By Adam Welsch
Have you ever found yourself at a loss, searching for the right word to refer to some part of bra? Perhaps you were talking with a salesperson, trying to describe what you were looking for in a new style. Maybe you were chatting with one of your friends, trading funny stories about a wardrobe malfunction. Or, you may just have been curious about what the official names were for the various parts of an item of clothing you’ve worn since your early teens.
Well, this is your lucky day. No longer will you have to refer to the “thingy-dingy” on the back strap, the “what-cha-ma-call-it” next to the cup, or the “whosy-whatsis” that goes under the arm. What follows will help you identify each part of your most important piece of intimate apparel. Without further adieu, here are the pieces of the bra puzzle:
- Cups – These are the half-sphere or half-cone-shaped pieces of fabric that hold the breasts. They may be made out of foam, lace, or the fabric used in the rest of the bra (e.g. nylon/spandex). They may be seamless or have seams. Seams create two or three sections to a cup and provide additional support and shaping that benefit full-figured women.
- A Cookie – This is a padded insert that can be placed inside a cup to give the breast a fuller appearance. It may also be used to help even out two differently-sized breasts. It can be made out of fiberfill, or can contain some sort of gel or fluid.
- Straps – These are the thin pieces of material that drape over your shoulder. Though they help to keep the cups elevated, they should only be doing about 20% of the bra’s work. The band should be doing the other 80%. Some bra straps are stretchy; others are rigid. Comfort straps are usually wider than average straps and have some padding.
- Adjusters – These are the pieces of hardware set in the midst of the straps that allow the wearer to adjust the straps’ tension. Usually made out of metal and coated with nylon, they can be in the shape of single or double rings.
- Wings (or Back Wings) – These are the pieces of fabric that are connected to the cradles or directly to the cups, and run from under the arms to the center of the back. The hook-and-eye attaches to their ends and the backs of the straps attach to their tops. The wings may be stretchy or rigid.
- Hook-and-Eye – This is the two-piece fastener, attached to the ends of each wing, that keeps the bra’s band closed around the torso. On average-sized bras, the hook consists of one row of two hooks set side-by-side, while the eye consists of three rows of two loops per row, also set side-by-side. Large-sized bras may have additional rows of hooks. When buying a new bra, make sure to find your correct size when fastening the hook on the loosest row of loops. This will allow you to use the other rows when washing and wearing later stretches out the bra.
- Center Gore – This is the fabric in the front of the bra that connects the cups. It rests against the wearer’s sternum.
- Cradles – Also connected to the cups, these pieces of fabric rest underneath the cups in between the center gore and the wings. It’s these pieces that contain any underwires.
- Slings – These are extra pieces of fabric that are sometimes sewn into the interior of the cups. They provide additional support to prevent the breasts from migrating to the sides of the torso. Slings are often used in larger-sized bras and bras whose cups consist of non-supportive materials.
- Under Band – This piece runs along the entire length of the bottom of the bra. It holds the bra against the torso. When fitting properly, it’s able to work with the wings, cradles, and center gore to do 80% of the work of supporting the breasts.
- Underwires – Pieces of wire that are placed in the cradles under the cups, these provide additional support for the breasts and are normally used in larger-sized bras. In some bras, the wires are coated with protective layers of plastic.
There you have it. Hopefully, this information will allow you to shop for bras more efficiently, and trade ideas about bra fit and fashion more easily with your closest friends.