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Bra Styles Revealed: What, When and Who

Bra Cut, Construction, Purpose and Body Types

Bra Cut/Style
Looking for a bra with a certain cut? Want a bra with a specific level of coverage to wear under your favorite shirt or hot new dress? These are different bra cuts and styles, named by the way the cups are cut and worn.

These types of bras are defined by certain details of their construction. For example, cotton bras are bras whose cups are made with cotton fabric, and soft cup bras are wire-free designs. Bras in this category may also have cuts or styles in the bra style section - but start here if you're looking for a bra with specific design features or a certain type of construction.

Bras by Purpose
Some bras are made to address a specific need, and usually include features, cuts and design details to make them better suited to that need. Start here if you're looking for a bra with a specific purpose in mind, like a sports bra, a sleep bra or a nursing bra.

Bras for Body Types
These are bras designed for certain body types, or for women whose bodies have specific needs - for example, maternity bras for women whose breasts are changing throughout pregnancy, or plus size bras for full-figured women. Start here if you're looking for a bra for a certain body type.

Bra Terms and Words You Should Know

'Bra' is the common term we use to refer to a 'brassiere' today. it's typically an undergarment with a band that goes around the chest and back, cups that support the breasts, and straps to give it all structure, although bras come in many styles, cuts and shapes.

A bralette is a soft cup bra style that resembles a short crop top. it's typically unlined, and they're common in teen styles and as sleep bras because they don't offer too much support.

3/4 Cup Bra
A 3/4 cup bra is a bra with a lower cut, typically in a push-up style, which offers deeper and sexier cleavage than a standard full cup bra. A 3/4 cup bra is a good compromise for women with larger cup sizes who want a sexy, cleavage-enhancing bra; a smaller cut may not offer adequate support, but this style is perfect for full breasts.

Backless Bra
A backless bra is a bra that's designed with a low-cut, typically adjustable back band. it's designed to be worn under a low back or backless dress without showing.

A balconette or balcony bra is a half cup bra, similar to a demi cup although it sometimes entails slightly more coverage than a demi bra. Many balcony style bras also feature padding and push-up styling to enhance bust size and create great cleavage.

Bridal Bra
A bridal bra is a style that is designed to be worn under a wedding gown. Bridal bras are typically strapless, often in a longline or corset design, and commonly feature lace and embroidery so they can double as bridal lingerie on the wedding night.

Cleavage Bra
A cleavage bra is a bra that is designed to enhance the look of the bust, typically by featuring a low or plunging cut and including padding or push-up styling to push the breasts up and together.

Comfort Strap Bra
A comfort strap bra is designed with wide, often padded straps that are intended to better distribute the weight of the bust. Comfort strap bras are popular among women with large breasts who experience discomfort with normal bra straps, although strap discomfort is usually a problem of fit - not necessarily bra design.

Contour Bra
A contour bra is a bra whose cups hold their shape. Contour bra cups are always padded or lined, and always feature underwires, whereas molded cup bras - the closest style - may not have padding or underwires. Contour bras are great for coverage and control - they add definition, provide a smooth, rounded shape and eliminate nipple show-through.

Convertible Bra
These types of bras have straps that can be detached and worn in different ways. Convertible bras may be worn wide-set, criss-cross, halter style or strapless - the specific strap configurations depend on the bra design.

A corset is a tightly-fitting undergarment that extends from the chest to the hips. Corsets are typically worn to provide shaping, and they may or may not include bra cups for breast support. Corsets may be worn for shaping, or as lingerie, depending on the style and design.

Cotton Bra
A cotton bra is a bra whose cups are made with cotton, or a cotton blend. Cotton bras are popular among women who place a high value on comfort and softness in a bra.

Demi Bra
A demi cup bra is a half-coverage bra; the cup tops typically come to just above the nipple. Demi cups are great for low-cut tops, but they tend to feature wide-set straps that may not be ideal for women with narrow shoulders and frames. They're similar in style to balcony bras, although they may feature slightly less coverage, depending on the design.

Foam Cup
A foam cup bra is exactly what it sounds like - a bra whose cups are made with foam. They're a type of padded bra that doesn't bunch during washing, and these bra cups are smooth and gently rounded.

Front Close
Front close bras are bras whose bands hook or zip in the center front - not the back. These types of bras are convenient when dressing, and they're great for women with limited mobility.

Full Cup Bra
A full cup bra is a bra whose cups are designed to fully encapsulate the breasts. They tend to feature higher cuts, and are sometimes referred to as full coverage bras. These bras are great for women with larger breasts, women who want maximum support or women who want full coverage.

