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how to choose the right bra style

Not all underthings are created equal. In fact, each style is specifically constructed to perform unique functions, meaning certain bras serve certain body types and ensembles better than others. If you’re well-versed on which purpose each bra serves, you can grow a more practical collection while also dressing smarter.

Whether you’re seeking the perfect bra for a clingy cocktail dress, a shoulder-baring blouse or a basic tank, read on to learn the ins and outs of each and every common style.

Demi-Cup Bra

what is a demi cup bra

Parfait Charlotte Padded Bra 6901 in Dusty Rose, Wild Pink, Icy Blue, Purple Wine, Red/Black

All about this style: Also known as a shelf bra or balconette bra, this style features cups that are cut slightly lower, only covering about half to three-quarters of the breasts. As a result, the demi-cup bra puts your decolletage oh-so-subtly on display (though not as much as a plunge bra, as this style has a higher center gore).

Wear it with: A low-cut blouse or dress, as long as it doesn’t have a full-on plunging neckline — or under anything that calls for a little extra oomph in the cleavage department.

Our top picks: The Tess Unlined Wire Bra, which is super comfy yet features stunning lace detailing, or, if you’re seeking a little sassier with lined cups, the ever-popular Charlotte Padded Bra, which comes in a multitude of both neutral and vibrant colors.

T-Shirt Bra

which bra is best for t shirts

Matilda Contour Plunge Padded Bra P5311 in Bisque

All about this style: With seamless, lightly padded cups, it’s easy to see why the T-shirt bra is a top pick for everyday wear. Did we mention they’re also super comfy?

Wear it with: The name says it all — this is the perfect style to sport underneath T-shirts, as well as tanks, sweaters and any other knitwear. It’s an especially smart pick under pieces that are form-fitting, as this ultra-smooth style isn’t as likely to show through.

Our top picks: The Lynn T-shirt bra, which is virtually invisible under even the tightest knits thanks to smooth, seamless cups. Looking for something with a little more pizzazz? Then we recommend the Aline T-shirt bra, which gets some added visual intrigue from striped jacquard microfiber fabric.

Push Up Bra

 what is push up bra

Parfait Lynn Push-Up Strapless Bra P13112 in Black

All about this style: Women with smaller breasts who want to create the illusion of a larger bust appreciate this style for accomplishing just that. The push up bra, which features angled cups and padding to lift the breasts upward, can work for women with larger busts who are seeking lift as well, as the padding varies from style to style.

Wear it with: Something sexy, like a little cocktail dress, or a body-hugging dressy top.

Our top pick: The Lynn Super Push Up Bra — it doesn’t have the word “super” in the name for nothing. This style can boost the bustline by two sizes or more, and as an additional bonus, it features a plunging neckline to accommodate your lowest-cut dresses and tops.

Full Cup Bra

what is a full cup bra

Parfait Enora Minimizer Bra P5272 in Nude

All about this style: Looking for maximum coverage? This style provides precisely that — which is why women with larger bustlines often prefer full cup bras, which also tend to lend excellent support and shaping.

Wear it with: Professional attire, or otherwise conservative ensembles. The full cup bra honestly works under anything, as long as it’s not low-cut.

Our top pick: The Carole Unlined Wire Bra — the expertly constructed three-part cups ensure you feel secure all day long, while lace detailing is nothing short of striking.


what is a bralette

Description: Light and lacy, these bras are typically free of padding and molded separated cups. However, many don’t offer as much support as traditional bras. The one exception? A bralette with seamed cups and a supportive band, which offers some additional lift.

Wear it with: An off-the-shoulder sweater or knit top if the bralette boasts decorative straps that are meant to be seen. As it’s so lightweight, it’s also an ideal option on hot days under breezy dresses, or under casual clothes, while lounging around the house or running errands.

Our top picks: The Dalis Bralette, which is both pretty and practical thanks to stretch lace, super soft modal and a wide bra band for extra support. We also love the lacy Adriana Bralette and Ciara Bralette. Both offer sexy shaping and lightweight support for D+ cup sizes.

Related: Bralette vs Bra: What’s The Difference Between A Bra and A Bralette?

Plunge Bra

what is a plunge bra

Parfait Jeanie Plunge Molded Bra 4801 in Panther Print

All about this style: Both the cups and the center gore on this style dip down much lower, creating a very deep neckline. Some plunge bras contain push-up like padding as well for contouring and lift.

