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When it comes to bra styles, few are as iconic — or nowadays, as rare — as the bullet bra.
The bullet bra is a full-coverage style that uses spiral stitching to create a defined, pointed shape. They first appeared in the fashion world as a staple of the glamorous pin-up dolls of the 1940s and 1950s, when “sweater girls” would wear tight sweaters over conical bras to really emphasise their breasts. Bullet bras evolved out of less-structured cone bras; while earlier cone-shaped bras tended to have a softer shape, with straight seams around the cup that converge in the centre to create a gentle point, bullet bras used spiral stitching to provide a more dramatic look.
This spiral stitching requires specialised machinery that is very hard to get hold of nowadays, so many modern bullet bras feature consecutive rings of stitching rather than a true, all-in-one whirlpool shape. Often, they also feature the same ‘starburst’ of straight seams around the cup as cone bras do, which adds to the pointed shape.
Bullet bra fit tip: Due to its exaggerated point, you likely won’t fill out the whole cup of a bullet bra, but you can buy bullet bra pads or “falsies” (such as these from Secrets in Lace* or these from What Katie Did) to prevent the tip from deflating while you wear it.
These days, it’s rare to see anyone wearing a bullet bra in everyday life. But designs inspired by the bullet bra have continued to crop up in popular culture in the decades since it fell out of fashion, including the infamous Jean Paul Gaultier lingerie on Madonna’s 1990 Blonde Ambition tour and more recently on Lizzo at the 2022 VMAs, and Beyoncé’s Renaissance album art featuring a conical bustier from Schiaparelli’s Spring/Summer 2022 collection. Clearly, the bullet bra has had a lasting impact!
Here are 7 brands creating bullet bras for the modern age:
Vintage-style lingerie company Court Royal offers bullet bras in traditional colours such as black and peach, as well as some brighter colours such as red, up to a DD cup.
Secrets in Lace creates traditional bullet bras using satin, and nylon fabrics reminiscent of the 1950s. They also offer bras such as the sheer mesh Lucy Bullet Bra*, which resembles a modern bralette and uses half-circle stitching only to create a slight torpedo shape.
UK-based brand What Katie Did was one of the first to bring bullet bras back into mainstream production. They offer both soft-cup ‘1940s bras’ (without the circle stitching) and more heavily structured bullet bras, including ones which are padded to retain their shape, no falsies necessary.
Traditional bullet bras are not usually underwired or padded, but Melons & Sweetcheeks offers a few styles with underwire, and you can add extra padding to the lower cup for greater support. Perfect for those who want the retro look with a more modern fit.
The fun, retro-inspired Bettie Page collection by Playful Promises offers a small selection of bullet bras up to a UK F / US G cup.
Hope Saver is an India-based brand, around since the 1980s, that crafts padded and unpadded bullet bras from organic cotton, in fully customisable sizing and a wide array of colours.
Choose between the brand’s Classic Circular Stitched Cone Cup Bra and Long-Line Circular Stitched Cone Cup Bra in black, white or red. Revival Lingerie also offer a variety of non-bullet retro bras with a more relaxed silhouette. These feature padding on the bottom half of the cup as well as a horizontal seam through the middle, to created a gently pointed shape.
For a subtler silhouette, check out these vintage-inspired bras:
It’s possible to get a perky, retro fit that isn’t quite as pronounced as you’d get with a bullet bra. In fact, unless you’re wearing vintage or vintage-inspired clothing that is made to fit/stretch over the pointed shape, you may find it challenging to work true bullet bras into your wardrobe.
Fortunately, there are companies making bras that are inspired by the less extreme 1940s and 1950s styles (not everyone wore bullet bras back then!). These still create more of a pointed shape than the rounded one that most modern bras aim for. They have soft cups with a horizontal seam which moves the breast tissue forward; some of them also have circular stitching for support, lift and shaping, but only on the lower half of the cup so the effect is less dramatic.
Cosmic Girl Clothing sells a selection of 1950s-inspired bras that are cut to achieve a conical look without the use of circular stitching.
This Los Angeles-based brand creates bralettes that feature a front dart tab and reinforced circular stitching on only the bottom half of the cup, for a ‘torpedo’ shape that is more relaxed than a bullet bra.
Pip and Pantalaimon have a range of soft, horizontally-seamed bras, while their underwired bras provide a slight vintage silhouette with a more modern feel and fit. They also sell a Spiral Stitch Underwired Bra (website link / Etsy link*) that features circular stitching on the bottom half of the cup.
This brand’s plus sized Soft Cup Lace Bra (up to US 54G / UK 54F) features a tall sling at the base and inner side of the cup, to project the breast tissue forwards and outwards. This provides a somewhat pointy look that’s more natural.
If you liked this list, be sure to check out my article on 15 Brands Making Vintage-Inspired Lingerie for more retro styles!
Have you worn bullet bras before? What do you think of them?