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What Is a Bullet Bra?

By G. Wiesen
Updated May 21, 2024
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A bullet bra is a type of women’s undergarment first worn and popularized in the 1940s and remained popular until the 1960s and 1970s. This garment takes its name from the conical shape of the cups made for this type or brassiere, which resemble the tips of bullets. These bras were especially popular during the pin-up era of the mid 20th century, and many models of that time were seen in these types of bras. While the bra ultimately lost popularity due to changing manufacturing techniques and fashion trends, there are still some fans of vintage lingerie who appreciate these garments.

Also called a torpedo or cone bra, a bullet bra is a particular style of brassiere designed to provide greater shape and support for a woman’s bust, prior to the use of underwire and padding in bras at the end of the 20th century. These bras were typically made from satin or nylon and usually consisted of several round pieces of fabric, sometimes connected by “spokes” that extended from the center of each cup outward. The name “bullet bra,” as well as “torpedo bra,” are both fairly indicative not only of the conical shape created by these garments, but also of the post-war mentality and nomenclature of the 1940s and 1950s.

Models and actresses of that time greatly popularized the bra, and the wearing of these brassieres beneath fairly tight sweaters led to a fashion style known as the “sweater girl” look. The shape of a woman’s bust while wearing this type of bra was often accentuated by wearing such a sweater, which created an attractive visual profile for the wearer. Actresses such as Marilyn Monroe and Lana Turner made these brassieres and the “sweater girl” look quite famous. Pin-up models of the 1940s and 1950s, such as Betty Paige, also often posed for calendars and lingerie photographs while wearing a bullet bra.

The bullet bra was ultimately a victim of changing technology and fashion, however, and largely went out of popularity in the 1960s. Underwire and padding were introduced to bras at that time, and though these were initially fairly uncomfortable, the support and shape provided by such garments were still desirable. In the late 1960s and 1970s, movements were made by many women toward abandoning brassieres completely or demanding more comfortable garments. The singer Madonna returned the bullet bra to the public eye in the 1990s, after which they remained a popular garment within a niche vintage lingerie market.

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Discussion Comments
By anon358161 — On Dec 09, 2013

The old time bullet bra really enhances the female figure. The lace up corset enhances the female figure. But here I am preaching to a generation that dyes their hair pink, pierces their tongues and noses and mutilates their ears with hideous plugs. There is no accounting for some people's tastes They have none!

If someone wants to look stupid with tattoos or piercings. then they can spend the rest of their lives looking that way, or pay a surgeon to correct them. A sharp, well dressed lady in a nice corset and bullet breasts? That is what gets me hot!

By anon333343 — On May 04, 2013

I actually have worn one and I have large breasts. Very pointy and ridiculous.

By sapphire12 — On Nov 07, 2011

I have a pretty large chest, and I feel like a bullet bra would probably just distract even me, let alone other people,and call too much attention to my chest.

I do wear push up bras, because I feel they keep me from sagging at all, but bullet bras are different- I think they separate the breasts too much and generally leave a really odd silhouette; when I see them on models in ads and things I feel like the woman's chest is actually trying to poke a person's eye out.

By JaneAir — On Nov 07, 2011

I've never seen a bullet bra for sale in person, but I have seen them for sale online in several different places. I was looking for a retro, pin-up style dress to wear to an event. I found one on a website that specializes in that kind of thing.

While I was on the website I decided to check out the lingerie section. I was considering going retro for my entire outfit! Anyway, they had a lot of cute stuff including some bullet bras. The bullet bras looked a bit modernized (definitely not as extreme as the kind Madonna favored) and they were actually pretty cute.

In the end, I decided not to purchase one. I had already gone a bit over my budge with my dress. But I was very tempted!

By KaBoom — On Nov 06, 2011

@manykitties2 - Sorry, but I'm pretty sure the whole point of lingerie is to be "skimpy." There's really no point in being so prudish over garments that are meant to be sexy and seductive.

Anyway, I'll take Victoria's Secret lingerie over a bullet bra any day of the week. Most of their bras are actually pretty comfortable, and they do sell other types of panties besides thongs.

I've never tried one, but bullet bras look pretty uncomfortable. It looks like they really distort the breast into a shape that just isn't natural. Plus, they don't look good!

By StarJo — On Nov 05, 2011

To me, the bullet bras of long ago were just too pointy. They made women look so unnatural. It reminds me of how a girl who stuffs her bra to appear larger winds up looking conspicuous.

I think that men probably liked this look because it brought out the breasts so much. You couldn't even look at a women who was wearing a bullet bra underneath her clothing without noticing her overly pointy chest.

These women might as well have drawn targets on their chests. That would not have been any less noticeable.

I, for one, am glad that these bras are not particularly popular at the moment. I greatly prefer those that smooth you over and don't draw attention to that area.

By Sara007 — On Nov 04, 2011

@manykitties2 - If I want to go for a sexy look I like a sheer bra that has the structure of the bullet bra. Mixing the two styles together can be a lot of fun.

Some of the old fashioned shelf bras are also a good way to amp up your cleavage. If you want to be really naughty, it is fun to wear the open tip bullet bras to give your lover a real surprise.

I honestly think that if we put men in panties, they wouldn't be so insistent on getting modern women into horrible thongs and showy half-cup bras. The vintage looks are just as sexy and offer a lot more in the way of comfort in my opinion.

By manykitties2 — On Nov 04, 2011

There is something really appealing about the old fashioned bullet bras, and not that scary, too-pointy thing Madonna popularized. I feel the traditional bullet bra from the 1950s really looked amazing with some satin panties and a garter belt. That classic pinup look has largely been lost today in favor of the skimpy lingerie that Victoria Secret models like to strut around in. It is too bad really, as the vintage corsets and bullet bras really do a lot for a woman's figure.

Does anyone have any favorite lingerie looks of the past that have fallen out of favor? I am always looking to try new things to vamp up my nighttime wardrobe.

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