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As our resident underwear expert — I have thought about granny panties much more than anyone should — I’ve come to realize there’s no supporting player quite like the bra. The bra gets a bad rap because it can be hard to find one that fits, but it’s doing a lot. It has to disappear under your clothing while not cutting into your chest from any angle. It should separate and support your breasts without feeling unnatural or uncomfortable. I previously theorized (in our small-bust-specific bra guide) that the best bra is one you don’t have to think about, and the longer I’ve been on the bra beat, the more I’ve come to believe that’s true. Since no two boobs are alike (which is why you also need straps that adjust accordingly without digging into your shoulders) and considering all of the above, it’s easy to see why bra shopping can be so challenging. To simplify the process, I asked professional undergarment fitters, lingerie-store owners, and those who have tried tons of styles about their most beloved bras (and I’ve included a couple of my own favorites, too).
What we’re looking for
We wanted to include bras that come in a wide selection of cups and bands. To broaden the number of options you have, here’s a tip I found helpful from our story to small-breast-specific bras, courtesy of Elisabeth Dale, author of The Breast Life Guide to the Bra Zone: If you go down a size in a band to get a better fit, choose the next cup size up to keep your band-to-cup ratio the same, and if you go down a cup size, go up a band size. Or put another way, a 36AA is roughly the same as a 34A, a 34B is about equivalent to 32C, and so on.
As former Strategist writer Chloe Anello helpfully explains, “Without an underwire, the band is essentially responsible for support,” which is why an ill-fitting bra “will cause your straps to slip and cups to feel loose.” Along with support, the “underwire’s job is to shape the base of the cup and thus the rest of the breast,” undergarment educator Kimmay Caldwell previously told me.
Cup style and coverage
There could be a dictionary dedicated to different cup shapes. A plunge and push-up are sometimes synonymous, but the former is better for those J.Lo-in-that-Versace-dress moments. A balconette is a close cousin of the demi, designed for more cleavage and less cup. Your cup style of choice will also determine the coverage it provides — cups that sit too low could mean an unintended nip slip (which is why fit is so important). The level of coverage lies with the lining, too (which I noted with each recommendation).
Best overall bra
Sizes: 30A–38DD | Underwire: Wired | Cup style and coverage: T-shirt-style cups with a light lining and molded mesh
The cult favorite turned classic Natori Feathers has been a Nordstrom Anniversary Sale best seller with Strategist readers for years. The Feathers took the gold in this guide because it fulfills everything we were looking for: It comes in a range of sizes; features lightly lined, contoured cups; and has straps that become wider as you move up into larger sizes for more support.
Writer Molly Lamoureux calls this bra “the unicorn of undergarments” for its comfort and support. Parsons fashion-marketing student Tammy Lee is another devotee, describing how the bra makes “your boobs look natural while being held up.” It’s the top seller for shoppers with A through G cups at New York City’s Bra Tenders, according to store founder Lori Kaplan, who says the lightweight, seamless, deep-plunge bra works under T-shirts “but still has some feminine effects.”
Since crowning it our best bra, I tried out the Feathers for myself when Natori sent it to me for review. I understand all the love around the bra now. Although you can see the actual cups — as opposed to having them hidden under a layer of lining — I found it to be uplifting, like my breasts were being gently held up. And what makes the Feathers different from many T-shirt styles is the dramatic plunge at the center — yet the molded mesh ensured nothing could pop out. I’ll also note that Natori takes the title of “most mentioned” out of the bra brands I heard about from our panelists. Mia Leimkuhler, former Strategist senior manager of audience engagement, used to be a Feathers fan but has now switched to the Flora, which is similar but has thinner cup material.
