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The Mechanics

It looks so simple. Gwen Widell and Jill Gurhan, design and technical vice-presidents respectively at Wacoal, describe the engineering necessary for a bra to do its thing.

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Illustration by Remie Geoffroi  

1. Apex Measurement
The distance between apexes (industry euphemism for nipples) varies depending on size, but nipples should always point straight ahead. Yes, like headlights.

2. Strap
Rigidity is necessary to stabilize support; stretch, to allow the bra to move with a woman’s arm and body. The wider the strap, the greater the support. Placement matters: Fuller figures need a strap closer to the neck for maximum control and lift.

3. Center Gore
The most important part of the bra! This has an inner liner (which should be flush with the skin), an outer decorative fabric, and a supportive inside panel, all working in unison to pull breasts together.

4. Wire
The wire holds a bra up (essential for a strapless). Wire length and shape are modified for different types of “push,” which can be up to enhance or down to minimize. Most wires are made from flexible galvanized steel, which doesn’t rust and is generally nonallergenic.

5. Wing
The band that wraps around the body, hooking in the back and connecting the cups. This will widen as the size of the bra increases, for additional support.

6. Cup
Fabric rigidity and stretch make for a comfortable, supportive cup. Too much stretch can create a “bouncing ball” look and feel. Different plies (each ply equals a layer of fabric) also affect support; the same bra style might use one ply for a 34A while a 38DD needs two plies and an interior sling.

7. Hookup
Where the wing and cup meet.


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