A good bra should be comfortable, supportive and last a long time. But finding the right one can be tricky.
You may think that all bras are created equal, but they aren’t. The size of your breasts and their shape play a role in determining which style of bra will suit you best.
Unlike men’s underwear, which is usually sold in small, medium and large sizes, women’s lingerie comes in various sizes and cup sizes (A or B). It can also include designations like padded or push-up — which refer to how much lift the bra gives you.
There are two main types of bras: soft cup and underwire. Underwire bras provide more support than soft cup bras, which tend to rely more on compression from encasing fabric to lift breasts from below rather than from above with an underwire band. The underwire also helps keep breast tissue from sagging over time. However, if you have sensitive skin or a medical condition such as hyperhidrosis (excessive sweating), an underwire may cause discomfort or pain because it can irritate nerve endings in the breast area.
Some women may prefer a sports bra instead of a traditional bra because they don’t want their breasts bouncing around while they exercise
Best bras for women
In 2022, the best bras are introducing something fresh into a category that, just a few years ago, felt a bit stale. Now, sports bras are doubling as posture correctors, reality stars are sharing their shapewear secrets, powermesh fabrics are supporting in all the right ways, and delicately detailed, hyperfemme lingerie is the joyful base layer that makes dressing for the beginning or end of every day a tiny frill more appealing.
As for its history, the bra’s genesis is fuzzy. Romans are depicted in early mosaics wearing bandeaus while playing sports, and 1893’s “breast supporter” and 1914’s “brassiere” patents were issued to Marie Tucek and Mary Phelps Jacob, respectively. (Both, interestingly, were New Yorkers.)
If safety concerns fuel the conversation, apparently, many are outdated. “There were studies performed in the past that suggested women who didn’t wear bras were somehow healthier—that has ultimately been proven not to be the case,” says Dr. Heather Richardson , who specializes in breast health issues at her Beverly Hills practice. She adds that underwires don’t concentrate cell phone signals, and there’s no evidence that sleeping in a bra is harmful. Day to day, some individuals “may have less neck or back pain if they have proper support.” Like those Roman athletes, support’s still got it. London’s Sarah Shotton, Agent Provocateur’s creative director, considers the bra “a personal choice” and relies on it to prevent backaches.
And for better posture to meet the demands of modern life spent sitting at the computer, Forme’s patented Power Bra is part sports bra, part wearable. The technology “utilizes our proprietary mesh-panel design to engage spine and shoulder muscle memory to naturally draw the shoulders back and down to the proper posture,” explains co-founder Seiji Liu. The goal is “promoting improved alignment, accelerated recovery, and increased performance in daily life.” For Stephanie Montes, who self-funds her brand Nue, the perfect alt-bra doesn’t have a size. “The ultimate goal is to create a new category of adhesive shapewear,” Montes says of the multi-tonal support tape she offers by the roll.
In pop culture, bras have been fashion stars for decades. “I incorporate a lot of lingerie into my styling,” says New York City’s Matthew Mazur, who works with musicians like CL and Kim Petras. He references iconic noughties moments: Halle Berry’s lacey set in Swordfish, Foxy Brown’s denim triangle top on the cover of Broken Silence, Carrie Bradshaw’s bikini bra and board shorts in the Hamptons. Modern updates are designed to be seen. “That’s the look, the bra showing,” says Christina Pacelli, a Los Angeles local who styles Sierra Capri and Laverne Cox. And when it isn’t showing, quality still matters. “You would be surprised at the number of celebrity and non-celebrity clients that I encounter who don’t own a good bra,” Pacelli reveals. Now, you will.
The best bras should give you support, lift, and style. One of the most important investment pieces in your wardrobe, getting your foundations right can change the way your clothes fit and change your silhouette in an instant. We’ve tested a host of bras to help you find the ultimate fit.
With so many styles of bra on the market, finding the best bra can be tough going. From the best strapless bras to super comfortable styles, the design you’ll need will differ from outfit to outfit. In addition to this, you’ll need to consider your bust size and whether you require a bra for small busts or one of the best bras for large busts, as not every brand and design comes in all cup sizes. Offering a helping hand in lifting and shaping your bust line, you’ll want to think about the silhouette you’re looking to create. For a more hourglass shape, you might want to consider the best push-up bras or the best plunge bras for fuller cleavage. Trying to create a more streamlined shape? Look out for bras with wide bands to tackle backfat and shapewear pieces with built-in bras for the smoothest of finishes.
We’ve tested dozens of bra styles, from everyday wear to bra solutions and more. In order to pick the best bras, when testing we looked at the quality of the material, design, support, and arguably the most important factor – comfort. We also took into consideration different body types, cup preferences, and budgets.
The bras that made our list were a joy to wear – no falling straps, no wires digging into the ribcage, or gaping cups. Just great fit, lift, and style.
If you’re looking for a fancy bra at an affordable price point, the Rosie for Autograph range ticks all the boxes. British clothing brand M&S is well-loved for its lingerie department and is well known for making some of the best bras. A failsafe option, the signature shapes remain pretty much the same year after year, updated with new colorways and this padded bra shape is a recurring favorite. We found that the Silk & Lace Underwired Full Cup Bra provided plenty of coverage and lots of support. The light padding and underwiring worked together to lift and boost the bust, while the luxe silk straps kept the fit comfortable. The smooth, lace-free cup felt sexy and sultry but utterly practical too. The sleek finish means this padded bra works well under t-shirts and other close-fitting fabrics too. The plain black design also ensures you can team it with any of your best underwear pieces too.