Why Do You Love Seamed Bras So Much?

…is a question I’ve been getting with some frequency, and it’s high time I answered it. It’s true, I love seamed bras with all my heart. Seams are the best. Seams make my boobs go round. Seams will never give you up, let you down, run around, desert you, make you cry, etc.

Okay, that might be a little much, even for me. There are absolutely times when a molded cup bra is also your friend. For newbies, a “molded cup” refers to a bra cup that is made of a single piece of material that has been molded into a round shape. Sometimes you’ll see molded cups made of single, flexible pieces of fabric (like Fantasie’s Smoothing Full Cup Bra); more frequently (in the US, at least) molded cup bras are made of a slightly thicker material like foam or spacer fabric, to provide a little more coverage (like Freya’s Deco or Cleo’s Maddie).

Deco Vibe by Freya in Watermelon, 28-30 D-GG, 32-36 B-GG, 38 B-G

Deco Vibe by Freya in Watermelon by Freya

Smoothing Balconette Bra by Fantasie

Smoothing Balconette Bra by Fantasie

Some people strongly prefer molded cup bras for wearing under uniforms or tee shirts, or because they feel self-conscious if their bra seams (or nipples) are showing. I don’t care as much about seams showing, because for whatever reason I have very few tops where that’s a problem, but I do prefer molded cup bras in two particular styles: sports bras and strapless bras. Molded cup bras like the Panache Sports Bra or the Freya Active Underwire Sports Bra provide smooth, sturdy support with no seams inside the cup to chafe against tender skin. Strapless bras don’t have straps (duh, thanks for that, Sweets) to help lift and smooth the cup, so a molded cup (like the Freya Deco Shape collection) helps keep your boobs lifted and wrangled.

Apart from those two instances, you’ll pry my seamed bras from my cold, dead hands.

Seams generally affect:

SHAPE

With a molded bra, the shape you see on the hanger is generally the shape it will give your boobs.  With a seamed bra, the seams are like a road map: the direction of the seams tells you a little more about what the final shape will look like, but you usually have to try the bra on to see how it works with your individual body. If you’re at the beginning of your lingerie-wardrobe-building journey, it’s a good idea, once you have a collection of at least 2-3 bras that you like, to pay attention to the seam patterns and see if there’s a pattern in particular that really seems to work for you. There are a few classic shapes:

Single vertical seam:

Allegra vertical seam bra, suspender, and brief in black, 30-38 D-G. $76

Allegra vertical seam bra by Fantasie

More often than not, if you have a seamed full-bust or full-figure bra, you’ll have a vertical seam. The reason is this: seams sort of “direct” your breast tissue and dictate the shape the bra will give you, and a vertical seam tells your breast tissue to “go up”. These seams help lift breast tissue up and off the ribcage, which many full-bust women find cooler more comfortable. That lift also helps create cleavage in bras with lower cups and shorter center gores.

Single horizontal seam:

Jessica Bra by Louise Ferdinand

Jessica Bra by Louise Ferdinand

Many vintage and vintage-inspired bras use this classic shape, but it’s more common in small-bust and core sizes rather than full-bust sizes (especially G+ sizes). Bras with single horizontal seams tend to offer depth (since the seam tells your breast tissue “go out”), but they don’t always offer the same centered shape as a bra with vertical seams or side panels.

Multiple vertical seams:

CHP Marcepanowa Magnolia by Ewa Michalak

CHP Marcepanowa Magnolia by Ewa Michalak

This seam pattern is very common in half-cup bras or demi bras, and bras with this construction usually offer lots and lots of lift (remember, vertical seams tell your breast tissue to go up) with beautifully rounded cleavage.

Vertical seam + diagonal seam:

Dessous by Claudette in Periwinkle/Cream Soda. 28 D-G, 30-34 A-G, 36-38 B-G. $62

Dessous bra by Claudette

This is one of the most common contemporary bra shapes: the three-part balconette bra. It also happens to be one of my favorites: the vertical seam in the bottom of the cup is there to provide vertical lift, and the diagonal seam means that the bottom section of the cup attaches directly to the strap, which helps to draw breast tissue in from the sides of the body for a centered profile.

Vertical seam + horizontal seam:

Tango Bra by Panache

Tango Bra by Panache

This is one of the other more common contemporary bra shapes, a slightly different three part balconette or full-cup bra. Rather than drawing up to the strap, the seam cuts straight across the bra horizontally for lots of outward projection.

