WTF is a bralette?: an abbreviated history

The memory of the first time I heard the word ‘bralette’ exists outside of time but perhaps it was 2015. Maybe it was 2017. It could have been summer. 

The word and its double consonants leapt off my friend’s tongue as she laughed and I squinted my eyes, puzzled. 

It’s a braLETTE, she said emphasizing the additional syllable, the cause of my confusion. A what? I asked. A bralette, she responded with confidence. What the fuck is a bralette? I said, hands lifting to rest upon the two inches of padding that separated my breasts from the world. 

I don’t recall her explanation, perhaps she offered words like ‘non-wired’ or ‘unstructured,’ maybe she chose ‘comfortable’ and ‘free.’ Maybe she pulled up Kendall Jenner’s Instagram. Or told me how a bralette has been described as the “athleisure of unmentionables.” 

She may have described how indie designers spearheaded the trend, drawn to the ease of construction, ushering in a welcome palette cleanser for the pushed up, padded, and VERY SEXY styles of the early aughts. Maybe she said that Slate described bralettes as a symbol of a “new era of body positivity in which women are throwing off the encumbrance of traditional bras and flaunting what nature gave them.” 

She surely didn’t trace the history, dating the bralette’s roots back to nearly a century ago when the earliest bras were underwire-free. And she didn’t try to place it within the context of 1950s-era pointed cups or the advent of the Wonderbra; she did not describe it as shrugging off the need to ‘lift and separate’.  

I’m not sure exactly what she said or why we were discussing bralettes, but the memory lodged itself in my mind — a simple testament of a friendship, of the conversations we have about our clothes and our selves. 

Perhaps it sticks out because it builds on earlier memories of conversations with friends in childhood bedrooms, talking about bras and our bodies, wishing for more underneath our shirts, decades away from learning to love what’s there. 


Or maybe it was just funny. I do remember it being funny and every time I wear a bralette I smile.  

 Blog was written by Alex Fluegel
Photography by Daniel Lisi of Kipriece Tate wearing handmade Siobhan Barrett lingerie. 

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