IMO: The Best Bras for Large Busts

I recently shared a list of the best wireless bras and at the end of it, I mentioned that while I own wireless bras, I still am most comfortable in an underwire bra. I wear in general, a 36F.  Sometimes a 38, sometimes a G or a DDD, it depends on the brand and the style of bra.  I was a B cup when I graduated high school, by the time I started college I was a D cup.  I have gained weight, lost weight, worked out, not exercised, had a baby, nursed it for over two years, and I am 45 years old so all of that has affected not only my size but how firm my breasts are.  I like having a larger bust, I love the look of my silhouette and I like having my breasts very lifted, brought center, and separated.  As a shorter woman (I am 5'3″) I desire good lift to separate my bust from my waist.  Whether it's a social event, the gym, or even hanging out at home, I like the look of my bust lifted, separated, and shaped.  It makes me happy.  I think all of that is important to share before I share my favorite bras for my full bust as what I love may not be right for you.

What I Find to be the Best Bras for Large Busts

Having a beautiful intimates drawer used to be important to me and I don't knock anyone who still loves it.  It is a beautiful form of self-care and self-love.  There is something powerful about beautiful lingerie, especially when no one but you knows it's under your ordinary street clothes.  Especially as a woman with soft curves and a large bust, I have always treasured the ability to get a beautiful yet functional matched set, especially when it wasn't in a shade of beige, ivory, or black.  However, in the past couple of years, especially when I started weight training and riding the Peloton, I have cared less about my intimates drawer for fashion and more for function.

For me, I like having a drawer of situational intimates.  I like to open it and find the right kind of bra for that halter-neck jumpsuit, the right underwear to virtually disappear under high-waisted white linen trousers, the right product to prevent chub rub without causing static cling.  I find power in having that drawer for whatever situation and style may come my way. I've worked hard to find good items for my body, and am constantly refining it with each item that wears out.  Because underpinnings wear out, even if you wash them on gentle and line dry and store them properly.  They need to be replaced to remain effective, and it's better to keep this in mind than end up one day with an escaping underwire, broken strap, or undies that won't stay up under your shift dress. 

Woman wearing the Fantasie Smoothing T-Shirt bra in beige

Wearing the Fantasie Underwire Smoothing T-Shirt Bra in beige. I bought this in February and it still looks new, though my body shape has changed a bit since the beginning of the year.

My Favorite Underwire Everyday Bras

I seem to be in the minority, but I am far more comfortable in an underwire bra than a wireless one.  I like a molded cup bra that offers more support, thereby reducing the strain on the straps and my shoulders.  I also like a strap slim enough that I can wear tanks and wide-strap tops and not have them show and a cup that is low enough that it doesn't peek out of necklines.  I want my bra to be smooth so I can wear the same bra with a fitted tee that I do with a bulky sweater.  These two bras achieve all of this while being so comfortable I have worn them continuously while being at home the past few months:

  • Fantasie Underwire Smoothing T-Shirt Bra: This has been my favorite bra for a decade.  The size may change, but the style does not.  I like how simple it is, I like how the cups are molded but don't add a lot to my size, I like how the straps are not too thick and not decorative, and how it plunges enough in front that I can unbutton another button on my shirt and show the cleavage off without showing the bra off.  I replace these every 6-8 months; I know it's time to replace them when they stop being comfortable.  They're not cheap bras, but they're so good I have had women ask me on the Metro, in restaurant bathrooms, and social events what bra I'm wearing.  Unfortunately, it only comes in two colors – beige and black.  
  • Soma Cooling Full Coverage Bra: When Soma came out with their Cooling collection, I was paid to do a campaign featuring one of the bras. I asked to showcase the balconette, knowing a lot of full-coverage bras go too high on me and make my breasts look weird and peek out of lower necklines.  The balconette silhouette didn't fit me quite right.  Soma was kind enough to send me the full-coverage to try after the campaign and I became obsessed.  This bra is softer than the Fantasie, the straps are prettier, the only issue with it is the cups do add volume to my bust and can make some fitted tops and dresses I own too snug.  Oh, and it's shiny and can look shiny through sheerer tops. But this is my favorite bra for hanging out at home, hanging out in the summer, and most anything else as long as it doesn't require me to wear a very fitted top!

