There are so many bras on the market today you probably don’t even know what all of them are. Women with large breasts already have so much trouble finding a bra that fits properly; it doesn’t help that there are so many terms thrown on bras and we’re just expected to know what they mean.

What the heck are demi cups? If plunge bras and push up bras are both made for low necklines, what’s the difference? Which bras are best for women with large breasts?

It’s hard to automatically know the answers to these questions when there are so many types and features of bras, and honestly a lot of women don’t have time to sit and research what every single bra term means.

Honestly, why are so many types of bras necessary? Do we really need a bra to exercise in, one to lounge in, one to wear to work, and one to seduce our partner(s) in? Why can’t we just have one or two bras that we wear all the time?

Truthfully, a woman with small breasts might be able to wear a few of the same bras for most occasions. I’ve never had small breasts so I cannot speak for them fully. I do know that when you have a DDD+ cup size, yes, it’s necessary that you have more than one bra for different occasions.

It is crucial that we provide our breasts with gentle, special care. When we fail to take proper care of our breasts, so many problems arise over time.

We can end up with chronic back, neck, shoulder, and breast pain if we are not supported properly. The weight of our breasts can lead to nerve problems, causing us to be numb and tingly at random times. The nerve compression can also cause us to have regular headaches.

Also when our breasts aren’t held up properly, it leads to excess moisture under the folds of our breasts which can cause a heat rash, itching, blisters, cracked skin, discoloration, and yeast infections.

These health problems can also lead to low self esteem, poor body image, and self consciousness. Over time women might begin to feel unattractive, nasty, or awkward because of their breasts.

Pretty much every health concern I mentioned can either be prevented or easier to cope with if women become educated and have the proper bras to take care of their breasts.

My goal today is to educate you on all bra types so by the end of this post you’ll understand bra terms and what your needs are, that way the next time you purchase a bra you won’t feel so overwhelmed, confused, or defeated.

I’ll start with commonly used terms/features:

Back wings

Back wings refer to the fabric on your bra that extends from the outer sides of the cups to the back closure. Generally the more hooks and eyes the wings have, the most support your breasts will have. Some back wings stretch and others do not. The width of the wings determine how and where the band of a bra will rest on your back; if it’s too thin it can cut into your back and cause discomfort. It can also ride up. If the wings are wider it will feel better on your back and is less likely to ride up.

Boning

Boning refers to the steel, plastic, or metal spirals in the sides of your bras. It gives added support in addition to underwire and helps contour your breasts. The boning is the vertical structure where the outer cups and wings meet.

Bra hook extenders

Bra hook extenders are just like the hooks and eyes on the closures of bras, but you purchase them separately to make your bras even more adjustable. You hook them onto each side of the pre-existing hooks and connect them as you usually would.

Breast petals or nipple covers

Nipple covers are used by women who do not want to wear a bra. They’re adhesives you put over your nipples to conceal them so you can be modest without wearing a bra. You can use rubbing alcohol or baby oil to remove excess adhesive.

Center gore

Center gore refers to the fabric that connects the cups together on the front of a bra. Sometimes it’s stretchy and other times it’s not; your breasts will be supported better if the center gore does not stretch. The width makes a difference because if it’s not very wide it can easily hide under plunging necklines, but if it is wide it might not be concealed as easily.

Comfort straps

Comfort straps are wider than usual. They’re usually padded, eliminating discomfort from thin straps digging in and cutting your shoulders.

Cookies

Cookies is another term for removable padding. They usually help push the breasts up.

Darted seam cups

These cups usually have pockets added to them with a side opening; the pockets allow you to enter a prosthesis. If the pockets are not present, the darted seams instead provide your breasts with a very soft and supportive lining.

Demi cups

Bras with demi cups are also called half bras sometimes. They cover your nipples, but only cover half to three fourths of your breasts. They’re ideal for low cut necklines. Demi cups usually push your breasts together to give you more cleavage.

