By Marcy Montgomery Jones
When it comes to the fit, fashion, and function of your bra, bodybriefer, cami, torsette, or bra slip, straps can make a big difference. There are many different kinds, and the following list incorporates the majority of strap options available today. Keep in mind that the classifications below aren’t mutually-exclusive; often one set of straps has a combination of characteristics that allows it to be placed in several different categories at once.
The Width of Straps
Wide straps are typically used in shapewear and bras incorporating larger cup sizes. These have wider surface areas that allow the weight of the breasts to be better distributed along the tops of the shoulders. Typically, full-busted women prefer the performance of wide straps, over that of narrow straps, because they’re simply more comfortable.
Narrow straps are usually found on bras and shapewear made for smaller and average cup sizes where the shoulders aren’t subject to any heavy lifting. The width of these straps can range from 1/16” to ½” depending on the function and design of the garment. The spaghetti strap is a common example of a narrow strap that’s often used for intimate apparel.
The Stretch of Straps
Rigid straps can be used for a variety of reasons. One is to stop any excess breast bounce, which makes them a great option for bras and shapewear for full-busted women. Many women prefer rigid straps because they’re often adorned with non-stretch materials, such as silk or embroidery. Rigid straps have metal or plastic adjusters that allow the wearer to fine tune their tension. These may or may not incorporate some stretch elastic.
Stretch straps are the most convenient straps for intimate apparel designers to work with. The stretch creates built-in adjustability that makes garments incorporating them more likely to fit the greatest range of women. Slide adjusters typically move across, and hold onto, stretch straps quite well.
The Design of Straps
Traditional straps are permanently sewn into bras and shapewear.
Convertible straps are the most versatile of all straps, and allow individual bra and shapewear styles to be worn with the greatest variety of outfits. The straps will either be entirely detachable or detachable only in the back. Garments with straps that detach only in the back can be configured with traditional front-to-back placement or a crisscross design. Garments with straps that detach entirely can be configured in a variety of ways depending on how many tabs (loops into which the straps can be hooked) are built into the garments. Convertible straps typically have built-in adjustment areas so you can be sure to get a proper fit.
More traditional strapless garments have only four tabs, two in the front and two in the back. This design allows for traditional front- to-back, crisscross, single front-to-back, and single asymmetric configurations.
In addition, depending upon how adjustable the straps are, you may be able to create a halter design. If a strapless bra or shapewear piece is designed with more than four tabs, the number of possible configurations will be larger, giving you more fashion freedom.
Racerback straps are configured so as to meet between your shoulder blades. Racerback bras are useful for certain fashion items where traditional front-to-back straps would otherwise be seen. The racerback design is also helpful if your bra straps tend to slip off your shoulders, and is often used in sports bras. Some traditional bras have small hooks attached to the rings on the backs of their straps. These hooks allow wearers to clasp together the two traditional straps to create a racerback look.
Comfort or padded straps have a wide, plush layer that rests on top of the shoulders to help distribute the weight carried by the straps over a greater area. Some padded straps are made with gel inside of them for extra comfort. Comfort straps are ideal for full-busted women or those whose skin becomes easily irritated by narrow straps.
The Aesthetic of Straps
Clear straps can be purchased a la carte or may come as accessories with strapless garments. They create the illusion that no bra straps exist under layered clothing. However, due to their high shine, they can be seen when exposed.
Decorative straps are most often purchased a la carte. They’re used in conjunction with strapless garments and are often employed as substitutes for convertible straps. Jewels, ribbons, pearls, and other decorations can be affixed to bra tabs via hooks. These items, though eye-catching and sexy, can often be irritating, and function best with smaller busts.
Straps aren’t typically the first thing on a woman’s mind when she buys a bra, bodybriefer, cami, torsette, or bra slip. But if they slip or cause irritation, understanding which other strap options exist can be important, and might be the answer to a question you didn’t even know you had.