Fair warning- this post and the links provided are probably not work safe.
Please excuse the mention here of unmentionables, but where to buy vintage style brassieres seems to be quite a popular topic on blogs lately. I thought I would add my two cents with a review of the Bali Flower bra.
Image from Bare Necessites
I was on a quest for vintage style undergarments, since I’ve always somewhat glossed over that area in terms of vintage wear. I technically *could* make my own, and I swear I will someday (perhaps even from the repro e-pattern in my shop), but I admit I’m somewhat lazy about making things that no one will ever see. I also should mention that finding decent vintage-looking bras that are new is somewhat of a challenge if you’re on the smaller size.
While there are reproduction companies who make what look to be beautiful period brassieres and undergarments, I found that they’re not always in a price range I can justify for occasional wear. If I did vintage 24/7 I’m sure I’d be all about companies like What Katie Did and Secrets in Lace, but unfortunately I don’t have the discipline for a completely period look all the time.
I saw several bloggers like Tasha and Gertie mention the Bali Flower bra for a vintage silhouette and found that the bra was in my price range and I was interested in giving it a try. I ordered it when I found a coupon online for the website Bare Necessities. I must say the shipping was quite speedy, and with the coupon it was very inexpensive. Unfortunately, the coupon just expired, or I would share it here.
My first impression was that the quality was not particularly the best in terms of fabric, although the construction was quite nice. Although it definitely has the period look the fabric is somewhat scratchy, somewhat like a power mesh. It is marketed towards the full figured woman, which I am most certainly not, so it does not have any padding on the inside. I ordered the smallest size available and, unfortunately, I found it still runs rather large. With padding added it somewhat helps, but I would estimate these run at least a cup size too large. In the end, it certainly is true that you get what you pay for, and the quality is somewhat what I would expect for this price range. If you are on the smaller side you may want to either make sure you order from a site which has a good return policy in case it doesn’t work out, choose to use extra added padding, or just be content with either making your own, finding a vintage bra, or ordering one of the more expensive period undergarments from the other companies mentioned.
Have any of you tried the Bali Flower bra? What was your opinion? Do you purchase period foundations from another site mentioned or another one entirely? Or do you just make do with modern undergarments with your vintage clothing?
sarahNovember 2, 2011 at 3:32 pm (12 years ago)
my friends and I are all about the Rago undergarments — they’re really period, as in they’ve probably been using the same master patterns since the 50s and 60s. And they’re definitely afforable. My personal can’t-live-without is their waist cincher, but the longline bra is pretty great too.
I haven’t tried that Bali bra but I’ve never liked Bali products in general. I might try it on if I come across one though!
LaurenNovember 2, 2011 at 3:38 pm (12 years ago)
Ah! How could I have forgotten Rago! I also have the waist cincher and love it, and also have their garter belt. Great quality products. Unfortunately the bras don’t come in my size or else I’d try them, too. Thanks, Sarah, for mentioning them!
sarahNovember 2, 2011 at 5:46 pm (12 years ago)
ah, sorry to hear the bras don’t work for you!! For me it’s the full-body stuff, I’m just too tall. Do you have the basic cincher? i just got the lace-over-satin one, and it’s really nice!
LaurenNovember 2, 2011 at 6:01 pm (12 years ago)
Ah, I know what you mean! I love the all-in-ones, but I’m short waisted so those are a no-go for me, too, sadly! I have the basic cincher and I really love it, but it’s time for a replacement! Their stuff is so pretty and functional. I just love it!
SharonNovember 2, 2011 at 3:47 pm (12 years ago)
Your review is…amusing. I wear the Bali Flower bra exclusively, and have done for 34 years. Vintage? Not hardly, the cups aren’t “pointy” enough. Yes, it’s a bra for the “full-figured” and it was America’s best-selling bra for decades, with good reason. It’s a super value, and the best supportive bra on the market for <$50. If you don't like it, don't buy it. But don't knock it just because it isn't the bra for you.
