My Favorite Small Bust Bra Brands for a 36A (And How to Order Custom!)
Jessica Stoya is a semi-retired adult performer and writer. Bylines include the New York Times, VICE, The Guardian, and Stoya is half of Slate's How To Do It sex advice column.
I’ve spent a lot of time over the past 15 years in front of cameras aiming to look sexy and expensive. I’ve got both adoration for and justification of purchasing luxury lingerie.
Post COVID, I’m also somewhere between a 36A and 36AA depending on where I’m at in my hormone cycle. My bras fall into four categories. 34Bs from companies whose cups run small. 36As from designers who include that size. "One-size” or generally “medium” bras that turned out to, yes, actually be my size. And pieces that were custom made to my measurements. Fasten your seatbelts, we’ve got a lot of ground to cover.
Personal Observations on "Sister Sizing"
34Bs that are close enough is part of the time honored tradition of sister sizing. Some manufacturers have smaller cups than others, and demi cups tend to be more forgiving of less volume. They do cover more, however, than the pictures on most models would suggest, with less tissue fullness above the cup.
Fleur du Mal’s Lily Embroidery Demi Bra is a great example of this. As I was writing this piece, Fleur released 36As in some styles. The cups fit me well but the band needs to be on the tightest hook. It appears that 34B is the correct size for me in their products, which may be helpful for contextualizing how small B cups can run.
Mid-Price and Off the Rack Brands
At the lower end of the pricing spectrum, I have a Gossard 34B that does not push up as intended, but is demi enough and shallow enough to look acceptable. The set was 61 GBP, which at the time worked out to $82.38.
Italian brand Intimissimi’s cups tend to run small in their bodysuits, and while the quality is what you’d expect at that price point - I paid a little under $28 for one on sale - it looks great for a photoshoot or a date night where you anticipate rough handling.
Marika Vera doesn’t do much wired lingerie (and I have to disclose that I’ve visited their showroom and accepted discounts) but their wrap designs and bandeaus are cut flat enough to fit well.
Similarly, Hopeless Lingerie is almost entirely wrap styles and variations on the triangle bra, with shallow contouring seams, relying on stretch to make the garment work for more significant curves. LuLaLu, 36A Callie set (which is $89), is still too big for me. I don’t love their fabrics enough to try again with an AA. Imagine a shrug emoji for this one.
In slightly-higher pricing, Etsy sellers like OhhhLulu ($108.25 for their velvet “Elixir” set) and Fey Design ($125.21 for a emo-era neon fantasy set) have size ranges inclusive of proportionately small busts, and the quality is in line with expectations for the price.
While you do have to be wary of resellers on Etsy, many Etsy designers offer a wider range of size options towards both ends of the sizing spectrum, and are open to custom requests.
Baed Stories, active on Etsy and also on their own web storefront, specializes in costumes and offers all underwire bras in all A-D, 32-36 sizes, with a willingness to make even smaller cups as of this writing. Their level of detail exceeds expectations for their price point, which is usually in the $150-200 range.
Else’s Honeycomb in a 36A was a smidge baggy but exceptionally comfortable and gorgeously proportioned, at a cost of $170 for the set. That bra was designed with small cupped, athletic frames in mind.
There’s also Voiments ($159, via Jane’s Vanity) which runs small enough that the 34B is sometimes too small during the week before my period. Unfortunately, the brand is hard to find in the US and ordering through Instagram is something I’m still skeptical of.
Fleur du Mal is by far the most represented in my collection because they produce many designs, are so forgiving to smaller breasts, and have a high-end look with most sets under $200. I do miss the full silk crotch on the Luxe V-String though. That was the best for reducing razor burn. Their Luxe Triangle Bras are kind to A cups but not the best for AA.
Another - former - Jennifer Zuccarini project, Kiki De Montparnasse, also sells a number of their bras in 36A. Their bikini panties tend to cut in on fuller buttocks, but their thongs are great and their materials are sumptuous.
As the expense escalator rises, we pass Edge O’ Beyond. Their Barbie bra (with matching panty and pasties) came in at $287.71 for the set. Given inflation, your monetary mileage may vary, but their size 3 fits me exactly right.
Bordelle, where the bras alone start around $200, has some great structured but not wired bras, and quarter cups, that fit well. Their S/M/L sizing system skews towards larger cups, though, so I don’t even bother to try their underwired bras on anymore.
Now we’ve entered the realm of “Wow, this was worth every penny but maybe this should hang on the wall instead of seeing the panties slowly ruined by the wear and tear of removing protein stains.” Studio Pia’s Sophia Longline Quarter Cup Bra contains my nipples and is almost a wide enough underwire footprint in a size 2. Their use of sliders on most straps really helps with fit.
