If the Met Gala was any indication, conical busts and bullet bras are making a strong comeback. Here, we trace the history of the silhouette — how it’s changed over time and how to style it in 2024.

Bullet Bras, Twisted Tops, and Conical Busts: Styling 2024’s Playful Silhouettes

If the Met Gala was any indication, conical busts and bullet bras are making a strong comeback. Here, we trace the history of the silhouette — how it’s changed over time and how to style it in 2024.
June 01, 2024
article by Mari Alexander/

photography by Mari Alexander

I distinctly remember watching Vaquera’s spring-summer 2023 runway show. When the looks came out, I audibly gasped. My mouth watered.

Mercurial, edgy, and avant-garde, the New York-based brand showcased soy-sauce stained, acid-washed jeans, voluminous dresses with oversized lapels, fringed leather jackets, and a deconstructed, safety-pinned wedding dress. All incredibly playful and scrumptiously ingenious. But there was a distinct silhouette that hogged my attention throughout the show. Underneath a cropped denim jacket (and then again, later in the show), I saw a — gasp — bullet bra.

That’s right. The pointy-cup cone bra was back in its full Madonna-esque glory. Not surprising, given that designers always mine the past in pursuit of hot ideas, and it was only a matter of time until the bullet bra would get its moment in the limelight for the second — no, third — time. Yes, French designer Jean Paul Gaultier might’ve been the one to put the singer in a bullet bra, but the garment has other historical antecedents that predate the 1990 Blond Ambition tour.

I got curious.

AboveEven now, decades later, Jean Paul Gaultier continues to build on the iconic silhouette worn by Madonna, whose image is practically synonymous with it.

From Bandeaus to Bullet Bras

My research took me through the evolution of brassiere-like garments, from the constraining corsets of the 19th century to the bandeau-style bras flappers wore to flatten their chests in rebellion against the older generation’s ideals of femininity. It wasn’t until during the second world war that we began to see the bullet-bra silhouette develop. As millions of women began taking physically demanding wartime jobs in factories and shipyards, padded torpedo-style bras were invented to offer them greater protection at work. 

Even after the war drew to an end, the look just stuck around. “After the second world war, you see the resurgence of femininity after the austerity,” said Eleri Lynn, author of the Victoria and Albert Museum book Underwear: Fashion in Detail in a video published by the museum. “In the 1950s, particularly the mid-50s, three out of every four women were wearing falsies, which are essentially foam cones at the front of the cup, and basically, that’s to create that really kind of bullet-bra shape — that really pointy, conical shape that you see in old films.”

On the leftThere’s something so inherently retro about this iconic conical design, despite it being worn throughout the ages — by everyone from Marilyn Monroe to Madonna and Julia Fox.

Post-Madonna Era

We saw conical busts reintroduced in the 1980s and 90s — thanks in large part to Jean Paul Gaultier, who had a penchant for weaving in provocative, unconventional details in his designs. Madonna, as we know, was its most famous adopter. “When Madonna first called me in 1989, it was two days before my ready-to-wear show, and I thought my assistant was joking,” Jean Paul told the New York Times in a 2001 interview. “I was a big fan. She knew what she wanted — a pinstripe suit, the feminine corsetry. Madonna likes my clothes because they combine the masculine and the feminine.” 

Post Jean Paul’s revival, throughout the 2000s, conical silhouettes appeared in spurts. Brands like Schiaparelli, Christopher John Rogers, and even Stella McCartney put a distinct focus on the breasts with pointy-busted looks. A few years ago, Vaquera’s co-founders Patric DiCaprio and Bryn Taubensee introduced heavily padded bullet bras to its loyal fans. Along with these retro-inspired shapes, Vaquera also showcased another playful style, the “titty twister” top — a watered-down riff on the bullet bra. 

Earlier this year, we also saw Simone Rocha reimagine the cone bra in the shape of rose thorns in her couture collection for Jean Paul Gaultier. But perhaps no other event saw the resurgence of the look more than this year’s Met Gala, where several celebrities — from Kylie Jenner to Charli XCX — donned gowns with noticeable pointy cups. Vaquera, unsurprisingly, was well-represented by American model Paloma Elsesser, who wore a pale pink satin minidress with an exaggerated torpedo bust at the after-party. She looked incredible, and so, I was instantly inspired to put together my own (a little more wearable) version of the trend.

Wearing The Trend

And that brings me to my looks. First seen on the runway for the spring-summer 2024 season, this dress reinforced the brand’s “titty twister” style, which was most likely inspired by Vivienne Westwood’s “nippled” t-shirts from the 1980s. (In fact, Vivienne Westwood, too, showcased underwear as outerwear, with bras worn on top of shirts.) The two bobble knots of fabric on the bust accentuates my chest in a way that’s fun but not outrageous. OK, not too outrageous. It’s just edgy enough to catch some eyeballs and maybe even make a few people smile. A handful of compliments were even doled out when I took this number out for a spin at my favorite museum in the city.

On the rightNamed after a school prank, the “titty twister” design is featured in many of Vaquera’s garments — from t-shirts to dresses to tanks.

What’s more, the micro ribbed modal is extremely breezy for warm-weather season, and the sash around the hip makes it easy to style in several different ways. You can wear it low, tie it high, or leave it completely undone. I let the dress do most of the work here; there was no need for any over-the-top accessorizing. An edgy bag from Georgia-based label Reverie and a simple pair of slip-on heeled sandals did the trick. 

For my second look, I went with a Jean Paul Gaultier bodysuit — a slightly more subdued version of the iconic style Madonna rocked on her Blond Ambition tour in the ’90s. Though the cups are padded, they don’t jut out quite as much as the singer’s, making it a little more acceptable for fashionable nights out. Now, onto the deets. If you’re ready to bust out the bullet bra at your next outing or give the “titty twister” trend a whirl, I put together all of the shoppable items from my looks below.