Can You Wear a Bra as a Bikini Top? What You Should Know

Imagine it’s a warm summer day and you find yourself in the perfect setting for a swim, only there’s one problem: you don’t have a bikini top. But you think to yourself, maybe you can wear a bra as a bikini top?

While it’s possible to wear some bras as a temporary alternative to a proper bikini top, you need to understand the differences between them and the situations where it could be appropriate.

Can You Wear a Bra as a Bikini Top

A bra and a bikini top have different properties that make them suitable for different situations. A bra is designed to provide support and shape, while a bikini top is made to withstand the effects of water, chlorine, and salt.

So, while you can get away with wearing a bra as a bikini top, it’s not recommended to make it a habit, as bras are not made from moisture-wicking fabrics that swimsuit tops are, and they do not have the same resistance to chlorine like bikinis do.

Now that you know you can, in some situations, wear a bra as a bikini top, let’s explore what makes a suitable bra for a swim and the things you should consider when making this decision. Remember, it should be a last resort, and it’s always better to have a proper swimsuit on hand.

Bra vs Bikini Top – Key Differences

Who Should Not Wear a Bikini

When considering whether to wear a bra as a bikini top, it’s important to understand the key differences between the two garments. In this section, we’ll explore the variations in material, support, closure, and resistance to sunscreen, sweat, and chlorine.


Bra materials are designed to absorb moisture and keep you dry, often using fabrics like linen and cotton. In contrast, bikini tops are made with water-resistant and stretchable materials, such as nylon and spandex, to withstand water exposure, allow greater freedom of movement, and dry quickly.


Both bras and bikini tops provide support for your breasts, but bras are specifically designed for everyday wear and may offer additional underwire, padding, or structure to ensure comfort and security throughout the day.

Bikini tops do not offer the same level of support since they are designed for occasional wear at the beach or pool, and salt or chlorine water would ruin any underwire and most padding.


You’ll often find different closure systems for bras and bikinis. While bras commonly feature hook-and-eye closures that are made of metal at the back, bikini tops might have ties, strings or clips that are adjustable and easier to maneuver when wet. Bikinis may have plastic hooks that won’t rust when exposed to water.

Resistance to Sunscreen, Sweat, and Chlorine

Bikini tops are specifically designed to be worn in environments that are exposed to sunscreen, sweat, and chlorine.

These factors can cause a regular bra to deteriorate over time due to the materials used. In contrast, bikini tops are manufactured to be more resistant to these factors, allowing them to maintain their shape and color for longer periods.

Understanding these differences will help you make an informed decision on whether wearing a bra as a bikini top is the right choice for your comfort, style, and the longevity of your garments.

Pros and Cons of Wearing a Bra as a Bikini Top

Can You Swim with a Sports Bra as a Bikini Top


There are a few advantages to wearing a bra as a bikini top. First, it can provide you with additional support and coverage, which can be especially helpful for those with larger breasts. This extra support can prevent your breasts from bouncing around or falling out of your swimsuit top.

Another benefit is that you may already have a bra in a style and color that you love, so you won’t need to spend extra money on a new bikini top. Additionally, a bra with a unique design or pattern can give your beach look a personal touch.


However, there are many downsides to wearing a bra as a bikini top. One major concern is that bras are not designed for swimming, and their materials will rapidly deteriorate when exposed to water, especially saltwater and chlorinated water. Chemicals in the pool will drastically reduce the lifespan of your bra.

Bras also do not dry as quickly as swimsuit tops, which can make you feel uncomfortable and cause irritation to your skin. Some bras may also become see-through when wet or lead to chafing.

Finally, keep in mind that many swimsuits already have built-in bras or support structures, so you are not necessarily getting better support for your bust but you are potentially ruining your bra.

Many of these negative effects on your bra can be avoided if all you’re doing is wearing the bra at the beach or poolside and not actually going into the water (though sand, salt, sunscreen, and UV exposure can still damage it). But then you’re missing out on all the action which is a massive downside.

Choosing the Right Bra for Swim Use

Wearing a bra as a bikini top can be a convenient option, but it is essential to choose the right kind of bra for this purpose. There are a few factors to consider, including fabric selection, support level, and style and coverage.

Fabric Selection

The first thing to consider when choosing a bra to wear as a bikini top is the fabric. As mentioned, regular bras are typically not designed to withstand exposure to chlorine or saltwater, and the fabric may deteriorate quickly when used for swimming.

To ensure durability and comfort, look for bras made with moisture-wicking and quick-drying fabrics, similar to those used in swimsuits. That means fabrics with a blend of polyester, nylon, or spandex. This will help your bra maintain its shape and appearance when worn in water.

