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4 Lingerie Terms Explained

sew lingerie

There’s doctor jargon, there’s lawyer jargon and guess what? There’s lingerie jargon. Getting to know bra  and panty terminology takes time and experience. I’m still learning new things every day, but that’s just the nature of growing and getting better at your craft. Discovery is what makes life (and lingerie) exciting, right?! So today, I am sharing some confusing words that have come up in my own sewing as well as common questions my students ask.

Lightly Lined and Padded
A lightly lined bra is not a padded bra. The two are very different. First, lightly lined doesn’t mean that the cups are lined with a lighter/sheer fabric such as 15 denier tricot or sheer cup lining. Many students who are new to sewing lingerie and used to sewing garments assume this. Lightly lined means that the cups have a thin foam fabric that is either sewn as one with the outer cup fabric or separately like this. The thin foam, usually around 1/8″ thick, provides soft shaping, opaqueness, support and prevents nipple show-through. A padded bra DOES HAVE foam cups just like lightly lined bras but that foam is thickened in specific areas, usually at the bottom or the sides.

lightly line and padded bras

from left to right:
Sunnie Wireless Lightly Lined Bra from Aerie
Lightly Lined Bra from la Vie en Rose (this is an example when the outer cup fabric and foam lining are separate)
-Padded bra on inside. The cups are made of a foam just like the Aerie bra, but see how the bottom of the cups have extra foam to provide padding?

Half-Cup and Demi
To-may-to, to-mah-to… a half cup bra is the same thing as a demi cup bra. A partial bra is another name as well. Just like lightly lined, the term can be deceiving. A half cup doesn’t mean the bra is available in half cup sizes (i.e. 32A 1/2). These bras feature lower-cut cups, usually covering half to three quarters of the breast. Hence the name. If you want to get technical, the industry standard is that the cups stop at 1″ above the nipple. As opposed to a plunge bra where only the center front is cut low, the cups on a demi/half bra are lower throughout the entire cup. This type of bra requires shallower underwires, which make it a good option for petite women or women who usually get poked by underwires since the cup/underwire is smaller in overall height.

Don’t get mixed up – a demi cup bra and balconette bra look very similar. The difference is that the cups on a balconette are more, if not completely horizontal, like a shelf where you’d place books. Also, the straps are usually wider set.

half and demi bras

from left to right:
Gia Demi Bra by Journelle
Camille Plunge Bra by Journelle (example of how cups are only lower at center front)
Romy Demi Bra by Journelle

Soft Cup and Bralette
This can get hairy because a soft cup and a bralette can be the same, but can be different. I can still get tripped up. A soft cup bra is a bra that doesn’t have an underwire. The same goes for a bralette. They become different when a soft bra has foam/molded cups. The lightly lined Aerie bra above is a soft bra, but I wouldn’t consider it a bralette. So for this one, I take it case by case. I’ve also heard/read a bralette defined as a crop top. I beg to differ. In my mind, a crop top is a type of blouse, and I would wear a bra underneath. My step sister, however, rocks a crop top/bralette weekly. She’s also eighteen.

soft bra and bralette

from left to right:
Madalynne for Out from Under Suzie Cutout Bra(lette)
Free People Strange Magic Flocked Bra
Madalynne for Out from Under Eileen High Neck Lace Bra

Frame and Bridge
For a long time, I thought the words frame and bridge were interchangeable, and in certain circumstances, they are. In other cases, however, they aren’t. Technically, the frame is the front of the bra where the cups are sewn into. The frame can be one piece, and this is the case where the terms are the same. But the frame can also be 2 pieces. When it’s 2 pieces, the center front piece is called a bridge, because it “bridges” the two cups. In a partial band bra, there is a bridge between the two cups, but no frame. The band extends from the side of the cups to the center back.
how to sew lingerie

from left to right:
-One of my first underwire bra, Amber Rosalind, is an example of where the frame and bridge are the same.
-My most recent bra, Ellie, has a seam underneath the cups, so the center piece is the bridge and the piece that goes to the side seam is the frame.
-This partial band bra I made that is an example of where there is no frame. The center front piece is the bridge and the piece that extends from the cups to the center back is the band. 

I hope this makes sense and clears up any confusion you all may have had.

If you have any new-to-you lingerie terms. Let me know!

1 Comment

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    Thank you for the article! Very useful. Love your site so much!

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