Breathable bras: new fabrics and bold innovations
With the T-shirt bra now flourishing in every woman’s lingerie drawers, there have been many new and exciting developments to bra padding. Understanding the various terms the brands use will make shopping for your ideal bra so much easier, so here’s a little insider information to help guide your search!
A molded cup is a flat piece of synthetic fabric which has been stretched over a hot mold form to give it a predefined shape. A second layer is sometimes added for opacity and strength (in the case of lace for instance). This then forms a breast shape which is sewn into a frame. Sometimes they will have a seam to give additional shaping across the bust, generally for bigger cup sizes, like D or DD cups and up.
A contour cup is a thin layer of foam sandwiched between two layers of fabric and then molded. Most contour bra cups are made from a standard polyurethane foam (PU) filling, but while it’s soft and lightweight and molds well, the fabric and the process itself can make it non porous, meaning it doesn’t breathe and moisture gets trapped inside the cups. With lighter colors, especially white, the glues used in the manufacturing can discolor on contact with the air and gradually yellow over time, this is remedied by using UV stabilizers.
A contour bra can also have seaming. Clean with no seaming (aka “seamless’) it is referred to as a t-shirt bra by retailers. T-shirt bras are always contour bras but a contour bra isn’t always a t-shirt bra!
You may have come across the term ‘spacer bras’ used when describing some of the newer t-shirt or contour bras. This is actually quite a revolutionary innovation in the bra business!
Spacer foam is basically a foam sandwich that’s knitted on a machine with a fine top and bottom layer and a wavy ‘corrugated’ filament layer in between which can be adjusted to any thickness. This means that little air pockets are created allowing air to pass through the cup. Not only does the spacer foam have a very cushiony, comfortable feel but it doesn’t become hot when worn. Another advantage is that the cups can be knitted in graduated thickness or with built in ‘bump up’ pads. Spacer fabric is also used on the wings to provide added breathability for bigger sizes and it obviously has huge potential for use in sports bras. The only drawback is the price, because of it’s complex manufacturing process it’s more expensive than the traditional foam bras.
To check whether your bra is made in this way, cradle one of the cups in your hand, put your face to it and blow, if you feel your breathe on your hand then it’s probably a spacer foam bra.
But just a warning, there are cheap inferior versions out there that don’t retain their shape after washing and are certainly less breathable, so always opt for quality.
Hope this helps, happy bra buying!