This is the place to go if you’re ever confused by a bra-fitting or breast shape term! 🙂 I’ve tried to break everything down using myself (and my bras) as examples. Please note that it’s very likely that your breasts won’t resemble mine exactly even if we have the same shape characteristics. This is not the only way a given set of characteristics could look, and it’s of course limited by being only images of one person (me) at a single size (26FF/24G). Ideally, I’d love to have a diverse array of sizes, shapes, and breast types. Hopefully, this will still be helpful though! 🙂 Generally, I’ve only included things that I consider more confusing. Please let me know if I’ve left anything out.
Bra Construction Terms:
Center Gore: Where the wires meet in the center of the bra.
Overlapping Center Gore: A center gore that has wire channels that have been sewn to overlap at the top. Common in Ewa Michalak bras.
Cookie Pocket: A built-in pocket designed to secure pads in your bra. Common in Polish bras. A bra with cookie pockets may or may not come with cookies (pads).
Wing: The part of the bra band next to the cup. Bras can have high (tall) wings or low (short) wings.
Full Band: A bra in which the band continues, unbroken under both cups. This is generally found to be more comfortable than a bandless style, but those with rib-flares or protruding bellies may not find it so.
Padded bra (Lined bra): A bra typically made of foam. This type of bra keeps generally its shape when unworn. It can be moulded or cut and sew. This is not a push-up bra.
Push-Up bra: A bra with graduated padding in the cups or cookies. Push-up bras are typically moulded plunge bras.
Moulded/Molded bra (T-shirt bra): A seamless bra that has a poured, predetermined shape. Moulded bras can be padded, unlined, or push-up. They do not conform to the shape of the breasts and their cups are made of a single piece of fabric or foam.
Cut and Sew bra: A seamed bra made up of different pieces sewn together. These bras can conform to the shape of the breasts and can be padded or unpadded.
Unlined bra (soft bra, unpadded bra): A bra made of fabric, without any foam. This bra is sewn together and may or may not be sheer. An unlined bra will not keep its shape when unworn.
Plunge bra: A bra with a very low center gore. Generally plunge bras will also be relatively tall by the strap.
Balconette bra (Balcony bra): A bra with a 3 part cup, with one vertical and one horizontal seam. The gore will be higher than that of a plunge bra. Some manufacturers use the term balconette to refer to half-cup bras, but this is the definition I use when I’m talking about them.
Half-cup bra: A lower coverage bra type with only vertical seams. A half-cup bra can have one or two seams. The tops of the cup will be fairly even in height throughout the cup (i.e: around the same height at the gore as by the strap)
Full-Cup bra (Full-coverage bra): A bra with a relatively high center gore that covers the majority of the bust. Typically, one of the bottom cup sections will directly connect to the strap. The straps are more centered than on other bra types.
Longline bra (Bustier): A bra with an extended band in the front. Typically longline bras will have more hook and eye closures in the back. They may or may not have boning. A bustier is typically longer than a longline bra, but sometimes the terms are used interchangeably.
Bralette: An unwired, lightly supportive style. A bralette is less supportive than a wireless bra, and many bralette’s are made in a triangle shape.
Compression Sports bra: A wireless style that functions by flattening the breasts. Some feel that compression sports bras are best for smaller cup volumes.
Encapsulation Sports bra: A sports bra that functions similarly to a regular bra: it separates, lifts, and supports each breast from underneath. These bras may be wireless or underwired.
Tacking gore: When the center gore of a bra lays flat on the sternum. This is how a bra should fit.
Soft-tacking gore: When the wires of the bra are too soft to fully tack against the sternum, but it’s close. There should be no spillage if the gore is manually pressed flush against the sternum.
Floating gore: The center gore of the bra floats away from the chest a considerable amount. If it’s pushed flush, there is quad-boob.
Quad-boob (quadding): This refers to spillage over the top of the cup. In extreme cases, it causes the look of having 4 boobs (hence the name). This is not the same thing as cleavage or low coverage.
In-cup quadding: This appears like regular quadboob when clothed, but it is caused by a construction flaw in certain bras. If the horizontal seam on a balconette is too tight or the lower material of a cup is much firmer than the upper material, breasts with soft tissue may experience in-cup quadding.
Scoop and Swoop: Bras and Body image describes this better than I ever could!
Breast Shape Terms:
So, here we’re getting down to using me as an example time! I have a full on bottom, short-rooted, narrow, and projected breast shape. I’m going to do my best to explain what all that means and how to tell what shape you have! This part is very NSFW, so consider yourself warned.
So here we have me with a lovely hand bra! You can see that my breasts are very close together when supported. There’s less than a pinky’s width between them, and that means that typically bra gores are too wide for me. You can see the angry marks from where my Cleo Lily sat on some tissue. You should determine whether your breasts are close or wide set while they are supported, because breast tissue is sneaky. My breasts are also fairly high set. I frequently have issues with bra cups showing under my shirts, and find that I get cleavage (or just visible boob really) under most necklines.
