What’s the Difference Between Full Bust Bras and Plus Size Bras?

[Elomi generously provided the Tori bra for review. I purchased the matching Elomi Tori brief and the Freya Taboo bra and brief under my real name with my own money. I was not compensated for this post, and all thoughts and opinions are my own.]

Sweet Nothings wears Freya Taboo. Photo (c) Sylvie Rosokoff

Whenever I share a roundup of DD+ lingerie resources on Twitter, I’m inevitably inundated with replies like this one:

A typical reply from my Twitter feed

There’s still such a strong misconception that large cup sizes and large band sizes go hand-in-hand. This misconception leads to people with small back sizes getting irritated when they only see plus size bands available and people with larger back sizes getting annoyed when full bust brands stop at a 36 or 38 band. I firmly believe that we need more options for everyone, but I also believe that when it comes to intimates, it’s actually a good thing when brands specialize in one category.

While there’s some overlap full bust and plus size brands (because bodies are all different and don’t all fit neatly into categories), these brands specialize in separate categories for a reason. What supports and shapes a 30G bust might fail a 44G bust, and what brings comfort and support to a 44G bust might feel oppressive and painful to a 30G bust. Lingerie requires SO many sizes that it’s logistically impossible for one company to make 200+ bra sizes that all fit well. Mastering one size category, rather than trying to master all of them, is good for both the brand and the customer.

Let’s break down these two categories in a little more detail, and take a look at two styles that share sizes and aesthetics, but that are perfect examples of two distinct lingerie categories.

The basics:

What does full-bust (or fuller bust) mean for bras?

In general, this category covers cup sizes larger than a DD and band sizes from roughly 28-36. The typical customer is someone who wears core or misses sizes and has a fuller bust size, although there’s no direct correlation between dress sizes and bra sizes– people who wear the same bra size can wear wildly different dress sizes.

What does plus size mean for bras?

In general, this category covers band sizes from 36 and up. While most plus size lingerie brands only offer cup sizes from a C cup and up, plus size doesn’t necessarily ALSO mean full bust (although there’s a noticeable lack of options for folks who wear larger band sizes with smaller cup sizes).

Obviously, there can be a lot of overlap between these two categories: many plus size brands make band sizes smaller than 36 (like Elomi), and many full bust brands make band sizes larger than 36 (like Curvy Kate or Bravissimo). So how do you decide which category is right for you?

That’s the best part about lingerie: your body, your rules. You decide you like a full-bust style even though you wear plus size clothing? Great! You decide you prefer the shape and support of plus size bras even if you shop for core sizes in clothing? That works too!

Sweet Nothings wears Elomi Tori Bra. Photo (c) Sylvie Rosokoff

Plus size lingerie: Elomi ‘Tori’ bra and brief

Sweet Nothings wears Freya Taboo Bra. Photo (c) Sylvie Rosokoff

Full-bust lingerie: Freya ‘Taboo’ Bra and Short

Let’s take a look at two similar lingerie sets and talk about what makes one set plus size and one set full-bust. These sets are by Freya and Elomi, which are both Eveden/Wacoal Europe brands (along with Fantasie (full-bust) and Goddess (plus size)). Both sets feature black elastic strapping as a design element, and they share a light beige base trimmed with black contrast piping, embroidery, and shoulder straps. They’re both sheer cut-and-sew bras with no lining or padding, and they both give a fun trompe l’oeil “tattoo” effect on my pale skin. They both come in my sizes, UK 32H for the bra and size Large for the briefs. So why are they made by two different brands, in two different size categories, at two different price points?

Let’s start with the Freya Taboo collection, designed for the full-bust customer.

Sweet Nothings wears Freya Taboo Bra. Photo (c) Sylvie Rosokoff

Of the two, this set is definitely skimpier. The Brazilian brief, short, and suspender are sized up to an XL (you can see the Brazilian brief/suspender version of the set in my post about incorporating lingerie into party outfits), with a rise that just covers the hips. The beige mesh of the briefs and suspender is light, sheer, stretchy, and flexible, and the legline is just a folded edge in the back, so that it lies smoothly under clothes. The balconette bra is available in band sizes from 28-38, and cup sizes from DD-HH. The cups of the bra are made of a single layer of light, super sheer tulle, and feature a three-part cup shape with no side panel. In DD-G cup sizes, the band fastens with just two rows of hooks, while in GG-HH sizes there are three rows for extra support. The harness detail is fixed in place and not adjustable, so the elastic is extra flexible to accommodate different breast sizes and shapes. This set retails for $64 and $30 at full price, which is pretty standard for a full-bust lingerie set that’s a fashion style, rather than a basic or core style.

