At this point, bralettes are pretty much a lingerie staple, adopted at every tier of the industry, from Victoria's Secret to underthings startups. No matter how buzzy the garment gets, though, it's still remained targeted to small-chested wearers who might not need the support granted by wired pieces. Busty-friendly bralettes have been a bit of a unicorn in the industry — while some do exist, they're much harder to come by than ones made for smaller sizes. It's not a need that's being totally ignored, though: New York-based lingerie brand Uye Surana just launched a Kickstarter aiming to create supportive bralettes for all shoppers. Uye Surana may be a small label (and one that's been around for a while now), but it's made a point to offer a wide range of sizing and fits for its bras and bralettes on a custom-order basis, rather than keeping them all in stock. (Although, its core selection of bands 28 to 38 and cups A to G is already much more inclusive than mainstream brands.) There's a lot that goes on behind the scenes that makes these one-off requests a big lift for an indie brand: re-grading patterns, adjusting designs to ensure fit is effective, hiring fit models. Still, it became a big draw for the business. "As more people started learning about how great our fit is, we kept getting more and more requests for full cup sizes and larger band sizes," Lohla Jani, Uye Surana's creative coordinator, tells Refinery29 via email. "We thought the time was right to fund those development costs up front and bring those sizes into our core to make ordering with us faster for more of those customers."
So, it took to Kickstarter to raise the funds to grow its team. That way, it can keep up with production without compromising a few of the company's core values, such as ethical manufacturing, fine craftsmanship, and sustainable fabrication without raising the prices of its existing inventory. (Right now, bralettes start at $32 and cap out at $98 on the brand's website.) Clearly, the demand for and interest in this mission is there: The campaign reached its goal by October 24 — five days into its fundraising. (And it still has a few weeks to go until the event ends on November 16.) "We knew that there was no one really making this specific space in lingerie that we are — focusing on soft cup styles and really honing in on getting the fit and comfort right, while keeping things beautiful instead of utilitarian," says Jani. "It's really emotionally fulfilling to see other people respond so warmly to your work because it's something that's actually going to improve their life, even just by making them feel comfortable and beautiful."
The idea to make supportive bralettes was kind of a no-brainer for Uye Surana. "It just makes sense to make sure that our bralettes reach the people who really do suffer from the worst parts of the current market," Jani writes. "That means making sure that people who are cut off from the traditional matrix of 32-36 A-D have access to sizes that fit them, and in our case, creating designs that will actually be supportive, comfortable, and even beautiful." As a whole, the industry has a ways to go to make its offerings truly inclusive. According to Jani, it can come down to the way bralettes are traditionally designed: "They often lack band and cup sizes, or they're missing any real support aside from a solid line of elastic," she explains. Uye Surana went back to the drawing board to adjust the aesthetic add-ons (like complex straps and mixed fabrics) to be actually functional. This is obviously a more labor-intensive approach — and maybe one not all brands can afford to undertake, especially if production is outsourced. Another big topic in the lingerie space — and fashion as a whole — is representation in imagery. For its Kickstarter campaign, Uye Surana called upon friends of the brand who have tried its bralettes before, which includes women of different backgrounds, ages, and sizes. "Diversity in our images has always been important to us from the start," she notes.
"[Both Monica Wesley, the designer and founder, and I] are mixed race, so we understand the frustration of never seeing anyone who looks like you in media," she says. So, as a brand, it's always made a point to stray from the typical, heavily-airbrushed imagery that dominates the space — and, in turn, it's attracted customers that can relate to its models, as we've seen happen with bigger retailers, like Aerie; and fellow indie labels, like New Zealand's Lonely Lingerie. "We think it does a better job of showing our designs than something that feels overly produced or detached from the people who are creating and wearing them," she adds. Uye Surana is still working on becoming even more inclusive. For one, it's going to tackle the pricing of its bras and bralettes: "Accessibility in terms of price is one way in which a lot of brands that focus on ethical production struggle to be more inclusive," explains Jani, adding that a next step for the brand is to develop new products that can retail for a lower price point. Another stretch goal is to bring this welcoming M.O. to other categories that often lack a range of sizing, such as swimwear. Although still in the early stages, Jani believes that's one part of the industry that could use more options. We'll keep our eyes peeled.