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Bra Glossary

Popular Types of Bras:

Ever wonder about the bra terms you see here at One Hanes Place? Terms like microfiber, molded cups, racerback, and spandex? These terms describe types of bras, bra fabrics, and bra benefits. And, in the following glossary, we define them all for you...along with other terms related to bras we sell. We hope this bra glossary helps you gain a better sense of the types of bras best for you.

Adjustable Straps:

Most but not all bras allow you to loosen or tighten the straps for your best fit. A clasp is built into each strap, so it can be moved up or down, shortening or lengthening the strap.

Athletic Bras (Sports Bras):

When you move, so does your bust. It's called "bounce." And it can cause discomfort during workouts. Repeated bounce can even damage tissue. The solution? A good athletic bra. Athletic bras give needed support to help control jarring bounce. Most provide either medium or high motion control, depending on whether they're designed for moderate or intense activity levels. Many athletic bras also wick away moisture to keep you cool and dry.

Average-Figure Bras (Moderate-Support Bras):

Do you wear bra size 34 or 36, with a B or C cup? Then you'll want an average-figure bra providing moderate support. Fortunately, most bras come in your size, so you have many styles to choose from!

Back Support (Posture Bra):

Some bras are specially designed to provide extra support to your back. Elastic panels that crisscross in back are one method used to provide additional support. Women with large cup sizes or women who exercise vigorously sometimes experience back strain and prefer a back-support bra. Most back-support bras are front hook, so that the back of the bra can have more support built in.

Band Size:

One of the two key measurements in your bra size. Simply put, the band size is based on the number of inches around your chest under your breasts. You measure the distance around below your shoulder blades and breasts and add 5 inches. If the total is an odd number, round up. If you measure 31 inches, you add 5 to 31, for a 36-inch band size.

Bandeau:

A bandeau is a tube top or alternative to a strapless bra. A bandeau is usually an elasticized fabric tube that slips over the head and has no hardware, but also offers very little support. Some bandeaus come with attachable straps and with foam pads for coverage.

Banded Bras:

A banded bra has a fabric band that extends beneath the cups. Usually this band is elasticized for easy, flexible fit. Often it's plush-lined for comfort. It keeps the bra anchored in place plus provides added support. Banded bras can be either underwire bras or wirefree.

Bandless Bras:

A bandless bra has no fabric band underneath the cups. Instead, the underwire channels form the bra's bottom edge. The bra's center and sides connect directly to these channels. The result is "less bra, more you": a clean, contemporary look.

Body Briefer:

A one-piece support garment resembling a swimsuit that is both bra and shaper. Provides comfortable all-over control. Some have hook & eye crotches. Body Briefers vary in where they provide control and how much control they provide. Often the built-in bra is based on a bestselling style of bra.

Bra Fitting:

You may have read that most women wear the wrong size bra. That is partly because bra size changes over time. Experts recommend getting a bra fitting annually. You can use our bra-fitting guide to measure yourself accurately.

Breathable Bras:

Want to stay cool when your day heats up? Choose breathable bras. Some are made with special fabrics designed to wick moisture from your skin, so you stay comfortably dry. Others have cup linings with tiny air pockets to allow refreshing ventilation. Others rely on mesh fabric for ventilation. Most sports bras have breathability features.

Camisole Straps:

Camisole straps are back-adjustable. In front, the strap narrows gradually from the cup to the shoulder with no hardware on the front side.

ComfortFlex Straps:

Padded straps that flex to adjust to your body when you move.

Comfort Strap Bras:

Do your bra straps dig into your shoulders? Switch to comfort strap bras. Comfort strap bras have wide cushioned straps that disperse pressure, relieve strain, and ease dig-in. Some comfort straps are cushioned with fiberfill. Others are filled with gel.

Concealers / Concealing Petals:

No nipple show-through! Unique smoothing “petals” are strategically placed inside seamless cups for complete modesty. Prevents embarrassing show-through, even under tight tops or t-shirts.

Contour Bras (see also Molded-Cup Bras):

Contour bras conform to your curves for a naturally shapely look. Most have sculpted cups, either lined or lightly padded, plus wires for lift and shaping. Many contour bras give superb support, so they're ideal for full-busted women. Others also enhance the bust, so they're perfect for smaller figures.

