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The Tomato Nation advice column addresses your questions on etiquette, grammar, romance, and pet misbehavior. Ask The Readers about books or fashion today!

Home » The Vine

The Vine: March 15, 2013

Submitted by on March 15, 2013 – 11:22 AM43 Comments


Maybe you and Red Cloudsource can help me find a bra! I'm looking for a 36G (or equivalent) bra that must have:

  • Underwire because "wirefree" bras offer me neither lift nor separation
  • No padding at all because a padded G-cup is absurd and also will not fit in any drawer and also how do you wash something that's big enough to use as a tandem Pope hat anyway
  • No, not even some "micro-thin foam lining for modesty to shape without adding bulk" or something, because every word of that statement is bullshit (I don't want to hear any insistence that "a bra THAT BIG needs some kind of stiff lining sheesh" because give me a break)
  • No minimizers because my tits are not too much, either, and the claptrap about how they "make your clothes fit sooooo much better" enrages me
  • No frilly shit like lace or ruffles or bows

And preferably…

  • Costs less than $50 US
  • Is available in actual colors, not just white and filthy Band-Aid "nude"

I know how to Google stuff, so I'm looking for personal recommendations — "I have this bra and it is awesome/sucks" is much more helpful than "Have you tried looking at Name Of Store? They sell many bras in your size! Derp!"

Thanks bunches!


Dear Sharon,

First of all, please accept my compliments on your hilarious fulminations. "Tandem Pope hat" is getting stolen right now as my new euphemism for "brassiere."

One of the earliest Ask The Readers questions concerned plus-size tandem Pope hats, if you'd like to look over the list (don't know if all those links still work). Failing that, a few specific recs from this 36D/DD, starting with: prepare to spend money. I mean, wait for things to go on sale, sure, but in my experience, most bras that combine the necessary scaffolding with the also-necessary cuteness will cost you. I should add that, when you find that (in my case) Simone Perele number that looks on you like it does on the catalog model, you will have way less of a problem plunking down $98.

My taste is slightly more frilly than yours, but not to a ridiculous brocade-and-ruffles degree, so I would recommend:

Simone Perele's "Nina"
Fayreform (harder to find sometimes, but less pricey when you do)
Elle Macpherson "Artistry" (not sure if the fuller-busted model has padding)
Barbara "Opale"

I couldn't find my Fayreform model, but the others I own and wear regularly. Again, these have some "frilly shit," Elle's in particular, but they give me good lift and separation using (comfortable) seams and side panels, and Simone Perele in particular really hold up.

Brands I haven't enjoyed that I predict you may see in the comments: La Perla (the cup depth is weird and round; very expensive, not worth the prestige price tag) and Chantelle (like putting on a breastplate; weak straps).

Readers: plus-size, lining-free, no-frills underwire tandem hats. Three (3) suggestions per. Thanks!

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  • Dsayko says:

    I've been wearing a Wacoal bra that I like (85567) – underwire, a little bit of lace but not too much, and I have it in a light blueish gray color (in addition to the standard filthy Band-aid color. I went to a specialty shop and tried on a bunch of bras, bought two that I liked, and then bought more of them on ebay (new). Regardless of what you end up with, if it's pricier than you were hoping for, ebay might be a good option for increasing your inventory. Good luck!

  • cayenne says:

    I'm a 30E and I don't look big, but have wonky proportions that make bra hunting an exercise in extreme frustration, so finding weird bra sizes is my hobby (…I need a life).

    I suggest looking at Curvy Kate, which is stocked all over the place, and Change, which I am sad to say doesn't have shops in the US, but is great for your size/budget stipulations and might be stocked in a local specialty lingerie shop.

    I strongly suggest avoiding Fauve (they're outside your budget at retail, but you could find them on eBay from jobbers). They are lovely bras to look at, and they do make large sizes, but after several hours, they somehow feel like they're made of iron fitted too tightly.

  • attica says:

    I like my Lane Bryant Cacique Passion Lace bras. Wired, foam free, good shape/contour, good coverage and hoist, plus comes in colors.

