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Tomima Talks: The Bra Straps of Summer

Does she…or doesn’t she? That’s my thought bubble when catching a glimpse of another woman’s bra strap peeking out from under her top. Did she intentionally pick that blue bra to wear with her yellow tank knowing the straps would show? Dare I tell the woman social distancing in the ladies room that her bra strap needs tucking? If it was her clothing tag, I’d help her out. But visible bra straps have become enigmatic.

Summer is here and so are sleeveless, cold shoulder, off-the-shoulder and one-shoulder tops. If you’re like me and do not want the distraction of bra straps competing with your fashion aesthetic, here are my tried and true summer bra styles guaranteed to keep your bra straps under wraps.

Center-Pull Straps 

Anything sleeveless is best worn with a bra that has center-pull straps. By center-pull, I mean the straps are placed more directly above your breast apex rather than the outer sides of your breasts. This bra feature places your shoulder straps more towards the middle of your shoulder. Here is a comparison using my trusty “measured” image (provided on every bra we sell) to show you what I mean.

The center-pull straps are resting about 4” up your shoulder while the wide-set straps are only about 2” off your shoulder. That difference ensures your bra straps are well inside any sleeveless outfit. I also like a center-pull strap because I think it does a great job of center lifting the bustline and thus maintaining breast separation. Wide-set straps also pull up your bustline, but the pull is more from the sides of your breasts. This side pull maneuvers your breasts more towards each other and creates more of a cleavage line. Both “center-pull straps” and “wide-set straps” are feature terms you can filter on in our bra department.

Racerback Straps

A vertical central back strap of a bra that splits into a Y or V shape to cross over the shoulders on each side of the neck and connect to bra cups is called a racerback bra. This back design dates back to the 1920s when men’s one-piece bathing suits had this design to prevent interference with their shoulders and shoulder blades during competitive swimming. It’s a terrific solution for women who have constant bra strap slippage due to narrow and/or sloping shoulders. Racerback bras also hide nicely under tank tops or racerback style tops.

The center-pull straps are resting about 4” up your shoulder while the wide-set straps are only about 2” off your shoulder. That difference ensures your bra straps are well inside any sleeveless outfit. I also like a center-pull strap because I think it does a great job of center lifting the bustline and thus maintaining breast separation. Wide-set straps also pull up your bustline, but the pull is more from the sides of your breasts. This side pull maneuvers your breasts more towards each other and creates more of a cleavage line. Both “center-pull straps” and “wide-set straps” are feature terms you can filter on in our bra department.

Racerback Straps

A vertical central back strap of a bra that splits into a Y or V shape to cross over the shoulders on each side of the neck and connect to bra cups is called a racerback bra. This back design dates back to the 1920s when men’s one-piece bathing suits had this design to prevent interference with their shoulders and shoulder blades during competitive swimming. It’s a terrific solution for women who have constant bra strap slippage due to narrow and/or sloping shoulders. Racerback bras also hide nicely under tank tops or racerback style tops.

On a personal note, I do not wear a racerback bra unless it’s the only solution that works for my outfit. The straps land on my trapezius muscle and after a few hours I notice my neck and shoulders start hurting. FYI… or maybe TMI.

A true racerback bra has become harder to find in recent years. The reason? This bra style is the hardest to fit and has the highest return rate. There is no band adjustability – you have to get your band size correct. The center fastener takes up room in the front which many times causes the cups to be too far apart for many women. The straps are also shorter which means their length adjustability has limitations for short and tall women. And, they wear out faster because, again, there is no adjustability to tighten the band as the bra gets older. Retailers know this, so many will not stock them. However, there is a high demand for a front closure not only for their strap configuration but also due to their ease in putting on – especially for women with limited dexterity. With consumer demand comes innovation. In recent years a little strap feature has made a ubiquitous appearance. Known as a j-hook, this little piece of bra hardware has been appearing on the straps of many front closure and back closure bras.

J-Hook on Straps

Many of you may not have noticed, but designed into strap hardware on the back of your bra could be the j-hook. There are two j-hook fastener designs; the ring j-hook and the slider j-hook. A pair of rings are incorporated into the back of your bra straps with one of the rings – usually on the right – having the addition of a small hook. This hook can be attached to the other ring, pulling your back straps together and creating a makeshift racerback configuration. Ring j-hooks have a predetermined connection point chosen by the manufacturer. They can be placed up near your neck, in the middle of your back, or down near your bra band. We even have a sleep bra that uses ring j-hooks in front. The advantage of this fastener is that its predetermined location stays put.

The second j-hook fastener – known as the slider j-hook – is made up of two pieces of hardware that thread onto each bra strap and can conjoin. This fastener has the ability to slide up and down your bra strap giving you the flexibility to place it where you desire – convertibility for your shoulders.

One common complaint with a j-hook is that it can be difficult to attach for women with limited dexterity for those who live alone. The slider design can be a little easier because you can move it, but both can be challenging. Additionally, this hardware does interfere with the ability to fully adjust straps. Tall and short-waisted women may not be able to achieve the strap length they desire. To find bras with j-hooks at HerRoom, again, just check “j-hook’ in our features filter dropdown.

Kicked-in Straps

Similar to bras with center-pull straps, there are bras where the connection to the bra’s band in the back is “kicked-in” meaning the straps are placed closer together. Not only is this another great feature for women with narrow or sloping shoulders, but it’s a great bra design when you have a sleeveless top where the armhole in the back is also carved out. Most bras with kicked-in back straps have wide-set front straps. The strap, therefore, crosses your shoulder at an angle, thus allowing you to wear a wide-open front neckline on a sleeveless top and have no straps showing. I’m surprised how often I reach for this bra style in the summer when getting dressed. And, some convertible bra styles give you tabs along the back to let you kick in your straps too.

Convertible Straps

Bras labeled as “convertible” on our site mean that the straps can be modified – one or both ends of the bra straps can be unhooked and rehooked into tabs or clasps inside the bra. Many convertible bras are actually a strapless bra with strap options, but not all convertible bras with completely removable straps are strapless bras. Some convertible bras have a halter option, but most do not. The ones that do tend to come with an additional smaller strap or have clasps on the back of the bra straps. Again, you can select “halter” in our feature filter.

The No Strap Strapless

I’ve said this before, but it bears repeating. A strapless bra is your ultimate test for being in the correct bra size. If you adjusted your bra size to get a strapless bra to fit, that strapless size is your true bra size. When you are in the right size in a strapless you really can comfortably wear it all day long. I wear a strapless bra often, all year round, and truly forget I’m wearing it. Strapless bras can also come with additional straps making them convertible bras. And many also include several tabs along the inside so that you have a variety of strap placement options. When packing light for a trip, my one bra pick would be a strapless with optional straps. It will work under everything.

Before you Buy, Does it Hide?

Every bra on our site has our exclusive “See it Under” feature. I identified the 6 most difficult necklines to wear bras under, then programmed this feature to instantly show you if the bra you are looking at is a contender for that difficult neckline you are working with. Here are the 6 necklines over a full coverage bra to show you what this feature can tell you:

A Final Thought…

Totally off-topic, but I thought you would find this interesting. Shortly after the pandemic hit nationwide around March, a rather obscure bra (found mostly in small lingerie stores) saw a sudden spike that has yet to decline. It’s called “Bra 30” by PJ Harlow, and it’s a lounge bra with enough support, coverage, and modesty that it can also be worn as outerwear. It also fits and supports full busted women. My very busty 21-year-old is a big fan. There is also a longer cami version. Be sure to check out the images of our model wearing it with and without a bra. Oh, and it’s also made in the USA!

Fondly,

Tomima Founder & CEO

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