pepper bra review lead
CNN  — 

Finding the right bra, no matter your size, is a journey. But when you add the extra hurdle of having a smaller chest, it can be not only difficult but embarrassing and even humiliating at times. Being handed push-up bras at the department store, doubling up on or stuffing bras or even thinking something’s wrong with your body — just because it’s not being represented in mainstream media? All experiences shared by my sister and me — two members of the IBTC.

I think that like many people, I equated finding a comfortable, flattering and well-fitting bra to finding a needle in a haystack. My sister prefers to shop around for bras but is always looking for something that’s more comfortable and flattering to her specific shape.

So when I discovered Pepper, I knew it was something we both had to try out. Pepper creates bras specifically designed for those with AA, A and B cups. My sister, who is a 32AA, falls on the smaller end of that spectrum, while I, being a 34B, fall on the larger end of the spectrum. Both of us also want different things from our bras, so I was curious to see how even with a smaller range of sizes a brand like Pepper would be able to serve those of us with smaller chests across the board.

What makes Pepper special?

There were two main reasons I was really eager to test out Pepper, and (spoiler alert) why I’m a huge fan of the brand. The first are the actual products. Pepper claims that when it comes to those of us with smaller chests, bras often don’t fit because they weren’t designed for us. The brand describes how the intimates industry designs for a 36C, while Pepper designs for AA, A and B sizes. How is this actually implemented in the brand’s bras?

The first design difference is that Pepper’s bra cups are actually shallower, which means you won’t encounter any awkward, annoying bra gaps — one of my biggest pet peeves with other bras. The brand also uses a slightly smaller underwire (because smaller breasts need less support) and have optimized the length and curvature of the wire to maximize comfort. Finally, Pepper utilizes light padding for a natural look. The brand promotes embracing your natural shape and size instead of trying to make your boobs look bigger than they are with uncomfortable thick padding and push-up designs.

This brand ethos is the other reason I was so drawn to Pepper — it’s all about embracing and celebrating your body. In a previous interview with CNN Underscored, Pepper CEO and co-founder, Jaclyn Fu, shared that Pepper was “born from the pain, and eventually the love I have for my own body and learning how to celebrate it exactly as it is.” And that the brand “exists to remind everyone it’s not your body that has to change — it’s the industry.” Traditional bra brands and pop culture have conditioned us to believe that sexy has to include tons of cleavage — and Pepper hopes to help folks realize that that’s just not true.

Knowing this, it’s no surprise that Pepper creates and offers an inclusive range of sizing for smaller-chested folks of all sizes. Most plus-size retailers in the United States start cup sizes at a C, which reinforces the misconception that plus-size people must have larger breasts — something that’s just not the case. A couple of the larger bra sizes Pepper offers include 38AA, 38A, 38B, 40AA and 40A.

Sizing tips

Sizing is always tricky when it comes to buying bras online. Fortunately, Pepper offers both a Size Quiz and Fit Guide on its website, so you have two ways to check what your best size might be. The Size Quiz asks you a couple questions about how your current best-fitting bra fits, and makes a size recommendation based on that bra. My best-fitting bra is a 34B, and the quiz confirmed that that was the right fit. When my sister took the quiz, for whatever reason her results showed that Pepper didn’t currently have a bra size that would fit her best. This didn’t end up being the case, since the size she ultimately chose — a 32AA — ended up being her perfect match.

Pepper’s Fit Guide is useful if you don’t currently have a best-fitting bra, or you’re starting from scratch when it comes to finding your perfect size. You enter your ribcage and bust measurements, and they recommend a size. I was surprised to learn that the Fit Guide suggested a 34A for me, which I was pretty sure was going to be too small. I stuck with a 34B, which ended up being perfect. When my sister used the Fit Guide, the size they suggested ended up being her correct size, and what she ultimately ordered.

In short, definitely use both measurement tools. If you’re still unsure of your size afterward, I would recommend sticking with your standard size (since Pepper’s bras aren’t drastically different from standard sizing in terms of fit). If anything, they run a little bit on the larger side, but not significantly so. If you’re able to order more than one size — maybe you want to test out your “sister size” — Pepper offers free returns and exchanges within 30 days, so you won’t be risking anything if you do want to try out more than one bra. You also have the option to email one of Pepper’s fit specialists, who can help you along the process and answer any specific questions you might have.

The bras

Mesh All You Bra ($50;

Pepper’s Mesh All You Bra is the brand’s bestseller, with a 4.69-star rating from over 4,300 reviews. It’s the perfect everyday bra — super flattering, comfortable and the sizing was spot on. It features the right amount of support and lift — way more so than my other bras. As someone who typically prefers bralettes, this bra also achieves that barely there feeling. The range of shades are perfect for nearly all skin tones, and the limited-edition neon colorway, Beam, features the perfect pop of color. The mesh on the side is the big distinguisher from the Classic All You Bra. It’s really comfortable, breathable and an overall fun and slightly sexy detail.

Classic All You Bra ($55;

Essentially the same bra as the Mesh All You Bra, the Classic All You Bra features a super-soft trim that’s more similar to your classic bra. The fit and support are the same, and it’ll probably end up being the bra I wear most often, since the trim is arguably more comfortable than the mesh.

Limitless Wirefree Scoop Bra ($50;

If you love bralettes, you’ll love the Limitless Wirefree Scoop Bra. It’s amazingly comfortable, and so much more chic than plain old cotton bralettes. The design is super on-trend, and reminds me of athleisure and other sports bra designs. As someone who takes their bra off the minute they get home, this is one that you truly won’t feel the need to rip off. It’s so soft and supportive at the same time — you can definitely get away with wearing this in place of a traditional underwire bra. My sister notes that it’s simultaneously a pajama bra and a low-impact exercise bra. One thing to note is that it comes with removable padding. My sister preferred to keep the padding in, and I loved the fit and support of the bra without the padding.

Laidback Lace Bra ($55;

The Laidback Lace Bra features Pepper’s signature fit, designed with a lace trim as opposed to mesh or the Classic All You Bra’s soft trim. While the fit and design worked totally fine for me, my sister had issues with the fact that the shape wasn’t the same as Pepper’s other bras. It wasn’t as flattering on her, and the connector between the cups wasn’t as high quality as the other bras we tested. We both agreed that the lace material was a bit rough, and while comfortable, wasn’t as seamless as we had expected for the price. However, this bra sports a 4.67-star rating across nearly 1,600 reviews, so it might work amazingly for you.

Everyday Lace Bralette ($40;

The Everyday Lace Bralette is a classic, unlined triangle bralette. The lace material is gorgeous, and the wide band is super soft and luxurious. It’s stretchy and features a triple-layered lining, which provides the perfect amount of coverage while still being lightweight. While I prefer a bit more coverage and support for everyday wear, my sister has been wearing this nonstop. It’s particularly adorable to layer with a V-neck T-shirt. One note sizing-wise: I was recommended a small based on my cup size of 34B, but I felt like a medium probably would have fit better. So if you’re in between sizes, I would size up when it comes to this bralette, which is available in sizes XXS to XL.

The underwear

Beam Mesh All You Bikini ($14;

Pepper offers only one underwear as of right now, which is the limited-edition Beam Mesh All You Bikini. It’s designed with mesh panels and a super-cute neon lining and waistband that match the limited-edition Beam Mesh All You Bra. It’s absurdly soft, super comfortable and really cute. I’d love to see Pepper’s underwear become available in a range of nude colors, different cuts and a seamless version as well — because these are a total win.