How to have a full bust and still wear “boxy, crop tops” this summer!

When big, flowy, boxy-cut tops hit mainstream fashion circa 2007, I was instantly attracted to them.  I bought quite a few.  Unfortunately, I don’t think I really knew how to wear them.  And I didn’t know that I didn’t know, until I saw myself in photos:

Me, circa 2008:

Me, circa 2009:

Boob tent, galore.  My boobs, an ill-fitting bra, lots of fabric, and no waist definition = meh.  I wasn’t looking quite like the tall, lean models who were pulling off this effortless look!

But I wasn’t the only one having this insight, and a unanimous, woeful cry has been echoing throughout the age – a sorrowful murmur from all those full-busted gals who think that they cannot quite “work” the latest trends.  Without, that is, looking like a Jack-in-the-box.

[N.B. At this point you may be wondering why I’m reticent about looking “boxy” when I am precisely choosing to wear a “boxy” shirt, the very point of which is to look “boxy”? Good question.  In my experience, the boxy look is ideally only from one angle: e.g. if you look boxier from the front (which is the typical look), you shouldn’t also look tremendously boxy from the side. In other words, the goal of the look is a two-dimensional square, rather than an all-out 3-dimensional cube, which having big boobs makes it hard to avoid.]

But I have changed my mind regarding my body’s fashion compatibilities.  Ever since I started wearing bras that fit, and started trying on every bra I can get my grabby hands on, I’ve discovered that I can “style” my boobs – I can, to a certain extent, shape my boobs in such a way that I look less like a giant cube underneath a loose shirt.

In this post, I’ll specifically be talking about one of the biggest summer styles:  the “boxy” crop top, which goes quite well with the just-as-stylish mid or high rise bottoms. If you are worried about having a “boob-tent” this summer (I’m aware that not everyone is – rock on!), then you may want to consider the following strategies I’ve discovered for picking the best bra to wear under your boxy top.  In ranking order:

Strategy 1. Find a bra that does not give serious uplift.  You don’t want a bra that pushes your breasts all the way up to your chin, because then your loose shirt is going to start high up and out, which will cause a distinct rectangular angle in your side profile. Look for bras that hold you lower, and more naturally, so that the shirt will gently and elegantly slope down your breast instead.

Strategy 2. Find a bra that holds your breasts as close as possible to your chest, minimizing the girth of the side profile.  Note that this strategy often causes your front profile to look a little wider.

Strategy 3. To be even less busty and projected, you may find that bras with no, or minimal, padding, help to achieve the desired effect best.

I’ve found that the first strategy is the most important strategy, but if you can also achieve 2 and 3 as well, then I feel such a bra would be the ideal candidate for the boxy crop top.

To demonstrate all of this, let me show you some bras that break the above rules, and then some bras that follow the above rules.

First, a bra that distinctly goes against strategy 1:  my ever-faithful Cleo Lucy.  Cleo Lucy in 28G is one of my favorite bras.  She fits like a glove.  The lift that she gives – without any lining or padding – is surreal.  But that’s also why she would not be great under a boxy top.

Lucy looks great from the front – the right amount of boxy. However, because the side profile of Lucy is so high, the boxy shirt is going to form an angle high up, and drop down from there, making a squarish profile.  Take a look:

This is precisely the look I’m trying to avoid, and probably what many of you full bust readers have experienced.

Let’s also look at Freya Deco, in 28G, which seems to break all 3 rules to a certain extent. Deco has pretty thick molding, and is known for pushing the breasts up and out quite a bit.

In the photos below, you see that under our boxy crop top (which, I shall note, is from Target), Deco is looking awfully bulky, and pushing the shirt out wider than it needs to be:

Surprisingly, Deco doesn’t look absolutely terrible or anything.  In fact, Cleo Lucy seemed like a worse offender!  But, we can do a lot better than the Deco, too.  I’m going to show you five bras that I’ve found, that look the best under a boxy cut top.

