If you have boobs, you have bras. Do you have the right ones for your wardrobe, though? This list is all about versatility; making sure that you have a bra for any occasion and every garment. Keep in mind that you're going to need more than one of most of these bras, though. The elastic needs at least a day to reset, so it's best to rotate one or more of your everyday bras to keep them in good working condition.
1.) The Workhorse: T-Shirt Bra
This is going to be the bra you wear with just about everything; the one you have in black, skin color, and maybe a cute print or splashy color.
A t-shirt bra is one that is made of a smooth fabric, has simple straps, and can be demi, full-cup, or plunge.
If your chest is on the smaller side, you can do a demi-cup t-shirt bra like this one:
Maidenform Comfort Devotion Demi T-Shirt Bra, on sale for $28
Simple, sleek--pretty much invisible, which is what you want.
If you're on the bustier side of life like me, demi bras tend to cause more problems than they're worth. Every time you bend over or move vigorously in any way, one of the girls is halfway outta that minimum security prison. Trust me. Not worth it.
What you need to keep the girls in their cells are higher walls! The higher the underwire comes up the middle of the bra, the more supportive it will be. Also look for bras that don't have a lot of stretch. Stretchy bras wear out quickly and don't offer much support, but molded bras or bras made of a firm, non-stretch material (even the straps!) will not only last you from breakfast to pajamas, but last months or even years longer with proper care.
This is my every day bra, made by Fantasie. I've had it for about 18 months and it's still holding up well: the elastic is still good, no major pilling on the sides, and the cups have kept their shape. Also, it keeps the girls nicely separated (a must in the summer). It's totally worth the investment to have a bra like this as your wardrobe workhorse.
The one downside of this bra is that it's not good for my deepest v-neck shirts. A little bit of the cup tends to peek out a little.
Have you checked out H&M's selection of bras lately? You totally should. Their sizes go up to an F cup and prices range from $10-$25. Seriously! This t-shirt bra is as basic as it gets, but if basic is what you need, this isn't a bad place to start. You can wear this guy with almost everything, including v-necks.
Microfiber T-Shirt Bra, $14.95
Of course there are some kinds of tops that require a different set of straps to remain hidden (and thus keep the fantasy alive that your breasts are just naturally that perfect). For your racerbacks, one-strap, halter-neck, strapless top/dress needs, you're going to need the bra in my #2 spot...
2.) The Chameleon: Multi-Way Bra
This is another place you're going to really reap benefits per dollar you spend, and exponentially so the bigger your cup size. You should look for a bra with a rather wide band, and at least three to four hooks. The band is the only thing that's really giving you any support, so it needs to be snug, too. I usually go down one band size so that it fits me using the furthest set of hooks. Many strapless bras have that in mind with their sizing, though, so you really need to try these on first if you can.
This strapless version from Wacoal has really great reviews and has all the elements you need.
I'm also seriously considering buying this Le Mystere strapless bra. The lines are great, and also has pretty good reviews.
The biggest benefit of these bras are the straps that you can configure into many shapes for whatever you need, but it should also stay up on its own without too much fidgeting.
If you have a lot of strappy tops and dresses, you should think about having more than one of these. During the summer, when you're likely to wear those items, you're also more likely to sweat through those items and your bra. If you're the type of girl who mostly wears tees year-round, you can get away with only one in your arsenal.
3.) The Heavy Sweater: Sports Bra
Even if you live a mostly sedentary life, you're going to have an occasion for a quality sports bra. This is another area in which the make and price of sports bras made for the under-C-cup set is enormously different compared to what bigger ladies need. Smaller-chested ladies can pretty much pick out any cotton 2-pack of sports bras for $15 and call it a day. Those of us in larger cups need the super-heavy duty stuff to keep the girls from moving and bouncing painfully.
Enter the Enell Sports Bra!
Enell Sports Bra, $64-$66
I have two of these guys, and they're the only thing I've tried that really, truly kept my boobs from bouncing all over the place while I run. They squish your boobs down pretty hardcore, I gotta say. I admit to using this under a big, blousy top when I didn't want a lot of width from the side. It's a little pricey, but that's about average when you're looking for a sports bra that will fit the DD+ set and actually work.
Panache Ultimate Maximum Control Sports Bra, $68 (from B to H cup)
All of these have great reviews, but I can't speak for them personally.
