Welcome to the Bra Glossary. Learn these list of terms to understand more about bra.
2-Part Cup A 2-part cup is where the cup is made with 2 panels of fabric that are sewn together. Bra cups with seams such as this are always more supportive than bra cups without seams.
3-Part Cup A 3-part cup is a where the cup of a bra is made in 3 panels of fabric sewn together with seams. This style of bra cup is the most supportive.
4-Part Cup A 4-part cup is made up of 4 panels of fabric sewn together with seams. Also called a cut & sew bra. Many times, one of the panels will be along the outer sides of the cup to help center and contain the breast tissue. 4-part cups are found more often in the larger cup sizes because they can provide additional cup depth, support and shaping.
Adhesive Bra A bra with medical grade adhesive on the inside to stick to your body. These bras give some breast enhancement and are a backless alternative.
Back Closure This term is used when describing how a bra closes. Traditionally, a back closure bra has two rows of hook and eye closures and three adjustments. Full figure and strapless bras usually have three rows of hook and eye closures as well as three adjustments.
Back Fat A term giving to the look of flesh bulging out around the band and straps when wearing a bra. This symptom can be caused by your bra’s band size being too small, but it is also an unfortunate reality for women with soft tissue on their back. This lumpiness can sometimes be eliminated with the right size and style of bra. For example, several manufacturers claim a leotard back styled bra reduces back fat. A wider bra back along with wide straps can also help reduce the severity of the lumpiness. Shapewear camisoles worn over a bra are also a solution.
Back Wings The fabric strips that start at the outer edge of the bra cups, go under the arms and then attach in the back.
Backless A bra designed with a low cut adjustable back band.
Balconet This is another name for a demi cup bra. A balconette bra has more of a horizontal line going across the top of the bustline. Most of the time, the cups are seamed for an upward boost to give the breasts the look as if corseted. A balconette bra can also have push-up pads as well. The name balconet comes from men in the balcony of a theater looking down upon women. A balconet bra could not be seen from above.
Balconette This is another name for a demi cup bra. A balconette bra has more of a horizontal line going across the top of the bustline. Most of the time, the cups are seamed for an upward boost to give the breasts the look as if corseted. A balconette bra can also have push-up pads as well. The name balconette comes from men in the balcony of a theater looking down upon women. A balconette bra could not be seen from above.
Balcony This bra style includes wide-set straps, multiple seams in the cups, usually a plunging center, a sweetheart neckline and is not full coverage. A common term used in Europe, this style name is mostly associated with DD+ cup sizes. Works well under scoop-neck, low v-neck and boat-neck tops, and is suitable for most breast types.
Bandeau Bra A strapless knit, wide band worn around the bust line. This type of bra is best for the young and self-supporting.
Basque A long-line cupped bra extending to the hips with garter hooks attached along the lower edge. A Merry Widow is a form of basque. Basques are frequently incorrectly called a bustier or corset.
Bralet This is an alternate spelling for a bralette. A bralette is generally a less structured bra that comes in t-shirt sizing (S,M,L, etc) rather than bra sizing. Popular for lounging, sleeping or as an underpinning.
Bralette A bralette is generally a less structured bra that comes in t-shirt sizing (S,M, L, etc) rather than bra sizing. Popular for lounging, sleeping or as an underpinning.
Bump Pad A pad that is built into the bottom of the cup to push the breast up and out to create more cleavage.
Busk A thin strip of wood, whalebone or steel used for stiffening corsets.
Bustier A bosom-to-hip corset-style garment, usually trimmed in lavish lace. Additional features may include detachable garters, flexible boning, optional shoulder straps, and a lace-up closing. This garment is usually worn by a woman for the visual enjoyment of the man in her life. The bustier has also become the garment to be worn with formal clothes. Bustiers are sometimes incorrectly called corsets.
Butterfly Slide Closure A butterfly slide closure has two pieces that slide together and snap into place, to close a swimsuit or bra.
Cami Bra This is essentially a bralette, a soft sleep/leisure bra that offers gentle support at times where you don’t want or need a lot of structure or support. The body is slightly longer than the average bra, which gives extra support.
Camisole Strap Bra straps that are traditionally wider and look like an extension of the bra cup. They can either not adjust, or adjust in back. Their purpose is to reduce “digging in” at your shoulders.