Side panel/side sling:

Panache Hepburn, 30-38 D-K

Hepburn bra by Panache

This feature has become increasingly common in full-bust sizes, since it really pulls breast tissue in from the sides of the body to the front. This helps to ensure that all breast tissue is contained in the cup as well as creating a narrower profile when viewed from the front. Having a fourth cup section adds another dimension to help to create a deeper, more projected shape, which helps the gore tack in fuller cup sizes.

Concentric seam/conical bra:

Padded Satin Bullet Bra by What Katie Did

Padded Satin Bullet Bra by What Katie Did

Calling vintage fashion enthusiasts/Madonna-circa-Blond-Ambition, concentric seams are the ones for you! These create that cone-like/super-pointy retro shape like nothing else.

In addition to shape, seams also affect the following fit factors:

SIZE

I’ve been asked a few times why molded cup bras generally stop at a G cup, or in some cases an H cup. The reason is simple: a single molded cup can only achieve so much projection before the shape gets distorted or support is compromised. Imagine trying to hold water in your cupped hand. You can gradually deepen the curve of your hand to hold more water, but you’ll reach a point where, if you want to add even more water, your hand can’t curve any more: your hand itself would have to grow bigger to hold more volume. Now picture that concept applied to bras: at a certain point, you won’t be able to make the cup deeper; to achieve a larger cup volume, the cup will get wider and taller, which would spread breast tissue up and out on the chest, rather than lifting vertically and projecting breast tissue away from the ribcage.

Now, if you join TWO curved hands, you’ll be able to hold a greater volume of water more easily, with a deeper, more projected shape. The same goes for bras: at a certain size, one single piece of material won’t be able to hold the same volume and depth of breast tissue without seriously compromising on fit or support. Using multiple pieces to create a cup lets you build a more tailored, engineered shape to provide the best fit.

SUPPORT

Speaking of support, when you look at a bra, you can think to yourself “Seams = strength”. Many full-bust and full-figure bras have to walk a line between offering support and offering comfort. Using only non-stretch materials would give you rock-solid support and a great deal of discomfort, and using super-stretchy fabrics would feel nice and soft, but wouldn’t do much for you if you were looking for lift or stability. So most full-bust bras look for a happy medium: they use fabrics with at least some stretch in parts of the bra (band, straps, occasionally certain sections of the cup), while using firmer non-stretch fabrics in other parts (most often the lower and side sections of the cup). While seams are there to create specific shapes, they also stabilize the materials and help prevent stretch or distortion in the fabric.

For further reading, I STRONGLY recommend checking out this excellent post/vlog from Claire at Butterfly Collection: How Bra Seams Change Your Breast Shape. Her understanding of how bra seams work with different breast shapes is unparalleled, and her fit advice is so warm and friendly. Plus, she talks you through some of the same bras pictured in this post, so you can see them “in action”, if you will.

Are you a fan of seamed bras? Any particular seam patterns that really work for you? What are your favorites?

11 Comments on Why Do You Love Seamed Bras So Much?

  1. Lee Rivers
    July 13, 2015 at 12:16 pm (4 years ago)

    Over the years, seamed bras have won me over. My initial experience was that they came with too-deep cups that fought with my soft but not weightless tissue, resulting in shapes that didn’t feel like ‘me’. I’m thinking most Freya balconettes/plunges, Panache’s Tango, and some Fantasie balcony bras. Since then I’ve become a fan of the four-part cup: Elomi’s Caitlyn and Panache’s Dahlia have a treasured place in my drawer now. A larger variety of proportions in three-part cup sections also have made me less wary of seamed bras, because some of them do suit me.

    I’m also trying Fantasie’s Allegra and so far so good. One seam equals not the most support ever, but it is comfortable!

    Reply
  2. Cecile
    July 13, 2015 at 2:26 pm (4 years ago)

    I love seamed bras. Unfortunately, they are very difficult to find in A cups, which are generally padded or at least moulded.

    Reply
  3. Argie
    July 13, 2015 at 2:28 pm (4 years ago)

    Seams, please! After years of cheap, unsupportive bras, I saw the light and ended up in Fantasie 4-part cups. Never gonna give THEM up!

    Reply
  4. Diana Boon
    July 14, 2015 at 4:58 pm (4 years ago)

    I love seamed bra’s, I do make them all myself. 😀

    Reply
  5. Michele F
    July 14, 2015 at 6:29 pm (4 years ago)

    Excellent post on explaining where the seams direct breast tissue! Now I understand why some bras make my breasts look “weird” and some do not.

