I’m a 32DD, so I have some serious chest to contend with on such a tiny frame. I can’t always relate to most binder reviews because they’re written by *ugh* lucky people with small chests…
I’ve tried a bunch of different types, which unfortunately can be expensive but then again I’ve spent wayyy more money on bras over the years. So after months of trying different binders, I thought I’d put all the money I’d spent to good use, and write a very comprehensive review of all the ones I’ve worn, specifically for larger-chested folk.
What I’ve found is generally this: if you’re large-chested don’t go for asian companies (Amazon/eBay binders; also T-Kingdom has a reputation for making dangerously non-stretchy binders). I didn’t love the ones I got on Les Loveboat either; they are supposedly good for larger chested people but I personally have had no luck there, and it’s too expensive. GC2B and Underworks are consistently good for bigger-chested people.
In order to get a sense of why I bind, what I look for in a binder, and what I use them for, I’ll give you a brief summary of my gender identity/expression and lifestyle, because not all binders work for all chest-obscuring people:
- I’m a genderqueer androgynous female who is ambivalent about pronouns and uncomfortable having a visible female chest.
- I want a binder to be comfortable and low-maintenance so I’m not constantly thinking about it.
- Some binders (BE CAREFUL WITH THIS ONE) I actually can work out in, as long as they don’t hurt or restrict my breathing. I find they minimize movement well, and when I run in them I feel like a guy cuz my chest isn’t whipping around like a swingset at recess. So if I can find one I can wear for sports, it’s like, the holy grail.
- Lastly, I don’t typically look for full-length binders because I get hot easily and anyways I don’t think these hips would look much different. I also hear they roll up. And I’d rather it feel like a sports bra than a girdle. Besides, isn’t it hard to eat when your stomach is compressed? I mean where will I fit my pizza?? These are serious concerns.
Here are all the things, ranked in decreasing order of preference. I took photos in a shirt that isn’t best for concealing anything, so you can really see the differences; also to show how high the neck comes up on some of these (hem hem, Les Love Boat velcro binder).
- The GC2B short binder (Medium): Just got this today. As soon as I put it on I was like, “Ehrmehgehrddd I want to order 5 million more of these!!” I’m currently wearing it and it’s amazing. It was easy to put on so I thought it’d be too loose, but somehow the cut/shape is exactly right. It flattens well, and though some flab sticks out of the armholes (but less than every other fucking binder), I don’t get a uniboob or cleavage out of the top or spillage from the bottom. My chest stays up. Things just look right. And for you larger-chested gents, ladies, gender-anarchists, and otherwise-identified folks, you know how rare that is.What makes the company so special is that they are a spinoff of GC2 Compression, a sportswear company with a genderqueer employee who was using their compression shirts to bind. They put said genderqueer employee in charge of GC2B binders and are now making two really quality (affordable) binder styles specifically for transmasculine folk. Baller.I don’t know if this is intentional, but they only come in white, gray, black, red, and navy, which don’t match anyone’s skin tone any better than any other person’s; so on the one hand, there are no skin toned ones (yet), but on the other hand, nobody gets the privilege of finding a binder to match their skin more than anyone else. Besides, I don’t know about you but the white/gray/black feel less like underwear and more like compressionwear than skin-colored tops, so I find them preferable.
It’s also worth noting that the material is a synthetic spandex-y material, so shirts don’t stick to it. It’s breathable.
Another detail of note: it can totally pass for a sports bra without a racer-back, so if discreteness is key (parents and locker rooms and stuff) this looks reasonably sports-undergarment-like. Oh yeah and it doesn’t show at all through t-shirts, the seams lie flat and everything.
I’m right in between sizes for S and M, so I ordered the medium, but I’d probably go for a small next time. Speaking of sizing, theirs is very inclusive: they have XXS through 5XL.
- Comfort: 5
- Fit: 4.5 (just a lil bit not tight enough)
- Quality: 5
- Look/flatness: 4-4.5 (sizing down in between sizes might flatten a tad better, but the shape is great)
- Cost: 4 (for $30 I think this is the best you can do)
- Fate: Keeping it! Using for daily wear, but also will definitely be using for rock climbing. May not be tight enough for running.
- The Underworks Tri-Top (Medium): The gin martini of binders. The classic. This baby gets the job done. One layer of industrial grade nylon/spandex in the back for stretch; three in the front for flatness. Before this I’d been binding with item 3 on this list, but as soon as I put this one on I was sold.It stretched out with time, and lately I’ve been wearing it climbing and running. I think I could size down, although putting it on used to be a feat of strength and flexibility like no man has ever achieved! It was epic, it was heroic, it was a battle of Homer-ian proporions. Maybe I have weirdly shaped shoulders or something.Things I didn’t like: it gets sweaty when it’s hot out; no absorbant or wicking properties.
Also unlike the GC2B binder, the front just below the collar tends to fold in and stick out when I move my arms forward; I modified it by cutting the neckline into more of a v-shape in front. Seriously you can cut this bad boy up all you want; it will not fray!
Another concern: the infamous rolling of the bottom… I fold mine up and it works great, but it can be visible under tighter/lighter/whiter shirts. (the GC2B one doesn’t do this! just sayin!)
Also depending on what you’re doing, it requires “maintenance”: you may have to rearrange the chesticles every few hours. Again, most binders require some of this.
Again, I’m in between sizes (I’m between genders, sexualities, AND binder sizes apparently) so maaayyybeee some of these could be solved by going smaller. But this one was hard enough to put on, as it is. Besides, this one gave me very minor back pains for the first few months, so it would be unwise to size down. And it chafes around the arms.
