Understanding The Anatomy Of A Bra

Jacqueline Wells

anatomy of a bra
In order to get the best fit in your bra, it’s helpful to understand the how’s and why’s of how bras are made. A seemingly simple article of clothing is so very complicated. Here’s a quick glimpse at the Anatomy of a Bra (you can see the more detailed descriptions here).

1) Cups. A letter A-D denotes your cup size (ladies with a DD or larger, you’re cup size can be a many different letters depending on brand, so we suggest using our Universal Cup Size™ system). This letter translates to a measurement of the distance from the tip of your breasts to the breastplate or chest wall. This measurement is why there are “sister” bra sizes because changing a band size can greatly impact the projected measurement. You can learn more about “sister” bra sizes here.

2) Multi-Part Cups. Always the most supportive, this cup style is typically found in lace bras, where multiple pieces of fabric are sewn together to make the cup. These can be 2-part, 3-part or 4-part cup bras, each offering a different approach to lifting and supporting the breasts.

3) Underwires. This can be the bane of women’s disdain for bra wearing or it can be the best uplifting quality of a bra. The key is to find an underwire that works for you. Underwires provide the best shape and definition to breasts, so a little work to find a good fit will go a long way. It’s important to consider band size in relation to cup size when selecting a bra with an underwire. Going up a band size means you need to go down a cup size. Check out the chart here.

4) Bra Band. This is the part of the bra that goes around the rib cage—sometimes called the “bra frame”. While you can find “bandless” bra styles, where the cups are sewn from side into a band, the greatest support comes from a band that wraps around your entire torso.

5) Center Panel (Bridge). Determining how your breasts sit in relation to one another can help you decide which type of center panel will work best for you. Wider-set breasts need a wider center panel and conversely with closer-set breast. Depending on your specific goals, consider how the center panel will impact the overall bra support.

6) Bra Sides/Back (Bra Wings). The quality of the fabric used in the piece of the bra puzzle plays greatly into the longevity of a bra. You want this section of fabric to be stretch resistant. It’s important to let your bra “rest” for 24 hours to allow this fabric to come back to original form.

7) Bra Hooks. Ideally, your bra will fit snug on the first set of hooks. As the bra ages and stretches, you can enlist the help of the other hooks to extend the life of the bra. More hooks don’t always mean more support. A culmination of the entire bra construction determines the supportive quality.

8) Bra Straps. Those that are prone to strap slips are always on the hunt for a solution to this mishap. Finding a bra that features straps sewn more closely to the center of the front or back can be the key less slips. Also, ring hardware can affect the swivel of the strap.

Meghan Barich is a writer, the storyteller at meghanbarich.com and a proud Hoosier. When she’s not crafting the next story, you can find her nose-in-a-book or walking her dog, Moose.