Bralettes and wire-free bras: Top 3 choices for Petite women

Lots of bras, an illustration

My post on bra tips for shorter women last year has been one of my most popular posts. (to go back and read that one, click here) Even then, I wanted to write part 2 for bralettes, and finally it has come to the forefront. 

Why now? I had a funny looking little skin thing going on just below the fold of one of my breasts, which upon inspection by a dermatologist, was removed. It turned out to be benign, but while I had stitches there, I couldn’t wear wired bras. Even when the stitches were out, the desire for wire-free comfort stuck with me. But I only had one bra, which didn’t really fit anymore due to weight loss. 

And so, in my quest to find wire-free bras and bralettes, I did a bunch of research and tried out anything that looked promising. I tried on (and returned) quite a few! Now have the research and experience to share with you the best options. 

What to look for

Let’s start with a review of what you want to look for. As petites, our underbust measurement is going to be on the smaller side. In fact, if you fit sizes XXSP to XLP, your underbust measurement is likely to be between 26” and 36” based on data published by the U.S. Department of Commerce on petite measurements. And if you have fuller breasts, you have the combination of small band size and large cup size that is by and large, unique to petite women. 

That package, of small band, full bust, is not the mainstream size (which has nothing to do with how common it is) which makes finding a good fit problematic. If you are small framed and small busted, you might have the issue of finding bras that are small enough, so there is that, too. And just like in wired bras, most of the support should come from the band. But there is much less specificity in bralettes, so it turns out to be a bit of a challenge. 

So let’s start with the question of how much support do you need. Do you know about the pencil test? If you can put a pencil in the bottom fold of your breast and it stays there when you let go, you need support. If the pencil drops, then finding a bralette will be easier, and you may already love bralettes. I have never loved bralettes because I thought they offered no support and looked unflattering– but now I know there are options, if you know what to look for! 

With a proper fit, the band should do most of the support. It should be body conforming without making it hard to breathe. If it rides up your back or hikes up when you lift your arms, the band is too big. And what you see on your tape measure where your band goes, that’s your band measurement. If your measurement is an odd number add one to get an even number. Do not add any more inches! On a hook closure, you should be wearing a new bra on the largest setting so you can bring it in tighter as the elastic loosens. The cup should add to the support, give lift and sometimes shape. You should not have gaps or wrinkles, nor should you get bulges of breast tissue outside the cup. Ok, that’s a review on fit.

Here is my experience with trying on various brands of wire-free bras and bralettes, as someone who needs support. The best fit comes from styles that have some structure and are made in pieces. In other words, look for styles with seams in the cup area. What I haven’t liked about bralettes in the past (before really searching) is that they tend to pancake my boobs. The ones with structure create natural shape. Also, styles that are racerback or crossback or are triangle shaped tend to offer more support on the sides of the breast tissue, helping to veer away from the pancake problem.

Now, adding in the layer of wanting something sustainable, ethical and/or made-in-USA makes it all that much harder to find. But I’m here for ya! Read on.

So what works?

Cosabella= best fit, widest fit selections for shorties, prettiest styles

Getting into the nitty gritty here, I am starting with the best fit. In my own quest for bralettes, the best fit is hands-down, Cosabella. It’s an Italian brand– of course they know how to make bras for short women! Do not pass go, do not collect $200, just go straight to their website and buy directly from them for the best size range offerings. They even have bras designed just for petites! Way to go, Cosabella. All petite fit problems are covered. They have a wide selection of wire-free bras as well as a good range of the sizes that petite women need. They have the best range for petite needs of all brands I researched.

I am currently wearing size 30G in US sizing (MP in EcoPetites), which means I’m too busty for their petite section, but their Curvy and Super Curvy collections are designed for small frames with larger cups, starting at band sizes of 28” and 30” respectively. I have the Never Say Never Racerback style, one in Curvy and one in Super Curvy. The super curvy one fit better out of the package, but they start to stretch out right away, and so the Curvy one now feels just as comfortable (no longer a tad constraining feeling) and offers a little more support than the Super Curvy fit. I love these bras! They are supportive, create a flattering shape and are pretty. They also come in a fantastic array of colors. I let the straps show under sweaters- it looks like a top. Note that they are not opaque enough to wear as a crop-top. And OMG so comfy!