Convertible Bras:

Sometimes you'd like to wear a strapless gown. Or a halter top. Or a tank. But who wants bra straps peeking out? Your solution: a convertible bra. Convertible bras have detachable straps that allow several wearing options. Remove the straps to go strapless. Attach them halter or crisscross style to wear under sleeveless tops. Even attach one strap diagonally to wear with one-shoulder fashions. A must for every woman's wardrobe.

Crisscross Straps:

Most convertible and some “regular” bras can be detached and repositioned to crisscross in back. Crisscrossing the straps adds lift to the front of the bra for a nicer look under clothes. Crisscross straps can provide additional support and can make the straps “disappear” under more revealing fashions, such as racerback tops.

Cup Size:

One of the two key measurements in your bra size, expressed with a letter, such as B, C or sometimes a double or triple letter such as DDD. Measure yourself to determine your cup size. Do not guess! Re-measure yourself as often as once a year because cup sizes change over your lifetime. The easiest way to determine your cup size is to use our bra-fitting guide. Also, a DD cup size is the same as an E cup and a DDD is the same as an F cup, which is why you seldom see cup sizes E or F listed.

Cut-and-Sewn Bras (see also Seamed Bras):

Do you prefer bras that provide extra support? Consider a "cut-and-sewn" bra. Cut-and-sewn bras are highly constructed, with two-section or three-section cups. The cup sections are sewn together (seamed). The more seams, the greater the support. Which means you look and feel better. Choose from both wirefree and underwire styles.

Delustered:

When a fabric is delustered, it is treated to remove the sheen from all or parts of it. When a bra is described as delustered, it usually means there is a soft pattern on the surface of a shiny, usually satin, bra. The matte (non-shiny) sections show the pattern against the shiny background, as if it has been printed. The delustered pattern is the same color as the shiny surface, but the matte finish makes it visible. Unlike a pattern created by weaving or embroidery, the delustered pattern would not be distinguishable by touch.

Detachable Straps (see also Convertible Bras):

Detachable straps can be switched around or removed completely to allow several wearing options. Remove the straps to go strapless. Attach them halter or crisscross style to wear under sleeveless tops. Even attach one strap diagonally to wear with one-shoulder fashions. Some convertible bras come with “regular” and “clear” detachable straps.

Demi Bras:

Do you long to take the plunge--with v-neck or low-cut fashions? Wear a demi bra underneath. Demi bras cover the nipple but not the entire breast. They have lower-cut necklines than standard bras, and wider-set ("camisole") straps. So, you can wear your favorite low-cut looks without worrying about peek-a-boo bra tops.

Dig-in:

Lingerie that fits properly will never leave indentations or red lines anywhere on your body. If you see signs of irritation, you are probably wearing the wrong size bra. When a bra strap is bearing too much weight or a band is too tight, it can “dig in” to your skin, causing indentation. Features such as comfort straps are designed to prevent dig-in.

Double-Layered:

Some bras have double-layer cups. Two layers provide more coverage (to prevent show through). In some bras, the inside layer may be softer, provide lift or add padding. In sports or active bras, the inner layer may wick moisture away from the skin.

Embroidery:

A needlework design on a fabric.

Foam-Cup or Foam-Lined Bras or Stretch-Foam Bras:

Do you wear knits, t-shirts, or other body-conscious styles? Then you'll want at least one foam-lined bra. Foam bras have cups lined with sleek, thin stretch foam, made of non-allergenic material. This foam conforms to your curves for gap-free custom fit. It provides smooth, natural shaping. And, best of all, it helps block nipple show-through, so you can wear clingy clothes with confidence. Plus, since this foam is thinner than padding, it doesn't add extra bulk.

When stretch foam is ultra-thin, it's called micro-foam. When it's contoured—thinner in some areas and thicker in others—it's called graduated foam.

Front-Close or Front Hook Bras:

Most bras fasten in back, usually with hooks and eyes. But front-close bras fasten in front with either hooks or clasps. This allows fast, easy "on / off." Ideal when you're dressing in a hurry. Great for women with arthritis. And because some front hook bras have only a clasp between the cups, they are perfect with low-cut tops. Usually front hook bras only have one adjustment, so choosing the right size is especially important.

