Do You Even Lift, Bra? – Top 7 Tricky Dresses & the Best Bras for Them

The holidays are upon us, and with them party dresses of all shapes and forms…including the those that require some specialty in the undergarments’ area.

Tricky outfits can be pretty frustrating when you’re trying to keep your ladies properly supported. Some dresses, like the deep plunging front, backless dress or sheer top are obviously a challenge. Others, like that bodycon or square neckline, seem innocent enough, until you find yourself muttering a few choice phrases at your reflection.

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Hey, we hear you, and we’ve definitely been there. So let’s tackle these potentially problematic silhouettes head on. We’ve pulled together some of our best recommended options, for what we at SLH consider the “top seven tricky” outfits.

These include Backless, Deep Plunge, Halter, Off-the-Shoulder, Sheer, Square…oh, and that aforementioned crafty little bodycon. And while we’re going there, we don’t just want support. We also want comfort. So we’ve included three options for each of these seven silhouettes – an underwire, a wireless and DD+ options for our blessed and beautiful ladies out there.

Last, we should state that our intrepid editors did not include adhesive solutions for the purpose of this article. If you are interested in those, stay tuned for our updated-for-2021 Best Adhesive Solutions coming out this pre-holiday season.

ASYMMETRICAL / OFF-THE-SHOULDER

Two looks that have been powering the 2021 fashion world are the sexy One-Shoulder and it’s flirty sister, the Wide Shoulder top (usually draped adorably to one side to show off a single shoulder reveal). So what’s a gal to do? Buy a left-side and a right-side bra? And what about making sure the straps don’t peek (hey, if you’re looking for them to peek, that’s cool, but why limit yourself to that)?

The answer to this conundrum? Enter our good friend, the strapless bra. Now, we can hear the protests from here. Strapless bras have been given a pretty bad rap in the past. At best, they were like squeezing your ladies into a toothpaste tube. Worse they were like wearing a device of torture that digs, pokes and rubs in all the wrong places. Absolute worst? They simply don’t hold the shelf, and the ladies enter the room first. Ugh!

Times have changed, and technology with it. Today’s strapless bras are, in a word – stunning. Softer fabrics, advanced elastics and better designed support are out there right now. Here’s our top three picks…

We’ll start off with this beauty by ThirdLove. It’s available in whole and half-cup sizes with removable straps that can convert into left/right one-shoulder, halter, and of course, completely strapless. What else makes this one worthy of your ladies? Soft micro jersey fabric keeps them comfortable, underwire gives them great lift and form, and slender bands of silicone around the top and bottom edges add that extra bit of security. Sizes start at 32AA and go all the way up to a 44H. There are 3 color options including classic black, taupe and mahogany brown.

Cosabella, Never Say Never Bandeau Bra $65.50

Once upon a time, if you wanted a strapless fit without wires, you usually ended up with something akin to a binder. Nothing wrong with that, if your end goal is to strap down and reduce. But what if your aim was to lift and separate? Cosabella has your back, sister (and your front) with their Never Say Never Bandeau Bra. The elastic side and cup supports, lifts and separates, while the pretty, stretch-lace mesh helps keep your ladies from wandering about. It comes in 4 colors, including black, blush, rose, and white. Available sizing starts at 28A and goes up to 40H.

This chic number by Wacoal wins our Editors Pick for oh so many reasons. Supportable and stylish, it’s made to handle cup sizes from a 30B all the way up to a 44 I (that’s a 44 DDDDDD for the record). How does it handle this herculean feat? Memory foam cups form a perfect, supportive fit in the front, while the hidden “stays” anchor and stabilize the sides and back. In between along the top and bottom edges are silicone strips for added grip. The convertible straps can be worn 5 ways (including strapless and one-shoulder).

BACKLESS

There is of course, the completely backless, but there is also the keyhole, the long slit and the still-dominating-the-world 90’s style slip dress. All of these garments require some type of low-back or no back solution. For this silhouette, there are two tried-and-true options that work best. A low-back converter strap bra and a low-back longline. Here’s a few great options:

When your backless garment is for a special event that requires the maximum support possible, you’re going to want a corset style longline bra. This version by b.temp’d is the one you’ll want to reach for. Why? This high-tech beauty relies on power mesh to ensure not only a firm fit but microfiber all around makes it a smooth silhouette under even your most clingy of clothes. Comes in black and taupe color options and sizes starting from 32B all the way up to 38DD.

Jezebel, Backless Convertible Extreme Plunge Push-Up Bra$38

This six way convertible bra by Jezebel has a moderate plunge, push-up front, and crisscross backless options in the back. The underwire gives amazing support for sizes 32B up to 38DD. While it only comes in 2 color options (black and beige) we like this backless because it offers wider, more comfortable straps that are less likely to create unsightly lines in the front (as some thinner-strap versions do) and also because it’s a great all-around option for the price.

