Do I really have to explain to you what bras are for?
A bra is a form-fitting undergarment designed to
support a woman's breasts. Common styles include backless,
balconette, convertible, shelf, full cup, demi-cup, minimizing, padded, plunge,
posture, push-up, racerback, sheer, strapless, T-shirt, underwire, unlined and
soft cup. Bras can enhance or minimize the size of breasts, create
cleavage, and in the case of nursing bras, aid breast-feeding. Learn about
styles in our glossary section.
Bras are complex garments made of numerous parts.
Fabric, clasps, pads, elastic, etc. As a matter of fact, a bra is one of
the more complicated garments to manufacture. A typical design could have
between 20 and 48 bra components, including the band, hooks, cups, lining, and
The bra's main components are a chest band
that wraps around the torso, two cups, and shoulder
straps. The chest band is usually closed in the back by a hook and eye
fastener, but may be fastened at the front. Sleep bras or
athletic bras do not have fasteners and are pulled on over the head and
breasts. The section between the cups is called a gore. The
section under the armpit where the band joins the cups is called the "back
components, including the cup top and bottom (if seamed), the central, side
and back panels, and straps, are cut to manufacturer's specifications. Many
layers of fabric may be cut at the same time using computer-controlled lasers or
bandsaw shearing devices. The pieces are assembled by piece workers using
industrial sewing machines or automated machines. Coated metal hooks and
eyes are sewn in by machine and heat processed or ironed into the back
ends of the band and a tag or label is attached or printed onto the bra itself.
The completed bras are folded (mechanically or manually), and packaged for
The chest band and cups, not the shoulder straps, are
designed to support the weight of women's breasts. Strapless bras rely on an
underwire and additional seaming and stiffening panels to
support them. The shoulder straps of some sports bras cross over at the back to
take the pressure off the shoulders when arms are raised. Manufacturers
continually experiment with proprietary frame designs. For example, the Playtex
"18-Hour Bra" model utilizes an M-Frame design.
Most come in 36 sizes; standards and methods of
measurement vary widely and up to 85 per cent of women may be wearing the wrong
size. The world's best-selling bra, as of 2005, was said to be the
full-cup "Doreen" by Triumph International in size 36D.
What is a brassiere?
Brassiere is another name for the same product. The
term brassiere was used by the Evening Herald in Syracuse, New York, in 1893.
It gained wider acceptance in 1904 when the DeBevoise Company used it in their
advertising copy—although the word is actually Norman French for a child's
undershirt. The French refer to it as a soutien-gorge (literally,
"breast-supporter"). It and other early versions resembled a camisole
stiffened with boning.
When did women start wearing bras?
Wearing a garment to support the breasts may date back to
ancient Greece. Women wore an apodesmos, later stēthodesmē, mastodesmos
and mastodeton, all meaning "breast-band", a band of wool or linen that was
wrapped across the breasts and tied or pinned at the back. Fragments of
linen textiles found in East Tyrol in Austria dated to between 1440 and 1485 are
believed to have been bras. Two of them had cups made from two pieces of linen
sewn with fabric that extended to the bottom of the torso with a row of six
eyelets for fastening with a lace or string. One had two shoulder straps and was
decorated with lace in the cleavage.
What about the bra cups?
Brassieres were initially manufactured by small
production companies and supplied to retailers. The term "cup" was not used
until 1916, and manufacturers relied on stretchable cups to accommodate
different sized breasts. In October 1932, the S.H. Camp and Company
correlated the size and pendulousness of breasts to letters A through D.
Camp's advertising featured letter-labeled profiles of breasts in the February
1933 issue of Corset and Underwear Review. In 1937, Warner began to feature cup
sizing in its products.
A high percentage of bras sold in the UK and US have
underwired cups. The underwire is made of metal, plastic, or resin.
Underwire is built around the perimeter of the cup where it attaches to the
band, increasing its rigidity to improve support, lift, and separation.