Bendon Extreme Out Maximum Control Sports Bra, $65 (from DD to G cup)
Wacoal Maximum Control Sports Bra, $65 (from C to H cup)
Whether or not you choose a bra with an underwire is totally up to you. My Enell doesn't have one, but all these others do. If you're active, it would benefit you to buy a couple different kinds to find out what you like best and then stock up! Someone who works out every day or every other day should have two or three sports bras at least.
There's another kind of sweating I'm a big fan of, and to facilitate the sexy times without getting your lady lumps in a twist, you should definitely own at least one really pretty (even if impractical) bra that purely functions to make you look and feel like a million bucks:
4.) The Looker: Pretty Lingerie
It's true what they say about wearing sexy under-things: it makes you feel powerful and confident in a totally unique way. Yeah, your significant other will really appreciate it, but that's just gravy. You can make this bra serve many purposes if you get a smooth style in a plunge shape: sexy and functional!
Again, check out H&M for cheap regular-sized bras and some cute options for E-F cups like this one, which I have in the teal blue color. It's got a rhinestone and a tiny bow in the center and doesn't skimp on support. That's practically unheard of for less than $20!
Padded Underwire Bra, $17.95
Those bras being the special snowflakes they are, I should show you what is the typical priceline for a sexy bra.
I have a Cleo by Panache bra and I just love it. It makes my boobs look UH-mazing and it feels great, even after a full day. Highly recommended by me.
The final bra on my list of must-haves really depends on your wardrobe, lifestyle, and boob size.
If you want to lessen the impact (width-wise) of your boobs under button-ups (fewer button-hole gaps!), t-shirts (less stretched!), and dresses (so sleek!), your bra is...
5.) The Self-Explanatory: Minimizer
My minimizer, the one I've bought three times over the last seven or eight years, is this Bali Satin Tracings Minimizer. There's basically no stretch to this bra, so there's little moving around. The straps are padded and comfortable and don't slip down or stretch out. Since there's no padding and the back is mesh, you stay relatively cool on hot days, too. It's not the prettiest bra, though, I admit.
Bali Satin Tracings Minimizer Bra, on sale for $26.60
There are prettier bras meant to minimize, though!
5.) The CIA Bra: Built-In Support Tank
I'm calling this the CIA bra because it is a super-secret, super-undercover bra. It looks like you're not wearing one at all! MAGIC. These are so amazing for warmer months when you can't bare the thought of wearing more than one layer of anything or when you want the look of a strappy top without worrying about bra straps or wearing a strapless bra.
Panache Camisole With Built-In Bra, $49 (D to GG cup)
This is the version I own and love. I have three of them because they are just the best friggin' things ever if you're on the busty side and want to join in on the built-in bra top thing without looking like a porn extra. It's just fabulous.
If you're on the smaller end of the spectrum, your options are wide open and cheap! Here's a super-basic version from Victoria's Secret, but they have a TON of options for bra tops there.
The Essential Bra Top, $14.50, or 3 for $33.
5.) The Cover-Up: Seamless Bandeau
The purpose of the seamless bandeau is for all those times your bra peeks out from your clothes (on purpose). Low back shirts, open-back shirts and dresses are all over the place these days, and unless you don't need to wear a bra at all (lucky!), you should think about getting a seamless bandeau. You can wear it on its own or with your regular strapless bra for the underwire and more support, and then slip this little guy over it (they come in tons of colors) to hide the hooks and wires and generally keep your look from veering into trashy territory.
Basic Bandeau Bra, $4.80
Callie Open Twist-Back Tee, $19.90
These also come in handy for those super-cool muscle tees with the huge armholes. Unless you have one of those teeny-tiny bralettes that are meant to be shown off, wear one of these to hide your cups and whatnot!
Here are some bra-related accessories to help get the most mileage out of your bras.
Nordstrom Intimates Comfy Straps, $12.50
Showing your bra straps is not cute. I don't care who you are or what "look" you're going for, exposed straps are trashy and easily avoided. Just don't do it.
I'd like to leave on one last note about the color of your bra: no white bras. They don't work under much and heaven forbid you accidentally wander under a black light.
Under black garments, wear black bras (or super dark blues/greens). I've seen pictures where the flash made my shiny nude bra show up under clothes. Not cute.
If you want to keep your bra shape and color to yourself, wear a flesh-colored bra under white clothes. On the other hand, the shadow of a bra under a white tee is rocker-cool if you go with that look.
Printed bras are cute, but should be relegated to thicker clothes that won't show the pattern.
There you have it! My top five essential bras for pretty much any garment in your closet.
Did I miss anything?