Types of Bras

Know your bra terminology before you start shopping!

Confused about bra styles? Here’s the BraWise guide to help you determine what style bra you are looking for, so that you can tell one from another while shopping.

  • Balconet / Balconnette: If you are looking for a bra with wide-set straps, leaving a little front coverage, the balconette is a good choice. The bra gives the breasts an uplift and fullness. It almost appears if the breasts are being served on a tray!
  • Bralet / Bralette: When looking for a comfortable lounge bra, the bralette is an option for smaller bust lines. Bralettes are unlined and wireless, typically designed to be pulled over the head or clasped in the back. There are little support features in these garments; therefore the bralette is often used for relaxing or sleeping in.
  • Bust Enhancers: Bras are included in the bust-enhancers category if they create the illusion of a fuller bust line. Enhancers are often built into the bras themselves rather than as the traditional inserts. The Wonderbra was the original bust enhancer.
  • Bust Minimizers: Bust minimizers are designed to give the illusion that the breasts are smaller than they really are. They accomplish this through either pushing down the bust line or redistributing the breast weight around the chest. The latter method is more flattering and leaves a woman looking trim.
  • Bustier / Corset: Bustiers and corsets are often strapless. They are designed for enhanced support. Expect them to extend down to the waist or hip. Bustiers are worn to produce a distinctive body shape – often the “hourglass” shape. Unlike shapewear, thin metal or plastic boning is built into the piece. Small hooks usually run up either the front or back of the garment.
  • Comfort Straps: For the fuller-busted woman, comfort straps are included in some bras to minimize shoulder and back pain caused by excess breast weight. This means bra straps may be lined, softly padded, or built wider than a standard bra strap. Keep in mind that the right fit will often eliminate the need for these kinds of extras.
  • Contour Bras: When a bra is designed with foam-fit lining or fiberfill used to provide definition and shape, we call it a contour bra. Because of the lining, the bra prevents nipples from showing through. It is a common misconception that contour bras increase the size of the breasts, when really all they do is reshape the breast into a rounder, symmetrical bust line. The rest is illusion – but a pleasant one!
  • Convertible (backless/halter) Bras: Some bras are designed to have the straps removed or worn in different patterns on the back depending on the style of clothing. These bras are a great addition to your wardrobe, as they can be customized to go with various outfits. When referred to as being backless, often this means that the straps on the back fit much lower than a standard bra, leaving the appearance that the bra is backless. If you are looking for a completely backless style, try self-adhesive bras.
  • Demi Cup: This is a popular style of bra, as it is partially cut away so that the top of the breast is exposed. The style is referred to as “demi”, meaning half. The demi-cup bra is perfect for low cup tops or squared necklines, as it is cut below the outline of the clothing. This style of coverage is more than the balconette and less than the full cup.
  • Front Closure: A bra that fastens in the front between the cups is known as a front closure bra. This style makes it easier for woman to put on and take off their bras. There are no adjustment options similar to a back closure bra that will usually include three sets of hooks. This bra style also can confuse an amorous suitor!
  • Full Coverage / Full Cup: This style of bra covers the majority of the breast. The top of the bra cup will cover much higher than a demi-cup. Full coverage bras work well under T-shirts, as they prevent the breast being cut in half by lines created by a balconette or demi cup.
  • Full Figure: Full figure bras are especially designed for women who are more voluptuous than average. Cups and band sizes are available in a larger range to accommodate even the most curvaceous.
  • Molded / Seamless: These styles, like the full coverage style, are perfect for wearing T-shirts and other tight fitting clothing. A flat piece of fabric is heat molded to form a cup shape so there is little fabric and padding covering the breasts; yet, the breasts will have a smooth, enhanced shape. Most molded seamless bras are made of a stretch material, which may not work well for fuller-figured women.
  • Padded: Bras that contain padding in the breast leave bust lines looking fuller. Popular today is a graduated padding, which is thicker at the cup base and becomes thinner as it approaches the top of the bra. If you are looking for even more boost to your bust line, padded bras include what are known as “cookies”, or small inserts that can be removed as needed.
  • Plunge: When bras include very low front cup angles and tiny center gores (where the cups meet), they are known as plunge bras. These styles are perfect for deep V-neckline tops and dresses. The bras also often include padding or lining which work to create increased center cleavage.
  • Push-Up: Push-up bras are designed to leave the illusion of a fuller bust line. Often an underwire will enhance the breasts by lifting them up. Padding or arched cups also work to create cleavage in the center of the breasts.
  • Racerback: The back straps of a racerback bra are designed to leave the shoulders and shoulder blades exposed. These bras are extremely popular in the summer under tank tops and in some sports bras. Often front closure bras have racerback style straps. Many convertible bras also have racerback options built in. These bras are specifically great for women with small shoulders.
  • Seamed: Bras made of many pieces of fabric that are carefully cut and sewn together to create a cup shape are known as seamed or cut-and-sewn bras. The more seams and pieces of fabric used to construct the bra, the more support and precise fitting will be offered. Often these bras are finished off with lace and fine detailed embroidery. While these bras have fallen out of fashion, don’t count them out. They provide the best fit for many larger-busted women.
  • Soft Cup / Wireless: When going for a relaxed comfortable feel, the soft cup offered women a wireless option bra. These bras offer very light support and are more popular among women with small and firm bust lines. They are wirefree and come in all shapes and sizes.
  • Sports / Athletic: Sports bras protect the chest from tissue damage while you are exercising. Compression (extensive stretch materials) styles are recommended for women who have smaller breasts, while women with larger breast should stick to styles which cup each breast individually and prevent excess bouncing.
  • Strapless / Bandeau: Bras that do not come with shoulder straps are known as strapless bras. They tend to come with rubber strips which line the inside edges of the bra so that it grips the body and remains in place. Strapless options come in many styles including padded, push-up, seamless or underwire. A bandeau is strapless as well, and often looks like a rectangular compression tube.