List of brassiere designs
There are a great many brassiere designs that are suitable for a wide variety of business and social settings and suitable to wear with a variety of outer clothing. The bra's shape, coverage, functionality, fit, fashion, fabric, and colour can vary widely. Some bras are designed to offer basic, practical support and coverage while others are purposefully sexual, sensual, or revealing.
Manufacturers' bra designs and styles constantly change. There is no standardized system for categorizing bras, and they are made in a wide variety of designs, including those listed here and others like bridal bra, plus size bra, vintage bra, leather bra, belly dance bra. Many bras fulfil more than one purpose, like a balconette bra made of sheer material.
Alphabetical list of brassiere designs
- Adhesive: Sometimes described as backless/strapless bras or a stick-on bra. Usually made of silicone, polyurethane, or similar material, they are attached to the underside of the breasts using medical-grade adhesive. Some versions provide one piece for each breast. May be reused for a limited number of times and provides little support. Suitable for backless and strapless outerwear where a strapless bra is not possible or preferred, or as an alternative to going completely braless.
- Athletic: See Sports bra.
- Bandeau: A simple band of material, usually stretchy, that is worn across the breasts. Suitable for small-busts, they sometimes have built-in cups, but provide little support or shaping. A band of cloth can sometimes be used to bind the breasts in place.
- Backless: Suitable for bare-shoulder outer garments like a backless evening gown that exposes the back.
- Balconette: Sometimes known as a shelf bra. Lifts the breasts to enhance their appearance, shape, and cleavage. More revealing version of a demi-bra, offering little to no coverage. The name means 'little balcony' which could refer to the shape; it is also claimed, less plausibly, that the name comes from the notion that the bra is not visible from above, as when looking down from a balcony. First designed in the United States in about 1938, and came into mainstream fashion in the 1950s. Compare to full-cup and demi-cup bra.
- Bralette: A lightweight, simple design, usually an unlined, soft-cup pullover style bra. The breasts are covered but the bra offers little, if any, real support and is suitable for small busts. Sometimes sold built into a camisole. This style is often used by preadolescent girls as a training bra. Similar to bandeau.
- Built-in: Sometimes described as a shelf bra, although completely unlike the shelf bra described below. Contained within or as an integral part of an outer garment like a swimsuit or tank top. Some built-in bras are detachable. They provide brassiere-like breast support utilizing a horizontal elastic strip like a bandeau, although some are shaped with cups and underwire.
- Bullet: A full-support bra with cups in the shape of a paraboloid with its axis perpendicular to the breast. The bullet bra usually features concentric circles or spirals of decorative stitching centred on the nipples. Invented in the late-1940s, they became popular in the 1950s due to 'sweater girl' pin ups. Madonna wore a bullet bra designed by Jean Paul Gaultier during her Blonde Ambition Tour which generated popular interest in vintage fashion. Vintage lingerie company What Katie Did was the first company to put the bullet bra back into production in 1999, and it has again grown in popularity with brands such as Marks and Spencer, Rigby and Peller and Naturana producing their own version of the bullet bra.
- Contour: Sometimes referred to as a molded-cup bra. Contour bras sometimes contain underwire. They have seamless, pre-formed cups containing a foam or other lining that helps define and hold the cup's shape, even when not being worn. May be available as full-cup, demi-cup, push-up, or in other styles. Can be useful when breasts are asymmetrical (which is common – up to 25% of women's breasts are asymmetric – or with enlarged or differently shaped nipples who want to create a symmetrical silhouette.) Also see T-shirt bra, below.
- Convertible: The bra straps can be detached and rearranged in different ways depending on the outer garment. Alternative strap arrangements include traditional over-the-shoulder, criss-cross, halter, strapless and one-shoulder.
- Cupless: See shelf bra below.
- Demi-cup: Sometimes referred to as a half-bra or shelf bra. A partial-cup bra style that covers from half to three-quarters of the breast and creates cleavage and uplift. Most demi-cup bras are designed with a slight tilt that pushes the breasts towards the centre to display more cleavage. The straps usually attach at the outer edge of the cup. The lingerie industry generally defines a demi-cup bra as covering about 1 inch (25 mm) above the nipple. The underwire used is shorter and forms a shallower "U" shape under the cup. Suitable for low-cut outer garments. Compare to full-cup and balconnette bra.
- Front-closure: Bras with a single, non-adjustable clasp positioned in the centre front gore between the breasts.
- Full-support: Sometimes known as a full-figure or plus-size bra. A practical design that offers maximum coverage and support for larger busts.
- Full-cup: Designed to offer maximum support and coverage for the entire breast. A practical design for large-busted women. Compare to balconette and demi-cup bra.
- Hard-cup: Designed for safety. Used in the Saf-t-Bra.
- Jogging: See Sports bra.
- Leisure: Sometimes referred to as a sleep bra. These are very soft, stretchy, comfortable easy-to-wear bras that do not provide much support, suitable as everyday wear for small busts. They are an alternative to going braless and intended for wear at home when relaxing or asleep. With a large bust, bra support may increase comfort during sleep.
- Long-line: Extends from the bosom to the waist, offering additional abdominal control and smoothing of the woman's torso. Distributes support over the entire lower torso instead of just the shoulders.
- Mastectomy: Designed to hold a breast prosthesis that simulates a real breast. Suitable after mastectomy.
- Male: Worn by men with enlarged breasts. Usually designed to flatten and conceal the breasts rather than to lift and support them.