Love & Swans, who I’ve accepted gifts from, varies pretty widely. The original Roaring 20s bra runs smaller, the Cygnus (a gift from the company) runs big, and the L’amour and Pour Toujours set of bras (another gift from the company) fit me perfectly. I strongly recommend reaching out to this company with exact centimeter measurements - as they’re more specific than inches - even if you’ve purchased from them in the past, to inquire about the fit of each specific item. The good news is if one item’s dimensions aren’t right for you, they’ve probably got another that is. I don’t do returns with them because I’ve had bad luck with international mail. And with the way my weight fluctuates, what doesn’t fit today may fit wonderfully next year.
Last and absolutely never least is TLA contributor Karolina Laskowska. Her Nyx and the hot pink cup-less number from her Girls That Glitter collection fit like a dream in a size S/M. Like with Studio Pia, the ability to tweak most elastic straps’ fit is incredibly useful. She’s a wizard with weft, and, having posed in my Nyx set, I think I’m more likely to frame it than risk ruining it.
Many of the companies I’ve listed are indie designers, which means pieces are frequently made to order and wait times may be longer. This also tends to mean the business owners are more communicative and responsive to questions. It’s worth reaching out if you’re considering a set and want to know more details. It’s also worth remembering to be patient with sellers.
Custom lingerie is something I have some experience with as well. Several years ago, a lover gave me a gift certificate for CreepyYeha, who I had long admired for her space-bot-bondage aesthetic. I went to her studio, sat with her, and tried things on, and she measured me for a bandeau bra. It fit like a glove. I think there was a matching bottom. I felt like a superhero.
Around the same time I ended up in conversation with Karolina Laskowska, who I had also long admired. She offered me a custom set. Both of us were too new - influencing was too new - for it to be a clear deal. I didn’t know what I wanted aside from for it to be partially grey. She sent back two panties, a halter bra, and a grey silk bow festooned harness. I felt glorified.
Early in the pandemic, I reached out to Hungarian brand FRKS on Instagram to inquire about pricing and they gave me the bra for free in exchange for photos and under the condition that I bought the panty. (I’m now regretting not paying full price, as that’s a very awkward sentence, but the disclosure has to happen.) They’d done a series of fruit designs, so I asked for plums. FRKS walked me through the design process, asking what I wanted for main body fabric and contrast color, suggesting useful options when my original choice wasn’t quite possible, and sending sketches of the design for my approval. I enjoyed watching the designer do their thing. Kind of like the fast-forward videos artists post, but over the course of a few weeks. The set was summery and festive, and fit my bust. Really fit, even with a bit of uplift.
Whether we’re talking about tailoring or full custom from scratch, there’s nothing like the way a precisely fitted garment fits your body. Some custom lingerie is also designed for your exact shape and proportions. It’s an incredible luxury to experience. After a massive slog through pieces that can be altered, and companies with sizes that are close enough, to wear something made for me feels wonderful. To put on a garment that actually fits me is incredible. There’s an effect of confidence and pleasure in myself that I believe comes through in the photos—and, for me, that’s what this is all about.
I later ordered a set from FRKS featuring my cats, and they sent an incredibly detailed rendering of each, with bonus catnip leaves, in their signature appliqué embroidery. I am very pleased with it. My body had changed, and I should have sent new measurements. My body changed again and they fit better now. Just in case, though, it’s worth taking new measurements every time even if it’s the same designer.
Finally, after about a year of serious consideration and a few years of yearning, I ordered a set from Cristina Aielli. Her work is glorious. Immensely detailed appliqué embroidery on flesh tone netting, which comes in four shades of nude.
Laskowska, FRKS, and Aielli all have promotional images that show bodies shaped relatively like mine. So it was easy to envision what their work would look like on my frame and proportions. Even when the garment is being made to your exact measurements, it’s worth looking for examples of the design on similar bodies. A lace that looks lovely on a full cup can feel too large on a smaller bust, for instance. Or, like with Demi bras that are a little too large, a cut can go from plunging to encompassing. Take your time. It’s a big investment.
For Karolina Laskowska and Cristina Aielli, I sent detailed measurements in centimeters. I took the measurements myself, with much contortion, and the pieces arrived fitting phenomenally.
For best results, though, phone a friend. Twisting and bending can distort the measurement. Speaking of best results, once you’ve acquired a dream piece of lingerie custom fitted to your body, it’s worth learning how to best care for it.
If you decide to take the plunge, I encourage you to take full advantage of the custom process. Dream your dreams! Find the designers you can’t get enough of. Browse through masses of options and make note of the brands you’re leaning towards. If the designer sends drafts and pictures of the garment coming together, take the time to appreciate them. And when you finally receive your lingerie, make a whole production out of trying it on. Enjoy.
Even with the amount of effort my job requires me to put into lingerie, I’m sure there’s loads of good stuff I’ve missed. If you know of a brand with great style that caters to A cups, please leave a comment.