I’ve been designing a lot of halter neck and racer back dresses of late, and as soon as I learn how to construct a corset and a strapless dress, I’d like to add those too to my collections. While designing these dresses, I have to assume that people will figure out what undergarment to wear with them, but finding good bras are really not easy.
I remember as a child women in my family would ask relatives from abroad to buy bras. I hated the idea of letting someone else choose your bra – how could they possible know your style just based on size. And it really isn’t that simple because different styles have different cuts and shapes. As if buying a fitted garment isn’t hard enough to do without several trials, imagine buying a bra that’s supposed to fit like a glove without ever trying it on. Besides, it isn’t practical to assume that all my customers have access to great bras from abroad.
Below are a few bras I wish were easily available in the market - aside from making my design work for Brass Tacks easier, think of how happy many women would be!
1. The balconette bra: This bra is ideal if you are wearing something with a low neck, and definitely if you are wearing something with a wide neck.
If the cup seam is cut too close to the armpit, with a strap that goes over that muscle and pudge near your armpit then this isn’t a well-designed bra. Some bras that don’t intend to be a balconette bra still have a wide strap that goes over this part of the chest. The cup and the strap basically get in the way of fat and muscle if they are positioned there, which means that every time you shrug or move your arms in (crossing your arms, hugging someone), your cup is going to pop out a little. And that just looks tacky.
A well-cut balconet bra should have a cup that covers the bust but doesn’t go much higher, and a thin strap that goes just a quarter inch towards the centre so that it allows easy arm movement.
2. The strapless bra: This bra is necessary if you are wearing a halter or strapless garment and you don't want straps to show.
After you spend a few months hunting and you finally find one that isn’t neon pink or printed, you will notice that they are either too pointed (gross), full of seams (not sexy), or sometimes they are like tube tops (which has the same flattening effect that a sports bra does). The cup in these bras has to be firm or you will feel like you need to adjust the bra all evening.
3. The racerback bra: Not only are these really comfortable with any narrow-neck garment, they are great for racer-back garments that have a narrow neck and a deep armhole that exposes the shoulders. The racerback bra is essentially like a regular bra, except the straps at the back meet at the upper back in an X shape. Since the straps are pulled towards the neck, the cup has to be contoured and shaped differently from a regular bra.
Many bra brands just ask you to wear a strapless bra with an attachable strap that can criss cross at the back. But basic physics will tell you that if you are going to pull a strapless bra (which means it has a stiffer, more defined cup than a regular bra) towards your neck instead of directly up to the shoulder, then the cup could gape near the centre.
It’s not as if regular bras aren’t a problem either. After a long time I found a brand available in Chennai that I like, but when I went to buy more of them a couple of weeks ago, I saw they had only black, maroon, baby pink, blue and magenta. Which of those colours can someone wear under a light coloured or white shirt? Which brings me to my next point- what should one wear under a white shirt? The most obvious answer to me is skin colour (I’m assuming you don’t want it to show), but leave it upto a bra company catering to Indians to decide what is nude, and what do you get: a colour between off-white and onion pink. Unless you are really light skinned, that is going to show.
I guess what surprises me most is that after all these years, there still isn’t a good brand of bras easily available in India (even if I was willing to pay Rs 1500 per bra, I would have to search hard to find one- and in Chennai I’d still be unsuccessful). Designing collections of clothes that are fitted has taught me that 3-dimensional geometry is tough, and I can’t imagine how much tougher the engineering of a good bra is. The materials that go into the construction of a bra are important too – a flimsy bra will not retain its shape after a few washes. Still, if so many women buy their bras online from international brands or give shopping lists to relatives abroad, isn’t that a sign that there is a huge demand for good bras in India? And if an Indian brand hasn’t filled the gap in the market, how come a foreign brand hasn’t seized the opportunity?