Types of Bras

Bra Types and Terminology

There bras available for every occasion, from weddings and special occasions to pregnancy and sport. Whatever you are looking for in a bra, you are almost certain to find something that suits the occasion perfectly. Whether you want to enjoy a game of tennis or a flirtatious night out, the right bra is waiting for you!

Air bras

Air bras have small, sometimes removable, pockets of air in each cup which help to enhance the bust and cleavage. These bras can be ideal to wear under close fitting clothes and provide natural way to help enhance your bust. Great for cleavage!

Average Figure / Moderate Support bra

These bras provide light to moderate support and are made of firmer fabrics. They tend to have narrow straps, sides and back and offer more coverage whilst still being sleek in appearance.

Backless bras

The backless bra has no back and is usually lightweight, self adhesive and self supporting. It's ideal for wearing under backless tops and dresses and of-the-shoulder numbers and the colours of the self adhesive types are often neutral or flesh colour, making them ideal to wear under sheer and low-cut clothing.

Balcony / Balconette bras

The balconette bra is designed provide about 50 - 75% coverage of the full cup style and the straps are set wider apart. The seams on the balconette are designed to lift your breasts upward without enhancing your cleavage, giving you a very upfront shape. The Balconette creates wonderful uplift and cleavage with a sexier more luxurious look, making it a bra that's really meant to be seen. It's suitable for wearing under most clothes.

Bandeau bras

If you're wearing something strapless, the Bandeau is a great choice as it's more or less the same level all the way round, with a wider band than usual. The underwire versions are generally very supportive but you can't count on a non-underwire bandeau for support much beyond a B-cup. The straps are often detachable or dispensed with altogether.

Front fastening bras

Some people say that front fastening bras are more convenient than back fastenings as the clasps are easier to reach and the problem of fumbling with hooks behind your back is removed. Some men might say that front fastening bras are easier to deal with too! These bras can be wired or non-wired and come in a variation of styles and colours. They can be worn under any type of clothing including day wear and evening wear.

Full cup bras

Full cup bras are ideal for larger breast sizes. The full cup encloses the entire breast giving excellent support which is important to help maintain shape and fullness. These bras are often constructed using three sections of material to give you better weight distribution and shaping.

The shoulder straps are usually lined up with the centre of the cup so that the weight of the bust is supported evenly. This positioning and central pull helps to prevent the straps from slipping off sloping shoulders. It's hard to beat a full cup bra for day long comfort and support.

Full figure bras

Full figure bras are for larger women and they often have wide cushioned straps, foam lining or fibrefill padding, and closures with three or four rows of hooks and eyes. Full-figure bras provide greater support than petite or average bras. The most common mistake made by full-figured women is buying a bra with cups that are too small and then compensating by going up to a band size that's too big for them.

It's an understandable mistake as many bra styles don't come in larger cup sizes. Another problem is that many women fall foul to the tremendous pressure of the media to have smaller figures. Every woman needs to wear a bra that fits 'their' body and a smaller cup size isn't going to make anyone's breasts any smaller, whereas a properly fitted bra will at least be comfortable. Full figure bras can be ideal.

Full support bras

Full support bras offer a shapely cut and are built more like bikini tops than underwear. They also come in padded or unpadded version and are flattering for most figures. Full support bras are made of firm fabrics, camisole straps, wide straps, sides and wings and wider banded bottom or set in cup frames. They also usually have an underwire or plastic boning holding them up. They can be worn by women of any breast size but are especially helpful to those with larger cup sizes.

Gel bras

These bras have gel pads sewn into an invisible pocket in the bra to act as a permanent breast enhancer, or push up. The fluid gel in each bra cup surrounds and conforms to the breast to add fullness and uplift. Because the gel flows, each cup shapes to the body on each side for an individualised fit. The gel pads are lighter than water and tend to feel and bounce more naturally. Gel bras feel very soft to the touch and offer the security of knowing the padding will not slip or leak.

Half cup bras

These bras provide and 75% coverage of the breasts, helping you enjoy a sexy look and feel. The half cup still gives great support while still being very fashionable and youthful. These bras are ideal for women who still have firm breasts and they help boost cleavage.

