I've often heard the question; "Why are bra's so expensive for so little material?"
Here is a break down of all the little pieces and what they do and all the work that has gone into even the most simple bra. Getting to know your bra can also help with alterations and fitting issues.
1. Upper cup. The upper cup helps to shape the bust. It also helps to keep the breast in place with the help of shoulder straps. If the upper cup is made of an elastic material, such as stretch lace, the cup will often adapt to your bust and give a bit more size flexibility. This is beneficial if, for example, you have different sized breasts. Sometimes, there is a thin silicone band on the inside along the upper edge of cups with elastic lace. The cup retains its shape and stays in place this way.
2. Under cup, also called the bottom cup, serves to lift the breast upwards and plays an integral part in providing the support of the cup. Sometimes the under cup is reinforced with lining or padding. An under cup made of firm material provides better lift than one made of elastic material.
3. Cup side. Any side support will be along the cup side. The cup side serves to project the breast forwards/towards the middle. If the cup has side support, this will help center the bust to prevent it being pushed out towards the armpits.
4. Side seam. On some bras, the side seam is reinforced with a side bone. Depending on the design, there is often no side seam. Instead, the side and back are made of one piece, forming a so-called wing, or side/back.
5. Wing. A more common name for this part is side/back.
6. Back. The back of the bra and the way it fits around the body provides most of the bra’s support, even more so than the actual cups. The back is elastic, so the bra feels comfortable when you wear it and should provide support while adapting to the body. Backs are made of many different materials with different degrees of elasticity and shape retention, and two bras of the same size can therefore be of different lengths.
Backs are available with different cuts, such as the straight back, the U-shaped back or the wrestler back. The wrestler back is also known as a T-back or racerback. Leotard back is when the shoulder straps continue all the way down to the bra’s hook and eye fastening.
8. Center front or center gore can differ in height depending on the design of the bra. It can be pretty significant or small if the bra has a low cut and lacks material under the wire. On some bras, the center front has a vertical center seam depending on the cut.
9. Raised bottom edge. For some bras, particularly those with an underwire, the center of the bottom edge of the bra has a curved or V-shape cut. This provides extra comfort when sitting down or, for example, if you have a high stomach. It also allows the underwire to fit tightly against the breastbone to provide optimal support for the bust.
10. Underwire, if the bra has one, would be sewn into the underwire band. Some bras have an underwire band but no underwire.
11. Cup seams. Cups are available in a wide range of different designs and cuts. The most commonly have 2-3 parts but can have more. The seams can be vertical, horizontal, diagonal, straight or bent, or a combination of these. A molded cup lacks seams and consists of just one part.
12. Ring and slider for adjustable shoulder straps. These can be at the front of some bra models, but it is more usual for the shoulder straps to be adjustable at the back as they go down further there, offering more flexibility. The drawback with front-adjustable shoulder straps is that there is a risk the slider can end up on top of the shoulder, depending on how loose or tight you need to adjust the straps and how tall you are.
13. Apex. The area of the bra where the shoulder strap meets the cup.
14. Armpit. This cut can be at different heights depending on the bra model.
15. Décolletage. This is not part of the bra itself, but rather the area of your body above the bust. A bra affects what the décolletage looks like depending on how it lifts or supports the bust.
16. Cradle. The front part below and around the cups.
17. Band length is the full length of the bra, i.e. the circumference around the body. It is more common to call it the circumference, although this is not the correct term.
18. Adjustable hook and eye fastening. It is usually adjustable in three steps width ways. The height can vary. When you talk about the width of the back, it is generally about the number of hooks and eye fastening. These are vertical.
19. Shoulder straps. These vary in width between bra models. Available with and without stretch and with and without padding. Most are adjustable at the back but some at the front. There are also non-adjustable shoulder straps.