Teen Influencers Are Reinventing Bras — and That's a Good Thing
Teenagers have very specific ideas about how they want the world to be — in fact, that’s the central struggle of being teenage. And as teens use their voices to affect change on a global scale, from the young gun-control activists from Parkland, to the trans and non-binary teens whose self-advocacy have helped us redefine our notions of gender, it’s clear those ideas go so far beyond what they’re wearing, or the slang they’re using. Hell, I’m a mid-30s woman who routinely gets her news from Teen Vogue. Simply put, if you’re not listening to what teenagers are saying, you’re missing the wave of the future.
Thanks to social media, teens now have a direct line of communication with the brands they buy from — and now, some brands are actually listening. Direct-to-consumer companies like Everlane and Knix, the leak-proof underwear brand launched by Joanna Griffiths in 2013, have made transparency, inclusivity, and accountability an integral part of their business. In the era where social media and “callout culture” amplifies both companies’ missteps and successes, there are also very real costs to not doing so.
It’s into this context that Knix’s kid-sister line Knixteen arrives with its new Bra Boss collection. The idea behind it is so simple, we’re kind of surprised no one’s done it before: Put out a survey asking teens what they most want in a bra, use survey results and the input of trusted teen influencers to design said bra. Ask for your customers' demands, and then create the supply to meet them.
The response was immediate and overwhelming. In just one month, the survey, distributed via email to Knixteen customers and the influencers’ Instagram accounts, collected over 140,000 data points on fit, fabric, and style from 38,000 young women. Seventy percent of respondents were age 13 to 16, and 24% were 17 to 22. The results were sometimes unexpected. For example: Despite all the hype surrounding bralettes, that style was preferred by only 13% of respondents, versus 77% of girls who like wearing what Knix calls an everyday bra (i.e., one that’s not a bralette or athletic wear), or a sports bra best. Two-thirds said they like padded bras, versus just 15% who preferred no padding. And, teens these days are totally cool with logos — 53% prefer them on their bras.
Armed with this info, Knixteen created five bras made to American teenagers’ specifications, the first two of which are available today, September 18, with additional styles rolling out each month through December. We spoke with the five almost-intimidatingly impressive Knixteen style curators about what teens want in a bra, how they made pieces to fit the bill, and why teenagers should have a say in what their undergarments look and feel like. The takeaway? We're glad these bras aren't just for teens.
The first two styles were made in collaboration with Mo’ne Davis, the extraordinary athlete who came to national prominence after pitching a shutout game in the Little League World Series in 2014 (the first ever by a girl, by the way), and Jazz Jennings, star of the TLC reality show I Am Jazz, and an outspoken advocate for trans youth.
For Mo’ne, the sports bra she helped create was all about her needs as an athlete who plays soccer, softball, and basketball in addition to being a senior in high school. “I wear sports bras all the time because I don’t have time to switch between school and sports,” Mo’ne says.
The Mo’ne Bra is made of a four-way stretch, moisture-wicking fabric, while the mesh back allows greater breathability — and was also a trend that survey respondents loved.
“I wanted to make a bra that works for me, so I know it’ll work for other girls with active lives,” Mo’ne says. Mo’ne describes herself as a tomboy, so I asked her why she chose to make her bra pink, and she smiles. “I play on an all-boys team, so I wear a pink baseball glove to show that I’m a girl. I wanted the sports bra to match that, to show girls you can be an athlete and still be girly if you want.”
Jazz Jennings’ bra will also debut September 18th. It’s a lightly lined, everyday bra featuring a scalloped neckline and multi-colored, tie-dye effect fabric — a motif Jazz says is inspired by her lifelong love of mermaids. She says she wanted her bra to be two things: comfortable and supportive: “I always feel like you have to choose one or the other, comfort or support. We made this with no underwire, so it’s soft and flexible, but it really supports and lifts me up. As a bigger-busted woman, I need both!”
