Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Bra Straps: Your Thoughts?


tortoise shell new Wayfarers (Ray-Ban via Zappos)
green and white striped tank (via my sister's closet)

My apologies for being MIA for the last week and for still starting this week off without a decent outfit post to share!  I spent this past week at the ATP World Tour 500 tennis tournament in Washington, DC, part of the series of men's tournaments that lead up to the US Open in NYC.  As you can see in this photo, I met Patrick McEnroe at the tournament, and he was kind enough to sign my copy of his recent memoir for my grandmother.  She'll love it, and he was very friendly, but this post isn't about that.  I used the photo for this post because my bra straps are showing.  While this tank merges my two favorite trends this summer-- stripes and stealing from my sister's closet-- it also accentuates a summertime dressing hurdle that I just can't get over.  I hate visible bra straps on myself, and I almost always avoid wearing tops with thin or spaghetti straps because I don't have a strapless bra I love.  I thought the racerback bra was working here but this picture reveals to me that it wasn't.

The tennis tournament is fun for me mostly because I love ATP tennis, but to a lesser degree because it is such an unusual dressing environment.  It is super hot at the tournament, and there's very little shade, but it's still a place "to be seen" on the DC social calendar, so people tend to dress up.  None of you will be surprised to find that I observe the sartorial choices of the women in attendance nearly as carefully as I do the tennis matches.  So after my week at the tournament, I can report back with two interesting observations:
1) There are many more fabulous flat sandals on the market this year than last.  In 2009 I saw flip flops almost exclusively, though they came in quite a few styles.  This year, wearing my beloved rose gold t-straps almost every day put me in good company.
2) I may be the last young woman alive who has not embraced the visible bra strap.  I noticed last year that it was evidently "okay" to wear a regular bra with a spaghetti straps, but this year the "trend" was even more ubiquitous.

I don't think my disdain for the visible bra strap is due to modesty, because I'd happily wear a spaghetti strap top with an appropriately fitting strapless bra.  I try not to use words like these, but I think I'm still mentally stuck in considering the visible bra strap to be "trashy" or "tacky."  However, the women at the tennis tournament seemed to deconstruct this notion, because plenty of the ladies who were clearly trying to look "monied" were proudly sporting visible bra straps.  So I'm dying to know where you all stand on this one.


  • Do you wear a regular bra with tops/dresses that have thin straps?  If so, do you try to minimize the appearance of the bra by wearing a nude one or one that matches the straps, or do you wear a brightly colored bra that you think is cute?  (I saw a lot of this, too.)  And does the thickness of the strap matter to you?
  • What's your reaction to women or their outfits when their bra straps are visible?  I hate it on myself, but it doesn't "bother" me nearly as much on other women (as long as they're not at work), though I don't know why.
  • Anyone care to weigh in on why bra straps are becoming more acceptable to the masses at the same time that visible panty lines seem to grow ever more abhorrent in the public opinion?
  • Have you discovered the holy grail of strapless bras, and if so, where should I go to find it?


Diana said...

I don't really mind visible bra straps, although I don't like it when the bra and the top obviously don't even come close to being similar to one another in shape (like, a regular bra with a racerback tank). I usually try to pick a bra with skinny straps if they are going to show, so that it looks like it might be a camisole strap rather than a really obvious bra strap, and I usually go for a matching or coordinating color (never nude, though, it's way too underwear-y of a color). For a while, I had a couple of bras where you could change the straps out for clear ones, which was kind of interesting but didn't work very well because you could always see them anyway and they just looked weird and shiny. I almost never wear strapless bras, as I find them really uncomfortable (all that rubbery elastic!); on the rare occasion that I wear a strapless top, I just go braless.

Incidentally, I've never understood why people think VPL is such a big deal. If you can see *everything* then your pants are probably too tight and you have bigger problems than VPL, and if there's an accidental flash, well, woohoo, now you know I'm wearing underwear. So what? It's better than someone thinking I'm *not* wearing underwear. In my opinion, it's grosser when you see someone who's obviously NOT wearing anything under her too-tight pants or leggings.

Nate C said...

Nothing is more tacky than tugging on a uni-boob creating strapless bra.