Center Gore The center gore or center panel is that piece of fabric in the center of your bra that connects your two cups together. The size of this center piece helps to determine a bra’s support. A supportive bra will have a center gore that comes up the the nipple line. A lower center gore works best for plunging necklines.
Center Panel The center panel is the piece of fabric, which connects the cups of a bra at the center front. The center panel may also be called the bridge, center connector, center gore, and centerpiece.
Cleavage Cleavage is the vertical line created between a woman’s breasts – not the bulging breast tissue caused by a push-up bra. Cleavage comes from the word “cleave” to separate or divide in two.
Comfort Straps Comfort bra straps have a wider than normal strap and usually have additional padding. They help to more evenly distribute the weight of the breast, and thus increase the comfort of the wearer. Comfort straps give helpful relief to a woman who experiences shoulder pain caused by her bra straps.
Compression The way a bra cup is constructed. A bra with compression cups redistributes breast tissue to evenly press the breast against a woman’s chest to limit or reduce their motion.
Contour A contour bra has cups that hold their shape, even when not being worn. The cups are molded and shaped with a foam. Contour bras are similar to a molded bra, except molded bras may not have cups with padding. Contour bras are always molded. Contour bras are a perfect choice for any woman seeking a sculpted silhouette, as they offer a significant amount of coverage and control. A contour bra can also add definition to the breast, a smooth shape, and elimination of nipple contours. Contour bras are a good choice for in-between bra sizes, or a woman with uneven breasts.
Contour Bra A contour bra is another name for a t-shirt bra. It has cups that hold their shape, even when not being worn. The cups are seamless, molded and shaped with a foam to prevent nipple show-through. Contour bras are similar to a molded bra, except molded bras generally do not have any cup padding. Contour bras are always molded. Contour bras are a perfect choice for any woman seeking a sculpted silhouette, as they offer a significant amount of coverage and control. A contour bra can also add definition to the breast, a smooth shape, and elimination of nipple contours. Contour bras are a good choice for in-between bra sizes, or a woman with uneven breasts.
Contoured A contour bra has cups that hold their shape, even when not being worn. The cups are molded and shaped with a foam. Contour bras are similar to a molded bra, except molded bras may not have cups with padding. Contour bras are always molded. Contour bras are a perfect choice for any woman seeking a sculpted silhouette, as they offer a significant amount of coverage and control. A contour bra can also add definition to the breast, a smooth shape, and elimination of nipple contours. Contour bras are a good choice for in-between bra sizes, or a woman with uneven breasts.
Convertible A convertible bra has straps, which can be worn in up to six different configurations: conventional, halter, one-shoulder, off-the-shoulder, criss-crossed, and strapless. Some convertible bras have straps that are attached to the cups. These convertible bras can not be worn in all six configurations. Be sure to look at our images to see if the front of the strap is removable. Realistically, a convertible bra over a cup size D may not work as effectively as smaller cup sizes.
Cookie/s A padded insert/s in the cup of a bra. Though usually made of fiberfill, a cookie can also be made with water, oil or a gel. Cookies help to change the shape of the breast. They also help when one breast is smaller than the other. Placing a cookie in the bra cup of the smaller breast will give you a more even look.
Corselet Also spelled corselette, it is a woman’s support undergarment that combines a girdle with a bra.
Corset A woman’s support undergarment that is boned and close fitting. It is almost always hooked and laced. It begins either above or just below the bust and extends down to the waist or below the hips. Usually garters are attached at its base. A corset supports the breasts from underneath and usually pushes them up and over the neckline edge. A corset is similar to a waist cincher that stops below the breasts.
Crop Top/Cami A lightly-constructed no-wire bra that is a cross between a camisole and a bra.
Crossover A wire-free bra that creates an “X” in the center front for support and comfort.
Cut & Sew Bra A bra with seams in the cups is a cut and sew bra. Most lace cups are cut and sew. The more seams there are in the cups, the greater the support.
Décolleté A bra style with a very low-cut front panel to create a dramatic cleavage-enhancing look. Decollete is also used as a noun to describe a woman’s chest area just above her bustline. As an adjective, it describes the low-cut neckline in a garment.
Demi Cup A demi cup (or demi or half cup) style bra means a contoured underwire design with a large portion of the upper half of the cup being cut away to expose the upper part of the breasts. The shoulder straps are also set farther apart (wide-set). Such bras are often referred to as being decollete‚ and are worn when the top of a garment is cut low, wide or square. Men find this style bra very attractive on women. This style has many names and can be called a balconette or a shelf bra.
