Adventures in recreating the 1940s bust silhouette

This post is a long time in the making! Grab a cup of tea and sit down for a spell.

Let’s talk about something that most people, vintage aficionados or not, probably don’t even think much about: the bust line silhouette. A delicate combination of the bra you’re wearing and, well, whatever you’ve got in that bra.

I don’t like typical modern round cup bras. You know the kind, it’s the shape of probably 95% of the bras on the market. I’m sure you know it well.

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Now I don’t mean to insult anyone who wears this style. I wore it for years and years. There’s nothing wrong with it. And I’m certainly not saying that I think you must wear a bra tailored after a vintage shape to wear vintage fashions! Not at all. I personally have just found over the years that for my own body shape, which is a relatively small frame, large bust and short waist, the general shape of a modern bra will never look as good on me as the shape achieved by a vintage bra or a bra that approximates a vintage bra. This is particularly true because I wear vintage styles, which are high-waisted. So the less vintage-style uplift my bra gives, the less waist I have…and the more I start to resemble a garden gnome.

But not only do most modern bras like the above not provide the type of lift I’m looking for, I just don’t really like the shape they give along with the lift, which is very round. And to clarify, I don’t mean that they don’t provide lift if they fit well, it’s the type of lift they provide that I’m talking about. There is a discernible difference if you get anal-retentive about it like I have over the years.

So what are some more vintage alternatives, for those of us who prefer fashions from further back and feel a typical modern bra isn’t showing our ‘assets’ in the best light?

The silhouette of the 1950s bullet bra

The first thing many people think of when they think of vintage bras is the infamous bullet bra of the 1950s. There are at least a few modern manufacturers that make very good replicas of the original. It can be a rather severe look (especially for the bustier gals), pushing the bust dramatically up and out in a conical shape. That’s usually achieved by a series of concentric circles stitched around a cup that gets dramatically smaller as it reaches the tip, forming the classic “bullet” or “torpedo” shape. (Incidentally, this same type of bra with the concentric stitching did exist in the 1940s.)

Here’s a modern rendition of a bullet bra…

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Now if you’ve never worn a bullet bra, you might be thinking, “But I’m not really shaped like that.” True. And that’s the reason some people need bullet bra pads.

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They are just a little foam padded cone, and help fill in the extra space at the end that you might get. Otherwise you are liable to get wrinkles. Not exactly an attractive look, though historically accurate—in fact I spied wrinkled cups on Dorothy Malone in Written on the Wind (1956) recently.

While it’s great that such pads exist, they’re not really something that fuller-busted gals like myself need nor necessarily want. I have enough of my own ‘oomph’ in that department, so wearing a bullet bra pad is just too much. Not to mention that they don’t always match up exactly with the true shape of the bra, which still leaves the bust line not completely smooth and defeats the entire purpose of using them, if you ask me. While I find bullet bras to be quite comfortable in general and I like the lift they provide, even if they are a bit severe, I can only wear them under thicker tops or sweaters. Because let’s be frank—who wants wrinkly boobs? So I don’t usually wear this style of bra myself. (But it should be noted here that bra pads were also used back int he day by women with smaller busts to provide the proper shape, kind of like the precursor to push-up bras. A perfectly period thing to do!)

The silhouette of the 1940s bust

I’m more interested in the bust line silhouette of the 1940s, which was high like the 50s, but a bit less severe. Plus I find it an all-around good shape for modern clothes and vintage styles from many other other decades, too.

With a dress on, the 1940s bust silhouette looked something like this:

With just a thin layer on top (in this case, long underwear to keep out the winter chill), it looked like this:

And the bras themselves looked like this:

 A great line that works well with vintage fashions and modern fashions alike!

But what do you do if YOU want that 1940s silhouette?

It can be hard. Finding a modern bra that gives your bust the look of a proper 1940s silhouette is pretty difficult. Actually it can be really difficult.

Yes, you could look for actual vintage bras. But that can be be like finding a needle in a haystack, and if you have a hard-to-find size, geez, you could be searching for ages. And then you may only find one, and what if it’s a bad fit after all that? And what do you do once it’s seen better days? You’re back to the hunt. If you’re an adept sewist, you could create your own, à la the very talented New Vintage Lady, but I admit that’s more than I want to undertake.

It took me awhile to figure out what made the 1940s silhouette work. The line is a slightly more delicate cousin to the 1950s torpedo silhouette. Defined by one manufacturer in a 1940 Sears catalog ad, it “Uplifts… Accents… Supports.” Bras in the 1940s provided firm support, flattering uplift, separation, and a slight conical shape. The same year Maidenform called their bras “sculpture perfect”. A pretty apt description, if you ask me!

