Outfitting your Bra Wardrobe: 9 Bras for Every Body

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Today’s guest post comes from Sarah Ellis, and she had this to say about herself, I’m a lingerie snob in every sense of the word. I’ve gotten spoiled during my stints in lingerie retailing and no packaged pair of panties from Target will cut it for me! Although I’ve cut down my lingerie hoarding as of late, as a newly engaged lady I’ve given myself the green light to outfit a new lingerie wardrobe. When I’m not shopping for lingerie you can find me styling affordable handbags for HandbagHeaven.com at work or planning my fabulous wedding!
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Problem: You love lingerie, but when it comes to variety in your “bra wardrobe,” you’re lacking. Now, most of us have a collection of bras for both practical and fun occasions. But how complete is your bra wardrobe? Do you have a bra that complements all of your ensembles?

I’ve been taught, “A bra wardrobe should be as complete as your collection of shoes. Every woman has a pair of tennis shoes, sandals and pumps. And, in the same way, a bra wardrobe should include more than one type of bra.”

If you’re like me, you have your “old faithful” bra, the one you go to for your perfect everything. But when it’s time to switch it up or dress for different things, you’ll need a bra that does the right job. That’s where my thorough knowledge of lingerie comes in.

I’ve had a four year stint at Victoria’s Secret as well as worked in a lingerie boutique that specialized in offering “speciality sizes” for well-endowed women. I’ve learned the ins and outs of proper bra fits, the importance of support, and feeling fabulous. Lingerie can literally transform you from the inside out, which is why we love it, right? Now, let’s outfit you!

Balconette: Pronounced, “bal-con-ay,” this bra is probably my favorite. It is characterized by the square neckline it creates, which is great for wearing with tops that have a low cut or square neckline. It showcases decolletage and can balance a heavy or small bust nicely. Sometimes a balconette bra has half cups or push up which both give the illusion of a bigger bust. (Shown: La Perla Villa Toscana Balconette Bra)

Convertible: You know that bra that you need help figuring out? The one that can be worn every which way and has straps that alter to fit just about everything? The convertible bra is the best invention since sliced bread and can save you some serious cash in the long run. There are versions that go from strapless to halter to low back to one shoulder and beyond! (Shown: Felina Extreme Convertible Push-up Bra)

Demi: A demi bra is the most typical bra in a woman’s wardrobe. The cups are angled to expose part of the breast tissue without being too revealing. They offer ¾ coverage and don’t have any extra padding. (Shown: Felina Harlow Full Busted Demi Bra)

Full Coverage: A full coverage bra is favored by large busted women who need extra support. The cup covers the entire breast and holds the breast tissue in against the body. Large breasted women need this extra support to keep their breast tissue from “jiggling” or moving too much. (Shown: Wacoal Retro Chic Full Figure Underwire Bra)

Push Up: For every small busted girl out there, a push up bra can be your best friend. But busty gals can enjoy the benefits of a push up bra. Push up bras use foam, gel, water, or air to lift the breast tissue. Large busted women tend to shy away from push up bras because they think it will make their breasts look a cup size larger. A push up bra doesn’t actually add any volume, but the padding lifts and pushes your breasts up higher which can make them look larger. Or, as I prefer, “more perky.” (Shown: Wacoal iBra Push-up Bra)

Strapless: Strapless bras are a must have for every lady. Even if you rarely wear strapless tops or dresses there are some tanks and tops that just require a strapless bra. Strapless bras have gotten a major upgrade lately. They’re more comfortable and some even come with a grip that will keep it from slipping after long wear. (Shown: DKNY Autograph Strapless Bra)

Sports Bra: If you’re ever doing any type of physical activity you absolutely need a sports bra. NOT to be confused with a crop bra. Even light walking or jogging can stretch the ligaments that support the breasts as much as 78%. That ligament DOES NOT retract, so once it’s stretched, it’s permanent. That means saggy boobs, which aren’t good for anyone. You need proper support for physical activity. Ask any bra specialist and they’ll give you the low-down on what makes a good sports bra. (Shown: Champion Maximum Control High Support Spot Comfort No Wire Sports Bra)

Racerback Bra: Which is most definitely not to be confused with a “razorback” – a type of pig. We’re talking lingerie here people, not swine. Anyway, a racerback bra is noted by the straps in the back that make a y shape. They’re good for keeping your straps in place or hidden underneath tank tops. (Shown: Calvin Klein Black Racerback Underwire Bra with Lace)

Wireless Bras: A wireless bra offers the most amount of comfort a bra could ever offer, no poking wires! They’re great for post-surgery patients or anyone who needs an extra delicate bra. However, they’re typically not recommended for busty gals that need the support. (Shown: Bali Double Support ® All-Over Stretch Bra)

The list goes on an on, but you get the idea. Just like you need a well rounded selection of shoes, your bra wardrobe needs to be full of variety too. Try something new and you may be pleasantly surprised by the bra you never knew you needed.

