We sat down with bra expert Jenny Altman, to get her best tips and tricks for buying a strapless bra that, well, holds up.
Real Simple: We’ve heard that you should buy strapless bras a band-size down to help keep them in place–is that true?
Jenny Altman: Yes, but that’s because too many women are wearing a bra with a band that’s one (or even two) sizes too big. That band gives the bra all of its support—especially with a strapless bra—so it’s important that you wear the right size band. It should feel snug, but it should never hurt. If you’ve been fitted by a professional bra fitter for your correct band size in regular bras, that should be the band size for your strapless options, too.
RS: Are there any special features to look for in strapless bras (a silicon band, a longline band, padding, etc.)?
JA: Silicone is a great added feature to have in a strapless (as long as you don’t have a skin allergy to silicone), since it sticks slightly to the skin and will hold everything in place. If your skin is sensitive to silicone, a “long line” (an extended band) is great for added support since it builds up the lift of the band. Also, keep in mind, a strapless is really a convertible bra, so those straps are very useful if you are wearing a one shoulder or halter style dress. I like a strapless with a well thought out band, something that has extra features like a double band or added friction to keep the bra in place through contact with the skin.
RS: Some women say they use household products, like deodorant or baby powder to help keep their strapless bras in place—does that really work?
JA: Do not use deodorant, baby powder, lotion, or oil where the strapless bra touches your skin. You want the best friction between the bra and your skin to keep it in place. Those items actually cause the bra to slip, especially when there’s sweat involved.
RS: Is there a strapless bra you recommend for women with large busts?
JA: If you are large-busted, buy a strapless from a brand that specializes in large bust sizes (some favorites are Fantasie, Wacoal, Va Bien, and Panache). These brands are specially constructed to support D-cup sizes and larger.
To buy: Wacoal Red Carpet Convertible Strapless Bra (available in sizes 32 C to 38H, in three colors), $65; nordstrom.com.
RS: Are molded cups or bandeau-types better?
JA: This totally depends on the look you’re after. Bandeaus are great for coverage, but do not give you as much support or separation. It’s a more natural look. Molded styles, on the other hand, give you lift, support, and separation with built-in shape. Another consideration is style: Molded options are meant to be “invisible” and not to show, whereas a lace bandeau strapless can look great peeking out from the armhole or a low-cut neckline of summery tops and dresses.
RS: How do those backless, strapless bras even work?
JA: Very carefully! These bras are really only for when you don’t want your bra to be seen at all (think a backless dress) but need support and coverage. I prefer the ones with adhesive wings—which at least give you the security of a side band—like the Fashion Forms Go Bare Bra. I do not recommend these for D or larger, unless you are very “perky”—they just don’t offer the support a larger bust needs. Don’t use deodorant, powder, lotion, or oil where the adhesive touches the skin—that will just cause it to slip. For the best fit, lean forward as you are putting the bra on to get your breasts properly situated in the cups first. Then, attach the wings. It actually feels really good and secure once you have it on. Follow the washing instructions carefully and this bra will last you a long time.
To buy: Fashion Forms Go Bare self-adhesive backless strapless bra (available in sizes A through DDD, in two colors), $25; net-a-porter.com.
RS: Ever heard of this trick? Does it work? Know any others?
JA: This “trick” means you are making up for a bra lacking in support—you’re wearing the wrong bra, the wrong size, or both if you need to wear a strap around your body. Buy the right bra in your right size and you will never need to do that. My biggest trick is to wear the right bra and scoop! Breast tissue continues around our sides, even to our backs. You want as much of that as possible pulled forward and into your bra. Not only will it make your bra fit better, it will reduce the appearance of any bulges under your clothes.
RS: Are there essential differences between a strapless bra and a regular bra (other than just not having straps)?
JA: Yes, the strapless bra band is built differently. The construction allows you to stay lifted and supported without the help of any straps. There are some women who actually love the support of a strapless so much, that these are the only bras they wear!
RS: What companies make the best strapless bras for tricky necklines (backless, plunge, etc.)?
To buy: Fine Lines Plunge 4-Way Convertible Shortline Bra (available in sizes 32A through 36E), $54; bloomingdales.com.
RS: Any good recommendations for small busts?
JA: Ladies with small busts have it easier for strapless styles, but it doesn’t mean they don’t need the same level of comfort. The band needs to be snug so that she isn’t hoisting it up all night. You can go for a great lace bandeau bra (just for coverage) or look for a molded or padded bra to give a fuller shape. “Molded” just means shape and coverage, not extra padding in the cup, although that is available, too. The more padded the cup is at the bottom of the cup, the more lift you will have in the cleavage area. As a small busted girl myself, I like coverage and shape with comfort offered by the Yummie “Peyton” bra.
To buy: Yummie by Heather Thompson Peyton Strapless Wire-Free Bra (available in sizes XS though L, in two colors), $42; barenecessities.com.