Bralettes aren't for everyone.
Some of us need a little bit more (ahem) support.
Simplicity is key to keeping manufacturing costs low, fair, + local. Simplicity must be considered in regards to the design, the number of pieces to be cut and assembled, and the technical skill required. Much of what we see in the fair arena veers toward pieces without zippers or even buttons. Silhouettes are loose to fit as many shapes as possible. Fit is vague. Many of us see these looks as pleasing, but it is undeniable that this unfitted "ease" both in wearing and in manufacture is part of the movement. A boxy top can fit a variety of women and requires a smaller number of sizes to be made. A bathrobe cum stylish-cardigan-jacket-thingy requires less technical sewing by doing away with darts, set in sleeves, facings, collars, buttons, and button holes. Smaller businesses need to employ these tactics in order to stay afloat in a market where larger companies are ordering larger numbers of items to stock multiple locations...like mall stores...and thus getting volume discounts.
When it comes to intimates, panties are made of a relatively small number of pieces and can be made to stretch in order to fit a number of sizes...so we can find fair panties. Bras are complicated beings with substantial expectations for fit. When small fair brands make bras, they often end up being bralettes, because bralettes are simpler to make...no closures, minimal cup shaping, no underwire. Unfortunately, these simplifications result in relatively little support for those of us in need of a bit. My first attempt at finding fair intimates focused mostly on the bottom half, because that was what I was in need of + it was much easier to find. Since then I've received a couple mentions of a desire for a little more investigation (and you know I love that!), so here goes. The brands listed here are not necessarily small ones, but they are making some positive choices.
Fortnight :: made in-house by women in Toronto, Canada :: small business
Land of Women :: made in New York :: small women-owned business
Hanro :: designed in Switzerland + made in Portugal :: timeless classics made from natural materials + built to last
Anita :: Anita owns all of their production facilities + operates them "in accordance with the highest standards"
Only Hearts :: made in New York City :: narrow selection of sizes
La Perla :: made in Italy
Cosabella :: made in Italy
Wacoal :: made in the USA + imported :: I can't really get behind that description, but this is the bra that I own right now (x3). I like its minimal appearance + comfy, supportive fit. It is made from a minimal amount of cotton + not too much else. I've had mine for more than two years. They have retained all of their support + shape and don't really show much sign of wear.
(A bunch of these are available at Zappos. This could be a way to try some on for size with shipping covered.)
To prolong the lifespan of my bras, I hand wash them in cold water + hang them dry over a plastic hanger in the shower.
If you are looking for fair sports bras, take a look at the fair athletic wear post. I added a couple that I found (Onzie + Beyond Yoga) during this search. For some lovely bralettes + other intimates, check the fair intimates post.
all photos via links.