Full-Figure Bras (also called Plus-Size Bras):

Generally defined as a bra size of 38C or larger, but can include large band sizes with smaller cup sizes (like a 42A) or larger cup sizes with a smaller band size (like a 36 DDD).

Many full-figure bras are custom-designed for plus-size silhouettes, with additional support built into the construction. Often they have wide cushioned straps or foam lining and closures with four or more rows of eyes. Full-figured bras come in both underwire and wirefree and include sports, leisure, and front hook bras.

Full-Support Bras:

Full-support bras provide lift and support via clever design details: seamed cups with banded edges, hidden under-cup slings, wide side wings, plus two- or three-hook or more closures. They may be either wirefree or underwire.

Gel-Strap Bras:

Prefer bras with cushioned straps? Then you'll love our gel-strap bras. The straps are infused with silicone gel, so they're especially light on your shoulders. They disperse pressure more evenly, relieve strain, and ease dig-in, for comfort hour after hour.

Hook & Eye Closure:

Most back close bras use a hook & eye fastener. There is a set of tiny wire hooks down one side of the bra opening and a corresponding set of tiny wire eyes (or loops) down the other side of the opening. The hooks fit securely into the eyes. Often there is more than one row of eyes, so you can loosen or tighten the fit of the bra. The eyes are on the outside of the bra, so when the hooks are slotted into the eyes, there is no wire on the inside to touch your skin.

Inner Band:

Many full-figured bras, especially wireless full figure bras, include a cushioned band on the inside of the cups to provide additional support to the breasts.

Inset Straps:

These straps angle in, toward the inside of your back, which helps keep them in place on your shoulders and avoids slippage.

Jacquard:

Jacquard fabrics have a raised design or pattern woven into the fabric, rather than sewn or printed onto it. Almost always, a jacquard pattern is the same color as the fabric. An elegant alternative to embroidery. Named for the inventor of the first weaving machine that could produce jacquard fabric.

Laminated Cups:

Laminated-cup bras are a lot like molded-cup bras. The cups consist of two fabric layers bonded or sealed together. These cups look sleek, not bulky. Yet their two-ply construction gives them extra strength for better support and shaping.

Leisure Bra (Sleep Bra):

Soft, comfortable easy-to wear alternative to going braless when you're relaxing at home. Ideal for sleep or downtime. Leisure or sleep bras are soft, stretchy, and made of smooth, breathable cotton or nylon. They can provide coverage and comfort without causing irritation. Full-figured women often are more comfortable sleeping in a bra, as are women with sensitive breasts. Some women with small bust sizes use leisure bras as every-day bras because they don't need the support other bras offer.

Lightly Lined:

Lightly lined bras provide an extra layer of coverage for modesty and no-show through. The lining may also be softer against your breast tissue than an unlined bra would be. These linings are not for the purpose of augmenting your bust size.

Light-Support Bras:

Do you wear a bra size between 32 and 36, with a cup size like AA, A, or B? You'll want a light-support bra. Many light-support bras are unlined and wirefree, with seamless cups, bandless edges, and cutaway wings. These bras provide shaping plus just a bit of support. And, when they're made of soft fabrics like microfiber, they feel like they're "barely there."

Magic Lift Bras:

The famous Glamorise line of wirefree bras for full figures. The Magic Lift non-stretch foam band crosses over and under on the inside of the cups and shoulders for all-over shaping and comfort—like magic.

Maternity Bras or Nursing Bras:

During pregnancy and right afterward, you need a special bra: a nursing / maternity bra. Maternity bras come in softer fabrics to pamper tender tissue. The cups usually stretch to accommodate changing breast size. Plus, the cups have special openings for easy access during nursing. Also, some leisure bras are designed so that the cup can pull aside for nursing.

Mesh:

A loosely woven fabric that has a large number of closely-spaced holes. Sports mesh fabric is lightweight, durable, soft and sometimes stretches. In lingerie, mesh is used mainly in sports bras for cool ventilation and breathability.

