How Bralettes Are a Sign of the Times

Going wireless is very on-brand

Hanna Brooks Olsen
12 min readJul 26, 2017


Photo: Geneva Vanderzeil, A Pair & A Spare,, used via CC 2.0

In the past several decades, selecting a brassiere has mostly been about making choices. Luxury lingerie shop or Maidenform from the department store? Full coverage or demi? Pushup or push-way-up?

If you didn’t want a bra with an underwire, you’d have to look in the tween or athletics area or rifle through the racks for a soft-cup option that wasn’t too frumpy.

That is, until last year, when suddenly bras without wires became the new must-have accessory.

The bralette — loosely defined as “a bra without wires and a lot of pretty details” — has become ubiquitous in women’s fashion. It combines the comfort of a sports bra with a more traditional look, feel, and style, and it disrupts half a century of underwire dominance in the $28 billion lingerie industry.

It’s not difficult to identify the perks of a bralette over a traditional bra: They’re more comfortable for many people, less expensive, and because they’re meant to be more visible than a traditional bra, offer an additional way to accessorize an outfit.

Bralettes have been developed in a range of support and have moved into much larger sizes in the past several years. This also makes them a more inclusive option: Even as recently as seven years ago, any sort of wireless bra was considered to be the sole purview of people with smaller breasts. Today, comfort without wires is being offered in an array of sizes and shapes.

Many of the same things that make the bralette appealing to a consumer also make it attractive for designers. In a piece for Stylecaster earlier this year, Hilary George-Parkin laid out the benefits for businesses looking to scale down their traditional bra operations in favor of a lighter, more wireless line:

Underwire bras also have up to 40 components, and, says Harrington, can take years of research and development to actually come to market, leaving very little in the way of profit margins. By…



Hanna Brooks Olsen

I wrote that one thing you didn’t really agree with.