This is a photo of me in my favorite Soma strapless bra that I was wearing… to shop at Soma! It's no longer available but I share my thoughts on it and an alternative below.

My Favorite Strapless Bra

One of the most valuable items in my intimates drawer is a strapless bra.  I love the look of off the shoulder and strapless outfits, but the bra situation is tough at my size and age.  They mash down and create a weird silhouette, they slide down during the day, they create spillage under the arms, they accomplish hardly anything, and boy are they painful. If you get a good one, you buy more than one and treat it with care.  For the past couple of years, I have been 90% happy with a strapless bra from Soma, which is now discontinued.  I am on my second set (I have one skin colored and one black).  It would be uncomfortable after a couple of hours, but otherwise gave great support and shape.  It was essentially the Soma Stunning Support Balconette (a bra that I like and is like my 3rd favorite underwire) made into a strapless bra.  I bought my current strapless bras only a couple of months ago when they were on super clearance at Soma; I think I got both for less than $25 total.  So I have a while before they need to be replaced.  Right now, the top contender for replacement strapless bra is the Stunning Starlet since I've had so much luck with Soma for my strapless bras.

My Favorite Wireless Bra

With my job, I have had the opportunity to try several different brands and styles of wireless bras made especially for large busts.  And most of them have been a bust.  If they can lift my bust more than a centimeter, they lump my breasts into one weird mound, and sometimes also offer the perk of having one breast slip out the neckline if I choose to lie down on the couch or bend down to pick something up off the floor.  That being said, I really like this wireless bra from Soma.  I know, Soma again, but the brand really fits my bust shape well and I think they're well made, pretty, and a reasonable price especially for the quality.  I did a full review in this post where I rated it the best wireless bra for large busts.  I have this bra in Black, and Adobe Rose which is a beigey-mauve color that is close enough to my skintone to not stand out under white tees.

My Favorite Sports Bras

If there isn't a lot of variety in my everyday bras, there is with my sports bras!  I always had one sports bra in my drawer but once I started going to a gym regularly in 2018, I had to up my sports bra game. I've used the past two years to find the right sports bra for my frame.  Like any other bra, I like a sports bra that lifts and separates and gives me a great shape.  I don't want a bra that requires me to be a yogini to get in and out of it; I find for me a sports bra with a more “traditional” design with underwire and back hooks works best.  I prefer a sports bra that looks like a sports bra.  I want thicker straps, a wider back, fun colors and prints so I can wear it by itself like my smaller-busted sisters and not look like I am half-dressed.  My activities requiring a sports bra are weight lifting, strength and stretching on-demand classes, yoga, and riding the Peloton bike. Since I do not run, dance, or jump I don't require maximum compression.  The bras below are the best sports bras I've found for me:

  • Freya Sonic: This bra is so comfy and gives such great shape, I often wear it as an everyday bra when at home.  Unlike many sports bras, this one is underwire and has cups and design like a standard bra. For those who get chafing and irritation from standard bras in the summer, a sports bra like this one is a good alternative as it's made from moisture-wicking fabric. With the contrast stitching and either mesh fabric or printed fabric accents, this looks like a sports bra even though the design is more “traditional.”  This one isn't high with compression; it's fine for a spin class but I wouldn't wear it for a run or a cardio class.
  • Freya Epic: This bra is surprisingly hard to find; when I bought it a few months ago it was sold everywhere from Nordstrom to all the big bra online boutiques.  Right now I find the best size and color selection at Bravissimo.  Bravissimo may be based in the UK but they offer free shipping for orders over $100 and free returns to those of us in the States.  This is not underwire, it has molded cups but still offers the same amount of lift and almost as nice of shaping as the Sonic.  It also reduces jiggle more.  I find it best when clipping the straps together in back to make a X- or racerback to increase support/compression but also fit. 

My Favorite Underwear

While we're here, I figured I'd share my favorite intimates for below the bust.  As I mentioned above, I am not looking for fashion as much as function.  I want underwear that will keep me from feeling swampy during the summer, will disappear under thin and light-colored clothing, that won't roll down but won't show over the waistband, that don't give me wedgies, don't segment me, and I essentially forget they are on.  

