What Is a Wireless Bra

SARAH STEWART / STYLE WELLNESS

Variety is the spice of life, right? But sometimes so much choice can be overwhelming. When it comes to bras, there definitely are a lot of options to navigate…

From padded to unpadded, full cup, half cup or demi-cup, push-up to minimizer, the choices go on and on. But one of the biggest choices you’ll need to make is whether you want to wear a wireless or underwire bra.

Never fear, we’re going to break it all down...

What Is a Wireless v Underwire Bra?

Wireless bras (which can also be known as soft cup bras) feature no wire, but rely on the cut of the fabric and stitching to create shape and provide support. This may take the form of a larger band (longline bra) or an inner sling to support the bra. 

Wireless bras provide support and shape, but think of them as enhancing rather than dramatically changing your natural shape.

On the flip side, Underwire bras (or wired bras) have sturdy metal or plastic wire beneath the cup of each breast. This wire is usually sewn into the bra with extra fabric around it so that it feels more comfortable. The goal of the underwire is to lift your breasts away from the wall of your chest and give each breast a defined shape.

wireless bra

What Are Some of the Advantages of Wireless Bras?

They’re Just More Comfortable to Wear

Wireless bras simply win on comfort. Now, granted many women who find underwire bras uncomfortable are wearing the wrong size. But even when you’re wearing the right size, underwires are more prone to dig into your ribs and generally feel more constricting than a soft cup alternative. A wire free bra is consistently considered the most comfortable choice.

They’re a Better Bra for Circulation

While the idea that wearing underwires causes breast cancer has been debunked, underwire bras can still be quite constrictive and cut off circulation, especially if you’re wearing the wrong size. A wireless bra is just more flexible and allows your both to move, expand and contract without causing constriction. This way, they won’t impede lymph drainage or circulation.

They Make Better Sports Bras

Most sports bras are wire free. This is because when you need to move and perform physically you need maximum comfort and flexibility. This may be surprising to some, who think that an underwire is required for support (and you need a lot of support when running and jumping). But the construction of a sports bra is different from an everyday bra; the fabrics are often thicker and contain more elastic. So even without a wire, a sports bra can give you that support.

They’re Better to Wear During Pregnancy

If you’re pregnant (especially if you’re carrying high), post-pregnancy or breastfeeding, you will likely find that a soft cup vs a wired bra is way more comfortable to wear.

And a Better Bra for Sleeping or Post Surgery

If you’ve had surgery or sleep with a bra, a wire free bra should be your choice. These bras can still support you, without causing discomfort or restricting circulation.

What’s the Difference Between a Wireless Bra and a Bralette?

A wireless or soft cup bra is designed to give you support and shape (albeit without the help of a wire). A bralette is really just a crop top (usually of light fabric or lace). It doesn’t usually aim to offer support, just a little coverage. A bralette is an ideal stepping stone for women who want to try going completely braless but want some coverage. If you want a bra with support, a bralette may not contend.

Are Wireless / Soft Cup Bras Supportive?

Soft cup bras are designed to provide support, just not in the same way as an underwire bra. Underwires encircle each breast individually and pull them away from the chest, separating and lifting them. How supportive a wireless bra is depends on its design and the cut of fabric. 

How Do They Support Your Breasts?

Even with underwire bras, not all the support comes from the wire. The shoulder straps and brands also do significant work. Some wireless bras have an inner sling that lifts your breasts. Others rely on extra fabric on the band and straps. And some - like sports bras - simply have more fabric all over, and are made of thicker, more elastic fabric.

Do Wireless Bras Come in Larger Sizes?

It is one of the most common misconceptions that larger breast sizes (C cup sizes and above) absolutely require an underwire. Wire free bras have actually come a long way and you can find a wireless alternative for every size. For example, Knix wireless bras fit every size from 32A to 42G.

wireless bra

Are There Style and Strap Choices with Wireless Bras?

There’s a similar assortment of style options for wireless as there are for underwire bras. These include:

  • Straps and construction: Push-up, strapless and more styles are available.
  • Cup shape: Full cup, demi-cup or half-cup styles are available.
  • Padding: Both wireless and wired bras are available either with or without padding.
  • Design variety: Whether you like your bra frilly, sexy, practical, basic or luxurious, you’ll be able to satisfy your style with either design.

Which Bra Style is Easier to Care For?

Generally, wireless bras are much easier to care for. Of course, depending on the material, they can still be delicates that require a hand wash. But odds are greater that your wireless bra can be washed in your washing machine. This is because without a wire to bend and buckle, the bras can withstand the machine’s force. That said, we do advise following some tips for machine washing.

Here are the steps to follow if you’re opting for the washing machine:

  • Step 1: Fasten all the hooks / clasps. Hooks and clasps can catch on other items of clothing, which can cause a lot of stretching, pulling and even breakage of your bras. So make sure you fasten all the clasps to minimize the chances of that happening.
  • Step 2: Place the bras in a mesh bag / lingerie bag. A mesh bag or lingerie bag is great for keeping delicates (underwear, socks, tights) contained in the laundry and protected from tangling with less delicate garments.
  • Step 3: Separate your colors / weights. As always with laundry, you want to take a moment to separate your colors (white, black and colors). You can also separate your loads by weight, including bras with other lighter items, like tees, socks, underwear etc. rather than heavier objects like bed linens, jeans and sweatshirts.
  • Step 4: Choose a gentle cycle. Make sure to set your machine on a gentle cycle or cold water cycle when you’re washing undergarments or other delicates.

Why Would Anybody Still Wear an Underwire?!

Underwire bras do also offer additional support. If you fall into larger cup sizes and want lift from a wireless bra, you’ll need to pay extra attention to the fabric and the cut of the bra to see where that support comes from. With underwire bras, you know you’ll be getting additional support from that wire.

That said, wireless bras really do have a lot going for them! The great news is you don’t have to choose one or the other all the time. Many women enjoy an assortment of bra styles, colors and shapes to shake up the mix and tailor their bra for their outfit, and even their mood! But, in our opinion, a wireless bra should definitely be part of your mix!