One cup or two?

Choosing the right bra

Regardless of the era your wardrobe is inspired by, brassieres are an incredibly important garment to get right. The shape, fit and amount of lift can make a huge difference to the overall silhouette. However nowadays there are so many styles of bra on the market; molded cups, three-piece cups, bras with underwires, wire-free bras, strapless, racerback, stick on, the list goes on! So which style of bras should you be gravitating towards and which ones should you be avoiding when putting together a vintage inspired outfit?

Typically, the everyday woman from around the 1930s to the 1960s strove for a similar bust-line. Women wore bras that created a high bust, their breasts sat very much apart from each other and the shape was generally quite pointy. It was fashionable for necklines to come up quite high, and women dressed quite modestly, as such women in day-to-day clothing did not expose their cleavages quite as much as we do now.

There are a couple of styles of bras that should be avoided when attempting a vintage silhouette.

Nowadays push-up bras are very popular in main-steam fashion, but for those who wish to remain authentic to yesteryear styles should steer clear of them! Women were very modest in the way they dressed, and for this reason you may find that many vintage bras come up very high compared to modern styles. I personally own a few bras which come up higher than some of my tops!

Another modern trend to be avoided by vintage lovers is molded, foam cups. You know the type, they create a very rounded and smooth bust shape, and go by the name ’t-shirt bra’. Although these bras can be very practical to wear under modern clothing as they sit very smoothly under modern fabrics, in my opinion the shape can ruin a vintage outfit. As I previously mentioned, busts were quite pointy, they were definitely not round like modern cups.

The vintage silhouette calls for a high and pointy bust, which then creates the illusion of a smaller waist, which of course was very desirable. This style and shape can be achieved by wearing a bullet bra, which maintains its shape through circular stitching. Reproduction bullet bras come in a variety of colours, designs and levels of padding. Although they can take some getting used to, I really think that a well-fitted bullet bra (as well as a lovely pair of seams) is the cherry on top of a vintage outfit.

You may be familiar with the term ‘sweater girl’, it refers to the fashion of wearing tight sweaters over a cone or bullet shaped bra which of course emphasised a woman’s bust-line. Some women even wore inflatable bras to further exaggerate
their busts!

Rather than pushing the bust together to create an exaggerated cleavage, women were keen to ‘lift and separate’ by wearing bras with separate bra cups, rather than a ‘bandeau’ style.

Photo by Paul Harris

Although we may take them for granted now, separate bra cups were introduced in the 1930s, and standardised band and cup sizing was only introduced in 1935! When I found this out, I went on a search to find out what the various sizes would have been called previously, and I was not disappointed! Check out these size categories: Pert, saggy, egg cup, tea cup, coffee cup, challenge cup, nubbins, snubbins, droopers and last but not least super-droopers! Can you imagine?

If you’re not ready to take the plunge and try a bullet bra, three piece softcup bras will also create a lovely vintage bust. The way in which the cup is constructed lifts the bust and creates a point, although not quite as extreme as the bullet bra!

Lastly, I find that longlines help me greatly when trying to avoid unsightly back bulges that come with small fluctuations in weight.

A vintage style bust can take some getting used to, but I guarantee that your dresses and tops will sit beautifully with the right foundations!


Elinor Lloyd-Philipps of The Nylon Swish is a British born blogger and vintage undergarments lover, currently living in Sydney. You can read her wonderful blog at