M-Frame:

The bra construction that made the Playtex 18 Hour wirefree bra famous. You can see the M-shaped frame in the way the bra is designed, for plenty of long-lasting support that lifts, shapes and remains comfortable, even during 18-hour days. The frame around the sides of both cups offers a custom fit that moves with you.

Microfiber Bras:

For skin-caressing softness, nothing beats microfiber fabric. This high-tech synthetic is made with ultra-fine filaments, tightly knit for super smoothness. So, it's literally softer than silk. Plus, it breathes well, for cooling comfort. Microfiber bras can be nylon or polyester, often with a little added spandex for stretch-perfect fit.

Minimizer Bras:

Do your blouses gap in front or do you sometimes feel you have an abundance of riches (especially under a tight top)? You need a minimizer. Minimizer bras reduce your bustline one and a half inches or more. They gently redistribute tissue to shape and streamline your curves. Result: Your clothes fit and feel better. Choose from seamed and seamless minimizer bras, in both wirefree and underwire styles.

Moderate-Support Bras (Average-Figure Bras):

Do you wear bra size 34 or 36, with a B or C cup? Then you'll want a moderate-support bra. Fortunately, most bras come in your size, so you have many styles to choose from!

Moisture-Wicking Bras:

Nobody wants to feel hot and sticky. A moisture-wicking bra features special fabrics that pull dampness away from your skin. (It's called "wicking.") The moisture then evaporates quickly and leaves you comfortably dry. Moisture-wicking bras are most commonly sports bras, but some everyday styles wick away sweat, too.

Molded-Cup Bras (also see Contour Bras):

These cups conform to your curves and mimic your body's contours because the fabric is molded on a cone-shaped form. So, they fit like a second skin...and work with your shape, not against it.

Non-Stretch Straps / Rigid Straps:

If you wear a larger cup size, you may appreciate a bra with non-stretch (rigid) straps. A non-stretch strap won't become too loose over time and will provide extra stability. Some bras offer stretch straps in B and C cups and non-stretch straps starting with D cups.

No-Slip Slide:

Another great feature for larger cup sizes and for exercising. This special slide allows you to adjust the bra strap length without worrying that the strap will slip while you're wearing it, becoming too loose. Count on these bra straps to stay just as comfortable all day as when you put your bra on in the morning.

No-Wire Bras (see also Soft Cup Bras and Wirefree Bras):

No-wire bras have no underwires...which can mean greater comfort. And today many no-wire bras also offer great support, thanks to clever design details: crisscross frames; inner under-cup slings; 2-ply, molded, lined, or padded cups. Some no-wire bras give light to moderate support, for petite to average figures. Others furnish full support.

Padded Bras:

Sometimes you want a little extra boost. That's where padded bras come in. Padded bras have thicker padding than regular stretch-foam bras. Their cups are lined with enough foam or fiberfill to add volume as well as shaping. Many padded bras add up to an entire cup size. So, they're ideal for women who'd like to enhance their assets.

Plunge:

A bra that is cut deeply between the cups is described as plunge. A plunge bra can provide flattering cleavage without the bra showing and is ideal under low-cut or deep V-neck fashions. Often front-hook bras are plunge because the cups are connected only by the clasp.

Plus-Size Bras (also called Full-Figure Bras):

Generally defined as a bra size of 38C or larger, but can include large band sizes with smaller cup sizes (like a 42A) or larger cup sizes with a smaller band size (like a 36 DDD).

Many full-figure bras are custom-designed for plus-size silhouettes, with additional support built into the construction. Often they have wide cushioned straps or foam lining and closures with four or more rows of eyes. Full-figured bras come in both underwire and wirefree and include sports, leisure, and front hook bras.

Posture Bras (Back Support):

Some bras are specially designed to provide extra support to your back. Elastic panels that crisscross in back are one method used to provide additional support. Women with large cup sizes or women who exercise vigorously sometimes experience back strain and prefer a back-support bra. Most back-support bras are front hook, so that the back of the bra can have more support built in.

Push-up Bras:

Push-up bras make your cleavage look fuller, rounder, and sexier. The cups are cleverly angled to give your curves a boost. Plus, they usually have graduated foam, gel pads or other special linings to shape and enhance your bust. Sometimes they have small removable pads--called cookies--for extra volume.

