The secrets that reveal the shape a bra will give the bust

13 Sep 2019 8:18 AM
Annica Svensson

Some bra cups give the bust a pointed shape, while others gives it a round shape, but how do you know which bras do what? Here are the tricks you need to know to decide what shape a bra will give your bust before you’ve even tried it.

Have you ever tried a bra that fits perfectly and looks great until you put a sweater on? Suddenly, the bra doesn’t look so good any more. You may not really notice the silhouette until you’re dressed and then, in the worst case, it may come as a big shock! The breasts point in a completely different direction to what you are used to or are at a different height than you expected. Maybe you wanted a natural, pointed shape but instead your breasts look flat. Or maybe you wanted a round silhouette but instead they look like cones. The silhouette varies from bra to bra. And preferences are very individual from woman to woman. We are all looking for different things when we choose a bra.

“The most skilled stylists combine several tricks to create a particular bra silhouette.”

Which properties affect the shape?

So, which properties of a bra affect its shape? Cup seams and materials are two important factors, butthere are many other things that have an effect. A skilled stylist and designer often combine several tricks to create a particular silhouette. Before you decide which bra to buy next time, here are the insider tricks that provide an indication of how the bra will fit your bust.


An underwire affects the shape more than you might think. It lifts the bust more than a wireless bra does. This does of course affect theprofile. If you are wearing the correct size underwired bra, the underwire will separate the bust by fitting close to the body between the breasts. This gives each breast optimum support and prevents a loaf or so-called ‘uniboob’ effect. How high the underwire goes up between the breasts also affects the shape. The shape of the underwire itself can vary from a ‘U’ to a ‘J’ on a very low-cut bra, a so-called plunge bra. High underwires do of course separate the breasts more. Here at Miss Mary, we mainly use underwires of three heights, of which the middle one is most common. There is a difference of about 2 cm between the heights.

“If you want to push together or gather the bust, choose a lower underwire.”

Underwires can vary in height between the breasts. On the left FLORAL SUN with our lowest underwire and on the right STAR with our highest underwire.

The height of the underwire is down to preference. If you really want to push together or gather the bust, use a lower underwire, but if you want maximum support and coverage, chose a higher one. If you have problems with the ends of the underwires poking into your sternum, try a lower underwire. If your breasts are positioned very close together, you can sometimes feel like the underwires force the breasts apart when they separate them. If so try a bra with a lower underwire.

Minimizer cup

Some bra models, so-called minimizers, have shallower cups than regular bras. The cup of a minimizer creates a ‘flatter’ profile. The underwires used in the bra are a size bigger than those use in other models. This combined with a shallower cup shape means that the cup retains the same volume but distributes the bust over a greater surface area of the body. The impression is that the bust is smaller than it is. A minimizer bra is also suitable for women with a wide or less deep bust.

On the left, LACE ALL OVER minimiser bra that gives a flatter bust shape. To the right, a bra with a moulded cup.

Moulded cup

A moulded cup is usually round, but not always. It depends on what the mould looks like that is used to press the fabric. If the cup lacks padding or lining and is made of elastic fabric, the cup will adapt to the natural shape of the bust. For a completely round shape, the fabric needs to be reinforced with light padding of about 3 mm. This is called a contour cup, i.e. it shapes your bust instead of the other way round. These cups are usually round and also give very good lift as the padding is firm and cannot be stretched.

“A contour cup shapes your bust instead of the other way round.”

Three-section cup

The more seams a cup has, the more the stylist can control the shape of the finished cup. There are simply more chances to influence the shape as there are more pattern parts to work from. A three-section cup can look very different. One classic cut is the tulip cut as shown in the photo below. This cut gives a round shape.

The bra AMSTERDAM has a three-section cup with a classic tulip cut. The photo also shows that the cup has a side support on the outer edge. The bra BRODERIE ANGLAISE with two parallel seams is shown on the right.

Sometimes the line between what is considered a three- and a two-section cup is blurred. There are so many different ways to do the cuts. Some cups have two parallel seams (see BRODERIE ANGLAISE above) and are technically made in three sections, but they may not be the first cut you think of when you hear three-section cut. Depending on how the sections are drawn, this type of cup is sometimes thought of as a two-section cup. The wonderful thing about bras is that they can be designed in so many ways!

Two-section cup

A two-section cup, as the name suggests, is a cup that is sewn from two different pattern parts. The seam itself can lie in almost any direction, often diagonally lengthwise as on our JOY underwired bra (see photo below left).

