Some of the most common misconceptions and questions we get in our store is the purpose of what each part of the bra is supposed to do. We love educating our customers on what each part of the bra does, how it works and why it’s there. Every part of the bra is there for a reason and contributes to it’s overall fit. An underwire isn’t in the bra to make your life miserable; if you tighten your straps more, you won’t get better cleavage. Let’s discover the true function of some of the bra’s most basic parts, it might help you discover a more comfortable and enjoyable way to wear your bra!
Pictured above is a popular style of bra we carry. These particular cups are made up of lace, an under wire and a three-part seam. Most bras follow this basic structure. Some bras may be seamless or they might have molded cups. They might have less coverage or they might be made of different fabrics. In this diagram we’re just going to show you the basic functions that are most likely present on the bra you’re wearing right now.
THE CUPS: Your bra cups can be made of many different fabrics. They can offer full coverage, half-coverage, plunging coverage – you name it. They’ve basically made a bra for any type of clothing you wear. Your cups should surround each breast and lie flat on your skin. Your cups should never dig into your breast tissue across the top, nor should they gape or wrinkle to create a hollow space. You bra shouldn’t pinch you under the arm or poke your skin. These are all signs that your bra is too small or too big. We’re looking for that optimal flush finish on a bra with a perfect fit. Where your cups start and end should be invisible under your clothing. Probably the most confusing thing about cups is that most people think that a D cup is a D cup, no matter what number goes before it. The truth is that a 34D is smaller in the cups than a 36D is. As the band size increases or decreases, the cup adjusts accordingly. A C cup can be bigger than D or DD cup – it just depends on what the band size is.
THE UNDERWIRE: Oh the dreaded underwire! Wouldn’t life just be better if we didn’t have to wear these contraptions each and every day in our lives? Ask any of our fitters and the answer will always be “no!” A properly fitted bra should never have you lifting, adjusting or dreaming of the minute you get to take it off. The most common revelation is that you don’t even feel like you’re wearing a bra once it fits correctly. Plainly put, if your bra is too big or too small, you’re going to be uncomfortable. Your underwires should fully encompass your breast and sit flat against your rib cage just beneath where the breast tissue ends. If your bra does not lie flat against your rib cage, it’s the wrong size. The underwire is there to shape and contour your breasts to produce a rounder, lifted shape. Now, I know what you’re thinking – “Well then why do they make wireless bras if the underwire so important?”. There are many reasons. Everyone has a preference, some women just can’t wear an underwire, some women may have sensitivities and may prefer a softer fit. A well made soft-cup (wireless) bra might have plastic side boning, reinforced bands or stronger seams. Wirefree bras are generally not as supportive, separating, or shaping as underwire styles, but for some women comfort is more important.
THE GORE: The gore is the space between the breasts. Sometime’s known as the “bridge”, it connects the cups and also houses the end of the wires. The gore can vary in height – a full support bra will have a higher gore than a plunge bra will. In each case, it is important that this space lies flat between the breasts. The gore should never lie on top of your breast tissue or “float” above your rib cage creating a gap. The gore’s purpose is to separate the breasts and help create that coveted rounded look you desire.
THE BAND: Your band – this is probably the most important portion of your entire bra. Almost every new customer who walks into our store is wearing a band that is too big for them. Yes we want comfort and do not prefer our bands to dig into our back, but the truth behind a bra that fits is the all important band. Think of the band as your bra’s anchor. A band that is too big will result in a bra that won’t stay put. Have you ever found yourself tugging at your band in the middle of the day only to find that the back has ridden up? A correctly sized bra band will feel tight at first, but it should not be uncomfortable. The band should be level with the front of the bra and parallel to the ground. There should be room to pull the band away from your body so a fist fits between your back and the bra, but you should not be able to pull it away any farther. A snug bra band provides up to 80% of the support for your breasts.
STRAPS & STRAP ADJUSTERS: The most common misconception about bra straps is that they provide your support. As we learned before, 80% of your support comes from your band. Straps shouldn’t be digging into your skin, nor should they be falling down your shoulders. Adjust the slides on your straps so you can comfortable stack two fingers between your straps and your fingers. Still find your bra straps falling down? Try a bra with closer set straps or straps that can criss-cross or convert to a racer back.
SEAMS: If you normally wear a molded bra (foam or padded cups) you probably have no idea what we’re talking about when we reference a “seamed” bra. Seams are on bras in every size but become a more common feature as the overall size of a bra increases. Reason being is that seams offer support and shaping that an underwire alone cannot. You’ve probably heard the saying “locked and loaded” before when thinking of bras – but this essentially what a seams purpose is! Seams split the cups into separate parts and reinforce the cup fabric and shape the breast into an ideal round and lifted shape. Some bras have one seam, some have two – all the way up to four of five! The more seams a bra has, the more supportive it will be. Seams that run vertical or diagonal to your body center and lift the breasts while the seams that run on a horizontal curve produce their shape. Is it easier to see now why a larger cup would need these features? A one-piece molded cup just doesn’t have the capability to provide the same support a seamed bra can. The biggest complaint we get is that the bra no longer becomes invisible under clothing – in most bras seams will relax and provide a smooth finish under clothing. It just takes time. Just like your favorite pair of shoes – you need to break them in!
HOOK & EYE CLOSURE: The hook and eye closure is usually in the back of your bra, although, it can be in the front if you have a front closure bra. If it is in the back, it should rest slightly lower than the shoulder blades in the centre of your back. The hooks secure the band and your bra in place. We typically recommend buying a bra that is snug and comfortable on the LAST set of hooks (essentially, the loosest fit possible). This is because your bra will stretch over time. If you choose a bra that fits snugly on the tightest set of hooks, the band may become too loose in a matter of weeks or a few months.
If you want to know even more about bras and the world of lingerie, take a lesson from us and check out our “Bra School”!