Wirefree or softcup bras have additional seaming and
internal reinforcement. T-shirt bras, utilize molded cups that eliminate seams
and hide nipples. Others use padding or shaping materials to enhance bust size
Wouldn't it be a good idea for to have adjustable
Adjustable bands were introduced using multiple hook and
eye closures in the 1930s.
Why is it hard for some women to find a bra that
Unfortunately, most bras are mass-produced and made to
fit "standard" sizes. Using standard sizes is very complicated for trying
to properly fit so many different body types, shapes, and sizes.
Mass-produced bras are manufactured to fit a prototypical woman standing with
both arms at her sides. The design assumes that both breasts are equally sized
Size does matter when determining a bra to
Determining the correct bra size (also known as brassiere
measurement or bust size) is the process manufacturers engage in to design and
manufacture bras that correctly fit a majority of women, and for individual
women, the process of identifying a correctly fitting bra. Bra sizes
usually consist of one or more letters indicating the breast cup size and a
number, indicating a band size around the individual's torso. Bra cup sizes were
invented in 1932 and band sizes became popular in the 1940s. The shape, size,
position, symmetry, spacing, firmness, and amount of sagging of individual
women's breasts vary considerably. Manufacturers mass-produce bras as
ready-to-wear garments and size them to fit standard, idealized, female torsos.
Manufacturers' bra size labeling systems vary from country to country because no
international standards exist.
In most countries, bras come in a band and cup size, such
as 34C; 34 is the band width, which is the measurement directly underneath the
breasts, and C is the cup size, which refers to the volume of the breasts. Most
bras are offered in 36 sizes; the Triumph "Doreen" comes in 67 sizes, up to 46J.
Bra cup size is relative to the band size, as the volume of a woman's breast
changes with the dimension of her chest. A B cup on a 34 band is not the same
size as a B cup on a 36 band. In countries that have adopted the European
EN 13402 dress-size standard, the measurement is rounded to the nearest multiple
of 5 centimetres (2.0 in).
about bra measurements
What are the best bra fabrics?
Bras were originally made of linen, cotton broadcloth,
and twill weaves and sewn using flat-felled or bias-tape seams. They are now
made of a variety of fibers & materials, including Tricot,
Latex, microfiber, silk,
satin, Jacquard, foam, mesh, and lace, and otehrs which are generally blended in
some fashion to achieve specific purposes. Spandex, a
fiber with built-in "stretch memory", can be blended with cotton, polyester,
or nylon. Mesh is a high-tech synthetic composed of ultra-fine filaments
that are tightly knit for smoothness.
Do all women wear bras?
Obviously not. That is a rather silly question.
Bras are not anatomically required to support breasts, but are worn in response
to cultural influences. Bras are not worn around the world; in developing
countries the cost of one may equal 10–30 hours of a woman's wages.
Swimsuits, camisoles, tank
tops and backless dresses may be made with built-in support, but it is
questionable if those would fall into the bra category. As a reminder, a
bra is a form-fitting undergarment designed to
support a woman's breasts. A tank top, swimsuit, backless dresses are not
What is a bustier?
A bustier (alternately bustiere) is a form-fitting
garment for women, which is traditionally worn as lingerie. Its primary purpose
is to push up the bust by tightening against the upper midriff and forcing the
breasts up, while gently shaping the waist. Nowadays, it might also be worn as a
push-up bra under a low-backed dress, or as a camisole for outerwear. The
bustier can also be worn as a half-slip under sheer upper garments if a bold
display of the midriff is not desired. A bustier resembles a basque, but
it is shorter. It reaches down only to the ribs or waist. Modern bustiers are
often made with mesh panels rather than the traditional boning.
A bra is one of many types of
Caution: A poorly fitted bra can cause back and neck
bra retailers in our lingerie store section.
Suggested bra retailers:
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Bras have an
influence on fashion and women that wear or don't wear bras
influence most elements of mankind.
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