A Pitch: Can We Make Wearing Bras Over Clothes Cool Again?

Lindsey Lanquist
A Pitch: Can We Make Wearing Bras Over Clothes Cool Again?
Photo: Lindsey Lanquist. DESIGN: Cierra Miller.

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Fashion is at its best when everybody’s having fun. This is especially true during the winter, when even stepping foot outdoors can feel like a chore—and when practical concerns quash every ounce of sartorial whimsy within us. There’s a certain kind of soulless monotony that defines the season. Crafting all-black-everything winter outfits from cozy textiles is fun at first; we’re playing dress-up as the bold, edgy creatives we’ve always known ourselves to be. But by month three, the novelty has worn off—and all we’re left with is banal necessity in the form of a few neutral knits. We’re tired of constructing winter outfits from the same few pieces. But what choice do we have?

Earlier this season, one particularly bold stylist reminded me of an oft-overlooked layering essential: the bra. She’d layered a floral bralette over a chunky white sweater—and paired the combo with a matching floral skirt. The result was a look that was warm enough for winter and cool enough for Instagram. I was shocked, intrigued and delighted all at once.

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Weeks later, I was combing through my favorite boutique’s Instagram when I found yet another bra-over-clothes ensemble. This stylist had opted for a red knit and a pair of matching wide-leg pants. She topped off the look with strawberry statement earrings and a halter bralette, crafted from tangerine snakeskin. (Truth be told, it could’ve be a bikini top. But the distinction is so minor it’s not worth making.)

As I continued to contemplate both of these outfits, I began to wonder: Could bras be the answer to our winter wear woes?

The beautiful thing about bras is that while they’re designed to be worn under clothing, they’re often crafted with voyeurism in mind. Put simply, they’re cute—sometimes, they’re among the prettiest pieces we own. And we don’t do them justice by sporting them for a mere few minutes while getting undressed.

The bra’s potential far exceeds its current application. A bra can do more for us than simply keep our boobs in check. It can act as a statement accessory, speaking louder than any colorful necklace ever could. It can add a pop of color or texture to an outfit in need of a little something extra. And it can—maybe, possibly—make our winter outfits a little more interesting (and a lot more fun).

To put my theory to the test, I crafted four outfits that rendered underwear-as-outerwear in its most literal form. I refused to wear a corset as a top and call it a day. Instead, I invoked the Instagrams that had inspired me and layered my favorite bras over some of my go-to winter pieces.

After seeing a few of my outfits, my boyfriend accused me of masquerading as Captain Underpants, but I assured him I was simply trying to make winter fashion a little more fun. Because really, why sport the same formulaic ensemble for the umpteenth time when you could, instead, wear a winter outfit that makes you feel a little bold, a little adventurous, and perhaps even a little silly?

Attempt 1:

STYLECASTER | A Pitch: Can We Make Wearing Bras Over Clothes Cool Again?

top: Topshop; bralette: Aerie, $11.98; jeans: Urban Outfitters; coat: Uniqlo; boots: Urban Outfitters; sunglasses: Urban Outfitters, $16

When I went to craft my first bra-over-clothes look, my agenda was simple: I wanted to have fun. My favorite bralette (a burnt orange Aerie beauty) was an obvious place to start, and it paired so well with my Topshop turtleneck that the outfit practically styled itself. The light-wash jeans kept the bralette from veering too dominant, while the fuzzy fleece coat added a delightful dose of texture. The result? A look that was veritably wearable—albeit decidedly bold.

Tip: When I wear bras under my clothing, I tend to fasten them on the tightest setting. But I quickly discovered that when wearing bras over my clothing, I’d be better off opting for the loosest setting. This is especially true when layering a bra over a piece that isn’t particularly form-fitting—that excess fabric needs a little room to breathe.

