10 Painless Alternatives to Wearing Uncomfortable Bras
If you ask women what their most uncomfortable item of clothing is, the majority would say their bra. Bras can hurt the back, ribs, and neck, chafe the skin, and can even cause the cartilage of the ribcage to become inflamed. Still, most women feel better with some support and prefer the shaping a bra gives.
But there are ways to get the support without the discomfort. Here are some bra fix-ups and hijacks, with tips for how to get the look of a bra without wearing anything underneath your top. Below, you'll find
- things you can wear instead of traditional bras
- tips for making bras pain-free, and
- ways to go braless more comfortably (including how to wrap your breasts, instead).
Being comfortable and feeling good about your appearance can happen at the same time: there are lots of options and alternatives. Stop living in bra-induced discomfort. Find a more comfortable way to support yourself!
What to Wear Instead of a Bra
Bras With No Underwire
For some people, the problem with bras is the underwire. As you move, it can poke and dig into your sides. . . a bra without underwire can be a lot more comfortable but still offer good support. Typically, the thin, skimpy ones aren't as supportive or comfortable as the fuller ones made with lots of material. Look for no-underwire bras with comfortable material around the bottom, as elastic can dig into your torso as much as underwire can. Bras with wider bands around the bottom are usually more comfortable.
Sports bras offer plenty of support, without underwires. They're typically made of stretchy material that will "give" as you move rather than digging into your sides. Some even have those thinner spaghetti straps (like regular bras).
The drawback of sports bras is that they aren't the most attractive of undergarments, especially underneath fitted or dressy clothes. With most, the flattening uniboob phenomenon usually happens, and most aren't very sleek under clothes, but there are sports bras that offer comfortable support with a bit more shape.
For the most comfort, look for ones with separate cups or stitching down the middle to separate the breasts more (and give them air!) and those with wider bands around the bottom, since thin bands tend to dig and chafe.
Camisoles and Tank Tops
Camis and tank tops may be the best choice if having anything tight around your ribs irritates you. Camisoles come with or without built-in shelf bras. The tighter the tank top or cami is, the more support and less sagging there will be. Nylon or spandex material offer the most support.
The drawbacks of wearing a cami are that it can get hot and steamy in summer, since it adds an extra layer of fabric over your torso. If you are wearing bottoms with a waist that fits low on your hips, the cami can come untucked and be annoying. And unless it is really stretchy and tight, that cami still won't have the shaping-and-lifting effect of a bra.
But it is a better choice than a bra for a lot of women. Especially if you are smaller-chested, it may be the way to go.
Tube bras give support and coverage without any wires or straps that dig or poke.
They are basically like short tube tops—just a tube of material made to fit around your chest area. Since there are no straps, they can be a good choice for some dressy tops.
The downside to tube bras is that they are more prone to shifting because there isn't much to hold them up.
If you have sensitive ribs, the bands are likely to aggravate. Look for wide bands, which are usually more comfortable than narrow bands that dig into your sides.
Corsets and Torsolettes
There are tons of comfortable corset options that provide support and give the lifted look of a bra without the discomfort. Torsolettes and bustier bras are similar to corsets but look less fancy and more like regular, day-to-day undergarments.
Corsets (and other similar garments) may be the best option for going under dressier clothes, since they offer more support and shaping than the other bra alternatives. And, since the support is spread over the whole torso, they can be more comfortable than bras that depend on digging underwires or pinching elastic. (Read 10 Ways to Wear a Dress Without a Bra for more ideas.)
Some corsets can even be worn as tops without anything over them, alone or under a jacket or sweater.
The best thing to do is to try on all the options. Some corsets and bustiers are built for looks and not comfort and can be painful, especially if they are built really tight or with boning. But some are very flexible and move with you, with adjustable ribbons to loosen and tighten as needed.
Nipple covers (aka breast petals or pasties) can keep your nipples from showing through form-fitted or transparent clothing. It's a way to go braless without being completely exposed.
You may have to shop around to find a kind that fits you well, matches your skin color (if necessary), and that looks right under clothing. There are a wide variety of types; some are round, and others are shaped. There are even reusable ones available for people who wear them frequently.
Most people find nipple covers to be really comfortable. They don't provide any support or lifting, but they will offer a layer in between your skin and your clothing to prevent chafing and make it less obvious that you aren't wearing a bra.
How to Avoid Bra Pain
Get Properly Sized
If you have never been sized for a bra by a professional, it's time. If your bras hurt, it's likely that your true size is actually different than what you think it is. Getting the right size is the first step to avoiding discomfort. See How to Find Your Real Bra Size for pro tips on measuring properly.
Use a Bra Back ExtenderSometimes the problem is simply that the bra fits too tight around your torso. If this is your problem, a bra extender might be the solution. If your bra is the right cup size but the band is too small around your ribcage, simply clip a back extender onto the hooks to make the bra less tight and add a few inches to the band. Extenders come in multiple hook styles and in most standard bra colors. To learn more ways to customize your bra, read How to Make Your Bra Comfortable With Simple Modifications.)
Make Your Own Custom Bra
It never occurs to most women to make their own bra, but making a custom bra could be the solution for those who can't find one that fits comfortably. There are many bra sewing patterns available online or in fabric stores. If you know how to sew, making a bra is a relatively easy project... and if you don't know how to sew, ask a friend or an alterations shop to make one for you.
Wrap You Chest Instead of Wearing a Bra
In many cultures, before bras were invented, women would wrap cloth around their chest for support, among other reasons. In Japan, chest wrapping was customarily worn under kimonos, and wrapping has gained a resurgence in recent years because of its use by female anime characters, many of whom are samurai or other types of fighters.
How to Wrap Your Chest
Do not use ace bandages or other overly constrictive material that might cut off circulation and cause blood clots, broken ribs, breathing problems, and other dangers.
Normal, non-constrictive cloth will work. In Japan, chest wrapping is done with a special, extra-thin supportive cloth called a "sarashi." Most sarashi available today are about a foot wide by 10-15 feet long.
Basically you wind the cloth around you like a mummy. Be careful not to get it too tight: You don't want it to impede your breath or blood flow. Like any other type of chest support, you shouldn't wear it all the time to give your body a chance to relax.
Chest wrapping isn't always the best choice. It can look strange under any tightly-fitted clothes because it can be a bit bulky. It also gives a flatter look to the chest. But there are times when it might be the right choice, for example if you can't wear sports bras.
Why do bras bother you?
Is It Necessary to Wear a Bra?
You may you may feel more vulnerable without anything to cover you up, and you'll feel the breeze and chill more, but being without a bra can also feel freeing. You may feel more exposed to the world, but you will eventually get more used to it the more you go without a bra.
Best Shirts and Blouses for Going Without a Bra
If bras annoy you, it will be worth the time it takes to find tops that look good without a bra. Although you might want to avoid white and other light-colored and see-through materials if you aren't wearing anything underneath, and solid colored and form-fitting shirts will make the lack of a bra more noticeable. But under a loose, baggy shirt or a floral or other busy print top, it won't be as obvious.
Reasons Not to Wear a Bra
- Studies have not found any benefit to wearing bras other than for appearance and comfort while moving.
- Going without a bra does not lead to saggier breasts later in life: gravity alone is responsible for that.
- The natural look of the breasts isn't anything to be ashamed of. Our society is just used to only seeing breasts that are shaped and lifted by bras. It is like shaving the legs: There is nothing wrong with hairy legs on women, it is just a beauty trend to prefer them smooth.
So feel free to go braless, but be aware that this may not be deemed "attractive" according to mainstream standards.