Bralette vs. Bra: What’s the Difference?

Bralette vs Bra

Bralettes are sold alongside bras, and they even have the word “bra” in them, making it difficult to parse out the difference between these two similar garments. Below, we explain the difference between a bralette vs. bra and also explore the grey area between these two options, aka the wireless bra. Then, we cover the advantages of both bralettes and bras and finally discuss which option is right for you.

What is a bralette?

Woman in Bralette by Leonisa

Simply put, a bralette is an unlined or lightly lined bra that usually does not have underwire or significant padding. The bottom band is usually made of stretchy elastic or lace, and most of the minimal lift comes from the straps and not the band. Bralettes are often meant to be seen and feature fun colors, lace, bows and other appealing design touches. They may have an adjustable band with hook-and-eye clasps, or they may come in a pull-on style. Bralettes have grown in popularity in recent years thanks to their super comfortable and stylish designs. Bralettes may be sized from XS to 3XL or they may follow the band-and-cup sizing of a regular bra.

What is a bra?

Woman in grey bra by Leonisa

A bra is a support garment consisting of molded cups, underwire and an adjustable band. Not only do bras provide lift and support, they can also help change the appearance of your breasts, altering their size and shape under your clothes. Bras come in many different styles, including push-up, full coverage, balconette, demi cup, longline and more. You can also get underwire bras in unlined styles, though many people prefer more padded bras as it helps to cushion the wire. Bras come in many styles, from plain t-shirt bras to more sexy lingerie lace styles. Bras are sized according to your band and cup measurements. This is important because the underwire needs to be correctly proportioned to the size of your breasts; otherwise, it will dig.

What about wireless bras?

Woman in Wireless Bra by Leonisa

There's a third category we still need to talk about: wireless bras. These garments sit right at the intersection between bralettes and bras. As the name suggests, wireless bras don't contain wire, which may make them seem like a bralette. However, wireless bras aren't quite the same thing as bralettes. For one, they aren't meant to be seen and are often made of solid neutral colors and smooth fabric designed to disappear under clothes. Wireless bras usually have thicker padding and more structure than bralettes as well. Think of a t-shirt bra with the underwire removed, and that's basically a wireless bra. The cups are often molded to provide more of a contoured look beneath your clothes, whereas bralettes are not molded.

Benefits of Bralettes

If you've been a dedicated bra wearer your whole life, you might be wondering why you should want to switch to bralettes. Here are some things that people love about bralettes:

benefits of bras vs bralettes

    • No wire: This is a big reason why bralettes are so popular. Some people prefer to wear wireless bras, and bralettes are a great option for some added style. Bralettes usually don't feature underwire for a super comfortable design that's perfect for lounging around the house. However, if you do prefer a wired bralette, Leonisa does offer a small selection of bralettes with underwire, such as our Sheer Lace Bustier Bralette with Underwire.

    • Minimal padding: Bralettes may be unlined, or only have a very light layer of padding that's just thick enough to keep your nipples from showing through. If you feel like the thicker padding of a regular bra is more than you need, a bralette might be the perfect solution for you.

    • Not stiff or structured: Due to the lack of underwire and padding, bralettes aren't stiff or structured like a traditional bra. They conform to your body and move with you throughout the day, reducing chafing and improving comfort.

    • More breathable: Because of the thinner padding and lack of structure, bralettes are way more breathable than regular bras. If your bra constantly causes the dreaded underboob sweat, switching to a bralette might help alleviate that problem.

    • Attractive designs and materials: Because bralettes are meant to be seen, they're often more visually appealing than a basic bra. In terms of coverage and design, they offer a nice middle ground between the boring full coverage of neutral everyday bras and the see-through lace of sexy lingerie.

    • Can act as a piece of clothing: Lined bralettes can function as crop tops, either on their own or under an open jacket. If you like to be a little daring with your clothing changes, bralettes can function as underwear and a shirt all in one. Think of them as an accessory, not underwear.

    • Flexible sizes: Because bralettes are made of stretchy materials, they're very forgiving of sizes. Whether you're in between bra sizes or your breast size fluctuates during that time of the month, bralettes will stretch and shrink to accommodate you for the ultimate comfort.

Benefits of Bras

Smiling woman in black bra by Leonisa

Before you convert completely to bralettes, give it a pause. Bras offer many other features that bralettes can't. Some of them include:

    • Provide lift and support: The number one reason why people love underwire bras is the lift and support they provide. Bigger breasted women in particular really appreciate underwire's ability to lift and shape their breasts. Because they don't have underwire, bralettes can't match the lift and support of a traditional bra.

    • Less pressure on the straps: Speaking of lift, traditional bras achieve this not through the straps, but through a combination of a support band, structured cups and underwire. Even if the straps fall down, the bra should still stay in place because of the band, which takes pressure off the shoulders. Bralettes can wear on your shoulders over time because they don't have that band holding them up.

    • Changing your breast size: If you'd like your breasts to look a bit bigger, a push-up bra will augment your chest while maintaining a natural shape. If you want your breasts to look a bit smaller, more structured full coverage cups can provide a level of compression that bralettes simply can't.

    • Changing your breast shape: Again, thanks to the structured cups and extra padding, bras can change the shape of your breasts under clothes, whereas bralettes will simply provide a bit of coverage without really altering the underlying shape.

    • Available in a wide range of sizes: If you have really large breasts, or a small rib cage combined with a larger cup size, it might be tough for you to find a bralette that fits. Usually, the cups and bands are sized together, making it difficult if your rib cage is much smaller compared to your breasts, and very few companies make bralettes for extremely large cup sizes. On the other hand, traditional bras are available in a plethora of sizes to fit every body no matter their cup or band size.

Bralette vs. Bra vs. Wireless Bra: When to Wear Them?

Smiling woman laying on bed wearing a Leonisa Bralette

Now that you know the advantages of both bralettes and bras, you might be wondering which you should choose—and whether you should consider wireless bras, for that matter.

There's no right or wrong answer to this question, and it really comes down to what makes you feel the most comfortable.

Women with smaller breasts often love bralettes because they don't need the extra structure and lift of a typical underwire bra. On the other hand, women with larger breasts often like those bras despite the underwire because they put less pressure on the straps. Because there are so many bralettes and bras available, it's hard to make a generalization between the two types. There are definitely some bralettes out there that are more comfortable for larger chests than some bras with underwire!

As for wireless bras, they act as a kind of middle ground between bras and bralettes, offering more padding and structure while skipping the underwire. Keep in mind that if you have very large breasts, the weight of them may cause the stiffer fabric of wireless bras to buckle and crease in an uncomfortable way. While it may sound counterintuitive, you might actually have better luck with the thinner fabric of bralettes, which conforms to the shape of your body without uncomfortable creases.

Set of 3 bras by Leonisa

Whether you're shopping for a bralette or a bra, we've got you covered at Leonisa. Get free returns and exchanges within 60 days of purchase. We guarantee your satisfaction with our products 100 percent, and our policies reflect that. Shop today to find your next gorgeous bralette or supportive bra!