I hit on a common feature found in the majority (though not all) of 1940s bras. It’s something that provides the desired aspects of that era’s silhouette, and it’s such a simple little thing: a horizontal seam that follows what I’ll call the ‘equator’ of the bra, essentially cutting the bra in half from top to bottom across its apex. (This seam probably has a technical name in bra manufacturing terms, I’m by no mean an expert on brassiere construction!)

If you look at bra ads from the 40s, you will see a seam like this in many of the bras shown.

This seam existed in the 1930s in limited form, but was most popular in the 1940s. By the late 40s the majority of bras included this type of a seam. (And while I’ve not researched it as in-depth, I imagine it lived on well into the 50s as an alternate to its pointier cousin.)

As you probably know, modern bras usually aren’t shaped like this. However, they do exist! This seam is sometimes the hallmark of bras aimed at “full-figured” gals, probably for one of the main reasons it was the hallmark of 1940s bras: uplift. A larger bust needs extra help in the lift department, and bras in the 40s were just as interested in keeping the breasts uplifted, regardless of size. The other 40s hallmark, the slightly more pointed, less rounded shape, also goes hand in hand with the silhouette that bras with a horizontal seam provide. Which means if you’d like to achieve this look yourself, you have a great starting point when searching for bras!

Compare a vintage bra ad with a modern bra ad, both featuring the same type of seam, and you’ll immediately see the similarity in the silhouettes.

One downside is that because modern bras with this seam running across the fullest point of the bust (the ‘equator seam’ as I like to call it) are not that easy to come by, there aren’t a ton options in terms of colors, styles, fabrics or even brands when you do find one. This isn’t like going to Victoria’s Secret and being able to pick among 6 colors and 4 patterns for the same style of bra. You will likely find white, beige, and possibly black, with little pizazz. Some are downright utilitarian looking. This may be enough to turn some people off the hunt entirely. But even when I had a drawer full of bras in fun colors and prints, I almost always reached for the white or beige ones, anyway, as they were more versatile. If it’s new to you to have more plain bras, just consider that it’s more like the options you’d have had back in the 1940s, anyway, though I do know there were sometimes more colors or patterns. But I actually find them quite lovely, classic, and certainly practical. (I do really wish I could find one in peach satin, I admit. I’d buy an armful!) If you’re crafty, you can always consider dyeing them! I think this is a fabulous idea that I haven’t yet tried out, but I’d like to some day. This, I admit, is the main downside of this type of bra. I wish more manufacturers would recognize the beauty of this silhouette and make bras in pretty fabrics and details for us! Surely there is a market for it with vintage fans alone, like the companies making bullet bras have discovered! But I disgress.

The other downside is it might be difficult finding your size in a bra shaped like this. Many are for larger busts and/or larger frames, so you may have to do an extensive search to find a style that comes in your band and cup size. I was easily able to find 34D bras like this for years, but once I discovered that a 32 band fit me much better and more comfortably, suddenly my options were more limited. In fact I have found exactly one bra in a 32DD with a horizontal ‘equator seam’ so far, the Bali Flower bra. The good news is that I believe that bra goes down as small as 32B, for my smaller busted friends out there.

Some tips for shopping for that a bra that gives you a 1940s silhouette:

  • When shopping in person, look in the areas where you’d find “grandma” bras and panties. Don’t look where the pretty, frilly things are. They won’t be there.
  • When shopping online, look on sites that focus on larger busts, shaping garments, or are general sites that carry a large variety of brands (unlike stores that only carry their own line). Places like Bare Necessities, Figleaves and Freshpair are good starting points. Don’t be deterred if at first you only find them in larger sizes. Compare to other sites, as one site may not carry all sizes or colors.
  • It can be daunting sifting through 50 pages of bras if you’re shopping online. Try narrowing it down first by your bra size. They usually have other categories like underwire, non-underwire, nursing, soft cups, sports, etc. Look under soft cups as a general starting point.
  • Look for bras in non-stretch fabric for the cups. Stretchy fabrics will distort the shape. If you can’t tell online, look for keywords in the description like: control, firm, lift, uplift, support, full coverage.
  • When you try it on, don’t do it like you would a normal bra. Once fastened, bend forward to maneuver yourself into place, pull the straps onto your shoulders, then stand up straight. The bra may not sit quite right if you simply pull the straps up. 
  • Whether in person or online, examine the shape carefully. Does it have a horizontal ‘equator seam’ and get slightly more narrow closer to the tip of the bra? Even if it’s touting a vintage look, if it does not have those defining features, be cautious. I have one bra from a popular manufacturer of retro bras that’s supposed to give a 1940s look but it falls short on me. It’s a gorgeous bra and I love it nonetheless, but the silhouette on me is disappointing, even though I do know it’s an accurate style (though less common than the ‘equator seam’ I’ve been going on about). And of course I realize that not every bra looks the same on everyone, but the placement of the seams on this bra does not provide the correct lift nor shape for my personal body. Actually their bras are so lovely that I’ve contemplated writing to them to see if they’d ever consider producing a bra with the specifications I’ve discussed in this post but fear they’d think I was just some annoying girl who didn’t know what she was talking about. (And I’m sure there’s truth in that. Ha ha!)
  • When you try the bra on, if you don’t feel it’s providing the correct lift, but everything else seems to look right in the front, check the fit in the back. Is the strap riding up (closer to your shoulder blades than it should be)? If so, you may wearing the wrong band size. This was a problem for me until I went down one band size (and up one cup size, due to bra grading), which made all the difference in the world in terms of how my bras performed. Often if it’s riding up in the back, the front is going in the opposite direction if you catch my drift, so you lose the proper uplift you’re looking for. My bust line is much better in a 32DD bra than in a 34D bra (and the bras are more comfortable, too).
  • Want suggestions for a few bras that should approximate the 1940s silhouette? Try the Bali Flower bra or the Exquisite Form Fully bra, the two I showed in my comparison above. You might also try the Playtex 18 Hour Original Comfort Strap bra, the Dominique Cotton Lined Soft Cup bra or many of the bras by full-figured specialists like Goddess and Glamorise (I once had a Goddess bra I liked but unfortunately it doesn’t seem their sizing goes down to my band size any longer). I really like the Bali Flower. The straps aren’t too wide or too thick (they are slightly wide, but I need that with my size anyway), and it has a little bit of lace to keep it pretty, too.

I feel I should dedicate some time here to say that just because I’ve found a connection because bras with an ‘equator seam’ and the silhouette achieved by actual bras in the 1940s doesn’t mean those are the only bras that will provide you with the right look. If you look through enough catalogs from the 40s you will certainly see examples of bras without that horizontal seam, though they are less common. The main reasons I’m focusing my effort in this post on a particular type of bra is twofold:

  1. I know from personal experience this style of bra usually provides a bust line that is quite close to a true 1940s silhouette.
  2. It’s easy to spot! It’s overwhelming when you can’t just walk into any store and know that the bra you try on will give you the silhouette you’re looking for. It’s also not something tons of bloggers or online resources talk about. And searches for terms like “retro bra” mostly turn up bullet bras or else bras that otherwise might have a vintage feel to them, but don’t approximate the right silhouette. It look me literally years to find bras I was happy with and I had dozens of frustrating shopping experiences where I felt I was just never going to find what I was looking for. Having at least one defining feature you can recognize immediately narrows the playing field. If you can’t find one with an ‘equator seam’ or try one and you don’t think it’s a good match for your body type, try looking for other bras with soft cups (no padding), in non-stretch fabrics. Non-stretch is still key. Look for ones that aren’t quite as round as the natural shape of a breast, but get a little narrower towards the tip. Looking for a bra like this may take more trial and error to get a good fit as it’s hard to just look at it and know if it will be right or wrong. I had a Wacoal non-stretch lace bra for a long time that approximated the right silhouette, but then tried a Wacoal Everyday Soft Cup bra and it was completely wrong. (Not only wrong but saggy. Ugh.)

In closing (I feel like I’ve written a bra thesis, hee), while I suppose a modern bra may never achieve quite the same silhouette as an original bra from the 1940s, I do think it’s possible to seek out a close modern equivalent that’s comfortable, functional, figure-flattering (for vintage and modern fashions alike) and easy to care for!

I hope this post has been helpful to some of you! Since it’s an issue I have struggled with for ages (and long before I was dressing vintage on a daily basis), I wanted to share my experiences and research from over the years. If you’re looking for more info on the subject, I also recommend you read Moxie Tonic’s post on foundation garments (great minds—she posted this just yesterday!). She gives some suggestions on normal bras, long-line bras, girdles, knickers and more. Do you have any suggestions? Please do share! I’d love to know I’m not the only one out there who thinks about these kinds of fiddly vintage details. 😉

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Golly, 74 Comments!

  • great post, It has taken me a good half hour…. should have made a cuppa before i got stuck in/

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  • Great post! You have probably already seen these, but I find that this bra by What Katie Did gives a great “not quite as pointy as a bullet bra but far from round”-shape: http://www.whatkatiedid.com/product/515-l6030-glamour-underwired-bra (they have versions of it in several of their lingerie sets), and it has that horizontal seam. The straps have a wider placement than most vintage bras, but that’s a plus for me since I can wear more open necklines.