Support Level

Swimwear often tends to be more revealing and requires more support than regular bras. The right support level will depend on your personal preferences and needs. If you have a larger bust, consider molded cups for additional lift and support. There are also sports bras with a high level of support, suitable for various water activities.

Styles & Coverage

Realistically, your best bet are sports bras that can be worn as bikini tops, and your choice will depend on your desired look and level of coverage. Some popular styles include:

  • Bandeau Bras: Offering a strapless look with even coverage, bandeau bras can be a stylish option for the beach or pool.
  • Racerback Bras: Racerback styles provide additional support, making them suitable for water activities and sports.
  • Bralette: Bralettes can offer a casual, minimalist look with less structure while still providing some support and coverage.
  • Longline Bras: These bras feature a wider band extending past the cups, offering more coverage and sometimes creating the appearance of a crop top.

When choosing a bra to wear as a swimsuit top, experiment with various styles, and prioritize comfort, support needs, and desired coverage. Once you’ve found a sports bra you’re happy with, you can confidently flaunt your style and enjoy your time in the water.

How to Care for a Bra Used as a Bikini Top

So, you’ve decided to wear a bra as a bikini top, and now you’re wondering how to best care for it. No problem! We have a few tips to help ensure that your bra stands up to sun, sand, and water.

Washing & Drying

bras on a clothesline
Don’t do this.

First things first: you’ll need to wash your bra after swimming. Sunscreens, salt water, and chlorine can wear down the fabric, so it’s important to rinse it out immediately after swimming.

Handwashing is the most gentle method, and all you need is a mild detergent and cold water. Gently agitate the water and let your bra soak for a few minutes, then rinse it thoroughly to remove any remaining soap.

Never wring or twist your bra, as it can damage the underwire and stretch the fabric. Instead, gently press the excess water out.

After washing, lay your bra flat on a clean, dry towel and reshape the cups. Fold the towel over the bra and gently press to remove more excess water.

Finally, lay it flat on another dry towel or drying rack to air dry. Avoid hanging it or exposing it to direct sunlight, as it can damage the elastic and cause fading.


Proper storage is key to maintaining the shape and longevity of your bra when used as a bikini top.

Avoid folding or crumpling the cups — instead, store your bras one behind the other in a drawer with enough space for them to retain their shape. If you have molded cups or bras with padding, you can nest them within each other to save space and protect the shape.

A well-cared-for bra will maintain its support and shape for a longer time, helping you make the most of your decision to wear it as a bikini top. Just follow these washing, drying, and storage tips, and you’re all set!

What Types of Bras You Can’t Wear as a Bikini Top

black and white bra shopping for a bra

While some bras may work as bikini tops, there are certain types you should avoid when considering wearing a bra instead of a conventional bikini top. Remember, swimsuit material is designed to hold up well in water and dry quickly, while bras typically don’t.

Firstly, steer clear of bras made with moisture-absorbing fabrics such as cotton, linen, silk, lace, and satin. These fabrics are likely to become heavy, saggy, or see-through when wet, which can make you uncomfortable and less confident at the beach or poolside.

Unlike swimwear materials, bras that feature these fabrics will not dry quickly and might become damaged with prolonged exposure to water, chlorine, or salt.

Additionally, avoid underwire and push-up bras as bikini tops. Underwire bras, when wet, can become uncomfortable, and the underwires might rust or deteriorate after repeated exposure to water. Push-up bras can also lose their shape and volume when soaked, leading to an unflattering appearance.

To simplify, here are the types of bras to avoid using as bikini tops:

  • Moisture-absorbing fabric bras (cotton, linen, silk, lace, satin)
  • Underwire bras
  • Push-up bras

When choosing a bra to wear as a bikini top, look for moisture-resistant materials like nylon and spandex, which are more suited for aquatic activities.

Sports bras are a popular option, as they often feature quick-drying materials and provide adequate support while swimming or lounging by the water.

The Verdict

Wearing a bra as a bikini top is possible in certain situations, but it is still not optimal. To make the best choice, consider the following tips:

  • Avoid bras with lace or underwires, as they might be uncomfortable and easily damaged in water.
  • Opt for a bra made from a blend of materials, rather than cotton, as it will be less likely to soak up water and become cumbersome.
  • Explore bra-sized swim tops, which provide support like a bra but utilize beach-friendly fabrics.

Ultimately, your comfort and personal style preferences should guide your decision. While wearing a bra as a bikini top may not be the most ideal option for frequent swimming or sunbathing, it can serve as a suitable alternative in certain situations.

Just remember to keep the limitations of regular bras in mind and opt for an actual bikini top when your beach or poolside activities call for it.