Let’s make one thing clear: There is nothing wrong with showing off your bra. But sometimes a bra really can ruin an outfit. With a wedding or prom dress, or just one of the season’s trendy backless tops, it’s nice to just let the clothes do all the talking without the interruption of a hook and eye. And while we also support the free-the-nipple movement, not all of us can or want to go completely braless. “It’s funny how nipples are a trend over the years,” says Cindy Kahng, the owner of East Village lingerie shop Azaleas. “When we first opened and Sex and the City was the craze, it was more about showing off your hard nipples. Remember Samantha’s fake nipples pasties? Then we went through a phase of seamless everything - seamless undies, bras, slips, etc. Now it’s back to just showing it all off. But for some occasions, bras are still just necessary.” So we asked Kahng and three other lingerie experts about the best options out there. Below are their picks for the best backless bras and boob tapes for when you’re in the mood for boobs that are sitting.
Fashion Forms was mentioned by two of our experts. As far as solution-oriented undergarments go, they are relatively affordable and can be easily found everywhere, from Target to your favorite department store. “The brand Fashion Forms has a lot of different backless and strapless options,” says Courtney Killpack who runs the lingerie store Bosom Besties and the Instagram account Bra Fittings by Court. There’s everything from the chicken cutlet style backless bras to lifting petals to silicone skin bras. Your boob size and outfit will help determine the best option for you, but this plunge style is a favorite of lingerie expert Cora Harrington. She points out that “since most of the support of a ‘regular’ bra comes from the band, a backless bra, a bra without a complete band, won’t be able to give you that same lift and support.” This one does have padding and underwire, which supports much better than nothing. It works for an outfit that is both backless and low-cut, thanks to its U-plunge. They make this one up to a D-cup, but other Fashion Forms styles go up to a size G. No matter what you go with, Harrington says, “I would recommend testing it out before your event and wearing it with your garment.”
“I also enjoy a longline low back bra, such as this one from Va Bien,” says Harrington. If you don’t need your back completely bare, and you’re not worried about a plunge in the front, this bustier will do the trick. It has the same underwire and padding as the above, but the added bonus of the support from the extra wide band. “You’d wear this bra with something that has a low back, but not something that is backless,” explains Harrington. “It’s a good bridal underpinning for example, especially if the bride doesn’t want a bustier that covers the entire torso but still provides firm, all-day support.”
“NuBra is a staple,” says Kahng. These chicken cutlet style bras might be familiar, generally, but they come in a variety of styles. The silicone version appears more more natural looking than other styles that are padded or made from textiles. These look and are shaped more like real boobs but can add an extra cup size if needed. Of their silicone offerings, this one is the lightest weight. And most importantly Kahng says it “stays on even through the heavy heat.” It comes in cup sizes A to D, but she says it can work for up to a double D. “It’s all about how you pull it up to get the support and then the clasp in the middle gives a little cleavage, too.”
If your dress or shirt has a low back but still has straps this bodysuit might work for you. It’s the most expensive option on this list, but it’s a bra and shapewear all in one. You get the full support of an underwire plunge bra in the front, smoothing through the tummy, with an extremely low cut in the back. “It comes almost down to the butt crack,” says Lori Kaplan, the owner of Bra Tenders, who likes this bodysuit for “a dress that has straps, is backless and a little bit plunging in the front.” She also says it’s pretty supportive in the front even for those with larger breasts. It’s currently available on their site in cup sizes DD to G.
You can create your own custom “bra” with the help of tape. We’ve all been tempted to use duct tape (maybe you have — no judgement), but products exist that are actually designed to use on skin. “We’re selling a lot of two different products,” says Kaplan. “One is Booby Tape, which comes on a roll, which is a much better option than duct tape, and it comes in two different skin tones and that’s good for any cup size up to a double D.” In addition to a brown and nude, it also comes in black and white, and Killpack says it really can “fit all breast shapes and sizes,” because of how customizable it is. “Booby Tape comes with instructions about all the different ways that you can tape the breasts,” says Kaplan. “You can do it on the side to give a little bit more push inward for some cleavage. You can do it underneath to create a kind of a balcony effect. There’s also a million videos and pictures on how to use it.” She even says that some of her customers with very heavy breasts will wear tape in addition to a strapless bra for added lift. Strategist writer Jenna Milliner-Waddell is also a fan and thinks it’s super easy to use and says it stays on throughout the day no matter how hot it is. She, like Kaplan, recommends wearing something over your nipples underneath the tape though. “Anytime you’re going to use something with an adhesive I would suggest covering your nipples,” says Kaplan. “They’re very sensitive and the adhesives, while they’re medical grade, could be a little bit aggressive when you’re taking it off.”
For women with larger breasts, Kaplan recommends Brassybra. “It’s also an adhesive product but designed for women with very heavy breasts,” she says. “We’re selling tons of that to girls that wear F, G, and H cups.” It’s a similar concept to the above but instead of cutting your own strips and creating your own design, they come in tear-drop shaped adhesive pads in three different sizes that you can apply to lift the breast, and the results are pretty impressive. “Brassybra has a million videos on the internet, where a lot of models featured in the before and afters are plus size and full size and big breasted,” says Kaplan. “It’s really the first adhesive product designed for girls with big breasts, and our customers are happy, and it works.” A bonus: Brassybra comes with nipple covers.