    In fact I’ve been wearing versions of this bra almost exclusively ever since I, like so many others, realized I’ve been wearing a much too small bra size all along. I love bullet bras but like you said I can only wear them with thicker tops as they get wrinkled even if I put pads in. I know What Katie Did doesn’t have a huge range of sizes and I don’t know how this bra would look on larger busts, but I really recommend it for smaller sizes.

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  • @Johanna I actually hadn’t seen that particular one. Unfortunately I think that style wouldn’t work for me as I’d be popping out the top (I think that may be considered a balconette bra?), but an awesome suggestion for smaller sizes! Now if they’d put some more fabric up top, I’d be set. LOL

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  • This is a fantastic post! Great job! If you’re interested, I have compiled a list of the best bra, underwear and other lingerie patterns that can be acquired online in a blog post here:
    http://afewthreadsloose.blogspot.com/2011/09/compendium-of-lingerie-patterns-lets.html

    Also, I’m half way through a sew along of a 1940’s vintage bra pattern reproduction: http://afewthreadsloose.blogspot.com/2011/10/sew-along-it-begins-with-bra.html

    I’ll be sure to pass on your informative post to all of my followers!

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  • Great post! I’ve struggled myself to get the perfect vintage silhouette as a larger busted lady- I love all the long line bras Girdle Bound carries ( check here http://www.girdlebound.com/store/merchant.mvc?Screen=CTGY&Store_Code=GVG&Category_Code=gbb scroll down past the dramatic bullet bras) I own a berdita which I LOVE, and the custom Maid. ( Custom Maid can be found elsewhere in non long line form, and is aaaawesome for the right shape and ample support for my girls)

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  • What a great post! Love it. I do really enjoy the 40’s silhouette along with the 50’s. I’m smaller busted, so I’m itching to buy a few from What Katie Did.

    xo,
    Em

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  • Thanks for that post! I took your advice, grabbed a cup tea and had a good read! I have recently been pondering all things vintage underwear lately, as I just wasn’t achieving the silhouette I wanted. Being somewhat small chested is always a challenge too. I’ve been looking towards the late fifties bustier styles that have thick elastic around the waist, giving that “wasp waist” look without being uncomfortable. The strapless cups all have the equator seam also. This, despite my inital reservations, actually accentuates, rather than dimishes and gives a “perkier” shape. I haven’t yet been able to find a recreation that is as nipped in the waist, so colours and sizes are limited, but there are quite a few vintage ones on the market. Its a fine art, getting it right, isn’t it!? Thanks for the tips 🙂

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  • i am blown away by the amount of research you’ve done!!! as a busty gal myself, ive struggled with finding the right bra size/fit for years. having only achieved that recently, im about to mix it all up and delve into vintage undergarments soon. this will be a great reference guide – thank you!!!

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  • this is seriously the -best- post on bras ever!! I have bought several exquisite form full-y bras and I love them. They are excellent for us larger bust ladies. I altered mine with nursing bra clips so I can still have the vintage silhouette (and fab fit) while breastfeeding. If you’re on a tight budget like I am, Amerimark.com has a ton of affordable, pointy “old lady” bras. Also, be sure to check out the high waist panties, slips, girdles and super cute vintage style shoes!! x

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  • I have that bra in the top picture, but in red and a 40E. It’s padded all over as well as being bullet-shaped, so it is very severe, I think it makes my bust look enormous from the front and tiny from the side, which is not a great look. I much prefer What Katie Did bullet bras which look severe on their own but under clothes give a slightly softer shape, and Secrets in Lace bullet bras which aren’t all that firm and actually do provide more of the 40s shape.

    My bra size seems to be changing as I’ve lost weight, so once it stabilises I’ll be looking into some of the links you girls have posted.

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  • Fabulous post- I admit, I had not thought of this!
    I, alas, am on the smaller side, so I shall have to keep an eyes open!

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  • Love this post! Awesome information. I’m a fan of Exquisite Form bras myself – they are all non-stretch and I find it far more comfortable than the elastic everything ones. I’m also a huge longline bra fan!

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  • This was SO helpful! I’ve only been searching out this style bra for a short time, and I can’t wait to try your suggestions! Of course I went and took a look at my Timeless Comfort and Carnival bras, and what do you know: equator seams! I was honing in on that feature and didn’t even realize it.
    Thanks for the link to my post! I just have spent so much time and money sorting all this out, that I’m hoping to save someone else some of the trouble.

    And I seriously doubt you ever look like a garden gnome, but it still made me laugh 🙂

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  • Thanks so much for sharing your experience with vintage style underpinnings. I like my shape in the modern style round/cleavage enhancing bras, but the gals just don’t look right with that kind of bra under a vintage style sweater or dress. And bra shopping can be such a pain for ladies of unusual size — the prospect of all the effort required to find a decent vintage style has been daunting. I shall be happy to take your advice!