Close-set breasts: Breasts, like mine, that have 1.5 finger or less width between them when supported. If you find the gore’s of your bra painful and find that they frequently tilt, this may be you. Look for bras with a narrow (or even better overlapping) center gore.
Wide-set breasts: Breasts that have 3 or more fingers width between them when supported. If you frequently find that you have empty space in bra cups near the center gore, this may be you. Look for bras with a wider center gore.
High-set breasts: Breasts that are located higher up on the torso. You may be high set if your bra cups frequently poke out of your tops, you have trouble with straps being too long, the wings of your bra end up in your armpits, and you have trouble finding a “modest” neckline.
Low-set breasts: Breasts that are located lower down on the torso. This does not mean that the breasts are “droopy”.
So this is why we don’t judge how close set breasts are when not supported! They’re sneaky little liars 🙁 My nipples are slightly splayed, and point away from each other. This is caused by my center fullness. I do not however have splayed breasts. They appear to be further set apart than they truly are because my breast tissue moves around a fair amount under the skin. You can see here that the gore of my Cleo Lily was sitting slightly crookedly. Like most people, my breasts are asymmetric. The right one has a slightly higher IMF and is more projected (but smaller) than the left one.
Infra-mammary Fold (IMF): This is a fancy word for your breast crease. Ideally, you want the underwires of your bra to follow the IMF exactly. If you are having trouble locating your IMF, try pushing down on your breast tissue.
Splayed nipples: Nipples that point away from each other. This usually indicates center fullness.
Splayed breasts: This is best shown by the following graphic, but basically splayed breasts have an IMF that leaves an upside down triangle shape between the breasts.
Center full breasts: This refers to breasts that have more volume between the nipples than is typical for their volume. Those with center fullness may have difficulty getting a tacking gore even in the correct cup volume. They may experience simultaneous quadboob by the gore of their bra and gaping by their straps. Some center full people are well served by low-gored plunge bras that leave room for their fullness, but others feel unsupported or fall out the center of such bras.
Asymmetric breasts: Breasts that are different from each other in size or shape. Most people are asymmetric to some degree. If you have severe asymmetry, I suggest either fitting to your larger breast and padding the smaller one or wearing stretch lace styles that can accommodate size differences.
Tail of Spence: This looks like armpit chub, but it’s actually breast tissue and lymph nodes. It typically won’t go away with exercise or weight loss, and it does not need to be inside the cup of your bra. Bras with wide-set straps may irritate or cut into this area.
Okay, so sorry about the weird black and white picture. I couldn’t get this one to come out clearly in color. So here you can see that my breast tissue ends well inside of the wires of my Cleo Lily. I found out I had narrow roots by trying a variety of bras that were considered narrow. When they all left marks wider than my IMF, I knew I had narrow roots. If you can’t easily see your IMF, doing the push test (like I am in the photo) can help you see where your breast tissue ends. Breast tissue will feel different than fat or skin tissue, so you can also attempt to find your IMF that way!
So, I have short roots. Short rooted breast look more like a d when supported, while tall rooted breasts look more like /_ . I found out I had short roots by how bras fit me. I frequently have gaping by my straps and can have gaping at the top cups even when they’re otherwise the right size. My breasts are also high-set.
Breast roots: This refers to the area where your breasts are attached to your chest.
Narrow Roots: This refers to breasts that are narrower than is typical for their volume. Narrow rooted breasts may appear wide when unsupported, so wire marks are the best way to determine if you have narrow roots. The appearance of narrow-rooted breasts is dependent on their size range.
Wide Roots: This refers to breasts that are horizontally wider than is typical for their volume. If you have wide-rooted breasts, you may experience pain on the sides of your underwires and may have side spillage in narrower cups. You may also see dimpling above your underwire in a bra with too narrow of wires. The appearance of wide-rooted breasts is dependent on their size range.
Short Roots: This refers to breasts that are vertically shorter than is typical for their volume. Short-rooted breasts will frequently have gaping or wrinkling in full cups or moulded bras. In larger sizes, they tend to get “the strap gap”. People with short-rooted breasts will do best in lower coverage or closed off cups. Short-rooted breasts may be functionally full-on-bottom.
Tall Roots: This refers to breasts that are vertically taller than is typical for their volume. A person with tall-rooted breasts may have breast tissue extending to close their collar-bone. If you frequently have bras cut in on top (even when they’re otherwise loose) it’s likely that you have tall roots. Tall-rooted breasts frequently look sloped on top even when fully supported. Tall-rooted breasts will do best in open cups, and may be functionally full-on top.
