Like shoes with anything other than a rubber soul, lip gloss, and real pants, underwire bras went bye-bye during the quarantine. While some braved the new world braless, others found a new bosom buddy: the wireless bra. I fell for this seamlessly soft bra at first sight. We met at my local suburban dollar store.
At the start of the pandemic, I didn’t go many places, but I could rationalize the dollar store as a necessity—there was near-expiring food I could salvage, aluminum cooking pans to prepare said food, and a constantly stocked circular rack of vibrant wireless bras to satiate my retail withdrawal. But could they successfully take on the best supporting role for my leading ladies? It was definitely worth the $3.99 to find out. While my purchase did not properly support me to make a run for it if needed, it did spark my curiosity about what else was out there in the wireless world.
And I am not alone. NPD reported that while overall bra sales increased by only 1 percent in the second half of 2020, wireless styles were up 14 percent and pullover designs grew 31 percent. We’ve all craved comfort in every aspect of our lives, and bras are an integral part of the cozy equation.
“Women have always hoped for support, shape, and coverage without the hassle of a wired cup,” says Sapna Palep, co-CEO of luxury lingerie retailer and brand Journelle. She says she saw a 35 percent increase in wireless bralette (a wireless bra style) sales over the past year and a half, and the uptick continues.
Cosabella has been a forerunner in the bralette space for some time, and the brand’s Never Say Never Curvy Sweetie Bralette with a power mesh lining and wide, sturdy straps is made for DD cups and up and is a top seller at Journelle. “With the rise of working from home, where women have a few Zoom calls a day with no in-person meetings, a less structured, more casual dress code was adopted,” she says.
Pillars of Support
Thankfully, there are more aesthetically elevated and technologically advanced versions available than those I found at my beloved bargain bazaar. It used to be just variations of the bralette, a simple triangle shape, explains Palep. It was more of something that seemed like it was just for those with smaller busts. No longer. “Now there are so many style options: tall triangles, full coverage styles, hook-and-eye closures, longlines, wireless bustiers, plunge fronts, sweetheart necklines, scoop necklines, and more,” she says. To my surprise, there are even strapless finds and push-ups. Essentially, there’s a wireless choice for just about every traditional underwire style.
A bevy of brands is ensuring that comfort and support go hand in hand with more extensive and inclusive selections. The company Floatley launched its range during the pandemic. “Suddenly comfort was not a luxury but a necessity,” says Floatley founder and CEO Jerry Hung. “It certainly was not an easy time to start a business, but we felt that we had a product people could relate to and wanted to share it with everyone.”
Styles incorporate embedded bra pads (so they’re not floating around without their bra companion) to ensure a better fit. The brand’s bras also have a high recovery underband that grips your torso ever so gently for a secure hold, and their appropriately named Cozy collection uses microfiber fabric that’s buttery soft, light, stretchy, and creates a flattering shape.
Of course, those who are more well-endowed may still have some initial doubts about going soft. “I wish I could get away with a wireless at work, but I haven’t found one that keeps everything in place and gives enough support, and it can’t just be a uniboob situation,” says Eileen G., a size 38 E. It may take some convincing, but there are viable picks out there for bigger busts.
Styles that are more formfitting with molded cups, adjustable straps, and a hook-and-eye closure may feel more secure. “I had a baby during the pandemic, and my wireless nursing bras introduced me to the world of wireless comfort,” says Beth S., a size 38 F. “After putting the nursing bras away, I switched to wire-free bralettes. My trick to finding supportive options? They have to have wide straps, be made of a thicker material, and have molded cups.”
Jenette Goldstein, cofounder of Jenette Bras, a bra fitting and swimwear boutique that specializes in sizes 28 to 44 D through K, offers just one well-constructed, non-underwire style, a lacy lounge bra with just the right amount of stretch (the more stretch, the more gravity can bring the girls down, she explains), that she sold mostly as an add-on during the pandemic to her regulars because, for her clients, an underwire is often the most comfortable thing.
“The minute our doors were able to reopen, we weren’t selling bralettes or pajamas,” says Goldstein, who doesn’t sell bras online, only in-person after a proper fitting. “We were selling the same high-quality bras.” Underwire bras get a bad rap, but when they are made properly, comfort can be had. To cut costs, some manufacturers may use the same wire across sizes, while higher-end brands use wires that are made to their instructions, says Goldstein. “The other important thing is the channel they put the wire in. Is it padded? Is the wire triple wrapped? Or do you just have a thin piece of fabric and then a coat hanger next to you?” she says.
Fit Comes First
As Goldstein points out, if you are wearing something that isn’t made well and fits poorly to boot, it doesn’t matter if it has a wire or not. If a wireless is going to be worn with pride and confidence, the fit is just as important as it is with an underwire bra. Be sure to follow the specific sizing guidelines for each brand and know that you may have to do some returning when ordering online. As with any online purchase, it also may be helpful to look at customer reviews for direction.
Along with a video on how to measure yourself, the brand Knix offers virtual fittings. You’ll meet on a video chat with your Knixpert wearing a bra with little to no padding and a fitted T-shirt to be guided toward finding the right size. The company invites customers to wear their bra for 30 days to see how it feels, and if it doesn’t work, they can exchange it for another.
When you find that wireless bra unicorn that offers support and shape and feels like a second skin, it’s both an ahh and aha moment. Will it change the contents of your lingerie drawer? For some, perhaps. “Even though many have returned to working in an office, women have gotten used to the idea of comfortable, less rigid, more free-feeling underpinnings,” says Palep.
For others, it may just be something to wear only on occasion, when the craving for cozy hits. As for me, I’ve upgraded my formerly under-$5-only wireless wardrobe with designs that I think give my other bras a run for their money. Can I now dash for a departing train with minimal bounce? Sure. Do I look just as good in my clothes? I think so. Am ready to ease back into the world uplifted in a whole new way? One hundred percent.
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Holly Carter is the style features director at O, The Oprah Magazine. Obsessed with all things hair and any shoe with studs, she’s currently working on upping her social media skills and decluttering her apartment sans Marie Kondo.