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  • Wow, I have never really thought about this before, allthough sometimes I have been unsatisfied with modern bra. Especially because of my full bust, these puppies tend to come out of the cups, even though the size is correct. So I figure that cups are cut too open for my bust (european=80F / US=36D) But now I know what to try next.
    While reading this post I realized however, that those who are still looking for right vintage bra could try searching 70’s bras. They quite often have that “equator seam” and similar shape than 40’s bra, but with softer look and more delicate materials. I’m sure in 70’s the brashapes started to vary more than ever before that, so you might be able to find more options on sizes, colours and materials.
    Thank you for this post, it gave me lot to think about.
    And btw, the same issue goes with knickers aswell, most of these modern underpants just don’t cover enough and five you the love-handle-look. I used to love lowcut knickers, but now when wearing more dresses than trousers, I have started to search for more high-waisted ones.

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  • Great post about a topic I have definitely thought quite a bit about! I am fairly small busted with a larger ribcage, and finding a bra that fits me well is always a frustrating challenge. I definitely prefer the 1940s shape–I don’t care for the rounded look of today’s bras (I always say that they are designed with implants in mind), but the bullet-bra look of the 50s isn’t the best look for me either. I have found that the vintage bras (1940s and 1960s) I have tried fit very well; the fit is much better than modern bras as the straps tend to be set in closer and they are more in proportion with my natural shape. I’m actually considering having a seamstress make up a couple of options from a vintage pattern (as I’m not experienced enough to tackle such a project on my own); I’d love to have period correct options for everyday wear!

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  • Typically such bras are found for the larger busted women as they are more supportive – I haven’t had much luck getting any in my very petite size 🙁 and I don’t like how out there bullet bras can be (especially as I need the pads to fill them out, and they can look extremely dramatic). This was a really good post though!

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  • Great post! I was thinking of doing something similar (in terms of what I’ve found) but NOWHERE near as in depth so I’ll just direct people here. 😉 I’d never thought much about seams, etc., so this is handy. I just had to look at the bra I’m wearing to check the seams – mine have them going diagonally across the cup and, while they’re soft cups, they’re still underwire and stretch fabric – but it IS a peachy satin like fabric. However, I still think this one (Playtex Secret to Lift, which they don’t make anymore. Sigh. – and they still make the cross-your-heart bra but I’ve not tried it out, yet) has a very similar silhouette to that of the ’40s. In fact, a lady once asked me which bra I was wearing because she liked the shape of my, ahem, silhouette.
    Bra shopping is still one of my most dreaded activities but mainly because I hate trying things on.
    -Andi x

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  • One of the most comprehensive guides I have ever read.

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  • Wow, that was great! I´m on the busty side myself and I never thought about wearing vintage style bras because I love them round and really don´t like the bullet bra look. My grandma wore pointy bras all her life and even as a little kid I found the pointy look to be somewhat wrong. But the 40s silhouette might be worth trying.

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  • Hi!
    Great post! All proper Bra-maunfacturers pay attention! We’re not all straight-can-wear-anythings! And the wiat thing is something I have definetly been struggeling witn as well. As fortie-something from Holland, I remember how hard it was as a teen to find something with a nice look and not too ould biddy-like, and later there were some Marks and Spencers ones that were good, but wore quickly and were not available after they shut down( remember the days without the interweb?-0r overseas sales, for that matter). Whenever it was time to get a new one, I dreaded it. And you are defenitely right about the non stretch-bit. It seems like an easy way out of making something that lasts……
    love from Holland,
    Angeliek

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  • Thanks for posting this — very interesting! I hadn’t thought much about bras with a vintage look, mainly because the few I’ve seen seem to be targeted at fuller-busted women. I’m a 32B, so it sounds like you’ve saved me a long and frustrating search, and I can go straight to the Bali Flower bra. I showed it to my husband, wondering if he’d recoil in horror, shrieking “Old Lady Bra!” But nope, his response was “oooo, sexy!” He immediately picked up on its vintage look, too. So I’m gonna give it a try!

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  • Wow, such an interestin post! I really never pay much attention to this topic. It was great reading it 🙂 Looking forward to your next post – may be something else vintage-inspired? 🙂

    xxx
    Daria

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  • Great post! I think that characterizing the 40s bust as similar but “less severe” than the 50s bust is spot on.

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  • Were bra materials thicker back then than they are today? The main reason I choose the more padded, round modern bras is because with them, there are no “cold nippy” issues if you will. Do you find that to be an issue with the “equator” bras?

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  • Great post! I actually had the good fortune to stumble across some NOS vintage longline bras at an antique market and snatched them up, but I’m always looking for a modern equivalent. I may try making my own with the NewVintageLady pattern. Thanks, Tasha 🙂

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  • I think you must have been reading my mind! 🙂 I was just contemplating this and *poof* a perfectly written out post. The only thing I’m wondering about is the use of under wires in these bras, it looks like there aren’t any (which would be super nice) but still have a lot of support. Is that because of the non-stretchy fabric?

