Posted on October 12 2016
It's all Madonna's fault.
Visible bra straps, that is. When the Material Girl landed on the fashion scene in the early Eighties like a bomb, she was wearing lacy tops that showed her bra, along with dark roots, neon bracelets and finger less gloves. She was edgy as hell, a breath of fresh air, and we all wanted to be her. (And we loved her singing, too – so chalk the whole thing up to a mass delusion.) Of course, by the time her style made it to the suburbs, we were matching our neon socks to our neon suspenders and belts. Suburbs, amirite? No one dared to show their bra through a sheer, lacy shirt back then – we kept our straps under wraps. Halter tops, racer backs, and bandeaux all required special bras and special accommodation. So how did we get to the point when women are wearing pretty, curved-neckline dresses with plain white bra straps nonchalantly hanging out on their shoulders?
I admit that I am old-fashioned, in the sense that I don’t want to see your underwear, through or especially outside of, your clothes. Showing strap or waistband doesn’t say ‘edgy’ or ‘stylish’ to me, it says ‘got dressed in the dark’ or ‘probably hungover’. I also admit that I am hardly on the cutting edge of fashion, which my vast collection of heather and charcoal gray sweatshirts proves. But I do show my ankles on a regular basis, so I’m not completely fusty. I think there are two elements of this trend that some of us are not hip to.
First, I want to make it clear that I recognize the difference between lingerie and underwear. Lingerie is delicate, sexy, decorative and as much a part of fashion as any other kind of clothing. Underwear, on the other hand, is functional, sturdy, a mood-killer, and a byword for frumpiness. The first decision a woman makes every day is whether to gird her bosom for battle, or for revelry. The second decision should be what is the contour of the top I’m planning to wear, and do my bra straps lie underneath or outside the fabric? If you chose a plain white bra to go underneath a sheer black halter top, you’re doing it wrong.
The second dynamic in play here is, plainly, endowment. If your bras are mostly for show, if they don’t have underwire or space-age support fabrics, if the straps are narrower than a Twizzler, then you have few restrictions other than color. There are many ways to wear delicate, optional bras stylishly, and the fashion industry is ready for you. However, some of us need a little more engineering in our bras, and a little more strap. It’s not easy to find a delicate, decorative, strappy little bra when your cup size falls in the middle of the alphabet song. There’s only so much style you can add to a bra strap that is an inch or more thick, and fewer ways to incorporate it into an outfit appropriately. This is yet another fashion trend that women with curves can’t access easily.
So by all means, wear your bra on the outside, but don’t forget to do it with style. It’s not fashion if you don’t follow a few rules.