A Guide To The Different Bra Cup Styles
When it comes to finding your perfect bra, there’s more to consider than just which size to buy. Bras come in a huge range of varieties, and the style of bra can greatly affect how well it fits and how it looks on you.
To help you find your ideal match, the most common cup types you’ll see in stores today are listed below. Note that this is a guide to cup shapes specifically, not an exhaustive list of every bra style ever. There are also things like padding level to take into account – from unlined to ultra-push-up, that definitely changes the fit too!
Full Cup Bra
Enora Minimizer Bra P5272 | Enora Bikini P5273 in Raspberry
A full-cup bra is designed to cover all, or at least most, of the breast. With a high gore (the bit between the cups) and lots of fabric, these bras offer an enhanced level of support and are therefore ideal for full-bust sizes. They also tend to create a smooth line under clothes.
However, if your breasts are shallow at the top you may find that full-cup bras gape or wrinkle here, even if you’re filling out the bottom half of the cup just fine. They’re also the most likely to peek out from under low or wide-cut necklines.
Half Cup Bra / Demi Cup Bra
Charlotte Padded Bra 6901 | Charlotte Bikini 6905 in Blossom Print
These two terms are used more or less interchangeably. As the name suggests, they’re designed to cover about half the breast – in real terms, that means they typically stop around 1-2 inches above nipple height.
Demi cup bras work for a wide range of breast shapes, and depending on their construction, can still offer plenty of support for larger cup sizes. But with the added benefit of being able to be worn with lower necklines!
Estelle Balconet Bra P52312 | Estelle Bikini P5233 in Black
A balconette bra is actually a type of demi cup. You’ll recognise it because it’s shaped like a balcony – the tops of the cups are likely to be cut more horizontally, rather than sloping diagonally upwards. It may also be a tad lower, only just covering the nipple.
A balconette bra typically has widely-set straps – this combined with the low cut makes it ideal for wearing under square and scoop necklines. However, if you have narrow shoulders you may find that the straps of a balconette bra regularly slip off.
Balconette bras are better suited to those with shallow or full-on-bottom breasts. If you have a lot of upper fullness you may find that the cups are cut too low to prevent you spilling out of them, especially when leaning forwards!
Related: Which Breast Shape Do You Have?
Vanna Plunge Padded Bra P5701 | Vanna Hipster P5705 in Black/Gray
A plunge bra is easy to spot thanks to its characteristic shape – the cups slope sharply downwards, creating a V neckline, and the gore that joins the cups is less tall than usual.
Plunge bras will suit most people, except perhaps those with very soft breast tissue that can spill out of the open centre. They’re the perfect choice when you’re wearing an extra low-cut neckline and don’t want your bra to be visible.
Ciara Bralette P5711 | Ciara Bikini P5713 in Surf
Another easily-recognizable style, this one gets its name from the fact that the cup’s sides converge into a point where the strap attaches, creating a triangular shape. Many triangle bras are wireless bralettes, but wired ones exist too.
Being more open at the outer side of the breast than the other cup shapes on this list, triangle bras tend to be less supportive than wired bras and aren’t able to push breast tissue front-and-centre. Triangle bras with minimal fabric are generally better suited to small bust sizes, and won’t create a rounded or projected shape.
Quarter Cup Bras, Cupless Bras, and Other Bra Styles
Both of these bra styles expose the nipple, so they’re generally reserved for boudoir wear. Although quarter cup bras are sometimes called cupless too, and both styles get called ‘open cup’, there are two distinct looks to choose from. Quarter cup bras will always have some cup fabric at the base of the breast, but a truly cupless bra has none.
A cupless bra, of course, offers zero support. It is simply there to frame the breast. A quarter cup can offer a little lift since it does support the breast from below to an extent, but it’s not intended to be a supportive style either. So long as you are happy with that, quarter cup and cupless bras work for any breast size and shape!
Other cup shapes are much more rare, and often found in vintage lingerie – such as overwire bras and bullet bras. If you come across another bra style name, it’s probably referring to something other than the cup shape.
For example, it may refer to the strap style (e.g. strapless bras, racerback bras, and multiway bras), the level of lining or padding (e.g. contour bras, t-shirt bras, and push-up bras), or a specific function or design feature (e.g. minimiser bras, nursing bras, and longline bras). All of these will also have a shape from the list above, such as a push-up plunge or a contour demi-cup.
Yes, that means there are a ton of possible combinations, and it’s easy to get overwhelmed or confused by the sheer breadth of bra styles that are out there. But the plus side is that somewhere, there’s exactly the bra style for you.
Have any questions about bra cup styles? Ask away in the comments!
Briana Padded Bra P5671 | Briana Bikini P5673 in Black Floral
We Highly Recommend
Whether you’re shopping for new everyday bras or lingerie for a special occasion, it’s always a good idea to seek out a second opinion. We know how hard it is to find bras that fit well and feel good, especially when you’re doing it on your own. If you’ve ever felt unsure about your bra size or you just don’t know where to go to find good bras, it’s time to let a bra fitter help.
Many specialty lingerie boutiques offer bra fittings. Their expert bra fitters will take the pain and frustration out of bra shopping and do all the work for you. Even better, their product knowledge can save you time and money. Plus, they know where all of the best bras are hiding.
If you’ve struggled with finding bras in the right size, it’s time to make a change. Visit our specialty store locator to find a store near you and schedule an appointment.
Happy bra shopping!