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  • Wow, I am loving all the information and stories you guys have been sharing!

    @Amanda Some of them actually do have underwires, it’s just hard to tell from the photo. For example my Bali Flower does. Truthfully I prefer no underwire as it’s more comfy. The Exquisite Fully bra doesn’t have an underwire.

    @Betsy Great question! I don’t think vintage bras were thicker, at least that I’ve found so far. Perhaps the “cold nippy” issue wasn’t as bad as women were more frequently wearing a camisole or a slip, to add that extra layer? I can’t say that I find it too much of a problem with this style, but I totally know what you mean.

    @Miss Emmi Yes, I should have clarified. When I said they were more uplifting I really meant that in combination with being more supportive. Thanks for bringing that up! 🙂

    @Jitterbugdoll I think that is an awesome idea, if you find someone to make one, do let me know. 😉

    @Moxie Tonic I’m totally going to look up those two and see if they come in my size!

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  • For people who want to make their own:

    This girl (not me) http://vidmittskrivbord.blogg.se/2011/august/sjalvforsorjande.html#comment

    used the Ezi Sew 104 pattern to make a bra that looks perfectly 40’s to me. If you scroll down, she writes in English at the end of the post. I’m thinking of trying it – I just made my first bra and it really wasn’t as difficult as I expected.

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  • Really, really great post! I definitely needed something like this; I’ve been thinking about getting a more retro set of underwear. I recently finished my first offically vintage jumper and wearing a modern bra underneath makes you look so *saggy* compared to the original model.You can see the difference yourself here. 😛

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  • Great post.Bras are definatley a hassle.I am almost flat as a board but still need a bra and the small sizes are hard to find.I have a few bullet bras but cuz I am so flat I have to wear the pads then it just looks like a girl with flat chest who stuffed her bra.lol.But this gave me more info on what to look for now.Thanks so much.x

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  • Thank you, thank you Tasha! This has been such a huge help for me. I am just starting to replace my worn bras and recently discovered my real sizing (way different than I thought I was). This whole post has really taken the guess work out for me and giving me a great starting point for getting good and supporting bras. Yay!

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  • Great post, I have a nightmare with finding bras as I’m a large cup size. I certainly can’t find bullet bras and if I did I’d have someone’s eye out! I go to Rigby & Peller in Knightsbridge, they are amazing and the fit is great. I find another problem I have with being short that bras that give a great silhouette are so high that they peek out of my clothes, hardly attractive!

    Best bra I ever had is a long line Goddess bra, gives a great shape with a strapless dress!

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  • Great post!

    Have actually also had this problem here in sweden and finally solved it by making my bras myself. It’s not hard at all actually because I found a great bra-pattern. It’s the Ezi Sew 102 or 104 for bigger sizes gives exactly that high pointy shape.. Allthough I make my cups in a non-stretch cotton for extra support.

    Looks like this:

    http://vidmittskrivbord.blogg.se/2011/august/sjalvforsorjande.html

    / Olivia

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  • Oh, don’t get me started on bras…

    I’ve recently found several excellent ones, however, that give a similar line to the 40;s look you describe, and I’vm very happy with them. They seem to be more comfortable too. They are from Marks and Spencer’s, which isn’t a help to you because they are a UK chain, but anyone else in the UK reading this might be pleased to know about it! One of them that I particularly like is a longline bra, which is really comfy because the wide strap means the pressure is more evenly distributed and it doesn’t pinch; also gives better lift. I found a couple more like this, along with other vintage styles, at kissmedeadly.co.uk – I just haven’t had the bank balance to purchase more lately! Generally I find a bandeau or balconette style bra gives a good shape and fits me better – I can’t do full cups for some reason – and they are also much better for the lifted rather than round look. I can’t bear tshirt bras and they never fit me anyway!

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  • Having recently been on the hunt for more vintage-looking bras (that don’t break the bank), this is so timely! I found a great option at Sears for a 50s style bullet bra (though I did have to make little pads to wear with it ;), but the 40s bra eludes me still (aside from the What Katie Did bra, which after reading about all the fitting issues I’m kind of shying away from ordering one). I’m really excited about the Bali bra you mentioned, and am hoping to order one to try out soon! Even though I’m not always super particular about my bra matching the decade I’m wearing on a particular day, it’s fun when the silhouette matches the garment more perfectly. 😉 Thanks so much for putting all the time and effort into this post!

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  • Lovely post. I would love this silhouette. Alas my assets are rather strange now I’m older and have lost fat tissue in the upper part. They dont fill the top part of a bra anymore. Any suggestions from all would be welcomed.