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43 Comments

  1. Barb
    July 17, 2020 / 1:16 am

    For those asking about sleep bras and PJs, Bravissimo offers several styles. I haven’t tried them, but they look tempting! I purchased a bra and panties from them several months ago and even though the shipping was quite slow from the UK during quarantine, Bravissimo’s customer service and free returns were awesome. I got the Panache Clara bra (40F) and panties(L) in lilac and while the underwire isn’t the perfect shape for my breasts (Hello, teardrop that another commenter mentioned!), the overall shape, comfort and incredible beauty of the set make it my current favorite. I tend to get the best fit from Freya, Elomi, and Natori non-molded bras, with my most common size being 38 F (a G in US sizing). For reference, I’m 5’2 and wear 14/16 in bottoms and 16/18 in tops. I also read a LOT of lingerie blogs, especially those focused on full busts!

  2. Jessica
    July 15, 2020 / 8:20 pm

    In the interest of science and my need for new bras, I ordered a few different bras from Nordstrom, including the Fantasie bra Alison recommended and a Wacoal bra that looked promising (I’ve had good luck with Wacoal in the past). I ordered everything from a 38DDD to a 36 G – 6 different sizes of two different bras. What I discovered is this: breasts are definitely shaped differently and fit into particular bras in different ways. The same complaint I have with Soma bras is what I found with the Fantastie bra – it’s exactly what I’m looking for, except my breasts don’t quite fit correctly into the shape of the cup. I do much better with a cup that is more rounded than teardrop (that’s the best way I can describe it). This experiment has shown me that’s why I like Wacoal bras – the cup shape suits my breasts well. All of this to say – if you haven’t had as much luck with Soma bras or something like the Fantastie bra, try Wacoal! The bra I am buying is called the Wacoal Inside Edit Underwire Contour bra. 5 bras are headed back to Nordstrom, 3 more are on their way here as I want to be sure that the cup size is exactly right. Side note: this is a bit of an expensive endeavor on the ol’ Nordstrom card, haha!

  3. Jessica
    July 11, 2020 / 7:02 pm

    I, too, prefer a molded cup underwire bra. I am somewhere in the neighborhood of a 36-38 F-G depending on the bra, and I’m not someone that rips off my bra as soon as I am home each day. It’s far more comfortable for me to be in a well fitting underwire! Thanks for these recommendations, I’m going to give the Fantasie bra you have listed first a go. Soma bras don’t fit me well, no matter how many I try – my breasts seem to be the wrong shape for the cups – so I may run into a problem with the Fantasie one as well, who knows.

  4. Miriam
    July 11, 2020 / 9:18 am

    Fantasie is definitely my favorite. I prefer the smoothing seamless balcony, which is basically the same as the one you prefer, but without the molded cups, which are shaped wrong for me. Super comfortable, I like the shape it gives, and it’s basically invisible under clothing.

    • July 11, 2020 / 9:46 am

      Yes, I have tried this and it’s fantastic!

  5. Mary
    July 10, 2020 / 9:31 pm

    Hi Alison, thanks for your post. I love the Wacoal sports bra and underwear I got from Soma, fit like glove and so comfortable, but their house brand bras do not fit me at all (34 ddd) for some reason. I have tried 5-6 including the full coverage wireless, your fave, disaster on me. I find their sizing odd. Thankful for their good customer service policy, especially during Covid.

    • July 11, 2020 / 9:47 am

      I don’t think Soma is for everyone, a few commenters below feel the same. I’m glad to hear you too have had good customer service with them during this time!

  6. BG
    July 10, 2020 / 5:27 pm

    I’m with you that wireless bras are a not my thing — but I do enjoy the Evelyn & Bobbie Beyond Bra. Great at home or on long flights (when one used to do that sort of thing), though I wouldn’t count on it under something fitted or in a professional setting. The bottom band is wide and very comfortable. My current favorite is the Panache Envy that I astoundingly found on sale in my size (36H)

    • July 11, 2020 / 9:51 am

      Thank you so much for these suggestions, especially the one from Evelyn & Bobbie!

