Top Drawer Lingerie Bra Glossary

With so many styles of bras and panties to choose from, shopping for lingerie can be overwhelming.  So, to help you find the perfect bra, panty or accessory, we put together a list of types as well as some lingerie industry terms and definitions.  Where applicable, we’ve included some recommendations for clothing, sizes and body type. 

We hope we've covered (or uncovered!) everything, but if not, we're just a phone call away.



Adhesive Cup Backless Bras

 A bra without straps or back wings that stays in place with the help of adhesive. 

Back Wings

Back wings are strips of fabric that extend from the outer base of the cups and secure in the back with a hook and eye closure.

Back Closure

A back closure bra closes in the back.  The number of hook and eye closures depends on the size and style of bra; full figure and strapless bras usually have three rows of hook and eye closures.

Balconette Bra

A Balconette bra is designed to provide dramatic uplift and cleavage.  Sometimes referred to as a Balcony bra or Shelf bra, a Balconette is a more revealing version of a Demi bra. 

Band Size

Theoretically, a bra's band size is determined by measuring around your ribcage, just below your breasts.  However, actual sizing can vary based on the Manufacturer.  Visit our Virtual Fitting Room for more information on measuring for the perfect fitting bra.


Bikini panties have a waistband that rests below the navel, and on the hips.  They are usually cut high on the leg and the coverage in back depends on the style.  Bikini panties are comfortable and provide moderate coverage.  Look for “no lines” styles for a great look under clingy fabrics.

Boy Short

This panty style resembles a pair of shorts and can also be called a culotte, shorty or hot pant.  A boyshort panty provides full coverage and are a great everyday alternative to briefs.  Comfortable and non-binding, they look great under skirts and dresses.

Bra Extenders

Use these to extend the length of the band size of your bra.  A great way to ensure the perfect fit.

Nipple Cover

A small adhesive nipple cover worn inside the bra to prevent the nipples from showing through under sheer garments.


A panty whose waistband rests at or just below the navel, provides full back and side coverage.  A variation to a brief is a hi-cut brief, which has a hi-cut leg.

Classic Bras

Classic bras is another way of saying seamed or cut and sewn bras.  Classic bras are available in a variety of fabrics, cuts, shapes and sizes. 

Comfort Straps

Comfort Straps are wider than average straps and are usually padded or lined.  Wider straps distribute the weight of the breast more evenly, which increases the comfort, especially for the fuller-busted woman.  If you have shoulder pain from your bra straps or your bra straps are digging into your shoulder, make sure you look for this feature.


Although commando can refer to the practice of going without underwear, it is also the name of a manufacturer of super comfortable panties. 

Compression Bra

Compression bras are a type of sports bra that basically compress the breasts against the chest.  These are usually crop-top styles.  Encapsulation bras keep the breast separate in defined cups, more similar to a standard bra.  Smaller breasted women may feel a compression type sports bra is sufficient, but women with larger breasts should pick an encapsulation type sports bra.  A few styles both compress and encapsulate.

Contour Cup Bra

A contour or T-Shirt bra has cups that hold their shape, even when not being worn.  This bra style offers coverage and control and will help provide a smooth, symmetrical  shape to the breasts.  Although similar to a molded bra, a contour bra has a foam-fit or fiberfill lining that helps prevent the nipple from showing through.  Contour bras are a must-have piece for contemporary fashions. Recommended by Oprah, it  is one of our most highly-rated bra styles.

Convertible Bra

A convertible bras has detachable straps, which allows it to be worn in various ways to fit under a variety of different clothing styles.  Some convertible bra styles have a low cut back, which can be worn under backless dress style.  If you need a totally backless bra we recommend an Adhesive or Backless bra


Cup Size

One of the two key measurements in your bra size, expressed with a letter, such as B, C or sometimes a double or triple letter such as DDD.  To determine your cup size, measure yourself at the fullest part of your bust (wearing a non-padded bra) and round any fractional measurements to the nearest whole number.  Then, subtract your Band measurement from your cup measurement.  Generally, for each inch in difference, the cup goes up by one size.  Cup sizes can vary by manufacturer, so we offer sizing advice where applicable.  Please visit our Virtual Fitting Room for help finding the right size bra. 

Cut and Sew Bra

A bra constructed of multiple pieces of fabric, stitched together with seams in the cups is a Cut and Sew bra, also referred to as Seamed bras.  The more seams and pieces of fabric used to make the bra, the more support and precise the fit.  Most bras with lace cups are Cut and Sew.  They provide a great fit for many larger-busted women.

Demi  Bra

A demi cup (or demi or half cup) style bra provides sexy cleavage and uplift.  As the name implies, demi cup covers less than a full cup and leaves the top portion of the breast exposed.  Great with low cut tops and square necklines, the demi cup bra has an underwire design and wide-set shoulder straps.  Men find this style bra sexy and attractive! 


Encapsulation is a term used in describing sports bra design.  Encapsulation bras keep the breast separate in defined cups, more similar to a standard bra.  Women with larger breasts should pick an encapsulation bra while women with smaller breasts may prefer a compression style sports bra.

Foam Lined Cup

A foam lined bra cup eliminates nipple show through.  Because foam lining is always thinner than a padded bra, it should not add much size, but it will create a natural and youthful silhouette.

Front Close/Front Closure

A Front Close bra closes in the center front with either a plastic barrel closure or a hook and eye closure and is non-adjustable.   This style makes it easier for woman to put on and take off their bras, but may confuse an amorous suitor.