Halter neck bras

These bras have clasps on the straps, which attach at the back of the neck and also around the back. They cover about 75% of the breasts and are suitable to wear under many types of clothes including strapless tops, dresses and off the shoulder numbers.

Light support bras

Light support bras tend to have no underwire and are a good choice for women with smaller breasts. With both padded and unpadded versions, they are less constricting than full support bras and many women feel more comfortable in them. Because the light support bra is wireless, it doesn't offer as much shaping as other bras and it's generally most flattering on women with trimmer figures.

Liquid bras

Liquid bras contain a pocket of gel in both cups and they can therefore add up to a cup size to your breasts. The pockets of gel are sometimes removable. These bras provide a natural look and feel and they are becoming increasingly available in a larger number of sizes and styles.

Mastectomy bras

Mastectomy bras are designed with pockets in the cup which hold the breast prosthesis. The breast prosthesis simulates the natural breast in its shape and weight providing symmetry and balance. It's important to get the right prosthesis which offers the right comfort level.

Protection for the chest and breast cancer scars can also be a benefit when using a mastectomy bra. On top of this, chances of suffering back, shoulder and neck problems can be minimised and pre-surgery clothes will continue to fit well.

Maternity bras

Maternity Bras are worn by pregnant women as they are designed to help give as much support as possible while the breasts grow during pregnancy. Breast size and rib cage size tend to increase during pregnancy so it's likely that you'll need to buy several bras throughout pregnancy.

The most important aspects of a maternity bra is larger breast coverage to provide better support and more back hooks to allow for adjustment with a changing rib cage size. Whilst these are practical considerations, maternity bras are available in a variety of fashionable designs using different colours and styles.

Microfibre bras

Microfiber bras are made of fabric that provides skin-caressing softness. The fabric is made with ultra-fine filaments, tightly knit for superb smoothness making it softer than silk. It also breathes well, for cooling comfort. Microfiber bras can be either nylon or polyester, often with some added spandex for stretch-perfect fit.

Minimiser bras

Minimiser bras are designed to redistribute the breast without the underwiring digging in. They help reduce the size of the breasts and give added support for larger sizes of around DD and upwards. The minimiser also helps to prevent spill over and gaping buttons in shirts and blouses and it can give a thicker look to your upper body.

Moulded bras

Moulded bras can give you a smooth line under clothes. This is achieved through the seamless cups which are moulded to fit the shape of the breast. The cups are rigid enough to keep their shape when you're not wearing the bra, but should still give a natural look by mirroring the natural shape of a woman, for shape and comfort. Moulded bras are generally unlined and may be either soft cup or underwire.

Multiway bras

Multiway bras have straps that can be worn in a variety of ways, such as over the shoulder, as normal, as a halterneck, crossed around the middle of the body or even removed altogether. It's extremely versatile and can be worn under all types and styles of clothing including low back, strapless and off the shoulder numbers.

The Multiway bra can also be worn as any standard bra with t-shirts and dresses. One of the best things about the multiway bra is that the shoulder straps can be completely removed, making is ideal for dinner dresses and outfits for special occasions.

Nursing bras

Nursing bras come in a variety of types and styles, some with undewire and some without. Many have flaps that cover the breast and can be detached without having to undo the bra. These flaps are designed for discreet nursing, and on some bras, they can be adjusted to accommodate a changing cup size. Flaps make nursing easy and convenient, and they can be very handy when nursing in public. Sometimes the flaps connect at the top of the bra cup, and other times they connect at the middle of the two cups, near the band of the bra.

The nursing bras without flaps are made so they can easily be pulled to one side with one hand. These bras are usually made of softer fabrics making them comfortable for mother and baby.

Padded bras

Padded bras have padded lining in the cups and the thickness of the padding and the fabric varies according to the bra. Padded bras offer anything from a slight lift to the bust line to a more push-up effect. Some have removable insert pads whilst others have graduated padding which tends to be thicker at the base of the cups creating a natural looking silhouette as well as the appearance of increased cleavage.

