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The Ultimate Guide to Bra Types

Feb 28, 2019

Figuring out fit is one thing, but buying the right type of bra can be just as tough. Use this guide to keep 'em all straight.

Woman wearing bra laying in bed

When you find one or two bra types you love (and a size that fits), it's tempting to keep buying the same ones again and again. But not all bra types are created equal. For instance, your favorite may look great with a polished work blouse but strange under a casual T-shirt. That's why it's important to stock your lingerie drawer with multiple styles of bras.

Start by taking stock of the tops and dresses you wear most and the activities you engage in. Next, consider if they'd be better served by any of the following styles of bra:

Comfortable Bras

Full Coverage

Why it's great: This bra style covers most of the breast and provides maximum support.
What to wear it with: casual or work clothes, but nothing too low cut if you don't want the bra to peek out
Who's it best for: women with larger busts

Shop all full-coverage bras here.

Woman wearing pink lacy full-coverage bra

T-Shirt

Why it's great: Designed to remain invisible even under very thin fabrics, this bra usually sports a seamless design and provides ample coverage.
What to wear it with: T-shirts, obviously, but it'll look great with most everyday clothes
Who it's best for: everyone

Shop all T-shirt bras here.

Woman wearing purple T-shirt bra

Soft Cup

Why it's great: These types of bras are defined by their lack of an underwire: that means extra comfort. They may be padded or unpadded, seamed or seamless, and lined or unlined.
What to wear it with: just about everything
Who it's best for: most women, particularly those who don't need the intense support of a wire cup

Shop all soft-cup bras here.

Woman wearing teal soft cup bra

Full Figure

Why it's great: Thicker straps with more coverage and tons of support mean ample bosoms stay comfortably in place.
What to wear it with: Higher necklines will hide these bras best, as they have a tendency to come up higher on the body in order to provide the most support.
Who it's best for: women with larger busts

Shop all full-figure bras here.

Woman wearing red full-figure bra

Sexy Bras

Demi Cup

Why it's great: This style covers anywhere from half to three-quarters of the breast and provides modest cleavage.
What to wear it with: just about everything
Who it's best for: most women, particularly those looking for a little sex appeal that's not too over-the-top

Shop all demi-cup bras here.

 

Woman in a rust red demi-cup bra

Balconette

Why it's great: With nearly horizontal cups, balconette bras offer less coverage than a demi cup and usually provide dramatic cleavage.
What to wear it with: low-cut tops or dresses
Who it's best for: women who want a bra with a sexier, more distinct look and who are looking to boost their cleavage

Shop all balconette bras here.

 

Woman in nude colored balconette bra

Woman in pink pushup bra

Pushup

Why it's great: Pushup bras use underwire to boost cleavage with the help of either graduated padding or removable pads.
What to wear it with: low-cut tops or dresses
Who it's best for: most women, particularly those itching for that classic vampy look

Shop all pushup bras here.

 

Woman in black lace bralette

Bralette

Why it's great: Bralettes combine comfort and style by eliminating wires and padding and relying on lots of soft, feminine touches such as lace.
What to wear it with: anything, from loose tanktops to T-shirts; since many are styled more like a crop top than a bra, they can work as loungewear or pajamas as well
Who it's best for: women who don't need much in the way of support and those who like their bra straps to show under certain garments

Shop all bralettes here.

Woman in black strapless tube bra

Specialty Bras

Strapless or Convertible

Why it's great: The convertible bra style is characterized by its straps, which can be removed or adjusted in myriad ways, while the strapless bra is, well, strapless.
What to wear it with: formalwear, strapless tops or dresses, or any garmet with an unusual neckline or straps
Who it's best for: women who don't want their bra straps to show under certain garments

Shop all strapless bras here.

Woman in gray sports bra

Sports

Why it's great: Designed to minimize breast movement during athletic activity, sports bras provide firm support and are available with or without underwire. For maximum comfort, make sure you're wearing the right sports bra for your body type.
What to wear it with:
workout clothes, of course
Who it's best for: active women

Shop all sports bras here.

Woman wearing backless gel bra

Backless Gel

Why it's great: They use a tacky gel (instead of straight adhesive) to cling to your chest, making them reuseable. Some can be worn upward of 20 or 50 times, while others are still only intended for a few uses before they no longer cling.
What to wear it with: revealing strapless or backless ensembles
Who it's best for: most women, but women with larger busts may find the support inadequate or the cups too small

Shop all backless gel bras here.

Woman wearing nursing bra

Nursing

Why it's great: Nursing-bra cups have detachable clips at the top, which allow nursing mothers easy access for breastfeeding. Supportive cups keep the breasts comfortable.
What to wear it with: shirts or tops that are quick to unbutton or pull aside to allow for easier nursing
Who it's best for: breastfeeding moms

Shop all nursing bras here.

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