1. I’ll begin with the only molded bra I’ve found that, actually, looks great under a boxy top:  Le Mystere Cotton Touch Spacer bra in 32F.  Now, I have a 27 inch underbust, but the 32 in this bra works fine for me on the second set of hooks (I’ve found that to be fairly true in general for Le Mystere 32 bands, FYI). In addition, Le Mystere uses American sizing, so 32F is really 32DDD. I probably need a cup higher, but I’ve somehow found a fairly good fit in this size.

You can see, in the photos below, that Cotton Spacer is not pushing me as high and out as Deco does:

And this has a very significant effect on the side profile:

Much better!

[Fit notes:  While this may not be my best size in the Cotton Spacer bra, I can say the following about fit. The wires are medium – narrow, the fit is fairly shallow, the cups are open enough to not cut in terribly on breasts with center or upper fullness. Great for tall roots.  Front half of straps are padded, but you can (if you try hard enough, like I did), get the adjuster over the padding if need be. Straps are not too wide and do not cut into the armpits. Spacer fabric is comfortable and breathable. The whole bra is comfortable (my favorite T-shirt bra?).  This bra can be found at many retailers, on sale, including Herroom, and goes up to a US G (UK F)  in some sizes (but the cups appear to run large).]

2.  The next two bras are two different versions of Claudette’s Dessous, which have different fits (Claudette seems to always be changing up the fit between seasons).  The first one is from the Spring/Summer 2013 season, in Cyber Yellow and Navy (the other colors this season include Seafoam/Khaki, Papaya/Khaki, Navy/Limeade, Camouflage, Cyber Yellow, Pink Lemonade). Wow, I LOVE this fit, and I’m so sad that the fit has changed over the seasons.  [But wait!  I just found out that this particular season is currently on sale for $19.99 each on Claudette’s website!  I may or may not have just bought the Camouflage!]  Take a look at this S/S 2013 version of Dessous below:

You can see that S/S 2013 version of Dessous (here in size 30FF) has very narrow wires, holds my breasts lower and closer to my body, and even gives some nice cleavage.  And no extra bulk with lining, padding, or molding.  Take a look at the minimizing effect under a T-shirt:

[Fit Notes: Narrow wires.  Allows for generally even fullness and some projection. Lower sides. Wires, straps, and cups do not cut into a short torso. The band is loose for a 30, but still very supportive because it has 3 rows of hooks. Softer wires. Extremely comfortable.]

3. Here is the Autumn/Winter 2013 version of Claudette’s Dessous (in 30FF, chinchilla/lipgloss). The fit is very different from the previous season, but it is still fairly decent under a boxy shirt.  Below, we see that the virtue of this Dessous is that it holds the breasts fairly low (strategy 1).  It does, however, cause a more projected look than the previous season’s Dessous (which is probably good news for those of you with firmer projected breasts).  But the mere fact that this bra follows strategy 1 and 3, makes it work under a boxy cut.  The gentle sloping of the breast allows for the shirt to take a curvier, less angular shape.

[Fit notes:  The wires are medium in this version of Dessous.  The band is a stretchy 30, and with only 2 rows of hooks, and the straps are very stretchy (I had to adjust all the way to the front.) Best for even fullness or full on bottom breasts. Bottom of the cups allow for moderate projection. Wires are fairly low and do not poke a short torso. Mesh sides and straps are wider and invade the armpits a bit, but the material is comfortable.]

4. The next bra may in fact be the best of them all:  Chantelle’s C Chic Sexy unlined bra, in US size 30H (or UK size 30FF).  Please note that US H / UK FF is the highest cup size Chantelle goes in this bra, though many people say the cups run large (I tend to agree).

