At the very beginning of the pandemic, working in my pajamas every day felt fun and free. But as we quickly went from WFH for what we’d thought would be two weeks to indefinitely, I couldn’t stand it anymore — I began to revert to work clothes to feel “normal” again, but the one thing I couldn’t fathom putting on once again unless I absolutely had to was a real bra.
I’m not one to go braless. I’m a 32DD, so I’ve never been fond of feeling loosey-goosey, and something about working sans bra felt weird. But regardless of how comfortable my bras were — and I did invest a good amount in undergarments — at the end of the day, I still couldn’t wait to take them off. So in March 2020, after looking for a more comfortable alternative, I found Lively’s Busty Bralette, which I started wearing exclusively as it’s one of the only bralettes that fit me well. But after hearing consistently positive comments about none other than Kim Kardashian’s Skims line from friends (and the internet), I decided to branch out with her Summer Mesh Bralette. Unexpectedly, Kim K. kick-started a newfound love for mesh lingerie.
At that point last summer, temperatures had skyrocketed so high that I loathed wearing anything close-fitting. But Kim’s mesh felt breezier than anything I’d ever worn before — it felt like I wasn’t wearing anything at all. The flexible fabric stretched and molded to my body without cutting into my underarms or ribcage, but at the same time I felt supported. Sure, the fabric is sheer, but under a shirt you would never know. And even though it’s not intended as activewear, for low-impact movement like yoga I found it supportive and breathable enough to (slowly) go from down dog to high lunges to warrior pose. It washed beautifully and never stretched out after months of constant wear, unlike many of my traditional bras.
I wanted another, but I also had a desire to cheat on Kim. I began to research other mesh options from Instagram-famous brands like Cuup and Parade to higher-end brands like Negative Underwear to relatively under-the-radar companies like Underbares. My underwear drawer barely closed thanks to my new purchases. I kept one or two of my better regular bras, but I impulsively decided the rest had to go to make room for the far superior undergarments made from my new favorite material.
It’s now been four months since the Great Underwear Purge, and I have yet to look back. Even in colder weather, I still prefer the mesh bras because they don’t add another bulky layer or make me feel constricted. Since they’ve delightfully proven to be all-season bras, I can’t imagine spending my money on anything else. And because I’ve dedicated so much time and money to finding the ideal mesh bras, below I’ve shared the best ones I’ve tried so far.
Best overall mesh bra
During the Strategist two-day sale last year, I bought a bra from the brand’s Essaouira collection (we’ve written about it before along with the sieve collection) which is a stretch eyeletlike lace but more supportive and far less scratchy. And while I love it dearly (it’s one of the only bras I kept), it’s not technically mesh, so I reached out to the brand to try their actual mesh bra. The sieve non-wire bra offers DDD/G sizing, which I opted for to have a little extra room. It felt tight to start, but after two or so wears it gave a little for an extremely comfortable fit. I felt supported but not flattened thanks to the power mesh that stretches just enough to provide full coverage. And while I do genuinely recommend each bra mentioned on this list, if you’re going to invest in just one, make it this. It comes in nine colors, including skin-tone options for those not looking for anything too adventurous, and lots of sizes, especially for those with a fuller cup. It’s a touch pricier than the others on this list but worth it.
Best colored mesh bras
Although Parade did just release a neutral collection, they’ve made more of a name for themselves with their brightly colored undergarments, so much so we’ve had everyone from Katie Sturino to transgender women to stylists rave about the brand. I own five Parade bras in both the scoop and plunge styles, but mostly in wacky colors that would show under a white shirt — the comfort overrules the limited shade selection, however. I purchased the +1 size in both styles, and because of the thicker band, it offers more support and sits flat against my chest instead of rolling up underneath my breasts. But friends with smaller chests own these styles and appreciate the ease and solid construction too. It fits and feels similar to the Negative bra, but the smaller color range makes this one less versatile.
Best V-neck mesh bra
I love that Cosabella included a hook-and-eye closure on the back of this bralette instead of forcing me to pull it over my head. (To be fair, Parade’s plunge bralette does too.) It scoops everything into place, and the clasp prevents it from stretching out over time. I think this gives me the best cleavage out of any bra on this list because of its crossover design — it features what the brand describes as a “side sling,” a thicker piece of fabric on the side of the bra, to give a little extra support to those who need it and prevent extra bounce. But if you wear a D cup or smaller, you can buy the non-busty version here, and if you need extended sizing, they offer that, too.
Best scoop-neck mesh bra
Kim K.’s scoop mesh bralette holds a special place in my heart, but I like the thickness of Underbares a touch more. The brand attempted to create a sports bra–bralette hybrid, and they’ve achieved just that. It moves with you while keeping everything in place, but it doesn’t feel overly compressive as some sports bras can. If you have a smaller band and larger chest, the sizing is a bit tricky (the medium fits me best), but the brand shows the bra on models of different sizes to give you a better gauge of fit.
[Editor’s note: Underbares is no longer in business, but you can sometimes spot them on resale websites — usually new with tags — like Poshmark.]
Best underwire mesh bra
I know I ranted about how I never wanted to wear real bras again, but I will make an exception for Cuup because the cups mold to your boobs and feel like you’ve barely got anything on. Usually I’m very skeptical of direct-to-consumer, social-media-favorite brands; they hardly ever live up to the hype and typically, while the products look good in photos, the quality doesn’t match up. But Cuup is yet again the exception. I heard a lot about the brand when I spoke to women on the best lingerie, and after such rave reviews I decided to give in and try it. (Fellow Strategist writer Dominique Pariso is also a fan.) The bras are very tight to begin with, but after two or three wears they adjust to your perfect size. The mesh, however, feels extremely delicate, like one wrong move and the whole thing will rip, especially when being washed. Surprisingly though, it gives lots of support despite how thin it feels.
Best balconette underwire mesh bra
I own Cuup’s balconette underwire bra, too, but I don’t find it as comfortable as Lively’s dot mesh. The brand kindly sent me this limited-edition bra, and it quickly made its way into my rotation. Because of how much I love their Busty Bralette — which actually has a bit of mesh, in case you’re in the market for a toe-dip into the world of mesh instead of a full-on plunge — I was eager to try this version. Much like Cuup, it adapts to your breasts, but the underwire keeps everything lifted. Lively puts the strap adjusters in the front of the bra instead of the back, so you can easily tighten the straps without having to call in a roommate or partner for help. This feature isn’t unique to this bra — all their products have it — but it’s still useful. Because this is a limited-edition bra, it only comes in light pink or green, but both shades are charming enough to hit “buy” on.
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