Lift and separate? A GG-cup roadtest of planet-friendly bralettes

·5 min read

A new wave of Australian brands is trying to build a better bra. Less environmental impact, more comfort and – to support both those things – no underwire.

When my editor asked me to try a few of them out, I was sceptical.

“Are any going to fit me?” I shot back.

“Most say they’re for all sizes.” Really?

While sharing my bra size with the world isn’t my idea of a fun time, it’s pertinent to the story, so here goes. I’m a 10GG. If you don’t speak fluent brassiere, this means I have a small frame and, well, giant breasts. It also means chronic pain and a reduction surgery savings plan.

Until recently, few brands catered to my size, and those that did charged an arm and a boob. But thanks to punitive beauty standards and cosmetic surgeons, the number of small-framed, large-busted women is growing, as is our choice of garments to house them. Most still aren’t cheap, but progress is progress.

Occurring in tandem is a growing trend towards soft, underwire-free bras. Photos of women of all shapes and sizes hanging out in unstructured bras are all over social media, like it ain’t no thing.

Like an old pearl-clutcher, my initial reaction to this was dismay.

It’s not that I think they look bad, I just hit puberty when the phrase “lift and separate” was drummed into girls’ psyches as much as “stranger danger” and “Jason Priestley”.

I’ve always envied smaller-chested women spared the burden of the industrial-strength corsetry permanently present beneath my clothes. So the prospect of a bra in my size that offers the same benefits without underwire is tantalising.

The first set of bras I tried were from Boody – its wide range of men’s, women’s and baby basics are made from organic bamboo, which is meant to be particularly breathable. The company is laser-focused on matching sustainability with comfort, and I can definitely vouch for the comfort part – I never want any other fabric to touch my skin again.

Two of the bras I tried, the shaper crop bra and the padded shaper crop bra, were an immediate no for me. Size-wise they did fit well, but they did nothing in the way of support and looked odd under anything other than baggy jumpers.

The racerback sports bra was a little better, but I fear if I wore it for anything more strenuous than yin yoga, my breasts would fly all over the place, risking harm to myself or some innocent bystander. But if you don’t mind a bit of chest movement, it is very comfortable.

Next up was Hara the Label. If you’re a woman with an Instagram account you’ve most likely seen its ads. With a strong yogic, just-got-back-from-India look, the brand’s underwear and activewear come in all the colours of the rainbow, and its images feature a diverse range of women representing different ethnicities, shapes and body-hair preferences.

I tried three bras: the Leo cut high bra, the Jacky sports bra and the Ami bandeau. Made from soft bamboo and with natural plant dyes, they all felt beautiful to wear and the Jacki and Ami theoretically fit me – but the same issues I had with Boody’s products rang true again. They’re too soft, too loose and look strange under all but very loose clothes.

I enjoy wearing the bandeau and sports bra around the house, but the Leo didn’t cover my whole bust, and broke the first rule of Big Breast Club (BBC): thin straps are the enemy. You need thickness to counter the significant weight. It’s science.

The closest bra to giving the basic level of coverage and support I want came from Bimby and Roy. It makes beautiful, ornate bras in Fiji’s first solar-powered factory. Its signature bralette’s scrunch elastic hems and ruched vertical mid-seams worked cleverly to provide a sense of structure, while adjustable straps offered a small amount of lift. And the best bit – all its bras, briefs and bodysuits double as swimwear.

I wore this bra for a whole day but, full disclosure, my whole day was spent at home and I was wearing a baggy jumper. In future I might wear it under loose tops to run errands or grab a coffee, but that’s about it. When I tried it under more form-fitting tops and dresses, it just wasn’t flattering to my eye.

The thing I could not get past with all of the bras I tried is how they made me aware of my breasts, all the time. Traditional bras hold me firmly in place, so I don’t notice my breasts much even with the underwire. But in these new-fangled hippie bras I’m always super conscious that they’re there, and I don’t like it. Maybe you just can’t teach an old dog new bras.

I’m not here to discourage anyone from trying or purchasing items from any of these brands. In fact, if you’re a smaller or more standard size, or you don’t mind a little less support, I encourage it. I wanted to try two other bras, the “Best in Class” Good Design award-winning Very Good Bra, which can be composted when it wears out, and the sexy but pared-back designs from Le Buns. At present, both brands only go up to an E cup, so I can’t speak for their fit, but if you’re within the size range, they might both be worth a try.

I wanted so much to embrace this trend and live my best life like the women of Instagram, but it’s just not to be. Call it trauma bonding, but I like my bras wired and my breasts held high. I hope this doesn’t lose me feminist points. I’ll burn my bras in protest any time, but you can pry the underwire from my cold dead boobs.

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