RacerBack Bras (T or Y Back Bras):

Racerback bras have Y-shaped backs (sometimes called T-backs) that curve in between the shoulder blades. These racing-style backs add extra support plus keep bra straps anchored in place. Many sports bras and even some everyday bras have racerback designs. Racerback bras work well under sleeveless tops: the bra straps won't peek out or slide off shoulders.

Ride-Up:

When the band of the bra moves out of place or shifts back and forth during wear. Not only is this uncomfortable, it can also be embarrassing, as the bra no longer fits properly once the band has shifted. Ride-up can also result in chafing. Many bras have features built-in to prevent ride up. A properly fitting bra will not ride up, so if your bra is riding up, try a smaller band size and possibly a larger cup size.

Rigid Straps: (see Non-Stretch Straps)

Scalloped:

When the fabric (usually the lace) extends beyond the edges of the bra in a decorative pattern, like a tiny, smooth ruffle. A pretty scalloped edge, usually around the insides of the cups but sometimes on the straps or band, adds beauty and femininity to the bra.

Satin / Sateen:

A popular woven fabric since the Middle Ages with a smooth, glossy side and a dull side. Originally made from silk, it is now also made from nylon, polyester and other synthetic fabrics. A similar fabric, sateen, is sometimes made from cotton. Satin is popular for its softness and its silky, shiny appearance.

Seamed Bras (or Cut-&-Sewn Bras):

Do you prefer bras that provide extra support? Consider a seamed bra. Seamed bras are highly constructed, with two-section or three-section cups. The cup sections are sewn together (seamed). The more seams, the greater the support. Choose from both wirefree and underwire styles.

Seamless Bras:

Want a smooth no-line look under clothes? Opt for a seamless bra. Seamless bras have no seams on the front of the cups, for a sleek modern silhouette. Many seamless bras have clever details designed to add support--such as special linings and hidden under-cup slings. Sometimes seamless bras are called t-shirt bras. At least one seamless bra should be in every wardrobe to wear under form-fitting tops.

Seam-Free / Stitch-Free Bras:

Seam-free bras are seamless all over, not just in the cups. The only seams appear where the bra straps attach to the bra. Result? Seam-free bras feel blissfully soft and look super-smooth under clothes. The secret's the special fabric, knit in one seamless piece on a circular knitting machine. For ultimate comfort, try a seam-free bra made of silky-soft stretch microfiber.

Shelf Bras:

Shelf bras provide a light inner layer of fabric for modesty. Usually they have an elastic bottom band that provides some support, but not as much support as a traditional bra. Shelf bras are often sewn inside camisoles and swimsuits.

Show-Through:

Show-through is when the seams of your bra or (even worse) your “headlights” show through a t-shirt or tight top. Many bras are lined or have other special features to prevent show-through. The popular Bali Concealers line has a smoothing petal design on the inside of the seamless cups to prevent show through.

Side-Smoothing:

The sides of your bra, under your armpits, should lie flat. Some women find a pocket of roundness at the side panel of the bra. Popular Playtex Secrets styles, among other bras, are designed keep your sides smooth for a more flattering look. If the side panels of your bra are bulging, you may be wearing the wrong-size bra or a bra design that isn't right for you. A side-smoothing bra is particularly important under form-fitting tops.

Soft Cup Bras (or Wirefree Bras or Wire Free Bras):

Soft cup is the traditional name for bras without underwires. Since the cups themselves are equally soft in wirefree and underwire bras, these bras are usually called wirefree today.

Traditionally, wirefree bras were considered more comfortable and underwire bras were thought to offer more support. However, thanks to advances in bra engineering, many of today's wirefree bras offer exceptional support and many underwire bras are equally comfortable. Wirefree bras use design features like crisscross frames, inner under-cup slings, and 2-ply, molded, lined, or padded cups to offer full support. So if you've never tried a wirefree bra because you need full support, it's time to give one a try.

Spandex:

If your bra stretches, then it probably contains spandex. Spandex is a synthetic fiber with built-in "stretch memory." It's usually blended with another fabric, such as cotton, polyester, or nylon.

When you stretch, your spandex bra stretches with you. When you relax, it "remembers" (and recovers) its original shape. Result? You enjoy custom fit, all-day comfort, free-moving ease, plus shape-keeping durability. Many bras contain anywhere from 2 percent to 15 percent spandex.

