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What Is a “Basic” Bra?

Most clients who come to La Lingerie are looking for everyday, basic bras. What’s interesting is that what makes a bra “basic” depends on where you come from. Americans generally describe the same bra: one that’s “nude”, has thick, rigid cups and is plain with no lace or “frills”. Yet in France, the staple is a black lace bra. In Germany, it’s a white, seamed one.

Americans have been trained by dominant culture to want an unadorned, thick-cupped bra to the exclusion of almost every other type of bra because it’s assumed that it will be most practical under clothes. And to a certain degree, that’s correct. However, the truth is that any bra can be your “basic” bra to wear every day, not just what the culture tells you it has to be.

Let’s look at the three assumptions of what makes a bra “basic” in the US and see why expanding that definition is essential to finding bras that suit you.

Natori's Pure Luxe is a great bra, but it (or something like it) doesn't have to be the only bra you own.


First, “nude” is not a specific color. What is nude for one person, can’t be nude for everyone because it would need to match that person’s skin tone. What we think of as “nude” is a beige tone that works fairly well on light skin tones because that’s what the lingerie industry has offered. It is only in the last few years that this is starting to change. For a great in-depth article on this, see this post by Cora Harrington of The Lingerie Addict.

Second, I will tell anyone who asks that I own zero beige bras. The reason for that is that I don’t need one. Unless you’re wearing white, tight t-shirts every day, there’s no reason for you to have only beige bras, either. While a beige or brown that matches your skin tone is the easiest color to wear under light-colored clothing, it isn’t the only one.

Look at your wardrobe and think about what colors of clothes you wear. If you wear a lot of dark colors, get darker-colored bras. Your clothes can transfer color to light-colored bras and stain them over time. If you only have beige bras for under your dark tops, you’ll end up with bras with discoloration, especially around the armpits.

Thick, rigid cups

Hard foam cups are a very recent development in bra design. It’s amazing to think that the only kind of bra most American women want didn’t really exist 40 years ago. There certainly are reasons to want this kind of molded bra, but they again hinge on what kind of clothes you tend to wear.

The pros of a thicker and more rigid cup are that there are no seams and it can hide your nipples. Both of these really only matter if you are wearing snug, light colored clothes, just like needing a "nude" bra. Under darker, looser or more textured clothing, seams and texture from the bra are camouflaged if they show at all. As for nipple coverage, I always say that if men don’t need to worry about their nipples, why should we?

Additionally, the more rigid the cup is, the harder it is to fit. When a bra’s cups are a definite shape, the expectation is that your breasts will fit into that shape instead of the cup molding to you. This can lead to your breast bubbling out of the top of the cup or the cup gapping off of you. Stepping away from the idea that your bra must have a thick, rigid cup opens up your options and will lead to better fits.

No lace or “frills”

If you aesthetically don’t like extra bows on your bra or lace on the straps, we can always look at simpler options. However, a lot of clients wanting bras that are less “fancy” are operating under the assumption that lace on a bra makes it somehow unable to be worn every day, but that’s simply not true. Bras are made with the intention of being worn, and lace bras are no exception. Bras are in the design process for months if not a full year before hitting the sales floor, and designers cater to the wearer’s tastes. If the bra is intended to be worn under t-shirts, details and embellishments will be designed to be invisible under clothing.

Fully lace bras, though sometimes more textured, are still just as practical. As mentioned above, the more rigid the cup is, the harder it is to fit. Lace bras generally fit better because they mold to the shape of the person wearing it. They’re more breathable, which can be healthier for your skin and aids in drying perspiration. Because lace is woven, there is more strength in the fabric, so that lace bras will actually last longer than more rigid bras and are a better investment.

The point

Our idea of a “basic” bra is shaped by culture. Stepping outside of that cultural idea and your comfort zone can be a little scary, especially with something as personal as a bra. However, with the help of a trained fitter, exploring new bra styles can be fun and enlightening. I promise you will have more options, and those options will probably fit better.

~ Trillian & the la lingerie team

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