Style Analysis: The Elegance of the Quarter Cup Bra

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The recent photograph released by La Perla of their Light and Shadow bra on model Ming Xi is such a graceful, beautiful image. Whilst the model herself is a beauty, the bra is pure elegance. The name Light and Shadow draws your attention to what the designer has hidden and also what is shown off. Notice the perfect placement of embroidery and shape of the neckline. This modern piece transcends into the realm of a timeless, classic lingerie style.



The quarter cup bra or shelf bra always seems to be in the background, with designers releasing a new version with each collection or so. This leads me to assume the quarter cup style sells well. And why not? If executed well in design, the quarter cup bra has timeless appeal. If you don’t already love this style, allow me to illustrate why you need one of these beauties in your lingerie wardrobe. I will discuss some key points for you to consider when purchasing a quarter cup bra.

Placement of Quarter Cup: Over Vs Under the Main Cup

The first thing to consider with this style of bra is the placement of the quarter cup in relation to the main cup. Identifying the placement helps to understand the function of the style.

The initial bra by La Perla has the quarter cup placed externally of the main cup. This means the quarter cup is seen as a decorative element. The quarter cup is in silk satin while the main cup is in tulle embroidery. The difference between the sheen of a silk satin fabric, which is opaque, contrasted with the matte tulle embroidery, which is sheer, results in both a contrasting and pleasing design. I believe it shows the true skill of a designer to create such a small piece which is both balanced and proportioned. There are many elements, yet as a whole, this design works.

With the Agent Provocateur Gloria bra below, the placement of the quarter cup is under the main cup. With this particular design, the embroidery cups appear to be one piece gathered at the centre front. Both the La Perla and Agent Provocateur bras are similar in colour and fabrics used, and at first glance they appear to be fulfilling the same function. However, there is difference in both design and function between these two bras.

The La Perla bra’s main support is the embroidery cup, while the quarter cup is viewed as the secondary element. In the Agent Provocateur bra, the quarter cup is taking on the functional role in supporting the bust, while the embroidery is the secondary element. To help with visualising the difference, imagine the Agent Provocateur bra had the embroidery removed. It would stand alone as a shelf bra. Conversely, the La Perla bra would be a classic embroidery bra if it had the quarter cup removed. Both are stunning options and well executed, leaving us to decide which style we prefer.

Fabric Choices: Lace, Embroidery and Quarter Cup Options

From our examples above, the quarter cup bra can be viewed as either a shelf bra with embroidery or a classic underwire bra with decorative external quarter cup. Fabric choices for this bra can vary depending on design.

Generally, in either design option there should be rigid fabric for the cups to support your bust. Rigid fabrics may be lace or embroidery. The Kiki De Montparnasse Sheer Lace bra below uses rigid tulle and lace, which is a softer version of this style.

A quarter cup bra may consist of a moulded or cut-and-sewn cup, supporting fabric inside like power mesh, or just be two layers of fabric. This depends on design and function. It is common for a shelf bra to have moulded cup or cut-and-sewn cup for more support.

There are always exceptions to the rule. If you find the quarter cup finishes higher on your bust, then a stretch lace may be ok. On a recent trip to China, I purchased a bra from a relatively unknown brand called Yiselle. This bra, as seen below, is a cut-and-sew cup with a stretch lace top cup. The design and function of this bra is again different. The curved panels of the lower cup finish higher, offering more support, but the centre finishes lower than bust point. I was hesitant when I noticed the top cup was a stretch lace, but found the fit to be okay. The bottom cup is the main support, while the stretch lace top cup takes on a decorative role. I would suggest always trying on all styles of quarter cup bras to ensure the combination of fabrics paired with the design is suitable for you.

Ideal Fit of the Quarter Cup Bra

Fitting this style of bra is always challenging. There can be many variables which makes it a very particular fit. For a style such as the Paloma Casile bra below, we can see this is a shelf bra with the lace being decorative. The main support in this design is the shelf bra.

In this style of bra, ensure the bra lifts from under your bust. The quarter cup should finish below your bust point and feel firm but not cutting into your breast tissue. Check your side profile to ensure there are no odd shapes occurring. Your bust will not be very rounded when the cup is cut low, but double busting should not occur.

