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Vintage Style Bras For Large Cup Sizes: A Quest

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links.

Alice Bra by Goddess

Alice Bra by Goddess

I've spent the past year getting more and more involved with vintage and vintage reproduction clothes, as well as the vintage fashion community. At this point my daily wardrobe is made up of almost entirely vintage reproduction dresses, so in some ways it's amazing that it's taken me this long to start thinking about my vintage lingerie options. While I wear my vintage-style dresses with modern bras, there are some that would benefit from a more authentic silhouette. After a fair amount of research, I've figured out some tips to figure out which bras that come in larger cup sizes will mimic that vintage look of the 1940s and 1950s. I intend to try a few of these over the course of the year, but today I wanted to talk about how to pick out good options in the sea of bras out there as well as my short list of contenders.

Claudette Bra by What Katie Did

Claudette Bra by What Katie Did

Tip One:  Forget about fashion bras. 
While you may dream of vintage bras that look like this, recreating your favorite vintage silhouette will probably require a bra that looks like the one at the beginning of the article. It will be extremely full coverage, semi-conical and usually come in only black, white and beige. It's easy to liken this to how most people feel about vintage hairstyles -- sleeping in rollers is anything but sexy, but the results are worth it!

Tip Two: Embrace the soft cup bra. 
If you wear a larger cup size, you're probably wedded to the idea of an underwire bra. Many bras that will help you get the vintage look come in higher cup sizes, but not necessarily with underwires. This may seem like scary new territory, but think about all the positive tradeoffs: stress free airport security, nothing to dig into your skin, etc.

Tip Three: Plunging necklines and vintage-style bras don't mix.
This won't be a huge issue if you're buying these to wear under reasonably authentic vintage reproduction pieces or vintage pieces, but it may be something to consider if you want to wear these sorts of bras on a regular basis with more modern clothing.

What to look for:
In a nutshell, we're looking for the quintessential granny bra. After all, our grannies were the original stylish vintage women! Look for soft cup bras with full coverage on both the sides and on the top -- you want your entire breast to be encapsulated by this style of bra. Most importantly, take a look at seaming. Good vintage-style bras will have a seam across the middle of the breast as well as a large seam running from the bottom of the cup to the middle. This creates the triangular or conical shape that we associate with vintage fashions. These bras will also have wider bra bands than you're used to, which help provide added lift and shape.

While there are lots of these out there, here are some of the vintage style bras that have made my shortlist:

Alice Bra by Goddess

Alice Bra by Goddess

Jayne Bra by Goddess

Jayne Bra by Goddess

Doreen Bra by Triumph

Doreen Bra by Triumph

Jacquard Soft Cup Bra by Elila

Jacquard Soft Cup Bra by Elila

As you can see, these all have virtually identical designs and that characteristic seaming that creates the essential vintage look. I'm going to be trying some of these over the course of the year, so I'll report back if I fall in love with any of them!

Holly Jackson

The Full Figured Chest provides creative and elegant copywriting for the high end lingerie industry.

9 Comments on this post

  1. wendybien says:

    Michele F, yes, for the models I mentioned at least, and in that size range (lower end of band range) you would absolutely need to use a +4/5 formula to get your correct size. However, in the higher band sizes the bands seem to be much stretchier. Also, I find the vintage sizing to hold true only for the bras whose patterns are a few decades old–it’s not something that holds true across the board for all these brands. For instance, if you pick up some of Playtex’s more contemporary underwired, molded cup designs you will see that a 34 band bra is definitely not suitable for a person with a 29-30″ back. However, the smaller brands like Exquisite Form or Carnival seem to use this +4 sizing quite consistently.

  2. Michele F says:

    One of my favorite bras at the moment is the Freya Active Softcup bra (4001 or 4391). I’m in the smaller band, bigger cup size range (32DD in fashion bras) and find it difficult to find vintage style bras in my size. Local department stores (Sears, Walmart, The Bay, Target) only carry DD cups for 36 bands and higher and specialty shops carry few softcup styles. It seems that many of the companies mentioned are companies that have been around for a while (i.e. Playtex, Triumph, Rago). Is it possible that they use the older “+4” sizing method?

  3. wendybien says:

    ETA: for those who prefer an underwire and fit the size range, Chantelle’s Fete 1960 is the real deal and I am pretty sure it has been around since 1960. It feels very, um, sturdy at first, but gets softer after washing, and is pretty much indestructible.

    • CherZ says:

      Thank you so much for posting that. I just ordered one, tried it on and thought, dang is really tight. Good to know they loosen up.

      And yes the Chantelle Fete gives you an amazing vintage shape.

  4. wendybien says:

    Holly, awesome post! I have been experimenting similarly, not so much because I wear much vintage or vintage style, but just because I’m lingerie obsessed.

    Like the commenter above I found the original 18 hour bra, by Playtex (2027) is very comfortable, supportive and offers good uplift. The band is wide and the 34DD was actually a perfect fit on me, even though I have a 29″ underbust and usually wear a UK 32FF or G.

    My Triumph Doreen offers a similar look to the Playtex 2027 under clothes. It’s obviously a higher quality bra and is quite a bit more expensive, even ordering on Ebay from German discounters. Bands in the older nonwired Triumph bra designs similarly run incredibly tight.
    My 34F Doreen is probably a little roomier than I need in the cup, but exceedingly tight in the band–I needed an extender the first few times I wore it.

    I’ve also found that the Exquisite Form “Ful-ly” bra (back close, not the front close version) fits me perfectly in a 34D (yes single D–I tried the 34DD and it was too big). Exquisite Form cups in general run huge, at least in these older nonwired patterns. This offers great uplift, is incredibly comfy and, for those who are after the pointy cone bra shape for their vintage dressing needs, this is a VERY economical alternative to the true repro offerings, although obviously not as lovely in design or materials.

    There are still a number of old school longlines out there that are similarly “vintage sized” (34 bands that fit like modern 30s. DDs that fit like modern G cups) and that are very affordable. Carnival uses rather cheap fabrics so not all of their designs are supportive, but some are very workable. Rago’s Lacette longline fits me perfectly in 34DD.

  5. Anja says:

    I would add Goddess Soft Cup Bras “Clara” (comes in nude and chocolate and gives an amazing lifted vintage shape) and “Audrey (comes in black, nude and scarlet – a nice red) to your helpful roundup! :)

  6. SFYSsam says:

    I’d like to add Empreinte’s Melody Banded to the list. This seamed satin and lace full cup bra gives an exquisitely perky shape that works with all my vintage and repro dresses.

  7. Karen says:

    Don’t forget Playtex bras.

    Style 2027 gives a decent silhouette under vintage gear and can be had at WalMart for less than $20 if you can wear a DD as your true size or sister size. The same bra is available as style 7717 at the Playtex’s Just My Size website. They have up to 50DDD.

    Playtex 4693 is also okay and has the advantage of coming in lots of colors. It’s available at some WalMarts for under $20. On the Just my size site it’s 8267 and available up to 54DDD.

    These are everyday bras for me and work well enough that I’ve never felt the need to find anything else for my vintage dresses, but I don’t go to vintage cosplay events. YMMV if that’s one’s main venue for vintage wear.

    On a side note, I think we’ve been sold a bill of goods with the notion that plus sizes need underwire. I’ve had exactly one underwire bra, a Goddess fitted by a woman in a bra shop with 40 years experience, since I outgrew my C cup in collage. I can’t imagine putting up with that kind of discomfort everyday. Good soft cup bras in large sizes are easily had, supportive, comfortable, affordable and launder well.

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