Photo Credits: All photos from Bare Necessities.

23 Comments

  1. Anonymous
    25/05/11 at 20:29

    "Even light walking or jogging can stretch the ligaments that support the breasts as much as 78%."

    Where exactly is the study for this? I haven't worn a bra in well over a year and my boobs are as perky as ever.

  2. Treacle
    25/05/11 at 20:43

    @Anonymous–Thanks for commenting!

    There are several studies on the biomechanics of breast movement during physical activity and the role of sports bras in minimizing said movement (and possible subsequent damage) to breast tissues.

    I used Google Scholar to find several sports medicine articles on the subject. They're great for researching this sort of thing.

  3. Elisabeth Dale
    25/05/11 at 21:44

    There are also studies that link bra wear to more saggy breasts. Fascinating stuff. http://www.007b.com/bra_sagging.php

  4. Treacle
    25/05/11 at 22:40

    @Elisbeth–Thanks for the link. Your expert opinion is always appreciated.

    Have you found any studies that describe ill effects from wearing a sports bra during physical activity?

    That was specifically what I was referring to (and also what the quoted text in the first comment was referring to) and I've not run across any studies that find a negative effect to wearing a sports bra during intense physical activity. Every study I've found has suggested just the opposite.

  5. Chrystal
    25/05/11 at 23:03

    You missed on important one, the T-shirt bra. Every woman should have a bra with smooth cups to wear under Ts or other clothes where seams just shouldn't show through. That is just as bad as panty lines.

  6. daisychain
    26/05/11 at 4:55

    Great post, although so far I only only t-shirt bras. For shame.

  7. Elisabeth Dale
    26/05/11 at 9:02

    @Treacle You're right. All the bra studies I've read associate wearing a sports bra with reducing overall breast pain, even if you don't exercise.

    My point was more to the science behind what holds up women's breasts. No one really knows whether it is skin elasticity, genetics, weight of breast etc. Some studies suggest that continually wearing a bra prevents Cooper's ligaments from doing their intended job. There are many women who believe their breasts have remained perky throughout their lives because they have never worn a bra! And others who claim they wear one at night to prevent drooping.

    For me, a good sports bra is as important as supportive athletic shoes. I wouldn't go running without one!

  8. maggie
    26/05/11 at 9:36

    I have a t-shirt bra that looks JUST like the push-up bra posted here. It's my "go-to" bra because it's soft and seamless, but I don't think it was listed as a t-shirt bra. I think the fabric is what make's it great. I love it!

  9. Zoggi
    26/05/11 at 10:55

    How do breast ligaments become 78% stretched?? The quantitative nature of this claim makes me wonder how this was measured – any information from the author?

    I second the vote for t-shirt bras – for me they're a wardrobe staple!

    Full cup bras are by no means the only styles that can be worn by larger cupped ladies, and since we all know that the support comes from the band, the key to good support is not how much coverage the cups have, but whether the bra has the right design to transfer the weight from the cups to the band. Many women are incorrectly fitted in too-large bands and told that they "need the support" from the fuller cups. In reality, all the bra is doing is transferring the weight to the shoulder straps – very painful. If you look at all of the leading brands who specialise in larger cups you'll see that many of the best sellers are based on a modified balconnette shape which seems to have been pioneered by Freya, but is now used by many DD+ designers. The cup features a third piece for more coverage but unlike a conventional 3-piece construction the shoulder strap is connected to the lower section of the cup. This gives fantastic side support and combined with the inward angle of the cups, offers a very upfront shape that you simply don't get from a full coverage bra.

    If you associate underwires with poking and discomfort, the solution would be a bra that fits properly, not necessarily a wirefree bra.

    I am surprised that a self-confessed lingerie snob has any respect for Victoria's Secret, since they are not usually regarded as the most expert of bra fitters, nor are they renowned for their quality.

  10. Treacle
    26/05/11 at 11:29

    @Elisabeth–Super interesting! Thanks for coming back to share your knowledge.

    @Chrystal–I agree…a t-shirt bra is a wardrobe essential. But any style of bra can be a t-shirt bra–demi, push-up, full cup, etc.

    @DaisyChain–Not shameful at all…you obviously know what works for you! :)

    @Maggie–Exactly!

  11. Gigi
    26/05/11 at 15:59

    Love your blog Treacie, and I love that this list has brought up so much conversation!

    I wear bullet bras under t-shirts sometimes (as opposed to 't-shirt bras, of which I own none), but make sure it looks good. I do not think it equates to panty-lines.

    Also,I have both under-wire, and wire free bras, which I have been sized for at a professional boutique, and the wire free are certainly more comfortable. They just are for some of us, maybe not for others but for some of us, no wire makes a difference.