LaurenNovember 2, 2011 at 3:54 pm (12 years ago)
I’m sorry if I came across as talking down the bra- it was not my intention. In reality I wish it was a better fit for me as I find the price point to be quite attractive and it looks like it would have been quite a good bra. I had seen several people mention it online and was eager for it to work for me, but unfortunately it didn’t.
The DreamstressNovember 6, 2011 at 6:45 am (12 years ago)
In defense of Lauren, I don’t feel she talked down the bra at all – the review was quite balanced, and was a good guide to the materials used, and the body sizes it would suit. Based on this I would certainly mention it as an option for a fuller figured woman interested in an affordable, ‘more vintage than what you can find in VS’ bra.
And as for it being ‘vintage’ or not – well, ‘vintage’ covers a whole range of eras and shapes! Pointy may be accurate for the 1950s, but it certainly isn’t period correct for the 1930s, which is what I assume people buy this bra for. And more recent could be ‘vintage’ too. According to etsy 34 years counts as vintage ;-)
ColleenNovember 2, 2011 at 4:05 pm (12 years ago)
I use Playtex Cross Your Heart for vintage underwear. It seems to be pointy enough, and it’s good quality for the money. It is marketed toward the full-figured woman, though.
I use Rago for girdles.
LaurenNovember 2, 2011 at 4:49 pm (12 years ago)
Thanks for the suggestion, Colleen!
PepperReedNovember 2, 2011 at 4:08 pm (12 years ago)
I just recently bought this bra (1/2 off at Sears for $16) after Gerties reviews. Boy, is it POINTY!! The picture online and on the packaging look much more rounded although I think the models are definitely a smaller bust size than myself (I’m now a full figured 38 DD in regular bras). I used to have a Bali (not sure what model) ages ago when I was a smaller bust and I remember it had a ‘natural’ shape, while this definitely does Not. :^)
However, I actually like it. I originally tried it on under a knit long-sleeved shirt and my husband and I had a good laugh!! I think I was surprised by the shape it created because it is quite structured; It’s a bit ‘stiff’ because I’m so used to bras that have a stretch cup, but it’s comfortable to wear and looks good under my woven vintage wear. I also tried on a Fully bra and that almost poked my eye out! Even pointier than the Bali and had a Soviet-era industrial construction feel to it. :^)
FWIW, I don’t think your review was detrimental to the bra (it’s feelings weren’t hurt, I’m sure. I took your experience as your own, altho I found that I had to go down to a D, as I found the bra a bit large.
LaurenNovember 2, 2011 at 4:53 pm (12 years ago)
I agree! I wish it was a better fit because it looks like the silhouette would have been just about perfect. It is something to get used to, though, in contrast to the silhouette of most modern bras. And many thanks for the comment! Bra fit can be so different for each individual person, I think, so that’s why I’m interested to hear people’s thoughts and preferences. Finding a good fit and combining that with a different silhouette than usual can be a bit of a challenge!
g.humeNovember 2, 2011 at 6:49 pm (12 years ago)
Just as yesterday’s size 6 dress is today’s size 0, apparently to flatter the egos of today’s heavier women, I think they’ve messed with bra sizes to make everyone feel bigger busted. Ah marketing. Absolutely everyone wore Flower Bali, and it was thought to be a natural look compared to exaggerated points, which had the unfortunate habit of caving in on one side or the other. Those seeking a vintage look beware.
LaurenNovember 2, 2011 at 8:30 pm (12 years ago)
That’s an interesting point. I ordered the bra based on what I should be using proper measurements, and by what usually fits me and it still didn’t work, but I suppose the sizing between bras is different based on companies and styles, just like most clothing. And I can totally see how this would be more natural compared to the uber pointy bras! We’ve gotten so used to the very rounded look with modern bras so most other shapes seem pointy by comparison!
ElisabethNovember 2, 2011 at 7:17 pm (12 years ago)
I recently purchased this bra in 32C. That’s the size I normally buy in modern bras and it fits me awesomely – a bit tight in the band but bras stretch!
I managed to find that size on Amazon – it’s hard to find elsewhere, actually. Gives a great look even under modern blouses.
LaurenNovember 2, 2011 at 8:28 pm (12 years ago)
Great tip about Amazon! Thanks!
