to try every single bra on, because no one brand consistently carries styles that fit.

    I don't like padded bras but I often buy ones with molded cups. or cups with a thin layer of all-over padding (instead of an under-boob lump of it) that fill me out a little bit and conceal nipples completely. I don't like underwires because they don't fit my rib cage well and they pinch when I play guitar, but sometimes it's hard to find affordable non-underwires that hold everything in place effectively.

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  92. I doubt one shape is more liberated than another, but I won't buy any products from Victoria's secret anymore because I don't want bras that make my b-cub a d-cup. Gross.

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  93. I don't wear T-chirt bras. I complain to every sales girl who helps me shop for bras that I don't need foam padding as a DD cup. I prefer unlined, seamed bras with a nylon lining and lace exterior. The sad thing is that it's next to impossible to find any fun colors in bras that aren't padded. Making my own bras is definitely on my list of sewing projects, but so far all the materials kits online are often sold out in the colors I want and I havent' had any luck finding underwire chenneling in NYC.

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  94. I guess a different perspective--for the next year or so, I am sporting wearing nursing bras. It's almost impossible to comfortably nurse in a padded nursing bra. I have a few that are not padded with anything and they are the ones I wear on a regular basis. However, that said, every day I wear sweaters because I am very conscious about not only the new size of my bust (went from a very small B to almost DD) but the bust points are typically very revealing. I wouldn't mind a nursing bra that was, maybe, thickly lined so as to hide them a little better but not necessarily padded to make them uncomfortable. Typically I go for a bra that allows a nice shape without pretending to add volume.

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  95. Great article Gertie. I have a "cone" bra that I bought at a thrift store. It was in great shape, and really did not appear to be that old and so I bought it since it was in my size. I took it home, gave it a good wash, put in on and I found it really very comfortable. I really like wearing it, I especially wear it with my vintage clothing and the garments I make from vintage patterns, it does wonders for the overall fit...I find myself wishing for more so I am glad you linked to the "Conical Bras"....I agree with other posters concerning the ubiquitous padded bras. I have a small bust and I like it. I don't want a bra that already has boobs in it...the point is to fill it with MY boobs not factory boobs! Great food for thought Gertie, thanks.

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  96. Wow. I'm trying not to be overly sensitive here, but some women - like me - ARE shaped with rounder breasts. It's pretty offensive to hear my natural shape referred to as grapefruit, basketballs or canteloupes or for it to be suggested that there is something fake/unnatural/porn inspired about them.

    There also seems to be confusion between the t-shirt bra and the push up bra. Not all t-shirt bras are push up bras. Mine are not. http://www.barenecessities.ca/article.aspx?articlename=BraGlossary

    For me, the tee shirt bra is one of the few RTW items that fits me off the rack and in many different brands. When I don't care about show thru - when I'm wearing heavier fabrics or lined clothing - I like Chantelle and Simone Perele lace bras. Expensive, but I think that I'm worth it, and so are my breasts - "they're real and they're spectacular."

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  97. I love this post! While I wear what's comfortable for me I also have a specific challenge in mind when purchasing a bra:

    I'm a high school teacher with gigantor breasts (42G or H, to be frank). The one thing I don't want when I'm in a room of hormonal teenage boys is to have nipples poking out. I had a student about 15 years ago say to me "didn't you mother tell you it wasn't polite to point?" He immediately went to the office and I made a trip to the bathroom for some bandaids. I was mortified and bandaid-ed my nipples daily until I could find a molded cup bra in my cup size.

    I certainly don't want or need the extra padding, and I have to shop in specialty shops to find bras that fit, but I don't ever want to go back to taping my nipples before going to class. I don't buy molded cup bras to impress my husband or other men, I buy them because they give me more support and hide the nips when I'm in a room of young men. I'm sure many ladies out there can understand and identify!

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  98. I did the Bali bras for years - only ones around that fit my frame. They lasted really well, even when thrown in the washer and dryer. After reduction surgery, I haven't needed so much "construction" but highly recommend them to the endowed.

    The unconstructed bras of the 90s simply didn't always provide enough support for anyone over a C. Think skin enfolding underwire all day. Several of my friends got heat rash!

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  99. Never had a personal body part been so so firmly in the public and political. Breasts seem to be everyone's business. Anonymous designers and advertisers dictate what size and shape constitutes beauty. Like every body part of everybody I believe in celebrating diversity, celebrating what is personal and fabulous! Also that breasts are not there for public consumption and that should be respected. I find it hugely inappropriate rather than flattering when men stare at my decolletage. Let us have variety, choose what shape suits us and people respect a womans right not to have parts of her anatomy gawped at.

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  100. This IS an interesting topic. I've worn the seamless foam cup thingies, and I am completely over it; it was a pain to find one that worked well on me and they are rarely comfortable. I'm moving towards a vintage silhouette, and it immediately became much easier to find comfy bras that support my 34F bust.

