Bras are confusing, and we’re addressing them with a series of articles over the next few months. Today, it’s all about the appropriateness of showing your bra, in public.

Showing your bra off is definitely a thing. Question is, is it a thing for you? Image: Collage Vintage

First situation: Black bras under white/lighter shirts

I saw a gal crossing the street in front of me and noted her white tee and black bra. ‘Oh, to be young,’ I thought. Then, a friend sent out her Christmas cards, and she had on a silky white blouse and, if you looked closely, as it wasn’t super noticeable, she had on a black bra that you could see through the blouse. A few months later, I was watching Nashville, the second-to-last episode (I believe that’s called the penultimate episode?) with Connie Britton’s character Rayna still alive, and she had on three tops, in this one episode, each showing her black bra. It wasn’t overtly obvious, but you could definitely tell. And, this was not on stage … this was “Mom Rayna.” But, Rayna does have that rocker edge … Like my friend who sent the Christmas card, Connie/Rayna is also well into her 40s. At this point I realized that this was indeed a fashion trend to which I needed to pay closer attention.

Here are the three outfits from Nashville that pushed this question front and center, at least for me. (All pictures taken on my kitchen TV!)

Here is Connie Britton’s character, Rayna, getting her morning coffee in a sweater that clearly shows her black bra.

Later in the episode, Rayna is back in the kitchen with a different sweater on. It’s super cute and yes, you can see her dark bra.

And again, Rayna’s next outfit for this same episode includes a floral button down blouse with a white background. And, sure enough, there is her black bra. This is when I started really thinking, ‘So, this is really becoming a mainstream thing …’

Next up: Bralettes

The young ones are loving the lacy bralettes that are meant to be seen. But, is it just for the teen/college crowd? Last week I saw a lady, a very preppy lady actually, in her 60s wearing a boat neck top with a racer-back bralette, meant to be seen. We’re talking about a likely-on-her-way-to-the-country-club lady. Now, boat necks are flattering, but they defeat me when it comes to bras. Maybe this is the solution?

Spaghetti strap dresses and tops are incredibly hard to pair with a bra. The current trend is to purchase a meant-to-be-seen bralette, as seen here, and make it a part of your outfit. Image: Pinterest

Another example of a bralette is this bird cage-style one. This could be a fancy tank for all anyone knows, but it’s part of the show-your-bralette fashion trend. Image: northandmainclothingco.com

The internet is filled with questions such as “Is 27 years old too old to show your bralette?” So, this is a question women of many ages are asking. The photo above was recently featured in an article on WHOWHATWEAR titled, “How to Tastefully Show Off Your Little Lacy Bra.” But, I have to say, if this were my friend, I’m sure I would say, “Oh, your bra is showing!” just as quickly as I would tell her if she has spinach in her teeth — meaning in a hot second. And, then there would be that awkwardness when she has to then say, “This is how it’s meant to be …” Ohhhhh, sorry. Image: Damsel in Dior

Lastly: Underarm holes

There are so many arm holes that are super low today. What bra do you wear? What if you are just a little old fashioned and you don’t want your bra to show?

The low-cut arm hole is so tricky. If your bra is going to show, you can fully embrace it, as seen here on hurraykimmay.com. But, what if you don’t want to embrace it? Tank top? Seamstress? Yes and yes. Don’t buy shirts like this? Again, yes. If this is not your thing, move on to a style that is.

These are the three bra issues we’re discussing today. I gathered advice from two Southern fashion gals from two cities with distinctly different styles — Nashville and Charlotte — on how to navigate these bra scenarios. The biggest thing to note is to do what you are comfortable with and don’t force anything. Secondly, different cities have different styles, and that is even more so for countries. Be aware of where you are as you may be comfortable trying out one of these trends in Europe or at the beach, but you may not be as comfortable with that same decision at home. Thirdly, bras are confusing even for the experts!

Our experts are Laura Vinroot Poole and Holly Williams. Laura is the owner of three highly regarded Charlotte boutiques that are filled with designer names: CAPITOL and poole shop, for women, and Tabor, for men. Holly is a well-known singer/songwriter and successful entrepreneur with her Nashville women’s boutique H. Audrey, and several locations of her general store, White’s Mercantile. For today’s questions, Holly passed them to her H. Audrey store manager, Mattie Smith, who deals with these situations daily and thus is in the trenches with these exact issues!