Foam lining

Instead of making your breasts appear larger the way padding does, foam lining is thinner and instead provides shaping and keeps your nipples from protruding through. Foam lining is common in t-shirt bras and maternity bras.

Graduated padding

Graduated padding helps increase cleavage. It’s thicker at the base of your bra cups and slowly thins out as it reaches the top of the cup. It makes your breasts look naturally round.

Inner sling

The inner sling gives full busted women an extra line of support. It follows the curves of cups – similar to underwire, but it’s soft.

Moisture wicking

Moisture wicking is a common feature found in sports bras; it draws moisture away from the breasts. This is especially important for full busted women. As women sweat and their breasts rub together, they’re likely to develop heat rashes and infections, so moisture wicking serves a very meaningful purpose.

Molded cups

Molded cups have been heat molded into a round, smooth shape. They contour your breasts and are great for women whose breasts are different shapes or sizes.

You have to treat molded cups with special care. They will become deformed if you store them flat. You can lay bra itselfflat or hang it in a closet, but make sure you don’t crush the cups!

Molded cup bras are most often worn under t-shirts and tight clothing. Minimizer, plunge, longline, t-shirt, nursing, and sports bras can all have molded cups.

Rigid straps

Non-stretch, adjustable straps. They support your breasts better than stretchy straps.

Types of bras

Adhesive/backless bras

Adhesive bras are known more often as sticky bras now. It’s strapless, backless, and literally sticks to your skin. Sticky bras do not provide your breasts with support at all and usually come in packaging that does not allow you to try it on before purchasing it. A lot of adhesive bras have a squishy, rubbery, skin-like feeling while others are made of fabric.

It can be difficult for women with large breasts to find an adhesive bra that works for them because many can’t be found in a size bigger than a D cup.

Most adhesive bras are actually two completely separate cups that stick to your breasts and come with extra adhesive strips so they can can be worn more than once.

Sometimes you can find an adhesive bra that looks similar to a regular bra, but the band stops under your arms and doesn’t go around your back at all. These will at least usually feature some underwire to provide minimal support.

Many women who wear adhesive bras feel that they only work for women with a small bust; they don’t do much for plus sized women except keep their nipples covered.

Balconette bras

Also known as balcony bra, a balconette bra lifts the top of your breasts, giving you round, smooth cleavage.

These bras have demi cups, which cover your nipples, but only cover half to three quarters of your breasts.

Because the cups are cut so low, balconette bras can easily be hidden under very low necklines. The straps on these are further apart than on regular bras, too, making it even easier for balconette bras to remain invisible under clothing. The cups are usually seamed and have embellishments and lace. Straps on balcony bras are often too far apart for women with narrow shoulders and tend to fall off.

Bandeaus

Bandeau are kind of like a mix between a strapless bra, a bralette, and a sports bra. It’s a strip of cloth that pulls over the head and covers the breasts. There are no straps and they’re usually padded, although they don’t have to be. Bandeaus are commonly worn as bathing suit tops, but you can purchase them as an undergarment, too.

They are usually made of elastic and stays on your body better than a straless bra because the top of it hugs your upper chest; this makes it an easier choice than strapless bras for women with large busts, but doesn’t provide as much support since there’s no underwire.

Some women wear bandeaus as their only top and others wear them as a bra. They’re very lightweight and easy to store; you can simply fold them up and keep them in a drawer. Lots of women wear bandeaus instead of nursing bras and theure great for lounging, too.

Bralettes

Bralettes do not have underwire or molded cups. They’re similar to sports bras, but are more of a fashion statement than an exercise piece. They don’t hold your breasts as firmly as a sports bra, but provide decent support for small to average busted women.

It’s more difficult for women with large busts to find a bralette that fits properly, but they’re slowly becoming available in more sizes.

Bralettes are usually lacy or embroidered and have thin straps. Most bralettes have little to no padding; they are pretty much as lightweight as it gets for a bra.