    The cups are of a sheer lace-ish design, but I attest it doesn't show through clothes, visually or texturally. It lacks other ribbons and frilly shit. In your price range, plus, they're usually buy 2-get 1 free online.

  • CJ says:

    I have three, and love, the Lane Bryant unlined full coverage back smoothing bra. Comes in black, white, 'nude', and leopard print, so the color choice is limited. However, plenty of support for the girls (I'm a 42G) and very very comfortable.

  • Sasha says:

    Anything in the Freya (bonus, best sports bras ever – no smushing, no bouncing, and this in a 34G).

  • Ami says:

    Yep, be prepared to shell out. I have resigned myself to the inevitability of forking over $150 for a bra – if I find one for $100 I am happy to have scored a deal.

    Personally I have had nothing but success with a brand called Fantaisie, especially their "balconette" bras, but I would definitely recommend finding a specialty shop where competent people can bring you a bunch of different things to try out, vs ordering something online, no matter how well-recommended. For this degree of spendy, you really want the fit to be ideal.

  • Ami says:

    And ooh, yes, seconding Freya.

  • KB says:

    Fantasie is a great line, I recommend (sorry for the ugly link). With sales and their frequent coupons, you can get it close to $50.

  • Brie says:

    Freya is a good shout. Bravissimo is a UK store but international delivery is around $12 for however many items, so might be worth taking a punt on some of the sale items.

    Their 'Dotty Spot Bra' in particular sounds right up your street

  • Mary says:

    As a 32DDD, I have learned that it's all internet-shopping, all the time, and hear you on the fury over minimizers. I have good luck with BareNecessities' website because they are unfussy over returns.

    The brands I wear most often are Felina and Lunaire – I have a Felina bra that I own in four colors. Both those brands have lots of unlined options. They do tend a little towards the lacey end of the spectrum, though, and I'm not going to lie and say there are never bows involved. I'm fine with that – I've learned I can't wear smooth cups anyway, because my boobs just spread to the sides like puddles, so I need at least the seam running down the cup's middle and once you have that, might as well pretty it up, you know? Felina does have seamless bras, though.

  • Megan says:

    Can't make your price reqs without sales, but Curvy Kate bras are amazing!

  • Ursula says:

    I bought a few of the Goddess bras on sale at Amazon. They have every size under the sun, which is awesome. One small issue: the underwires a bit poky, but if you sew an extra layer of fabric like bias tape over the edge, they're pretty comfy. Very little bounce.

  • A says:

    This is my everyday bra, but your no-lining requirement may rule it out. With that in mind, I'd suggest this instead. I've tried Freya, Chantelle, etc., and keep coming back to Wacoal for comfort and durability.

  • Sarah says:

    Not a large size, so can't offer specific brand recs, but I will second Mary's suggestion of Bare Necessities. I recently bought 4 bras from them on sale (Buy one, get one 75% off, plus 20% off for my first purchase). Three didn't fit, so I mailed them back and got two different sizes. Easy as pie.

  • Jen says:

    Lady Grace has been my go-to for a few years. ( They're Massachusetts-based and have brick-and-mortar stores in MA, NH, and ME. I'm a size 36F and have had good luck with the Goddess bras that Ursula mentioned. Also I've found that I love the two Elomi bras I've gotten – the Caitlyn more or less makes your requirements save a bit of embroidery.

    They usually have a pretty big clearance section, but when you're down to clearance it's harder to get the cooler colors.

  • Halo says:

    I'm a 38G and HATE Wacoal because I feel like they're all trying to minimize me and they don't tack close to the body between my breasts. Having the wire tack is key to fit and comfort! I'm addicted to Freya, Fantasie, Elomie and Chantalle, but none of them average under $50 each–though I sometimes find some in my size at Nordstrom Rack at good deals. I've never seen Cacique bras with band sizes smaller than 40 or 42, so they've been off my radar.

  • Stephanie says:

    I like Bravissimo too. Yes, if you are located in the US it is a wait and sorta expensive to get it shipped, but worth it. I actually went to one of their stores (I did not go to London just to buy bras, but it was a must-do on my list once I knew I was headed there) and they had me move down a band size and up a cup size though more as a "you have been wearing the wrong size" than "our bras differ from others."