  12. Treacle
    26/05/11 at 16:01

    @Gigi–Thanks for bringing up the bullet bra…and for mentioning that it's not just for retro ensembles! And I appreciate your perspective on wirefree bras…always good to keep in mind that different people have different preferences.

  13. so
    26/05/11 at 18:11

    My experience with buying bras has not been very good until recently. I have to say when I went to a Victoria Secret store the gal handed me a basket of bras and said try them on and see what fits. I tried them on but didn't find one that fit. I left discouraged. I have tried using the standard way of measuring for the correct size which doesn't work for me at all. My daughter says it doesn't work for her either. I finally found some bras that work for me. I went to a department store and the lady asked me if I was ever fitted. Which I never was. So she fitted me and said I was wearing the correct size though the standard measuring systems puts me in in two waist bands larger and two cup sizes smaller.
    Since I have been reading your blog I have a new found interest in lingerie which I find fascinating. I wouldn't go to Victoria Secret any more to find lingerie. I've been trying so many different brands and love them. They fit so much better than what I was wearing and much better made. I love having a variety of styles and colors. Matching sets are fun.
    I also think that each woman is built so differently that what works for one woman might not work for another one. Ligaments fall into that category. I found that my breast ligaments were tight before I breast fed my children. I was told that the pulling and tugging babies do damages the ligaments. Working out helps but they will never be the same again. Thanks for the interesting information. Enjoying reading your blog.

  14. Anonymous
    27/05/11 at 6:09

    As an FYI, balconette is pronounced with a "t" on the end, because of the "tte" ending. I would suggest changing the "bal-con-ay" to bal-con-et".

  15. Lingerie Stores
    04/06/11 at 11:09

    I think Your Gift selection I Is mind blowing! Really nice Keep it up!

  16. Sarah Ellis
    13/06/11 at 15:45

    @Zoggi – Hi! I'm the author of the post and wanted to share the info you requested on the statistics about ligament stretching : http://www.shockabsorber.co.uk/bounceometer/shock.html

    Try this out! It's really interesting. I've actually worked for Victoria's Secret and a boutique that sold Freya and other high quality lingerie brands with broader sizing selections. Unfortunately, not all of the staff at Victoria's Secret take as much time with each customer as they should – I'm sorry you had a bad experience! It was interesting spending time working there and the smaller boutique. Victoria's Secret certainly isn't a store that caters to everyone's needs – which is why it's wonderful that brands like Freya cater to a larger audience. But personally, I've never had a bra at Victoria's Secret that was made with poor quality. When I refer to myself as a "lingerie snob" my point of reference would be spending $50-60 on a quality bra versus the packaged variety at big brand stores like Target and Wal Mart :-) Though, if I could afford it, I'd happily shop at La Perla!

  17. Anonymous
    30/06/11 at 8:13

    @zoggi re your comment "… many of the best sellers are based on a modified balconnette shape which seems to have been pioneered by Freya" i cant quite picture what you mean, but would like to investigate this option. Can you provide a cpl of exa,ples, pls? Thanks

  18. 06/02/12 at 16:56

    While I agree that every woman should have most of these bras (pushup totally not necessary, but sports bra 100% necessary), it would have been nice to see this article featuring photos of correctly fitting bras. Most of the bras in these photos are incorrectly fitted. You can tell by the bulging flesh at the sides and the centre gore (the bit between the cups) not sitting flat. I’m willing to bet that most, if not all, of the bras in these photos have a band size too large and a cup size too small. It’s not hard to find photos of correctly fitted bras from websites that know what they’re talking about (IE Freya, Panache, Curvy Kate, lingerie bloggers such as Invest In Your Chest and Fuller Figure Fuller Bust).

    (I’m aware this is an old post, but I couldn’t resist commenting!)

    • 06/02/12 at 18:49

      Hi ContraryKiwi, thanks for commenting!

      I noticed all the suggestions you gave are either full busted brands or full busted bloggers. Do you know of any websites that feature correctly fitted bras for women who aren’t full busted?

      • 09/02/12 at 17:26

        Ooh, so they are. I can only wear “full busted” bras because I’m a “huge” 30FF (sure), so I focus on the blogs and brands that have similar bust sizes to mine so I can check fit.

        However, I do know of the Little Bra Company, Lula Lu and the blog 32AA Bra. Not all of the photos of the bras on those websites fit properly, but nor do all of the ones on the websites of Freya, Panache etc, sadly. It’s like they get lazy and figure that Photoshop will make up for not bothering to fit their models correctly every time. As far as I can tell, though (and I’m only new at being able to tell whether fit is Photoshopped or not), there are enough on those sites to show photos of correctly fitting bras in fuller and smaller busts.

  19. 30/07/13 at 19:06

    Lol late reply, however I can wear 6 out of 9 bras listed above. That’s only cause they have changed shape over the last 5 year (ie: children).

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