Monday, May 11, 2015

Smooth Cup Bras: Fit, Health and Body Shame

Whether you call them smooth cup bras, t-shirt bras or molded bras the result is the same; a smooth, seamless look under clothing. This look can be really sleek and stylish but the smooth bra can also be a curse. In today's special we're going to look at the different kinds of smooth cup bra, whether they're right for you, and how smooth cups are part of the body shame problem. 

Deco Vibe (left) is a fixed smooth cup. Versailles (right) is a soft smooth cup.

Fixed or Soft
The most prolific smooth cup bra is a fixed molded bra, one that keeps its shape even when it's not on your body. There is also a soft smooth cup option. The cups are still smooth but the material isn't rigid like a fixed cup. Fixed cup smooth bras tend to have a little padding to them because the material has to be thick enough to hold its shape. Soft smooth cup bras tend to be made of lighter material. There's also a halfway option which is the spacer bra. Spacer bra cups are less rigid than a fixed cup but not as lightweight as a soft smooth cup.

Spacer bras, like Profile Perfect, are less rigid than fixed cups and breathable

A fixed smooth cup gives a predictable shape, disguises nipples and evens out the appearance of asymmetrical breasts. The downside is that if your breasts don't closely match the pre-fixed shape of the cup you're going to get gaping which can lead to compromised support and chafing. A soft smooth cup can be adapted more easily to accommodate the natural shape of your breasts (by adjusting the straps) but can't disguise nipples as easily because the fabric is thinner.

Support and Health
A well-fitting smooth bra can give you great support but for a lot of women smooth cup support isn't enough and that's because smooth cup bras don't have seams. Seams are like boob scaffolding. In a smooth cup your breast tissue floods the cup shape, which is usually round and wide or round and plunged. In a seamed bra the seams direct the breast tissue up, forward or wide depending on the angle of the seams. Very heavy breasts need excellent support to lift the tissue up and away from the body (this is good for your health as it stops heat and sweat getting trapped between your breasts and body which can cause rashes and irritations).

This is why seamless bras aren't generally available over a 36GG, because breast volumes over this simply couldn't be supported by a seamless bra.

Full bust bra seams not only help with upward lift of your bust but they also reinforce the strength of the cup which reduces bounce which in turn reduces the impact stress across your whole bra. This lessens the strain on your back and neck.  If you have heavy breasts then look for a soft smooth cup bra with double lined cups because the additional material will provide some of the cup reinforcement that reduces stress. Basic Beauty from Wacoal is a very supportive double-layered t-shirt bra.

Women with shallow breasts or hollowing at the armpit will almost certainly be faced with empty cup space in a smooth cup bra, especially a fixed smooth cup. Sometimes you can come down a cup size to offset the gaping but this doesn't always work. For example, Deco by Freya, which is their signature style, is pretty tall in the cups so no matter how much you come down in volume the cups still gape on a shallow bust because the cups always come up higher than your breast tissue. If you have shallow breasts then you're best option is to go with a soft smooth cup bra option from brands like Fantasie (Echo Lace) or Parfait (Jeanie) that make shorter cups.

Body Shaming
If bras were fruit then the smooth cup bra is like strawberries. So good to look at, easy to eat and gives thousands of people allergic reactions! But imagine if those people who are allergic to strawberries were made to feel that they had to eat strawberries in order to fit in because strawberries are the only acceptable fruit in North America? Smooth bras are not right for everyone but lots of women wear them because they feel that their breasts would be 'too obvious' or 'inappropriate' in anything other than a smooth bra. This is when smooth bras become a real problem.

Because of the high-visibility of brands like Victoria's Secret and La Senza who trade almost exclusively in smooth cup bras, it has become default that breasts should be rounded, smooth, nipple free and 'modest'. The idea that seams bring attention to your breasts is holding some women prisoner in smooth cup bras.

I have lost count of the number of emails I've had from women who are terrified to wear anything other than a smooth bra for fear of their boobs looking too big or obvious or inappropriate. Thankfully I've also lost count of the number of women we've helped break free from their smooth dependence and embrace different styles.

I'm not saying that you shouldn't wear smooth cup bras but I am saying that you shouldn't wear them to keep other people happy or to conform to what social convention says your breasts should look like. Smooth cup bras should be one arrow in your quiver of bra styles and support. They are one look that you can choose to wear, or choose NOT to wear. xx

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