    Specific non-frilly recs:
    Alana bra by Bravissimo (some sorta lace, not bad IMO, many colors)
    Serene bra by Fantasie (just black, white, and dirty bandages sadly, but probably my favorite bra)

    Also Lunaire has a sports bra that goes up to DDDD that I loved before I was informed that I am actually a 36 I. It is sold as the wired-and-ready-for-action bra at Title Nine and you might also find it at Macy's. And lots of places online. It's still just in white and nude though. But for a sports bra that works maybe you can put up with it. I know you didn't specifically ask for a sports bra, but they are nearly impossible to find in larger sizes w/o the whole smoosh thing so I thought I would throw this in as one of my three.

  • Rachel says:

    I have one Elomi bra and I looooooove it. It's the only bra I have that I *do* love, but they're generally not under $50, which is a bummer. I try to watch the sales but I am easily distracted and hate shopping, so. But it fits all the rest of your requirements nicely.

    It's truly a magic bra. Lifts and separates the ladies and takes a good ten pounds off my look. Oooh, I got paid today, I might just toddle down to Nordstrom and get another one.

  • Rachel S says:

    I'm a 34G, and I've had good luck with this Fantasie bra:

    Unfortunately, it only comes in black, white, or beige.

  • Sue says:

    30G over here, and like Cayenne, lots of time spent finding a place that had something in my size. Sigh. And a horrific experience with a "t-shirt bra" that looked like a rejected breastplates for the Valkyries.

    I used to love Freya, but they discontinued the bra that I loooooved. Not frilly, not too lined, simple and easy. The ones I have now have a thin layer of foam, so….yeah. I'd suggest looking around Freya's site, or the European ones. For some reason they don't have the padding so much. One of my faves is Prima Donna:

  • Chris says:

    I think you'd like Elomi. They're fantastic bras, really well constructed. The Caitlyn comes in the usual continuity colours of black, white and filthy band-aid (which I love as a description, btw) but also a couple of fun colours every season. I haven't seen the Rita in person, but it looks like it's similar to the Caitlyn in the non-padded, non-frilly department and comes in more fun colours. I don't know whether your 36G is US or UK sizing, so be aware Elomi uses UK sizing.

    It's harder to manage under $50, but you can stalk Bare Necessities or for sales, or look for last year's discontinued colours on (UK Ebay rather than US, for a better selection). Ebay powersellers often even have decent return policies.

    I wouldn't recommend Freya for your size range, except for the sports bra, because the wires tend to be a bit flimsy. Fantasie is good, though.

    (Sars: I have the Artistry in 34F, and it's unpadded. The contoured version stops at DD, much to my annoyance.)

  • Bronte says:

    I'm 36G myself. I too have resigned myself to the pricyness. Sorta. I'm in New Zealand and buy nearly all my bras at the Bendon Outlet stores. I buy Fayreform, Bendon's big boob range.

    When I lived in the U.K. I would check the fit at Selfridges, one of the few places that stocked Fayreform, then either had my mother send me new ones from NZ or bought them from and had them shipped internationally. One bra including postage was cheaper than buying in the U.K. and three bras and postage was well worth it. If you find Fayreform fits well I recommend that option.

    Good luck

  • Melissa says:

    I'm sure some(or maybe most) of the lovely ladies here have seen this before:

    and the self-sizing guide here:

    But this changed my life:)

    Also, uses the standardized British sizing, so if you do measure yourself, your can easily find the bras that are your size in loads of fun styles.

    Other than that, I second a Freya and Curvy Kate for sure.

  • auburntiger says:

    I was a *UK* cup size K before my marvelous breast reduction, and I never found an underwire that actually fit me worth a crap. Maybe I was actually larger than a K and the lady just got it wrong or the bras she had sucked (specialty store in DC). Minimizers were also the only way I could wear clothes that fit, so I don't have the hate that y'all seem to have for them.