Deeper concepts of support and comfort came up when Jazz spoke about her advocacy for herself and other LGBTQ youth. “I have a supportive family, where I was always allowed to be my authentic self. I want my show to provide an example for other families with trans kids. I want everyone to feel comfortable with what they’re wearing, and comfortable with who they are — physical and emotional comfort, all the way.”
All bras will be released in sizes small through large, and while that’s not as extensive as some brands (including Knix’s adult line), a company spokesperson reports that each bra will fit up to a size 38 band, and an E cup. The line’s sizing was influenced by survey results, too. The majority of survey respondents said they weren’t sure of their band and cup size, and preferred simpler sizing, which is perhaps not that surprising when you consider many teens are new to bra shopping (and wearing), not to mention constantly growing.
While the Knixteen survey did not ask what young women would be willing to spend on their bras, each style in the collection will retail for between $35 and $45. This is roughly in line with prices at other popular youth-focused brands, like Victoria’s Secret PINK, where most bras retail for between $29 and $39. At Aerie, prices start around $25 for bralettes, up to $50 for T-shirt bras.
Pricing was important to Bailee Madison, star of the series The Good Witch and author of the young adult thriller Losing Brave. “The young girls who follow me don’t have endless budgets,” she tells InStyle. “They want to spend carefully and buy things that truly work for them — so I have to actually love and believe in something before I promote it.”
Her Bailee Bra, debuting later this fall, is completely seamless, made of smooth, lightly lined fabric, and was inspired by her own long days. “I’m on set 24/7 and I had yet to find a bra I loved, which seems crazy — why haven’t people figured this out yet? I told Knixteen, ‘I need a bra that feels like a wonderful hug of support.’ It’s the first thing you put on your body, the last thing you take off — you should be excited to put it on; it should make you feel beautiful, confident, and supported.”
To that end, her bra style will also include a secret message: The words “It’s All You” are inscribed on the inside of each one. “I chose that because this bra isn’t about a ton of padding, or changing your natural shape. And this collection is about supporting and celebrating girls who are doing amazing things in the world. That’s the epitome of girl power to me.”
Another thing teen girls value is a bra that adjusts to fit their bodies. The Fiona Bra was designed with the input of Fiona Frills, a 14 year-old YouTuber with nearly 700,000 subscribers, and her own makeup line. She excitedly described her bra’s adjustable straps, which can be worn straight or criss-crossed; and she pointed out the presence of four hook-and-eye closures in back to accommodate growing bodies. For her, comfort is the biggest complaint when it comes to finding the right bra.
“The struggle is real!” she says, laughing. “With most bras, something’s uncomfortable, something doesn’t fit right, or it has a ton of padding and push-ups. That’s not what me and my friends are into. We want a great, everyday bra that makes you feel cute, comfortable, and confident.”
Jessica Universe, a 17-year-old Instagrammer and YouTuber known for her funny, relatable beauty reviews, took the preference for customization one step further. Her Jessica Bra, which debuts in November, features a deep-V neckline — the favorite of survey respondents — silver- or gold-trimmed straps, and adjustable star stickers that she says are “almost like a statement pasty, but without showing any skin since the bra is opaque.” It was important to Jessica that the stickers be adjustable, because, as she points out, “not everyone’s nipples are in the same place! And my goal was to create a bra everyone feels cute in, not to make anyone feel bad about their body.”
Unlike when I was growing up, and teenage girls were poking and prodding themselves into Wonderbras that aggressively separated and lifted our boobs to approximately chin-height, the young women of today have a way chiller approach to underwear. It’s not about looking “sexy,” by anyone else's standards, but about being the most confident version of yourself. They don’t want or need bras that change their shape, but they do overwhelmingly expect comfort, support, inclusiveness, and body-positivity from their undergarments.
I follow many of the girls interviewed here on social media, and told Fiona that I’d particularly enjoyed a recent video in which she hilariously reviewed several bodysuits and spoke very frankly about their comfort (or lack thereof). “I’m so glad you liked it,” she said sunnily. “I always try to be real and authentic. Who wants to be perfect, anyway?”
If that’s the vibe among young women these days — I’m pretty much ready for them to take over.