The more bras I’ve had the chance to buy, the more I’ve become aware of the relationship between price, fit, design, and quality. The general rule of thumb is that you can usually get 2 or 3 of those characteristics together in one bra, but not all four: you might love the price, fit, and design of a cheaper bra, but the quality will usually be a little lower (you won’t get an all-silk handmade DD+ bra for $35, for example), or you might pay over $130 and get outstanding fit and quality, but you may not love the design (this is kind of how I feel about Prima Donna and Empreinte I’m sorry I’ll see myself out). It does happen that some pricey bras fail utterly from a fit or quality point of view, and some modestly-priced bras offer outstanding fit and longevity, but in general I follow this rule of thumb: of the four characteristics (price, fit, design, quality), any bra I buy must fulfill 2 or 3, and it’s up to me to decide which ones I prioritize.
Full-bust bras, in general, are pricier than their core-sized counterparts. They require specialized parts, factories, and technical skills to manufacture, and the patterns are generally more complex to develop and refine. All that work is reflected in the retail price. As such, it can be frustrating for the full-bust shopper on a budget to build a lingerie wardrobe that gives her the support and style she wants. After all, if each bra is $70-80 full price, and you’d really like to have, say, four well-fitting bras in your drawer, plus maybe a sports bra at another $70…whew, it adds up!
While you may not find a well-fitting (or ethically manufactured) DD+ bra for, say, $15, there are some options out there that offer good fit and support that do fall in the lower end of the lingerie price range (which for purposes of this post I’m capping at $49 (full-price, not sale prices)). You most likely won’t get the most sophisticated designs, trend-setting details, or elegant lace and silk trim, but you can still find bras that offer support and fit for a full bust.
A quick note: prices vary from country to country, and in general bras are priced lower in their countries of origin. For example, Cleo and Tutti Rouge bras are significantly cheaper in the UK than in the US, where their higher prices reflect import costs and taxes, whereas Parfait is cheaper in the US than in the UK. I’m mostly covering bras from the US customer’s point of view, with some exceptions for certain stores’ in-house brands. I’m also focusing on brands that go up to a UK G-cup (US I-cup) at least.
A D+ favorite pretty much since they launched, Parfait consistently offers a few styles below the $50 mark, especially the super-popular Charlotte. What’s more, many of the seasonal styles stay in stock for several seasons after they debut, which means if you see a style you like, you have time to save up for it before it disappears.
After several seasons of reorganization, Lepel is back and really making some waves this season. Available at Bravissimo, Figleaves, ASOS, and other major (UK-based) retailers, the brand offers fun, youthful designs at a moderate price.
One of the few full-figure brands making larger cup sizes in this price range, Goddess has really stepped it up in the last few seasons, design-wise. While many styles are traditional or a little conservative, the brand has started to introduce some lovely new colors and prints. Note that Gossard lists their bra sizes in US sizes, which I’ve tried to convert to UK, since that’s what many full-bust women are used to.
Pour Moi? doesn’t seem to be readily available at any US retailers, and as such I’m linking to UK retailers, with the caveat that you’ll likely have to have to factor shipping costs into any order you place. There’s a really lovely range of styles from simple to embellished, and if you’re willing to cross the $50 threshold, the brand offers some beautiful matching sets with basques, suspender belts, and more! In addition to the lingerie styles featured here, Pour Moi? also makes some darling full-bust swimwear.
Thanks to the current strength of the dollar, Gossard is one of those brands that’s actually cheaper for Americans to buy in the UK right now, since the exchange rate is working in our favor. The iconic Glossies collection falls right under our $50 cutoff, and a few of the simpler styles follow suit. While it’s likely shipping charges might deter non-UK residents from taking the plunge on new season styles, there are lots of last-season styles on sale right now.
In recent years many lingerie retailers have developed their own in-house brands, which allows them to offer exclusive styles tailored to their specific customers. These styles frequently come with a lower price tag, a smart move that encourages customer loyalty. The following retailers are all UK-based, so keep shipping costs in mind if you (like I do) live outside the UK.
Bravissimo had a profound effect on the lingerie industry, being one of the first retailers to focus exclusively on the full-bust market and actively pushing brands to develop larger cup sizes. In recent years they’ve launched several in-house styles, to more or less rave reviews (I find that there’s quite a bit of size variation: some styles run significantly small in the cup compared to competitors like Freya, Fantasie, and Panache, which is an issue I really think they need to fix). Since the exchange rate has shifted in the last few months, some of these great styles are more affordable than ever.
Gorgeous by Debenhams
Debenhams is one of the larger UK department stores, and they stock their own collection of DD+ intimates called Gorgeous, with a range of shapes and styles from strapless bras to t-shirt bras, including some styles up to a J-cup. When I tried them for myself in London I found the sizing a little inconsistent, but I was impressed with the shape and fit once I found the sizes that worked for me.
While Figleaves has a few in-house brands, my favorite has to be Lulu Tout. I reviewed their Coco Lace style here, and featured the Amelie style in last winter’s Swan Lake editorial, and I already have my eye on a few other styles. For being so sheer and delicate in appearance, these bras offer a lot of support. I and a few others find the bands run a little small and quite firm, with very little stretch, so I strongly recommend going with your larger band size or sizing up.
Just Peachy is another brand exclusive to Figleaves, with styles that are slightly more “everyday” looking than Lulu Tout, though no less pretty. While there are only a few different shapes, each bra is available in a lovely range of colors. The Isla style, featured in their Valentine’s lookbook, is a particular favorite look of mine!
Have you tried any of the styles featured in this post? What did you think? What are your go-to brands when you’re shopping on a budget?
(Why am I focused on bras that are full-price, not on sale? Because when you buy a bra at full-price, it tells retailers that they should keep offering products in your size. For more, see Holly’s excellent posts for The Lingerie Addict here and here.)