year in review

The Best Thing I Bought This Year Is This Actually Sexy Minimizer Bra

Photo-Illustration: The Strategist; Photos: Writers

If you’ve read any of our Strategist editor hauls, you’ll know that our writers and editors buy a lot of stuff, and even though we think carefully about each item that goes into our carts, there are still standouts. To close out the year, we’ve asked our staffers to write about the best thing they bought in the past 12 months. Today, Ambar Pardilla on the bra she actually looks forward to putting on.

I got my first training bra in third grade. I was ridiculously embarrassed to have to pull the thing on underneath my glittery butterfly tees, and so began my bitterness toward bras. (I picked out my first official brassiere shortly thereafter solely because it was the only one that didn’t make me feel self-conscious in the dressing room.) Although I now consider my bigger bust a point of pride — I’m currently a 36D — it can still be really annoying when bra shopping.

Balconettes can cause an unfortunate “cups overfloweth” situation. Ditto with demis. Plunges, like the famed Natori Feathers, are designed for pure décolletage — but can feel a bit much sometimes, even if I’m just trying one on in front of a mirror. T-shirt styles are tricky for two reasons: the first is that, while they’re supposed to be smoothing, the tops of the cups sometimes cause unsightly ridges under my shirt; the second is that, to get that rounded shape, padding is usually required, and too much can make my breasts look like overfilled water balloons. But until I gain enough confidence to just go braless, wearing a bra is a nonnegotiable for me.

The style I’ve had the most success with is the minimizer, which is designed to hold in larger chests and avoid the in-your-face bullet-bra shape once favored by poodle-skirted housewives. And by far the best one I own is Wacoal’s Visual Effects — it has made me a true believer in bras.

As the Strategist’s resident underwear expert, I hear about so many favorite undergarments that it’s hard to decide what to actually add to my cart. But while I was doing the reporting for our guide to the best bras, I became intrigued by Visual Effects, recommended by two bra-store owners: Linda Becker, a.k.a. Linda the Bra Lady, and Lori Kaplan of Bra Tenders. Becker depends on it as a G cup, and Kaplan raved that “it does what it says it’s going to do, and it’s got nice wide sides, so it contains any side pooching.” I bought it almost immediately.

The thing about minimizers is that they can be incredibly uncomfortable. There’s one in the back of my underwear drawer that minimizes astonishingly well, but it makes my chest feel as if it were inside a torture chamber.

But I don’t feel any tightness or discomfort — or really anything at all — when I slip into the Visual Effects. I’ve argued on this very site that the best bra is one you almost forget you’re wearing, and that’s exactly what happens with the Visual Effects. It’s truly seamless, so there are no lines underneath clothing. There’s no pinching along the band, which is lined with a soft, stretchy mesh. The underwire doesn’t dig into my rib cage. And though my breasts are definitely contained, they aren’t begging to be released either.

And dare I say the Visual Effects is even a little bit sexy? The pretty patterned lace leans into lingerie territory. It’s unlined but not as revealing as a full-on mesh-bra moment. The cups are cut to provide more coverage, but I still get a hint of cleavage if I’m not wearing a crew neck. So it’s a bra I wouldn’t mind showing off if it were somehow exposed. These are feats since minimizers don’t have the best reputation looks-wise (Becker puts it best, saying they’re “known to be ugly”). Many are aggressively plain, while others are laughably old-fashioned.

But the Visual Effects does what it promises to do without looking frumpy. It’s a great minimizer bra, and it’s also just a great bra.

The Strategist is designed to surface the most useful, expert recommendations for things to buy across the vast e-commerce landscape. Some of our latest conquests include the best acne treatments, rolling luggage, pillows for side sleepers, natural anxiety remedies, and bath towels. We update links when possible, but note that deals can expire and all prices are subject to change.

The Best Thing I Bought This Year Is This Sexy Minimizer Bra