How THAT M&S bralet changed my life
En Brogue is changing…for the better! I’ve always been a champion of comfortable wardrobe options that also happen to be stylish – see my original Love Fashion. Love Shoes. Hate Heels. mantra – but I’ve realised through talking to you lot on here and on Instagram that this mindset extends much further than just footwear, for you and for me. Which is why my new approach is changing to suit what I am thinking about more and more: comfortable sustainable style.
I’m obviously still all about the flat shoe, but in addition I’m going to start writing about more of the other stuff I’ve been writing for other people over the years and putting it here in one handy place instead: that’s practical fashion, sustainable style and beauty, as well as a whole load of stuff relating to dressing for your age (AKA not giving a shit about how old you are, and wearing what you like anyway).
I’m starting with an edited and updated version of a piece I wrote for The Pool a few months ago, which has since been deleted from the Internet because that particular publication sadly went into administration. I spent months researching this feature, so it seems only fair that my findings should still be available for you to read…
Let’s talk about lingerie
Around 8 years ago I gave up wearing heels, and it was one of the best and most liberating decisions of my life. But now I have given up something else that might just top it: I’ve given up wearing bras.
This epiphany came about after nine months of freelancing, where I would happily work at home in my yoga bra after a workout because no-one could see me bouncing around in my house. But when I landed an office job for a few weeks, I automatically went back to 14 hours in an underwire, and it made me miserable. By the end of week one, I was taking painkillers at lunchtime and once even had to whip my bra off via my sleeves on the train on the way home. I mean, I was stealthy about it, but still. Awful.
As a 30DD, freeboobing – the latest buzz word for not wearing a bra – isn’t the greatest option for me, although in the name of research for this feature I did try it for a day at the office. After being convinced that everyone was looking at my chest and not having the nerve to walk at anything faster than a slightly brisk pace, I soon realised that this wasn’t the way forward. So I was thrilled to discover a halfway house; the next level bralets and non-traditional bras that are appearing on the market which offer decent support AND comfort. Hallelujah.
Marks & Spencer non-padded lace DD+ bralet, available in black, white and almond, £9.50 ([AD] marksandspencer.com)
My first stop in my quest for the perfect bralet was good old Marks & Sparks. Obviously. ‘Lingerie has seen a real shift with an increased focus on comfort and the natural female silhouette,’ says Soozie Jenkinson, Head of Lingerie Design at M&S, which has sold over half a million bralets in the past year. ‘Our bralets were crafted to give great support up to a G cup. They have become many women’s new favourite piece.’ I enthusiastically picked myself up two of the DD+ lace non-padded bralets, which I then shared on Instagram. The response was overwhelming. ‘Sodding love my M&S bralets’, ‘They’re perfect for when your boobs just need a day off’ and ‘the idea of putting on something with an underwire ever again makes me want to vom’ are just a handful of the dozens of messages I received from fans of this style. And I can see why – although they don’t have a clasp and are a bit of a struggle to get on and off (tip: I step into mine, rather than putting them on overhead) they are FANTASTIC once on, offering really good support without anything digging in or aching. Quite literally, life changing (I’ve since bought two more).
Les Boys Les Girls ultimate comfort bra, £38 ([AD] lesgirlslesboys.com)
And it’s not just M&S supporting my cause. Serena Rees launched Les Boys Les Girls in 2017 as an antidote to highly sexualised lingerie. ‘A lot has changed since I launched Agent Provocateur in the 90s,’ she says. ‘Back then, the message was the same – we were about championing and empowering women, but it has since gone too far and there’s definitely a movement happening. A backlash.’ She says people now dress for themselves, with a focus on comfort. ‘I think you can wear a bralet regardless of you your bust size’, she tells me, just as I’m having concerns about the lack of cup sizes and some of the thin-looking straps on offer. ‘Today’s technology and manufacturing ensures a good fit and support for all sizes. Our ultimate comfort bras are extremely well made offer great support.’ I put one to the test – size medium – and am happy to report that she was right.