Plunge bras

Plunge bras are distinguished by the part of the band that joins the cups. If it is below nipple level, then it's a plunge bra. These bras are ideal for wearing under low-cut tops and many plunge bras are padded to push your breasts together to maximise cleavage. The plunge bra won't give you the support and security you might normally want, but sometimes the WOW factor is worth the sacrifice for that special occasion.

Push-up bras

Push-up bras help create the appearance of increased cleavage using angled cups which tend to have underwires. They will give you a fuller looking bust and great cleavage, with or without the help of padding. Padding is usually in the form of inserts (sometimes called chicken fillets) that fit into a pocket on the inside of each cup.

Racer-back bras

Racer back bras have Y-shaped backs that curve in between the shoulder blades. These racing-style backs add extra support and keep bra straps anchored in place. Many sports bras and even some everyday bras have racer back designs. They are great under sleeveless tops and the bra straps won't slide down the shoulders.

Seamless bras

Seamless bras have no seams on the cups and come with or without underwires. They have moulded cups giving a smooth and transparent look to sheer or tight clothing and are very elegant in style and fit. Seamless bras are great for wearing with evening wear that needs a more elegant look and day wear that needs to have a clean smooth look.

Self-adhesive bras

Self-adhesive bras are stick-on backless, strapless and invisible under sheer clothes. Some have a centre clasp for maximum cleavage control. They are perfect to wear under formal dresses, halter tops, strapless and backless dresses. The self-adhesive cups are washable and can be worn hundreds of times if cared for properly.

Sling support bras

Sling support bras have fabric that comes from under the cup and continues into the strap to give more support to the breasts. This is a feature that is generally found on fuller figure bras.

Soft cup bras

Soft cup bras have no underwires and therefore offer greater comfort. With today's clever designs such as criss-cross frames and inner under-cup slings, soft cup bras still offer good support. Some give light to moderate support for petite to average figures whereas others provide full support.

Sports bras

When you move, so does your bust, and this is known as 'bounce'. During exercise this can cause severe discomfort and repetitive bounce could damage tissue. Sports bras are designed to reduce breast bounce and give excellent support for the bust when exercising. Most provide either medium or high motion control, depending on whether they're designed for moderate or intense activity levels and many sports bras also wick away moisture to keep you cool and dry.

A special section covering sports bras in depth can be found at the end of this chapter. Whether you take part in aerobics, running, riding, or any other active past time, a sports bra is highly recommended.

Strapless bras

Strapless bras maintain shaping and control without the use of straps. The bras stays in place by using some unique design features including fibrefill lining for shaping, narrow gripper elastics, side stays, and wider backs for better anchoring. The underwire versions add more shaping.

Training bras

Training bras (also known as First Bras) are for young girls who have started to develop breasts but who do not yet fit into regular bra sizes. A young girl who has started to develop breasts should wear a training bra, but there is no harm in letting a girl get one before there is a real need. If breast size warrants a full-fitting bra, then a girl should wear one, regardless of age.

Triangle bras

Triangle bras have triangle shaped cups, which offer the right amount of coverage and support for petite to average figures. This bra is not normally underwired although some are and the centre of the bra is connected to the chest strap of the bra. Triangle bras without underwires give good support to the breasts and add a more natural shape and look. The bust can support itself without the wire and you then avoid the pinching sometimes associated with underwires.

T-shirt bras

T-shirt bras are designed to appear invisible under even the thinnest of fabrics. They are usually seamless, so they're smooth under clingy clothes. They are either lined with sleek foam or lightly padded with polyfill, which prevents embarrassing show-through.

Underwire bras

Underwire bras have flexible wires inside the bottom cups and are designed to give added support and shape to the bust and help reduce sagging. These bras provide additional support and lift to the larger breasted woman and can be found in many different styles of bras. They can be very sexy and elegant in their design and fit and some styles can give a seductive plunge look to the breasts. Usually worn with everyday clothing, underwire bras can be worn with evening and party wear also.

Zip cup bras

The Zip cup bra is also a maternity or nursing bra with a zip on the outside of the bra. This feature is very convenient for breast feeding, especially as you can drop the cup down using just one hand. The zips usually have fabric liners which protect your breast on the inside and the baby on the outside.