There are a LOT of bras out there. Even (and especially!) in full-bust land: the range of options in cup sizes D-K has grown so, so much in the last 10 years. So where do you start if you’re new to D+ bras?
I have general suggestions of good full-bust bras I’ll offer to people on an individual basis, but I’ve been asked about my personal favorites a lot recently. So here it is, my grand list of the bras I love and wear the most.
Obviously this is a super-biased list, since it’s personal to me and my body, and therefore some brands are represented far more heavily than others, because they seem to work well for my shape and size. This isn’t to say these are the only bras I like, or even the only bras I love: after three years of writing this blog, I’m in the fortunate position of having had the opportunity to try on lots and lots and LOTS of bras. Many of them I like and would absolutely recommend, but I don’t wear them on a daily basis (see: my Bravissimo Lola Luxe basque or my Anna Pardal Hibiscus longline bra, which are more special-occasion-y). The bras in this list, though, are more of my Old Reliables, my faithful companions, my go-to esentials. The criteria are as follows: the design works for me, the fit is spot-on, I get a shape I really like, and the comfort means I can put the bra on and not worry that I’ll be miserable by the end of the day. When I’m running late and scrambling to put an outfit together, or I’m feeling tired or unwell, or when I need a very specific bra for a very specific purpose (strapless/sports), I’m always relieved to see these in my lingerie drawer.
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1. Panache Olivia (D-K)
I’ll have a review of this set very soon, so I guess this is kind of a spoiler, but I love this bra. I really liked the look of the whole set when I saw it at market, I loved it even more when I received it in an online order, and then I knew it was the one when I wore it for the first time. Flawless fit, incredibly soft materials, an achingly pretty retro-inspired design that nods to vintage styling without going full vintage-reproduction…Olivia, you’re a beaut. I’m thrilled that Olivia looks to be here to stay; Fall/Winter 2015 will bring us a deep, rich teal version, and I’ve heard rumors that Spring/Summer 2016 will see a re-release in raspberry. Whiles those both sound pretty, I’d love to see this initial Apricot color stick around as a continuity shade— this an amazing basic bra for me.
2. Comexim Arizona (D-JJ)
Y’all I did not see this coming. I knew lots of you loved Comexim, and I knew Erica liked them so much she was stocking them at A Sophisticated Pair, which speaks volumes, but I didn’t really believe there would be so much of a difference between Comexim’s padded plunge bras and UK padded plunge bras until I tried one on. Not only do I get a great fit with narrow wires and a plunging center gore, but it’s SO COMFORTABLE. I did not expect to be so comfortable in a padded bra, like, ever. I’m pretty sure I’m about to change sizes again, so I’m not bra shopping for the next few months or so until things settle, but I definitely want to try more Comexim bras in the future.
3. Panache Sports Bra (D-J as of July 2015) (1-4 miles, dance, yoga)
From the minute it was released, I thought this bra couldn’t be beat. I’ve bought it over and over again in countless colors at every size I’ve worn. It’s not an exaggeration to say that it changed the D+ sports bra game; many brands have since released bras that are straight-up copies of this one (ahem, Chantelle). I loved wearing it for pole dancing, it kept me comfortable during yoga, it had my back as I picked up running again in 2014, and then…betrayal. It treats me beautifully for about 30-40 minutes of running, and then things get ugly. The back clasp chafes the skin right along my spine, and the underwires chafe my breast tissue, leaving angry red scabs on the inner sides of my breasts. Because I’m someone who runs 4-5 times a week, by wearing the same style of bra for every workout, my skin wasn’t getting a chance to heal. I thought a new size or a tighter band might solve the problem, or even a bra liner, but no: this bra just can’t do longer distances. That said, I still look forward to wearing it during my shorter workouts, because I know this bra will keep me supported and comfortable.
4. Freya Active Crop Top Sports Bra (D-H) (4+ miles)
I KNOW. I’m as surprised as anyone; Freya’s regular bras haven’t worked well for me over a G cup, and I never liked the classic Freya Active sports bra. However, as my runs increased from the 3-4 mile range to the 5-8 mile range, and my Panache sports bras began destroying my skin, I was desperate to find another underwire bra with similar shape and support. I gambled on Freya’s “crop top” (very nearly a dupe of the Panache bra), and to my astonishment I like it better. There are some differences: the Active bra feels more “intense”; the cups are shallower and feel a little taller, it closes with four rows and four columns of hooks instead of three and three, and the band is much stiffer. I wouldn’t wear this for yoga, because it doesn’t feel as flexible as the Panache, but when I want a bra to stay with me for 60+ minutes of running, I turn to this one, and my skin breathes a sigh of relief.