Encapsulation This word is primarily used in defining the construction of a sports bra. If a sports bra has encapsulation design, the bra cup construction surrounds the breast for support while giving the breast a shape – no uni-boob look.
Enhancer Enhancers create the illusion of a fuller bust line. Enhancers are often built into the bras themselves rather than as the traditional inserts. The Wonderbra was the original bust enhancer.
Foam Cup Padding and shaping in the cup of the bra is created with foam. Such padding does not bunch up during washing and gives a smooth look to the cup.
Foam Lined Cup A foam lined bra cup gives the wearer modesty by preventing nipple show through. Foam lining is always thinner than a padded bra and usually does not add much size. Rather, foam lining creates a natural and youthful silhouette.
Front Close A bra that closes in the center front with either a plastic barrel closure or a hook and eye closure. A good style for plunging or v-necklines.
Full Busted Women who have larger breasts but smaller band sizes, such as a 34DD.
Full Cup A full cup bra completely covers most of the breast, offering both more coverage and more support than a demi cup or half cup bra. A full cup bra will not cause a crease or indentation along the top of the breast. Having said this, many lingerie manufacturers will use this description and the bra will not actually be full coverage.
Full Figure Women who wear bras sizes 32-36DD and 38-42C-DD and larger are classified as full figure women. Bras made in these sizes are usually designed to give additional support. Common features include padding, wider shoulder straps, and triple hook and eye closures.
Full Support A bra with this characteristic will have banding under the cups, substantial side wings, and closures with two or more hooks.
Fully Adjustable Strap This bra strap style has no o-rings or other hardware between the slider and the front strap base. Thus, this strap style can fully adjust to a very short strap length. A great choice for women who are petite or have a short torso.
Half Cup Another name for a demi cup (or demi) style bra. A half cup means a contoured underwire design with a large portion of the upper half of the cup being cut away to expose the upper part of the breasts. The shoulder straps are also set farther apart (wide-set). Such bras are often referred to as being decollete‚ and are worn when the top of a garment is cut low, wide or square. Men find this style bra very attractive on women. This style has many names and can be miscalled a balconette or a shelf bra.
Halter A bra style featuring straps that fasten behind the neck. This bra is perfect for backless dresses. This bra style can many times also convert to criss-cross or one-shoulder configurations.
Hidden Underwire Hidden underwires is a bra construction technique where the bra’s bottom edge does not have underwire casing, so looks like there is no underwire. The underwires are wrapped, then sandwiched between two layers of fabric. This construction is also called “floating wire.”
Women with large and/or heavy breasts can find this construction uncomfortable because this style can roll under, under their breasts.
Inner Sling Inner slings are another name for support panels in a bra cup. An inner sling can be a curved strip of fabric that follows the natural curve of the bra, similar to an underwire, except soft. This fabric is rigid and sewn inside the cup to provide additional support. An inner sling can also go around the entire breast circumference, or just be panels on the sides of the breast.
Leotard Back The leotard back is a rather new design addition to bras. Rather than a rectangle shape in back like that of a camisole, the leotard back gives a round look on the back – similar to the look of a leotard. It has fast become the most commonly found strap attachment technique in today’s ready-to-wear offerings. Besides looking visually different, the leotard back style almost always includes some elastic to achieve the rounded shape. Consequently, this elastic gives the wearer flexibility to raise her arms or bend over without having to adjust her bra afterwards. There are a few challenges to a leotard back though. The straps attach to the back at a bit of an angle to keep the arch styling. If the “U” shape is too wide , the straps can fall off the wearer’s shoulders. The number of back fasteners is also limited with this back design.
Light Support A bra frame style featuring cutaway wings with little or no banding under the cups.
Lined Cup A bra with a lining in the cup. This lining gives additional support and added opaqueness to the cup. It also helps to reduce nipple show-through.
Long Line A midriff-slimming bra with to-the-waist panels for extra smoothing. This can offer the shaping of a corset.
M Frame Sports Bra construction consisting of side support panels to restrict horizontal movement of breast tissue, and a center front panel that extends along the neckline and sometimes into the strap to restrict vertical movement of breast tissue.
Maternity Bra A bra designed for women who are pregnant. A maternity bra will offer more support with wider sides and an underbust band. Non-elastic straps to reduce bounce. Designed with more breast coverage and breathability to prevent breast tissue irritation. View HerRoom’s selection of maternity bras.
