Types of Molded Bras and How to Wear Them

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What Is a Molded Bra?

Molded Bra
A molded bra forms your bust to its shape. Getty/Photoevent/E+

There are many different kinds of molded bras out there. Whether it's a contour, push up, padded, or 3D spacer molded bra, there's something for just about everyone. Learn all about what a molded cup bra is and how to wear them in this guide.

What Makes a Bra a Molded Bra?

A bra with molded cups is often referred to as a "molded bra". The molding pertains to the cups of the bra, specifically. Molded cups are formed using a machine and heat to shape the bra material, usually synthetic, to a pre-made form. They are then sometimes covered in the material of choice, or left as is. This differs from a cut-and-sew bra, or a seamed bra that is made by piecing together several bra parts and sewing them.

When worn, the cup formed by the molding process molds breast tissue to the shape of the bra. Typically, a good way to tell if a bra is molded is by setting the bra down, cups facing up. If the bra cups stay up, with space for breast tissue, it's a molded bra. If the cups fall down and lay flat with the ground below it, it is not a molded bra.

In the history of bra manufacturing, molded cups have expanded in variety and size. In the past, molded cups were typically very firm, thick, or only padded. In recent bra history, less structured, flexible, and breathable materials have become very popular. There are so many options and styles to choose from!

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T-Shirt Bra

Warner's Cloud 9 Bra
A t-shirt bra, like this one from Warner's, is smooth and seam free. Warner's

A molded t-shirt bra is generally one that is smooth or seamless. That seamless look is easily achieved in the molding process during manufacturing. This kind of bra is often called a t-shirt bra because the smooth material will provide a clean, seam-free look under the thin or stretchy material of a t-shirt. This kind of sleek molded bra is often a basic in women's bra wardrobes because it can be worn under many different tops or dresses, and are available in many different styles like plunge, full coverage, push up, padded, convertible, or strapless. 

I suggest that every woman have a few molded t-shirt bras on hand that work with their wardrobe and bust shape. Depending on your wardrobe colors, purchasing some in neutral colors close to your skin tone, and dark colors like black is a great investment for your lingerie drawer. The Warner's Cloud 9 Full Coverage Underwire Bra is an example of a basic t-shirt bra.

Did you know that a molded bra can hide nipples? Depending on the thickness of the bra, and the shape of your nipple, wearing a molded bra is an easy way to create modesty. You can also wear nipple covers if you need them.

By the way, T-shirt bras can also be unmolded. In essence, a t-shirt bra is anything smooth enough to be worn under a t-shirt type top or blouse without showing through.

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Padded, Push Up, Contour

Push up bra
Push up and padded bras add volume to your bust line. Getty/James Day/Stone

Some molded bras have padding or push up, but not all. It's a common mistake that women make when they think a molded bra will add volume to her cup size. In fact, a molded bra will just form her bust to its shape. A molded bra with padding or push up, however will add volume and size.

A padded bra, or sometimes called a contour bra, is not exactly the same as a push up. Padding refers to the thickness of the cup. Some padded bras are thicker than others. The entire molded cup will be thicker, creating a fuller looking cup when worn. Padding is a great option for women who want a bigger looking bust, want to create a sleek bust appearance, or want to even out their breasts. Breasts are commonly slightly uneven, and a padded bra that fits to the fuller bust, will create an even shape underneath clothing. The form of the cup will remain looking full on both sides. The Royce "Enhance" style is an example of this.

A push up bra adds volume to your bust by using a foam (or other material) bump in the bra. Depending on where the bump is placed, this material will "push up" your breast tissue to create more fullness on top, or bigger volume. The push up portion of this kind of bra is typically built right in to the inside of the bra cup. The On Gossamer "Bump it Up" style is an example of a push up bra.