Attempt 2:

STYLECASTER | A Pitch: Can We Make Wearing Bras Over Clothes Cool Again?

top: Talbots; bralette: Urban Outfitters; overalls: Zara; coat: Uniqlo; boots: Everlane, $235; necklace: vintage; sunglasses: Urban Outfitters, $16

STYLECASTER | A Pitch: Can We Make Wearing Bras Over Clothes Cool Again?

top: Talbots; bralette: Urban Outfitters; overalls: Zara; coat: Uniqlo; boots: Everlane, $235; necklace: vintage; sunglasses: Urban Outfitters, $16

For my second outfit, I wanted to throw together something that felt a little more accessible. Instead of using a colorful bra as a focal point, I wanted to take advantage of a neutral bra’s ability to add texture to a look. (I also wanted to offer minimalists a way to render the all-black-everything outfit a little more fun.)

This black, lace-covered bralette from Urban Outfitters turned out to be the perfect layering piece. It added some visual interest to an otherwise-simple mock-neck top, and it looked seriously dynamic alongside my corduroy overalls. I’m usually not much of a lace person, but in small doses, it can be really lovely. This top/overalls combo would’ve been lacking without it—plus, it inspired me to slip on the layered vintage necklace that really finished off the look.

Attempt 3:

STYLECASTER | A Pitch: Can We Make Wearing Bras Over Clothes Cool Again?

dress: All Saints; bralette: Aerie; coat: Uniqlo; boots: Urban Outfitters; earrings: & Other Stories; sunglasses: Urban Outfitters, $16

STYLECASTER | A Pitch: Can We Make Wearing Bras Over Clothes Cool Again?

dress: All Saints; bralette: Aerie; coat: Uniqlo; boots: Urban Outfitters; earrings: & Other Stories; sunglasses: Urban Outfitters, $16

Lingerie evokes visions of romance, so I wanted to see if I could style a look that felt intimate—but not at all salacious. My beige Aerie bralette—with its delicate lace and even more delicate palette—lent itself particularly well to this endeavor, as did my charcoal All Saints sweater dress.

I kept the rest of the look fairly simple: I opted for dainty silver earrings and unassuming ankle boots. I loved this look in-person—it’s the kind of thing I might wear on a date night—but it didn’t translate well in photos. (Which is why I’ve thrown in a Boomerang that captures how absolutely lovely this outfit was to wear.)

Attempt 4:

STYLECASTER | A Pitch: Can We Make Wearing Bras Over Clothes Cool Again?

top: Uniqlo; bra: Victoria’s Secret; skirt: Urban Outfitters; jacket: Levi’s; boots: Everlane, $235; necklaces: Walmart; sunglasses: Urban Outfitters, $16

STYLECASTER | A Pitch: Can We Make Wearing Bras Over Clothes Cool Again?

top: Uniqlo; bra: Victoria’s Secret; skirt: Urban Outfitters; jacket: Levi’s; boots: Everlane, $235; necklaces: Walmart; sunglasses: Urban Outfitters, $16

Thus far, I’d put the spotlight exclusively on bralettes. They’re lovely and I own a ton of them, but I wanted to give underwire bras a chance, too. Unfortunately, they were decidedly harder to style. Time and time again, I encountered the same problem: Underwire cups offer so much coverage that the bras are apt to overwhelm anything you pair them with. I wanted to try a color-contrast look with my favorite gray bra, but the piece proved distractingly dominant. So I opted for a black-on-black combination, instead.

My sleek black bra offered some structure to my go-to turtleneck, leaving it looking far sexier than usual. The dainty bow accentuated my layered jewelry, lending the look a little cuteness. And the lace detailing on the bra echoed the floral print in my skirt. The entire outfit fit together magnificently—in fact, I’m almost shocked at how well this one turned out. (It’s hard to imagine any bra-over-clothes outfit feeling genuinely wearable—let alone one that puts a bra front and center (rather than, say, tucking it away under a pair of corduroy overalls). But I’d feel totally comfortable wearing this one out and about.)

Another tip: When wearing bralettes over clothing, I avoided wearing any other kind of bra. The fit was so tight that the bralettes probably wouldn’t have fastened if I’d added another layer. But when wearing underwire bras over clothing, I found it was absolutely necessary to layer another underwire bra under the top. So when sporting this look, I wore a black bra over a black turtleneck—which I wore over another bra. The cups on the black bra wouldn’t hold their shape without another bra under them. Who knew the day would come for us to sport two bras at once?

 

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