Full Cup

A full cup bra completely covers most of the breast, offering both more coverage and more support than a demi cup or balconette bra.  A full cup bra will not cause a crease or indentation along the top of the breast, making it a great choice under T-shirts or knits.

Full Busted

Although this term can be used interchangeably with full-figured, we generally refer to full-busted as women with a band size of 32-40 and a cup size D and larger.

Full Figure

Women who wear bras sizes 40-52C and up and larger are classified as full-figure women. 

Full-figure bras are specifically designed to offer maximum comfort and support for larger breasted woman. Full-figure bras typically feature molded, padded cups, wider comfort straps, and increased hook and eye closures. 

Half Cup

A half cup bra is another name for a demi cup (or demi) style bra. Great with low cut tops and square necklines, the half cup bra has an underwire design and wide-set shoulder straps.  Men find this style bra sexy and attractive!  This style is sometimes called a balconette, but it is not the same.

Hi-Cut Brief

Also known as a "French cut" brief, a hi-cut panty is high-cut on the leg and sides yet offers full coverage in back.


A hipster is a mid coverage panty, which rests lower on the hip than a brief.  A hipster is a perfect solution for wearing under low cut jeans.


A British term used to describe ladies panties.

Leotard Back

A leotard back provides a U-shape, which prevents the straps from sliding or falling off the shoulders. This style is particularly good for fuller figures and full-busted women who need the additional support.

Memory Foam

Memory foam helps a bra cup shape to your breast, then return to its original shape after you take it off. This advantage means that your bra cups will not develop creases that are hard or impossible to remove.  Storage of memory foam bras is not as important because the shape will pop back if crushed.

Minimizer Bra

A minimizer bra reduces the appearance of the bust by up to one cup size. Although no bra will actually reduce the size of your breasts, a minimize bra redistributes the breast toward the underarm and center front.  This can be especially helpful for women who have trouble with gaps between the buttons on shirts and blouses.

Molded/Seamless Bra

Molded or Seamless bras are also known as Smooth Cup Bras are made from a flat piece of fabric, which is heat molded to form a cup shape.  The result is a smooth, enhanced silhouette.  These bras are great under T-shirts and other tight fitting clothing. Molded bras are usually unlined and may be either soft cup or underwire.  A molded bra with thin foam or fiberfill lining which causes the cup shape to stand alone is known as a contour or t-shirt bra.

Non-Wire Bra

Also known as a soft-cup or wireless bra, a non-wire bra has no underwires.  Especially comfortable for everyday wear.

Padded Bra

Padded bras contain shape-enhancing pads or lining designed to increase bust size and add cleavage. Many of these bras use graduated padding, which is thicker at the base of the cups and thinner at the top.  This creates a natural looking silhouette as well as an enhanced cleavage.

Plunge Bras

A plunge bra is perfect for deep V-neckline (plunging) tops and dresses.  The angled cups and narrow center gore creates the appearance of increased cleavage.  Great for special occasions.

Push-Up Bra

Push-up bras use padding at the bottom portion of the cup to lift the breasts.  This provides the illusion of greater breast size and cleavage.


The racerback bra has back straps that are positioned towards the center of the back, leaving the shoulders and shoulder blades exposed.  These bras are often front closure style and some convertible bras offer a racerback option.  They work well under tank tops.

Seamed Bra

A seamed bra has seams running though the cup.  Because of this structure, a seamed bra gives more support than a seamless bra because the seams define the shape and size of the cup.  The best supporting bra has seamed cups and is made in 3 pieces in a method  known as Cut and Sew.

Seamless Bra

A seamless bra is constructed without seamed cups.  The cups have been molded into a permanent shape and fit giving a smooth silhouette under revealing and tight-fitting tops. See Smooth Cup Bra below.

Smooth Cup Bra

Our Smooth Cup Bra selections include, seamless, contoured cup, and molded cups. The cups have been molded into a permanent shape and fit giving a smooth silhouette under revealing and tight-fitting tops but there is no foam or padding  in the cups.

Soft Cup

Also known as a non-wire or wireless bra, a soft cup bra has no underwires.  Especially comfortable for everyday wear.

Spacer Foam

Spacer foam, also called spacer fabric, is a very expensive knit used as the cup fabric in molded bras.  It is a knit that has both a top and bottom layer, with filaments between - similar to a corrugated box. This creates air pockets between the layers.

Sports / Athletic Bra

Sports bras protect the chest from tissue damage while you are exercising.  Compression (extensive stretch materials) styles are recommended for women who have smaller breasts, while women with larger breast should look at encapsulation styles, which cup each breast individually and prevent excess bouncing.

Strapless Bra

A strapless bra is an underwire bra with wide sides, no straps or removable straps, and a hook back. They can include rubber strips or silicone stitched to the upper and lower edges of the bra to keep it secure on the body.


A panty with a narrow strip of fabric in the back that begins as a "v" shape at the waistband and then tapers to a thin strip by the time it reaches the crotch, leaving the cheeks of your bottom. This style panty is great if you want no visible panty lines and a smooth appearance.

T-Shirt Bra

This is the other name for a contour bra.  Like a molded bra, the cups are seamless with a thin layer of foam included for shape and modesty against nipple show-through when wearing form-fitting tops. T-shirt bras are always seamless, have contour cups and usually have no lace or ornamentation.

Underwire Bra

Underwire bras have sewn-in molded wiring that runs underneath the breast in each bra cup.  This support feature helps to lift and separate the bustline for better shape and extra support.  Underwire material can be a flexible wire, a plastic coated piece of metal, or a molded plastic shape.