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Five Basic Bra Styles

Before I jump into any extensive posts on bra fitting -- which I can't wait to do! -- I wanted to discuss styles that are available to full busted ladies. After the size of a bra, the style has the most immediate impact on the fit of a product. Below, I've outlined the basic styles I'll be discussing in this space:

Plunge: I once had a customer who hilariously referred to this look as a "baby's bottom". I instantly knew what she meant because this style creates that ubiquitous and popular cleavage. Traditionally, this bra pushes the breasts together and up and creates a breath-y, heaving appearance. When women come into the store looking for a "push-up", they're usually seeking out this style with foam or additional padding.

Hands down, this is my favorite type of bra for going out. If I want to amp up the sex appeal of any v-neck top or dress, I instantly reach for my moulded plunge bra. I also find these bras to be more comfortable physically, since there's less material covering my chest. Unfortunately, on my shape, this style comes with a few glitches. I have less natural space between my breasts and in plunge bras, my girls have a tendency to roll towards one another. This means I often end up being a little empty on the side of the cups and I start to perspire heavily. Gross, I know.

Plunge Style: Freya Taylor, 30G

Balcony/Balconette: My first 30G bras were balconies and I wore them to death. In a balcony or balconette bra, the cups are substantially lower and the shape of the bra looks like a gently sloping V. This style works well on many women because it accommodates several different size/shape profiles. Balcony bras can flatter wide-set breasts, fully developed breast weight, and side tissue.

I prefer the balcony for everyday wear because it's a happy medium in terms of coverage, falling neatly between the plunge and the full cup styles. In the foam design, it's the best bra for t-shirts, thin knit sweaters, and scoop necks. My Panache Porcelain bras always looked seamless under clingy fabrics.

[caption id="attachment_159" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="Balcony Style: Fantasie Kara, 30G"][/caption]

Full Cup: If I was stranded on a desert island, I'd want a full cup bra.  Last summer, my New England village prepared for a hurricane. There were supposed to be power outages across the county and the grocery stores were mobbed with people stocking up on things like bottled water and flashlights. When I woke up the day of the fluke storm, I reached for my full cup style. It's the workhorse of bras and I knew it'd be comfortable, practical, and keep the girls in line.

However, I feel as if full cup styles look a little mature. To me, there's nothing youthful about a full cup style. Don't get me wrong;  their designs are often feminine, with intricate lace detail and supportive three part cups. Classics, like the Panache Andorra, come in fun, playful colors. I don't mind that this style can create visible seams or lack substantial nipple coverage. But, as the co-owner of Bra and Girl says, it's a lot of bra.

[caption id="attachment_161" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="Full Cup Style: Panache Andorra, 30G"][/caption]

Half-Cups: This style is completely horizontal across the breasts and creates a more "historical" version of cleavage. If you've ever watched a costume drama, you're probably aware of the look I'm referring to. This bra pushes the breasts up, without covering the top half of the tissue. It presents the girls, rather than squishing them together like a plunge bra does.

Although I own two versions of this style, it's been difficult for me to find the perfect fit. So far, the bras I've tried have been dramatically small in the cup, making me look like I'm about to pop out! As the day wears on, I feel a little too loose on my top half. However, I am totally enamored with this shape because it's a relatively rare style to see in my size range. The look oozes elegant sophistication, European glamour, and looks sexy in a refined way.

[caption id="attachment_163" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="Half Cup Style: Ewa Michalak Halfek, 65G"][/caption]

Minimizer: Minimizers and I are in a love-hate relationship. The minimizer style flattens the breasts, causing the tissue to look splayed and slightly wider than the aforementioned styles. By widening the look of the breasts, a woman's torso can appear a little wider as well. Since the breasts aren't as high and centered in this style, the midsection doesn't look as long either.

Some of our customers come in and ask for the minimizer style specifically. Once we're in the fitting, it becomes clear that they are looking for a bra that minimizes the appearance of their chest, but isn't necessarily billed as a minimizer. If you are happy with the appearance of a minimizer, this style usually has some "wearable" benefits. The wider straps, thicker back band, and additional hooks that accompany this product definitely add to the comfort level. It's those details, rather than the appearance of the product, that makes it so popular.  Although the bra below is technically a full cup, it's a wonderful stand-in for a minimizer.

[caption id="attachment_165" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="Minimizer-ish Style: Fantasie Helena, 30G"][/caption]

Above I've covered five of the most popular bra styles in the full bust market; keep in mind that there are tons more out there. Besides the practical necessity of the strapless, there are hybrid creatures (plunge balcony bras) and retro throw backs (the longline). Have you tried the styles I mentioned above? Do you have a favorite?


  1. Just wanted to observe that funnily enough half cup bras are often describe in French as "balconnet"

  2. Haha, I probably should've written the "English balconnet"! I think there's a difference between size ranges as well. The full busted brands (Freya, Fantasie) name bras with a low center gore & a sweetheart neckline a balconnet, but the term is applied to average or small cup bras to mean more of a half-cup or a demi.

    This was definitely a hard post to write since the variations in the styles are endless. I included minimizers because I've heard a lot of women ask for them who are full busted, but I didn't know if it was just an American thing. I haven't seen them discussed on any full bust blogs from the U.K.

  3. [...] right now). Currently, Freya has two ‘enhanced’ Deco ranges out: the Ashlee and the Taylor. Both bras feature the same shape, a padded plunge, and the same design details, including double [...]

  4. Your Andorra looks really large to me. I have several of this bra and they don't cover so much. Could you possibly go down a cup size? I know some retailers suggest that one go up a size in Andorra, but that really corrupts the way that the bra is supposed to fit. I just don't think it's supposed to have that much empty space or coverage in the top of the cup.

  5. Hey Ms. Pris, what a great question! This is actually a topic that's been on my mind a lot lately because my size has changed dramatically over the last few months. Right now, I'm certain I'd be more comfortable in the smaller cup size (30FF) and in most of my bras I'm leaning toward a 28GG/28G instead of a 28GG. Damn hormonal shifts! Also, my breasts tend to ALWAYS fill out the top of the cup while wrinkling slightly at the bottom. It's something fitters have told me to watch out for. I have to "settle" my breasts down rather than up, if that makes sense.

    With the coverage issue, I was pleased with my Andorra when I took this photo and tend to prefer more coverage. I think the photo itself might be misleading too because the cups laid perfectly flat for me when I wrote the post. You have a great eye for detail though, you'd make an excellent bra fitter! :)


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