One Woman’s Baffling Journey Down the Rabbithole of Instagram Bras

I tried Lively, Negative Underwear, Parade, and CUUP in an attempt to find the perfect bra

StyleWear & Tear
One Woman’s Baffling Journey Down the Rabbithole of Instagram Bras

A good bra proves its worth by simply disappearing into the background the minute you put it on, eliminating any stray thoughts about what your breasts are doing and why. When firmly ensconced in the comforting embrace of a brassiere that’s doing its job, your breasts should look like they’re living the life they were meant to live—pert, supported, and fulsome.

What “good” looks like is deeply personal; for me, the ideal breast is what I call a ’70s breast, round, full, and gently supported from the bottom, as if both cans were being held up and off my ribcage by a pair of capable hands— the sort of boobs that look just as good in a white tank top as they do in a baggy tee. I understand that achieving this look naturally is either a blessing of genetics or a very good surgeon; my own breasts are pendulous on their best day and downright sad on their worst. But my quest to achieve the tit of my dreams is never-ending. Perhaps the internet’s many brassiere companies hold the answers I’ve been seeking.

I am often tempted by the ads from Lively, Negative Underwear, Parade, and CUUP that follow me around Instagram, but much like a swimsuit, a bra feels like something one should buy in person. But my appetite for doing much of anything beyond the reaches of my neighborhood is low these days; if I felt like walking to a lingerie store, I would have to get on the train and allow myself to be gently felt-up by an employee with a measuring tape around her neck. That’s a nice afternoon for some, but for me, trying on bras from online retailers in the comfort of my own home is preferred.

All my sad little over-the-shoulder-boulder-holders. Photo:Megan Reynolds

The ads I’ve seen for Negative Underwear convinced me that with the right bra, my breasts would look as I’ve always wanted them to look—effortless and light. The Sieve Non-Wire bra, on the left in the middle row, is by far the most comfortable bralette I’ve worn, supportive enough for me to leave the house in just a tee-shirt, and made entirely of mesh, which allows for a hint of nipple. Though my breasts were not lifted quite in the way I’d hoped, the Sieve gave me a deeper understanding of the actual shape of my breasts, by presenting them to me as they looked when I was 20 years younger—still long at the top and full at the bottom, but smooshed against my ribcage in a way that makes them look something close to sexy. More importantly, I was comfortable; after 15 minutes or so in the morning, I stopped thinking about my breasts completely. Bliss.

At some point in the past few years, I found myself killing time at the Lively storefront in Soho, gamely stuffing my cans into various bras that were appealing to me for their price point, but leaving empty-handed. Unfortunately, the Lively bras I received were a little hit or miss. The Balconette, a wired option with no lining and some alluring lace (not pictured above) seemed to reinforce everything I do not like about my breasts, namely the great distance between each individual unit. I understand that in the parlance of bra professionals, I have wide-set breasts, so much so that without the aid of the Wonderbra I loved in high school, there is no real cleavage. I was supported, but the shape of my breasts was confusing to me, resembling lumpy grapefruits jammed into one of those mesh bags meant for carrying bottles of olive oil.

The Busty Bralette (pictured on the right in the middle row), on the other hand, one-ups Sieve’s by creating some sort of cleavage without lifting the titties so high that they were resting up under my chin. I temporarily forgot I was wearing the thing until I scratched my left shoulder, and noticed that the straps had left a deep groove in the flesh. Regardless of that minor injury, this bralette is one of the only ones I feel comfortable wearing outside of the house for trips beyond my neighborhood. The silhouette created by this bra isn’t quite the ’70s boob I crave, but when properly arranged, it looks like I’m wearing a nice sports bra.

Other offerings from the internet are a little less utilitarian and therefore more intriguing to me. Parade, the underwear company that proudly flaunts its Gen Z credentials by having a website that is confusing to navigate but also features inclusive models, makes underwear that is affordable, occasionally sexy, and most importantly, all over Instagram, covering the butts of many a micro-influencer. The underwear I got from Parade was as good as expected—so comfortable that it felt like I was wearing nothing—but the bralettes were the real game-changer.

The Scoop bralette in their proprietary Re:Play fabric (pictured bottom row in the middle) lifted but did not separate my boobs, and after some brief rearranging, looked good enough for me to wear both out of the house and around the house, when I am alone and stunting for no one except myself. The same model in the silky mesh, bottom row and on the right, was truly a revelation: sexy, supportive, and I didn’t even mind when the wide band underneath my boobs was absorbed by my soft midsection. Something about the band of Parade’s offerings functions effectively as an underwire; though there is no separation to be had, I don’t mind. The bralettes allow me to see what my boobs actually look like, if they were just lifted a few inches and had some of their old pep. Less appealing to me was the asymmetrical offering, (dead center, in the middle row) which looks like a bathing suit top and probably won’t get a lot of wear, but If I develop an interest in one-shoulder tops in the near future it will be helpful.

Having fully explored the bralette situation, I turned my attention to CUUP, a direct-to-consumer bra company that prides itself on its fit. In normal times, I would have gone to the CUUP showroom and been fitted in person, but doing so over Zoom with Tania, the very friendly and kind fit specialist was a pleasant enough experience that resulted in the first real surprise I’ve felt in 2021: my CUUP bra size is allegedly a 38G. Even though I know for a fact that every bra I own is somewhere in the neighborhood of a D or a DD, depending, I trusted Tania but do not blame her for the fact that the first set of 38G bras I received absolutely did not fit. (My measuring skills are woefully lacking.) The 38E (or DD) bras that I received fit like a fucking glove, and are the revelation my breasts have been seeking for so long.

Both the Plunge and the Triangle (pictured on the left and right of the top row respectively) are similar in shape, but the former is mesh and the latter, some sort of magical smooth fabric that is as comfortable as any of the non-wired versions I tried on during my breast’s two-week exploratory phase. But the Balconette (middle of the top row) which is the style that I have wanted, is truly the platonic ideal of a bra for me and my sad little grapefruits, which are full at the bottom and not at the top. Under clothing, my breasts are finally doing what I’ve always wanted, which is to look natural, supported and, crucially, bouncy.

Eventually, the weather will stop being so hot, and I will leave the house in clothing far removed from a bathing suit, and when that day comes, I will be ready with my new (old) boobs.

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