If the style is more like the La Perla bra where the fabric cup is the main support, the bra should fit as a classic lace or embroidery bra. The bust should be lifted from both the side and under the bust, generally with a rounded profile. The addition of the quarter cup bra will add a textural difference as you can see from the second photo below. The quarter cup, being outside the bra, needs to sit as flush as possible with the rest of the bra with minimal gaping.

Do you own any quarter cup bra’s? What aspects do you consider when purchasing a quarter cup bra? Would you consider purchasing a quarter cup bra for Valentine’s day? 

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Kathryn Wellington
Kathryn Wellington

Kathryn is a lingerie and swimwear garment technician from Sydney, Australia. Lover of all things vintage and lacy.

13 Comments on this post

  1. Abigail Tyrrell says:

    OMG!!!! THANK YOU! you’ve just helped me fix a design problem I have been fretting about all week! And as it is being worn to the #BPSA this Saturday – timely too!

  2. Idalis says:

    I feel your pain Paige – I too am a 36DD and since I can’t go braless, I’m fond of really pretty bras. I luv big breasts but because support is still a concern, I don’t ever really get the effect I want from most designs. I’m afraid of my own reaction if I were a perfect C cup, but seriously considering a reduction – then all these gorgeous bras could be an option!!

  3. paige says:

    I too love quarter cup bra’s but have sadly grown to a point that finding them in my size is next to impossible. 36DD/E.

    I have been looking into getting a quarter cup that has the halter as well. Very sexy look. This seems to be a good solution to minimize the double boob spill over effect… at least I hope. Axami and a lot of other brands have been making these a lot lately. I’d really like to get one… or a few. sadly the stop at 36D, if they get that far. Though your resent post for playful promises has some very promising sets coming that i could get into. whats more. it seems that they have standard and plus size range for the same bra which suggests that they have taken the time to alter the design a little for that extra support. I hope thats true.

    thank you for posting this article. hopefully more women pick it up and consider getting one too… maybe one day well see them move down from the luxury lines to more common brands… and more size options too. (one can dream)

    If you know of more brands like Playful Promises, that have quarter cups in 36Es… Please let me (us) know.

    thanks again.

  4. I have never owned or made a quarter cup bra, but it’s been on my mind. I love the way they look!

    • Kathryn Wellington Kathryn Wellington says:

      Hi Danielle, you should give it a go! They can really change the way you feel. I’d love to see what you make!

  5. Olivia says:

    The yiselle mint bra is so pretty but I can’t figure out how to find it on their website! Has anyone ever purchased something from them?

    • Kathryn Wellington Kathryn Wellington says:

      Hi Olivia, thanks for your feedback. It is such a pretty bra and I nearly didn’t include it in this article as Yiselle’s website is not user friendly. I bought this bra from a big department store in Dongguan, China. They had some other lovely styles as well but none are shown on their website :( I will see what I can do to find it and if any luck I will contact you.

  6. Honey! says:

    I adore quarter cup bras! I own a bunch of them (including the AP Lacy one above in Pink) and find the lift amazing and the lace across the rest of the bust soooo sensual. I’ve got big breasts though and can’t seem to figure out the sizing–it seems it’s double boob every time so I”m wondering whether sizing up a cup would actually help with that.

    • Kathryn Wellington Kathryn Wellington says:

      Hi Honey, thanks for your feedback. I actually own the same bra from AP in pink also! The double boobing happens for me as well although it was reduced when I went up a cup size. In my case I bought the 34C instead of my usual 34B. This allowed my bust to sit into the quarter cup well, the underwire encased my breast but I found the lace across the bust was then a bit loose. This doesn’t bother me as this particular bra from AP isn’t an all day bra for me. Try the next size up but make sure the underwire is encasing your breast well checking where it sits at the centre front and side.

  7. Sandy says:

    Great article! With a small, shallow bust, this style usually is a great option for me. Thanks for the technical breakdown. Informative and helpful!

  8. Tiffany says:

    Yes! I love quarter cup bras!

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