Films and TV shows like Moulin Rouge and Sex and the City have brought lingerie out
of the closet and into the mainstream. Shops are now full of beautiful underwear - but
why do most women still cling to their Bridget Jones style comfy big knickers and
greyish white bras, with the occasional lacy number for special occasions? Could it be
that the corsetiere's jargon is simply baffling to the uninitiated?
The most important thing to remember is that no bra, no matter how beautiful or
expensive, is going to look good if it's the wrong size. If you find your bra leaves red
marks on your shoulders or chest, if the cups seem to sag or you're spilling out over the
cups, you're almost definitely wearing the wrong size. If you really can't pluck up the
courage to get measured, bear in mind that the most common mistake is to have a cup
size too small, and a back size that's too big. For example, if you're a 36B, try a 34C.
Because bra sizes vary according to the manufacturer, never buy a bra without trying it
on first, unless you're already familiar with the sizing of that particular make or model.
If you are a larger cup size, you must always try the bra on first and ensure it fits
Bearing that in mind, here is a guide to help you assemble a superstar lingerie wardrobe...
Balconette/Balcony Bras have straps which are wider apart than normal and a square
neckline. Balconette bras suit just about every bust size, boosting you if you're small
and giving uplift and cleavage if you're more generously sized. They come in a variety
of styles, from lacy and sexy to plain, smooth styles to wear under close-fitting clothes.
Bras with clear straps are a compromise between strapless bras and those with straps.
They're especially good if you have a bigger bust, as they provide more support without
the danger of slipping down. Because the straps are not completely invisible, this sort of
bra works best under strappy tops. If you don't want any straps showing at all, try a
long-line strapless bra or basque instead. The extra length will give you extra support
and security whilst still being invisible under clothes.
A full cup bra fully covers the breast, creating a V-shaped neckline. This sort of bra
gives the maximum support and comfort available for bigger busts, but they do tend to be
a bit 'mumsy'.
Half cup bras give less coverage, but they are ideal under low-cut tops as the lower
neckline ensures that your bra doesn't peek over the top of your outfit.
Liquid/Air-Filled Bras are a relatively new development. They can increase your bust
by up to two cup sizes, so they're great if you have a more bijou bra size. However, the
liquid filled versions can be quite heavy, so this sort of bra is best for a night out or
special occasions rather than everyday wear.
Minimiser bras are designed to reduce larger busts. They have shallow, wide cups
which flatten comfortably. They're especially good to wear under close-fitting blouses
or shirts if you have a problem with gaping buttons, or just for a more streamlined effect.
Multiway or convertible bras are very versatile and can usually be worn strapless,
halterneck, one-sided (for one-shouldered outfits) or cross-backed (for wearing under
racer-back style tops). Some multiway bras can be fastened low on the back, which is
ideal under some evening or wedding dresses. These are especially good if you're more
generously sized and really can't go bra-less. Because they can be worn as a normal bra,
multiway bras offer good value as you can wear it every day.
Push-up Bras maximise your cleavage by pushing the breasts together and upwards to
achieve a full round shape. The push-up bra is usually teamed with balconette or plunge
bra styling, and can be enhanced by padding, gel or air inserts. Because of the push-up
styling, this sort of bra is usually best worn for a special occasion, rather than every day.
Moulded bras are pre-formed for comfort and a natural shape. Because they are
seamless, they're ideal under t-shirts or clingy clothes and won't show any natural
contours. They can also be padded for enhancement.
Triangle or bralette style bras aren't underwired and give a more natural shape. They
don't offer a great deal of support, so they are ideal for smaller bust sizes or teenagers.
Larger busts need more structure, and would be better off with a non-wired full-cup bra.
Every active woman should have a good sports bra in her bra wardrobe. They are
usually underwired, and use elasticated fabrics and special seaming to provide a high
level of support. Sports bras should always be tried on before buying to ensure a
comfortable fit: most manufacturers recommend that you try on a size smaller than usual,
and you should bear in mind that they aren't designed to be worn all day unless you have
a very active job.
Silicone 'chicken fillets' fit inside your normal bra for natural looking enhancement, and
self-adhesive silicone bras are a recent development. They are strapless and backless
and can be washed up to 100 times before the glue stops working, and are the ideal
solution for some wedding or evening dresses. Silicone bras are often worn by
celebrities who want some extra boost on the red carpet, but don't want to commit to