Maidenform Wide 3-Hook Low-Back Bra Converter Straps – $12.00

Our next option also offers wide straps for comfort, but this wrap option isn’t a bra at all…it’s a converter. Simply start with your own favorite bra (underwire or wireless) and hook the adapter to the back. This version by Maidenform comes in black and taupe, and is perfect for the price-conscious gal who would prefer her own bra, rather than purchasing an entirely new piece.

DEEP PLUNGE

Sexy and daring, the deep plunge front instantly draws the eye. It might be a deep v-neck, a tie-front, a keyhole front, or the go-big-or-go-home plunge. Whatever your pleasure, you’re going to need a bra that showcases that sternum whilst ensuring the ladies aren’t sliding out to play peek-a-boo. Here are some favorite options from us…

Think a plunge bra and a push up are a contradiction in terms? This super soft bra by b.tempt’d will change your mind in the best way. Unique graduated foam cups create a natural-looking swell while the deep plunge front assures a good show. Pretty and practical, it comes in black or beige color options and in sizes from 32A to 38DD. 

Okay, so TBH, finding a good and supporting, deep plunge bra in a wireless option is a bit of a unicorn hunt. Luck you, we found it for you! This wireless wonder from Boston Proper has a seamless front for a smooth look, while the seamed sides contain added boning for much needed support (no side boob malfunctions here!). While color options are limited to the standard black and beige, the cup size options are nicely generous, starting from 34B and going up to 38D. The straps are three way convertible, so it will fit a variety of deep plunge options in your wardrobe.

This deep U bralette option from Gossard took our top slot for our DD+ gals. Supportive underwire and elastic edges keep everything in place whether you are a size 30B or a 44F, while the lacy, racerback straps allow for all sorts of free and easy movement.

EXTRA CREDIT: Okay, so while all three of our choices will help keep your ladies in line, we can’t speak for the garment you’re choosing. With this in mind, the SLH team highly recommends you double-down with some good old Fashion Tape. Just a few strips along the plunge portion of your outfit can make all the difference between being J-Lo fabulous versus RiRi’s SOS Ocean’s 8 malfunction. Ri, being the amazing badass that she is, recovered flawlessly of course. However you may not be so lucky IRL. We suggest Fashion Forms’ Dress Tape w/Dispenser. Unlike the single strips, this tape is a single roll, just like scotch tape. That means you can find the right length you need every time. Each roll is 5.5 yards long, giving you plenty of use for under 8 bucks!

HALTER

In our humble opinion, nothing shows off the shoulders quite as beautifully as a halter top. Besides the traditional halter, there are halter straps (of various width), the cold-shoulder, the high neck halter (with mock or full turtleneck) and the Grecian (a piece of fabric starting in the center of the chest, usually in the shape of an inverted triangle, where the “apex” of the triangle connects to the garment, while the “legs” of the triangle wrap around the neck). Not complicated enough? The back side of most halters can be just as varied. It can be completely backless, cross-backed, racerback, or v-back (a variation of racerback where the back straps form an inverted “V”).

With so much going on, your best bet is to keep your bra structure well-supported and straightforward, with a ton of convertible strap options. Here are some great ones perfect for just such a task…

Maidenform® Self Expressions® Women’s Multiway Push Up Bra – $18.99

This multi-tasking beauty is an absolute steal at the price. It comes in over 5 colors, with a classic push-up silhouette and lovely lace detailing. The convertible straps allow for various options including backless halter, cross back or strapless. Sizes run from 34A through 40DD.

This charming convertible number checks all the boxes. Seamless keeps it smooth, wireless keeps it comfy, flexible boning on the sides give extra support, while soft large elastic bands sit gently and keep everything in place. What more could you want? Well, how about convertible straps allowing for standard, halter backless and crisscross styles? Still want more? It comes in 4 color options and cup sizes from 34B to 40DD. Seriously, this one could become your new fast fav…

Ashley Stewart Convertible Butterfly Bra – $44.50

If you rock sizes 38D through 46H and think halters are off your list, we’ve got great news for you. This convertible number by Ashley Stewart is made with their exclusive “butterfly” back. It includes two 4-hook closure straps that create a smooth side & back, along with total support (with or sans shoulder straps).

SHEER

Sheer blouses come in different levels of transparency. That said, whether it’s completely see through or moderately opaque, you want to make sure to follow a few guidelines. First, let’s agree that, unless you’re strutting a runway or a red carpet, it’s better to leave more to the imagination. Wearing just a standard bra under a very sheer top is just not appropriate for most situations…no matter what Instagram tells you. But this doesn’t mean you’re relegated to camis and tanks only.