Wear it with: Anything with a plunging neckline, since it won’t show like other bra styles would.

Our top pick(s): The Casey Plunge Molded Bra, which provides excellent shaping as well as support, and an accent bow at the base of the plunging neckline for a feminine, flirty touch.

Longline Bra

what is a longline bra

Parfait Sandrine Plunge Longline Bra P5351 in French Blue

All about this style: This style (which typically features underwire but no padding), is a vintage throwback, with substantial support and excellent shaping. As the bottom of the bra extends slightly farther down (in the way a corset would, but not as far), the longline bra can accentuate your curves by smoothing out your waist.

Wear it with: Formal dresses that demand a flawless silhouette, or a fashion-forward blouse.

Our top pick(s): The Sandrine Plunge Longline Bra — Ultra-supportive boning lends practicality to the style, while dainty floral lace adds a certain romance. Plus, it doubles as a plunge bra.

Strapless Bra

 what is a strapless bra

Parfait Elissa Contour Underwire Strapless Bra P5011 in Pearl White

All about this style: While this particular style can range in fit and features such as underwire and padding, it is worn without straps (though most strapless bras are sold with removable straps), so you won’t have to worry about straps showing when you’re flaunting your shoulders.

Wear it with: Any top or dress sans straps, of course! You may also reach for a strapless bra when you want to take the weight off your shoulders and give them a break.

Our top pick(s): The Jeanie Strapless Contour Bra, which will stay in place all day due to a specially engineered band and also won’t show underneath your clothes due to smooth, seamless cups.

Sports Bra

what is a sports bra

Parfait Active Sports Bra P5541 in Infinity Blue, Black/White

All about this style: This bra is designed specifically with physical activity in mind, and therefore usually constructed with moisture-wicking material and wider or racerback straps for extra support. Styles with encapsulated cups are ideal for women with larger breasts, and in general, it’s helpful to seek out sports bras with adjustable hook-and-eye closures and straps for a perfect fit.

Wear it with: Your favorite workout top, shorts or leggings and supportive sneakers, naturally.

Our Pick: The Parfait Active Sports Bra, which features moisture-wicking Coolpass fabric, a sturdy bra band for additional support, and wide straps that can be adjusted for a customized fit.

Related: Do You Wear A Bra Under Your Sports Bra?

Soft Cup (Wireless) Bra

what is a soft cup bra

Emma Wire-Free Soft Padded Bra P5491 in Bare

All about this style: This wire-free style may not lend quite as much uplift as an underwire bra, but can still provide shaping and some support. Many styles feature elements like inner support slings and multi-part cups to help with structure in the absence of underwire.

Wear it with: Loungewear, sleepwear, or under loose-fitting T-shirts and sweaters for a comfy alternative.

Our top pick(s): The smooth, moulded cups and a supportive fit of the Emma Wire-Free Soft Padded Bra make it the perfect wireless bra to wear under t-shirts.

Minimizer Bra

what is a minimizer bra

Parfait Enora Minimizer Bra P5272 in Whisper Blue

All about this style: Seeking to make your bustline look smaller? The minimizer bra accomplishes exactly that by distributing the breast tissue more evenly across your chest (as opposed to gathering it towards the center).

Wear it with: A button-down shirt or dress — particularly if you typically struggle with pesky gaping between the button holes.

Our top pick(s): The Enora Minimizer Bra, which can reduce the bustline by 1 to 1.5 inches or more. Not to mention, the all-over jacquard lace makes it downright pretty to look at.

Convertible Bra

what is a convertible bra

All about this style: This multi-way style features straps that are adjustable and detachable (typically at the back), meaning it can be worn in a wide variety of different ways. As a result, the convertible bra is arguably one of the most versatile styles you can have in your collection.

Wear it with: T-shirts, some racerback tops, and any shirt that requires a bra with criss-cross straps.

Each and every bra type features unique features that are designed to perform specific functions and work with certain clothes. Now, armed with some insight into the differences between many styles, you’re better equipped to build your perfect collection.

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, 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!

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Published by

Rebecca Strong

Rebecca is a Boston-based freelance writer who focuses on style, fitness, food, and travel. She has contributed to such publications as HuffPost, Elite Daily and U.S. News & World Report. When she's not writing, she can be found at home or in the studio working on the songs for her upcoming album. Her favorite bra is a black demi-cup style with all-over-lace — timeless and feminine.

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