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Lingeropedia: An Illustrated Guide to Bras (Brassieres)

I will tell you about clothes because fashion is what happens when people wear clothes.

 An Illustrated Guide to Bras (Brassieres)

An Illustrated Guide to Bras (Brassieres)

For those of you fresh from another planet and possessing particularly poor deductive reasoning skills, bras, also known as brassieres, are items of lingerie which are primarily designed to provide support to the breasts, which are the large, fleshy structures found upon the chests of women.

Though typically considered a female item of clothing, there are a significant number of men who, through weight gain or hormonal issues, also find that they have sufficient breast tissue to warrant the wearing of a bra. (Not to mention an extra portion of the male population who have decided that they'd quite like to wear one even if they don't need one.)

In addition to merely providing support for the breast tissue, many brassieres are now designed to give the breasts better shape, more lift, or to make them appear larger. Bras are also designed to adorn the body in a generally flattering fashion and are designed in a range of fabrics, patterns and designs ranging from the pretty to the sensuous.

There are many types of bras available on the market today, and some of the terms you encounter in your lingerie journeys may be strange and unfamiliar to you, so to aid you in your quest for bras, here is a fairly exhaustive list of various types of brassieres commonly available.

Balconette Bras

Balconette bras are much like demi-cup bras (see below) though they cover around ¾ of the breast and can be identified by their distinctive butterfly line, in which the fabric dips towards the center of the chest, and then rises up towards the straps.

Demi-Cup Bras

Demi-Cup Bras

Demi-Cup Bras

A demi-cup bra is one in which the cups do not cover all of the breast, rather they cover around half of the breast, leaving plenty of cleavage on display to onlookers.

Bullet Bras/Cone Bras

Popularized in the 1940s and 1950s, bullet bras and cone bras were lingerie creations which turned the soft curve of a woman's breast into a dangerously pointy object that would put your eye out if you got too close.

Nursing Bra

A bra worn by women who are nursing which provides easy access for the baby in a relatively demure fashion.

Open-Tip Bras

Open-tip bras are bras which offer some support for the breasts, but which have openings around the nipple area. Not recommended for everyday wearing (the chafing would be horrific), these bras fall firmly into the category of risque lingerie.

Open-Cup Bras

Open-cup bras are bras which are designed so that the cups plunge directly downwards in a diagonal line. Open tip bras are also sometimes referred to as open tip bras.

Padded Bras

Padded bras, as the name suggests, are bras which are padded in the cup area to enhance the appearance of the size of the breasts.

Shelf Bra

A shelf bra isn't so much a bra as it is a display rack upon which the breasts sit, exposed and uncovered. Some sportswear and swim wear comes with a 'shelf' stitched into it to give the breasts some support. This device is also occasionally referred to as a shelf bra. Best not to get the two mixed up.

Push Up Bra

A push up bra is a bra which is engineered to press the breasts together and lift them. The effect is a larger bust and deeper cleavage, which is considered attractive by many, and to give the appearance of having a bottom on one's chest to the more cynical.

Strapless Bra

A strapless bra is one which is held on purely by the band which wraps around the chest. Whilst effective for some ladies, generally those with smaller breasts, many women (such as this one) find that strapless bras are worse than having no bra at all, as they are prone to slipping down the body and leaving one to 'surreptitiously' adjust them all night long.

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Stick-On Bra

Stick on bras are the latest incarnation of brassieres, and work by simply adhering to the breasts, giving them shape and covering up the nipples. The support given by these devices is negligible, and they are more of a novelty item than a useful piece of lingerie, no matter what the advertising says.

Sports Bra

Sports Bra

Sports Bras

Sports bras are bras which are specially designed to reduce the amount of bouncing and wobbling breasts are wont to do when the owner is exercising. This movement can be not only painful, but also bad for the breast tissue, causing bruising and tearing.

Training Bras

Training bras aren't really bras at all, rather bra like items of lingerie which are given to young girls to wear in anticipation of the time when they will actually need a real bra. They start at size AAA, and are probably a huge waste of time and resources in the majority of cases.


A wonderbra is a brand name bra which is widely held to increase the appearance of the size of a woman's breasts. Wonderbra burst onto the lingerie scene in the 1990s and have not looked back. The company now stocks a veritable plethora of bras which deceive and then disappoint shallow partners the world over.

