Katherine Salt is the co-owner of Plums Lingerie
All women know how deceivingly simple buying a bra is. Your lingerie drawer is probably filled with bras that aren’t working out for you, and there’s no obvious reason. There are so many factors to consider when it comes to bras, and you don’t know where to begin.
While most women make the mistake of focusing on bra sizes, not all bras of the same size are the same. Some provide maximum coverage possible, while others enhance the shape and lift the breasts. It’s likely that not every bra style will suit you.
Consequently, understanding what each style looks like and how it’s design will suit your shape is vital. Without further ado, here’s a bra style guide to help you in navigating through the overwhelming yet, not impossible to crack, world of bras.
To choose a bra that’s tailored for you, the bra size alone isn’t enough. Bra styles tell you which design will complement your body and choice of attire best. We’ve compiled a list of all major bra styles to help you understand the characteristics and applications of each style.
Also known as the balconette bra, the balcony bra is a popular bra style because it lies in the middle of other bra styles.
The wide-set straps of the balcony bra offer your breast a lift, but it’s more natural and less noticeable than a push-up. The balconette style is an excellent choice for women with lower, or shallow breasts who want gentle shaping, not a lift that’s too conspicuous.
Plus, balcony bras provide less coverage than a T-shirt or a push-up bra, as they show more of the top half of the breasts, making them ideal for women wearing low-cut necklines and boat neck silhouettes.
If you’re looking for a style that gives you a little bit of everything, go for a balconette bra.
Full cup styles are the most supportive bras out there. But, designed specifically for keeping you in place, they aren’t made for showing cleavage under low-centre tops.
Instead, they provide maximum coverage, support, and comfort so that you can spend your day completely unbothered by the weight of your breasts, the risk of spillage, or how you can make them fit under certain types of attire.
That being said, full cup bras are pretty popular beyond women with fuller breasts because they can suit most body shapes and give all shapes and sizes of breasts the complete support that they may need. In addition, the close-set straps are a gift for women who are sick of their straps slipping.
While they’re considered the most practical by most women, they still come in flattering choices because the functionality doesn’t have to ruin the aesthetics. Full cup bras also come in a seam-free option in case you want to wear them under form-fitting clothes. You can also choose between an underwired or non-wired full cup bra.
As the name suggests, women wear T-shirt bras under T-shirts, even thin, tight-fitting, and sheer fabrics.
The biggest advantage of a T-shirt bra is that it’s seam-free, giving it an invisible, smooth shape that’s comfortable enough for everyday wear. In addition, T-shirt bras have soft moulded cups that provide a natural shape that doesn’t clash with whatever you’re wearing.
The T-shirt bra is pretty versatile in options. You can get a padded or non-padded T-shirt bra, depending on your preference. Many fuller bust ladies worry that a foam cup will make their bust look larger but this isn’t the case. Either way, it’s the right bra for an effortless, smooth silhouette.
Strapless bras are a must-have for women who can’t get enough of shoulder-baring, off-shoulder, or strapless outfits. Bra straps are the norm, but a strapless bra is priceless for a thin-strapped or bandeau style dress or top.
The point of strapless bras is to give you all the support, security, and confidence to wear anything without the fear of slippage.
If you don’t want to commit to a strapless bra, some strapless bras come with optional straps for maximum versatility. In these cases, they’re called a multiway bra.
Plunge bras are the perfect bra to wear under tops with low-cut necklines.
The plunge style bra comes in padded and non-padded options and can have a smooth cup suitable for T-shirts or an embroidered/lace cup. The plunge bra is one of the most popular styles as it gives shape and support without too much coverage.
The push-up bra is pretty self-explanatory at this point. Its main priority is giving your breast the maximum lift and a fuller shape compared to the effect of the usual bra. As a result, it exposes the upper breast tissue, pushing the breasts inwards and upwards. The push-up bra can either have an integrated pad that is contoured to give a natural shape or it can have removable pads. The removable pads come in a variety of materials including foam, gel or beads.
Removable pads are an ideal option if you have one breast larger than the other.
A push-up bra is a great solution if you are a little shallow at the top of the bust as the pad will lift the breast tissue to give a rounded shape.