They’re extremely popular among young/college aged women. Modern bralettes go along with the whole festival/Coachella look and look great alone or under a tank top with high waisted shirts and combat boots. Bralettes commonly have bondage straps along the chest and upper back, making them more popular among young women.

One issue with bralettes is that their sizing can be off. You’re more likely to find one that says S, M, L, XL, or XXL than an actual bust or cup size, making things complicated for women with large breasts.

However, because bralettes are only available in general sizes and not exact sizes, they’re easy and quick to make, providing women with a wide array of colors and styles to choose from.

Bustier

A bustier pushes your breasts together and up, giving you cleavage and enhancing your curves. It’s strapless and extends down to your hips, shaping your body all the way down. It almost always has underwire and may or may not have padding. Bustiers usually close from top to bottom in the back with hooks and eyes, although sometimes they hook in the front and lace up in the back. Sometimes they come with straps and they’re often worn as an alternative to shapewear.

Contour bras

Unlike push up bras, contour bras don’t make your breasts look bigger. Contour bras give you a natural lift and is acceptable as an everyday bra. The padding throughout these bras are the same width throughout the cups, which also signifies the difference between a contour bra and a push up bra.

Convertible bras

Convertible bras bring a lot of versatility to your wardrobe. You have the option of wearing the straps the way you normally would, removing them, or wearing them in a criss cross style. You can even wear the criss cross style in the front over your chest if you like the strappy look.

The criss cross style is very popular, especially in the summer. Most women wear their straps this way so they’re hidden under sleeveless summer tops. The criss cross straps can also provide your breasts with extra support because they’re held a little higher up and closer together when worn this way.

The convertible strap feature can be present in many different types of bras; full coverage, push up, longline, plunge, and sports bras can all be convertible.

Corset

A corset is a strapless, boned undergarnment that extends from your breasts to your hips, but the lengths vary. It usually fastens in the front with hooks and laces up in the back. What differentiates a corset from a bustier is that a corset is designed to make the waist and the chest appear to be one smooth line instead of accentuating the breasts the way a bustier does.

Front closure bras

This can be literally any type of bra that closes in the front of the bra instead of the back. There’s usually a snap closure between the cups of a front closure bra. This feature is commonly seen in push up bras.

Front closure bras are very helpful for women who have limitations with their hands or cannot reach the middle of their back. Bands that close in the front are usually non adjustable.

These bras have the highest return rate on the market because they’re non adjustable, so many manufacturers have either stopped making them completely or significantly reduced the number made each year.

Full busted bras

Full busted bras are made for comfort and support. They are only available for cup sizes DD-K and are made for smaller bands; more specifically, they are available for 28-36 inches.

Full cup bras

Full cup bras are usually worn by women with large breasts because they provide more support and comfort than other bras. Full cup bras are also called full coverage bras because they cover the whole breasts. They offer a sense of security to women with large breasts because they feel well contained and covered. Since full cup bras cover the whole breasts, you rarely see a line protruding through your blouse where the cup starts the way you do with most other bras.

Full coverage bras aren’t usually worn by women with small breasts unless the bra has padding or a bump pad. The top of the cups can’t always be filled out with small breasts, which leads to unnecessary left over space and an ill fitting bra.

Full figure bras

Similar to full busted bras, full figure bras are also made for comfort and support. They are only available for cup sizes DD-K and are made for larger bands; more specifically, they are available for 38 inches and up.

Leotard back/U-back

Leotard backs are in the shape of a “U” instead of the regular rectangle shape. It provides women with large breasts extra support and keeps straps from falling. Many women enjoy the leotard back because it covers more and helps conceal unwanted bulges or protrusions around the upper back and underarms.

Longline bras

Longline bras provide more support than a regular bra. They extend either to your waist or hips and usually provide shaping for your waist. They’re great for women whose breasts are too large for a strapless bra and are usually worn under dresses or formal clothing.