Underwire Bras

Underwire bras are bras which are reinforced by a wire which runs under the cups in a semi circle and reinforces the structure of the cups. Larger breasted women often find that underwire bras are more comfortable than their soft counterparts, however it is not uncommon for discomfort due to wires digging into the body to be felt, and after some time it is quite common for the underwire to work its way out of the lining of the bra and either fall out, or poke into the underarm/chest of the wearer.

Water Bra

A water bra works much the same way as a padded bra, however instead of making use of foam to pad the breasts, water filled cups are utilized to increase the apparent size of the breasts. Some wearers prefer water bras to padded bras, saying that the liquid inside the bra provides an extra convincing jiggle factor, but problems can be encountered in the case of leaks, in which case the wearer starts to slosh about and leak a fair bit in what is generally agreed to be an unsexy fashion should those accidents happen.


joan on November 28, 2016:

i am always wearing a bra and panties my favourite colours are matching red, black and blue i am 40B but the cups are often too large what do you suggest ?

c. anderson on August 07, 2009:

No one should call breasts filth.They are wonderful!

MarkM on February 13, 2009:

I started to develop breast again after years of them disappearing . I am a 38C cup right now if I wear victorea secret bras but in everyother I am a 40B. I decided that I like having them and would like to reach a 40 D Or DD cup size. dose any one have any advice?

david on January 30, 2009:

This is a great article for guys who need some info on bras. Whether they're buying one for that special someone or even if they want one of their own, they can't go wrong by reading this article.

Mylacipanties on August 24, 2008:

Dearest Hope, You are mature beyond Your chronological years. Your thoughts and writings are knowledgeable, pure, forthright and succinct !! You are almost too good to be true; but, after reading ALL of Your wonderfully detailed, well-written, and deeply.... yet pleasantly philosophical posts, no one other than someone who is perfectly aware of the full background, as well as the current interest of the topics of her musings, could be anything less than THE BEST OF THE BEST.... which is what You are !!!!! Please continue !!! Please, do not ever cease to be our most adored creature on the planet. Biggest Hugs !!! Lea

ILoveLingerie on August 22, 2008:

this is a great article, thx for the explanations because I think all these different bra types are pretty confusing

Shadesbreath from California on July 03, 2008:

I found this hub whilst doing research for a deeply academic and serious writing project on undergarments and their architectural correlaries. The chapter I am working on is the "shelf" currently and its spread into uses beyond holding up our cups and, of course, saucers and plates etc. I was very dissapointed to see that your article, while otherwise sumptuously informative, was censored in certain regards to this useful application of the structural marvel that is a shelf, and suffers in its depiction even as it supports your article's theme. I had hoped to use that portion of your article in conjuction with other items like smoke shelves and valance shelves in my chapter on "Carpentry miracles move beyond wood", but I can see your editors do not fancy all the elements of the shelf as much as do I. I am dissapointed, frankly, but I will certainly continue to read everything you post in the future to see if perhaps you mend your ways.

Hope Alexander (author) on July 02, 2008:

I am well aware your comments were intended to be ironic Mr Stone - as were mine.

How ironic to miss the irony of a person's comment whilst pointing out the irony of your own.

Christopher James Stone from Whitstable, UK on July 02, 2008:

It's called irony Hope Alexander. I really enjoy your hubs. They always make me laugh.

Hope Alexander (author) on July 02, 2008:

Thanks for the tips Dave, that will be very useful for other men who wear lingerie! I am glad you enjoy the posts too :)

Dave on July 02, 2008:


Every week I eagerly await your postings and have saved many of them to help explain to any future woman with whom I may enjoy a relationship. I would like to recommend a site that I have purchased many things because they are specifically designed to fit the male body. makes panties with a little extra room in the front and the bra's they make do not have cups. The material feels great and is very pliable. I have a whole drawer full and wear it every day under my suit. Thank you and god bless.

Hope Alexander (author) on July 01, 2008:

I object to your chastisement, good sir, as you can see, all the filth is clearly marked and blocked from the eyes of honest men.

(Plus there are lots and lots of words, I know, I wrote them all myself.)

Christopher James Stone from Whitstable, UK on July 01, 2008:

This hub is obviously designed to put on display a large number of pictures of women in scanty clothing and therefore to draw significant numbers of men in to take a look. I am disgusted. I had to look at it twice to confirm how disgusted I was. You should be ashamed of yourself.

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