  7. Tara
    July 10, 2020 / 1:37 pm

    Thanks to you I have found my new favorite bra via Soma, the 34DD unlined lace trim bra in light nude. I don’t like molded cups personally so this has been a great discovery. For sports bras, I saw an interview with one of my heroes, Serena Williams, where she stated that she discovered Berlei sports bras in Australia and would buy them in bulk. I found them on an Australian website (https://www.curvy.com.au/pages/search-results?q=berlei+sports+bra) that does free shipping over $99 and they often offer sales. Not cheap but might be another spot for your readers to check out. Have a great weekend!

    • July 10, 2020 / 4:37 pm

      Awesome thank you so much Tara for this intel and the link too! I hope you also have a great weekend!

    • BG
      July 10, 2020 / 5:29 pm

      Yes, I have two Berlei’s I found at Macys and I love them. I’ve also seen them on HerRoom.

      • Tara
        July 13, 2020 / 7:14 pm

        Thanks, Laura–will check that one out!

    • Julie
      July 15, 2020 / 7:17 pm

      Thanks! I like the same and need some new bras!!!

  8. Jennifer
    July 10, 2020 / 12:56 pm

    I took my daughter to Torrid to get her very first bra fitting – pre-COVID-19 (we had been in the store before, and she really likes the clothes there), and I decided to also get a bra fitting. To my complete surprise, I am a 44D. All of my bras at home were DDD or F with a 46 band size. I have found the 360 degrees lightly lined t-shirt bras to be the most comfortable bras I’ve ever worn, and I now have about 8 of them in different colors. At first I was skeptical, because the straps are stretchy, but because the bras fits so well, the straps are not really needed for support. Anyway, just wanted to mention Torrid as an option. As soon as the brick and mortar store nearest us re-opens and it is safe to do so, I want to have my other daughter fitted there.

    • July 10, 2020 / 4:36 pm

      Torrid is pretty great for intimates, I agree!

  9. Danielle
    July 10, 2020 / 12:49 pm

    Ooo, what is the bra in your blog post lead image? I love that color and strap detail!

    • July 10, 2020 / 12:50 pm

      It’s a royalty free stock image, I don’t know the origin, sorry!

      • Danielle
        July 10, 2020 / 1:35 pm

        ahaha, of course! Story of my life, lol. I’m also the girl who always seems to fall in love with a lipstick color or shadow that gets discontinued the very next week.

        • July 10, 2020 / 4:36 pm

          LOL this happens with every stock photo I use, you’re not the only one! I even tried to find the simplest bra that wasn’t on a tiny person and didn’t look like she was trying to seduce me. Harder to find than you would think! The color does remind me of Adobe Rose at Soma but they don’t have that pretty strap detail.

          • Danielle
            July 10, 2020 / 4:53 pm

            Hahaha, right?! I wonder how much market research they do on bra photos. Like, is there some study that says, “Okay, bras sell best to other women with that come-hither look.”

            I love that Adobe Rose color at Soma, too. Just bought a couple bras from them in that color a couple weeks ago in fact!

  10. Jean M Gaffey
    July 10, 2020 / 12:33 pm

    I am also a 36F and love Freya & Fantasie.
    Appreciate your content. Thanks.

  11. Emily
    July 10, 2020 / 12:02 pm

    So helpful! Thanks for addressing this area more completely. I too would love to find sleepwear with bust support (I’m a 38G). I enjoying changing into my jammies for the evening, but don’t feel comfortable without support.

    • July 10, 2020 / 4:35 pm

      I hear you, I often, especially in the summer, just wear a wireless bra with pajama pants. Every top I’ve tried with bust support has been a joke for my chest size. I’ll keep searching!

      • Nicole Kowalski
        July 10, 2020 / 7:56 pm

        Just seconding (or thirding) this request for a bra to wear at night. I have some tanks with built in support which minimize the boob slippage and movement, but I would pay good money for something that worked for us larger busted gals. None of the Soma Enbliss ones worked at all. Like you said, boobs popping out all over the place. Yikes!

        Thanks for your usual well researched and engagingly presented post. I appreciate the work that goes into it. And I’m about your size and share your preferences. I’m kind of stuck on a Wacoal minimizer that I wear. Because my breasts are two cup sizes different, I find it evens that out the best. Have you ever tried/reviewed minimizer styles?