Boody padded shaper bra available in black, white and beige, £19.95 (boody.co.uk)
If sustainability is your concern, you might like Boody, which makes stretchy sporty bralets from bamboo; a more sustainable fabric than cotton that is soft and comfy, and has the advantage of naturally wicking sweat away from your body. They create really a nice line under a T-shirt and are very reasonably priced, too. These also don’t come with cup sizes, but I’ve been wearing size medium and it’s a dreamy fit, and when I’m not working from home I opt for the padded style for a bit of extra support. For anything over a DD cup I would advise going up to a large.
Rossell England Tetra bra, £80 (rossellengland.com)
I know from our discussions on Instagram that many of you prefer something with an easy exit, and luckily you are catered for too. Rossell England’s lovely bras go up to an E cup (even for small backs – they didn’t have my exact size but the 32D fits me nicely – the joy of a bralet is you can be more fluid with your sizing) and as with my Les Boys Les Girls bralet, have cleverly moved the non-wired structure to the side, meaning it doesn’t dig in at all but still looks after a bigger boob nicely. This style is the most traditional that I tried, and the ‘Tetra’ is particularly nice for occasions when you might have been tempted to wear a “proper bra” as it creates a low-cut line and a bit of a cleavage, but it comes with a similar comfort to that of a bralet. (Side note: they also do really nice knickers)
And what about nipples, I hear you cry? As someone who was once, in a pre #metoo world, the recipient of the ‘most erect nipples award’ in a silly ceremony compiled by boys after a school play (it was the Nineties and it was horrifying, even with the reassuring comments from my mates that it meant I must be ‘just like Rachel from Friends’) this was always a concern when I was younger, so I spent years in padded bras. I hated the thought that everyone might be looking at my nips if I happened to be standing under the air conditioning. I also hated, however, how the padding made my boobs look even bigger and a weird shape. So now I’m older I’ve decided to stop giving a shit – if you can see my nipples but my shoulders don’t hurt and my bust looks more natural, then that’s fine. And the more of us that put boob comfort over worries about nipple visibility, the happier everyone will be.
This is fantastic Hannah, looking forward to more pieces about being stylish and comfortable. It’s really interesting for someone as old as me that underwires have become thought of as “proper bras” because this is a relatively recent phenomenon. If my memory is accurate pre nineties most women only wore that kind of bra for going out and in places like M&S you had an underwire section whereas now you have a special section for non underwires. So what’s seen as normal has shifted.
Like so much post nineties I think we are seeing the influence of the porn industry on how women present themselves, skyscraper heels, pushed up tits and not a hair to been seen below the navel.
I had to stop wearing underwires after a car accident resulted in bruised ribs so this piece is really useful as I’ve been despairing about finding good alternatives other than sports bras!
So interesting! I was put in an underwire by M&S from day one of bra wearing. Was obviously allocated size 34B too as everyone seems to be! I too have an issue which means underwires hurt (I have a condition called Ankylosing Spondylitis which can inflame my sternum) so these comfy options have been life changing for me.
Thanks for the tip on the M&S bralette, I ordered some and decided getting them on and off was too much hassle. I’m a 32E/34DD depending on the brand and I would highly recommend the Sloggi Zero Feel Bralette I have 5 now it really feels like you’re not wearing a bra. There is a pad, but it has a little shelf built into it that provides support and it is completely smooth under T-shirts.
Ooh great tip I will try thank you. And yes, definitely a knack to the M&S ones – I’ve mastered it now but it took a while!
Thank you for this Hannah. Really informative and useful. Could you retrieve your excellent sunglasses article too please?
Yes! I still have that somewhere…
Yay! About Time Hannah! So pleased to read about the broadening scope of your blog! 🙂
Bras though: after getting measured up good and proper at Rigby & Peller 20 odd years ago, I discovered I have a 28 back. And though Freya and the odd brand do a 28 in my cup size… those brands have very wide strappage, as they mainly cater for much larger busts than mine!
So in a needs must… I looked elsewhere and bralets were my only real option for comfort and size.
Fab post! Thanks xx
I was going to say something about underwire sizes and that they shouldn’t hurt if you’re wearing the right one, and then I saw your comment about having your condition, sorry!
