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The Ultimate Bra Guide

From the sexiest lace to a quick-drying sports bra, follow our guide to find something that flatters you and feels good.

Bra fitting cheat sheet

Not sure what size bra you are? Here’s how to figure out your cup and band size.

Putting it on – Do it up on the widest size. The elastic will give over time, being able to do it up tighter means you can still have it fit you. Next, sweep your breasts into the cups. Put your hand inside the bra, under your breast and sweep it into the middle. Do the same to the other side. This makes sure your breasts are completely inside the cups. Now adjust the straps. They should be taut, but not digging in.

Check the band size – The band should be horizontal. If it’s riding up at the back check if the shoulder straps are too tight and pulling it up. If it’s not the straps then it’s too loose, try going down a band size. If its digging in, it’s too tight, try going up a band size.

Check the cups – There should be no bulging, if there is you need to move up a cup size and band size. There should be no gaping or sagging cups. If there are, you need to move down a cup size and move up a band size.

Final checks – Your bra should look good with clothes over it. You should be able to walk in it without it is feeling bouncy. For low cut bras, if you lean forward make sure you don’t fall out when you bend over. For a sports bra, jump up stretch and move in it. And it should be comfortable

Bra glossary

Not sure what type of bra to go for? Here are the different styles of bras, from a plunge to a push-up, sports bra and more. We hope to make it easier for you to choose the right styles for you.

Types of bras

BALCONETTE BRA

A balconette bra is a type of demi cup bra, which basically means the cups are low to allow you to wear fairly low cut clothing. A balconette bra usually has a more of a horizontal line along the top of the cups, which makes it quite different from a plunge bra, which goes very low between the breasts. The one thing all ‘balconette’ bras should have in common is that they have quite low cut cups, underwires and quite widely set straps.

BANDEAU BRA

A bandeau bra is shaped like a strip over your breasts, sometimes with ruching in the middle. They are kind of a cross between a strapless bra and a tube top. They are made of stretchy fabric so don’t normally have a fastening in the back, instead they go on over your head. Like many strapless bras they often come with detachable straps so you can wear them with or without. As there is little to no shaping this isn’t a supportive bra, it only works well for smaller breasts. If you are bigger and need something more supportive you are better to go with a classic style strapless bra. You can get variations of bandeau bras that have wires and padding to give more lift but a classic bandeau bra is really just a strip of stretchy fabric. 

SOFT CUP BRA

A soft cup otherwise known as a contour or molded cup bra means the cups have been shaped by machine to fit the shape of your breasts. Contour bra cups are shaped from fabric and a thin layer of foam, and they will hold their shape whether they are on or off. Because each cup is shaped from one piece of material they are seamless across the cup making them good for wearing with any clothes where seams would show through. The thin layer of foam also helps to disguise any outline from the nipple, so they are popular for that reason too. 

FULL CUP BRA

The cups on a full cup bra completely cover the breasts. They offer the most support of any type of bra so are a popular choice if you have a larger cup size. As they are designed for women who want more support and comfort, the shoulder straps are usually wider. If you have trouble with bulging over the top of lower cut bras then try full cups. The cup comes up high enough that they will fully contain your breasts so you will get a smooth line.

PADDED BRA

A padded bra has padding in the base of the cup to lift your breast and give the appearance of larger breasts. Padding can also refer to a light padding through the cup to hide any nipple shape. They come in a variety of different shapes and styles, they could be t-shirt bras, or a push or a combination of shapes. Whatever style they are you won’t be able to tell from looking at them on if they are padded or not.

PLUNGE BRA

Plunge bras are designed so you can wear low cut clothing without your bra showing. The cups join together low between the breasts, with a thin centre piece. Usually the shoulder straps are wide, so you can wear any necklines that are widely cut as well as low. Plunge bras can also be push-up bras, this will give a fuller cleavage than a plunge bra with wider set cups.

PUSH UP BRA

Push-up bras do exactly what they say, they push your breasts up and together to give maximum cleavage. They are usually plunge bras as well, this means the cups join low between the breasts so you can wear something low to show them off. They are padded so breasts can appear a couple of cup sizes larger than they are. They are great for small breasts if you want to draw attention to them and make them look bigger. Some will have removable padding or inserts, in other ones the padding will be built in. Some even contain gel padding that will mould to your shape and give the look and feel of real breasts. If you already have full breasts and want the look of a push-up bra but don’t want to add any extra size look for ones where the padding is removable. 

