Bra Problem #1: “Why are all the cute bras SO ITCHY?!? Or they look like hell under a shirt?”
You can probably blame lace for most of this, since it’s the most common decorative element used in bra construction. Some types of lace will be softer or scratchier than others; extra soft materials tend to be somewhat less durable than firmer materials, so it may be that the manufacturer is trying to strike a balance between how it feels to wear and how well the bra is going to hold up over time.
We as individuals also have different tactile thresholds, so what feels super itchy and irritating to one person might not be noticeable to another. If you find that you’re somewhat sensitive in this way, you’ll probably have a better experience with styles that don’t have lace trim. In the same vein, looking bad under a T-shirt or tight-fitting clothing can be a problem with seamed-cup bras generally, and most of these styles are also constructed from lacy materials. They tend to be way more intricate and visually interesting than molded-cup T-shirt bras (and they’re usually better at hugging your curves), but what you sacrifice is the smooth profile.
It is possible to get the best of both worlds, though! For this set of problems, I would recommend either a lightly lined style with a seamless lace overlay, or a bra with cups constructed from a seamless stretch molded fabric (not foam molded). Either way, the materials in direct contact with your skin will be soft, the whole garments should lay more or less invisibly under clothing, and you’ll still have something a lot prettier than your run-of-the-mill T-shirt bra. The two examples pictured above are both stretch molded, non-padded styles: Radiance from Panache on the left, and the Back Appeal Underwire Bra from Wacoal on the right.
Note: “Bra Problems” was originally a series of Facebooks posts written in response to follower queries during the Covid shutdown of spring 2020. Our inboxes are still open, though! If you have a Bra Problem you’d like us to troubleshoot here, email your issue to firstname.lastname@example.org.