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  • Wow thanks so much for a really great and informative post!! I have always wondered how in the movies they got that sort of pointy look with their bras. Like you I would love some vintage bras and accessories or at least some styles. Thanks so much for the links to places we may be able to get something like it. Great post XxxX
    http://thesecondhandrose.blogspot.com/

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  • Also try the Berlei Non-Slip bra http://images.littlewoods.com/is/image/Littlewoods/A201P_SP153_34_YB0AXa?wid=1200&hei=1600 and the Playtex http://www.very.co.uk/playtex-beauty-lift-bra/1396473.prd?browseToken=%2fq%2fplaytex+support+bra%2fo%2f2 and http://images.littlewoods.com/is/image/Littlewoods/A201P_SP153_34_YB00Je?wid=1200&hei=1600 All of these are firm control with “equator seams”. (What a gift to bra marketing sometime in the future when the woerld comes back round to appreciating pointy bras)

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  • A most excellent (and thorough!) post. I have been looking for exactly this kind of bra lately, and also agree that the bullet bras do not work for me – hello baggy nipples! The search continues…

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  • You say you like peach satin? Try What Katie Did for a complete range in this material. For instance http://www.whatkatiedid.com/product/464-harlow-bullet-bra-l6027

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    • Hi! The prices are way too high for my budget and the sizes are hopelessly too small. Sorry but there it is. Let me know when the prices reach $25.00 or so and the sizes go up to 46 DD.

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  • Ah! I had to come back to this post and thank you. Now, I wear mostly underwire bras with double fabric and broad straps and no padding. No equator in sight, they always remind me of all the mums, aunties and neighbours and other women from my childhood. Oldfahioned in the wrong way somehow. But today I tried one of these “granny bras” by Triumph as I finally spotted some in a department store. All I can say: “by gum, by golly, what a difference!” There will be a revolution in my wardrobe.

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  • I have found, when I could fit in the bullet bras I had purchased some time ago, that they did give me a better silhouette overall. In some clothing they didn’t even look pointy. It’s a great post and my reply was not to you, but to the owner or whoever wrote to ME re WhatKatyDid website. I’m sorry but those prices are too high and sizes are way too small! Thanks

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  • Triumph bras seem to make a few

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    • The Triumph bras I’ve seen are too expensive for me – $50.00 and up. I think it’s better to make my own. 🙂

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  • Hi Tasha, this is still such an amazing blog post! The effort you put in researching and writing it up is wonderful!
    I’ve just written a post on Bullet Bras and have included a link to this post of yours, as it’s a wonderful source of information! I hope this is alright. x

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  • Only up to a d cup? What a joke. Anyway, I find the Celebration Rose bra by Ballet strikes a very nice balance between modern and vintage shaping. I was amazed at how much lighter I looked when I first tried it on. It’s more full coverage than I like but it makes the girls look great under even crew neck shirts. Its shape makes such a difference that even my best friend (male) commented on how they looked “separate but high but not like todays”

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    • mydesiretobe, Hi! I don’t mind people manufacturing bra sizes in AA, but I agree with you – can’t they please go above a D cup? What’s wrong with DD, E, F, G, H or EE/F, FF/G, GG, HH? (Not that that is my size, but I know it is the size for more women out there than the manufacturers want to deal with or admit to!

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  • This article was so helpful. It’s hard to really get the info on “unmentionables” that you need. I’ll say one thing I love about the 40s silhouette and bullet bras – during my lifetime the ideal bust has been big and squished together and I have always worn push-up bras to try and squish together my “Eastie Westie breasties” as my mom calls them (they’re genetic). So imagine my shock when I discovered that “lift and separate” actually is a good thing! Yippee!

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  • I accidentily stumbled upon the perfect bra in Marks & spencers (UK)(and in the larger sizes I needed). Its actually my most comfy. Just discoverd online they do other colours
    http://www.marksandspencer.com/Total-Support-Embroidered-Non-Wired-GG-K/dp/B000PYHSDI?ie=UTF8&ref=sr_1_16&nodeId=47592031&sr=1-16&qid=1361104400
    I think I need to buy another pair.

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  • Glad I’m not the only one who hates modern bras. They make everyone look bigger and rounder than they are. Great if you’re small chested but if you’re middle to big it just looks busty (aka fatter than I am). I’m going to have to check out the bullet bras. Always loved that style.