Like the plunge bra, this bra style works great with low-cut necklines. Even if you’re not wearing a low-centre top, the push-up bra accentuates the shape of your curves beautifully. It’s also a smart choice for women with wide-set breasts who want to push them together.
A sports bra is a no-brainer to own if you happen to exercise or wear sportswear for fashionable choices. In fact, you’d be surprised by how many women resort to sports bras even though they don’t even work out. This is because they feel pretty comfortable and can look super cute.
Since they’re expected to be worn when the woman is physically active, they offer as much support as you may need, depending on the level of intensity of the activity you practice, whether it’s low-impact, high-impact, or something in between. For instance, yoga, pilates, and walking don’t need the same level of support that jogging, boxing, or skipping need.
They are often designed to look like cropped tops and can either be fastened at the back or are made of stretch fabric and are designed to be pulled on over the head.
Your body changes a lot during pregnancy and after giving birth. One of the areas of your body that change s the breasts. Nursing bras, also known as maternity bras, are made specifically to accommodate the changes your breasts go through in these important stages.
Besides being incredibly supportive, they stand out by having clips, clasps, and drop-down cups to streamline breastfeeding.
Their comfort stems from the fact that they’re either non-wired or have flexi-wires that help provide a flattering, natural shape to the breasts. In addition, new mothers can appreciate that they’re made from breathable cotton fabric that lets their changing bodies breathe.
Considered the farthest thing from full-cup bras, bralettes are made from delicate fabrics and offer the least amount of support when compared to a regular bra. You can almost forget you’re wearing one from how delicate and thin it is.
The bralette is almost always a non-wired bra that has no moulded cups. This absolute freedom makes them an ideal choice under a blazer or a top with a plunging neckline.
Bralettes tend to include lace and bows into their design, which looks super cute. Most women who wear bralettes have smaller breasts or wear them on special occasions. However, more and more models are getting more inclusive in their breast sizes.
Triangle bras, as the name suggests, have triangle-shaped cups. Traditionally like bralettes, triangle bras are known for their lightweight coverage and support. This is now changing and the triangle shape is being incorporated in underwire designs. The use of sheer fabric gives a lighter look while still providing support.
Are you looking for exactly half the coverage that a push-up provides? Well, that’s what the word “demi” refers to anyway.
The demi bra offers less coverage than its fuller counterparts like the push-up and balconette. Its coverage ranges from half or three-quarters of a full cup. The support comes from the sides, so the breasts are pushed together. Consequently, it’s the ideal bra style if you want a feminine, heart-shaped cleavage. Feel free to rock it under a low-cut scoop-neck top. The demi bra oozes sex appeal and looks amazing when worn with the matching briefs and suspender belt.
We’ve already discussed bra styles in terms of necklines and design. However, there’s something else at stake. Is the bra that you have in mind underwire or non-wired? Read more to know what that means and how dramatically this feature can change your bra game.
Underwired styles are bras that have a rigid wire that’s stitched under the cups to provide the breasts with complete support. If you have a larger bust, an underwire bra is a gift from the gods because of the support it provides and will help avoid pain and discomfort.
In addition, they create a desirable lifting yet separating effect that keeps the breasts in place. As a result, they provide you with more freedom in movement because there’s less bounce.
The non-wired bra is everything that its counterpart isn’t. While underwire bras provide maximum support with a rigid wire, non-wired bras let your breasts do their thing. So if you want a bra that doesn’t change the natural shape of your breasts, the non-wired bra is your friend.
Plus, the absence of a rigid wire means that you’re freer, and your body can breathe. You can wear it to sleep or even post-surgery.
Of course, not everyone prefers a non-wired bra because some women prioritise the lift, support, and separation of an underwire bra more than anything else.
So, the right choice will depend on your own preference and priorities.
Not all breasts are shaped the same, which is why what may work for one woman may be the worst choice for another. So, here’s a breakdown of every breast shape and what each type may seek in a bra.
As you can see, bra styles are more crucial than you probably thought they were. While bra sizes are essential to know when buying a new bra, knowing the bra style that you want unlocks a new area of possibilities.
By understanding bra cup styles, you know exactly the level of support, comfort, and coverage that you’re looking for in all of your future bras, and this helps you find the perfect bra.