Every Bra You Need For Tricky Outfits

Illustrated by Mallory Heyer.
When you're picturing the perfect lewk, odds are your underwire peeking through your top doesn't factor in. Since it's summertime, however, our favorite garments are getting a little more creative in their (lack of) coverage. There are skin-exposing segments, cutouts, and plunging necklines — revealing straps, hook closures, or other bits of our undies. Now that the sun's out, so are our limbs — and the game is to master the relationship between our bras and our tricky summer outfits.

We turned to the experts at Cosabella, Wacoal, and Triumph to teach us how to wear some of our favorite — and sartorially challenging — warm-weather silhouettes. They suggest the best bras for every scenario...and we dream up many awesome outfits in the process.
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Illustrated by Mallory Heyer.
The Open Back
We wish we could feel the sun on our back in the summertime without worrying about the bra we're flashing. There are stick-on bras, low-back bras, bra extensions that hook lower down the back, and of course, the option of going braless. Elise Granjot, head designer at Cosabella, says to seek out a bra that doesn't have a hook-and-eye closure, since it would be exposed by the silhouette. Instead, she suggests a flat-back style, like a bandeau or a triangle bra. For those who want a little more support, this can be an opportunity to be playful: Find a style that contrasts with your outfit or builds on it, instead of blending in.
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When you've got an exposed back, treat the bra like an accessory, Granjot says: This berry-hued lace style plays with both color and texture to enhance the rest of your ensemble. Because bandeaus can be trickier for bustier ladies, Dawn Kenney from Wacoal offers a helpful tip: "Wear your favorite strapless bra and throw a bandeau over it to hide the band."
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A front closure is another way to achieve the flat-back look. This delicate bralette puts all the bells and whistles (like wider, lace-trimmed straps) up front, and has the straps tapering to simple white lines in back.
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On the other hand, "if you need support, forgoing a structured bra is not an option," explains Kenney. "Instead, reach for a bra that has the prettiest band you can find. Embrace Lace has a pretty lace detail that wraps around the band for a feminine look."
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Instead of hiding the fact that you're wearing a bra, embrace it. This number has elaborate lace detailing that frames your back much like your dress or top would.
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For a larger bust that needs more support, a low-back bustier with adjustable, removable straps is a solid solution. This construction is recommended for heavier bridal gowns, so you know it'll hold up with your summery backless number.
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Illustrated by Mallory Heyer.
The Cutout Front
The amazing, intricate cutout detail in your top can be accidentally undermined by the outline of your underwire underneath. The goal is "to have a one-piece visual," says Granjot. "You don't want to see the structure of the bra." Wireless bras, or bras with a smooth finish hiding the wires, get the job done.
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Kenney suggests seeking out a bra "in a streamlined silhouette with no outward-facing wires." The smooth finish on this push-up style "will virtually disappear underneath, especially if you go for a cosmetic or neutral tone."
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No-fuss triangle bras, with their lightweight construction and barely-there feel, are another great alternative for pairing with cutout tops.
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"You can do a really sexy push-up bra — something that’s going to be smooth," says Melissa Pizzardi, merchandiser at Triumph. The sheer lace overlay on this style lets a delicate femininity peek through the cutouts.
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A graphic-print bralette makes the most of the exposed areas by creating a playful visual contrast.
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Keen on walking on the wild side? Prove it.
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Illustrated by Mallory Heyer.
The High Neck
Bib tops — with thin, neck-hugging straps — are all the rage for summer. But they usually don't work with our typical bras, whose straps interfere with the silhouette. On the other hand, an added set of straps can sometimes make for a good look — if they're ready for the spotlight. Granjot and Kenney both recommend incorporating your regular bra straps into the ensemble, whether they match or clash with your top.
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"Always, the bandeau or a strapless bra is a solution to a lot of things that show more skin or décolleté," says Granjot. This bustier-style strapless bra not only is molded with underwire, but also comes down lower in the back, which works well with a high-neck dress that includes strappy details or back cutouts.
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The elongated triangle cups on this bralette make the straps come up closer to your neck — echoing the fit of a bib top.
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Outfit trends trickle down to lingerie, too: High necks are also having their own moment in the bra world.
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The straps on a bib-neck top are somewhere in between spaghetti and halter, and it's tricky to try to align the straps of your bra with them. So instead, Granjot encourages going against the grain and finding a bra with lovely, contrasting straps if you need the support. Shimmery glitter is a good place to start.
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Or really go for it with some technicolor leopard print. The extra-thin straps provide the most subtle hint of something wild underneath.
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Illustrated by Mallory Heyer.
The Open Sides
When you've got side cutouts, "make the bra a part of your outfit," suggests Kenney. Rather than playing it safe and matching your bra to your skin tone, Pizzardi recommends something that will pop out: embroidery, lace, mesh, and other textures. Alternatively, you can enhance the look of your open sides with strap bands, ones that wrap around the torso for a caged-in feel.
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"A non-wire bra is a solid alternative when you have open sides," argues Pizzardi, because it doesn't have "that harsh wire edge." Styles like the bralette are "soft and pretty" and less jarring when exposed.
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"Opt for pretty details, like lace or color, if you’re feeling bold," says Kenney. She suggests a neutral lace for a subtle but lovely finish.
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The horizontal straps wrap around the torso to create a caged-in look — which creates a cool visual effect.
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The criss-cross look of these straps is understated but still sophisticated.
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"If you want to be a little bit more risqué, you can do something completely lacy — that way, when it does pop through, you’ll feel a little something special, a little different," offers Pizzardi.
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Illustrated by Mallory Heyer.
The Plunging Neckline
The deep V-neck is the textbook tricky situation: How does one get around hiding one's bra when such a key area is exposed? Luckily, Pizzardi notes, most of the support you get from a bra comes from the band, so if that is strong, you can play a little with the front plunge. Alas, even the so-called "plunge bras" don't go as deep as we need them to most of the time — so they make up for it with delicate detailing you won't mind showing off.
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"With something with a really deep plunge, you want to keep it clean," explains Pizzardi. And you need to make sure the band is up to par, she continues. "The band provides 80% of the support." Straps, of course, also help to hold the look up.
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Coordinate the detailing of your under-layer — like the lace-trimmed V of this bralette — with your top or dress.
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If you're really ready to take the plunge, try this dramatic bra on for size: The crossing straps hold the cups together, while creating visual interest around the plunging neckline.
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"You can embrace [your bra] showing through [by choosing] a style that’s more decorative or colorful," says Kenney.
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If you have a very extreme plunging neckline, Granjot recommends a triangle bra, which would look like "a skinny bar under the bust."
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