Types of Bras

This post is partially an excerpt from my book, How to Find a Bra That Fits, which can be purchased here.


One really annoying facet of the bra industry is that every company has a different definition of the bra shapes. And it’s not just the American companies that are guilty of this; it seems to be a worldwide phenomenon.  Whenever I help someone learn about bras, I like to set some ground rules for the different styles or types of bras that are out there.  Obviously this isn’t going to be universal, but here’s what I find to be the most consistent.

Types of Bras

Demi cup / half cup


The Palazzo Half Cup bra by Chantelle in crimson

Chantelle Palazzo half cup bra

Demis or half cups bras have the smallest amount of coverage. The top edge of the cup is close to parallel with the floor, and the straps are often set wide to emphasize the shape.  The cups usually have one to three vertical seams. This style is sometimes called a balcony or balconette, depending on the company.



The unlined Patsy Balcony by Freya in black

Freya Patsy Underwired Plunge Balcony

The balconette (sometimes called balconybalconet, or three-quarters cup bra) has an average amount of coverage.  It is most typified by having one vertical seam and one diagonal/horizontal seam.


Full Cup

The Pure Lace Molded T-Shirt Bra from Sculptress by Panace in purple/pink.

Panache Sculptresse Pure Lace Molded T-Shirt Bra

The Full Cup bra, sometimes called a full coverage bra, is easily the most misunderstood bra.  At its heart, it’s simply the style of bra with the most coverage.  There is the unfortunate misconception, however, that women with large breasts should only be wearing full cup bras (and that full cup bras can only be ugly or boring).  My most hated name for this type of bra is the minimizer bra.  As if large breasts are something to be ashamed of.  Bah!




Stella Lace Plunge Bra by Stella McCartney in copen blue/peony

Stella McCartney Stella Lace Plunge Bra

Plunge bras have very short gores, usually shorter than 1″. These bras are intended to be worn with plunging necklines. Despite what they say, nearly all of Victoria’s Secret bras are plunge in shape.


Will all this info help you when you’re browsing an online store for a new bra?  Honestly, probably not.  But it will help you when you’re discussing bras with other people.