A quick guide to bras

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One hundred years ago, the word brassiere appeared for the first time in Vogue. Ever since it’s invention we have all grown to love and rely upon the bra. Here are our top tips to getting this humble but iconic little undergarment right.

SIZE

Sexy may be timeless, but sizes aren’t. Breasts naturally change size and shape over the course of a woman’s life, and they’ll often change frequently through the menstrual cycle. You may find that you need a few different styles, or even sizes, to help you feel comfortable and supported. The balance between band size (number) and a cup size (letter) is at the very heart of your perfect fit, and the results may make you love-or-leave your favourite bra.

The back size relates to how the bra fits around your body. The band around your body provides most of the support so it should be firm but comfortable. It should be horizontal and not ride up at the back at all. If it is loose, or it rides up at the back, try a smaller back size (but remember to increase your cup size). Your bra will stretch with wash and wear, so we recommend a new bra fits you when fastened on the loosest (outside) hook.

The cup size relates to the volume of your boobs. The wires at the front should lie against your breast bone between your boobs. Your boobs should be completely enclosed in the cups and you should have a smooth line where the fabric at the top of the cup meets your bust. If your boobs are bulging at the top of the cups, or the wires are not sitting flat between your boobs, try a larger cup size. If you have spare or wrinkled fabric in the cups, try a smaller cup size.

STYLE

Push-up bra – provides lots of lift for nights out or anytime boost. Often come in variety of paddings, from subtle to maximum.

Balcony bra – half-cup style, which means that the cup sits low on the bust, and makes them particularly suitable for wearing underneath V-neck tops. They often have wide-sitting straps, which will expose the neckline. As this is one of the most common bra styles available on the high street, this style will be flattering on most body shapes. The balcony bra gives your breast a rounded shape and will make the most of your cleavage. If you have a fuller bust, make sure you’re not spilling over the top of the bra – you may need to go up a size because of the slighter cut of the bra.

Plunge bra – sits really low at the centre, perfect for wearing underneath a dress or top with a plunging neckline. The extra padding will give you an impressive cleavage, which makes it a good choice for pear shapes who want to balance out a wider bottom half, but this style won’t offer as much support as a balcony bra or full cup bra. Plunge bras often come with removable gel fillets, ideal if you have a petite, slender, tall, or athletic body shape as your cleavage will get some extra oomph.

Full cup bra – the style sits high in the cup and is great for uplift and support. Full cup bras tend to sit closer up the decolletage, have thicker straps and often have three hooks at the back, which is perfect if you are supporting a larger cup size.

Demi cup bra – literally means “half cup”. More revealing, with an open decolletage.

T-shirt bra – usually completely seam-free, giving you smooth lines and making sure you have no unsightly lumps or bumps under your clothes. This is an ideal style for everyday use, when you don’t want to draw attention to your chest. A good tip is to buy one in a neutral colour that matches your skin tone, which you can wear under everything (a white bra will show through a white T-shirt more than a skin-coloured bra) .

Soft cup bra – a comfortable alternative to a wired bra. Suitable for petite or slender women who may have a smaller chest and don’t need as much support. Wearing a soft cup bra in bed can help support the ligaments in your chest, keeping them firmer for longer.

Sports bra – your boobs don’t contain any muscles (they are supported by the pectoral muscles), so as soon as you do any exercise they will jiggle around. No matter what your bra size, keep them under control with a sports bra – it will compress the bust close to the rib cage for minimum movement. Sports bras are typically cut high and give complete coverage of the breasts, leaving you to concentrate on your exercise.

Multi-way bra – one strap, two straps, no strap; keeps your options open for every outfit.

FABRIC

Comfort, look and versatility of bra comes not only from the size and shape of the bra , but also from the fabric that makes it.

Contoured farbric – typically thick, designed to conceal the nipple and shape the breast. Contour bras present a soft, rounded appearance under all fabrics, even form fitting or clingy garments. Many contour bras are considered seamless, without any lines or seaming present on the cup. A “t-shirt bra” is constructed of contoured fabric.

Lace – Intricate, timeless and beautiful, lace is a preferred detailing for many lingerie designers. Lace garments are woven from cotton, silk or sometimes synthetic thread into an open-weave pattern. Though there are many types of lace, the most common found in lingerie is a bobbin/Chantilly lace, which creates a detailed, outlined design; crocheted lace, which creates flowing lines, scalloped edging and sometimes a “netted” appearance.

Mesh – partially sheer, tightly woven knit fabric. When bra cups are constructed with mesh, the fabric choice provides a comfortable “give” for the breast tissue. Mesh is a light, airy fabric, meant to feel cool and dry on the body. Many molded cups are constructed with mesh and have seaming in place to conceal the nipple. Mesh fabrics give the garment a sexy look.

Microfibre – most often found in seamless or t-shirt bras. Microfibre is a synthetic fabric, commonly made from a cotton polyester blend. A microfibre bra provides a smooth, sleek feel against the skin and is nearly invisible under clothing. A Microfibrebra is durable, keeps its shape and will wick moisture from the body.

Satin – Satin is a soft but taut fabric with a glossy sheen. Bras with a satin construction hold the breasts up and in place without any extra padding or seaming. This fabric selection has little stretch, so its fit is snug and secure on the body. Satin bras are beautiful and timeless.

Sheer – Sexy, yet functional, sheer fabrics show off a little skin.

Tulle – used for elegant, sexy bras and panties. Tulle, commonly referred to as netting, is a soft, tightly spun fabric, usually made from fine silk, cotton or nylon. It provides a light, airy feel. Tulle is a supportive agent in a bra, as it is taut and keeps the breasts supported and in place. You will typically find tulle on a molded cup or multi-paneled bra.

CARE

Have a wardrobe of bras—at least five to seven. Many women overwear bras—that’s the single biggest reason they wear out.

You shouldn’t wear one bra two days in a row. A day of wear and then a day of rest is best. After two wears, wash it.

Use a sensitive soap, without bleach or materials that damage elastic, or you can use baby-clothes soaps. Keep a net bag in your closet. When you take off a bra, fasten it [so it doesn’t get hooked on others] and throw it in there. The bag goes into the washing machine on the cold, gentle cycle. Don’t put a bra in the dryer. Hang it to dry – you will double the life of your bra.

For a selection of bras in all styles and sizes, visit E-lady today.