If you’re anything like me, you can’t wait to take off your bra at the end of the day. It has become a part of my daily ritual to change into a comfy loungewear outfit with a comfy bra (or none at all) directly after walking in the door after work, running errands or a night out with friends. If you don’t necessarily feel the same way, then I have questions. First, are you a robot? And second, what are you wearing that doesn’t make you want to eventually ditch the underwire bra and slip into your coziest t-shirt and pajama pants? I need to know.
What I do know is that bras are evolving to include more than just the typical version you might see the most, which includes defined cups, adjustable straps and supportive underwire at the bottom. Thankfully, the definition of a bra now includes a myriad of different styles that are designed to work with different body types, breast sizes, intended support levels and a range of activities to give you the coverage and support you desire.
On that note, I'd like to dive into the world of bra alternatives. With so many options out there, you might be surprised by how many non-bras can give you what you thought was only possible with a traditional bra. The list of alternatives varies in terms of support, thickness, coverage level and material, making it easy to find an option for work, lounging, dressy occasions and more. Read on for a detailed breakdown on several bra alternatives and more.
Why You Might Want a Change
Just like finding your perfect bra, I think the process of finding a great bra alternative is easier when you know what’s out there. Thankfully, I've done the research for you, but first I'll ask you to consider what you dislike about wearing a bra in the first place. Unfortunately, many women say that a bra is just plain uncomfortable, but why is that?
- Sizing: Fit and size are a huge part of buying any kind of bra as well as just about any garment that offers benefits like support or lift. Before you consider burning all of your bras, check for a few signs of inaccurate sizing. A bra can be really uncomfortable if it’s too small, and there’s really no getting around that. Common problems include strain on the ribs where the wiring is located, visible red marks in the strap and band areas and spillage or bulging above the cups and on the sides. On the other hand, a bra that’s too big might move around a lot during wear, creating irritation, redness or general soreness in some areas. Changing the size of your bra might make it easier and more comfortable to wear when you feel it’s necessary to do so, but these sizing tips are also great to keep in mind when looking for a bra alternative.
- Material: No one likes an itchy bra, myself included. One reason your current bras might be making you uncomfortable is that they are made from materials that don’t work well when fitted tightly on the skin. Your breast skin and the surrounding areas tend to be more sensitive, so it’s important to cover them with a bra that won’t irritate or inflict pain. The All-in-One Bra is made with the softest stretch cotton, one of my favorite Leonisa materials. It’s soft, truly breathable and super stretchy so it fits perfectly to my body. The material moves with me, so it’s a great lounge bra, but it also offers serious support, making it my go-to exercise bra as well. Whether you’re searching for a bra or a bra alternative, make sure the fabric passes the test.
- Underwire: For non-bra wearers, this word might seem taboo. The truth is, modern underwire bras have been given a bad reputation. Dated bras with thick metal wires and hard, structured cups lived up to that, but newer versions are actually way more comfortable if you choose the right size. While I'm not saying everyone needs an underwire bra in their collection, it can definitely be helpful for those of you with larger breasts or anyone searching for a high level of definition, lift and support. For a regular bra, go for a style with padded underwire and a comfy material to minimize irritation. In terms of bra alternatives, make sure there’s a thick band at the base of the bra to help with support and lifting power.
A Note on Going Braless
I’m completely on board with the idea that, sometimes, a bra is just not completely necessary at all. In fact, there are a few key benefits of going braless, even if it’s just at night and when lounging at home. I’ve learned that what’s important is setting myself up to feel great, and sometimes I don’t need a bra for that! I do, however, feel confident while wearing a supportive bra for exercise, nicer occasions and those times when an extra bit of lift really makes a difference. Other times, it’s all about a bra alternative that feels like a second skin. Here are a few of my favorite bra alternatives for different occasions.
Bra Alternatives to Consider
- Bralette: To me, a bralette is like a bra’s stylish little sister. Most styles have a bra-like shape, though they differ in many ways. The most noticeable difference between a bra and a bralette is their appearance. A bra is usually something that is designed to be hidden underneath clothing, but a bralette incorporates cute fabrics with mesh and lace detailing so it looks nice if and when it peeks through a neckline or open back dress or top.
Bralettes are also extremely popular for being soft, stretchy and comfortable. They are usually an over-the-head undergarment as opposed to pieces that clasp or button at the back, which means they’re a great bra alternative when lounging, driving or traveling. While some more bra-like bralettes offer added padding and support from underwires, most bralettes do not include these elements. For this reason, I consider a bralette to be a minimally supportive bra and wouldn’t recommend wearing it during any sort of high-impact activity. It’s simply the best option for a stylish yet comfy, casual look.