Full Figure
These types of bras are made for full-figured women. Full figure bra styles are designed to offer additional support, and accommodate a more generous figure. Common features in full figure bras include padding, wider shoulder straps and triple hook-and-eye closures for maximum support.

Half-Cup Bra
This is another name for demi or balcony bras. These types of bras feature lower-cut cups, typically with push-up styling to create gorgeous, rounded cleavage. Half-cup bras create great curves, and they're perfect when you want an open and sexy neckline.

Halter styles are styles with a strap that comes up the front and fastens around the neck. Halter bras are perfect for backless or low-back dresses, and these bra styles are often convertible bras that can become criss-cross or one-shoulder styles.

Light Support
Bras with light support tend to have cutaway wings, and little or no band under the cups. They're great for women with smaller busts, but light support bra designs don't provide adequate support for large cup sizes.

Lined Cup
Bras whose cups are lined are designed to provide additional support, and to prevent the bra cups from being see-through. it's not uncommon to see a partially-lined bra; something opaque on the cup bottom, but with an unlined top to give a hint of see-through sexiness. Lining may or may not add size and shaping - it depends on the type of lining. Light lining may not be enough to prevent nipple show-through.

Long Line
Longline bras are bras that extend down past the bottom of the cups to the midriff or even to the waistline. Long line bras can provide smoothing and shaping under a dress, and they're also great for full-busted women who want a strapless bra but need extra support for heavy breasts.

Lightly Lined
Lightly lined bras are not padded - they're typically lined with one or a few light pieces of fabric. Light lining can help provide gentle shaping, but may not prevent nipple show-through.

Maternity Bra
A maternity bra is a bra that is specially designed for a pregnant woman. Maternity bras are typically designed to accommodate breasts that are increasing in size throughout pregnancy, and they may feature cups that open to provide easy access when breast feeding.

Mastectomy Bra
A mastectomy bra is a bra designed for women who have lost one or both breasts to surgery. They typically feature pockets designed to hold a prosthesis in place, and may be lined, padded or molded to provide shaping. A mastectomy bra may also feature special support or design features for women who are recently post-surgery.

Medical Bra
A medical bra is a bra that is designed to accommodate women who have special medical needs - typically women who have recently had a mastectomy, or a breast reconstruction or breast reduction surgery. These bras typically provide extra support and features designed to accommodate post-surgery breasts, although the specifics may vary depending on the medical bra design.

A minimizer is a bra that is designed to reduce the look of the bust on large-breasted women. These types of bras may compress or reshape the breast, and they're designed to make the breasts look a cup or two smaller.

Molded Bra
A molded bra is a bra whose cups are pre-shaped using a machine. Molded bras give the breasts a natural, smooth, rounded look, and they're ideal to wear under form-fitted clothing because they usually don't have seams and they're virtually invisible. Some molded bras are unpadded, while some molded cup bras do feature padding - it varies depending on the design.

Nursing Bra
A nursing bra is a bra that is designed for a new mother to easily breast feed her baby. Nursing bras tend to have cups that open easily to provide access to the breast, and they feature slings to provide support even when the flap is open. Some nursing bras also feature padding or pockets for pads to prevent leakage.

A padded bra is a bra that features padding inside the lining to provide a fuller, rounded shape to the breasts. Some padded bras feature graduated padding that is built directly into the lining, while others feature pockets that hold removable inserts so you can customize the padding when you want it.

A plunge bra is a bra that is especially low-cut in front, between the breasts, to accommodate a low-cut neckline. These bras feature fuller coverage on the sides, and less in the center with the plunging center gore. Plunge bras are perfect for v-neck and deep neck tops and dresses.

Plus Size Bra
A plus size bra is designed for full-figured women. Plus size bras tend to feature wider straps, more hook-and-eye fasteners and a more robust band. These bras are designed to accommodate a more curvaceous body type, and typically feature cup sizes that are proportional to the fuller sizing.

Pocket Bra
A pocket bra is a bra whose cups have pockets designed to hold padding or prosthesis. Check the design details to distinguish between a pocket bra designed to hold a cutlet or padding to create a push-up effect, and a pocket bra designed to hold a prosthesis for women who have had a mastectomy.

Posture Bra
This type of bra is designed to help you sit and stand straighter, with shoulders back, improving your posture. Posture bras feature things like reinforced back, designs that urge your shoulders back, wide or comfort straps and more robust bands to support the weight of the breasts - all of which helps improve your posture.

Push Up Bra
A push-up bra lifts the breasts and typically places them closer together to create lush, rounded cleavage. Push-up bras are often, but not always, padded on the bottom and sides of the cup to enhance the look of the cleavage. A push up bra may also feature removable padding, known as a cookie or cutlet, that lets you customize your fit.