Some styles, however, offer a removable push up. These inserts, sometimes called "cookies", can be made of fabric, foam, or air or water filled plastic. Typically, they will sit in a mesh or fabric pocket inside the bra cup and can be taken out or put in with ease. The molded cup, which is usually thicker, will hide any insert from showing through the bra and looking awkward under clothing. This is a great option for a woman with uneven breasts as well. While a padded bra can cover over uneven busts to give the illusion of symmetry, a bra with removable push up pads can create even cleavage. Simply by removing the pads from one side and leaving them in the other, you can adjust the necessary amount of push up and even out your silhouette. The Wacoal Embrace Lace Petite Push Up Underwire bra is an example of this style.

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Underwire and Non Underwire

Montelle Molded Non Underwire Bra
This Montelle bra is wire free with molded cups. Montelle

Molded bras are available in both underwire and non underwire styles. Unlike a typical triangle or soft cup bra, the molded bra without underwires can still form breasts to its shape.

Underwires are common in molded bras because they offer the kind of shape that is most popular today: lifted, round, smooth, and separated. Though it's not necessary for a woman to wear an underwire in her bra, it's a popular choice for today's fashions and the look most women desire. If you are having trouble with underwires in your bra, make sure you are wearing the right size, and style for your body. Often, a good fit will solve any problems with comfort.

The Montelle molded, wire-free bra above is the perfect example of a non underwire version of a molded cup. Bonus: it's convertible!

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Spacer Molding

Panache Cari Bra
The Panache Cari bra is an example of a molded bra with flexible, spacer molding. Panache

Newer to the lingerie world, spacer molding is a quite different option than those offered by molded bras of the past. Spacer molding is actually a kind of breathable knit material. It has the same shape as other molded bras — when you lay it down, the cups stay up — but is much more flexible and breathable. Think of spacer molding as a mini knit sandwich — a thin layer of material on the top and bottom sandwiches a very fine knit. This creates space in between the layers, and also a "springy" feeling when you press down on the material. It's soft, malleable material is usually referred to as a more natural looking option than stiff, very firm contour or molded bras.

Spacer molding is great for women who prefer or need a more breathable material than thick molded cups. The weave of the knit allows more airflow. If you are going through menopause, live in a hot climate, or suffer from heat sensitivity, this is a great option for you.

In addition to the breathability, spacer molding is also more flexible than other molded bras. This is especially helpful for women whose bust may not match up perfectly with a molded bra. The flexible bra will still form your bust to its shape, but can also give a little and form to your shape. This happy medium makes a lot of women very happy. If you've ever struggled to fill up the top of a firm molded bra, or spilled out the top, this kind of bra material can help. Of course, you should also make sure that the spillage or gapping isn't caused by wearing the wrong size first, then move on to style.

The Panache "Cari" bra is a great example of a spacer molded bra.

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Other Kinds of Molded Bras

Le Mystere Sophia Bra
The "Sophia" bra by Le Mystere is an example of a lace, molded bra. Le Mystere

Strapless: Molded cups are popular for strapless bras because the cups maintain their shape without the help of a strap. While it's not necessary to have a molded cup strapless bra, they have been the most popular fashion choice among bra wearers in recent history. Le Mystere makes great molded strapless bras.

Nursing: Molded cups are a recent development for nursing bras. Nursing moms crave the shape provided by molding, and need the functionality of the nursing clips and sling. If a nursing bra is too thick or molded, folding it down over and over again to allow the baby to get to the breast can invert and ruin the cup. A molding with a bit more flexibility is more desirable. Cake Lingerie offers several molded nursing bra styles.

Sports: Molded sports bras provide the same shapely function as everyday molded bras. In addition, they can often eliminate the "uniboob" look that often comes from a stretchy cup, non molded sports bra. Freya provides molded sports bras for fuller busts.

Lace: Can a lace bra be a molded bra? You bet! While a true lace bra, which is made of just lace and other bra components, will not be molded, there is another option: a molded bra with a lace overlay. This popular option combines the beautiful aesthetic of a lace bra with the shape and contour of a molded bra. The Le Mystere Sophia Bra is a popular lace, molded bra option.