Best overall bra for small breasts
Sizes: 32A–44H with half-cups (like A½) | Underwire: Wired | Cup style and coverage: T-shirt-style (slightly demilike cut) with memory foam cups for a light lining
This ThirdLove T-shirt bra topped our list of the best bras for small breasts, with three Strategist staffers pointing us to it. Former Strategist senior writer Karen Iorio Adelson tried it as part of her deep dive into the world of start-up bra brands. Since Iorio Adelson usually experiences strap slippage, she especially liked how the pleated design keeps them up on her shoulders. She also gave it top marks for feeling invisible while still being supportive, while Strategist writer Lauren Ro agrees that the bra fits and wears really well. Strategist senior writer Liza Corsillo gives it a third thumbs-up, saying that it “makes my boobs look equal and perky without overly drawing attention to them.”
Best overall bras for large breasts
Sizes: 44C–54DD with up to a K cup options | Underwire: Wired | Cup style and coverage: Balconette style, lightly lined, molded cups
Jasmine Elder, founder of JIBRI, and content creator Thamarr Guerrier of Musings of a Curvy Lady both highly praised Lane Bryant’s intimates line, Cacique. The sheer number of sizes — including cup sizes up to K and band sizes up to 54 — makes it a clear winner. Elder and Guerrier mention that the label’s bras have wide straps and bands that look seamless under clothing and don’t pinch the skin. This balconette bra is the one Guerrier turns to the most, calling it “a trustworthy style.” It delivers the shape she wants, and it’s smoothing enough to be a true unseen undergarment. Alternatively, if you’re interested in something wireless, Elder relies on this unlined bralette from the brand, which she says doesn’t have underwire but supports as if it did.
Best T-shirt bra
Sizes: 30B–40D | Underwire: Wired | Cup style and coverage: T-style style, lined with lifting memory-foam cups
An underwear list wouldn’t be complete without Calvin Klein. Lamoureux turned us on to this T-shirt bra from the label that has a devoted fandom for its light lining and just-right level of coverage. Another fan is Lauren Stephens, co-founder of the clothing company Dudley Stephens; she previously worked in PR for Calvin Klein, which is how she first learned about the bra. She hasn’t worked there for years but still sings the bra’s praises and especially likes the memory foam that molds to a wearer’s body, giving a more personalized lift.
Best plunge bra
Sizes: 30A–44H | Underwire: Wired | Cup style and coverage: Cups cut with deep V, unlined with sheer or printed mesh
If you’re set on sheer material, the Cuup Plunge is a favorite among panelists with small and bigger breasts alike. Amanda McMillan, a restaurant general manager in Brooklyn and former “underwire cynic,” likes the bra for its “French-girl-lingerie-under-structured-boxy-menswear look” and how the construction allows for a barely-there fit that doesn’t contort her chest. Anello, meanwhile, made an exception to her “no-real-bras rule” for this one. “Surprisingly, it gives lots of support despite how thin it feels,” she says. The leaves-nothing-to-the-imagination mesh is also why Maude founder Éva Goicochea considers it a lingerie piece to liven up her decades-long marriage. The Plunge is also popular with two Strategist staffers: writers Latifah Miles and Dominique Pariso. Miles has “never felt sleeker” underneath than when she’s wearing the Plunge. Pariso loves how comfortable and breathable hers is.
Best balconette bra
Sizes: 32A–38DD | Underwire: Wired | Cup style and coverage: Balconette-style, unlined with a dot mesh
Once Anello tried out Lively’s the Dot Mesh Unlined Bra, it quickly made its way into her rotation, even beating out Cuup’s colorful balconette option. This bra adapts better to your breasts, Anello says, with the underwire helping to lift everything up. Unlike other brands, the straps on Lively bras (including the Dot Mesh) adjust in the front, rather than back, to make it easier to find the right fit. And since this particular style is made from less see-through mesh, Anello suggests it for those “in the market for a toe-dip into the world of mesh instead of a full-on plunge.”
Meanwhile, if you prefer a more traditional balconette with a bit more coverage, go with Monogram co-founder Lisa Mayock’s pick: the B.tempt’d by Wacoal Ciao Bella Bra. “Wearing this is like winning the bra lottery,” she says, mentioning that it’s “comparable to others in my lingerie drawer that are more than double the price.”