C Chic Sexy unlined is one of my everyday work bras.  I am often going for a very minimized look under my collared work shirts, and this bra brings it.  Take a look at how close to the body the cups hold my breasts:

This bra, admittedly, is not a good fit for everyone.  [Fit notes: The wires are pretty wide (they don’t bother me), and if your breasts are very firm, you may find that the top of the cups may cut in (I actually used my hands to stretch the top of the cups out a bit to make it work!), or that the bottom of the cups may not too shallow to allow enough room.]  But if you can make this bra work, you’re going to get a very nice minimized look like this:

Nordstrom sells this bra, but I buy all my C Chic Sexy unlined bras (I have 3!) on Ebay, for under $30.

5. Finally, I’ll end with the lightly lined Tutti Rouge Liliana.  I originally took a chance on this bra because I heard that it is a fairly minimizing bra, which holds your breasts fairly close to the body.  In size 28GG, I found this to be true.  Liliana holds my breasts much lower than Cleo Lucy, although there is still some good cleavage.

Fairly minimizing under the boxy shirt:

[Fit notes: Liliana’s 28 band (in this black colorway) runs very tight. Liliana infamously also has very wide wires. The lace on top allows for some upper fullness.  The bra is generally wide, with the straps and tops of the cups cutting into the armpit region. I am hoping this will soften with wear.)

I will end with a side-by-side comparison of all the side views, starting with the very boxy Cleo Lucy side-view.  See how the other bras make the look significantly less boxy.  In order, we have Cleo Lucy, Tutti Rouge Liliana, Chantelle C Chic Sexy unlined, A/W 2013 Claudette Dessous, S/S 2013 Claudette Dessous, and Le Mystere Cotton Touch Spacer:

Let me know if you have any of your own tips for pulling off boxy-cut clothing with big boobs!


Little Lucie


7 thoughts on “How to have a full bust and still wear “boxy, crop tops” this summer!

    • I’m glad you found this helpful! Thanks for letting me know. Honestly, it is all fairly obvious and straightforward, but it literally took me years to fully figure out…haha. There’s a steep learning curve [ha! pun intended) with having a full bust!


  1. I totally agree with your ideas! I don’t think these come in your size, and they are too small for me too, but Fortnight longlines give me the best shape under boxy/flowy tops. It’s very minimized and holds everything down so the whole shirt isn’t as wide as my bust. : ) Great tips!
    Then, on the other hand, I want my girls ALL OVER THE PLACE in a tighter shirt LOL.


  2. And one more! Fantasie Esme. Tried it after Bras I Hate reviewed it. I have it in a nice bright pink.

    It’s an odd. It for that brand: the widest and lowest wires (I mean -low-), yet accommodates a lot of upper fullness, though GG not so much near the gore, which floats on me. However, the thing that makes it so useful is the really inset straps. It’s the the bra I reach for when I have a floaty tank, with close in straps.


  3. I love your reviews. I fell into this blog accidentally. Its cool to hear someone with the same gripes. I lost about 15lbs and hardly anyone noticed bc my boob to waist raito is so large that you can’t even see the difference. My friends are are “regular” bra/boob issues and they don’t get it. They sometimes annoy me at how inconsiderate they can be when we’re choosing to dress alike for caribbean carnival or halloween.
    Question: I am a US 30G/H …the chaffing and slight discoloration under my bust is driving me mad. I feel like i spend the entire day constantly readjusting. If i go up a cup or strap size the fit isnt right (i get arpit chafed or my boobs do not look lifted). Any suggestions on how to stay lifted but not slowly die inside…lol


    • Thanks for your nice words! I’m sorry to hear about your chaffing and discoloration. Is the discoloration temporary and disappears soon after you take off your bra, or is it always there? Also, where exactly are you getting chafing? Near the gore, or from the wires at the bottom of the cup? Finally, what are the names of the bras that do this to you? It might be a shape issue (e.g. If the bottom is too shallow your breasts can push the bra down and cause the wires to dig into your ribs). Hope this can be fixed!


  4. Super helpful. I’m a 32i and I really like how some looser crop tops look. They’re so comfortable and breezy for summer, but looking like a tent also isn’t pretty. I’m going to try to find some minimizing bras, though I love wearing my Panache sport even when not working out, it’s oh so comfy.


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