Spanette:

This special fabric is actually owned by Playtex Intimates and is one of the reasons 18 Hour bras have been so popular for so long. Spanette is a woven fabric that provides 360-degree stretch support and custom fit. It is usually used on the side or back panels of the bra.

Sports Bras (Athletic Bras):

When you move, so does your bust. It's called "bounce." And it can cause discomfort during workouts. Repeated bounce can even damage tissue. The solution? A good sports bra. Sports bras give needed support to help control jarring bounce. Most provide either medium or high motion control, depending on whether they're designed for moderate or intense activity levels. Many sports bras also wick away moisture to keep you cool and dry.

Stay-Put Straps / Stop the Slip Straps:

These straps are angled into your shoulder blades, so that the back of the bra looks like a V. That position keeps your straps in place and keeps them from slipping off your shoulders.

Strapless Bras:

If you're wearing a strapless top or dress, you need a strapless bra—a bra with no shoulder straps. Today's strapless bras stay up better than ever, and also give great support, thanks to design details such as padding, boning, and shaping panels. Many strapless bras come with detachable straps and even clear straps for multiple wearing options.

Stretch Straps:

Most bra straps stretch, at least in part. This allows for increased comfort when you move. Some bras, particularly for larger cup sizes, have rigid straps to provide greater support, especially over the life of the bra.

Tag Free:

Many bras have converted from having a fabric tag in back to having the tag information printed on the inside of the back band. This keeps the tag from rubbing against the skin.

Three-Section Cups:

A bra with two seams in the cup, usually in a T pattern, is a three-section cup bra. The seams provide additional support, which is particularly helpful for larger cup sizes. Some swimsuits also offer three-section cups.

T-Shirt Bras:

Like many knit garments, T-shirts cling. Which means your bra seams (and your nipples) may show through. The solution? A T-shirt bra. T-shirt bras are almost always seamless, so they're smooth under clingy clothes. Plus, they're either lined with sleek foam or lightly padded with polyfill, so they block embarrassing show-through. Our innovative Concealers bras with smoothing petals solve show through, too. A seamless or t-shirt bra is perfect under any form-fitting garment.

T-Shaped (Y-Shaped, T-Back, RacerBack) Bras:

Racerback bras have Y-shaped or T-shaped backs that curve in between the shoulder blades. These racing-style backs add extra support plus keep bra straps anchored in place. Many sports bras and even some everyday bras have racerback designs. T-shaped or Y-shaped back bras work well under sleeveless tops: The bra straps won't peek out or slide off shoulders.

Tricot Bras:

Many full-support bras come in tricot (either nylon or polyester). This finely knit fabric doesn't stretch, so it provides more stable support. Plus, since it's thin and fine, it looks and feels light and sleek. That means tricot bras bring you the best of both: full support plus airy comfort.

Two-way Stretch:

Fabric that stretches vertically and horizontally is called two-way stretch fabric.

Underbust Band:

Most wirefree bras and some underwire bras have a band that goes across the front of the bra under the cups. This band provides additional support and uplift to the bra and may hold it in place more securely.

Underwire Bras:

Underwire bras have flexible wires inside the bottom cups. These wires provide lift and support for a shapely, sag-free look. Usually they're plush-backed or cushion-tipped to help assure no-poke comfort. Years ago, many considered underwire bras less comfortable than wirefree bras, but with modern engineering techniques, underwire and wirefree bras can be equally comfortable. Most underwire bras offer moderate to full support.

Wirefree Bras (Wire Free Bras or Soft Cup bras):

Soft cup is the traditional name for bras without underwires. Since the cups themselves are equally soft in wirefree and underwire bras, these bras are usually called wirefree today.

Traditionally, wirefree bras were considered more comfortable and underwire bras were thought to offer more support. However, thanks to advances in bra engineering, many of today's wirefree bras offer exceptional support and many underwire bras are equally comfortable. Wirefree bras use design features like crisscross frames, inner under-cup slings and 2-ply, molded, lined, or padded cups to offer full support. So if you've never tried a wirefree bra because you need full support, it's time to give one a try.