Best contour bra
Sizes: 30A–38G | Underwire: Wired | Cup style and coverage: Contour cups in a T-shirt style, foam-lined
Think of a contour bra like the push-up bra’s cousin. This style features cups specially cut to sculpt the bust in a way that’s more seamless than a push-up’s padding traditionally is. Natori’s Bliss, which is designed in a T-shirt style and comes with a touch of padding, gives wardrobe stylist Grace Thomas the “subtle lift most of us are looking for in our bras.” She even goes as far as to call it an upgrade to the brand’s fan-favorite Feathers bra for its well-thought-out details. The cups of the Bliss are cut just low enough to wear with a V-neck without having to worry about the top of the bra playing peekaboo, as is the band, which is scooped in the back and easy to wear with tops that bare slightly more skin. Still, Thomas adds that the band isn’t overly thin; it falls higher on the sides, and she likes that the lace trim throughout makes the Bliss a sexier version of an everyday bra.
Best minimizer bra
Sizes: 32D–44DDD | Underwire: Wired | Cup style and coverage: Minimizer-style, high-cut cups and lightly lined
Minimizers don’t have the best reputations — they’re notorious for feeling restrictive and uncomfortable, not to mention looking passé. But this Wacoal style boasts endorsements from two bra-store owners. As Linda Becker, a.k.a. Linda the Bra Lady, says, “Minimizers are known to be ugly,” but the Visual Effects is not, with a “pretty all-over lace that’s very smooth and gives a lot of support” while making you look a size smaller. (She should know because she relies on it herself as a G cup.) Kaplan has high praise for the bra, too: “It does what it says it’s going to do, and it’s got nice wide sides, so it contains any side pooching.”
The bra also has the Strategist seal of approval. From personal experience, bras advertised as “minimizing” can be very smooshing. This one is decidedly not. It doesn’t emphasize my breasts as others do — I put it on when I don’t want them to be as “exposed,” so to speak (like underneath a tighter turtleneck). It sits high enough on my chest that I never worry about any slips or spillage. And probably best of all, it’s perfectly seamless even when worn with the thinnest of T-shirts. I just forget I have it on, which is the sign of a truly great bra. I even wrote an entire ode to it, naming it the best thing I bought in 2022.
Best bra with side support
Sizes: 34B–42C | Underwire: Wired | Cup style and coverage: T-style style, lined with foam cups, extra-wide side-coverage panels
Sometimes you need a little support on the sides — which is why I chose this Warners number. Its biggest selling point is the “No Side Effects” fit with the band featuring higher and wider panels (compared with what you’ll see from other bra brands) on each side of the cups. Pre-Warners, I would often struggle with spillage. Intentionally showing off sideboob is one thing, but feeling as if my chest is oozing out around the edges is not the effect I’m going for. Now, what once was spillage is kept into place with the help of the panels. I thought the result would be uncomfortable — a price I was admittedly willing to pay — but fortunately, there’s none of the restriction or resistance I was expecting. It’s like my sides are being firmly but gently supported rather than unpleasantly smushed in. The bra also just makes everything look so smooth. (If you read on, you’ll see that the wireless version of this bra also makes an appearance on this list.)
Best strapless bra
Sizes: 30B–44H with some I-cup options | Underwire: Wired | Cup style and coverage: Seamless cups, foam lined, built-in boning
The Wacoal Red Carpet came up the most out of any strapless style we heard about. Though it was specifically shouted out for bigger busts, it comes in such a wide size range that we had no trouble crowning it with a “best” title. It has somewhat of a cult following — Becker mentions that it is often the only strapless bra that clients with G and H cups feel comfortable wearing. Kaplan agrees that it offers “phenomenal support for a bra without straps.” But it’s not just a bra-store staple: Strategist contributor Nora Whelan is another member of the Red Carpet fan club, telling us that unlike other strapless bras, this one doesn’t lose its shape or slide down constantly. It’s so comfortable that she recounts a time when she fell asleep in the “soporific bra” during a house party. “Big-boobed girls of the world, trust: This bra will take you from perpetually petrified of popping out to secure, spillage-free, and slumberous,” she assures.
