A (Bra) Anatomy Lesson

Do you know your gores from your apexes? Your wings from you sliders? We didn’t before we started researching the best bras for our shop.

Last week, we talked about the different kinds of bras you might want or need in your lingerie drawer, but we wanted to get to the bottom of life’s great mystery: what, exactly, is the point of that little rosette between the cups?*

Check out the diagram above and consult the corresponding number to learn a bit more about how bras fit together.

1. Hooks

This is what holds your band together. You wrestle it into an eye (16) to close your bra up at the middle of your back. Most bras have one, two, or three hooks on the band, which correlates roughly with the level of support you can expect.

2. Strap adjustment rings and sliders

These little hoops join the front (14) and back (15) straps to each other and allow for adjustment. Usually, they’re at the back of the bra, but sometimes you see them on the front, too.

3. Wing

The wing (sometimes called the band) is the part that wraps around your body. Its measurement makes up the number part of your bra size (e.g., 28 or 42). Whatever you want to call it, it’s the heart and soul of a perfect fit.

4. Frame

The frame at the front of the bra. It’s where the cups (6, 7, and 10) are joined to the wing in an underwire bra. Wireless bras don’t have a frame; the bridge (8) keeps everything together. Some wired bras opt out of this, too, making the underwire (11) the lowest part of the bra.

5. Apex

The apex is the point where the cups (6, 7, and 10) join the strap front (14). It’s the highest point of the cup, which is how it gets its name. Sometimes it’s all sewn together, sometimes it’s one piece to begin with, and sometimes it’s joined up with one of those hoops (2) we mentioned earlier.

6. Upper Cup

Picture a bra cup and then slice it in two horizontally. The upper cup is, well, the upper part of the cup. Seamless bras, like T-shirt bras, typically don’t have upper and lower distinctions. In bras with pieced cups, the darts and seams indicate which half of the cup you’re looking at. The neckline (9) sits at the top of the cup, and might have some elastic, some decorative trim, or some pretty binding. It provides the top half of your breast with some shape and, depending on the piece, can minimize unwanted jiggling.

7. Lower Cup

In bras with pieced cups, the lower cup is sewn into the upper cup (6) and to the sling (10). This part of the cup gives you support, but it also is where you’ll find any foam or padding for push-up pieces. If your bra doesn’t have a frame (4) the lower cup and the underwire are the lowest part of the bra.

8. Bridge

The bridge (or gore) is the little piece between the cups (6, 7, and 10). Sometimes, the bridge is narrow or wide depending on the chest it’s meant to fit. If you have wide-spaced breasts, for example, a wider bridge is essential. When we talk about “tacking” (aka laying flat on your chest), that’s the piece we’re usually referring to.

9. Neckline

It’s the tippy top of the cup (6), the part where you see stuff like eyelash trim or scalloped lace. Some pieces are finished with elastic, just for a little extra shape. Sometimes this is called the topline, too.

10. Sling

The sling (sometimes called a power bar, which we think sounds like a nutritional supplement because….it is) is the vertical part of the cup. It gives lift and support to the sides of your breasts and runs from the apex to the underwire.

11. Underwire

Ah, the underwire. The most unfairly maligned part of the bra. We’ll talk about your underwire woes another time. For now, suffice to say, it’s a curved piece of metal sewn into the base of the cups (7) to provide support and structure. It’s covered by a channel of fabric for obvious reasons. Not all bras have underwires, but they’re more or less synonymous with high levels of support and shape.

12. Under Band

The under band is the bottom row of elastic on the wing (3) and frame (4). It’s decorative, so there might be some pretty trim here.

13. Underarm

This is the part of the bra that spans your armpit and is almost always elasticized. It runs from the apex (5) to the strap back (15). It’s sole job is to keep your bra close to your body, so if it’s itching or pinching, feel free to take your bra off and say “you had one job” to the underarm part (well, that and make an appointment to come see us).

14. Strap Front

Straps have two parts, conveniently called “front” and “back”. The front strap runs from the apex (5) to the adjustment rings and sliders (2).

15. Strap Back

Second verse, same as the first. The back spans the distance from the adjustment rings and sliders (2), the strap front (14) and the wings/bands (3).

16. Eyes

The eye(s) link up with the hooks (1) to wrap you up. When we say we want your bra to feel tight on the loosest one on the first day, that’s what we mean.

We hope this demystifies some of this for you. Next time your bra feels a little off, you’ll be able to say “ah! this apex is too high for this top!” rather than “ugh, I…I don’t know, I just hate it.”

*After hours of copious research, we’ve determined it serves no purpose.

Kirsten Schofield