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Threads: You think sexy, we see tacky

It's no sin to show some skin, but a misplaced bra strap ruins the look. Keep underwear in its place.

By SHARON FINK
Published June 24, 2006


Wearing underwear as outerwear isn't the worst idea anyone ever had, but its reputation doesn't improve when it's used to justify tacky dressing.

Bra straps peeking out of tank tops. Bra straps camouflaged, sort of, by spaghetti-thin camisole straps. Bra straps that rise defiantly from strapless tops, as though that's how they are meant to be worn.

Today we declare the death of the flaunted bra strap.

Few eyesores are as easy to eradicate as this one.

MADE FOR EACH OTHER: This is what strapless bras are for. Most women own more than one bra, so choosing one to be strapless shouldn't be a hardship. They're available at all price levels. If you're on a tight budget, get a bra with detachable straps so you can get two uses from it. And don't get one with clear straps thinking you can wear them with skin-baring tops and no one will notice. They will.

Comfort and construction can be issues with strapless bras. Some are too uncomfortable, and unsightly under clothing, because they have enough padding and underwire to stand on their own; some are little more than a flimsy band of Lycra that could be used as a slingshot. But over the past year, Victoria's Secret and Wacoal, among other companies, have started offering streamlined versions that support well while cutting down on the padding, wire and pain.

OTHER OPTIONS: Gaining in popularity are strapless, backless bras held in place by adhesive strips at the sides. But don't count on the strips being good for more than one use. Some brands like Newport News' come with extras for your initial outlay of $20 to $30-plus. Others don't, so you have to give up a couple of dollars more up front. Read the product description or ask a sales person to find out what the deal is with the brand you're considering.

Three years ago, the NuBra - two silicone cups that stick to the breasts with adhesive and are connected by a plastic hook - became the thing in undergarments. Now similar options are offered by many brands and can be found in just about every store. Their purpose is coverage, not support, and though they're supposed to stay in place through high heat and humidity, slippage has been known to occur. They cost around $60 but claim to be good for 100 wearings; the key to making them last is proper cleaning after each use (wash with warm water and soap) and storage (guard against dust).

Wary of spending that kind of money on something like this? The silicone cups are also sold at off-price stores like Stein Mart.

BUILT-IN HELP: Get a camisole with a shelf bra. And the better-made the cami, like those from Eddie Bauer, the better the support.

ZIP IT: Strapless dresses and tops with zippers can encase you tightly enough that you don't need a bra for support. But don't go a size smaller if it means you can't breathe. Sharon Fink can be reached at (727) 893-8525 and fink@sptimes.com.