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16 Bra types every woman should know about

Based out of Dallas, Texas, Mary McCoy is a writer and social worker for disenfranchised women and children. She's a single mom, lover of Texas barbecue, and a die-hard fan of yoga

Your definitive guide to bra styles

If you're a woman who sometimes wears a bra, there are a few things you need to know because there are more options than you realize.
Your definitive guide to bra styles
Image: Tiffany Egbert/SheKnows

I was shocked to find out that there's more to selecting a bra than 1) which one is the cheapest at Ross Dress for Less, and 2) which one looks like it might be my size, whatever that is. Bra-wearing women of the world, it's time for us to understand the difference between demi cups and bandeaus, including the bra types that are best suited for our girls.

1. Convertible bra

Your definitive guide to bra styles
Image: Ashley Stewart

A convertible bra is an important piece in every woman's wardrobe. Convertible bra cups come in many shapes and sizes, but they all share the common goal of versatility. The straps can usually be entirely removed (although this is not always the case) or disconnected to transform the bra into a halter, racerback or even criss-cross pattern for different fashions.

2. Demi cup bra

Your definitive guide to bra styles
Image: Victoria's Secret

Ah, the sensual demi cup. This bra style covers roughly half of the breast, and lifts your girls front and center for added cleavage. It's a great cut for most breast sizes and shapes, but doesn't provide the best support if you're very well endowed.

3. Adhesive bra

Your definitive guide to bra styles
Image: Nasty Gal

Every woman needs an adhesive bra in her chest of drawers, since the bra provides support in even the most revealing fashions. Adhesive bras are typically backless, strapless and made of silicone. They use medical grade adhesive to bind the lift right to your body.

More: The best bikini tops for every type of boob

4. Push-up bra

Your definitive guide to bra styles
Image: Victoria's Secret

Cut like the demi cup, the push-up bra lifts your breasts towards the center for cleavage, but with the added help of padding. Women with smaller breasts appreciate the power of the push-up — and it's also great for women with asymmetrical breasts as long as the padding is removable on one side.

5. Mastectomy bra

Your definitive guide to bra styles
Image: Bare Necessities

The mastectomy bra is a must-have for women who have gone through a mastectomy and would like a breast prosthesis. The bra is specially fitted for each woman, and it has pockets to hold one or two breast prostheses.

More: 11 Killer outfit ideas for your next girls' getaway

6. Balconette bra

Your definitive guide to bra styles
Image: H&M

When you think balconette bra, think demi cup but with added shelf action. The balconette is designed to reveal the top half of the breast, with a band at the bottom pushing the breasts up, rather than toward the center. The balconette is a sexy and supportive option for women with medium-sized boobs.

7. Nursing bra

Your definitive guide to bra styles
Image: Hot Milk Lingerie

Planning on nursing your baby? The nursing bra is a must-have. These bras are designed to provide ample support with wide bands and soft cups, and typically come with a flap that you can open to easily feed your baby. If you buy a nursing bra to wear during pregnancy, make sure that it has flexible sizing since your breasts will grow rapidly once baby arrives.

8. Full cup bra

Your definitive guide to bra styles
Image: Soma

A full cup bra is the superwoman of the bra world. These bras cover your whole breast and are designed to provide excellent support and shaping through both the cups and straps. Women with large breasts benefit most from the support of a full cup.

9. Deep plunge bra

Your definitive guide to bra styles
Image: Lane Bryant

This wild little number is absolutely necessary if you're sporting a plunging little black dress. The center of the bra dips down in a u-shape, and the breasts are supported by padding that pushes them up for gorgeous cleavage.

10. Sports bra

Your definitive guide to bra styles
Image: The Gap

A sports bra is more than just additional support — it can actually reduce the chances of breast damage from leaping and jumping during exercise. The sports bra is designed to hold your girls in place so you can exercise without pain or worry.

More: 5 Blarfs that will up your winter fashion game

11. Bandeau bra

Your definitive guide to bra styles
Image: Nordstrom

The bandeau bra is a simple piece of fabric that wraps around the bust. This style provides little support, and is thus best suited for women with small breasts. Why wear one at all, then? They're a great substitute for a tank top or cami that you might wear underneath a sweater or sundress.

12. Strapless bra

Your definitive guide to bra styles
Image: Target

I tend to think that strapless bras emerge from the fifth circle of hell, but you can actually pick one up at a local department store. These are designed to wear with strapless dresses or shirts, and provide lift without the use of straps. Instead, strapless bras use silicone or, alternatively, underwire that basically staples to your skin to provide lift. Women of all breast sizes can benefit from the joys of hoisting a strapless bra up from the waistline all damn day.

13. Minimizing bra

Your definitive guide to bra styles
Image: Soma

The minimizer is cut like a full-cup bra, but it changes the appearance of large breasts by redistributing breast tissue so they appear smaller.

14. Shelf bra

Your definitive guide to bra styles
Image: Her Room

Need some sexy time? The shelf bra might be the perfect bra to mix things up in the bedroom. It's like a balconette bra, but it leaves all or part of the areola bare. It's best for women with small- to medium-sized breasts.

15. T-shirt bra

Your definitive guide to bra styles
Image: Victoria's Secret

The T-shirt bra is cut like a demi or a full-cup bra, but it is free of seams or fabrics that create unsightly lines under a tight T-shirt. T-shirt bras are comfortable, and they're available for women in all sizes and shapes.

16. Bralette

Your definitive guide to bra styles
Image: Journelle

The bralette is a pretty, lacy bra that is wireless and usually doesn't have padded cups. It's a comfortable bra best worn with your Netflix and chill outfits or with any casual weekend wear. You can also wear it with loose tank tops.

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