If there is one item of clothing that shouts female, it is the bra. As a crossdresser, as soon as you put on a bra your body is transformed from the flat chested male to something more feminine. But I feel there is more to a bra than just changing a persons shape, it is an intimate item of clothing, delicately made, yet performing a vital function in terms of support and also the contouring of the visible outline of the female form. To the uninitiated bra is just a bra, but there are a large number of different types available, here in the UK Marks & Spencer (M&S) a major retailer, advertises at least ten different basic types add to that wired, unwired, padded, non padded and pocketed and it is easy to see why they have over 680 different bras for sale on their website.
Bra's in various forms have been around for a very long time, the bra as we know it started to come into use around the time of end of the first world war. In the 1920's Marks &
Spencer started to sell bras in their shops. As M&S is a volume retail organisation they were producing for a mass market, lower volume more bespoke offerings would have been available for some time previous to this from independent specialist lingerie shops. Over the years the bra has evolved from a purely functional to a fashion item in it's own right. During this time some iconic designs have appeared on the market.
|Bullet Bra courtesy Emma Nylon Nostalgia|
One of these was the Bullet bra, normally associated with the late 50's and 60's (and again in the 90's with Madonna) the design originated in 1949, when Maidenform introduced the 'Chansonette bra. It's conical shaped cups producing the well known profile. I have never worn a Bullet bra and to be completely honest it is not a style that attracts me, but they are still available, either genuine vintage, or modern versions from a variety of specialist outlets. As I have never tried them it would be unfair to comment on them, however just looking at them I can't think they are particularly comfortable and would probably not suit most women today. But you,on the other hand, might have a different view.
Another iconic brand that springs to mind is Wonderbra, here in the UK we associate it with the "Hello Boys" advert featuring model Eva Herzigova of the 1994 advertising campaign, but it goes back much further. In 1939 the Canadian Lady Corset Company was founded by Moe Nader who licensed the 'Wonder Bra' trademark. By the 1950's, the company was producing their version of the Bullet bra, but in 1960 they launched the Wonder Bra 1300 plunge push up bra. It went on to become one of the best selling Canadian styles. Their products were licensed to Gossard part of Coutaulds Textiles in 1964, (although that arrangement was not renewed) and and were sold successfully in the UK. However it was the "Hello Boys" advertising campaign that really brought the product to prominence and continues to sell well today.
|Vintage softline bra courtesy Emma Nylon Nostalgia|
There are a lot of bras on the market today from cheaper supermarket offerings to the better quality high end brands. Without a doubt a really good quality bra is an investment, they are very well made and will last a lifetime. However as always to get the better quality you have to pay a price. One option is genuine vintage bras, they are reasonably priced and much better quality than a lot of the product currently on sale. If you go down this route, make sure you buy from a reputable dealer who is selling genuine vintage and not vintage style. Although it is always better to go for quality I am aware that not everyone can afford the more expensive brands, if you go for the cheaper option, inspect the product carefully, if it looks and feels 'cheap' then avoid it as it will end up being a waste of money, but reasonable quality is available at a reasonable price, but just be aware the sizing is not always as accurate as it should be. However once you have decided on your budget you need to decide which style is best for you.
For the crossdresser this is not only initially confusing but can be very costly if you end up purchasing the wrong type. So where to start? Well the first thing to consider is what are you actually going to put in it? Here we have even more options. If you have a large amount of breast tissue with a little bit of padding you can produce acceptable results, but that may involve adhesive (breast) tape etc which can be uncomfortable. Others, like me with minimal breast tissue have to think of other options. Anyone starting out I would suggest the bird seed method, as this provides shape and weight without the big expense involved with breast forms. It is also a good way to test out the cup size to see what suits you best. I won't go into bra measuring and cup sizes here as there is plenty of information available on the internet. But I will say a little about breast forms, I use self adhering forms which work well for me, the down side is if visible they don't look real, however they do feel and look good under clothing. Having said that, although they are self adhering they will not remain in place without a bra, particularly on a hot day. You can glue them on, which to be honest I have never tried, but that can be messy and difficult to remove. The other main option is a breast plate, again I have never tried one for the following reasons, uncomfortable in hot weather, the edges of the silicon 'plate' need to be hidden, particularly around the neck, and all the ones I have seen do not look real, lets be fair you don't want to go to all that expense and hide them away! Just a point of observation here, how many women show actually show much if any breast on a daily basis?
The actual style of bra you prefer is obviously the choice of the wearer, but form personal experience I would suggest the following should be taken into account.
Firstly the styles I would avoid:
Plunge bra, they do not work well with forms, too much of the form remains on show and they do not offer as much support as other styles.
Balcony, better at support but again too much form showing
Push Up, if you have a lot of breast tissue, these might work for you, if like me you do not then avoid them. Most forms do not work with this type of bra.
So what is the best bra? well like most things it really depends on the individual, personally I usually go for a underwired full cup un-padded bra. Why? being full cup it covers all or at least most of the breast form, secondly when using forms, there is no need for padding and thirdly the underwires help to keep the forms in the correct position better than softline types. I'm going to make a few comments about the fit of a bra here, there is lots of information about bra fitting and strap adjustment on the internet, my advice is, make sure the band size is a snug fit, with out being too tight, adjust the straps slightly shorter than a woman would. The reasons for this are, in order to keep the forms in exactly the right place the band has to be tight enough to prevent movement and the straps need to give more support as the forms obviously are not part of the chest and can slip if you don't get it right.
Softline bras are very nice, two female friends I have talked to both wear softline bras a lot and love them as they are much more comfortable than underwired types. They do work with forms, but you need to have a good fit and use forms that are on the smaller side. I do have a softline bra and it works quite well, but does not give the same support as an underwired type.
|Strapless long line courtesy Emma Nylon Nostalgia|
Other bras to consider are front closing, long line and multiway. Front closing are easier to put on, and a good tip from my friend Emma here is that because they do not have a back fastening, under a tight fitting top you do not get a lump in the middle of your back. A long line bra is often considered to be 'old fashioned' but there are many modern designs on the market, they do offer additional support and as Emma has advised work well in strapless form. Multiway bras are very good and as the name suggests can be used in a variety of ways, conventional, strapless, halter neck and one shoulder. A very adaptable bra that has many uses and a good addition to your lingerie collection. One last tip from Emma, if you are wearing a thin, flimsy or sheer blouse, use a bra with lace at the bak as well, because your back and shoulders should attract onlookers as well.
|Image curtesy Emma Nylon Nostalgia|
The bra you choose is something personal to you, but consider the options and buy with care, a bra should be a thing of beauty not just a necessity. Wearing a lovely bra is a wonderful feeling, so select the best bra for the outfit you want to wear then you will look and feel fabulous..........
I would like to thank two lovely people, a very special friend (you know who you are) for her assistance in producing this article and Emma from Nylon Nostalgia, a great friend who has provided help and some lovely photos........ Thank you both!