Ok, first off, let me get something off my chest (pun intended) and explain the difference between a brassiere and a bralette....A traditional bra may have any or all of the following elements--adjustable straps, cups, underwires, and some type of front or back closure. In the 60's, my mom wore this conical-cup shaped beast from Playtex - it looked as uncomfortable as I'm sure it felt. It held her bust in a high and pointy place just inches below her chin.
Fortunately, bras are much more civilized and comfortable to wear these days, but are still considered an "undergarment". The only time you might happen to see any a hint of a brassiere showing is if the wearer is having some sort of wardrobe malfunction and is unaware of her accidental exposure (or, of course that Seinfeld episode...we'll get to that). A bra's primary purpose is to offer support and coverage. A Bralette, on the other hand, is a different story all together.
Think of the bralette as a descendant of the brassiere, and a not so distant cousin of the bandeau and sports bra. You won't find cups or underwire in a typical bralette. Lightweight, stretchy, and uber feminine, this style is designed to be seen. A good bralette is a perfect example of form meeting function, and can solve a lot of problems. If you want a light amount of coverage and peek of feminine lace, then the bralette is just the ticket. It makes any low-cut, low-backed item a touch sweeter without all that skin exposed to the elements (or to that creepy guy staring straight at you from the corner of the coffee shop you frequent, but may never go back to again). A lot of them don't have the hook-and-eye closures of a typical bra either, so you will have one continuous, seamless line in the back. They also come in a bevy of shapes--including halter, racer-back, thin strapped, etc--insuring that any style of top will have a complimentary bralette. Let's talk about the color spectrum you have to choose from, it's literally black and white, and every imaginable color in between. It's up to you to decide whether to pair whatever you are wearing with a coordinating bralette, or branch out and create an artful contrast.
This little lingerie item can make a big difference in how you embrace your femininity. We can all agree that lace is quintessentially feminine and that the bra has been an important staple in women's fashion for a very long time. Wearing something pretty as your own little secret underneath your clothes, or daringly peeking out above a low-backed dress, can make all the difference in how you feel during the day. A lacy bralette peeping out from an open buttoned placket of your understated collared shirt is a sexy alternative to that boring beige contraption of years past. Look at Beyoncé above, she's rocking that contrasting bralette like it's no one's business. Who doesn't want to channel Queen Bey from time to time?
If you want to get down to brass tacks, the bralette is a more cost affective alternative to the bra. You can usually purchase at least two or three for the same price of an underwired, over the shoulder boulder holder. Keep in mind, with all the styles and colors to choose from, you could end up accumulating enough of these little lovelies to fill their own closet. The possible combinations for any outfit are endless.
Remember that Seinfeld episode--the one with the braless wonder, Sue Ellen Mischke? Elaine can't stand her free-wheeling look and gives her a bra as a gift, only to see Sue Ellen wear it as a top? Well I'm all for freeing the nipple, but maybe a bralette would have been a good alternative to ease her in--a sort of appetizer into the lingerie world. Although, come to think of it, Sue Ellen most definitely would have worn all that pretty lace as a top too. Which, admittingly--and a bit grudgingly--can be striking or pretty when done right like the girls above.