Your choice of bra can make a huge impact on the outfit you're wearing—and, unfortunately, no woman's bra type works for all style situations. So which ones do you need to have on hand to ensure that you always have the right fit?
Here's a breakdown of every type of bra and which ones are worth adding to your closet.
Arguably the most familiar, it has smooth, molded cups that are seamless even under the thinnest fabrics. If you're going to buy just one, choose a shade that matches your skin tone so it won't be visible through light-colored garments.
Those with larger breasts might desire fuller coverage, which prevents "spillage" and provides maximum support. These are typically constructed from a more durable material, often with some stretch, for ultimate support and comfort.
For an undergarment that almost does it all, invest in a convertible bra. Strategically designed with removable straps, this bra allows you to convert from two straps to one, strapless to racerback.
A must-have for formal dresses or tops that are strapless, spaghetti strap, or have transparent embellishments at the shoulders. These typically feature molded cups and a silicone grip on the band so it doesn’t slip.
Whether your exercise of choice is an advanced Pilates session or a breezy walk around the neighborhood, it's important to have at least one sports bra in your arsenal. They’re also a comfy option for lounging around the house.
Free of wires and molds, the bralette is perfect for low-key moments when maximum coverage or support isn't a priority. Bralettes are great for fashion moments, too; we love letting these cuties peek out from beneath sundresses and button-downs.
Sometimes referred to as a balconette, the demi has a partial cup that leaves the top of the breast uncovered. It's ideal for low-cut garments and often designed with a tilt that pushes breasts together to enhance cleavage.
Even if you're not wearing something reminiscent of J.Lo's famous green Versace dress, a plunge bra comes in handy for any garment with a particularly deep neckline.
With two straps that cross each other in a Y or V shape, racerbacks are often preferred by those with narrow or sloped shoulders who struggle with slipping straps. It's also, of course, a good option for racerback shirts and dresses.
For a little extra oomph, enlist the help of a push-up. This style can benefit all breast sizes by lifting cleavage with padding—usually a molded gel or foam—in the lower and outer portions of the cups.
Though often confused with a push-up bra, these feature padding throughout the entire cup. This can help fill out certain garments or simply create a curvier silhouette.
The specialty styles
There are more and more options to choose from here, from backless bras to pasties or nipple covers to the flesh-tone body tape popularized by Kim Kardashian West and her SKIMS lingerie brand.
This features technology that compresses breasts against the body to reduce their fullness. The design essentially redistributes breast tissue and can reduce overall projection by several inches.
Securing between the cups, this style is preferred by those who can’t or prefer not to reach around. It’s also useful when wearing thinner fabrics, since it allows for a smoother line down the back.
Designed for women who are nursing, these have convenient flaps that allow for quick and easy access to the nipple. As with any other bra, you can find colorful styles ornamented with lace and other details.
These adapt to the many stages of post-surgical bodies, made from ultra-soft material that’s sensitive to healing skin. They also usually have pockets that allow for the insertion of prosthetics or symmetry shapers.
Performance fabrics are being used more and more for both sports and everyday bras. They’re great for absorbing sweat during workouts and on particularly balmy days, and also favored by those with hyperhidrosis.
Underwire vs. wireless bras
An underwire is a feature rather than an actual bra type. The wire is threaded through the bottom of each cup to provide better support and lift. People with larger breasts and those who want maximum support and shaping will benefit from an underwire. Many women's bras styles—including sports bras, T-shirt bras, convertible bras, plunge, racerback, and nursing bras—come in both an underwire and a wireless option. The exception is a bralette, which is always wire-free.
What to look for in a bra
So, what makes a good bra? In addition to choosing the right type of bra for your outfit, seek out quality construction and a superb fit. Here are some tips on what to look for:
- No gaps or spill-over in the cup
- A band that doesn't ride up‚ it should not be higher in the back than in the front
- A bridge (gore) that fits snugly against your ribs
- Fabric that feels comfortable against your skin (also check for seams inside the cups that could be irritating)