Memory Foam Memory foam is being used more and more in bras. It’s the same foam you see in the mattress commercial where the girl is jumping but the water glass is not moving. When used in a bra cup this foam will shape more to your body, then return to its original shape once taken off. This advantage means that your bra cups will not develop creases that are hard or impossible to remove. Storage of memory foam bras is not as important because the shape will pop back if crushed.
Merrywidow Another type of corset. It is often strapless and comes to a point in the center front. It can also come with detachable garters to wear with stockings.
Minimizer A minimizer bra gives the appearance of reducing the projection of the wearer’s breasts. This allows the woman to more easily wear front-button shirts and blouses without gaping. A minimizer bra works by designing a cup that distributes the breast flesh more towards the underarm and the center front to reduce your breast protrusion. A minimizer only shifts the mass in areas other than directly in front. No bra can actually reduce breast size.
Molded Molded bras have cups which are machine molded from a single piece of fabric into a shape the manufacturer feels mirrors the preferred natural breast shape without any seams. Molded bras are usually unlined and may be either soft cup or underwire. They are seamless to create a smooth silhouette, unless overlaid with lace. A molded bra with thin foam or fiberfill lining which causes the cup shape to stand alone is known as a contour or t-shirt bra.
Neathage The name given to exposure of the underside of a breast without the nipple being exposed. This would occur if wearing a very short cropped t-shirt with no bra. The word comes from combining “underneath” with “cleavage.”
No-Wire (Soft-Cup) Bra A bra without underwires. Especially comfortable for everyday wear. Can also be padded or lined.
Nursing Bra A nursing bra is constructed very similar to a maternity bra but with the additional feature of cupopenings to allow for ease of breastfeeding.
Padded A bra with padded fiberfill cups. The padding adds size and definition to give a well-proportioned look to smaller bustlines.
Padded Straps Unlike traditional bra straps, padded straps mean the are of the strap that rests on the top of the shoulder has padding for additional comfort. A padded bra strap is also usually wider for added comfort.
Plunge A plunge bra is designed with a very low center panel to reveal more breast for a sexier look. Plunge bras create the appearance of increased cleavage because of their deep (plunging) front silhouette, angled cups and thin center gore. Plunge bras differ from push-up bras in that they are not heavily padded. A perfect choice for evening and low-cut tops.
Powernet A two-way stretch nylon fabric that provides excellent support. Also used in high-end compression garments, powernet has high compression with low stretch qualities to give you outstanding support without stretching out and losing its strength. Bras with powernet will last longer and stretch out less than bras using other stretch fabrics.
Push-Up A bra with additional padding at the bottom portion of the cup to lift the breasts in order to give the illusion of greater breast size. Recently, push up bras now are designed to both push up and in to create more cleavage for lower necklines. The padding, if removable, is known as a “cookie”.
Racer Back Design feature that anchors the back straps towards the center of the back and allows for a wide range of arm movement by not restricting the shoulder blades. This design is also used when traditional bra straps would show under a sleeveless garment.
Racerback This bra is named after racing swimsuits that also have straps meeting in a “V” shape on the back between the shoulder blades. This bra style is an excellent solution for sleeveless tops. It also prevents straps from slipping off the shoulders.
Restricted Stretch A bra strap made with restricted stretch elastic will stop the strap from curling and give just a little stretch to be comfortable. A rigid strap would have no stretch.
Rigid Straps Bra straps not made with elastic are called rigid straps. Full figure bra sizes many times have rigid straps because they give more support than elastic straps. A rigid strap is adjustable. Sometimes a manufacturer will have a rigid front on a bra strap and then have a piece of adjusting elastic down the back.
Seamed Any bra that has seams running though the cup. A seamed bra tends to give more support than a seamless bra because seams determine the cup’s exact shape and size. The best supporting bra has seamed cups and made in 3 pieces.
Seamless A bra with cups that have been molded into a permanent shape and fit. This bra gives a smooth and almost transparent look under clothing. They are particularly suitable under revealing and tight-fitting tops.
Shelf Bra An underwire bra with little or no cups. This bra will support your breasts while displaying most of your breast including your nipples.
Side Sling A side sling can be a vertical panel of fabric incorporated into a seamed cup bra that helps to center and contain the breast tissue. A side sling can also be an addition vertical piece of fabric sewn inside the outer edge of a cup to perform the same function.