Best lace strapless bra
Sizes: 32B–40DD with some DDD options | Underwire: Wired | Cup style and coverage: Lace for a light lining, removable and convertible straps, silicone to keep in place
I’ve been burned too many times by strapless bras, which tend to slip down easily, have cups that don’t actually support my breasts, and include extremely uncomfortable underwires. (Sometimes all three all at once.) Still, I immediately liked this little number — which Wacoal sent me to try out — because it looks pretty with lace that resembles roses. Regardless of aesthetics, it’s a wonderful strapless bra in its own right. The lace makes the bra super-breathable, and it felt like my chest was secure without being squashed. I would liken the Halo to a more supportive bandeau, but it doesn’t try to push my chest up as high as other strapless bras do. The band is wide enough to offer some side support, and there’s silicone on the edge of the cups to keep the entire thing in place (but it doesn’t rub against my skin).
Best backless bra
Sizes: Cups A–D | Underwire: Wired | Cup style and coverage: Deep U-shaped plunge, padding, adhesive wings
When we asked lingerie experts about the best backless bras and boob tape, Fashion Forms came up twice. Courtney Killpack, who runs the lingerie store Bosom Besties and the Instagram account Bra Fittings by Court, points out that the brand offers many different options, from lifting petals to chicken-cutlet-style bras. The U-Plunge recommendation comes courtesy of Cora Harrington, author of In Intimate Detail: How to Choose, Wear, and Love Lingerie. Since bras of this style don’t have a back band, they won’t give you the same lift and support as a regular bra, Harrington warns, but this one is probably as good as it gets. The U-Plunge’s padding and underwire do the holding here, keeping your breasts in place — plus, the plunge helps if you’re wearing something with a low front. Make sure to test it out before a big event, Harrington advises, as the adhesive wings could be tricky to place in the first go-around.
Best wireless bra
Sizes: 0–5+ (equivalent to cup sizes A–G) | Underwire: Wireless | Cup style and coverage: V-neck, high-cut cups, unlined with sheer micro-mesh
We’ve called this non-wire option from Negative the archetypal wireless bra. It has a built-in fan base already, which is why it’s making an appearance on this list. Anello, a mesh obsessive after a pandemic-induced Great Underwear Purge, considers this her absolute favorite bra for how it manages to provide support (sans wire) without flattening, with mesh that stretches enough to be full coverage. Photo producer Emily Eisen seconds that, saying that while it’s “a little sexy,” the clasp band helps it be just as supportive as something with underwire. If there’s any doubt left, Leimkuhler explains that it was the only bra she needed on a two-week honeymoon through Europe.
Best wireless bra for small breasts
Sizes: XS–2X | Underwire: Wireless | Cup style and coverage: Scoop design, wide straps
Strategist senior editor Simone Kitchens and former New York Magazine photo editor (and filmmaker) Stella Blackmon call this wide-strap, pullover-style bra “small-bust-proof.” They each own several, which made the case even stronger for including it here. “They feel like nothing on,” Kitchens says. “They’re so comfy but still supportive enough that you don’t look dowdy.” Kitchens even pairs one with matching undies (our pick for the best high-rise brief) and a button-down at home. Blackmon, for her part, likes how breathable the Arq bras are, despite featuring wider straps and being made from a thicker cotton. “Truly every time I reach for it, compared to my other bra with the same shape, it’s a relief,” she explains.
