Bra Glossary by Apparel Search

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Welcome to the Bra Glossary.  In this section, you can learn more about brassieres from our definitions.

Back Wings: back wings are the strips of fabric that extend from the outer base of the cups, around the wearers sides, and latch in the back.  Some manufactures utilize basic back wings and others take great care with decoration and styling.

Balconette Bras: Balconette also often referenced as a demi cup bra.  However, the balconette typically has a little less coverage then a demi cup bra. A true balconette cup will be cut horizontally just above the bust line and give ones breast the look of fullness and uplift.  A balconette cup often has some padding to enhance bust size appearance. Here is an interesting piece of history for the term.  The name balconette originated because men in the balcony of a theater had been looking down upon women (trying to catch a sneak peak).  A balconette bra could not be seen as easily from above.

Bra Cups: If you are familiar with bras, you most likely already know what the bra cup is used for…  Bra cups consist of the fabric that covers and supports your breasts.  Cups may be cut and sewn with multiple pieces seamed together or they can be produced seamless (made of just one piece).   Cups may be padded or non-padded.  Locate bra cup factories.

Bralette: a bralette is also often referenced as a softcup bra.  This type of bra offers little in regard to support of shaping.  This type of bra is comfortable and delicate.  The bralette typically has no underwires.

Center Gore: The center gore is the piece of fabric that joins the wearer's bra cups together at the front. The center gore should always lie flat against the breastbone.  If the center gore does not lie flat, the bra will not fit as well as it should.  When looking for "support", you may want to go with a non-stretch center gore.  Some center gores are made with stretch fabric and others with non-stretch fabric.

Contour Cups: Contour cups are used in bras to help hold their shape, even when the bra is not being worn. This type of bra cup has an underwire and a foam lining molded into a specific shape (foam or some other type of material). Contour cups are beneficial for women that are wishing to obtain a more sculpted silhouette.  The contour cups offer the appearance of a symmetrical breast shape. Although the contour cup has padding, it is not typically worn for the sole purpose of padding (increasing the size appearance) of the chest.  The concept of the contour bra is to add definition and a smooth shape to the breast to help eliminate uneven appearance from nipple contours etc.

Demi Cup Bra: a demi cup bra is also referenced as a half cup bra.  Essentially, the bra cups are approximately half the size of a full coverage bra cup.  Therefore, a demi cup bra has less breast coverage. The underwires of a demi cup are usually shorter and more shallow.  The fashion industry typically cuts a demi cup to approximately 1 inch above the nipple point.  However, there is not a one hundred percent fixed rule for all manufacturers. Most push-up bras are demi cups so that the wearer can show more cleavage.  The majority of demi cups are designed with a slight tilt to push the breasts towards the center to present more cleavage. If a demi creates a particularly straight line across your bust, it is often referred to as a balconette. Because they create great cleavage and are often designed to be seen, demi bras are very popular when in the mode to look sexy.

Findings / Bra Components: in the fashion industry, findings are also called trimming or components.  In regard to bras and lingerie, findings refer to the plastic or metal hardware found on the bras.  Findings may actually come in other materials then plastic or metal as well.  Findings may include rings, slide closures, and clasps of various styles. Findings are often dyed to match the garment.  However, they can be in contrast colors such as gold, silver, etc. as well.

Foam Cups: this is rather self explanatory.  The foam cup bras use foam padding in the cups of the bra.  The goal is to have padding that avoids bunching up during the washing process if you use machine washing.  Foam holds up better then some other materials.  We are not saying foam is perfect, but it should hold up better then some other types of padding materials.

Full Cup Bra: The full cup bra is designed so that fabric covers the majority of your breasts.  This type of bra provides good support and is aimed at assisting with the comfort of women with naturally large cup sizes.  In addition to providing more coverage, full cup bras are designed to provide more support then bras such as demi cup bras.  The full cup bra would typically not cause a crease or lines along the top of the breast.  They are not guaranteed to prevent creases, but they should help.

Inner Sling: The inner sling is a curved strip of fabric in underwire bras that mimics the line of the underwire. This fabric is usually made of non-stretch material and typically rises no more than half the height of the cup itself.  The inner sling is utilized to offer additional support.  An inner sling provides a taut, invisible shelf that supports the weight of the wearer's breast.

Lined Cups: Lined cups provide additional support and added opaqueness to the bra cup.

Lingerie: all of the other items on this page are considered to be lingerie.

Maternity Bras: maternity bras are typically made for comfort.  They use breathable and soft fabrics.  The goal is to prevent irritation.

Minimizer Bra Cups: The purpose of a minimizer bra is to give the appearance of smaller breasts.  Basically, to "minimize" the appearance.  The minimizer bras help to allow larger breasted women to wear front-button shirts and blouses without as much gapping.  Rather then allowing the breasts to project outward, a minimizer bra distributes the breast flesh more towards the underarm and the center front. A minimizer basically shifts the position and shape of the breast. This bra can not reduce the volume of breast tissue.