SPORTS BRA

Sports bras are designed to give you support during physical activity. There are different types that will work better for different activities. A sports bra for yoga should be really comfortable and offer greater movement, whereas one for running and high impact sport should be firm enough to remove bounce and also breathe well to reduce sweating. Some use special fabrics that help to draw sweat away from your body. Mesh sections are another way they can help keep you cool while active.

T-SHIRT BRA

A T-shirt bra has seamless contour cups that are designed to give a smooth look under tight or lightweight fabric. The cups are lightly padded to stop the shape of the nipples showing through. If you don’t want to add any size to your breasts look for ones that are thinly padded through the cup but not padded underneath like a push-up is.

NURSING BRA

Most of the time the terms ‘maternity bra’ and ‘nursing bra’ mean the same thing and are used interchangeably. Strictly speaking a maternity bra is for while you are pregnant and has the features you need for comfort and support during that time. A nursing bra will have some way to easily access your breasts for breastfeeding, normally this is done with drop down cups that have clips. Many of the features you would want from a bra while pregnant and while nursing cross over, so a lot of the time all those features are are combined into the same bra. This means they will work equally well for whether you are pregnant or breastfeeding and you can hopefully save on needing to buy as many bras. This is why the terms have generally come to mean the same thing.

Bra accessories

With these accessories you can extend or transform the life of your bra. Racerback clips, bra extenders, inserts and more.

Bra extender

These are a great way to get a longer life out of bras that have become too tight through the band. You get them as 1, 2, 3 or 4 hook options to fit different bras. They usually come in black, white and beige to blend in with the most common bra colours. To use them simply attach it to one end of the back fastening on your bra then put it on and do it up as normal.

Bra inserts

Bra inserts are also known as cookies or bra padding. Silicone ones are sometimes called chicken fillets due to their resemblance to them. Often they are promoted as a non-surgical option to increase your bra size. As well as giving you the appearance of larger breasts they can be worn with a push up bra  to increase cleavage.  They sit in the bottom of the bra cups to push your breasts up and fill out the bra. They come in a variety of sizes and shapes and are usually made from foam or silicone rubber, some are liquid or gel filled. The silicone ones will mold to your shape and grip against your skin better than a fabric and foam one will. Some bras will have pockets for adding padding built into them, that’s another way to keep them from slipping out.

Bra strap connector

You will find these with a variety of names, bra strap convertor, bra strap connector and bra strap holder are the most common. They can be worn in the back or front of the bra to hold the straps together. They are similar to a racer back clip in use. They can stop straps slipping off your shoulders and pull straps out of the way for clothing where they would normally show. 

Fashion tape

Fashion tape is double sided tape which you use to keep clothing in place. The main difference between fashion tape and normal double sided tape is that the adhesive is one that is meant to be used with skin. Common uses are to keep loose straps in place and on plunging necklines you use short pieces of it under the edge to stop it falling open when you move. You don’t have to stick fabric to skin, it can be fabric to fabric as well. If you have a bra that is likely to be seen as clothing shifts you can tape the clothing to the bra. If you are wearing a button shirt and it’s gaping open you can snip a small piece of fashion tape off and use it to secure between the buttons.

How to care for your bras

+ You don’t need to wash it after every use. It’s enough to wash it after about two or three uses. Always follow the washing instructions on the bra label and in general never wash an underwired bra or one with silicone in the washing machine.

+ Always do up the bra at the back as this prevents the hook and eye fastening from becoming stuck in lace and other delicate materials. Use a mild washing detergent for coloured clothes.

+ Handwash in a clean bowl or wash basin and if the bra is delicate wash in cold water as heat can destroy the elasticity. If your underwired bra can be machine washed, use the program for delicates.

+ Always use a wash bag suitable for underwear to protect the bra and prevents it from getting tangled. Never tumble dry your bra.

+ Dry by stretching out the bra, cups and padding so it doesn’t shrink. Also stretch the wire band and carefully squeeze the water out and when you hang up to dry, don’t; hang by the shoulder straps as these can stretch from the weight of the wetness. Hang the bra so the centre bit hands across the washing line.

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