Fashion Masochist: The Bullet Bra: Lingerie : Shapewear

Not since Madonna donned those infamous Gaultier cones two decades ago has the bra made such a pointed departure from the norm. With designers like Givenchy and Alexander Wang emphasizing the bust in their collections, the bullet bra—that eye-popping silhouette of the ’50s and ’60s—is enjoying a revival. Lending support are Mad Men and its bullet bra–enhanced bombshell Joan Holloway, and British retailer Agent Provocateur, which brought its naughty vintage-inspired underthings to Boston last year.

[sidebar]I imagine that sporting such a pronounced bustline also means attracting a swarm of diamond ring–carrying suitors who all say things like "Lay one on me, pretty lady" in a miraculously uncreepy way. And so I go out in search of a genuine bullet bra, one that will surely lift and separate—and keep the boys a-comin’.

It takes a few dozen phone calls to costume retailers, vintage boutiques, and sex shops before I learn that Arlington’s Costume Company has a private collection of lingerie from the past century. And luckily, it includes a beautiful pink number that’s a perfect fit.

Now, what to wear over it? Old-timey brassieres, apparently, are not compatible with most modern-day necklines. When I try to pass mine off as part of the underwear-as-outerwear trend and let it show beneath a scoop-neck top, it looks like I’m flaunting a nursing bra. A far better match, I find, is a boat-neck dress right out of the Sterling Cooper typing pool.

Yet there’s another glitch: Thanks to the cups’ structural seams, the surface is never smooth, no matter how much steaming or ironing is applied. When I walk into the Newbury Street salon where my stylist works, he wastes no time in asking, "What’s with the bra?" A fellow customer chimes in, "So, it’s supposed to be bumpy like that?" Even the pros are taken aback, as I discover while shopping Copley for a pair of no-show skivvies. The women working the lingerie department gawk and ask if I’m in the market for a new bra. "No, thank you," I reply. "I just love this one’s shape!" They roll their eyes.

And instead of lining up with proposals, the guys at bars and parties show zero interest in my at-attention chest. Perhaps men these days have been trained to think that if the neckline is high, there’s nothing to see here. When I put the question to my guy friends, however, the answer is a consistent "Your boobs look weird."

Because the bra is just so darn pretty, I had considered going the Lady Gaga route—only bra, no top, with a black pencil skirt and vampy heels—but after the bullet’s thus-far-cool reception, I can’t muster the gusto. Instead I stay home, pull on a stretchy tank, and cue my DVR to the latest Mad Men, where the bullet bra belongs.

  • katie

    UK fashion company What Katie Did have been reproducing authentic spiral stitch bullet bras for nearly 10 years. If the correct size is worn the bra should be invisible under the tightest clothing – although I admit the pointy silhouette does take a little getting used to as it’s so different to the shape modern bras give.