pretty, soft to the touch, and graced with beautiful, dainty lace, you’d hardly think of bralettes as particularly daring – but they are. one, they’re giving us reason to ditch the ol’ wonderbra; the latest wonderkids are a laidback style that beats conventional push-up bras in comfort. two, they’re meant to be shown off, worn under a low-cut top, open-back tee, or on its own. how’s that for bold?
Bralettes: an introduction, and why it’s the boldest thing you’ll wear
No offence, but I’ve never had a lingerie ad convince me of getting a new bra – the posters are too in-your-face, I thought, sexy models that are prime examples of the male gaze we wax lyrical about in women’s studies classes. Oh I still watch the occasional Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show, mind you, but I’m not clicking away at a virtual shopping cart after. I had to outsmart them; they want me to want this and I know it, so I wasn’t having any of it… until I chanced upon an Instagram flatlay of a soft-looking bra with the most delicate eyelash lash. Okay, interest piqued.
The beautiful thing I laid my eyes on? A bralette. These refer to an unstructured style of bras, without wires or moulded cups, which then gives them the feel of casual, fuss-free nonchalance. And unbelievable comfort too, according to frequent wearers who can’t stop raving about them to me. The soft cup style used to be popular in the 20s, the era of the flapper girl, though it has since seen some resurgence lately. From the clean minimal pieces to the feminine boudoir styles, today, they’re a fashion statement in itself – bold styles include those with leather straps that are their most irreverent with a backless top, grungy muscle tee or denim overalls.
Far beyond the aesthetic though, the unassuming bralette is at its boldest when it has nothing to do with fashion – and everything to do with our shifting cultural attitudes. Ever thought about this? Bras, especially the lack thereof, always make powerful statements; just think about the cliché of the bra-burning feminist and the whole #freethenipple movement, this amidst the growing awareness of the lack of diversity in lingerie ads, with the gripe that the model of perfection seems to be Barbie proportions of skinny waists and perky breasts.
As for not-to-mainstream bralettes, they’re a subtle protest against the market’s stereotypical push-up bras, which is an interesting insight that Kate Low, founder of Perk By Kate, points out too. “Everyone is starting to develop their own personal style, and they are more experimental nowadays,” she says. “Unwired bras used to be a no-no due to the perceived need to achieve the overly sensationalised “push up look”, but fewer ladies care about push-up right now. Ladies are starting to develop a quiet confidence towards their own bodies, and I think that’s a good thing.” Indeed, instead of lusting after a universal standard for beauty that’s usually dictated to us, bralettes are a sign of acceptance, a way to reclaim the meaning of sexy and having it be empowering for us. Yep, all that, in silk and satin and lace – that’s soft power for you.
Interview with Kate Low, Founder of Perk By Kate
By the way, that pretty bralette I saw online? Turns out, it was one of Kate Low’s designs that caught my eye. As the founder of local lingerie brand Perk By Kate, she manages to make intimates look covetable without, well, pushing their most obvious assets right to your face. Five years ago, she brought in styles from indie brands such as Eberjey, Honeydew Intimates, before moving on to designing her own wear – padded bralettes that proved wildly popular to ladies here.
Perk By Kate stands out from the other conventional bra brands due to their signature style – the padded bralette.
“Our lingerie pieces are unwired soft cup bras that come with removable padding. This is still a style that’s still rather new in the market; there are bralettes in the market but they are usually unlined and unpadded. Another differentiating factor would be our pads, which are custom-made. We went through quite a few rounds of trial and error before we managed to consistently produce pads to our liking – thin with appropriate firmness, doubled lined and seamed at the edges.”
In fact, that particular style came about after listening to their customers’ needs.
“When I started Perk by Kate as a multi-label five years ago, bralettes were our best-selling style. However, those bralettes were unpadded or sometimes unlined… [Our customers] often just wore them to sleep, and I thought that was such a shame. It took me three years before I managed to find the right workshop to manufacture and produce our first collection of padded bralettes. Once our customers tried them on, they were sold. We sold out within two weeks and we never looked back.”
There are a few reasons why a quality bra costs so much for “two pieces of fabric”.
“Lingerie is the most intimate piece of garment a lady will own and wear on a daily basis. It has to be well-designed, well-constructed and it must provide enough support yet not sacrifice comfort and style. It has to last as well. Most importantly, a good bra has to fit right. Fit is an often overlooked feature. The bras in the market can be “overly standardised” – they seem to fit everyone, but yet fit no one.”
One important thing to note too – you won’t have to worry about where and how their bras are made.
“Our lingerie is made by a small workshop, where we produce in small batches and support fair trade practices. Our seamstresses are paid above average wages and work in an air-conditioned environment. Some even choose to work from home as they are mothers with families to care for. We do not mind incurring a higher production cost as long as everyone involved is treated fairly and is happy.”
These are the three things Kate looks out for in a good bra or bralette (and you should too).
“Fit, comfort and style – in that order.”
Padded bralettes are trendy now, and are often worn to be shown off.
“Apart from Ariana Grande and Kendall Jenner rocking the bralette look and making this style a worldwide phenomenon, I would also attribute this to the athleisure trend as well. There’s a shift towards a natural and relaxed style, and the padded bralette fits this niche perfectly.”
Her bestselling designs are…
“The Victoria bralette for its good fit, sturdy construction and convertible feature. The Macy for its skinny straps. The Alexis for its eyelash lace which peeks out beautifully from under tank tops and low-v t-shirts. The Dylan because it’s a crop bralette and it doubles up as a top as well! [Pair them] with tanks, v-neck tops, low-back tops, jumpers, sheer tops – the possibilities are endless.”
Perk By Kate, available at perkbykate.com. Head down to their pop-up store at Shop Wonderland, from 30 March to 1 April (Thurs to Sat), between 12pm – 6pm, to look, feel and try their pieces too.