    I have a very expensive Primadonna full cup bra, seamed lace and fabric cups, that was worth every single penny. It's the most comfortable bra I've ever had, and gives a moderately pointy, very uplifted shape that reads as slightly old-fashioned without coming close to bullet territory. Great for work and fitted sweaters, in other words, since I don't mind if the world knows that I have not only breasts, but nipples too.

    That said, I'm in the market for a full-on bullet bra at the moment. Neither Secrets In Lace nor What Katie Did worked on me - they turned my really quite firm and perky F-cups into sad bullets, actually pointing downwards, not up or even out. I don't know why. I have one very pointy 60's bra that gives a great, uplifted pointy shape, close to a bullet bra, and a vintage corselet that also has a fantastic, mildly pointy effect, but I would really like to have one that goes all the way. Sadly, the best-selling Triumph Doreen bra, which is often recommended as a good mainstream alternative to the bullet bra and similar vintage silouettes for bustier women, also has the same dachshund's ear effect on my boobs. YMMV, apparently, but I've seen it look great on other sets of boobs, and it's supposed to be extremely comfy and supportive as well.

    Liberation? POssibly wen we all feel free to pick and choose among any and every possible bust silouette; flattened, pointy, rounded, modest or completely uninhibited, pushed up, down, together or apart. I hope we are getting there eventually - I mean, here we are discussing the respective merits of very different shapes, after all!

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  101. Well I seem to have a different bra issue to everyone here. Bra seams bring me out in a rash so I have to wear seam free which is incredibly limiting when you bring fit and a 32E/34DD size into the mix. Some chain store brands even where the straps or elastic is stitched causes me problems. I live in Panache Superbras. I was quite excited because there is now a plunge one available - the only problem is they have also changed the elastic and my new one went all wobbly after the first wear. Help!
    I would love to wear Freya seamed bras. Unfortunately I can only dream....

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  102. Very interesting post Gertie, very thought provoking, way beyond what I ever thought through.

    Making bras is on my list hopefully yours too.

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  103. Just wanted to throw out there - if your breasts are pushing out the top of the cups (the oh-so-delightful "boob muffin top") it's probably not the fault of the bra, the manufacturer, the fashion-industrial complex, or porn... It's probably the wrong size bra! Most women tend to wear their bras with the cup size too small and/or the band size too large. I think the fit of the bra is more important than the style.

    That said, I do need to save up for one of these Bali Flower bras to go with my new vintage girdle...

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  104. The Bali Flower has been my mother's mainstay as long as I can remember. Of course, she's somewhere around an F cup size and graduated high school in 1960, so it's something of her generation's signature look!

    When I started wearing bras, she dutifully tried to fit me out in the same seamed styles. Sadly, the cups looked saggy and the seams made me break out in rashes. It was years before I found molded cups. It was years more before I was fitted and found that I was a 34C! After a lifetime of comparing myself to my mother, I'd been convinced I was an A. No wonder nothing ever worked.

    The T-shirt bras really can look lumpy and matronly, but the seamed cups don't fit my shape.

    I'd sew my own--but I still have no idea what style/shape/cut might be appropriate!

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  105. I wear a 38HH (biggest boobs in the thread so far. Woo?) and my concerns are mostly finding bras in my size under $75. I've been interested in experimenting with historical bra shapes but they really don't exist in my size.

    I've worn different types of corsets for historical costuming and it's interesting to see how one's bosom is "supposed" to look, and how it feels to wear different sizes.

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  106. The other thing is I feel like some current bra styles are very focused on breasts being smooth and round (t-shirt bras etc). I find that spherical shape to be a bit odd/unnatural.

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  107. Hmm. The bullet bra looks like it might injure small children (who love to give me hugs, but are *just* that height.) The t-shirt bra isn't very realistic either...but after five years of nursing and 27 months of being pregnant, "natural shape" is not what I'm going for either. hee. Could definitely do without padding, though! Still looking for that perfect bra. (I have a vintage brassiere pattern downstairs..multiple copies of it, I think- I'd be happy to send you one!) Wonder how one would go about crafting The Perfect Shape?

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  108. 54 years old and still shopping for bras in the little girls department (nothing else fits). How unbelievable is it that I'm even finding underwires in this department!

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  109. I wish the push-up bra would have never been invented! It's such a horrible lie to wear something that increases your bust two sizes!!

    I'm lucky enough to love my small chest, and I wish more women would just be happy with what they have. I only wear a bra if I have to and I prefer something that just hides my nipples showing through tops and gives a tiny bit of support. Who want their boobs to hit their chin when they run or move?!

    Thank you for this blog post. I just discovered you blog through a Google search.

    I design women's lingerie from recycled materials, with NO sucking, tucking, or pushing up.