- Maternity: A full-cup design with wider shoulder straps for maximum support and to reduce bounce. A practical design that uses comfortable fabrics to prevent irritation. May be adjustable to allow the cup size to expand as pregnancy develops. Sometimes known as a nursing bra, but does not utilize removable panels or cups that facilitate nursing an infant.
- Minimizer: Designed to de-emphasize the bosom, it compresses and reshapes the breasts. A practical design for large busts.
- Novelty: A fashion bra designed for appearance and sensuality. May include unusual materials, like leather or feathers. Includes unusual designs like the open-tip, peekaboo, or peephole bra that feature holes or slits in the fabric that reveal the areolas and nipples. Usually made of sensuous material like Lycra, nylon (nylon tricot), polyester, satin, lace or silk. Suitable for erotic situations.
- Nude: See Adhesive bra above.
- Nursing: Like its sister the maternity bra, this is a practical bra designed with fuller cups, comfortable fabrics, and wider shoulder straps for increased comfort. Designed to support increased breast size during lactation. Aids breastfeeding by providing flaps or panels that can be unclipped and folded down or to the side, exposing the nipple. Underwire is not recommended for nursing bras because they can restrict the flow of milk and cause mastitis. Some designs utilize stretchable fabric allowing the bra to be pulled to one side to facilitate nursing.
- Padded: Designed to enhance perceived bust size and cleavage. The lining of the cups is thickened and enhanced with shape-enhancing inserts or foam padding inside the entire lining of cup. Padded bras support the breasts but, unlike push-up bras (see below), are not intended to significantly increase cleavage. Also see water bras below.
- Plunge: Sometimes known as U-plunge if they are particularly plunging. Allows for lower cleavage. Designed with angled cups and an open and lowered centre gore. The shoulder straps are usually set widely apart. Suitable for dresses or outfits with a deep décolleté or plunging neckline, like a blouse or dress. Also suitable for swimwear, even for women with a fuller breast.  Unlike push-up bras, are not generally as heavily padded as many women with larger breasts wear them.
- Push-up: A fashion bra that creates the appearance of increased cleavage. Use angled cups containing padding that pushes the breasts inwards and upwards, towards the centre of the chest. A push-up bra is usually a demi-cup bra. The Wonderbra was the first push-up bra made.
- Racerback: Designed with shoulder straps that form a "V" or "T" pattern between the shoulder blades. Suitable for outerwear like tank tops that would expose traditional over-the-shoulder straps. Provides extra support. Many sports bras use a racerback design to improve support and reduce bounce.
- Sheer: A fashion bra made of translucent material that displays the nipples.
- Shelf: Sometimes referred to as a cupless, open-cup, half-bra, or even quarter-cup bra. An underwire fashion design that offers minimal breast coverage, supporting only a portion of the underside of the breast, pushing the breast upward, and leaving the nipple and areola uncovered. Suitable for erotic purposes or when a woman would otherwise have to go braless. The exposed nipples may be visible beneath an outer garment. "Built-in bras" (see above) are sometimes referred to as a shelf bra.
- "Shutter" bra: Common in the 1940s and 1950s. The "shutter" refers to the flaps of cloth above each cup that can either be left folded down over the cup or can be hooked to each other to hide the cleavage as would a camisole.
- Soft cup: A practical design that does not use underwire for support. Traditionally regarded as offering less support than underwire models, soft-cup bras now offer competitive support and shaping. This is accomplished by using crisscross frames, inner under-cup slings that rise no more than half the height of the cup itself, and padding or lining the bra cup with 2-ply, molded, lined, or seamed material.
- Sports: Designed for athletic activities to provide firm support and minimize breast movement during exercise. Various designs are suitable for a range of exercise, ranging from yoga to running. Usually made of stretchable, absorbent fabric like Lycra, and designed to wick perspiration from the skin to reduce irritation. (For bras worn by girls during puberty, see training bra.)
- Strapless: A fashion design that relies on an extra-wide band for breast support. Achieve their strength through a longer underwire that encompasses more of the breast, and cups with added padding, boning, and shaping panels. Suitable for bare-shoulder outer garments like a strapless evening gown that exposes the shoulders and chest, as low as the tops of the areola. Some convertible bras (see above) allow straps to be removed, making a strapless bra. It may have rubberized or silicone beading inside the top edge of the cup to help keep the bra attached to the breast. An alternative when an outfit would otherwise prevent a bra being worn.
- T-shirt: Designed without raised seams, hooks, or other construction that can be seen under an outer garment. A contoured style that fits the breasts smoothly under tightly fitting T-shirts, sweaters, light-weight knitted fabric, or clingy tops with minimal visibility. The cups may be lined with foam or lightly padded with polyfill to help conceal the nipples. Also see contour bra, above.
- Training: Designed to help conceal adolescent emerging breasts. As a girl's breasts grow larger, usually around Tanner stage III, this style includes regular bras in smaller styles, from 30AAA to 32B. Most styles are a soft-cup, lightweight, unlined design. Some styles are padded. Also see bralette, above. For athletic-type bras, see sports bra.
- Underwire: Many bra designs feature a thin, semi-circular strip of rigid material that helps support the breast. The wire may be made of either metal, plastic or resin. It is sewn into the bra fabric and under each cup, from the center gore to under the wearer's armpit.
- Water: Sometimes known as a liquid or gel bra. Contains water- or silicone gel-filled cups that enhance the size of the breasts. Air bras were a similar concept.
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