Lingeropedia: 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 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.
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.
A bra worn by women who are nursing which provides easy access for the baby in a relatively demure fashion.
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 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, as the name suggests, are bras which are padded in the cup area to enhance the appearance of the size of the breasts.
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.
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.
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 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 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 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.
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.