I can't speak to comfort or any of that...but I am never put off a woman because she has visible bra straps.

Also, nice add to the K family lore on the McEnroe front. Bill Bradley, Jimmy Connors, Patrick McEnroe...she's big time!

Sarah said...

Liz, I'm with you and think that visible bra straps are tacky/trashy. Bras are apart of the undergarments category and should be just that--under clothing and not on view for all to see. I have to say it equally bothers me when women wear a visible white or black bra under a white shirt. Hello? It's called a mirror. Use it. My sister recommended the Chantelle strapless bra to me and we both love it. It's a bit pricy but well worth it since it fits me well.

Anonymous said...

I do not have a strapless bra and since I live in a blisteringly hot place, I have learned not to care about visible bra straps. At work, in the AC, I wear something like a cardigan to cover the straps, but otherwise, I have a number of bras that are clearly pretty and have relatively thin straps. I wear those. But think that if they are going to be seen, you need to worry about color and shape, vis a vis your outfit.

Katie from Interrobangs Anonymous said...

Bra straps peeking out from under a shirt/tank/dress don't bother me; what does bother me is how few shirts/tanks/dresses exist that can accommodate my bra straps. I can't wear thin straps - they have to be on quite the wide side for my figure. And thickness seems to matter a lot to other people - wear a thin bra strap and it's okay, wear a thick one and you're inappropriately showing your undergarments to everyone.

And what bugs me even more? Shirts/tanks/dresses cut so large in the arm hole that your bra cup and/or band shows through it. I tend to wear sleeved shirts during the summer, just because the hassle of le bra showing isn't worth it.

Brooke said...

I pretty much despise strapless bras because they are a) uncomfortable, and b) don't fit well. Basically, I shop for tank tops with wider straps (plus, I think they balance out my wide hips better too) or wear a cardigan. But on the flip side, I think it is silly for us women to judge other women because their bra straps are visible.

At work, I would be more shocked to see a woman wearing a spaghetti strap tank top than to see her bra straps showing. I feel like if it is an event casual enough to merit a tank top (a concert, walk in the park, tennis match) then it is alright for bra straps to show. But if it's something nice like work or an event, then the clothing should be substantial enough to hide them, IMO.

I think the fact that you had on a racerback bra with a racerback shirt gets a two thumbs up. I am amazed how often I see people with regular bras and racerback shirts; it kind of defeats the point of the shirt, doesn't it?

Scholar Style Guide said...

Thanks for sharing your opinions, everyone!

I agree that a visible bra strap strikes me as "more" offensive if it doesn't match what you guys are calling the "shape" of the top, i.e. regular bra with racerback top. I don't really "get" why people shun thick straps or nude straps but embrace colored straps, though Diana's point about them looking like a cami strap instead makes some sense.

I'd draw the line of judgment at the workplace. I think it's inappropriate to have any portion of your bra show while you're working, regardless of what type of work you do.

I guess part of what surprised me so much was that these were not, for the most part, casual dresses. They were dresses formal enough that you could easily wear to a summertime wedding, so it really surprised me to see visible bra straps with them. I can never remember seeing bra straps at a wedding, though, so maybe it has more to do with the event than the dress. Maybe a tennis tournament is a place where ladies think "It's too hot to care if my bra shows."

And Katie, I'm with you in terms of being frustrated that there aren't more/better options with wide straps. And I'll try to avoid an extended rant about the fact that, even on dresses which have thick enough straps, I almost always have to wear a cami underneath unless I want to expose a serious amount of cleavage.


Anonymous said...

Visible bra straps create an unpolished, sloppy look. Those ladies trying to look "monied" obviously missed the point that the real story is in the details:)

Rad_in_Broolyn said...

Hey, so I rarely wear strappy things (other than a beachy dress) without a cardigan on top because I think shoulders are pretty intimate. Some reason (I think it's my long narrow torso) bra straps never like to stay put, even with fairly wide sleeveless things. I do have this silly bra with clear bra straps, for a pinch.
I was in a wedding last weekend and I took the straps of my convertible bra because I didn't like how the kept falling out. The bride's tailor attached these awesome velcro straps on wide straps of her dress so the bra straps would never show. Brilliant. Why can't more women's clothing be this functional?