        Enjoy the weekend!

  12. Michele
    July 10, 2020 / 10:05 am

    Thank you so much for indicating that you replace your bras every six to eight months! My single largest clothing line item is bras, and that’s with annual replacement, but I start hating my bras about 7 months in. This makes me feel like maybe there’s a reason and it’s okay to want a new one because they just get worn out.

    • July 10, 2020 / 4:34 pm

      They really do. When you think how they are against hot skin, they rub against skin and fabric, they’re made of delicate fabrics, are laundered so often and put on in a way that they are stretching even when you’re not… there’s no way they can hold up longer than that. It’s an investment but gosh it feels so much more comfortable!

  13. Liz
    July 10, 2020 / 10:00 am

    First time commenter, long time reader here. I really like the natori bliss perfection underwire bra. I’m 5’3”, 140 lbs. and have a small rib cage but larger waist and breasts (32ddd). This bra offers support, coverage, lift and comfort. Plus it comes in a dark brown shade (nude for me)!

    • July 10, 2020 / 4:33 pm

      Thank you so much Liz for sharing this! I haven’t tried Natori in a while, but have always liked the brand. And three cheers for brands that offer non-beige skintones in intimates!

  14. Fawn Mulcahy
    July 10, 2020 / 9:51 am

    Great post, thank you! I just ordered the Soma wireless that you recommend.

  15. Krista
    July 10, 2020 / 9:41 am

    I’m a 36G and I wish that Soma’s bras fit me. I spill out of the underwire cups. But that wire free bra is my jam. I agree that I’m more comfy in an underwire. And a bra with good support makes all the difference in how I feel. I’ve had fantastic luck with Wacoal Basic Beauty Contour T-shirt bra. Alas, I’ve given up on strapless bras.

    • Susan Braverman
      July 10, 2020 / 10:44 am

      I’m glad you mentioned that Soma doesn’t fit you because me too! I have narrow shoulders but big boobs, and Soma bra straps always slip. Unfortunate because their bras are so pretty! The whole balconette trend had been bad for those of us with no shoulders because even full coverage bras seem to be built wider than in the past. Since I’m work from home now, (thanks COVID) I’ve been trying out some Glamorise no wire Bras. Not perfect, but they’re comfortable, affordable and perfect for my current uber casual life

      • July 10, 2020 / 4:32 pm

        I can totally see how Soma bras would slip. With my broad shoulders it’s likely why they work for me!

    • July 10, 2020 / 4:31 pm

      And I keep trying Wacoal over and over and the only bras of theirs that work for me are their sports bras! I think this is such an important discussion because while we may wear a similar clothing size or style, we all have different body shapes and it shows the most in our bust! Thank you for sharing your favorite!

  16. Shelly
    July 10, 2020 / 9:30 am

    I prefer a bra and brief to match, and have had most success with the Elomi Amelia brief and bra. With. Size 38FF bust and a size 3x brief, matching sets that will disappear under a tee or a sweater, yet still offer support, are difficult to find. The briefs work best under mid to high rise pants, but since I always wear a tank under a lighter layer it’s not really an issue. Now trying to find sleepwear with bust support. Any tips? Checking out Soma soon. Thank you for the great recommendations!

    • Darlene
      July 10, 2020 / 4:25 pm

      That’s my favorite bra too! I’m a 40ff and short waisted and it’s the only one where the band doesn’t drive me crazy. I also recently tried the Elomi Charley which is a very similar shape and cup as the Amelia, but available in more colors.

      Thanks Alison for this post, very helpful!

    • July 10, 2020 / 4:30 pm

      All the sleepwear with support I’ve found don’t do squat for my bust because the straps are too stretchy and soft. I’ve tried a few brands of tanks for large busts and they too have been a bust. I often sleep in my wireless bra with a pair of pajama pants.

  17. JMod
    July 10, 2020 / 9:00 am

    Thank you. I am trying your recommended workout underwear.

    • July 10, 2020 / 4:29 pm

      I hope you like it! I don’t wear it for the Peloton but I do for other activities and I think they really help!

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