ClaudiaNovember 2, 2011 at 8:20 pm (12 years ago)
I am “fuller figured” at 38G so even if the wonderful wonderful What Katie Did and Secrets in Lace were in my price range, it wouldn’t do any good.
The Triumph Doreen bra has been suggested to me many times. It looks to be a bit pointier than the Flower, but not full on torpedo pointy. It doesn’t have underwires. No matter the bra size, the wires of every style I’ve ever tried poke in to my armpits. I wouldn’t be able to handle both wires and unlined cups.
LaurenNovember 2, 2011 at 8:27 pm (12 years ago)
I agree about the underwires. I like to avoid them if at all possible. Thanks for your comment!
ElisabethNovember 2, 2011 at 10:01 pm (12 years ago)
As much as I normally love underwires, they’re my biggest complaint about the Bali Flower. If you dislike underwires, the Bali Flower might be a step too far for you. It doesn’t poke me in the underarm, but it’s really uncomfortable on my sternum.
TashaNovember 2, 2011 at 8:31 pm (12 years ago)
It’s too bad that it didn’t work out for you! Bra shopping can be so difficult, whether or not you’re trying to find a bra for a vintage look. Argh. What’s perfect for one can be awful for another, and of course you have no way of knowing until you try it yourself!
I do like the Bali Flower of course, though I previously had no idea it has such a long history as I’ve gotten the impression in the last few days from some of the replies here and at Gertie’s post! I think for my shape and body it’s about the perfect look and function that I’m looking for. Comfy, not too pointy, and I fill it out without spilling out or having gaps or wrinkles or anything. I just wish it was a little fancier, or had more variety. But since it’s a somewhat lower price point and pretty sturdy, I don’t feel bad throwing it in the washing machine and dryer. And now that I think about it, perhaps that’s why I find mine softer after a washing or two than when you initially buy them, which is nice. (Perhaps there’s some sizing in it?)
I love the look of Rago products that I’ve seen online and keep meaning to try them, though haven’t mostly as I just don’t find girdles, corselettes and the like something I want for more than rare special occasions! I also don’t think they come in my preferred band size (32), but perhaps in a long-line bra it wouldn’t matter as much if I had a band size up. I’m inspired now to try one out and see!
LaurenNovember 2, 2011 at 8:40 pm (12 years ago)
That is SO true! And buying bras online is such a gamble, too. But it’s worth it when you find the perfect one, because then you have your go-to bra!
I’m totally bummed this didn’t work out for me, because of all the reasons you mentioned. It would be so nice to find a nice, inexpensive, and sturdy washable bra!
Thanks for your comment, and I really appreciate you taking the time to write about the pros you’ve experienced with it!
Reagan FoyNovember 2, 2011 at 8:48 pm (12 years ago)
Oh I am so glad you did this review. I too have seen the trend for contemporary “vintage” style undergarments on blogs and was also interested in the Bali bra. However, I too am on the small bust size, they don’t even carry it in an A cup, so I had already figured they wouldn’t work for me but your review seals the deal. I wish I could find something that has a “vintage” shape without being too, extremely pointy and that could work for the smaller busted lady. Well I guess we all have dreams about finding the perfect something…just like the illusive perfect pair of jeans. If you find anything that works please let us smaller busted ladies know!
LaurenNovember 2, 2011 at 8:50 pm (12 years ago)
Ditto this exactly! *Sigh* The quest continues….
Reagan FoyNovember 3, 2011 at 9:30 pm (12 years ago)
Today I went into JCPenney and tried the Underscore Bra, Criss-Cross Wirefree –
I got the smallest they had, 34B, even tho I’m usually a 34A. It actually is a nice comfy fit. I filled the cup pretty well and I’m thinking with my bullet bra padding it might be just perfect, but I really might not need the padding. I even was wearing a sweater so I tried it over and was very satisfied with the shape and how the bra looked under the sweater. I also found a Lily of France one that was wire-free that had a slight pointed shape to it that looked great under my sweater…it doesn’t have a style name and I can’t find it on Penney’s website. Both were very reasonably priced under $20
Reagan FoyNovember 3, 2011 at 9:35 pm (12 years ago)
Oh I forgot to mention that the Lily of France one did come in an A cup!
