Bring On The Bralettes
ELLE Singapore|September 2021
As women start heading back to work, the question emerges: can the bralettes we’ve become accustomed to be worn out as “proper” bras?
Chelsea Tang

I take heart in knowing that us female millennials have a shared experience, in that none of us ever went through a “bralette phase” during adolescence when breast support first became an issue. I never once thought to question the undeniable (and inevitable) discomfort that comes from wearing the bra, not since my mother transitioned me from a cotton training bra to a “proper” wired, padded bra at 14. “It’s for support,” she told me, and I took the subtext of her words very seriously: to care for your breasts meant keeping them enveloped in the mould of a structured bra all the time.

Yes, that was what I did. And the thought that I wore a bra to bed every night is indeed shudder-inducing, even 12 years on. It wasn’t till a friend shared that the first thing she did when she reached home was to immediately remove hers that the thought even entered my head that I could do the same. I remember asking her, “Isn’t that… bad?” She was nonchalant about it, and told me, almost with a devil-may-care attitude, “I don’t know, and I don’t care. It’s so warm wearing it, and I’m home anyway.” We were 17.

Google wasn’t that big of a thing then — for context, I’m 26 this year — so I simply took her word, (backed by a certain rebelliousness) for it. So I would toggle between the two ends of the spectrum (bra or no bra) till at the age of 21, I found myself standing in the lingerie section of Primark at Oxford Street, London, marvelling at what would turn out to be a life-changing garment — the bralette.

My God, was it pretty. Made with maroon lace with floral appliques, that bralette was possibly the most exquisite thing I’d ever held in my hands. The triangle-shaped “cup” — the norm back then — had a layer of mesh on the inside, it was flimsy, soft (no prizes for guessing why) and the band was a skinny one. I spent £100 (approx. S$186) at Primark that day, but I didn’t doubt my decision — this one bralette was easily my best buy of the year.

Since then, bralettes have become a thing. For me, at least, as a “cheat bra”, if I left home in baggier clothing. The sense of liberation that came with the guilty pleasure was real — being wire-free and unstructured, the bralette did its one job perfectly, which was to prevent a nip-slip. Best of all, it was also comfortable, breathable, and didn’t leave pressure marks under my bust.

As I started collecting bralettes, while slowly phasing out wired bras, new innovations started to emerge. The newer versions appeared with soft padding (some even had a gentle push-up effect), some had cuts that were fuller for more coverage, others had thicker bands that ensured greater support, while yet others came crafted out of smooth material so that they could be worn under form-fitting tops. And with their evolution came an even bigger breakthrough: demand. As more ladies hopped on board the bralette train, the bralette rebranded itself — transforming from a racy bedroom unmentionable into a practical everyday staple.

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