NOTE: This might especially be of interest to vintage and retro fashion enthusiasts.
It was sometime in the mid 1970s, when I was a teenager, that I first saw an ad for a modern "natural" shape bra. My mom and I both agreed that we hated it. Before long though that became the normal bra shape and in one sense, I got used to it but in another sense I never did. It came to be what I expected to find and I practically forgot that bras had ever been designed any other way but I have always had a lot of trouble finding the right bra and I was always a little dissatisfied with what I ended up with, without really knowing what I wanted.
By the early 90s I had gained two dress sizes and gained one more before I settled into what seems to be my permanent size 14. (16 in pants) I went through a phase of thinking I had to wear shapeless clothes so the shape of my bra really didn't matter a whole lot. But then I discovered sewing blogs on which beautiful women of all sizes proudly show off their creations. I was inspired to find my own style.
It turns out my style is sort of a hybrid of retro and timeless. I don't go full on retro with the hair and makeup and shoes and all but I like the basic 40s - 50s style with close fitting bodices and full(ish) skirts that fall at mid-calf or a little below. Suddenly, finding the right bra was a problem again. A close fitting bodice requires just the right bra or it will never fit correctly. And so the search began.
"Retro" shaped bras do exist but my search was complicated by the fact that I was used to seamless cups and for a while was not willing to give up that feature. But I did find two seamless cup bras that were acceptable, though far from ideal.
The first one I found was a Playtex 18 Hour. That's an Amazon link but I actually bought my first one of these at Walmart. When I first tried it on I actually freaked out a little, like OMG it makes the girls look so pointy! But wait, I told myself, isn't this what you wanted? So I put clothes on over it and it made the clothes look fabulous. Best fit ever. However, there are problems with it. The pictures are not at all accurate. It comes up freakishly high in front and the back is about twice as wide as shown in the picture. I later ordered a couple of these from Amazon, thinking I was getting something different based on the pictures, and got the exact same bra I had previously purchased at Walmart. I really wish I could find that bra - the one in the pictures. Being too high in front and too thick in back is a problem for summer dresses but it also just feels weird and wrong.
Next I discovered the Playtex foam lined Cross Your Heart Bra. I knew I would not like the foam lining but I tried it anyway and it's actually almost perfect. It works under all my summer dresses, It's low enough for V-neck fronts and low scoop backs. The cup shape is something in between retro cone shaped and modern rounded. It's a shape that works well enough with all my dresses but there's that foam lining. I'm all for modesty but who wants to trap the girls in foam when it's 100F outside? Of course, like most people I'm in air conditioned spaces most of the time but three minutes outside and the bra has soaked up twice its own weight in sweat. Still, this has been my bra of choice for several years.
Finally though, a couple of months ago I decided to start the search again. And to learn to live with seams. I searched all the bras at Amazon, not just the prime eligible ones, and discovered Sona bras. Yes, that is spelled correctly - Sona with an N. The first was this Delicate Super Everyday. I was skeptical but decided to take a chance anyway because in one of the pictures it looked like it might be the right shape. And my size was available in pink!
Well, I like it and I don't. The lace is very rough and bumpy and tends to show through and it doesn't really support all that well. It's especially lacking in side support so if you have a problem with underarm boob this is not the bra for you. But it is amazingly comfortable so I decided to search for other styles in the same brand. That's when I discovered that Amazon does not want you to find Sona bras. You search for Sona and it gives you Soma. But fortunately there is a "Dammit I said SONA, show me what I asked for!" link. It doesn't really say that but it should. And I found two more that I wanted to try and ordered two of each.
The appropriately named Perfecto turned out to be The One! Ahhhhhh! [Choir of angels, ray light from Heaven] It has that perfect retro shape (I like to call it classic) excellent support even on the sides and it's cool and comfortable unlined cotton. Sadly, my size is only available in white and beige right now but it also comes in black, red, and pink in some sizes.
Finally, there is the Bee-Heart which is the weirdest bra I have ever seen. To start with, it is 100% non-stretch cotton except for short pieces of elastic in the back on each side of the fasteners. The band, the straps, everything, is non-stretch cotton. When I took it out of the package I immediately thought, "There is no way this is going to work," but it's actually more comfortable than I expected and stays in place and keeps the girls in place very well. I wore it all day yesterday and never once had the urge to rip it off and burn it. But the downside? The cups are a very weird shape even if you're looking for pointy, which they definitely are. The center (the in between cups area) forms kind of a concave curve. Like I said, weird. It doesn't look too terrible under clothes though as long as it's not something clingy.
The weird bra has inspired me though. One of the things (not the only thing) that has kept me from trying to make my own bras is the difficulty in finding the right materials. I have found online retailers that sell a limited selection of bra supplies but I've been procrastinating because, even though I buy fabric online all the time, in this case I want to be able to handle it first, especially the elastic. Bra elastic is not like other elastic. Anyway, handling and wearing that last bra, I realized I can just make one out of cotton! So my plan is to take apart one of the second Platex bras mentioned above. Although the outer cups are seamless the innermost lining has a seam so it should work as a pattern. And of course I will try other patterns.
Oh, almost forgot! Sona bras are made in and ship from India. I have to wait a little longer to get them but both times I ordered they shipped in less that 48 hours and it didn't take a terribly long time to get all the way here to Oklahoma - about two and a half weeks total. I will definitely order again.