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The Ultimate Bra Guide

2nd August 2016

It seems that bras have gotten a lot more complicated and varied over the years, leaving some of us in the dust.

For example, how many bra styles do you think there are? 5? 7? Try closer to 26!

That's how many we're listed here, complete with explanations, so you can find the right style for you.

Your Handy Bra Guide

Balconette

Most of the support for this bra comes from its wider band. The majority of balconettes, also known as balcony bras, are underwired for added support. The style of the balconette bra puts more emphasis on the breasts being pushed up from below and so creates a more rounded shape.

Bandeau

This style of bra has no discernible cups and has no straps. Instead, the support comes from the material being stretched around the torso, holding the breasts in place. Bandeau bras are usually made from flexible materials such as viscose, cotton blends, spandex and nylon, and can be worn as outer clothing or bikinis.

Bralette

This bra is designed to cover rather than support and is often worn as outer clothing, particularly in the festival scene. They are very decorative and often feature patterned fabrics, lace trim and bright colours. They are usually marketed at smaller breasted women who don’t need as much support.

Built-In

Some clothing, particularly wedding dresses and chemises, are made with built-in bras. These are typically cups that have been sew into the clothing material to provide support to the bust. They may also have a band feature that clips together when wearing the item of clothing if additional support is needed.

Corset

Also called a Bustier, this is a bra with an additional section that covers the abdomen as well as the bust. As well as the cups, support also comes from boning within the corset which lifts the bust from below. Bustiers can also be worn as outer clothing if made from the right materials.

Front Clasp

A front clasp bra is simply a bra that has the fastening at the front instead of the back. You might choose this bra if you have limited mobility or reduced flexibility in your arms, or if you are wearing a top that has a low back and you only want the band of your bra, and not the clasp, to show.

Full Cup

The most common style of bra is the Full Cup. These have a bra cup that covers the whole breast and is supported by a band and straps.  They come in many forms, such as padded or plunge, and are especially good for women with larger busts who want to have complete support.

Halter Neck

Inside of running straight down each shoulder, the straps of a halter neck bra meet behind the neck instead, forming one single strap. These are the most popular choice for halter neck tops and dresses, or if you are trying to avoid tan lines during the summer.

Low Back

The band of the bra wraps around your torso, meaning it sits much lower on your back and can be worn with backless or low back dresses. You can buy accessories that transform normal bras into low back bras by attaching longer straps to the band hooks and wrapping them around your torso in the same way.

Mastectomy

These bras are made with special pouches inside each cup to hold breast inserts. They are used when a woman has undergone reconstructive surgery or has had a mastectomy. There are options for both cups to include inserts for double mastectomies, or just one cup to balance out the natural look after surgery.

Maternity

Also known as Nursing Bras, these are designed especially for women who are breastfeeding, are pregnant or who are recently given birth. During and after pregnancy a woman’s breasts may be more sensitive and prone to lactating and so maternity bras come with absorbent padding and extra soft lining.

Moulded Cup

Moulded cup bras are designed to be seamless, smooth, and can be worn under even the thinnest clothing without showing through. They give a rounded and smoother shape to your breasts and will sometimes come with additional light padding in order to prevent the nipples showing through.

Multiway

Multiway Bras allow you to wear them in different ways depending on your look. By changing the adjustable straps, you can create halter neck styles, cross over straps, or remove them completely to make the bra strapless.

Padded

The cups of padded bras have inserts, usually made of foam, which give extra shape to your bra. Not only does this make the breasts appear fuller and rounder, but it also helps to lift up your bust.

Plunge

Features a very low V-shape between each cup of the bra so it doesn’t show up when wearing low cut or sweetheart necklines. This style of bra pushes the breasts up and closer together, making it one of the most popular style of bra for women who want more pronounced cleavage.

Push Up

This type of bra lifts and separates your breasts to give them a more upright, or 'pert', appearance. This is achieved both by the ample padding of the bra, and the way it has been constructed, bringing each cup upwards without pushing them together.

Racerback

The straps are angled together in the middle of your back, instead of running straight down your shoulders. Sports bras often have racerbacks as it provides the support you require without putting additional pressure on the shoulder muscles.

Self-Adhesive

These ‘bras’ only feature the cups and no band. The cups, which are usually padded, stick to the skin with adhesive and support your bust without straps. They are popular as a fashion accessory as they can be worn with strapless and backless dresses and tops.

Sheer

A sheer bra is simply a bra made from sheer materials such as lace or mesh. The intent is that you can see the nipples through them. These are designed more for show, than to provide any real support, although you can find underwired varieties if you prefer.

Shelf

Also known as a Demi Bra or Half-Cup Bra, these bras have a smaller cup that only comes about halfway up each breast. Typically, these bras are worn with low cut tops when a normal bra cup might be visible and have a slight inwards tilt to push the breasts up and in.

Sports

Designed specifically for active wearers to support and control the movement of your breasts, sports bras are made from very flexible materials such as nylon or lycra. They sometimes have mesh insets built in to allow ventilation and hare typically non-wired for comfort.

Strapless

Strapless bras include only the band and cups, with no straps. They can be underwired, padded or neither of these. Many varieties of strapless bras come with removable straps included so you can revert it to a normal bra when you choose.

Training

These bras are specifically designed for young women and teenagers who are looking to start wearing bras for the first time. They are smaller than normal size bras to get young girls used to the feeling of wearing a bra every day and only typically have light or no padding at all

Triangle

Instead of having rounded cups, this style of bra has triangle shapes instead which taper up into the straps. They are often non-padded and non-wired and are typically made from lace; designed to be more fashionable than functional.

T-Shirt

Very similar to moulded cup bras, these bras are designed to look as smooth and seamless as possible so they don’t show up through clothing. They also tend to be very plain and have neutral colours so that they won’t show up through lighter clothing.

Underwired

Simply put, this is a bra that features a piece of stiff material running under each cup. This provides additional support to the bust and give a rounded shape underneath. In the past, the ‘wire’ was made from metal but nowadays can also be made from plastic or resin.

 

© Copyright Claire Woodall 2017