    Anyway, this web site had/has nice stuff and has some good sales on top of that:

    And here's specifically G cup underwires:

    Lots between $45-60

  • M says:

    I have had luck with Glamorise bras both soft cup and underwire. is a pretty color.

    This sports bra got me through a spring of ballet classes with a teacher who loves jumping:

    Online shopping is your friend here. Amazon, and JC Penney have worked in the past.

    I sympathize with the bra problem. I re-read "getting in F in Biology" for therapeutic purposes every once in a while.

    Currently, my go-to bra that looks great under clothes is this: The fabric is probably strong enough to be upholstery but it works! I did sew a little flower applique where the ubiquitous center bow was, to make it pretty.

  • Meg says:

    I don't have any specific links to offer, because I'm a 32G and many affordable brands start at 34 . . . but I love the 'filthy band-aid' for "nude." When trying to find bras which don't show through light-colored clothes, I end up with ivory, or, as I termed it, 'nude for Irish.' I'd love a bra for under $50 but mine end up being something like $80 on sale if they're made to last more than a week & a wash. (Seriously, hand washing & air-drying shouldn't destroy a bra. If it does, don't buy from that brand again.)

  • Phoenix B says:

    The Paris bra by Miss Mandalay for ever end ever amen. Handsdown the cutest, sexiest and most comfortable plus size bra I've tried.

    I got mine shipped internationally through Bravissimo, but you might also be able to do that direct from their website.

    Comes in a range of colours and the undies are lovely too!

  • Mimi says:

    Freya wearer here, too (32G – though be aware that Freya fits a little differently than, say, Wacoal, where I'd probably be a 32GG or H). They usually run a little above your budget at $60 or so, but once you figure out your size, you can usually find them for a lot cheaper on Ebay.

    I've also got a couple Prima Donna bras, and they're totally worth the price in terms of comfort + pretty + durability. The only problem (besides the price) is that they don't make balconette bras in my size, which means they can only be worn with tops that don't dip very far down (which is kind of a pain when you remember that a v-neck is much more flattering to the large of chest than a high neck).

  • Sarahnova says:

    The Panache Tango is simple, unpadded, completely unlacy, and comes in a range of seasonal colours:

    You can probably also find it on eBay/Amazon.

  • doriette says:

    I couldn't echo @Sarahnova more fervently.

    I wear a 36GG, and I SWEAR by the Panache Tango.

    And I have nothing but good things to say about Bravissimo – and check out Pepperberry, while you're there. :-)

  • NZErin says:

    That Panache Tango bra is fabulous.

    I'm small and have nothing to offer except, who decided that we wanted lace and bows and padding and lots of seams across our bras? Who? I want answers!

    Why isn't something like the Panache Tango standard across all sizes?

    Deep breath. Mutters something about wanting underwear to be nice, but supportive, and easily concealed under clothing.

  • jennie says:

    I'm a 34H (or G, or whatever, depending on the company, because AIEE HATE) and between Lady Grace and I've managed to get hooked up with a couple of bras that seem to work. I like the Freya sports bras others have mentioned, but only for working out – the bands have NO GIVE WHATEVER, to the point that even a size up is uncomfortable after a few hours, and the cup shape is, as Freya admits, "challenging." As a result I haven't tried their regular bras. For everyday, I'm wearing Elomi Caitlin, which does have a bit of embroidery, and Goddess Kiera, which does not. Both have seamed cups, which I hate, but there's not a lot of options unless I want molded foam and I do not. Herroom is pretty great because they have gone to the trouble of norming sizes across manufacturers, so if you know your size in one brand you can shop reasonably confidently in others. Both come in some fun colors, though availability tends to depend on size, and the Goddess one is generally right around the $50 mark (Herroom's got them right now for $42.) I liked Chantelle when I was a little smaller, but I think the cheapest I found them was around $58. It kills me to spend that kind of cash when I used to get Bali bras on sale for $13 from One Hanes Place. I used to be SO ANGRY about it, but I'd rather just have a bra that fits.