For me personally, underwired bras don’t hurt, although it’s been a bit of a quest. I’ve recently started sewing my own bras and it’s been eye-opening to see how many different shapes and sizes of underwire there are! You can sew a bra and insert three different underwires that will all fit inside but have an entirely different shape. When I used to buy bras in store it took a lot of time trying different brands to see what worked for me… I guess it’s a bit like shoe lasts, or how one brand’s clothes seem to fit you better than another’s (this has to do with the basic pattern their items are based on, I see this in sewing pattern companies too! Some patterns will fit really well without adjustments, others just don’t work on me).
I could go on and on about this for ages. I have made a few bralettes as well and found that the secret to good support with those was powernet in the cups. They are very comfortable, but I’m not getting rid of my underwires just yet!
This is very impressive!!! What excellent knowledge you have. And yes, all boobs are different so it makes sense there should be different types of underwire. Thanks for the insight!
Sewing my own clothes has really opened my eyes to fitting and how different bodies are! Unless you’re drafting a pattern from scratch from your exact measurements (and even then you might need to make a few test versions and changes) there’s a pretty big chance a pattern isn’t going to fit perfectly straight ‘out of the envelope’, just like storebought clothes. I’m definitely not a master of fitting (and will often settle for ‘close enough’) but I love the freedom and options a handmade wardrobe gives me!
Sounds brilliant. I had a similar experience when I made some shoes last week. It’s actually crazy to think that one size and shape will fit all feet!!
I must say I still love my bras! Sure there is no disagreeing that some are plain uncomfortable (sadly it seems the prettier they are the more uncomfortable they are) but they shouldn’t hurt if you’re wearing the right one and the right size, but I do go through quite a few different ones before settling on my favourites!
I’ve been measured numerous times at different and tried loads of different styles and brands. For me it seems the bralet is the only way to be comfortable but absolutely, if traditional bras work for you that’s fab! As with wearing flats vs heels, the main thing to celebrate is that we now have a choice and aren’t forced into being uncomfortable because there’s nothing else available. Appreciate also that many women love wearing heels and don’t find them as painful as I do!
Oh Hannah I wear heels too, maybe a little too often than I should, and I ALWAYS find that they hurt. Some friends claim the expensive heels don’t hurt but I’ve never found a pair of high heels, no matter how expensive, that doesn’t!
I did a shoe making course with a girl last week who was making herself a pair with 14cm heels. I think she is one of those rare beings that really genuinely finds heels comfortable!!
Whoa! WTF?!?!?! 14cm heels?????? How do you even stand in one of those???
She has very good balance!!!
Or no pain sensation in her feet!
Very interesting, as a 30H woman I’ve avoided bralettes so far, thinking the support wouldn’t be good enough and wanting to avoid the mono boob ledge effect! However having just checked out Bravissimo online, I can see they offer a couple of non-wired bralettes and their own brand one starts at 30 back in D to J cup, in 4 colours, with good reviews. (No I don’t work for them!). I may give one a try on the strength of your post – thanks!
Good news all round!
Oh, I miss The Pool! Thanks for sharing this again.
I have never found underwired bras uncomfortable at all (and I’m a D cup), but I am still curious about the bralette. My only reservation is that after breastfeeding 2 babies, I don’t quite have the shape I used to have and have only started wearing padded bras since the kids. I wasn’t convinced bralettes would offer much, but I like the idea of the padded Boody version.
If I’m honest the M&S one is the best for support.
Thanks for the article. I’ve been looking forward to it after seeing you post on Instagram about trying them.
Im 32f (bravissimo) or 36dd (M&S). I find the M&S Bralet quiet difficult to get on but the price is a bargain. Bravissimo do some really beautiful non wired bras and in general as a company they are excellent. After the shocking fitting I had in M&S Oxford St where they insisted I was a 36dd I don’t think I can trust them again.
Thanks so much for this post. I always assumed bralets were for the flat chested. After your post I ordered the m&s one for my (FF) teenage daughter. She is thrilled and you have saved me a fortune!
Great news! Happy to help.
[…] starters, I am going to need some new underwear! I gave up wearing bras a while ago, but one of my three M&S DD+ bralets that I wear on rotation has more and far […]
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