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  • Thank you for posting, this blog was full of great information. 🙂
    I recently found an etsy seller with a huge lot of dead stock lingerie, featuring bras with the equator seam!
    Some are labelled as ‘bullet bras’ but they’re definitely more a 40s shape.
    Here is a link to the store: http://www.etsy.com/shop/ChellesTreasure?section_id=10373364

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  • I’m a long time fan of yours, but I just now stumbled upon your most excellent bra thesis! I have been wearing the same rounded cup bras forever – which I bought in multiples – and will be needing to replace them soon. I’m definitely going to take your suggestions and also visit some of the sites you mentioned. Thanks for the wonderful post!

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  • What an great blog…and timely, too! I’m a vintage lingerie dealer and just posted some info about our French deadstock from the 1940s and 1950s on our blog at VanitiesFair…tons of these bras! I stumbled upon your page while researching the 1940s silhouette for a customer who’s wardrobing a film set in 1944. You just saved me hours of google-time. Thanks so much and keep these great posts coming! Anybody who’s a friend of vintage lingerie is a friend of mine!

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  • I loved your article and just wanted to refer you gals to a website that has the right shape bras at some more reasonable prices. Its and the owner is very helpful. she carries some brands I never heard of but have been in manufacture for years & years. I just ordered 2 Venus Cortland bras with the 3 part cup–horizontal seam across and the shorter seam coming up from the bottom. those have always fit me well and they only cost $24 & $25, a reasonable price.

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  • THANK YOU so much for this post; it is much needed! I can’t count the number of times I have to help customers with this. Now I can just point them to your post!

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  • […] Well I’ve been super excited reading everyone’s comments and stories on my post about bras and the 1940s bustline. Even if it’s frustrating, isn’t there some solidarity in knowing every one of us, no […]

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  • Playtex 18 hour front closure bras. That’s all that needs to be said. And awesome post.

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    • Thanks! Unfortunately I’ve never been able to try any of the Playtex 18 hour bras as they don’t do 32″ bands (or never that I’ve seen). If they did, I’d be right on them!

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      • I normally wear 32 band bra and finally decided to seek out some of the Playtex 18-hour Comfort bras #4693 after many recommendations by other vintage fashionistas. I ended up in a 36 band (after trying over a dozen assorted styles and sizes from an assortment of non-underwire style). It fit better than any of the 32 banded underwires I’d suffered with in the past. I was as surprised as anyone else about the change in size. Normally I wear a 32D/DD and I bought two 36Cs and they fit amazing. Worth trying a few on at your nearest “old lady” department store. I got mine on sale for $15 each!

        After putting it on at home with clothes, my husband’s first comment was that it made me look thinner, like I’d lost weight. If that isnt’ a selling point, I don’t know what is!

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  • […] to look for in vintage-inspired bras for years, which I detailed several years ago in my post on achieving a 40s bust silhouette. I personally know the horizontal seam across the cups is the absolute key for me to get the right […]

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  • Jinny Hendrickson April 12, 2015 at 10:15pm

    I stumbled on your blog while searching for bullet bra pad tutorials and I couldn’t agree with you more! I do not like foam dome bras. I am busty and also short waisted and they just make me look even bustier and a bit squat. I thought I would share my favorite new bra that gives a conical shape as it also has an equator line. It also has these really need inside side slings in the cups that pushes the breasts up and forward. The lace is stretch but do to the construction and the side slings you still get a great conical shape without looking like your going to put someones eye out.

    It’s a spendy bra and they only make them in D and up but with a little bit of sister sizing most people can get into a 28 to 30 D if they normally wear a 32 C or bigger. Here”s the link! It’s called the Clara by Panache. Nordstrom carries this brand as well http://www.bravissimo.com/products/lingerie/sensational-sets/clara-bra/black-gold/pn112bgd/

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  • This is the bar you want… peach, satin, made from a WWII pattern.
    http://www.whatkatiedid.com/en_us/product/557/1940s-cc41-style-satin-bra?fes_prd_id=557

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  • So helpful, Tasha! I’m not particularly looking for a vintage style bra, but I have the problem another commenter mentioned of “falling out” of that modern style with the foam you show in your first picture. Next week I am going to brave a couple of department stores in search of equatorial seams. Thank you!

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  • Thank you for this post. This is something few fashion and sewing bloggers talk about but the shape of your bra makes such a difference in the way your clothes look. I don’t like seams and always insist on seamless cups only, which complicates matters even more but I have managed to find a couple of Playtex bras that are a little more pointy than most modern bras.

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  • […] but still exists now in limited fashion. Ironically five years ago next month, I did a post on bras and a 1940s bust silhouette, which is actually still one of the top posts on my blog. I’ve moved onto more mid-century […]

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  • God bless you…I just found this and you took all the words right out of my mouth!!! I am in the same boat as you, bra-wise. Thank you so much for the Bali Flower suggestion, at least it’s a place to start. And I agree with you about the lack of colors, embellishment, etc. and the look of the “round boob”. On us larger breasted women it looks awful, not defined at all.

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