5. Panache Envy (D-K)
For a long time Panache’s major D-K continuity collection was Tango II, which is, frankly, just such a disaster on me that I don’t understand why so many boutiques use it as a fit bra. But once the Jasmine fashion range was introduced and received with great acclaim, Panache wisely developed Envy as a new continuity style based on its phenomenal four-part cup. I adore Envy— the soft stretch lace ensures a flexible fit that adjusts slightly as my size fluctuates throughout the month, and the houndstooth pattern is a welcome change from omnipresent lace/florals. I’ll note that I do find the wires to come up wide in G+ sizes, but that’s pretty much par for the course with UK brands.
6. Bravissimo Boudoir Beau (DD-K)
I haven’t owned this since my beloved Emerald version stopped fitting (RIP, pretty bra), but this is SUCH a good bra: a great round shape, tons of support, wires that come up low under the arms, DD-K cup sizes, and pretty, pretty lace with a froofy bow. I know I just said I liked Envy because it DOESN’T have lace or froof, but hey, I contain multitudes, and some days I want lingerie that feels frilly and romantic. I haven’t loved the two most recent colorways (puple/cream or orange/red), but I keep my eye on Bravissimo’s new arrivals each season to see what Boudoir Beau is up to, and all it will take is the right color for me to buy it again. I always felt fabulous when wearing this bra.
7. Freya Deco Strapless (B-GG)
I’ve tried most of the strapless bras and basques from the big UK brands, and while I’m currently test-driving Curvy Kate’s Luxe strapless bra, so I can’t give a comprehensive review of it yet, Freya Deco remains my favorite. I’ve owned both the regular strapless and the Deco Shape strapless, and no other strapless bra on the market gives me the same level of projection, shape, and support that this one does. You won’t get the same cleavage you get from the standard Deco plunge bra, but your bra will STAY. PUT. When it comes to strapless bras, that’s 90% of the game.
8. Elomi Maria Babydoll (D-H)
I LOVE THIS SO MUCH. Seriously, this is one of my favorite purchases I’ve made since starting the blog, and it’s hands down my favorite piece of plus-size lingerie I ever owned. Unusually whimsical and sweet for Elomi, it’s also lightweight, delicate, sensual, comfortable, flattering, supportive, and soft. I love the flyaway open front, I love how sexily sheer it is, I love everything. Even though Elomi was never the best fit for me (the wires come up wider than I need), if I were still in the size range I’d snap the black version of this up in a heartbeat. If it ever came in pink or red or mint? Be still my heart. Everyone go buy one of these for yourself please, you’re welcome.
9. Panache Jasmine (D-K)
I feel like this bra kind of revitalized Panache’s G+ offerings and left competitors scrambling to come up with their own version. I’m not nuts about every season’s prints (SS15 leaves me cold, although there are good things in store for AW15), but if you’re looking for tons of support, a rounded shape, and a stretch lace top cup that accommodates different breast shapes, this is the bra to beat. I’ll note that the wires are, again, a tad wide for me, plus the straps are a bit short, and that also the bottom edge of the bend can dig in uncomfortably on some. Despite those disclaimers, this bra is pretty terrific, and assuming I like the prints, I can see myself picking this up whenever I’m in need of a new everyday bra.
10. Freya Deco
You’ll notice that none of the previous 9 bras on this list are t-shirt bras. That’s because I literally don’t own one at the moment. For one thing, I don’t really have any shirts or dresses that don’t work just fine with a regular bra, and for another I don’t really like the way t-shirt bras fit me. I need a deep, narrow cup with projection, and it’s hard to force one piece of material to mold into that shape and still provide support. So, hey, I’m proof that it’s totally possible to lead a full and happy life without a t-shirt bra in your drawer. Also, with the exception of the Comexim bra, all the bras on this list are moderately full-coverage; they’re balconette bras with a high-ish center gore. Recognizing that sometimes we wear deep necklines and don’t want our bras on show, I’d be remiss not to give a shout-out to Freya’s mighty Deco collection. Deco is a molded plunge bra that gives great lift and lots of cleavage, and it’s been a runaway success since the launch: there’s the strapless version I mentioned above, a bridal collection, a shapewear collection, a swimwear collection (that should start showing up at retailers any day now), and multiple fashion colors each season. While apart from the strapless version I haven’t bought a Deco in ages, it’s popular for a reason, so if you want a t-shirt bra with cleavage and lift, this is the one to beat.
Any of your favorites make the list? Anything you’d add to a list of the best full-bust bras?