Monday, December 7, 2015

Freya Bikini Tops as Bras: Not a Bad Option At All

So yeah, I do this. Wear bikini tops as bras. Though it never occurred to me that others did until I read the fabulous Bras I Hate & Love; her contributions to determining your shape, and just how big an impact being full-on-top makes to bra fit, remains without parallel. In her farewell post she advised avoiding all Freya unpadded bras, but embracing the swimwear as 'swimwear, bra, or shining shield of good feelings.'

I have 3 different styles: a non-padded, 3-part balconette similar to Tropicana, which I have worn the most over the last 3 years, and a padded style, Samba, which I've worn as a t-shirt bra for the last year. I also have the Copacabana Plunge, in a gorgeous yellow floral watercolor print. Sadly, the plunge style - though it gave the most amazing shape - did not work for me due to the bizarrely narrow and stretchy staps: Dig-tastic. They were already digging just trying it on.  In order, here they are:

                       Tropicana style non-padded, 3-part balconette:

                           Samba, padded balconette/half cup style:

                                    Copacabana Plunge style

                             (Whoa, that's a whole lotta pattern crazy!)
                      Showing the difference in straps: plunge vs balcony

If you want to give it a go, here is a breakdown of the options:

Comfort - of which there is lots!
  • Stretch. Around triple of the average Freya bra, notably the cups. This is what renders them full-on-top friendly, unlike the standard balconettes. This has become more and more important to me, as I experience ever more size fluctuation. 
  • Sizing flexibilityDue to the stretchy construction, and the way they mold to your body, the sizing is quite forgiving, easily allowing for up to a cup size either direction. (I have gone up a band size since I bought these, and about 1/2 cup size, so in effect, a good 2 cup sizes, so I'm really pushing the limits of that forgiveness.)
  • Band. Normally, I prefer 3-hooks and a broader, flatter, softer, non-mesh band. This only meets that last criteria. Otherwise, it is the usual bikini top style consisting of a single sturdy plastic puzzle-clasp. (This will also be a drawback, as we shall learn below.) It lacks the irritating narrow biting Freya signature elastic edging, so it's worth the trade-off. Note: the swimwear bands run a size tighter than the bras and have a lot of stretch, and there is only one possible setting. I went up a band size from my usual 36 at the time, and down a cup.
  • Shape.  Ten times better than an actual Freya bra. Can you say Roundy McRounderson? The unpadded balconette gives a rounded, fairly lifted shape; a bit like Curvy Kate if it had stretch. The padded version has a single vertical seam, more like a 1/2 cup shape, and is very boosted, rounded and low-cut. The plunge is unpadded, with a single vertical seam and gives a super-round, very slightly minimized shape, much like Chantelle C-Chic; it has a narrow gore, which is awesome.
  • Fabric.  Also listed as a compromise below, since a lot of it is due to your personal preference, and also the climate conditions. The fabric is naturally thicker and sturdier than a regular mesh bra, and not designed to let air flow through it, but rather, water; so it's useful for active, sweaty outdoor pursuits. I do not overheat in them, and in any case they are far lighter than a padded bra. 
Beauty - So many gorgeous, fun prints, and deep-toned solids; mainly clean lines, with a button or subtle ruffle here or there. Most everyone will find a match.

Bounce.  You'll get a little more of this, though less than expected, due to the substantial fabric.

Sizing.  Some styles, such as the plunges stop at a G-cup. However, the much higher spandex content means that sister-sizing is very doable. Both mine are in 38G, which fit the same as my 36GG's at the time, while still retaining the far superior shape of Freya before they matron it up starting at GG.

Seams.  They are highly visible on the cups of the non-padded styles, and the balconette is a bit more ruggedly finished than the bras, so I don't often choose them for a full day of wear. The padded version & plunge do not suffer from this issue.

Straps Some plunge styles straps are ridiculously narrow, and not restricted stretch. The two balconettes I have are both slightly narrower than the bra version straps, but all have a spongey feel and are doubled into a tubular shape, so quite comfy. 

Band.  I just learned about this issue yesterday when I was at the store and bending & contorting in an awkward manner to try to retrieve the last item on a very low shelf (which I did - win!) I twisted to stand back up & - for the first time ever - felt an unmistakable Sprrroiiiiing!  Yep - the clasp had popped right open. I toughed it out Alaska-style, i.e., zipped up my fleece jacket to my neck and brazened my way through the checkout line. So be aware that could happen, albeit rarely. Though it's a lot less worrisome than if I had actually been wearing it as a swimsuit.

Tacking.  The unpadded balconette style tacks perfectly, even now; the plunge floats 1/2" on me, but would soft tack in a cup larger; the padded 1/2 cup style really doesn't tack at all for me, even in a larger size

Fabric.  This is both a plus and a minus, depending on your preference. The fabric is swimsuit fabric, and does have a fine mesh lining, designed to let water flow away from your skin; however, the outer fabric is not designed to be breathable, but to hug you like a 2nd skin for coverage.

When Do I Wear Them?
When I want comfort and a good shape, typically under a thinner T-shirt in summer (which means 65-70F to me). If I'm doing a lot of gardening and want to be able to wash & dry it quickly - and know that a few stray dirt clods or plant sap won't faze the fabric at all
Size:  38G (which fit me well at a 36GG). These days, I really need to go up to a 38GG or 40G, with the exception of the unpadded balconette, which still fits perfectly

If anyone else does this, I would love to hear the tales.
In some styles 38G is the cut off.

I found all of these on belle-lingerie, a UK outlet store that also sells through eBay, where I came across them. I have bought from many others, with really variable results, but this one has great prices, and consistently gets my order right. Shipping does take a good few weeks, but is highly reasonable. 


  1. I want to really thank you for your blog! As information spreads about better bras (yay!) I feel like all these blogs are mushrooming up that feature uniformly skinny, uniformly very young girls whose bra knowledge is lacking and who therefore wear their cups too big and their bands too tight. It's refreshing to hear from someone who's willing to say that she puts comfort first!!! keep it coming.

    I also find that Freya bras absolutely don't work for me but the bikinis are top notch!

  2. Thanks so much! I figure perhaps 3 people on earth read this blog, but if it helps anyone else on the quest for comfort, and finding what truly works for them, it's worthwhile. I went through so much trial and error - and dismay, when I found several technically perfectly fitting bras....only to be deeply discouraged when I learned that perfect fit had little to do with perfect comfort. And I really wanted to share all of the information that I searched and searched for myself, and found so little of.