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What is a Bandeau?

By Sheri Cyprus
Updated May 21, 2024
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A bandeau is a strapless garment that usually sits as a straight line of fabric under the arms and around the body. Sometimes, thin ties to tie around the neck in a halter fashion are added to the middle of clothing made in this look, but thick straps aren't in keeping with the classic style of bandeaux. Bandeaux is French for "strips" or "bands." Bandeaux often bare the midriff or stomach area, such as in a bra undergarment or bikini swimsuit top. The basic look of a bandeau is a shorter version of the tube top.

Bandeaux top designs may also be lengthened to created a strapless style of dress. The look of a short bandeau dress is similar to a towel wrapped around the body, as these dresses also fit right near the underarms. Of course, beautiful fabric and embellishments can create wonderful strapless dresses that look nothing like towels. For example, bandeau topped wedding dresses may feature lace or other fabrics, such as satin.

While many bandeaux are completely straight on both edges like an elastic band, either edge may be scalloped or dipped upwards or downwards to create a more interesting line. A tied bow or other embellishment may be added to the center of a bandeau garment such as on a dress, top, or swimsuit. Many swimsuit bandeaux have a plastic, wood, or metal ring in the middle of the band. Very narrow halter ties made to fasten at the back of the neck may be included on the ring.

Since bandeau-style tops and dresses bare the collarbone, neck, arms, and shoulders, they draw the eye to these areas and create a wide shoulder line. For this reason, bandeaux are not the most flattering for wide-shouldered figure types. The bandeau is ideal for pear shaped figures, however, in which the width of the bust is smaller than that of the hips. Bandeaux help create the illusion of balance. Hourglass body types in which the bust and hips are similar in width also tend to be flattered by bandeaux.

Bandeaux bra styles are worn underneath bandeau clothing. These are best for smaller busts, due to the lack of straps as this decreases the bra's level of support. A bandeau bra may be worn with any type of sleeveless top or dress.

In addition to clothing, bandeaux can also refer to hair bands. These are usually made of stretchy fabric that is quite wide. A bandeaux hair band style fits underneath the hair at the nape, or back, of the neck and shows beside the ears as well as on top of the head. These wide headband or hair band styles are often worn with school uniforms by girls in private schools.

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