When we compare the Elomi set, we can already see a few differences.

Sweet Nothings wears Elomi Tori Bra. Photo (c) Sylvie Rosokoff

The coordinating brief is cut fuller, with a high-waist rise and a legline finished with soft black binding. The brief is also less sheer than the Freya set: the mesh feels firmer and stronger, offering a little more support and structure. The sturdier mesh and fully finished legline means the brief is less likely to bunch and wriggle around the body with movement. The bra, available in band sizes from 32-46, also feels sturdier: the tulle cups are backed with a sheer lining for stability. Like the cups in the Freya bra, these cups are also cut-and-sew with no padding, but there’s an additional fourth panel on the side of the cup, designed the draw the breast tissue forward and in from the sides (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 are similar shapes, but the Elomi underwire flexes slightly more at the sides, which is great for a bra that’s designed to hold softer/squishier tissue.

Sweet Nothings wears Elomi Tori Bra. Photo (c) Sylvie Rosokoff

The Elomi set costs more– $78 for the bra and $34 for the brief, bringing the total to $112 compared the Freya set’s $94. It’s tempting to attribute the price difference to a so-called “fat tax”, but that’s not really what’s going on in this particular case. In addition to requiring more materials to make (including lining fabric and embroidery that aren’t in the Freya set), the Elomi set offers extra details that take it up a notch from a fun everyday set to something truly spectacular. The advantage of having larger pieces to work with (more panels in the cup and a fuller cut in the brief) is that the Elomi set can play more with the cage effect of the black piping against the beige base. You get extra black trim on the cups, lush rose embroidery on the bra, harness detail, and brief, and a fantastic (and sultry) cage effect across the rear of the brief. Perhaps recognizing that $78 is a big investment for a bra with visible strap detailing, Elomi cleverly made the embroidered harness detail removable, making the bra more versatile. This versatility means a higher cost of labor and materials (someone has to order and sew in the hooks and loops that fasten the elastic in place), hence a higher retail price.

Sweet Nothings wears Elomi Tori Bra. Photo (c) Sylvie Rosokoff

So how do you decide if you want a full-bust bra or a plus size bra? 

If your size falls into the overlap between plus size and full-bust, which one you choose is up to you! Because both Elomi and Freya make my size, I can choose whether I want the lightness and delicacy of a full-bust set or the more secure, firm fit of a plus size set. Since I carry more weight in my belly, I love the rise of the Elomi briefs, and then sometimes (like right now, when NYC summer is in full swing), I love the impossible sheerness of the Freya bra. You may find that your breast shape gets along better with the 4-part cup than it does with the 3-part cup, or maybe the plus size style is just Too Much Bra for your body/frame. It’s up to you! With more and more brands offering DD+ cup sizes, and with brands like Elomi, Playful Promises, and now Curvy Kate continuing to expand their plus size fashion offerings, there’s never been a better time to wear DD+ bras.

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Lingerie

Taboo by Freya, 28-38 DD-HH (UK) and XS-XL.

Tori by Elomi, 32 GG-JJ, 34 G-JJ, 36-40 DD-JJ, 42 DD-HH, 44 DD-G, 46 DD and M-4XL.

PhotographySylvie Rosokoff

Here is a bonus Gus

2 Comments on What’s the Difference Between Full Bust Bras and Plus Size Bras?

  1. Cheryl May
    July 11, 2019 at 3:00 pm (5 days ago)

    Thanks for this explanation. I’m bra shopping (again/still) because I can’t bra that fits since I grew larger than what Edith Lance 989 provides. I need that structure…I simply wish that I can find it. Your article has shown me that I need to find an online shop that will work with me.

    Reply
    • Sweets
      July 11, 2019 at 4:24 pm (5 days ago)

      If you’re looking for similar structure, have you ever tried Elila? That link goes to a review of one of their fashion styles, but they make a range of bra styles in sizes up to 56N, and their bras have some of the same strap/support features I see in pictures of the Edith Lace bra.

      Reply

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