Key Elements of a Bra and Their Function

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Here are the key elements of bra design and their core functions. (You can always see our videos on how to measure your bra size accurately and how to achieve a perfect fit for your bra.)

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1. Band

The band is the part that runs around the rib cage of the wearer and is one key element of the support structure. Most of the weight of the breast (around 80%) is distributed throughout the band. It is imperative to wear the correct band size.

2. Centre Panel

For a good fit the centre panel should touch the wearer’s torso and not pull away from the body. Usually, the taller the centre panel, the greater the support and coverage it provides.

3. Cups

The cups are the parts of a bra that hold the breasts. A cup should enclose 100% of a breast’s flesh, with no gaps or over-spill at the top, sides, or bottom. Here is how to determine cup size.

4. Underwire

The underwire provides added support and lift to the breasts. It is a metal, sometimes plastic, U-shaped piece sewn into the bra cup from the centre panel to the armpits. It should completely encase the breasts like a cradle; meaning the wires should be behind the breast root, not on top of the breasts.

5. Straps

The straps go over the shoulders and keep a bra in place. They provide 20% of the support.

6. Wings

Wings are the panels that go from the cups, round the sides, and to the back. They, together with the band, are key to a bra’s support. Different materials are used for different levels of support. The most important thing is how well the wings hug the body without ‘travelling’. Wings also help manage any bulge.

7. Strap Join

The strap join is where the straps attach to the bra band in the back. The leotard strap join, aka ballet leotard back, is recognised for its rounder shape and is a sign of a supportive bra as it distributes weight more evenly throughout the band, taking weight out of the straps and the shoulders.

8. Closure

The most common type is a hook-and-eye closure that may be located in the middle centre of the bra’s back or at the front. Other types include clasp closure or, for elastic bras, no closure at all.