By Jess Beech
With so many different types of bra on offer, it’s no surprise that bra shopping can feel more like a test than a treat. So, to make finding the best bras that little bit easier, we’ve created a list of the 10 different types of bra worth knowing about.
From push-up to full-cup, we've got all boobs covered – so you can find the best bra for your shape and bra size. Whether you're looking for something smooth and sleek that fits seamlessly under your clothes, or a pretty style that will boost and lift, you'll find the answer to all your bra dilemmas in this list. (Just make sure you're clued up on how to measure bra size first, so you can get the right fit first time.)
1. Triangle bra
One of the most self-explanatory styles, triangle bras get their name from their triangular shaped cups. They tend not to be underwired and don't offer much in the way of coverage. They're not very supportive, which means they're better suited to smaller busts for daily wear. That being said, if you have a larger bust, they make a good sleep bra or lightweight style for wearing around the house. (And be sure to follow expert guidance on how to wash bras with triangle bras especially.)
Recommended brands for triangle bras:
2. Balcony bra
Sometimes known as a balconette bra, balcony bras do a sterling job of hoicking your bust into place. Lifting from the bottom of the cup, they’re best suited to anyone with low boobs or who lacks fullness at the top of the breast. They work well if you have a gap in your cleavage, too, pushing your boobs up so they appear closer together. Just make sure the wiring is sitting flat across your chest. If it’s starting to lift, then try another size – there are few things worse than a bra that digs in. Smaller busts will benefit from a padded style, whereas bigger busts can go without. Thanks to the low-cut shape, balcony bras are great for wearing under scoop or square necklines, creating a feminine, rounded look. It's similar to the best push-up bras, but more comfortable.
Recommended brands for balcony bras:
3. Plunge bra
Offering minimal coverage without compromising on support, plunge bras are the perfect partner for deep-V necklines. Angled cups push from the sides to bring your boobs together, creating impressive cleavage without the need for over-the-top padding. The wiring sits lower down than a balcony style and doesn’t come as far up into the centre, making them a more comfortable choice. They’re one of the best types of bra for making narrow shoulders appear a little broader, too, thanks to the thin, wide-set straps.
Recommended brands for plunge bras:
4. Full cup bra
The most supportive and high coverage of all the different types of bra, a full-cup style will keep your boobs nice and secure. The straps sit a little closer together than your average bra, too – a handy detail if you find they normally slip and slide off your shoulders. Full-cup bras are best suited to larger, fuller breasts, creating a nice rounded shape beneath your clothes. Smaller or less-full boobs may find full-cup bras dip in at the top. By their very design, full-cup bras can feel a little functional, so look out for pretty patterns and lace detailing to add a fashion-forward touch.
Recommended brands for full-cup bras:
5. Strapless bra
As you might have guessed, the selling point of a strapless bra is its lack of straps. They might be easy to hide under clothes, but strapless bras do have a reputation for being uncomfortable. For a style that doesn’t pinch or inch down your body throughout the day, look out for built-in boning and cleverly placed silicone stripes on the inside. A wide back strap will help smooth out any lumps and bumps, too. Some strapless bras can have a minimizing effect, but underwiring and padding should be enough to counteract it. Remember: Not all strapless bras are created equally, which is why we've tested out the best strapless bras on the market for your convenience.
Recommended brands for strapless bras:
6. T-shirt bra
Sleek and seamless, T-shirt bras are designed to go undetected under form-fitting clothing. Flattering on all bust shapes, the moulded cups keep a fixed shape. This helps to even out boobs that are slightly different sizes. If that sounds like you, fit your T-shirt bra to your biggest breast. T-shirt bras can come in many styles, such as balcony or push-up, with padding or wiring optional. Buy yours in neutrals like black or white to max out your cost-per-wear.
Recommended brands for t-shirt bras:
7. Sports bra
The best sports bras work by holding your boobs in place to put a stop to unwanted bounce. Whether you're an A or a K, they're non-negotiable for all bust sizes. Look out for thick, racer and cross-strap styles, which offer extra support, taking the strain off your back. Sports bras are designed to fit tighter than your average bra, which might take a little getting used to. How much support you need will depend on what you’re up to, ranging from low impact for strength-based workouts and yoga through to high impact for Zumba and running.
Recommended brands for sports bras:
8. Bandeau bra
Halfway between a boob tube and a bra, a bandeau bra is a less resistive alternative to the strapless bra. Made from soft, stretchy fabrics, tighter-fitting styles are best for bigger busts, while smaller boobs won’t need as much support. They really come into their own during hot weather and holidays, or on days when the idea of wearing a proper bra just feels like too much effort.
Recommended brands for bandeau bras:
9. Multiway bra
A worthwhile investment, a multiway bra will work with everything in your wardrobe. They're especially handy if you like to experiment with different necklines. Teaming easy-to-convert straps with a comfortable fit, there are plenty of options available, whether your dress is strapless, backless or halterneck. Buy in black or nude for a style that won’t show through your clothes.
Recommended brands for multiway bras:
10. Push-up bra
Just as the name suggests, a push-up bra will lift your bust for a fuller, perkier look. Extra padding running from the side to the bottom of the cup pushes boobs up and together, boosting smaller busts and filling out low necklines. They tend to be similar in shape to a plunge bra, with a cut-away gap in the middle to clear the way for your new cleavage.
Recommended brands for push-up bras:
Jess Beech is an experienced fashion and beauty editor, with more than eight years experience in the publishing industry. She has written for woman&home, GoodtoKnow, Now, Woman, Woman’s Weekly, Woman’s Own and Chat, and is currently Deputy Fashion & Beauty Editor at Future PLC.
She caught the magazine bug during a stint as Fashion Editor of her university newspaper alongside her English degree, and hasn’t looked back since. As for the fashion bug, that came as part and parcel of growing up in the 90s, but the less said about that the better!
Jess’ average day in the office is spent researching the latest fashion trends, chatting to industry tastemakers and scouring the internet to bring you this season’s must-buy pieces - as well as advice on how to wear them. Weekends are equally fashion-focused, and Jess has been known to visit no less than five Zara stores in a single day in search of the perfect occasion dress.
The only thing that comes close to a buzz of finally tracking down that much-coveted dress is the joy of discovering a new beauty wonder product or hero ingredient. A beauty obsessive, Jess has tried everything from cryotherapy to chemical peels (minus the Samantha in Sex and The City-worthy redness) and interviewed experts including Jo Malone and Trinny Woodall.
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