Okay, so here you can see that I’m full-on-bottom and projected. When I lean over at 90 degrees, my breast tissue lengthens down towards the floor. If you have projected breasts, you will likely have a leaning bust measurement that is larger than your standing bust measurement. When I lean over, my nipples point towards my face. You can see pretty clearly that I have more tissue below the nipple of my breast than above it! The terms full-on-top and full-on-bottom were basically created by Bras I Hate. If you’re interested, her full-on-top vs. full-on-bottom guide is the best there is. If you want to learn more about projection, read my article for Zathiya Lingerie.
Full-on-Bottom: This refers to breasts that have the majority of their fullness (or volume) below the nipple. When leaning at 90 degrees, the nipples on full-on-bottom breasts will point towards the face. People with full-on-bottom breasts may frequently experience gaping or loose upper sections in bras. At the same time, they may feel tissue compression in the bottom of the cup. Full-on-bottom breasts may be pendulous or self-supporting.
Full-on-Top: This refers to breasts that have the majority of their fullness (or volume) above the nipple. When leaning at 90 degrees, the nipples on full-on-bottom breasts will point towards the knees. People with full-on-top breasts may frequently experience quad-boobing in bras that are otherwise the right volume. They may also experience a pointy shape in full cup bras. At the same time, they may have trouble filling the bottom of cups. Full-on-top breasts need bras with more open or loose tops. Full-on-top breasts may be pendulous or self-supporting.
Even Fullness: This refers to breasts that have an even distribution of fullness between top and bottom. When leaning at 90 degrees, the nipples on even fullness breasts point towards the floor. If you don’t have either of the above mentioned fit issues in the correct cup volume, you’re likely of even fullness.
Projected breasts: This refers to breasts that have a smaller root and more outward projection than others at the same volume. Projected breasts may appear larger for their size. People with projected breasts may have difficulties finding moulded (or even padded) bras that fit. If you have projected breasts and are struggling to find a bra that fits, try an unlined balconette bra. Projected breasts are very common in larger cup volumes, and they typically have either short roots, narrow roots, or both. Polish bras are a godsend for those with projected breasts.
Shallow breasts: This refers to breasts that have a larger root and less outward projection than others at the same volume. Shallow breasts are stealth boobs, and they may appear to be much smaller than others at the same volume. People with shallow breasts may have difficulties finding unlined bras that fit without wrinkling. People with shallow breasts may experience wrinkling at the apex of cups that are otherwise the correct volume. If you have shallow breasts and are struggling to find a bra that fits, try a padded half cup from a UK brand. Shallow breasts are very common in smaller cup volumes, and they typically have either wide roots, tall roots, or both.
Averagely Projected breasts: If you find that bras in the correct cup volume usually work for you, this is probably you! Breasts with average projection fall between shallow and projected. People with averagely projected breasts may experience both bras that are too projected and bras that are too shallow.
Okay, here you can see that my dear Cleo Lily doesn’t fit me that well! I have a lot of immediate projection, and the Cleo Lily is too shallow at the bottom of the cup for me. This causes the cups to crease over and push out of my IMF because my breasts have too much volume at the bottom to fit in the bottom of the cup. My breasts are ever so slightly pendulous. When unsupported, I have around 1/3 of an inch of tissue that falls below my IMF.
Immediate Projection: This refers to breasts that jut out from the chest at a sharper angle than is expected by most bras. Pendulous breasts have immediate projection. When lifted, a breast with immediate projection will stick out at a right angle, not make a gentle curve upward. It is possible to be immediately projected without being overall projected. Breasts with immediate projection need bras with a lot of space by the wire. Polish half cup bras, some unlined balconettes, and stretch lace cups may work for those with immediate projection.
Pendulous breasts: This is the generally preferred term for breasts that have tissue below the IMF. The medical term is Ptosis, but there is nothing wrong, damaged, unhealthy, or otherwise bad about having pendulous breasts. Pendulous breasts may appear empty, and may have soft tissue. If you have very pendulous breasts, you may find that bra size calculators frequently overestimate your size.
Self-supported breasts: Self-supported breasts do not have breast tissue hanging below the IMF, and they are more common in smaller sizes. Self-supported breasts typically have firm tissue. Self-supported breasts are typically shallow, and are lifted even without a bra.
Soft Tissue: Breasts with soft tissue may feel like cake batter or pudding. If you feel like your breasts easily change shape (or don’t have their own shape), you may have soft tissue. Breasts with soft tissue are prone to in-cup quadding, and those with soft tissue may fall out the center of plunge bras. Some people with soft tissue find that their breasts adapt to fit any shape of bra.
Firm Tissue: Breasts with firm tissue have a definite shape and do not easily conform to a bra. Those with firm tissue may frequently experience a non-tacking gore. I have firm tissue, and when I wear a bra that doesn’t suit my shape I can feel my breasts fighting against it. In some bras, I can literally see the outline of my stubborn, firm breasts through the bra.
Okay, that’s all for now! Yes, this post is a novel, but let me know if I spaced on anything or if you have any questions.