Best wireless bra for large breasts
Sizes: XS–XL (equivalent to 30B–38D) | Underwire: Wireless | Cup style and coverage: Scoop design with removable pads
This True & Co. is another recommendation that comes from our archives. In our list of the best wireless bras for large breasts, it took the title of “best seamless.” Strategist contributor Brodie Lancaster, who’s also a longtime remote worker, counts the bra among her top-five best work-from-home bras. This one has a “full-coverage, long-enough-to-be-a-crop-top” look and comes in colors reminiscent of surgical bandages, but if comfort’s a priority, you can’t go wrong with its fabric, which is “softer than any other bra material I’ve encountered,” Lancaster explains. And since it’s designed to be more of a middle ground between a T-shirt and sports bra, it does the lifting and supporting jobs well, too.
Best wireless bra with side support
Sizes: 35A–40C | Underwire: Wireless | Cup style and coverage: T-shirt style, lightly padded, extra-wide side-coverage panels
“It’s a mouthful, but I have seriously never worn a more comfortable bra,” personal stylist Allie McKenna says of this Warners wireless option. It’s part of the same “No Side Effects” line as the full-coverage style I mentioned above. Like me, McKenna praises the smoothing side panels. “If I’m wearing an actual bra, I want to make sure that it shapes me and holds me in properly so that I look and feel my best,” she says. “This bra does that.” Since it’s wireless, it doesn’t dig into her torso — in fact, the bra is so easy to wear that McKenna doesn’t feel the need to rip it off, as she does others. Keep in mind that the cups are lightly padded to give the bra a little more support.
Best sports bra
Sizes: XXS–6XL| Underwire: Wireless | Cup style and coverage: Scoop design, racerback, longline silhouette, designed for full coverage
It would be a Herculean effort to count how many times we’ve heard about Girlfriend Collective’s Paloma bra, making it rise above all the other contenders. (It was also featured in our best sports-bra guide.) Lauren Roxborough, former head of marketing for hot-yoga studio Y7, turns to it when she knows she’s in for an active, sweaty class. Natalie Holloway, co-founder of Bala (maker of our favorite stylish wrist weights), likewise relies on hers for intense workouts. “They are not restrictive in your movement and show none-to-little sweat,” she says. But it works outside the gym, too: Lancaster wears it for WFH, saying that it stays put, is structural, and supports her chest (thanks to its compression style) without becoming uncomfortable. “If anything,” she says, “it encourages me to sit up straighter, for which my osteopath is grateful.”
Some more bras we’ve written about
• Karen Iorio Adelson, former Strategist senior writer
• Chloe Anello, former Strategist writer
• Linda Becker, a.k.a. Linda the Bra Lady and founder of Linda’s
• Stella Blackmon, filmmaker and former New York Magazine photo editor
• Kimmay Caldwell, undergarment educator
• Liza Corsillo, Strategist senior writer
• Elisabeth Dale, author of The Breast Life Guide to the Bra Zone
• Emily Eisen, photo producer
• Jasmine Elder, founder of JIBRI
• Thamarr Guerrier, content creator at Musings of a Curvy Lady
• Cora Harrington, author of In Intimate Detail: How to Choose, Wear, and Love Lingerie
• Natalie Holloway, co-founder of Bala
• Lori Kaplan, founder of Bra Tenders
• Courtney Killpack, runs lingerie store Bosom Besties and Instagram account Bra Fittings by Court
• Simone Kitchens, Strategist senior editor
• Molly Lamoureux, writer
• Brodie Lancaster, Strategist contributor
• Tammy Lee, Parsons fashion-marketing student
• Lisa Mayock, co-founder of Monogram
• Allie McKenna, personal stylist
• Amanda McMillan, restaurant general manager in Brooklyn
• Latifah Miles, Strategist writer
• Dominique Pariso, Strategist writer
• Lauren Ro, Strategist writer
• Lauren Roxborough, former head of marketing for hot-yoga studio Y7
• Lauren Stephens, co-founder of fleece-focused clothing company Dudley Stephens
• Grace Thomas, wardrobe stylist
• Nora Whelan, Strategist contributor
Additional reporting by Lauren Schwartsberg, Karen Iorio Adelson, and Dominique Pariso
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