Soft Cup A bra without an underwire is called a soft cup or wire-free bra. Maternity, sports and teenage bras traditionally were always soft cup bras. But not any more – there are underwires available in all these styles. Soft cup bras now have great support as well. A soft cup bra is a great solution for a woman who never can find a comfortable underwire bra. Soft cups come in all size ranges. When fitting yourself in a soft cup bra, the center front may not completely sit flat on your sternum, but it should still separate your breasts.
Soutache Soutache consists of loops similar to a ribbon, made of silk or other material, primarily attached by hand on fabric in an intricate pattern. Soutache is both used in lingerie and swimwear and represents one of the most sophisticated types of workmanships used by lingerie designers.
Spacer Foam Spacer foam, also called spacer fabric, is a very expensive knit used as the cup fabric in molded bras. It is a knit that has both a top and bottom layer, with filaments between – similar to a corrugated box. This creates air pockets between the layers. All of this is knit as one piece of fabric. The advantage of spacer foam is that it is very light weight , breathes, can be thinner than traditional foam used in contour bra cups, won’t yellow, yet provides modesty like a contour cup bra.
Sports Bra A support bra worn during exercise that minimizes breast bounce. It is comfortable, and gives good support. Its design includes wider straps, and broader cup coverage. All our sports bras have a sports level rating from High Impact to Low Impact. Women really should have a variety of sports bras if they do more than one sports activity.
Strapless An underwire bra with wide sides, no straps or removable straps, and a hook back. Many times silicone is stitched to the upper and lower edges of the bra to keep it secure on the body. Mostly worn with strapless tops, evening gowns or with tops where a normal bra would show. A strapless bra must be the right size – too loose, and you have no support, too tight and it will work it’s way down your torso. In fact a well fitting strapless bra could reveal your true bra size because there is no fudging on size with a strapless.
Stretch Bras made with Lycra fabric, which lends a smooth, sleek look as well as freedom in movement, comfort and fit.
Support Panel A support panel is another name for an Inner sling sewn inside a bra’s cups. An inner sling can be a curved strip of fabric which follows the natural curve of the bra similar to an underwire, except soft. This fabric is rigid and sewn inside the cup to provide additional support. An inner sling can also go around the entire breast circumference, or just be panels on the sides or bottoms of the bra cup. Some support panels can be sewn outside the cup, or incorporated into the cup design as an added panel.
Surplice Surplice is the name for a diagonally crossed neckline and/or bodice to give the look of it being wrapped. This style can also be called a “faux wrap” and creates a deep v-shaped neckline.
T-Shirt Bra This is the other name for a contour bra. Like a molded bra, the cups are seamless with a thin layer of foam included for shape and modesty against nipple show-through when wearing form-fitting tops. T-shirt bras are always seamless, have contour cups, and have no lace or ornamentation.
Torsette A torsette is shapewear that does not cover the bust area. This allows you to wear your own bra, and has the added advantage of not compressing your breasts. Torsettes also give added support to your bra. Camisoles, body briefers and slips may all have torsette styling. A torsette can be a great shapewear solution for petite and tall women because the shoulder straps can be adjusted.
Torsolette A torsolette has a lace-up or hook-and-eye closure, and boning or vertical seams for structure and support. It may or may not have bra cups, detachable garters, or suspenders. It is sometimes called a “merry widow.”
Transversal Seam A seam in the cup of a bra that runs in a semi-circle or arc shape is called a transversal seam. This seam design helps to give the cup and breast a rounded (rather than pointed) shape.
Triangle Bra A triangle bra has triangle shaped cups, which offer the perfect amount of coverage/support for petite to average figures. Triangle bras may be padded or lined but generally do not have underwires. Most have thin straps. the bottom of the bra is many times gathered along a drawstring-like base.
Underwire Bras with sewn-in molded wiring that runs underneath the breast in each bra cup. This support feature helps to lift, separate and shore up the bustline for better shape and extra support- especially for full-figured women. There are many different types of materials used in underwire bras today. The underwire can now be a flexible wire, a plastic coated piece of metal, or a molded plastic shape.
Wide-Away A bra style with widely-spaced shoulder straps to accommodate a boatneck or wide squared neckline.
Wing The side/back panel of a bra that counter balances the front so it can uplift and support the breasts.