The bottom line is, you have to own it. Meaning if you’re sporting a bra under a sheer top, you want something that’s exciting, interesting, colorful (or all of the above). Something that tells everyone “I wanted you to see this gorgeous getup under my shirt”. Our two favorite options are a pretty bra/bralette with major visual interest, or flip the script and go for an athlesiure vibe with a sports or lounge style bra underneath. Here’s some great options…

Cosabella, Allure Curvy Plunge Bralette $95.50

This stylish, lacy bralette by Cosabella comes in six colors (blue, black, tangerine, lilac, moss and light blue) with sizes ranging from 28A to 40H. The supportive underwire along with the wide, stretch lace straps give off plenty of flirt while staying in the PG-13 zone.

Wacoal, Instant Icon Bralette $29.40 (reg. $42)

Hellooooo beautiful! Covered in romantic scroll lace, this bold bralette is your underwire-free solution. Comes in two other color options including black/blue and buff/beige but honestly this purple is perfection to us. Sizes from S to 3XL.

Veronique Longline Full Figure by Fredericks – $44.50

For our ladies of 38DD to 42F, this longline number is a tantalizing mix of pretty and sexy. Coming in 3 color choices of red, white and blue, the delicate embroidery and scalloped edge give fantastic form to this full figure bra.

SQUARE

The square neck has been around for awhile, but suddenly we’re seeing it across runways and showing up in collections everywhere for Fall 2021. It’s pretty clear the fashion world is truly having a moment with this silhouette. From dresses to tops this trend is really starting to gain speed. So get ahead of the game by investing in the best bra for this neckline – namely the Balconette. This low grazing bra is the ideal choice for the wide neckline created by the square top. However that low cut on the cup requires a careful and skillful design to ensure everything on the shelf stays in place. Here are three options that will keep your decolletage out of the danger zone…

Whoever said strength can’t be pretty clearly never met this bra. The stretchy lace fabric on the outside of the cups help keep things snug while the memory foam on the inside cradle a custom fit. It comes in 3 colors, including this perky plum (as worn by model above) as well as cream and black. Ranging in size options from a 32A to a 42H with half cup size options, you’ll sure to welcome this balconette with open arms.

Seamless, wireless and supportive? Short answer, absolutely. This bra by Auden incorporates the best elements of beloved bralettes, evolved with stretch foam and a straight-across silhouette that is smooth all the way around. Comes in six color choices (black, brown, beige, cocoa, lilac and rubine) and ready to handle sizes 32A up to 38F.

Lunaire Bra Sevilla Embroidered Full-Figure Balconette Bra – $44.00

With it’s sheer lacy look, this balconette by Lunaire looks positively delicate. Don’t believe it though, because this bra was made to handle sizes 36C to a 48DDD without breaking a sweat. The ivory/blue version is shown but equally lovely are the sheer white, sheer black and black/gray taupe.

BODYCON

So at last, we come to our wiliest little number, the bodycon. When this cutie pie is done right, it’s the penultimate look of effortless curve and comfort. Unfortunately, getting it right is not always so easy. Every seam, every gap, side bulge, back bulge…you name it and somehow it becomes magnified to the nth degree under that innocent looking top. In fact it was so tricky that while the first bra was invented in 1889 it took until 1975 before the first “invisible” bra finally came about.

Once the code was cracked (so to speak) all sorts of smooth, foam cup bras starting hitting the market. And for the most part these options do the trick. But if you’re looking for the real McCoy, i.e. a true shapely and supportive bra that seems to dissolve like magic under that tight bodycon dress, have a look at our three top options…

24/7™ Classic T-Shirt Bra by ThirdLove – $68.00

With 4.5 stars and over 38,000 reviews, this classic, underwire t-shirt bra is the one to beat. Smooth memory foam cups, soft micro jersey fabric and a double layer back with hidden elastics (to eliminate any side bulging), this beauty of a bra also comes with pleated straps for soft support and tagless labeling. Offering to fit sizes from 30A up to 48I it also comes in 11 color options so you are sure to find your own personal favorite (or two…).

Having been in the fashion industry for 59 years, Calvin Klein knows a thing or two about clean design. Case in point is their wireless demi bra. Smooth and sleek, this minimalist bra is perfect for everyday wear. Comes in beige and black with sizing from 30C to 38D.

If you’re rocking a bodycon with your ladies from a 32C all the way up to a 42H, this lightweight but powerful seamless cup underwire bra from Wacoal is what you need. Comes in five color options, including black, beige, dusty orchid, rose pink and this bright lilac-y one shown above called Hollyhock. This bra provides much needed support while disappearing without a trace under your clothes.

So that wraps up our list of favorite options for those seven tricky silhouettes. We hope you enjoyed it and let us know how you think we did!

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