Anatomy of a Bra
At Brastop, we are pretty convinced that bras are a work of creative genius and they’re certainly a whole lot more complicated than they might appear on the surface!
With each piece that we stock having been designed and manufactured with comfort and style in mind, knowing how they have been constructed provides a great help in understanding how a bra fits to your unique curves. Generally speaking, your average bra should be able to be separated into four different sections; the cup, the underwires, the back band and the straps.
In this guide, we will explain each of these necessary elements and outline their importance to the overall fit of your bra. Let’s begin!
First off… there are cups and there are cups! While this part of the bra’s anatomy might seem like the most straightforward one, there are so many variants of a bra cup, particularly when larger sizes are involved.
In our dedicated style guide, we list a variety of different bra styles, many of which incorporate different styles of cup too, so it’s worth having a look there, but as a starting point we have collated several cup styles that you are likely to come across in the section below.
Some of the most common cup styles include the contour cup, which is usually seamless and includes a thin layer of foam; the full cup, which encapsulates the entire breast; the seamed cup, which strengthens and shapes the fuller figure; and the demi cup, which can generally be seen on balconette bras, exposing the upper part of your boobs.
The complication doesn’t end there I’m afraid! Alongside the different shapes...
Although many women, for various reasons, choose not to wear an underwired bra, it definitely gives great shape and definition to your boobs so if you’re going down the wired route it’s worth doing it right!
Usually made from metal, but sometimes from a gauge wire or a plastic, the underwire has been designed to be somewhat flexible, a bit like a suspension bridge! The tricky part of this particular anatomical element comes from choosing an underwire which is not too short, causing it to finish before your boobs do and poking into your breast tissue; and one which is not so long that it pokes into your armpit.
The holy grail of the underwire world ends perfectly, just under your armpit, encapsulating your boobs. For more information on getting this right, take a look at our bra fitting tips and tricks page.
The Back Band
Now let’s talk about the back band. This is the real hard working element of the bra and it’s responsible for 80% of the entire bra’s supportiveness.
Generally consisting of a back panel, side wings, and a centre gore, in a well-fitting bra the weight of your bust is distributed fairly evenly across the whole band, with the centre gore lying flat against your chest. Particularly important, for women with a fuller figure, is the side panel of a bra which is integral in pulling the breast tissue away from the armpits and forwards into the cups.
In general it is important that a bra’s back band is not too large, providing inadequate support; and not too small, cutting into your back and causing bruising, ouch!
In getting the correct fit in the back band, make sure that it is snug and that it creates a straight line across your back. If you can find a bra like this then you’re onto a winner!
It might come as a bit of a surprise, but bra straps are definitely not there to provide your boobs with a lot of support. In fact, it’s quite the opposite and their major purpose is to keep the positioning of the bra correct, vertically, while providing around 20% of the bra’s overall supportiveness.
Bra straps are generally made either fully from elastic, or have fabric at the front and elastic at the back. Either way, a bra strap should come complete with an adjustable slider so that the strap can be tightened, over time, as the bra stretches due to wear and washing.
Our boob problems page is a brilliant place to start if you are having problems with your bra straps digging into your shoulders or constantly falling off; however as a general rule, the tension on your bra straps is quite closely linked to the tension of your back band.
If the back band is too loose then it’s likely to ride up your back during the day, causing the straps to fall off your shoulders. Likewise, the looseness of the band could cause you to overcompensate with the straps, tightening them to an uncomfortable level, leading to them digging into your shoulders.