    Sally
    www.sallyannk.com

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  110. I am all for the natural look. I recently threw out most of my bras. At first i started wearing soft cup bras but then i found the underwires uncomfortable and restrictive and tight. I've also read some interesting stuff about the links of wearing bras with breast cancer and the fact that wearing a bra is not proven to prevent sagging. i avoid wearing a bra and maybe just wear a singlet instead. Now that it is coming in to summer i have started making little bralettes for when i need something. Ive been making them out of vintage bedsheets, jersy and just lace. I also cut off the top of some thrifted slips that fit well and put lace just along the bottom under the bust, they are not tight and feel like im wearing nothing but give just enough support.

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  111. It really comes down to function for me. Why wear a bra in the first place? I'm a reasonable handful-sized girl, and that, combined with being very active, I need good support. Otherwise I would just take after my very small-breasted grandmother and eschew them altogether.
    I want a bra that allows me to run to catch the bus/tram/train, run to catch up with a friend, to be a bit less late for an appointment (maybe a watch would be more useful for that goal? ;-P) All without having to rearrange myself and my lingerie afterwards.
    On top of that I'll be damned if a bra is gonna ruin the line of a dress or top I've put so much effort into sewing, so it has to look good and of a suitable proportion and shape for my overall figure, too. What an ask!

    Thus the bra needs to be the right size in cup and band, and very importantly, the right shape. I had presumed the different styles of bra available, from the rounded t-shirt ones to the balconet or more pointy cross-your-heart Playtex ones were to accommodate different-shaped breasts, ribcages and shoulders. I feel naive after reading this and seeing it from a historical perspective!

    But then again what I thought is what people seem to be saying. Different shapes suit different women. For myself, I just fall out the front of those rounded t-shirt bras if I even breath a bit too quickly. Oops! It doesn't fulfil my desired function. So I don't wear them.

    I am not convinced the desired breast shape is based on what "men" think is attractive in any particular era. In my experience men in general are just so happy to be allowed to get their hands on a pair, that seems the biggest turn-on, not a particular shape or size. I think society's relationship to women's bodies and sexuality is waaay more complex than what white heterosexual middle-class men have been taught is supposedly attractive. (or us women are taught these kind of men apparently find attractive.)

    I've learnt so much about bras, history, breasts and other women from this post and the comments. Fantastic reading :-)

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  112. I wonder if this is a more supportive style. Most bras that are E or bigger have the conical shape/three part cup by default. I own several of the bras referenced on the HerRoom page.

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  113. I realize I'm a little late to the game with this post, but after reading several of the comments I feel the need to stress that VS is not the place to go for bras. Their models don't even fit well into their bras! If your boobs are trying to escape the cups, either above, out the sides, or out the bottom, it is the wrong size! More than likely, it means the cup size is at least one size too small, and probably the band size is too large. American bra manufacturers are way behind our European counterparts as far as bra technology and sizing is concerned. Don't buy into the +4" method of measuring for a bra. Don't measure above your breasts for your band size either. For a good calculator, visit: http://www.sophisticatedpair.com/bracalculator.htm

    http://www.lindasonline.com/ is also a good resource.

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  114. I also love bullet bras but they're not right under every item in my wardrobe, and I always liked Panache's three-section cup unpadded designs.Acetylsalicylic Acid

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  115. A friend of mine referred to newest bra style as having "wodges" of foam in them, and stated that she could do without the wodges quite happily. I agree with her. I like having a bra that gives some support, because otherwise I bounce around rather more than is comfortable, but I can't stand even underwires, so I end up taking those out. I tend more towards a comfortable fit than anything else, and whatever style works for that is what I end up with.

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  117. can you tell me how to correct a vtg dress with the pointy bust? The dress was made when women wore the bullet bra. I want to wear a regular bra with the dress and would like to make the pointy bust orrection on my sewing machine.

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    Replies
    1. Don't try. The cut of vintage dresses reflected the pointiness of the era, don't spoil it!

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  118. I would love to try the playtex wirefree bra. its Looks comfortable! I am so grateful for your post.Really looking forward to read more. Keep writing.

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  120. When I was younger (in the 80's) those Bali Flower Bras were the only ones that came in sizes that fit me (and my mother) so, until now I never thought of the shape of them as being strange or retro. It's kind of funny to see them as that now.

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  122. that bali bra is my hands down favorite bar in my collection glad to known it is still in production since i got mine second hand! its so supportive and the shape i feel is very natural and drop dead sexy. makes me waist appear long and is equally slimming

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  123. For the loveliest breast shaping you cannot beat the Triumph Doreen bra.

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  124. Thank you pertaining to giving this excellent content on your web-site. I discovered it on google. I may check back again if you publish extra articles..

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Thanks for your comments; I read each and every one! xo Gertie

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