Bra tops: How to wear and style the playful, sexy street style trend everywhere, from brunch to work meetings
When Katie Holmes stepped out in New York City to hail a cab, wearing a matching bralette and cardigan set, it was, as they say, a cultural reset. The bra top was suddenly a hot item again, and the very design Holmes was wearing — a sumptuous cashmere US$450 piece from Khaite — sold out in short order. If you're thinking, now that bra tops are back in the fashion consciousness, how does one partake in the trend? We have a couple of quick guiding ideas.
Keep it simple
The most attractive bra designs — ones that work independent of their use as underwear, that is — have simplicity in common. When the canvas on which to design with is this small, it's best that you look for pieces that are straightforward and not cluttered with too many ideas. Whether it's knitted or decorated with lace, opt for something that cuts a flattering line across your decolletage. Lace and textured fabrics like cashmere, for example, benefit from simpler silhouettes without twists or embellishments. The reverse is true: smooth, plain fabrics like cotton, rayon, and nylon in solid colours leave room for details to shine.
Part of making a bra top look intentional is in choosing fabrics that aren't typically used in lingerie. Holmes' Khaite look was so effective particularly because it didn't look like she had just forgotten a middle layer between her bra and cardigan: it was a specific style choice. You can, of course, sub in any good looking bras, but for maximum deliberate effect, materials such as cashmere are ideal. Bonuses: it's comfortable, warm, and has a more subversive look of louche and effortless chic than, say, classic lace and sheer tulle.
Up the contrast
The bra top, by virtue of being quasi-underwear, is always going to create a sensual effect. How you modulate that and temper your outfit, then, depends very much on the outerwear you have on. The classic is, of course, a sharp, tailored blazer to evoke Yves Saint Laurent's famous Le Smoking silhouette. A less sexually-charged alternative, also proposed by Saint Laurent most recently at its fall/winter 2020 show, are boxy jackets in bright colours and prints. That can soften the look's femme fatale edge a little and give it a new dimension of less overt sexuality.