Reader Request: Best Necklines for Going Braless

necklines to wear without a bra

Reader Lindsay emailed me this question:

I came across your ‘bra politics‘ post when I was searching for advice on how a larger busted gal could go braless. Specifically, what types of necklines would be flattering. I feel like going without structure on top alters the way the rest of my body looks. I haven’t been able to find any article on the subject, but I thought if anyone could write it, it would be you!

So. As a woman who literally sleeps in a soft bra, this is a challenging one for me. But I know for sure that some of you would go bra-free every second of the day if you could, so I’m hoping my ideas can get the ball rolling and yours can roll it even further!

I agree with Lindsay that going braless as a larger-busted woman will definitely affect how your overall figure/silhouette looks. Our current beauty standard expects a bust that sits relatively high on the frame – the whole lift/separate deal – and if your breasts are large and lack support they are likely to naturally fall more toward your waist. And just because that’s not what society and the Fashion Police expect your body to do doesn’t mean it’s wrong.

But if you want to go braless as a larger-busted woman AND aren’t necessarily wild about making your braless-ness the centerpiece of your look, there are a few things to experiment with and a few more to avoid.

In terms of flattering necklines, it depends on your goals. If your breasts pull downward, deeper scoops and Vs may exaggerate that visual, but shallow Vs (like the ones shown above) would likely work. I’ll be honest and say that I’m totally guessing here, but a slash/boat neckline would likely counterbalance the volume of breasts sitting a bit lower on your frame by drawing the eye horizontally along your shoulder line. (The same style is sometimes recommended to balance broad hips, so the idea may carry over to balancing a low bust. Maybe.)

If you have any concerns about prominent nipples or showing the full shape of your breasts under a top, prints and patterns (again, like those shown above) will help. So will choosing tops with a few strategic ruffles or other embellishment. You’re probably going to want to avoid anything with Designated Boob Room like peplums or even dresses with higher waistlines.

Thicker fibers like ponte knits and ottoman may give a little more structure while super thin jerseys – the kind that virtually every mall-bought t-shirt in the universe is made from these days – will be considerably more revealing.

Finally, a shelf-bra tank may defeat the purpose of ditching an actual brassiere, but will lend a bit of structure and support and can be layered under many other tops and dresses. If you’re willing to compromise a bit. And, of course, adding a jacket to the mix gives you more warmth and coverage.

Those are my ideas! How about you? Any of you folks got tips for going bra-free as a person with large breasts? What are your workarounds? Any necklines you think work exceptionally well?

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7 Responses to “Reader Request: Best Necklines for Going Braless”

  1. oohlookasquirrel

    oh man, if I were attempting this, I’d go to the thrift store and try on several of everything and take pictures of the things that work best. I’d also do a lot of layering and try to find some good non-bra tanks to wear under just about everything.

  2. Sally McGraw

    Hi all! A long-time reader who’d prefer to remain anonymous emailed me her comments, and agreed to let me share them here:

    As a large-bosomed (D, with a very large chest cavity and broad shoulders) 60-something woman, I have been bra-less for about 4 years now. Very happy, and wouldn’t go back.
    Here’s what I did to make it work:
    Decided it was OK to be apple-shaped and learned to work with that.
    Waited until “the girls pointed south.” This was advice from a 70-something friend who goes bra-free. I hate bras, but I wasn’t comfortable being a thermometer for the general public.
    Went for an elderly Indian woman look – not saris, but the long tunic, or kurti, and pants
    Used the advice from this article to guide how I look:

    In a nutshell:
    Necklines that flatter my face – if you can get people to focus on the face, the don’t look much farther.
    Loose, non-body conscious tunics
    Deep vees, sometimes with a tee, sometimes with a turtle, depending on the weather
    Large drapey scarves
    Verticals on top: long necklaces, buttons down the front
    Prints on top – particularly in summer. I can wear very lightweight tops if they are loose and printed. People’s eyes stop at the surface print.

    Most people don’t notice. I mentioned to a young friend that I had not been wearing a bra when we had gone to dinner the week before. She said “Obviously, I don’t stare at your chest enough.”

  3. Julia @ When the Girls Rule

    So, I’m big-busted (H cup) and would not go out in public without a bra but I find a shirt with texture helps when I’m around the house and might bump into a neighbor. There is new fabric that has textural design that’s wrinkled and raised and rouched so it’s easy to hide behind. Also, I find a deep round neck collar, rather than a v-neck, looks best because it balances out your bust, especially if they are wider than your torso like mine. I do rip off my bra as soon as I walk in from work and throw on a sweatshirt so beware anyone who pops by unannounced!


  4. livi

    I’m an H cup and I’m working on this. Right now I wear a soft structure bra (Hanes brand Genie style) whenever I’m in thinner, jersey knits, but when the weather cools enough for thicker material like flannel, or wearing a cardigan I sometimes go without. I don’t think anyone notices.

  5. Hummingbird5

    I didn’t know this was a thing again. Didn’t wear a bra for most of the 70s, but have ever since. I actually love the flatter shape when I’m braless at home, but I don’t like the feeling of breasts lying on my rib cage–kind of sweaty–so I always wear a snug tank as an underlayer. Does that defeat the point of going braless? I don’t know.

  6. etesla

    I’d definitely ‘yes’ the shallow v-necks – it gives the impression that cleavage is just tucked away but present, I think? But boat necks without bra on me (38J) is pretty much an unmitigated disasater – the wide horizontal suggests shoulder line, and then where my breasts sit sort of seems to appear as my waist (this is partly because I am short waisted), so I just look incredibly lumpy from neckline to the shirt hem. I think it almost certainly depends on the REST of the shape you’re working with.