Here’s an (almost) comprehensive guide to bras, for when you don’t quite understand what people are talking about, and you’re wondering what kind of bra you should be wearing. All these styles can be combined into all sorts of amalgamates.
This offers excellent coverage, second to only the sports bra. It’s usually comfortable and can be worn under anything that covers the majority of your chest. Can be found with or without an underwire, and commonly non-padded, but padded ones are often found as well.
Ideal for: Large busts, and when you need control and coverage.
Cups the breasts from below, covering only half of the breasts. Commonly found with underwire, and can be padded or non-padded.
Ideal for: Necklines that expose the tops of the breasts.
A little more coverage than a balconette, but less than the full cup. It covers approximately ¾ of the breasts, and can be found in all sorts of styles.
Ideal for: Anything it fits other, and suits larger and smaller busts equally well.
Also known as a convertible bra, this is basically a strapless bra that has little loops you can attach the straps to, in any way you want. Strapless, halter, crossover, single strap… Anything, really. It’s usually a balconette style bra.
Ideal for: Almost every single outfit you can wear. It’s like the Darwin of bras. It adapts to anything.
This bra maximises cleavage, as the front ‘V’ reaches down to the bottom of your breasts. It often comes padded and with push up.
Ideal for: Low, V-cut tops, and when you need extra cleavage on show.
Bras that are padded have thick material lining the cup, not just a thin fabric. This allows them to hold their shape without breasts to fill them, and offers more shape and support. It’s also what prevents nipples from being seen through thin tops. Extreme extra padding is what creates a push up bra.
Ideal for: When you need shape and coverage.
Exactly as its name implies, this type of bra is designed to be worn under a t-shirt. It’s comfy, and usually lightly padded, in all sorts of styles. It’s v-neck allows it to be worn under most basic t-shirt styles, and most good ones mould to the shape of the body to provide a seamless look.
Ideal for: T-shirts
The underwire is the u-shaped wire underneath each cup of a bra, offering support and shape. Bras without a wire are usually considered ‘comfier’, unless the wearer is accustomed to wearing underwired bras.
Ideal for: Young girls with still developing breasts, as the wire in most bras can cause discomfort to them.
A strapless, non-padded, non-wired bra with almost no support. They’re often pretty, and look good when layered and visible under other shirts.
This bra gives the most support of all bras, as it should, to keep the breasts in place during exercise, to prevent ligament damage. Sports bras can be either compression or structured. Compression bras prevent movement by pressing the breasts into the chest. Structured ones look more like normal bras, with very full coverage and firm, padded cups that hold the breasts in their separate cups to prevent movement, and also prevent the ‘uniboob’ that a compression bra can cause.
Ideal for: Sports, obviously, but they’re so incredibly comfy you can wear them whenever.
‘Wonderbra’ is a brand name. They became famous for their push-up bras, so much that their name is now synonymous with push-up bras. Push ups increase your bra size with lots of padding, usually built in to the bra, but sometimes removable through a little pocket.
Ideal for: Cleavage. Lots of cleavage.
Usually for women who have large busts, and sometimes pregnant/nursing mothers unused to the increasing size of their breasts (although unlike speciality maternity bras, they do not expand in size along with growing breasts). They are non-padded, usually underwired, and full cup. Their function is to minimise the size of the breasts.
Ideal for: Mostly large busts, but any women who wish to reduce the look of the breasts.
Happy bra shopping.