- Fitted Tank Top: I remember when I got my first training bra. It was basically a cropped white camisole with sparkly straps, and I absolutely loved wearing it. Even though I didn’t fill it out or really need it at all, it gave me an added layer of comfy fabric underneath my clothing that made me feel more protected. While I don’t recommend trying to squeeze into your old pre-teen training bra, you can get a similar effect during adulthood by wearing a stretchy tank top or camisole that hugs your skin snugly.
This is a great bra alternative for an outfit that includes an oversized top or sweater. While you might not want to wear a bra underneath, it might make you feel more comfortable to layer a thin sleeveless top beneath the outer layer and create a degree of separation. Like bralettes, these work best as a low-support alternative while still offering a touch of coverage and compression.
- T-Shirt Bra: Though the name does have the word “bra” in it, I still had to include the t-shirt bra within my list of bra alternatives. In its defense, a t-shirt bra only looks like a regular bra, when in reality it’s different in so many ways. T-shirt bras are known for their soft material and high mobility. They’re also notorious for including elastic waistbands instead of underwire, making them a low-to-medium support bra alternative.
T-shirt bras are an athleisure outfit’s best friend. They generally offer enough coverage to make you feel comfortable and protected throughout most casual activities, and I even wear mine while on outdoor walks. Between the supportive elastic band, varying thicknesses and natural lifting power, the t-shirt bra makes for a comfortable and multitasking bra alternative.
- Shapewear: The world of women’s shapewear is full of garments that can help shape and smooth almost any area of the body. This includes the tummy, back, hips, thighs, torso, arms, legs and, yes, the breast area. I know some of you might be wondering why shapewear is on this list. After all, aren’t these options supposed to help you find bras that don’t feel like a regular bra? Hear me out for a minute.
While some shapewear brands and pieces can act like a bra on a different part of your body, I’ve found that the designs and materials within Leonisa’s shapewear collection offer both an alternative to bras and shapewear in general. Leonisa makes specific shapewear and undergarments that are gentle and comfortable enough for postpartum and surgical recovery after all, so that was reason enough for me to give it a try.
A versatile cami shaper is perfect as a bra alternative. Leonisa’s two-way version is made with PowerSlim® fabric, which gives you the support and compression of a bra without having to wear one. It’s a great option if you have a larger chest or prefer to have more support than a t-shirt bra. Added benefits of a cami shaper feature back, hip and tummy support as well to create a smooth, seamless look throughout the torso.
Another shapewear option to try as a bra alternative is a discreet shapewear bodysuit. Not only does this garment give you slimming power all the way down your torso, it also streamlines and smooths the area where a bra might otherwise show lines or bulges. Leonisa’s SkinFuse® comfy compression fabric allows you to wear this one on its own or with a bra if you prefer.
- Yoga Bra: Though some consider the yoga bra to be the same as a bralette, I find there to be a couple of key differences between the two. While a bralette is a great option for stylish and comfortable wear, a yoga bra tends to look more like a sports bra. They are commonly made from sweat-wicking materials you might recognize from your more supportive sports bras, but they allow for more movement and don’t include strict compression fabrics. A yoga bra is my favorite option for a light or medium coverage bra alternative in the summer when it’s hot outside or, you guessed it, during a hot yoga class.
- Bandeau: When bandeaus became widely popular about a decade or so ago, I realized I had found my holy grail strapless bra alternative. A bandeau can give you the style points of a bralette without the straps and the coverage of a t-shirt bra all at the same time. Whether you choose a lace-trimmed option beneath a summer dress or a simple version to remain discreet underneath a nicer strapless top, you’ll definitely want to keep a bandeau in your bra drawer year-round.
- Adhesives: I’m not quite sure who first showed me the godsend that is the adhesive bra, but I'm silently thanking them right now for sharing their wisdom. These adhesive bra alternatives are sometimes called “sticky boobs” or “sticky bras,” but the effect is generally the same. They act as a backless, strapless way to cover your breasts underneath clothing and keep extra material from sticking out. These, along with sticky nipple covers, nipple stickers and adhesive boob tape, can help get you through the trickiest fashion situations in the form of weird necklines and plunging seams. While they don’t offer much support or coverage, they stay put and prevent you from having a nip slip.
As someone who is constantly on the hunt for new bra alternatives, this list includes a range of ideas and garments to try. Keep an open mind, wear a bra when you want to and try out one of these alternatives when you feel like switching things up a bit!