LaurenNovember 4, 2011 at 9:08 am (12 years ago)
Awesome!! Thank you so much for the recommendations! Where do you get your bullet bra pads?
Reagan FoyNovember 4, 2011 at 4:22 pm (12 years ago)
I get mine at My Baby Jo (http://www.mybabyjo.com/Bullet-Bra-Pads-3412.htm)
EszNovember 3, 2011 at 3:40 am (12 years ago)
I am also on the smaller side so it’s refreshing to see a review that caters to me! It seems there’s a lot more around on the interwebs for women with fuller figures which rules me out of heaps!
Bras are a particular struggle! Cup size isn’t so bad for me (B or C depending on brand), but the band widths are always a problem. I’m not the tiniest girl but most bras I find in Australia are too big around the ribcage. Standard sizing only goes down to a 10 which is odd since our clothing sizes go down to 6 and even 4 sometimes (the equivalent of an American 00). I don’t hold any hope for vintage styles!!
LaurenNovember 3, 2011 at 8:42 am (12 years ago)
I’m so glad it’s been useful! And the comments have been quite helpful, too. I agree- I have always been on the small side so finding bras or even off the peg clothing when I was younger was quite a challenge. I’ve heard that the What Katie Did bras run a little tight around the band, so possibly they might work for you?
MissRayneNovember 3, 2011 at 4:05 am (12 years ago)
I usually wear Triumph Doreen bras an original 50s design still manufactured today.
However like the one you bought they are very high at the front and cannot be worn with low cut dresses (which is usually when you want good support)
LaurenNovember 3, 2011 at 8:38 am (12 years ago)
I looked this one up, and you’re right- it does have the perfect period shape. Thanks for mentioning it!
HeideNovember 3, 2011 at 10:52 am (12 years ago)
What a subject! I haven’t dipped into vintage underwear really. But reading all the reveiws, maybe this is why I haven’t always been happy with how vintage patterns turn out. Not the right shape underneath!
I was lucky enough to find a beautiful 40s or 50s all in one bra, griddle, garters in lovely condition. When I brought it home and tried it one, I noticed the bra cups had a small tuck taken in across the middle. As the cups were made of lace and very soft and followed the seam I hadn’t noticed it until I tried it on. I did un-stitch it thinking it would fit me better, but when I tried it on again, I decieded to re-sew them. Just thought it was an interesting idea. I am not sure if the original owner didn’t like the shape or was just adjusting cup size.
I am not sure if this little trick would work on modern bras, but thought I would share it! Maybe it will help someone!
LaurenNovember 3, 2011 at 11:15 am (12 years ago)
Great tip, Heide! Thanks!
I just remember I did that once for a 1950s bathing suit I had. I had not thought to do it with bras!
SharonNovember 4, 2011 at 3:42 pm (12 years ago)
I see you’ve gotten a bunch of other good suggestions! But if you really like the Bali Flower bra, it might be worth your trouble to try it on again, in other band/cup size combinations. Some other nominal-size might actually work for you. I think it can still be found in the chain department stores, or definitely at a Bali-Haines outlet, so you could try on as many as you like without having to pay shipping. Be aware that this bra has serious underwires, so for a truly accurate vintage look, it has that limitation. I hope you find a vintage-esque bra that works for you!
LaurenNovember 4, 2011 at 4:06 pm (12 years ago)
Thanks so much for the suggestion, Sharon!
AliciaNovember 22, 2011 at 9:47 am (12 years ago)
I know its out of the way from Vista, but I just recently bought a 50’s bullet bra (I can’t remember the brand and I am wearing it so I can’t see) from Frock You in North Park (close to the Zoo) and I remember seeing one in an A-cup and several B-cups. Mine was only $22, padded and in perfect condition, so I would call them and see what they have. The people are really cool there and they would keep a lookout for one for you if you left your info. Happy hunting!
DesireeNovember 25, 2011 at 7:17 pm (12 years ago)
Don’t know if you posted already, but I’d love to see you in an outfit that’s not completely vintage.