A racer back bra is a bra that forms a Y shape or V shape on the back between the shoulder blades. Racerbacks are great for women who have problem with straps that slip off constantly, as this design prevents strap slippage.

A seamless bra has smooth cups, with no seams, that vanish under tight or form-fitted clothing. Seamless bras create a natural, rounded shape, and offer great support. They're popular under lightweight fabrics, like T-shirts, and form-fitted clothing.

Shelf Bra
A shelf bra is a minimal bra, typically a demi cup or even a bra without cups, that is generally worn as lingerie. Alternately, a shelf bra may also describe the bra-like lining that is sewn into some garments, like camisoles, tank tops and swimsuits, that negates the need to wear a traditional bra underneath.

Sleep Bra
A sleep bra is a bra designed with minimal support so it's comfortable enough even to sleep in. Sleep bras are wire-free and soft, and they're popular among women whose breasts shift or cause discomfort in bed, as they provide just enough structure to help reduce breast movement at night.

Soft Cup Bra
A soft cup bra is a bra design that does not use an underwire. Some women prefer wire-free designs for comfort, and advances in soft cup design mean that some of our best soft cup bras provide great support even for women with large busts.

Sports Bra
A sports bra is a bra that is specifically designed to be worn during exercise and in an active lifestyle. Depending on the design, a sports bra may minimize bounce, may wick moisture, and may be tailored toward a specific level of activity. Lower impact sports bras are more comfortable to wear and don't restrict the range of motion, while higher impact sports bras reduce bounce better but may be more restrictive and less comfortable overall.

Strapless Bra
Strapless bras are bras that are designed to be worn without straps. They typically include silicone strips or other grippy material to help keep the bra in place and provide support. Strapless bras usually have removable straps, so they can be worn in a variety of ways. They're popular under dresses, off-the-shoulder tops and other clothes with a wide or strapless neckline.

Surgical Bra
A surgical bra is a bra that is designed to accommodate women with specific post-surgery medical needs. These bras may feature compression to hold fragile or delicate breast tissue in place, or they may feature seam-free cups or cups that open to provide easy wound care. The specifics vary depending on the design and purpose of the surgical bra.

T-Shirt Bra
A t-shirt bra is a bra with seamless or molded cups that look invisible under form-fitted cops. T-shirt bras offer a nice, rounded, natural shape, and they're a popular staple in every woman' wardrobe.

Triangle Bra
A triangle bra is a bra that features triangle-shaped cups. Triangle bras tend to be wire-free designs, and most of the designs in this category feature narrow bra straps. Triangle bras are best for women who have petite to average figures - they may lack adequate support for fuller busts.

An underwire bra features sewn-in wires under the bust in each cup that help provide support for fuller busts. An underwire provides uplift and structure in full-busted bras, and they come in a variety of materials - including nickel and allergen-free wires - to provide a comfortable option for every woman.


Finding the right bra can be such a hassle, but it doesn't have to be! When you're shopping for a bra, you need to think about your body, the clothes you want to wear and how you want to look. All these things vary from woman to woman, and even from workday to hot date night - so it all comes down to finding the right style of bra for you at that particular moment.

Ask yourself whether you're looking for a cleavage bra that gives you a sexy neckline under a low-cut top, or a full-coverage bra to provide all day support under your professional work wardrobe - or something else entirely! Not sure what you need? that's where we come in!

What are the Different Bra Styles? What are the Most Common Types of Bras?

To make your bra shopping as easy as possible, we've put together a guide that explains all the most common bra styles. You can shop for types of bras based on your body, the clothes you want to wear, whether you've got narrow shoulders or broad shoulders and whether your breasts are firm or ample or anything in between!

Browse our bra guide to find the best bra style for you, and treat yourself to a hot new bra you'll love that will actually look great on you!

Next: Learn the distinctions and highlights between bra cut/style, bra construction, bras by purpose, and bras for body types.

What is a Bra?

A bra is a undergarment designed to provide support and shaping for the breasts. The word 'bra' is short for 'brassiere,' which was popularized in 1904 when a French ad used the word to describe the latest bust supporter. Vogue first used the word in 1907, and by 1911 it had made it to the Oxford dictionary. Brassiere was shortened to bra in the 1930s.

A bra generally has two cups that encapsulate and shape the breasts, and a band that goes around the body that supports the weight of the bust.

Most bras have straps that stretch from the cups in the front of the bra to the band in the back of the bra, and these straps provide a little extra structure to the bra, but the band itself should hold most of the weight.