Molded Bra Cup: A molded cup is seamless and has a pre-formed breast shape molded into the cups fabric.

Nursing Bras: A nursing bra is a bra that has specially designed bra cups and closures that open to allow access for a baby to nurse without the mother having to take off her bra.  They are often made with snaps for easy opening and closing.  This bra type is a very practical method for nursing ones child.

Padded Bras / Padded Cups: A padded bra cup has some sort of padding in the bra cups.  This is often referenced as fiber-fill in the cups. This padding adds both size and definition to give more size and a proportioned look to smaller bust lines.  All padded bras have some sort of extra thickness added to the cups. The padding can be manufacturered of foam, silicone, air pockets, liquid, etc.  When shopping for bras, you may see the term graduated padding.  Graduated padding will be thicker at the base of the cups.  This helps add to cleavage.

Peekaboo Bra: they say a diamond is a girls best friend and that a dog is mans best friend.  However, it is very possible that the peekaboo bra is really mans best friend.  A peekaboo bra will be structured for the most part like any other traditional bra with one major difference.  The peekaboo bra has an opening at the center of the bra cups which exposes the breast and nipples.  This type of bra can be designed as a demi, plunge, or even full cup.  However, to make this a peekaboo, the breast is expose thru the bra cup location.

Plunge Bra: the plunge bra is one of the suggested styles if you plan to wear a low cut top.  The very center of the plunge bra (the center area where the two bra cups meet) drops down below the level of the nipple.  This will basically form a bit of a v-shape.  Subsequently, giving the breasts a bit of a push to the center which helps form cleavage.

Push-up Bra / Push-up Cups: Push-up cups enhance a woman's bust line by creating cleavage and the look of fuller breasts.  With the help of padding that is hidden inside the bra, the push up bra will help push breasts in the upward direction.  Certainly not straight up, but pushed up to an appropriate level.  Most push-up bras also have wide-set straps. Setting the straps toward the outside edge of the cups will further assist in directing the breast tissue towards the center to create more cleavage.  Designed primarily for women with C cups or smaller, the push-up cups are often shaped like a demi cup with significant padding at the bottom of the cups.  The cups are angled inward so that the breast tissue is pushed towards the center, thus creating cleavage.

Racerback: The straps on a racerback bra pass between your shoulder blades, rather than outside of them. In addition to buying a bra specifically made as a racerback bra, you can use a convertible bra to achieve the similar result.  Many convertible bras can be made to accommodate racerback style tops by crossing the detachable straps in the back.

Seamed Bra Cup: A seamed cup bra has a cup made with 2 or more fabric pieces.  Seaming (using sewing seams) on a cup allows more variations in cup shapes. Vertical and diagonal cup seams add to the cups support and tend to be more flattering to one's breasts.   A bra cup with seams can be made out of many more fabrics such as lace, silk, satin, etc.  Seamed cups (especially 3 section cups) will almost always be more supportive than a molded cup.

Self-adhesive Bra: a self adhesive bra is a bra with no straps and no back.  This top of bra is used when wearing an open back top or dress when you do not wish for people to see your bra straps.  Silicone-based products are often used to create self-adhesive bras. 

Shelf Bra: The cups of a shelf bra fall slightly under the wearers nipples, rather than covering them completely.  The shelf bras are like abbreviated demi bras.  This type of bra provides less support.  The shelf bra is worn for sex appeal not for comfort or support.

Soft Cup Bra: A soft cup bra is a bra with molded cups and no underwire or padding.  Due to the lack of underwire and molding, the soft cup bra is comfortable to wear.  It's most popular with A and B cup sized women.  Women with larger breasts would enjoy the comfort, but would probably not receive enough support.

Sports Bra: a sports bra is designed to offer comfort and support during athletic activities.

Strapless / Convertible Bra: Strapless bras that have detachable straps, would be called convertible bras.  This type of bra can be worn in multiple ways. Beneficial when wearing a revealing top and you are trying to hide the straps.  By adjusting the straps, you can wear it strapless or with the straps in their normal position. If you hook on the straps so they cross in the back, you now have a racerback bra. And if the straps are long enough, you can extend just one and halter it around your neck. Then you would have a halter bra.

Straps: The bra straps rise up from the cups, pass over the women's shoulder, and attach to the back. Straps may be constructed of rigid or stretch material, or some combination of the two. Rigid straps offer more support and are often thicker than stretch straps.  Some straps may be more comfortable then others.  Bra straps are some times an annoyance to the wearer. 

Structured Bras / Contour Bras / Lined Bras / Molded Bras are all ways of describing styles of bras that are not padded, but do have a measure of foam or other material that mirrors the contour of the wearers breast.  This helps provide structure and protection against nipple show through.

Underwire: A thin, flexible wire that is curved to offer additional support to the bra cups. The underwires are typically encased in soft fabric to make them more comfortable to wear.  Well constructed bras that fit properly should not have underwires that would pinch or poke.  If not used properly by the manufacturer, underwire can become uncomfortable.

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