I’ve never reviewed anything by Victoria Secret before, and if you had asked me a year or two ago, I probably wouldn’t have considered it a possibility. However, by some unforeseen planetary alignment, I can now sister-size myself just within the size range of this retail giant. When I visited the US at the end of the summer, I had left my sports bras in the UK, so I took the opportunity to cash in on free shipping in the Victoria’s Secret semi-annual sale.
It had been a long time since I browsed Victoria’s Secret and I was pleasantly surprised by the array of cute prints and styles of their sports bras. Perhaps it’s just that my aesthetic is more in line with some VS designs at the moment compared to when I last shopped there (as a teenager). Don’t get me wrong, I still avoided their more bombshell-looking sports bras in favor of the Lightweight by Victoria style. I know that some people love their ultra-padded and cleavage-enhancing foam contraptions, but my needs are much more pragmatic. I just want something comfy and breatheable to keep my boobs from moving around too much while exercising.
I already own some great Panache Sports bras for high impact activities and I love them. I recommend the non-wired version to everyone and the wired version to everyone else! The only downside I discovered after a few hot and humid summers is that I find them a bit heavy and sweaty for lengthy outdoor activity in 100 degrees. Could Victoria’s Secret deliver something light, breathable and supportive for day hiking, long distance power walking and/or jogging that could cross over into day and lounge wear without looking gargantuan under my clothes? A tall order for the bombshell boob mongers, I know.
When I chose these bras online, I wasn’t really sure what to expect in terms of appearance or quality. I tried to find some “real life” photos before I ordered, but mostly saw only stock photos or sale photos that didn’t show the inside of the bra. I’ll note here that I prefer wireless because my bony ribs are tortured by underwires when working out, but for a lot of brands, “wireless” means little more than a bralette with some ephemeral strings attached that are somehow supposed to defy the gravity acting upon my pendulous boobs.
Is a VS “lightweight” sports bra structured? How thick would the padding be? How wide are the cups? Would there be any “cup separation” or would it be uniboob city? Equally importantly, at only $14.99 each in the sale, are VS bras even worth their $50+ retail price tag? And bizarrely, why hadn’t anyone else reviewed them? If you’ve asked yourself the same questions, don’t worry, I’ve got you covered.
While a lot of the prints on the lightweight sports bra spoke to me, I narrowed down my order to two that I liked best that were still available in 32D/DD. I also convinced myself not to get any of the matching sportswear as I already had 4 pairs of leggings on order the same week. (Side note, if you’re into sportswear reviews, let me know in the comments because I finally found leggings that I love!)
The first one I chose was this white and burnt orange Polynesian-looking floral print in size 32DD:
I’ve never seen a print like this on a sports bra. I normally don’t wear anything even remotely white, but I think the colors look really nice together.
The next one I chose was this blue, green and neon lime colorblock design:
I actually ordered two of these in the same print in sizes 32D and 32DD to test for size.
When the bras arrived, I was pleasantly surprised when I opened the package. They looked just as nice in person as on the website and I was excited to put them on.
The outside of the bra is made from a perforated breathable material that has a sporty appearance and feels like a jersey. The inside has lightly lined foam cups that are sewn in. I was thankful for this discovery, as the website stock photo made it seem like the cups were made entirely of a stretchy material. Although there is no “gore” to speak of, there is a small amount of separation between the cups in the design where the stitching meets in the middle. The straps are made from a very soft and smooth material that meets at the back to form a keyhole type design.
In terms of construction, the bra felt very well made and all the stitches were clean. The materials are quite soft and comfortable, though there were noticeable differences between the two colorways. For instance, the floral print with the white elastic had a stretchier, looser band. While this is likely in part due to the color, the black band on the colorblock bra also had a ribbed texture on the inside that made the elastic band thicker and more substantial.
One of the things I really like about these bras is that there is no exposed hardware that comes in contact with the skin. It’s a pull-on design, yet the straps fully adjust. Since it’s a compression bra, I find that this helps to customize the fit adequately. Normally I can’t wear regular off-the-rack compression bras that have no strap adjusters because I generally need the straps to be tightened as much as possible.
In terms of design, this is almost exactly what I was looking for and I like the way it looks, too. The only thing that had me hesitating was the cross-back design. On the models on the VS website (because they’re always true-to-life, right?), it looked like the cross-back laid mostly like a standard strap configuration at the front; in other words, it didn’t seem to be acting like a halter top, but laying flat and even quite widely spaced on the shoulders. I can’t wear halter tops or anything that is tight or puts pressure around my neck area, so that is really important to me. I generally avoid racer backs and cross-back bras for this reason. The soft, smooth fabrics that made up the bra and the straps had me optimistic and I was hopeful that it would be really comfortable on.
