The Best Bras for Everyboobie
From limited sizing, to lack of inclusivity, to over-sexed marketing, these eight forward-thinking brands are, um, busting conventions and transforming the way we experience lingerie.
Backstory: Catalina Girald and Gina Rodriquez (yes, that Golden Globe-winning Gina Rodriguez) share a passion for body acceptance, the environment, and giving opportunities to underprivileged women. The duo merged these loves and launched Naja in 2014, a quality lingerie line (with active- and swimwear, too) that’s both fashion-forward and environmentally friendly.
Highlights: The majority of Naja’s fabrics are from recycled plastic bottles and the company uses digital printing technologies, which means its water waste is next to none. Naja hires a majority of female-heads of households, providing above-market wages, with healthcare and flexible work policies. And the design elements you’ll find in the company’s pieces are typically reserved for the luxury market, including breathable memory foam cups, Peruvian cotton, and unexpected interior prints.
Backstory: Victoria’s Secret veteran Michelle Cordeiro Grant’s goal was to blur the aesthetic between active-wear, swim and lingerie, creating an entirely new category that she calls Leisureé. In addition to that dazzling disruption, Grant decided to talk and listen to women pre-launch in 2016, to get their take on her baby. These initial in-person meet-ups developed into a social media ambassadorship program, with 1k members by 2017 and close to 100K ambassadors today. This program is an inherent part of the brand where real women contribute to and weigh in on fit and style.
Highlights: The growing lifestyle brand includes swimwear, a fragrance line and now a podcast, No Makeup Needed. Lively also owns its own factory so it can fully oversee quality control and customer feedback (and things can be switched up in a pinch). The brand is all about body positivity and includes real women in its messaging, and its sizes range from 32A-38DD for bras, XS-L for swimwear, and S-XL for undies.
Adina Reay Bras
Backstory: Sharon Lake was fed up with the lack of choice and imagination in the fuller bust market. She’d always loved lingerie and wore a DD+ cup size since she was in her 20s. But Sharon was always told that her lingerie options were limited, that her cup size demanded thicker straps, fuller coverage and multiple hooks, all of which she hated. Out of this frustration Adina Reay was born, a lingerie line that’s laser-focused on women with cup sizes that range from 28DD-38G.
Highlights: Brought to life in 2013, Adina Reay features high-end embroideries and quality lace in its delicate, fresh designs. The bras are developed to fit the entire size range, without making alterations to strap widths, cups, or wing depths, so the bra you see in a 28DD is the one you get in a 32G, too.
Backstory: Abby Morgan thought for years that her bra size was a 34B. The music industry vet and marketing pro later learned that she was, in fact, a 30E — and that the larger cup size looked amazing and felt great. A co-worker, Lauren Cohan (and later CUUP co-founder), had had a similar experience. The two did a little research and learned that the standard bra size range includes 17 sizes. And in the last 20 years, the average bra size has shifted from a 34B to a 34E, with over 60% of women in the US wearing a D-cup or larger. Major sizes were missing, but the industry wasn’t responding.
Highlights: The duo knew they could build a better bra, but prior to launching, they spent two years getting their first four silhouettes just right. Instead of using machine algorithms (pretty standard) to determine sizing, they used real women. Cuup has over 35 sizes, with cup sizes ranging from A-H. Their bras are unlined, modern, and minimal and they support, shape, and lift like champs.
Backstory: Ade Hassan couldn’t find nude lingerie in her skin tone. It plagued her for a while, so she decided to go for it and launch a nude lingerie line for women of color, Nubian Skin, 2014. And although the Nigerian Brit didn’t quit her day job in banking at first, she learned quickly that the demand for her product was high. She’s since left banking and her passion project is thriving: Nubian Skin is now sold internationally, on three continents, in five countries.
Highlights: The company’s nude offerings have expanded to include hosiery, shoes (flats and pointy-toe heels), as well as an underwear collection for men. Her bras go up to a G cup and the undies and hosiery are available in plus sizes. Pop sensation Lizzo recently wore the Nubian Skin full slip in her Dolby Atmos Music commercial.
True & Co Bras
Backstory: Venture capitalist Michelle Lam hated shopping for bras. But after one particularly agonizing in-store fitting, she had an a-ha moment. She realized that in addition to cup and band size, bra shape was also a critical issue for correct sizing. She put her theory to the test with a group of women at her home, which included a quiz that began with the question: What do you want in a bra? The answers from this brainstorming session led Lam, and her biz partner Aarthi Ramamurthy, to develop a unique algorithm, which informed the creation of True & Co.
Highlights: Lam’s pioneering quiz was among the first to effectively execute the bra-fitting process online. The algorithm learns from what’s accepted and rejected and adapts accordingly, so the more women that contribute to the data (i.e. take the quiz), the better the fit of the company’s bras. True & Co also has a “try before you buy program” that allows you return what doesn’t work for free, within 14 days. Bonus: There are a lot of seamless options, with no underwire, but ample support.
Prima Donna Lingerie
Backstory: An oldie but a goodie that deserves recognition, Prima Donna’s focus on fit and the female form has been well received since 1865. Today, it’s a leading European bra company, thanks to its notoriously tailored fit and is available worldwide. Prima Donna devotees love the brand’s encapsulated cups and wires, and moisture-wicking materials. And its relevancy remains: Prima Donna continues to make exceptional looking and feeling undergarments for curvy women.
Highlights: Prima Donna’s full-figure swimwear line is solid, with plus sizing and tops that have the same cup size offerings as its bras (up to a J cup). The company’s sports bras are also very well made.
Backstory: In 2013, husband-and-wife team Heidi Zak (from Google) and David Spector (a venture capitalist) set out to develop a better bra shopping experience for women. Heidi was tired of choosing between comfortable, less stylish bras, and poor quality, ill-fitting, options, so she created a third option, ThirdLove, where one doesn’t have to compromise fit for style or vice versa.
Highlights: ThirdLove offers more than 80 sizes, including half-cup sizes, with band sizing from 30-48, and cup sizes from AA-I. Like True & Co, ThirdLove has developed a fit quiz and a try-on program that allows the customer to try bras before committing and return the ones that don’t work. The company recently had a bit of a scuffle with Victoria’s Secret about relevancy and branding to women. In an open letter in the New York Times directed at Victoria’s Secret, Zak penned the line, “you market to men and sell a male fantasy to women.” That said, ThirdLove has experienced some bad press for its supposed bullying male leadership and antiquated, anti-woman HR policies. Do your homework to decide if you think their pro-woman ethos is hypercritical, hypocritical, both — or neither, but regardless, the brand’s Instagram feed is inclusive of all shapes, races, and ages and cult followers rave about the fit of its bras.