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.