“The first time I wore a bralette as a shirt, I was kind of nervous because I am not part of the itty-bitty titty committee,” said Serayah McNeill, holding back a laugh. The singer and actress, who burst onto Hollywood’s radar as Tiana Brown in Fox's Empire, talked about working up the courage to ditch a traditional top in favor of a bra worn solo, a trend that she has turned into a red carpet signature.
“A great bra, for me, is armor because it just makes everything else look the best.” she said. “I think it makes a bold statement and [shows] how comfortable you are in your body and yourself."
As much as a bralette demands a certain brazenness of its wearer, it also has the power to endow confidence and push you out of your comfort zone.
“It makes you feel bold,” she said. InStyle asked McNeill for her best tips on styling the cheeky look.
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1. Remember that being a little nervous is OK
“I started to see the trend myself, and I wanted to see how it would look and if we could pull it off. My stylists, Wayman + Micah, we paired a Vera Wang look for a red carpet, a sports bralette with a high-waisted Vera Wang skirt,” McNeill said of her first time stepping out in a bra-only outfit.
“I was nervous about how much cleavage was going to show. I was worried about popping out, looking down, things like that. But it actually ended up being really, really cute. We extended the sides for more support and, trying it back on, I was like, ‘Yes! This is perfect.’ I felt very sexy, like I really accomplished the look, and I was really excited to try this trend more often.”
2. Go for a hybrid
Not quite ready to toss out your top? Test out the look with an open shirt or jacket over a bralette.
"[It's] so you’re not completely out—you feel like you’ve got a little bit of coverage," said McNeill. "You could pair that with a sandal heel, which is what I like to do. It’s really cute, sexy, and simple.”
The best of both worlds.
3. Don't worry about anyone but yourself
“I started playing the character Tiana when I was 19 and not as comfortable with my assets as other people, and my character usually wears little to no clothing, all the time. I can definitely say that wearing more revealing clothes, tighter clothes, see-through clothes, has given me so much confidence to embrace everything I am—and everything I’m not,” McNeill said.
“I know what I wear and what I can feel comfortable in, but I know, like, I don’t really like that. To have that armor, to know, ‘This is sexy on me and I like it, and I don’t care if anyone doesn’t like it.’ I’ve definitely gotten more confident.”
4. Repeat repeat repeat
“You can wear a bralette for a week, and it’ll look different every time. You can pair them in different ways. I have done it a bunch of times, for carpets and on my own.”
5. Get waisted
“A bralette with high waist is proportionate for me. I feel high-waisted jeans or a high-waisted skirt or a high-waisted jean short is really cute. I like underdone looks.”
6. When in doubt, go bold
One of McNeill’s favorite shirtless looks she’s ever worn was a structured black Moschino bra paired with a multi-colored floral suit from the designer. And it won her some high compliments.
“I went to the Moschino fashion show in LA, and I saw Fergie, and she was like, ‘Yes, girl! Your boobs like amazing!’” McNeill said. Others were in agreement with Fergie. “They really love the sportiness of it, the boldness of it.”
7. Lace up
“Lace is my favorite material for bras,” said McNeill.
8. Make the look your own
“You know, a lot of looks that are in fashion are made for taller women with longer legs, and some of these looks can drown me out. I can see a [look on the] runway and think, ‘This is amazing!’ Let’s go for that look. Then I put it on, and I’m like, ‘Where is Serayah?!’" she said.
"It’s one of those things where I have to find [my version]: We’re gonna make the pants shorter, or we’re gonna make the waist higher, or we’re gonna do it with a bra-top proportion to show skin and get that elongated leg, so I’m not completely covered up. Other people have other things they may not like and have to manipulate for themselves.”
9. Talk yourself into it
If you’re toying with the trend but aren’t sure you can pull it off, “step out and try new things because what’s the worst that could happen?” advised McNeill.
“Half the time, I feel like it’s a self[-consciousness] thing. You talk yourself out of it, but you might actually look amazing in it, and it just takes the right styling to put it together.”
10. Know your body
“I just am an ab freak in general. I know it’s people’s worst time in the gym, but I love abs. Squats hurt me so much! But abs are my favorite,” said McNeill.
The actress also likes to minimize foods that make her feel bloated if she knows she'll be wearing a bra top that day. “If I know I’m gonna wear a revealing top or a bralette, I will try to lay off as many carbs as I can because I bloat easily.”
11. Look to the pros for bralette style inspiration
“I love the way Rihanna always wears a bralette top with a really pretty train skirt that’s big and fluffy—I love that she’s been such a princess on the red carpet!” said McNeill. “I feel like Bella Hadid and Gigi, they wear very cool and chic and edgy bralettes.”
12. Forget any haters
McNeill is a fan of the divisive bra-only Dior look that Charlize Theron wore to the Atomic Blonde premiere earlier this year, which received some nasty comments online.
“I think she looks amazing and classic. It was done really well with the red lip and all white. Internet trolls will say anything about anything, but I would wear it!”
13. Use it as a way to celebrate your shape
“People want to be their bolder selves now. We’re in such a self-empowerment age,” McNeill said, explaining that, for her, the revealing look is a way to celebrate her body.
Ready to give the look a shot?