The Longline Bra is Reborn: 8 Favorite Picks!

I was at a dinner party recently when a svelte professor friend of mine pulled me aside conspiratorially.  It was Oscar season and everyone had been gossiping about their picks.  What could this woman want to confide in me, I wondered?  But as a lingerie designer I’m pretty used to being sought out for quiet talks about skivvies and other generally private matters.

She leaned in and said, “I am obsessed with longline bras.”  I asked why, and she said they fit her small rib cage and bust in a way that lent support while not causing any digging or discomfort.  She also thought the appearance was more flattering, since there was more fabric in the silhouette and this had an effect of making the area appear larger.  I asked to see (for professional reasons!) and she dartingly looked around at the room full of wine-soaked women and gay men and then lifted her shirt to show me her adorable longline bra from independent brand Fortnight.

The longline bra trend has been going on for a few seasons, and it’s nice to see a reinterpretation of an old silhouette that has been neglected for many years.

Longline bras are those that extend a few inches below the bottom of the cup, over the ribcage and sometimes as far as just above the navel.  Sometimes they are structured like bustiers and have shaping properties.

The longline bra had its heyday in the midcentury, when dresses fit tightly over the rib cage and waist.  A longline bra did the all-in-one job of supporting and shaping the bust as well as slimming the rib cage.  A girdle or structured slip might take over shaping from the rib cage through the waist and hips.  Longline bras were especially good foundations under the popular strapless dresses of the 1950′s since their length allowed them to fit the body more securely without requiring straps in order to stay in place.  They were the functional foundation for the bombshell silhouette of the era–though they were not necessarily considered especially sexy or fashionable pieces as standalone lingerie. 

During the more minimalist lingerie eras of the 60′s and 70′s they all but disappeared in favor of soft cup triangle “no-bra bras,” and haven’t reemerged as fashion pieces until recently.   The longline is a cousin of the bustier, which has maintained a presence since the 80′s, but it can differ in a few ways.  Bustiers are sometimes designed to be worn as ready to wear, and feature strong boning and wiring in their waist and cup structure.  They are often associated with statement-making surface prints, designs, and fabrics that may refer to modes like traditional corsetry, punk, vintage costume, body-con, or hyper embellishment. 

What’s emerged recently in the longline bra is a much softer and sweeter approach.  The length does not necessarily serve a shaping purpose, and in some cases doesn’t involve boning at all.  Here are some favorites of mine:

RETRO AND STRUCTURED

The two styles below make reference to the more structured origin of the retro longline bra.  Va bien is known as a shapewear brand, and I like how this style is both functional as well as sexy (Floral strech lace and power tulle, along with ultra-lift cups and a low plunge).

Va Bien Marquise Plunge Basque $85

Bordelle is a great fashion brand that does gorgeous things with powerful stretch materials and references to feminine bondagewear.  This bra is modern and sexy while having a structured feel to it.

Bordelle Lady Citron Bodice Bra $380

PRETTY AND GIRLY

This new generation of longline bras focus on floral and ditsy prints, lightweight fabrics with low stretch content, and are not designed for shapewear function.

Fortnight Vega Longline $120

Stella McCartney Laura Pottering Bustier Bra, $110.00

By Eloise Dotted Lines Bra $38

La Lilouche Lily Pearl Bralette $118

SOFT BRA

A different direction for the longline trend is the sweet unstructured stretch bralette, designed for light support and a general air of sweetness.

b.Tempt’d by Wacoal Bralette, $18

Only Hearts Lou Lou longline bra $86

What are your thoughts on longline bras?  I’ve read that some larger sized women prefer them because they allow breast weight to be distributed around the rib cage, and I’ve heard others claim they’re hard to find and sizing is difficult.  Any favorite styles or brands?

Laura a.k.a. Lola Haze

I’ve loved lingerie since before that was reasonable. I taught myself drawing, designing, and sewing, and after graduating from Harvard with an English degree, immediately went to work disregarding it and following my passion for fashion. After a few years designing for a big company, I went off on my own and started Lola Haze TM, (named after the title character in “Lolita,” my favorite book). Lola Haze is playwear for the bold woman who loves fun and dresses for herself! I feel happy and lucky that I get to love my job so much, and am thrilled to share my lingerie enthusiasm with The Lingerie Addict!

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17 Comments

  1. 05/04/13 at 12:41

    I love them!!
    Bought one off top shop 3 or 4 years ago and i always wish i could find more (thanks for all the references).
    I am only an A cup, so I don’t need extra support, I just love the look and style.
    Plus they are a more modest option for wearing under slightly sheer shirts.

    • Laura a.k.a Lola Haze
      11/04/13 at 0:30

      That’s a great styling tip about wearing them under sheer shirts — thanks!

  2. 05/04/13 at 12:57

    Love the Only Hearts set at the end!