“The wonderful thing about bras is that they can be designed in so many ways!”

On the left: an example of a two-section cup. The photo shows JOY. On the right: QUEEN with a two-section elastic cup with an extra upper section and padded lift support.

The cut that can be seen on our non-wired QUEEN (see example above right) also has two sections but is extended at the top and in the middle with a further section of elastic mesh. As with other cups it is not only the pattern parts that affect the shape but also the material, i.e. whether it is elastic or firm and lined or padded.

Two-section cup with side section

With some cups, it can be difficult to determine whether they have two or more sections. A common such cut is two-section cups with an extra side section. The photo below left shows a typical such cup where the side of the cup and the bra are made of a single piece. If you compare it with the bra in the photo on the right, the difference is clearer of what is the side of the cup as the bra has an underwire that ‘divides’ it.

On the right: JACQUARD & LACE underwired bra with a two-section cup with a side section that extends up along the shoulder strap.*

On both these models, the shoulder strap run down into the cup forming the side of the cup. The line therefore becomes a bit blurred of what makes up the cup and what does not. This type of cut is therefore usually considered a two-section cup with an extra side section.

Direction of the seam

A straight vertical seam across the cup was common in the 50s and 60s.Today, there are many types of cuts. The more vertical the seam, the more the breast projects forward. A horizontal seam works more on lifting the bust upwards.

“The more vertical the seam, the more the breast projects forward.A horizontal seam works more on lifting the bust upwards.”

But this is only an indication and not the whole truth, as other factors such as the material also play a part. The strain on the fabric is strongest in the middle of the cup, where the seam is usually placed. Cup seams are usually reinforced with a ribbon on the inside. To stop the seams being felt, the cups can be lined or padded.

Side support

Side support in the cup prevents the breasts ‘flowing out’ towards the armpit. Instead, it gathers the breasts and brings them together towards the middle. It gives a ‘slimmer’ silhouette when you look at yourself directly from the front in the mirror. This is usually known as the bra centring the bust.

LOVELY LACE non-wired bra has padded side support in the cup that helps to centre the bust.

The side support may consist of an extra layer of fabric (unpadded side support) or a padded panel (padded side support) on the outer side of the cup.

Partly padded

A partly or fully padded cup also offers extra support for the bust. If the padding is on the side (side support) it will centre the bust. If it is at the bottom of the cup, the support is built from underneath and gives the bust extra upward lift. It also prevents the weight of the bust from stretching the cup downwards. This reinforcement can be good if you have a very heavy bust or a saggy bust, regardless of size.

From left: non-wired GRACE with padded lift support in the under cup and MEADOW DREAMS with thin padding over the whole cup, so-called fully padded.


A fully padded cup is one that is lightly but fully padded such as MEADOW DREAMS, as seen in the photo above. Most of the padding used in bras on the market today, including by us, is about 3 mm thick – thick enough to provide stability but thin enough not to make the bust look bigger. When a cup is fully padded it becomes firm and defines the shape of the bust. It is a so-called contour cup. It almost always creates a naturally round shape, but the shape can vary depending on how it is stitched. If It is moulded, it will almost always be round.

Firm cup

If the cup is made from firm fabric it will not adapt to your bust. The advantages of a firm cup are that it provides better lift and the breasts will not stretch the fabric over time, but the disadvantage is that there is no size flexibility. If the breasts don’t fill the cups, creases can form. This can happen if you have different size breasts or the breasts are less full at the top.

On the left: the underwired bra COTTON DOTS, which has a pointed shape thanks to its two-section cup in completely firm fabric. On the right: LACE VISION has an elastic two-section cup and a rounder shape. The fabric is lined for extra stability.

Elastic cup

Elastic fabric does not provide as good support or lift as firm fabric, but it often feels more comfortable. It also provides more size flexibility. Stretch lace is common in, for example, the upper cup, so it can stretch a little to the shape of the breasts: perfect If you have different size breasts, if you feel that your bust changes size depending on the time of the month or your weight goes up or down. As the fabric adapts to the bust there will be fewer creases.

“The shape of the cup adapts to body heat.”

Effect of time

One thing we recommend when trying out a bra for the first time is to feel the cup fabric and note if it is elastic as the cup will then adapt to the body and body heat. Even If you think the bra is a bit pointed to start with, it will give and become a bit rounder with time, unless it is completely firm or padded of course.

If you’re unsure which bra is right for you and your needs or what size you need, please contact our Customer Service. They are experts at helping women over the phone, via email or chat to find the perfect bra.

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