Tuesday, 26 August 2014

The retro bra buying guide: Bullet bras

Every vintage lady needs at least one bullet bra, and luckily there’s a number of options to choose from these days. You can always hunt for vintage, but if you’re not a vintage-friendly size, or just don’t have the time, here’s my thoughts on the options available today.


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This is the classic What Katie Did bullet bra, worn by vintage girls and celebrities alike. I find this particular bra doesn’t look quite right under most of my outfits, because the cups are so pointy, I look like I’m smuggling ice cream cones under my top. Having said that, I LOVE the look of this bra on its own, and it’s absolutely the best choice for burlesque costumes and pinup shoots. With so many stores carrying the What Katie Did range these days, it’s well worth finding a local stockist and trying it out for yourself.

PROS: Totally authentic vintage styling, beautiful satin fabric, looks great on stage and in photos.
CONS: One of the more expensive options around. Larger cup sizes can be very pointy and show under clothing.


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Years ago, I wandered into my local department store looking for “a sort-of pointy bra to wear with my swing dancing dresses.” Lucky for me, the saleslady knew exactly what I was talking about and hooked me up with the Fayreform Hickory Lace bra. The saleslady explained that pointy bras are easy to find in stores, because they generally have 2-3 seams on the cup, and look pointy even on the hanger. The Hickory Lace has been my go-to vintage style bra for years now, because it gives the correct shape under clothing without appearing comically pointy. I also like the fact that it doesn’t create a minimising effect, which so many vintage styles tend to do. Not that there’s anything wrong with minimiser bras… But I figure Jayne Mansfield wouldn’t approve, so I don’t either! 

PROS: Vintage style shape without being too pointy. Does not have a minimising effect.

CONS: Horizontal centre seam can sometimes show under clothing. Comes up quite high in the centre front, so you can’t wear it with low neck tops. The band size begins at 34, so if you have a small frame you have to take it in, or tolerate the looser band. 


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For comfort and vintage style on a budget, you can’t go past the classic wirefree bra. I’ve heard them referred to as ‘granny bras’ but don’t let that put you off! The quintessential wirefree bullet bra is the Triumph Doreen, which has been in production for over 40 years. I’ve worn the Doreen in the past, but at the moment, I’m just wearing the St. Marks brand from Big W. I paid $11 for it! Professional bra fitters would be horrified, because it’s at least two band sizes too big, but I still wear it because the smooth nylon fabric is virtually undetectable under clothing. The centre seam does show under certain outfits, but on the whole, it gives a smooth finish, and it's the least ‘intrusive’ of all my vintage style bras. (I'm wearing it in the photo at the top of this post.)  

PROS: Very comfortable. Usually inexpensive. Least visible under clothing. Gives a vintage style shape without appearing too extreme. For ladies who like to wear a soft but supportive bra for lounging or sleeping, a light wirefree bra is a great choice.
CONS: Band size usually begins at 34, so if you have a small frame you have to take it in, or tolerate the looser band. Can have a minimising effect on larger cup sizes.


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I stumbled onto the Ardyss brand after searching ‘bullet bra’ on ebay. From what I can tell, it’s a specialist label for heavy-duty foundation garments, mostly sold through Tupperware-style parties. The Angel bra caught my attention because it appears to be made in exactly the same way as 60s bullet bras, but they’re available in a huge range of sizes. (According to their website, there’s over 300 size combinations!) After thinking and measuring and thinking some more, I finally bought one. I was happy with the sizing, but I find it so ‘uplifting’ it makes my bust look at least three cup sizes smaller. I think these bras are the perfect choice for vintage ladies looking for a minimising effect, or to reduce back pain caused by a fuller bust. They definitely make you feel lighter, and improve your posture! 

PROS: Total gravity-defying uplift that gives a slim, youthful silhouette. Almost infinite range of sizes.
CONS: The uplift and sleek profile comes at the expense of bust projection. Easily the most minimising bra I’ve ever owned. Comes up quite high at the front, so you’re limited in the choice of top you can wear with it. The label has their own sizing system, so you need to measure yourself using their instructions, which is a little tricky.

So what’s next? Well, my ‘holy grail’ bra would be one that has a pointy vintage shape, only smooth and undetectable like a modern t-shirt bra. A girl can dream! The closest thing I’ve found so far is this Freya sports bra… There’s lots of reviews complaining it’s too pointy. (Oh really? Sounds good to me.)

Stay tuned for the next instalment of the retro bra series... Strapless bras!


  1. Great post! I love the WKD cone bra because it has a more natural yet still 1950s shape... I, too, found the Maitresse bullet bra a bit too pointy, especially under thinner material clothing. Looking forward to your next post because I don't own any vintage style strapless bras!

    1. Thank you! I wanted to try the WKD cone bra, but they didn't have my size in the store. Good to know it works for you!

  2. I've been lusting after the WKD bullet bra's for forever, but they seem to have a pretty limited size range, nothing past a D cup. The Bali Flower bra is what I wear, it gives a nice perky, slightly pointed effect and is comfy to boot!

    1. The WKD Maitresse bra goes up to an F, but I think the bigger sizes may sell out quickly, which would make them harder to get. I saw some on the website today though! And thanks for the tip about the Bali Flower bra, it looks great!

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