  • Rebecca says:

    Related question: does anyone have suggestions for nursing bras in ridiculously large sizes? I am now a 36G and have two bras from Nordstroms fit okay. I'd like to get at least one more, but am running into the same issue: buying online without knowing that it'll fit. Any suggestions on where I might look online or personal recommendations?

  • Rebecca says:

    Another Freya/Fantasie addict right here. And another voice to say that it's probably best to be flex on the price. "But I can't spend $70 on one bra!" If you can spend $35 on two crappy bras, better to spend $70 on one good bra. It's the way the bra world works right now for those of us above a D cup.

    That said, for truly no-frills, unlined, $50, get the job done in a nice basic black, the Fantasie Smoothing Balcony bra is very good and I own several:

    OTOH, with all these Freya/Fantasie recs you may be getting the idea that they are the best and work for everyone. No. Some people hate them and it's just about what works or does not work for your shape and preferences. I also suggest the Bratabase so you can compare what has worked/has not worked and find new possibilities:

  • Margaret says:

    38FF here. I tend to be the opposite and love the frilly, which means I almost exclusively buy & wear European brands, where I find they actually make pretty bras for women with all sizes of breasts. Which, fortunately I live in the UK now, so no more international shipping for me.

    Another Freya / Fantasie wearer, and I can also recommend Their sales & outlet means you might have to wait on the color / simplicity to pay what you want for your size, but I have excellent luck stalking them and getting my brands for 50% off. I've also tried Bravissimo, but have been more hit & miss on them and have found they don't wear as nicely.

  • @Rebecca re: larger nursing bras, check out
    I'm weaning now, and am dreading the day I need to give mine up…They're supportive, have some give (considering how much one can fluctuate throughout the day) and fairly pretty too!

  • SPM says:

    OK, I guess I'm the only one in the world with this problem and that's not helping the whole shame thing I've got going on, but here goes:

    Are there brands that make big band sizes (say, 42-44 or so) with, um, size B cups? I am (apparently) a freak of nature who gains weight everywhere else on my body EXCEPT my chest, so: huge belly, butt, thighs – and damn near flat-chested to boot. Yay me.

    I recently bought some 42Cs that I thought were aces all across the board, but discovered later that the underwire cuts into my armpits in a miserable way and I now for some unknown reason cannot fill the cups anymore. Haven't lost any scale weight; boobs just shrank. Awesome.

    I mean, God damn it. The discomfort of these bras feels like a fat tax or something.

  • Bridget says:

    @Rebecca–hotmilk bras are AMAZING! They are pretty and supportive and never make you feel like a Valkyrie cow! As for websites, I really like Linda the Bra Lady ( The site is really helpful and they have brick & mortar locations in NYC as well.

    Any recommendations for a wide chested 30-32 F/G who would like to move the ladies closer together without porn star cleavage??

  • Nikki says:

    Even though it sounds like you HATE the idea of lace, you might want to consider a bra with lace cups. That kind of woven fabric offers about 2.5 times the support of regular fabric. I'm a 32DD and lace bras are the only ones that give me true fit and separation (bra lays flat between the girls).

    My everyday bra is wireless and has modesty padding (1/8" or so):

    But my lace bra is unlined. Very comfortable support-wise. Comes in a G:

  • Nikki says:

    PS ^ Bridget, my everyday bra is great for that. You can position the girls very easily.

  • kittycat says:

    Echoing the raves for Panache Tango (specifically the Tango 2). I'm a 36HH and have a selection of Panache Tango 2 in hot pink, emerald green, blue, nude and a couple in black. often has them on sale for less than $50.

  • BritneyGears says:

    Adding my praise for Elomi. My everyday bra is the Elomi Hermione, which gets bonus points for being named after a Harry Potter character. It's got a little bit of lace trim near, but it's on the outside edge of the cup so you can still wear a snug teeshirt without having the textured boob effect.

    With coupons and multi-purchase discounts I've been able to get them for close to but not under $50/bra. But it's worth it. I'm too lazy to hand-wash, so even after two years of washing machine & dryer abuse, these bras look great, still support, and have yet to garrote me with an underwire.

    I also like Panache bras, but have found they run a little large in the cup–I go down a full cup in most of their bras.

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