Bras come in a huge variety of styles and designs to accommodate every aspect of daily life. Some of these bras are customized based on the purpose of the bra, such as a sports bra or nursing bra, while other bras are characterized by the cut of the cups, like a demi cup bra. Still others are categorized by their construction, like molded cup or strapless bra. The key to finding the right bra for you is to understand what you want from a bra, and then find the right style for your needs and body type.

Who Should Wear a Bra?

Bras provide a lot of great benefits that make them very popular among women in western cultures. Statistics say that as many as 90% of women wear bras, so the answer to 'who should wear a bra' is: pretty much everyone!

Women with large breasts who want some relief from the weight of the bust

Women whose breasts tissue is loose or 'agging' and want support and shaping from a bra

Women who want their breasts to stay put and not bounce or move around when they're working out

Women who want to preserve modesty with a bra that prevents nipple show-through and provides smooth, feminine shaping

Women who have had surgery and need a bra for medical reasons

Women who have aches and pains caused by their breasts, particularly shoulder pain, back pain, or muscle tension headaches

Women who have dress codes at work and need to wear a bra as a part of the work wardrobe

There's really no-one who shouldn't wear a bra - it's just a matter of picking the right bra for your body type and activity.

Why Wear a Bra?

Wearing a bra is great for:

Better posture

To improve breathing (better support for the breasts enables you to open up your shoulders and breathe better)

Comfort (supports the weight of the breasts)

Relieving aches and pains caused by the weight of the breasts

Preventing bounce when working out or being active

Fighting gravity by reducing strain on the connective tissue that holds the breasts onto the chest wall

Shaping loose breast tissue

Supporting sagging breasts

Looking fitter and trimmer

Creating great cleavage

Looking sexy in an intimate encounter

There are as many reasons to wear a bra as there are types of bras - so add the right bras to your wardrobe and enjoy the benefits of wearing the right bra for the right activity!

When to Wear a Bra

With the wide variety of bras, you can wear a bra anytime. All you need is to match the bra design to your activity.

Wear a great cleavage bra with your favorite low-cut shirt on a date

Wear a flattering molded cup bra under your work wardrobe to look trim, fit and professional

Wear a comfortable sleep bra when you go to bed to help keep your breasts from moving, shifting and interrupting your sleep at night

Wear a sports bra when you work out to keep your breasts in place while you move

Wear a shaping longline bra under a fabulous evening gown to look your best at a special event

Wear a bridal bra under your wedding dress to look gorgeous on your big day

Wear a maternity bra to provide comfort and support as your body changes throughout pregnancy

Really, you can wear a bra anytime - just get the right style to suit the activity, and you'll look and feel great everywhere you go!

Avoid These Biggest Bra Mistakes

Unfortunately, many women have misconceptions about bra fit and sizing that can lead to major issues - and even medical problems after too long with these mistakes. Avoid these biggest bra mistakes to keep your body looking and feeling great:

DON'T expect support from the bra straps - the bulk of the support should come from the bra band. If your bust is sagging, you're wearing the wrong size or the wrong bra for your body type. If you spend too long with straps that dig in to your shoulder to 'provide support' for your breasts, you can experience severe shoulder grooves and disfigurement - don't risk it! The most common fit issue is wearing a band size that's too large and a cup size that's too small. Get fitted to ensure you're wearing the right bra size!

AVOID tight underwires across the breast tissue - if an underwire is tight and it's laying directly across your breast tissue, this can lead to grooves on the breasts and permanent disfigurement over time. The underwire in a properly fitted bra should cradle your breast and lie directly against your chest wall. If the underwire is laying directly across your breast tissue, either the breast isn't properly positioned in the bra (try the 'scoop and swoop' to position your breasts inside the cup) or the bra cups aren't the right size - most likely too small. Get fitted ASAP to find the right bra size and prevent permanent disfigurement!

DON'T assume you're a certain size just because that's what you're wearing! 4 out of every 5 women are wearing the wrong bra size, mostly because they bought that size once - probably under the guidance of a sales clerk who didn't have the right size in stock or didn't know how to measure - and that sticks forever as 'my size.' Get measured twice a year for size, and check the brand size comparison to see what size you should be wearing in a particular brand. Correct sizing resolves 90% of bra issues - and is WAY more comfortable and flattering - so stop thinking you're a particular size and get sized!

Statistics show that as many as 80% of women are wearing the wrong bra size.

The biggest bra mistakes are caused by poor bra fit, so see our fit guide to measure yourself and figure out what bra size you should be wearing. Start doing it right from an early age, and get fitted at least twice a year, to prevent problems in the long run!

Find the Bra that's Best for You