Because longline bras give you more support than other bras, a lot of women wear them because it eliminates back pain caused by the lack of support from a regular bra. Women with a full bust wear longlines more often than other women and they’re convenient for occasions that require you to stand for long periods of time.

If you’re purchasing a longline bra that extends to your hips instead of your waist, it can be difficult to find one that fits properly because it has to fit your breasts AND your stomach. You can choose between a longline with firm stomach shaping or light shaping depending on what you need it for.

Longline bras are not ideal for exercising, lounging around, or sleeping because they’re not made for comfort.

Mastectomy bras

Mastectomy bras are made specifically for women who’ve had a mastectomy or a lumpectomy. They have pockets inside of the cups to hold a breast prosthesis. (A breast prosthesis is an artificial breast women use after having one or both breasts removed.) The mastectomy bra helps women cope with losing their breasts because it allows them to use the prosthetics, helping them feel as normal as possible in their bra.

Maternity bras

When a woman becomes her pregnant, her breasts grow quickly and are often sore to the touch. They grow larger as early as eight weeks into pregnancy. Between weight gain, hormonal changes, and our breasts preparing to produce milk, our breasts go through drastic changes and need special attention. This is where maternity bras come in handy.

A regular bra can be too tight on your breasts, causing your milk ducts to clog and leading to infection. Maternity bras are made for maximum comfort and support of our growing breasts. They have wide straps so they can hold more weight and they’re usually made of cotton. They also have more hooks than a regular bra allowing you to adjust it as your breasts grow. Maternity bras almost never have underwire.

You can find a maternity bra for almost any occasion; there are everyday, sports, and sleep maternity bras. You can even find dual maternity bras that double as a nursing bra.

Minimizer bras

A minimzer bra’s purpose is to make your breasts appear smaller. These are popular among women with large breasts. Minimizer bras work either by 1. squishing your breasts down into your chest and flattening them or 2. lifting your breasts and resting them so they appear to look more trim. Minimizer bras are said to reduce up to two inches of your normal breast projection.

Even if you don’t want your breasts to appear smaller, it’s convenient for most women to have a minimizer bra handy in case they have trouble fitting in a button down blouse.

Minimizer bras are meant to cover your whole breasts and can make them look disproportionate and wide on women who have small frames or narrow shoulders.

As a general rule, if you wear a B cup, a minimzer bra will reduce your breast projection by half a cup. If you wear a C cup, a minimizer bra will reduce your breast projection by ¾ of a cup. If you,wear a D cup, it should reduce by 1 cup size, and if you’re larger than a D, your projection can be reduced up to 1 ¼ cups or more.

Do not purchase a minimizer bra one size smaller than your normal size. This will not maximize the effects; it wj only cause problems. Purchase a minimizer bra in your exact size.

It’s very rare that you’ll find a minimizer bra available in a cup larger than a G.

Nursing bras

A nursing bra’s cups have flaps that open and close so you can easily expose your breast to feed your child. It provides you with extra support while your breasts are lactating and sore. These bras usually have wide straps and an option for padding in the cups to absorb any milk between feedings. These bras make it easy for mothers to feed their babies around others without drawing too much unwanted attention.

Some nursing bras snap shut and some button, hook, and even zip.

Some nursing bras are seamless, have soft cups, underwire, and built in padding. You should avoid a nursing bra with underwire if you can; underwire can cause inflammation of your breast tissue by restricting your milk flow.

It’s important that you wear a nursing bra instead of a normal bra while lactating. If you try to slip your breast underneath a regular bra and it squeezes too tightly on the top of your breast, it can cause your milk ducts to become clogged and can lead to infection.

Sometimes you can even find a nursing bra that comes with gel or cool packs to use as nipple pads to soothe chafing and rawness.