Question #1: Dark bras under white or light shirts. Is this a definite trend and if so, is this something women of all ages can wear?

Laura Vinroot Poole (LVP): Yes, and I will do it. But I only do it for a late dinner with my husband, not in the middle of the day. Well, I might wear it in the middle of the day in Europe, but I wouldn’t do it here. If you are going to embrace this look, you need to make it look like you meant to do it. Otherwise, it’s not so good. The color has to be on point. Most importantly, you need a clean, beautiful bra, unlike the ones I tend to wear! No lint, no sweat stains … make it a thought-out choice. You need to be 100% behind your choice and totally confident. If you look like you are trying to be 20 years younger than you are, then you will look like you are trying to be something you are not, and that’s uncomfortable, which is not pretty. Again, your choice is your choice. Be confident and make it well thought out.

Mattie Smith (MS): I personally like a black lacy bra under a white t-shirt. I think it can add an edge to your outfit. It feels very rock-n-roll to me. I wouldn’t wear it to church or during the day, but I think in the right setting it can be right. A nice “intro” way to wear it to see if it’s for you would be to throw on a blazer or leather jacket over it so that it isn’t that noticeable! This way you have something on that you can cover up in if you start to feel uncomfortable.

Question #2: Bralettes. Are you seeing women of all ages embracing the meant-to-be-seen bralette?

LVP: I barely know what a bralette is! I naturally have a really large chest, so bras have always been a situation. But bras have always been a situation for everyone. No one likes bras! And no one has ever figured out how to disrupt the bra industry with a totally new way to approach them. They don’t really work that well, in general. So, for a bralette? That’s hard because most of my customers feel similarly to the way I feel, which is that they don’t want anyone to see their bra or bra straps peeking out, and that goes for bralettes, too. Maybe women in Charlotte are more conservative … but we really don’t like showing our bras!

MS: Yes! We sell an Anine Bing lacy bralette like crazy to all ages in H. Audrey. No one likes a strapless bra. They are the most uncomfortable thing in the world! The lacy bralette is a great substitute. It is okay if it shows because it is lacy and pretty unlike the nude thick strap bras we wear at home. It can also appear like a tank top underneath your clothing (the straps are like spaghetti straps), so it doesn’t seem inappropriate [if it’s] showing!

Question #3: Underarm holes. They are getting bigger and bigger, making it harder to hide your bra. Do you just let your normal bra show, wear a tank or buy a meant-to-be-seen bra? Again, is this weird past a certain age? How do you advise customers who don’t like this look, but like the top?

LVP: Yes, I run into this all the time with the arm holes or even a top or dress that I’m considering buying for one of my stores, but I can’t figure out what bra can be worn with it. Half the dresses I see in Europe and I love, I think, ‘I can’t sell that dress because you can’t wear a bra underneath it.’ For the arm holes, I’m still the person who says, “You can wear a tank underneath.” We have a seamstress at our store who will sew a lining in, sew the arm holes smaller … we can usually make the top or dress work for your needs, but sometimes you need to just find another one. For me, I have dresses where my bra straps are always sneaking out and I just wear a shawl or cardigan with them the whole time — I just don’t want my bra to show! Maybe I look at things through the eyes of a mother of a 12-year-old girl, which I am, but I’m tired of seeing people’s butt cheeks and bra straps and their every indention that you can see in yoga clothes. It’s tiring and I’m over it! I don’t need to see everything! So, it might not be the trendiest answer, but it’s not a look for me. I’m really ready for a return to modesty. Let’s not share every single thing about ourselves with everyone all the time. How about a little mystery? It’s far sexier!

MS: It depends on the customer, and what they feel comfortable showing. We have the best layering tanks by Only Hearts. The material allows for shirts to glide on. This is a great option unless it is 90 degrees outside and you don’t want an extra layer in the heat! Then, we suggest to wear the lacy bralettes. They are so comfortable, pretty if they show, and don’t seem inappropriate. Some customers put these on over their normal bras. This way, they get the support from their normal bra, but get the beautiful lace showing in the deep arm holes.

Alright ladies, that answers some of our bra questions, but we have so many more. We look forward to bringing you Volume 2 of “Bra Confusion” next month!

For more fashion inspiration be sure to follow our fashion experts on Instagram:

CAPITOL: @capitolclt
poole shop: @pooleshop
Tabor: @taborclt

H. Audrey: @haudreyboutique
White’s Mercantile: @whitesmercantile

******