By Georgia Alexia Benjou
Fashion Stylist, Editor & Consultant
Your bra is the very foundation of your entire outfit. The right or wrong bra can make or break your entire look. You will be amazed to know that till date 80% women don’t even know their correct bra size let alone the correct bra type for them.
Check out Our Ultimate Guide to Choosing a Perfect Bra.
Why you need to wear a bra
- Regardless of your cup size, all breasts need support. That doesn’t mean you have to wear a bra with underwire, but gravity – eventually – causes all breast tissue to sag, which is what a well-fitting bra helps to prevent.
- From a stylist’s point of view, wearing the right bra provides the foundation for your silhouette. So, if you want the line of your figure to look amazing, then you need to find the best-fitting bra to create the shape and silhouette you want.
- Shape, fit and comfort are the most important elements in a bra.
What to look for in a well-fitting bra
My first suggestion is to always visit a store with a trained fitter when shopping for a new bra. However, if you’re shopping online, like so many of us are right now, many brands have their own section on how to properly measure yourself or a fit guide – like the ThirdLove Fitting Room – to make sure you’re wearing the right bra size.
In general, here’s what to pay attention to when buying a new bra:
There is no industry standard for bra sizing, so you may not be the same size in – say – a Chantelle as a Natori; it’s not a big deal so don’t get hung up on the size.
A properly fitting bra includes cups that don’t gape or have spillage, and the center panel should lay flat against your breastbone.
Cup construction impacts the shape of your bust line.
A cup with seams or multi-cup construction – like a 3-part cup – provides the best fit and support (or lift), especially for bigger busts. It also provides a rounded shape. Pretty much any cup size can be constructed with seams.
A molded cup bra has no seams. The material is heat-treated to create a smooth, natural and round shape. A molded cup bra can come with or without padding, and with or without an underwire.
A contour cup bra shapes the bust through thin, fully padded cups to give a rounded, symmetrical silhouette. It can have molded or seamed cups, and also usually has an underwire. Although the padding is thin, fuller busts will probably avoid this style, as they may feel it will add volume (a seamed cup, however, would add support).
A bra with underwire will provide more support than other bra styles, making them ideal for fuller busts.
Pay attention to how high the wire comes up on the sides and in the middle of the bra; the underwire should not press against the breast at the side or in the middle. You should be able to lift and move your arms freely without the underwire moving.
Once you adjust the bra straps, they should securely stay on your shoulder, and not fall down or dig into your shoulder.
Women who wear a bigger bra size will find that their bra straps are usually wider for additional support.
The band actually provides most of the bra support, so it should fit snugly.
The wider the band, the more supportive the bra, which is why women with larger busts may find that their bras have 3 or more hooks in the back instead of just one or two.
The hazards of a poorly fitting bra
If your bra is too loose, it won’t provide enough support.
If your bra is too tight, it can lead to all kinds of discomfort, including breast pain, neck and back pain, bad posture, and skin chafing.
When is it time to dispose of a bra
On average, bras should be replaced every year.
You’ll know the bra has reached the end of its life span when the band’s elastic is stretched out and you’re on the innermost bra hook.
Remember to hand wash your bras after each use or at least weekly.
Do not stick your bra in the dryer; instead, help maintain its shape by air-drying.
If possible, store your bras flat in a drawer to preserve the cup shape.
The reason buying a bra can be so confusing for women is because some styles are based on construction, some describe coverage and others are about the neckline shape.
Since right now many women want to wear a comfortable, casual bra without underwire, let’s start with bralettes and wireless bras.
A bralette is more fashion and less function. They are unlined and wireless, and offer only light support. It’s the perfect casual underpinning to wear at home or when you want to make a fashion statement and flash your undergarment.
Bralettes are better suited to smaller busts, especially if the cup style is a triangle (the smallest bra cup). For ladies with a fuller bust, opt for a long-line style and/or one that has seaming through the cup for shape and support. Also, look for styles that aren’t cut low on the sides.
Soft Cup or Wire-free
A soft cup bra is designed without an underwire, and instead provides support through other features, like a multi-part cup or a wide band. Soft cup bras come in different shapes (balconette, 3/4 cup, full coverage), so anyone can find a suitable style.
For women who like the idea of a bralette to wear around the house or run errands in on the weekend, but don’t feel that it offers enough support, a soft cup bra could be perfect.
It’s also a style favored by nursing mothers, since there’s no underwire.
A sports bra provides support and limits bounce while working out.
Basically, these bras either compress the breasts against the chest (great for small busts) or encapsulate each breast like a traditional full coverage cup (better for bigger breasts).
For high activity levels – cardio workouts, running, etc. – more support is better, so opt for a constructed bra and not a bralette style.
When we’re back to wearing real clothes, most women will probably need to update their lingerie drawer with some of the following:
Full Coverage bras
A full coverage bra covers the entirety of each breast. This bra can come with or without underwire. For women who are full busted (in breast volume and shape), this is a must-have style.
A full coverage bra can help balance out women who are larger in the bust than the hip (the so-called “apple” shape), have an athletic build with a full bust or even an hourglass shape.
Today’s full coverage bras don’t look like a 1950’s bullet bra; T-shirt, plunge, balconette, and minimizer styles all come full coverage.
As it says, this style of bra is designed for women who want their bust to look smaller. A minimizer basically redistributes the breast tissue so the breasts appear less projected.
This style tends to have full cups and wider straps for both support and comfort. They’re also usually non-padded.
These work beautifully under lightweight fabrics and form-fitting tops because the cups are constructed to give you a smooth look.
A T-shirt bra provides either full or mid-coverage, and can have molded cups, padded cups, be lightly lined, and come with or without underwire. So lots of options!
If you have a fuller bust, look for a T-shirt bra with barely there seams for additional support (once cup sizes head north of DD, it can be difficult to find a molded cup bra).
Balconette & Demi
These romantic, half-cup shapes give your bust a nice boost, without the extreme look of a push-up bra. A true demi cup is quite sexy, as it’s cut a little lower than a balconette.
Both styles are great for slope shape breasts or women who are small busted (especially if you want to balance out wider hips), because it adds volume to the upper part of your breasts.
Tip: Make sure the demi cup completely covers your nipple.
The plunge bra is the style to wear with low necklines.
It’s a good style for most breast shapes, except small busts and women who are shallow on top, since they may need padding to create cleavage.
The push up bra uses padding to push breasts upward and inward to create or enhance cleavage.
For smaller or slope shape breasts that need a little extra help to create cleavage, the push up bra is your evening go-to.
Strapless / Convertible
With this style bra, the band is responsible for holding up your breasts. Therefore, a strapless bra in your regular band size may fit tighter than normal – and that’s OK, as long as it’s not pinching.
- Silicone elastic at the cup edge and back will help to prevent the bra from slipping down.
- If you want to stretch your dollar, opt for a bra with convertible straps, which will give you more ways to wear it.
- Women with bigger busts should look for strapless bras with a wider band and a 3-hook back.
Georgia Alexia Benjou
Fashion Stylist, Editor & Consultant
The Content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.