Drawbacks? The style I got is pull over your head and has no adjustments. I agree with the multiple reviews that it is a little tricky pulling a small band over your head. If the straps were adjustable, I’d make them a tad shorter- so next time I’ll get a different style. I have my eyes on the Super Curvy Plungie.

While I like what I’m seeing at Cosabella in terms of ethical production, my quest didn’t stop there, because I still want to see more in terms of sustainable materials. So, moving on.

Nubian Skin= great fit, some organic cotton, best nudes for mid to dark tone skin

I ordered from here because they use regular bra sizing, so I felt more confident about the fit before ordering. They are UK based, so make sure to look at their size guide and measurements. It will ship from the UK, so you want to do your best to avoid returns and exchanges and make sure you know your size first. (If you are based in the US, like me.)

My US 30G translates to a UK 30F, so I ordered the Cotton Wireless Bra in 30E/F, made of organic cotton. Not everything is organic cotton or made with a focus on sustainability, but they do have several options, which puts them a notch above Cosabella in that regard. However, they don’t have as wide of a size selection. The band sizes start at 30 inches, and not all their styles have fuller bust options. But for me, the fit is spot on, it's so comfortable, and there is shape and gentle support.

What their real specialty is that they focus on nudes tones for black and brown women, as they are black-women owned and are passionate about catering to darker skin women. Go ahead, do your happy dance if this is you, and come back to finish reading…

If you’ve seen pictures of me, you know I am white. I am also half Latin-American. So, the nudes for white women work for me, albeit, a shade lighter than my skin. I ordered the Café au Lait, which is more the color of my arms with a summer tan while being a tad darker than my chest skin. But it’s not just brown– it’s the right color. I can’t quite explain it– maybe because it leans more yellow than other light brown bras–but I can tell you, it is a beautiful shade that actually blends. I’ve never had a bra that color before. I like having nude bras to wear under white shirts- so I tried it, under slightly sheer white blouses- and it just disappears. Perhaps because it is a shade darker, or maybe it’s the construction, but there is no nipple shadow. Which means (drumroll please…) I can wear a wire-free bra under a white shirt - no padding or pasties required. 

I have fallen in love. 

If you’re darker than me, you will, too. And don’t shy away if you are light-skinned: it might not be your nude, but just pick a lovely shade of brown and buy it for the combination of fit and organic cotton.

Subset = top choice for sustainability and comfort
Headquartered in Brooklyn, NY. I ordered from them because they have organic cotton wire free bras. What I love about them is their prevalence of organic cotton, and that being mindful of the environment and ethical labor is their thing. It is also shipped in eco-friendly packaging. Of the three reviews here, this one gets the top score for sustainability. 

In terms of fit for petites, two of their bra options are available in larger cup sizes. I liked that their band size measurements start quite small, but upon receiving mine, I see that the band runs large. Choosing the right size is tricky but go by their size chart (ignore the photos with models and their bra sizes), or order smaller if your cup size will allow. I ordered M+. The band sits OK, but I’m wearing the smallest setting right out of the box, which means it won’t fit once it stretches, and is less supportive than the other two brands I've listed here. At this size, the cup is just right- so ordering down would likely make the cup too small. Having said this, they are the only non-wired sustainable-focused brand that fit me without the pancake boob. So it’s not perfect, but best fit of any of the sustainable-focused brands I tried (and I tried a bunch!). That counts.

I have to say, though, after rotating through these new bras, this one is the most comfortable. The band is what does it. So on days I don't need the support of a better fit, this is my go-to.

Also, I love their other items. I also ordered the organic cotton easy tank and underwear in the same color as the bra. It’s the shorter of their tank styles and it fit me perfectly, hitting at my lower hip. A bra and matching tank? Nice touch.

What's My favorite? And what is yours?

That’s my list– tried and true! I’m a little sad that only three made the cut. But I am happy that the three happened to cover both ends of the spectrum– best fit and best sustainability. My personal favorite is Nubian Skin, for hitting both sustainability and fit criteria, with the unexpected bonus of offering the best nude colors.

If you still want to do your own research, especially if you are looking for small band sizes and don’t need much support and/or larger cups, here are a couple of articles about sustainable brand bralettes. You might find a different brand to love on. 

What’s your favorite?

If you liked this article, read the one below– about why proper fit is so essential for us petites.

Dressing for Your Short Stature: Why Proper Fit is Essential for Petites