- Comfort: 3.5-4 (minus points for lack of breathability, chafing, tightness)
- Fit: 4.5 (minus for rolling and bunching and rearranging every couple hrs)
- Quality: 4 (I don’t love the material, although it makes modifications easy)
- Look/flatness: 5
- Cost: 4 ($30)
- Fate: Kept this one, with modifications. It’s my go-to.
- The Underworks Magicotton Concealer Sports and Binding Bra (Medium): This one has “bra” in the name, so it’s not the most gender-neutral item of clothing; if that bothers you, skip this one. Or you can call it a “brah” and keep reading.This was my first product with “binder” in the name; a stepping stone to full on binding; my training wheels. I got it because I thought it’d be a fun experiment to hide my boobs… and I suddenly felt lighter. I get way flatter in this than my regular bras or even sports bras, but it doesn’t flatten me out completely. The magicotton is nice on the skin and absorbent. It’s good for the summer, decent for sports (and is designed as such), and it fits well and is comfortable. It’s also good for lounging around the house. It does sometimes stick to t-shirts, and it does sometimes cause uniboob and underarm spillage, so don’t size down. Still though, a decently comfortable multipurpose thingie that’s great for sports. And it’s not as low-cut in the front as a typical sports bra.Also a discrete option, like a sports bra without the racer-back.
- Underworks 988: Cotton Concealer Tank (Small): This looks least undergarment-like and has some back support if you need that. It kind of feels like a hug.First off, the full-length cotton-blend outer layer is really soft. Secondly, it’s easier to pull on than the Tri-Top. It doesn’t have the bunching/folding issues of the Tri-top, since it’s a lower cut and has 2 layers front and back. But again, shirts stick/cling to the cotton. The lower cut can be a little… cleavage-y if things shift. I will likely shorten the straps by hand; I have to do this anyways with most of my tank tops. I have weirdly low shoulders I guess? Is that a thing?Anyways it works great and feels great and I could wear it as an undershirt .
- Les Loveboat Super Strength Short Velcro Binder (Medium): Eh. Yes it works, it gets pretty flat. But the neck comes up too high and is visible under crew neck shirts. The velcro makes a crinkly noise and can itch. It’s hard to reach in to adjust. However it comes up high enough under the arms to prevent spillage. It looks decent under clothing. But I wind up looking like I’m wearing a sports bra no matter what I do; something with the shape of it, I think the velcro makes it too “freeform” if that makes sense. Plus this was too expensive and not quite stretchy enough. And the crinkly noise bugs me.That being said, some people get great results with it. It costs more for a reason. The materials are nice and breathable and wicking and absorbant, the construction is good, and there’s plenty of velcro real-estate so no matter how much you wanna tighten it always can go tighter (for better or for worse). I think I’m doing something wrong, because my shape is a little too round, even after rearranging; but it’s a flat round, so under some shirts it looks great.
- Comfort: 4
- Fit: 4
- Quality: 5
- Look/flatness: 3.5
- Cost: 1 ($57)
- Fate: Donating. I’ve tried it a few times, and every time I wind up swapping it out for the tri-top. I’ve only worn it out a handful of times. The picture doesn’t adequately capture the shape; maybe I’m overly sensitive but it feels really round when I do wear it.
- Les Loveboat Sports Pullover Short binder (large) : Thought this would be good for doing the sportstimes! I thought wrong. It extends downwards enough, but weirdly shaped armholes lead to half my chest spilling over to the sides, and if I wear this under a shirt the scooped neckline seam shows, so I might as well be wearing a sports bra or camisole. I guess it flattens and the material is nice, and it doesn’t create a uniboob. Maybe for someone with a smaller chest it’d be nice. But gawd, this was AWFUL. However, if it happens to work for you, it’s the most discrete of all the options listed here.
- Comfort: 5
- Fit: 1
- Quality: 5
- Look/flatness: 3
- Cost: 2 ($45)
- Fate: Gave to a friend who also hated it. Might ask him for it back to put in my pile of donations. Unfortunately I don’t have a picture of this hot mess.
- WHATWEARS Les GL Lesbian Chest Binder Flat Long Vest (XLarge): Bottom of the barrel. First off, too many words in the product title! (Big pet peeve… also what does GL stand for? Giant Lesbian? ‘Gina Lovers? ALSO why only lesbians; what about transmasculine folk?) Secondly, the straps were too narrow for it to look like a men’s tank top; it just looked like an ill-fitting women’s tank. Thirdly, OFF LIMITS for big chests! If you’re a C cup maybe it’d work, but these poor babies were spilling over up and out, down and out, up and in, all around. Required way too much fiddling… and even then I wasn’t flat. I sized up 2 sizes like they said, but I was on the smallest set of hooks; not great IMO. But had I gotten a smaller size though, there’d be even more spillage than Deep Water Horizon. (too soon?)That being said, I didn’t hate everything. It got me flat. It was cheap. The construction is a loose outer tank top with an inner stretchy band with hook-and-loop clasps (same things that hold together a bra, only like 10 of em in a row). Hook and loop is way better than velcro. The loose outer tank top is made out of a comfortable synthetic material. Definitely, definitely not the worst binder you could get off Amazon; unless you downsize too much it won’t restrict breathing. And if you prefer a quadriboob to a uniboob, you’re in good hands here.
Update 10/20/15: I always go back to the GC2B and the Underworks Magicotton. #3 might have replaced #2; tri top is still good for special events, but the Magicotton is so much better for, like, taking deep breaths. I’ve gotten rid of all the rest of the binders.