  3. Hannah
    05/04/13 at 13:58

    Cheaper ones are coming out these days, which are bringing the garment up to date but the quality is sullying the good name of longline bras!
    I love a longline bra if it’s a well made, comfortable one. I’m a fan of shapewear that simply smooths the figure under snug clothes, rather than an item that sculpts – so for me a longline bra is such a key part of my lingerie collection. My favourite is one I picked up in Topshop on sale for £8! Despite my lack of enthusiasm for their lingerie in general it is my go-to longline item. It just hits the bottom of my (wide-ish) ribcage, and has a slightly lower back than a normal bra.
    I wear mine with underbust corsets to eliminate back-squidge. Also so useful under a dress with a fitted bodice and flared skirt, where my own personal nightmare would be bra elastic showing off any loose skin!

    • Laura a.k.a Lola Haze
      11/04/13 at 1:26

      It’s so great when you can find a steal that is really amazing. Nice work. Also, I agree that sometimes there can be, as you said, back squidge, under longlines as well as regular bras — a good corset will do the trick!

  4. Never got into longline bras myself..being very small ..ahem…busted..I wear only padded push ups…I do love the b.tempt’d Wacoal ..and it’s least expensive! Great article :)

    • Laura a.k.a Lola Haze
      11/04/13 at 1:28

      Thanks! Being small busted can be a real gift when bra shopping — so many silhouette options. Have you ever tried a softcup, either a triangle or a longline silhouette?

  5. Lillefix
    05/04/13 at 15:40

    If I had any choices in longline bras, I’d pick something from the retro and structured branch. Or that’s definitely what I prefer in this selection. But I’d probably buy some girly ones too. Really, any underwired longline bra that fit, would be great. Someone make one in a uk 28HH with narrow wires and a very deep cup, already!

  6. Lahnna
    05/04/13 at 23:08

    As a lingerie saleswoman, I’ve had enormous success selling the lace bralette style to pregnant women and nursing moms. The retailer I work for does not sell maternity or nursing bras, though we get asked about them all the time. The lightweight fabric is breathable, it’s wireless (which many pregnant women like), they stretch easily, some are designed with additional mesh support in the cup area, and they are much cuter than some standard wireless bra styles. I personally wear a 34D, and have grown quite attached to my bralettes. I definitely need a formed cup during the day for shaping purposes, but if I am just hanging out I will always choose my bralette.

    • Laura a.k.a Lola Haze
      11/04/13 at 1:29

      That’s a great tip — I know a lot of nursing moms who say their nursing bras aren’t comfortable. I’ll pass on your suggestion, thanks.

  7. 06/04/13 at 6:25

    I’ve mostly seen the vintage or retro ones, and I find them very pretty but a bit hard to put on and off, as they are wider than ordinary bras but still closed in the back.
    For LARP purposes I made a longline bra in white linen, with triangular cups and back like a sports bra. I decided to close it with buttons in the front, which works very well. I’d love more contemporary bras to be closed in the front as well.

  8. 08/04/13 at 5:45

    I love longlines. Unused or gently used vintage longlines are a staple in my underwear drawer and my favourite bras at the moment. I am busty, I dress mostly vintage and retro and I like a slightly pointy bustline with good support and a very defined waistline, and there is just nothing that provides that like a good longline. The revelation, for me, was discovering (by finding one) that I don’t have to seek out my modern bra size, 75F or 34F/E, which is almost impossible to find in vintage items; in longlines I wear a 38D. That gives enough definition without being uncomfortable – the longer length and added support from below makes the larger band size work, somehow, they don’t feel at all like regular bras in the same size, which will fit in the cups but are way too loose in the band on me, ride up in the back and give no support at all.

    That said, none of the bras above would do even half the job of a full-length old-school longline. I like the look of the Bordelle and the Lilouche, but the Bordelle is too short and the Lilouche looks like a pretty camisole for loungewear to me. Rago does a classic longline which is nice enough, Triumph still manufactures their classic bestseller Doreen in longer versions, although they are tricky to find, and Exquisite Form still makes them too, although mostly geared towards larger band sizes.

    • Laura a.k.a Lola Haze
      11/04/13 at 1:31

      Thanks for your input on retro — agreed, a lot of the modern versions are designed with less structure in mind, and more as fashion pieces, so if someone is looking for the classic longline silhouette, vintage or at least retro inspired lines are the best bet.

  9. Nikki
    08/04/13 at 20:49

    I have a longline bra from Freya and absolutely adore it. And Gossard makes one that would fall under the “retro and structured” category that I’ve been dying to try.

    The La Lilouche and Only Hearts ones you posted are gorgeous.

    • Laura a.k.a Lola Haze
      11/04/13 at 1:32

      Yes, Freya has some really lovely ones. I was dying to post so many more styles…so many great varieties in pattern and styling these days. Thanks for the comment!

  10. Sara
    11/04/13 at 2:43

    I have quite a full but shallow bust so I’ve yet to find a longline to give me the support I need without pushing my boobs out of the bra….which is a shame as I love the look

  11. C
    17/04/13 at 14:32

    I just got a freya longline, and it’s sooo pretty. I’m a 28ff, and I’m not exactly used to finding pretty bras in my size. this is gorgeous. the downside is all the hooks; they make me feel like a granny. I get over it a few mins after I put it on though :)

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