Size & Fit
As noted above, my order consisted of 3 bras: two 32DDs and one 32D. I generally wear a UK 30E/28F, so I was sister sizing up quite a bit to fit into the VS range. I read a lot of reviews saying that the bands on these bras run very tight, and I can wear both a 30 and 28 in Panache, so I chose these sizes accordingly and one cup size down for good measure.
As it turned out, this was a good decision. The bras with the black bands in both sizes (32D and 32DD) did indeed run tight, stretching to about 31″ with a moderate tug. The white/floral print, on the other hand, stretched to about 34″. Neither of those was ideal for my 26″ underbust, but this difference in materials it is worth keeping in mind if you are interested in trying VS bras. As mentioned above, the band material itself was a different type of elastic, not just a different color, and this affected the band tension quite a lot. This can be a help or hindrance when buying more than one color. Note that the cup volume appeared to remain constant despite the band variations. Shopping multiple colorways is therefore advisable.
In terms of cup size, the cups on the 32DD floral and colorblock bras were comfortable for me in terms of volume, while the 32D gave the most support in terms of compression (keeping in mind that this was compensating for the band being a little big). My ideal size would therefore have the volume of a 32DD but a tighter band. However, the 32DD cups were also just a smidge too tall and required a little more upper fullness than I have, while the 32D had a little in-cup quadboob over the foam lined portion of the cup especially on my larger side, which was slightly noticeable from the profile view. As a result, I had to tighten the straps on the 32DD almost all the way to keep top of the bra lying flat. Someone taller in the shoulder area or fuller on top would probably not have any issue.
On the plus side, despite no “gore” or underwires, I felt contained and did not spill to the center even though that is often a problem for me with soft, center-full tissue.
Finally, coming to the straps, like all cross-back and racerback bras, they ultimately were the downfall of this bra for me. I don’t know if it’s because I have petite and narrow shoulders, but the more I needed to tighten the straps (on the 32DD until the adjusters were slightly to the front), the more it seemed to tighten its grip on my neck. I immediately felt a lot of strain and pressure. I am especially sensitive to this; however, and it wasn’t any more or less irritating than any similar style bra or top would be on me. If you don’t have a problem with racerbacks or cross-backs, definitely don’t let that deter you from trying it.
To conclude on fit, the 32D wasn’t as comfortable in the cup for me because it was a little small, but it had that compression support I needed; whereas the 32DD felt roomier, but not as supportive.
So, the straps were not comfortable for me, but I want to say that is more personal preference than a design error. I would have loved to see the same Lightweight by Victoria bra in a non-racerback configuration, though. Some people just don’t like them. And I do think that there is a design problem for petite wearers because we just don’t have enough “shoulder” to keep the straps from creeping towards the neck.
In terms of overall comfort, once on and adjusted, this bra is actually pretty comfortable. The materials are soft against the skin. That said, getting the bra on in the first place is an entirely different story! I’ve never had such a hard time putting on a piece of clothing as this sports bra, and that’s even with the band stretching to 34″. People complain about the Freya Fancies bralette, but I assure you that it’s a dream by comparison.
Here are some tips that I learned through trial and error:
- Remove your glasses first if you don’t want to break them or impale yourself.
- Ask a partner for help
- Loosen the straps all the way before attempting to put the bra on over your head unless you are a contortionist or have a hospital on speed dial
- Do some warm up stretches and prepare to bend, squirm and dance your way into it
- Have an escape plan for getting out
Deep down inside, I really wanted to find something wrong with the quality of these bras. I wanted to bask in the schadenfreude of built up resentment I had towards people who just pluck any old strappy and ill-supporting matrix-sized sports bra off a clearance rack and contain their boobs through an entire workout while looking both cute and athletic. I wanted to say – this is totally not worth it. You’ve all been duped by VS, the over-hyped boob swindlers! The thing is, the quality on these bras is actually pretty excellent. The way I had to contort myself in and out it had me fearing that I would rip it or destroy it. There wasn’t a single trace that I’d even tried it on. Especially at the annual sale price of $14.99, the stitching is even and solid, the elastic firm and sturdy, everything is put together well. It feels like it would last a long time. I wouldn’t pay full retail for it (being *frugal* as I am), but I wouldn’t begrudge someone who did if they were able to find a great fit within the limited size range.
It looks so cute on. I wish I could have kept it, but those straps 😦
I’m not quite a VS fan yet – I still think their advertising practices are shady and their size range stinks – but I’ll keep an eye out for their clearance sales.