    Reply
  6. Erica of A Sophisticated Pair
    July 14, 2015 at 8:56 pm (4 years ago)

    Fantastic post, Sweets! I love how you explained the job seams perform. I was talking about this with customers today because some women benefit so much from a cut-and-sew cup instead of the ever popular molded frame. Even though we live in the land of t-shirts, I think there is something to be said for having a comfortable, supportive fit, even if the seams show a little.

    Reply
  7. Trish
    July 15, 2015 at 12:07 am (4 years ago)

    Wow that was a great explanation, thanks! I’m small busted but I love the look of seamed bras. I’ve had some success seamed plunge bras (Kiss Me Deadly and Fleur of England) but Claudette’s Dessous will not work for me no matter how much I want it to!

    Reply
  8. cale
    July 16, 2015 at 12:57 pm (4 years ago)

    Great post, Sweets!

    A good examples of molded bras made from softer materials, or non-foam materials, are the Cosabella Soire Underwire bra and the Gossard Glossies Underwire bra. Oftentimes, there is just less adaptability with molded bras because the shape is already fixed.

    I personally love seamed bras and that goes with seamed soft cup bras as well as contour! The Polish brands are fantastic with using seams for both soft cup and contour bras. I wish these types of features were more common stateside.

    Reply
  9. SFYSSam
    July 19, 2015 at 5:04 pm (4 years ago)

    I love this post so, so very much. Especially like the bit about the cupped hands and the moulded cup bra – such an easily understandable image!!

    As a fitter I love seamed bras for their ease of fit, variety of shape and supreme support. As a bra-wearer I’m also a die hard fan of seams (usually balconette or side panel fullcup styles). Because moulded bras are heat formed over a mould of what the designer has decided a breast is shaped like, they will never be as good a match as a seamed bra which is able to tailor itself to my shape. Although I do like the Fantasie lined and moulded balconette (the lift and perky shape is incredible)!

    Reply
  10. Sheryl
    August 5, 2015 at 10:03 pm (4 years ago)

    “Seams make my boobs go round.” I adore you. May I add a vision of Ewan McGregor: “…seams are a many-splendored thing, seams lift you up where you belong! All you need is seams!”

    It’s fab to explore and determine which seam style best provides one’s preferred breast shape. In my bra fit experience, it’s particularly fascinating which styles tend to work best for different cup size ranges. (Spoiler: the 3-part vertical/diagonal you mentioned that I’m about to sing praises to spans a broad range!)

    For my 32D/34C – 32DD/34D range of experience, I love the 3-part vertical + diagonal seaming where the diagonal seam and outer panel both touch the strap, like Claudette’s Dessous or many of Fleur of England’s balcony bras. But the top and outer panels have to meet at the strap – the top panel can’t end on the side of the cup, like in a vertical + horizontal seam combo, or it flattens and widens my breast shape (not ideal for me).

    But I actually most love a lower dart, like Mimi Holliday’s comfort bras or La Perla’s full cup styles. A lower dart is similar pattern-wise to a full single vertical seam; it just allocates all the contour to underneath the apex of the cup, whereas in a vertical seam, some may be above it. (So the two pattern pieces of a single vertically seamed cup, lying flat side by side without seam allowance, may touch at the apex, but have a gap above and below it; whereas a lower darted cup is closed on top, so that portion of shaping is allocated entirely underneath. However, a vertically seamed cup may also be shaped the same as a darted one (without shaping above the apex) but the choice was made for a full seam instead of a dart, for a possible variety of reasons (visual/psychological appeal, sewing process, etc). I don’t think I could tell for sure in any given vertical seam without undoing it, though!)

    Some full-on vertical seams like to dig in to my shallow upper breast, since they are contoured to follow that reduction in fullness, which I don’t have up there. To be honest, this perplexes me as to why they are so often and highly recommended for shallow breasts – I find them to actually not typically work well for mine, for that reason. Lower darts can make me a little pointy, however, due to my shallow breast projection, and all the shaping being underneath. It depends on the fullness/shallowness of the cup volume.

    I love what you had to say about a side panel sling helping volumetrically for the gore to tack. That makes total sense. Would that and the vertical + diagonal seam styling be your favourite seam styles, Sweets?

    Reply

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  1. […] in from the sides of the body (for more on how seams work on your bras and why they’re great, check out this post). Being the same cup volume, it’s not super surprising that the underwires of the two bras […]

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