The bra is made out of several different parts. You may not be aware of their names and what they do, but each part has a specific role to play. Most elements of the bra vary in style and shape. The type of cup, strap, band, and so on, you opt for depends on personal preference, size, occasion and outfit.
The bra cup is the part of the bra that surrounds and supports the breast, literally “cupping” it. Various styles of bra cup include full cup, demi cup, ¾ cup, angled, seamless and padded. The kind of cup you wear depends on your body shape and outfit. For example, if you need a lot of support try a full cup, or underwired ¾ cup. If you’re wearing a low neckline, wear angled cups underneath so that they don’t show.
Bra straps are the shoulder straps that most bras have. They are connected to the cups, band, or both. There are several different styles of straps, including classic, halterneck, low halterneck, and Racerback.
There is an increasing amount of bra strap designs available. You can now get beaded straps, lace-trimmed straps, and straps embellished with sequins and gems such as diamante stones, or crystals. Contrary to popular belief, the straps don’t provide all the support your bra gives you. They only offer about 10% of the support.
The bra band is the horizontal strap running right the way round the bottom of the bra. The band rests below your breasts in the front, and between your shoulder blades and waist at the back.
It’s important to know what your band size is, so you get maximum support and comfort from your band. If you wear a bra with a band that’s too big, it won’t give you enough support. If your band is too small, the underwiring will dig into your skin.
You can get both wide and narrow bands. Wider bands are ideal for those who need more support from their bra. Wear a narrower band if you’re going to be wearing something revealing. The narrower the band, the less chance there is of it being visible.
Read more about bra bands
A bra closure is the fastener at the front or back of a bra. Back closures are more popular and common than front ones. Every closure has at least one row of eyes and hooks on it. Back closures are adjustable, because they have several rows of eyes on them. This means you can fasten the bra as tightly as you like.
Front closure bras are easier to fasten, but can be awkward to put on. If you have trouble fastening back closures, try putting the bra on with the closure at the front, fastening it, and then reversing it so it’s in the right position.
Some women find back closures to be uncomfortable because they dig into the small of the back. Similarly, others find front closures uncomfortable because they dig into the chest. However, many women wear both back and front closures and find both comfortable.
The center gore is the bit of material connecting the bra’s cups at the front. It should lie flat between your breasts, below the visible part of your cleavage. The center gore can be made from either stretch or non-stretch fabric. Non-stretch tends to offer substantially greater support. Center gores can vary in width. Plunge bras have narrow ones, which is one of the reasons why they’re ideal for low necklines.
Some bras have underwiring, to give extra lift and support. Underwire is the wire that is threaded through the base of the cups, just above the band. The wire follows the curve of the cups. Underwiring may be made from heavy gauge wire, sheet metal or plastic.
Underwired bras tend to be either full cup or ¾ cup. Demi and angled cups can also have underwiring, but the wires tend to be shorter.
It’s important to wear the right band size, so that your underwire is the right diameter for you. If it isn’t, the underwire may poke into your body and cause discomfort. Underwiring can even break in half if your band size is too small.
Once you understand what the different parts of the bra are and what they do, you can choose the bra that’s right for you. Buy different styles of bra according to your body shape, the amount of support you need, and the types of outfit you like to wear.