Padded bras

Padded bras are designed to give you extra cleavage and an enhanced bust line. It’s most often found in push up and plunge bras and usually makes your breasts look one to two sizes bigger than what they are.

Plunge bras

Similar to push up bras, plunge bras are designed to be invisible under very low cut necklines. Plunge bras are extremely low cut in the center. They do not support you as well as other bras, but they show off your breasts without showing the bra itself.

These are generally worn for “special occasions” with a partner or when a woman wants to show off the tops of her breasts.

They’re not a great option for women with loose breast tissue because they can make your breasts appear saggy.

Plunge bras don’t offer much support or comfort, so they’re usually not worn for exercise, work, errands, or leisure. If you lean forward too far, your breasts are liable to fall out of the cups.

You might also hear someone refer to a plunge bra as a cleavage bra; a cleavage bra can be any bra that enhances your cleavage: a plunge bra, a push up bra, etc.

Push up bras

The purpose of a push up bra is to increase and enhance your cleavage. These bras push your breasts upwards and inwards, pushing them together and making them look perky. They usually make your breasts appear larger than they are and are meant to make all women feel “youthful”. Most push up bras feature embroidery or lace on the cups to make them look more feminine, but you can still find some that are more plain.

Push up bras are most often worn for date nights or formal wear, as lingerie, and under low cut clothing.

These do not provide enough support for exercise and they’re not typically comfortable enough to lounge around in. Many women avoid wearing a push up bra to work (unless they’re in an appropriate setting) because the cleavage can be intense and distracting.

Racerbacks

Racerback refers to the back of the bra. It means the straps are basically criss cross or in a “Y” shape instead of going straight up and down over your back. Racerbacks are worn a lot in the summer because they are easily concealed under loose, sleeveless summer tops.

They’re also great for women whose shoulders either slope forward or are narrow because regular straps don’t usually stay on for them.

Many bras have the racerback feature, including push up, plunge, maternity, sports, and t-shirt bras.

Seamless bras

A seamless bra is a bra that doesn’t have seams in or on the cups, making them almost invisible under clothing and keeping your nipples from becoming irritated. The cups are smooth, soft, and feature one piece of fabric that is free of stitching. The most common seamless bras are t-shirt bras, minimizer bras, sports bras, mastectomy bras, underwire bras, nursing bras, longline bras, and push up bras.

Soft cup bras

Soft cup bras are bras that don’t have underwire. They often have inner slings, wide comfort straps, and leotard backs to provide women who have large breasts with maximum comfort and support.

Sports bras

A sports bra is meant to heavily support your breasts while you exercise. They’re typically pullover bras. They’re sturdier than most other bras and minimize jostling of the breasts.

Continuous, intense movement can force ligaments around your breasts to tear. This ligament damage cannot be undone and results in sagging breasts. If you wear a sports bra during exercise, this should prevent the possibility of your ligaments stretching or tearing

Sports bras are typically – but not always – free of underwire, deeming them more comfortable than many other types of bras.

They come with wide and thin straps, although wide straps provide more support for large breasts and hold more weight.

If you want to get deeper into things, you can purchase high impact, medium impact, and low impact sports bras. You’ll want a high impact sports bra for activities such as horseback riding, running, or jumping rope. Medium impact bras are for exercises like elliptical training, jogging, or power walking. Low impact sports bras are for activities like yoga, pilates, or casual walking.

Compression sports bras are better for small busted women. They’re usually one strip of fabric housing both breasts instead of a separate cup for each breast. These are recommended for women in an A to a C cup.

Encapsulation sports bras are better for women with large breasts because they DO have a separate cup for each breast. This provides extra support for your breasts by minimizing bouncing and sagging. Uniboobs cannot happen with an encapsulation sports bra, so you have a less chance of your boobs rubbing together, chafing, and getting heat rashes. These are recommended for women with a D+ cup.

A lot of new sports bras have inside pockets large enough to hold keys or an mp3 player; you can also find some that zip closed in the front.

