What is “Support”?
Despite its technical meaning, "support" is often used as a catch-all term for other, related functions.
April 24, 2023
A direction-of-force diagram illustrating the concept of "support"

It became a running joke among the Grail fitting team for a while that every client asked for a bra that would provide “support”… and that those clients often used the term to refer to all sorts of different things. The word itself was almost meaningless in terms of understanding the customer’s personal preferences because it told us so little about what they were actually looking for in a bra.

Of course, “support” isn’t actually a meaningless word. Support refers to a bra’s ability to hold and stabilize breast tissue. It’s the anti-jiggle factor. Well-supported breasts should have minimal up-and-down movement, even on a body in motion. All bras are designed to provide some degree of support; that’s the basis for their entire function. The exact amount of support will depend on how well the bra fits (especially around the band and cup base), coverage, and especially material construction. Stretch-restricted materials will minimize movement better than soft and stretchy ones.

So, where does the confusion come in? In our experience, folks also tend to talk about support when they’re really envisioning these other attributes:

  • Lift: a bra’s ability to raise and elevate breast tissue. This is the big one. Sooo many people use these terms interchangeably, but they are not the same. A bra can support tissue at any elevation- high, low, or in between. If you’re looking for a bra that will hoist your boobs up and keep them there, that’s lift. Once they’re uplifted, if you want them not to bounce, that’s support.

  • Separation: a bra’s ability to keep breasts apart. An underwire is required for a bra to provide complete separation, and that wire also creates an additional contact point with the body at your sternum. For these reasons, a separation-creating underwired bra might also have a leg up on building a stable base of support for your breasts, but these two concepts are still really different things.

  • Shaping: a bra’s ability to direct and contour breast tissue. Again, this has nothing to do with tissue movement. It’s an aesthetic consideration. If you want a bra to reposition your boobs forward, or appear more rounded, or take on a particular profile under clothing… shaping is what you’re after.

There you have it! Understanding these terms can help you communicate with your fitter so they better understand your needs. Then, we can prioritize styles that do what you want. 😁

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