Many women wear sports bras as casual wear, usually under t-shirts in the summer when they’re hot and want to be comfortable. There are also mastectomy sports bras.

Strapless bras

Strapless bras either come without straps altogether or come with removable straps. The point of wearing a strapless bra is for it to be invisible under strapless clothing. Women with larger busts often have trouble wearing a strapless bra, because there are no straps to hold it up – therefore the bras tend to ride down.

Some people claim that when you purchase a strapless bra you need to purchase it one band size smaller than your normal size to help it stay up, but that’s debatable. If you purchase it in a smaller size and have a large bust, you’re liable to be in a lot of pain and discomfort throughout the day.

There’s clothing tape you can purchase to help keep your strapless bra up, but if that fails, too, you would probably have better luck opting for a strapless longline bra.

T-shirt bras

A t-shirt bra is a seamless bra with cups that are free of lumps or textured surfaces. The cups should be smooth enough that they don’t show through tight clothing. The cups are molded and may or may not have padding. Lots of times t-shirt bras will use foam for padding, which helps keep your nipples from showing. Most t-shirt bras have underwire, but not all of them do. The objective of a t-shirt bra is for it to be as invisible as possible under your form fitting clothes.

Triangle bras

These are typically worn among petite women or women with small breasts. The cups are a triangle shape and usually aren’t padded or lined, although light padding isn’t undeard of. They have very thin straps and a minimal band that goes around your back.

Underwire bras

An underwire bra has thin, round pieces of either plastic, metal, or resin inside the bottoms of the cups. There is one wire in each cup. Both wires start between the cups of the bra and extend to the outer sides close to where your armpits rest. Underwire bras should separate, support, and lift your breasts, making them look round and even.

Underwire bras are the most popular/fastest selling bras on the bra market.

Even though these are the most purchased bras, you have to be careful and make sure you only wear one of good quality and in your size. Underwire bras are known for causing breast pain, inflammation of breast tissue, and occasionally metal allergies. If your underwire bra doesn’t fit you properly, there’s a good chance the wire could poke through the fabric and dig into your skin, causing a lot of discomfort and possibly even a scar.

In summary

There is clearly a wide range of bras to choose from; I know it’s a lot to try to comprehend at once. To answer my original question in depth, yes, I think each and every bra type is necessary. Once you learn and become comfortable with the different types, it should all make sense.

You do not want to wear a plunge bra under a low cut blouse to a job interview or to hang it with your dad. You don’t want to wear a balconette bra to run on a treadmill or to do cartwheels in front of your child’s gymnastics team… And you certainly don’t want to wear a minimizer bra to seduce your partner for the first time!

If women don’t properly support their breasts according to the occasion, those frustrating issues I mentioned in my introduction can arise over time and a lot f those consequences can be chronic.

Money is a concern for a lot of women. If you can’t purchase every bra at once, that’s completely understandable. Read through this guide one more time and decide which bra it is that you need the most. Which bra are you likely to wear several times a week? Do you need a t-shirt bra to hide under tight work clothes? Do you need a sports bra for after work exercise? Start there and then slowly add the others to your wardrobe over time.

Always remember if anything is digging in, hurting your back or rib cage, or if your breasts are overflowing, it does not fit. Wide straps, underwire, leotard backs or criss cross straps, and seamless cups are all features to look for in an everyday, supportive bra.

That is all for today! What are your favorite types of bras? Do you prefer to feel comfortable, sexy, or both in your day to day bra? Let me know in the comments!

If you enjoyed this article, then we're probably very similar. I'm Victoria Melo, and I know what it’s like to be busty and struggle finding the perfect bra. Not long ago, I was just another girl wearing the wrong bra size. When I finally discovered my real size and found great bras for my busty figure, it felt like a miracle. Now, I'm a bra fitter helping hundreds of women like you find their own miracle. Click here to read my lists of my favorite bras for you.

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