The Difference Between an Underwire, Shelf Bra and Moulded Cups

Swimsuits with bust support are among our most sought after swimwear styles. Whether you want lift and support or you simply need room to accommodate a fuller bust, there a several designs you can choose from to suit your individual needs. 

Knowing what styles are available and how they can work for you, will help make shopping for your next swimsuit a more successful experience. Here, we break down the different design elements used to create supportive swimwear, and who they will work best for. 

Depending on your preferences, you can choose the level of support you need from a soft moulded cup to a built-in underwire bra sized specifically for your individual cup sizes. At Curvy Swimwear we offer bust support in all our bikinis, tankinis, one pieces and swim dresses. 

Woman with short brown hair poses by the pool wearing Calypso shirred one piece swimsuits

Bust Support Options

Read on to learn all about our different bust support options or click here to jump straight to the one you're interested in. 

Underwire Bra 

An underwire bra has a thin rigid piece of metal, plastic or resin sewn into the underside of the cup of the bra. The purpose of the underwire is to provide additional support for the breasts. Underwire provides shaping and support, pushing the volume of the breast in an upwards and out direction.

Underwire swimsuits offer the most support for your bust. Underwires help to lift your breasts so they sit where you want them to with limited movement. They help to create a more defined silhouette by lifting the breasts upwards so you can see your waistline. Separating the bust from the mid section defines the waist to show off your curves in the most flattering way. 

If you are looking for an underwire in your bathers, head to our underwire swimwear section for bikinis, tankinis, one piece swimsuits and swim dresses. 



Honey Comb Underwire Turquoise Tankini


Underwire Swimwear Styles

Each season we release new colours and prints in underwire tankini tops, one pieces, and bikini tops. The Capriosca Swimwear underwire swimsuits offer exceptional support with the addition of adjustable straps to help you achieve your desired fit. Once you've found your size in these fabulous swimsuits, you can treat yourself to new prints each season. 

Shopping for an underwire swimsuit is easy. Simply follow your bra size to find the perfect fit. For example. If you wear a 20F bra, find a style that is available in size 20 with an F/G cup fitting. This will ensure you achieve the perfect fit through your back with room for your bust.

Swim Bras

If you love one of our one piece or tankini styles without underwire but need that lift and support, try wearing one of our swim bras underneath. These fabulous bikini tops come in specific sizing similar to a bra, so you can find your perfect fit. 

The black underwire bikini top from Capriosca Swimwear is a fabulous style of swim bra that you can wear under any swimsuit for extra support. Choose your size from 10D/DD to 22G, and everything in between. 

Every woman has different needs and sometimes you need to make adjustments. Adding extra bust support with an additional piece offers you the support you need in the style you want. Getting creative to make a style work for you is absolutely fine. If you are comfortable and feel fabulous, making adjustments to achieve your desired look is a great idea.


3 women wear different styles of underwire swimwear - bikini top, one piece and tankini top


Underwire support is available in bikini tops, one pieces, and tankini tops.

Soft Cup Bra

Many of our popular underwire styles, such as the Honey Comb collection, are not padded, but rather a soft cup bra style. So, what is a soft cup bra in a swimsuit? A soft cup is an unstructured cup free from padding, often with underwire for support.

Apart from our underwire bikini tops, all of our underwire styles are either soft cup or come with removeable breast pads, giving you the option for light padding or a completely soft cup bra. 

These swimsuits are ideal for women who prefer not to have padding in their bra. They offer a more natural look while still supporting the bust. If you're concerned about nipple exposure, choose a soft cup in a pretty print. The combination of a pattern and ruching across the cups will ensure your nipples stay out of sight.

Woman with short brown hair wears Navy Floral underwire one piece, Woman with red hair wears Retro Floral underwire tankini top with blue bikini bottoms

Soft cup bra swimwear features underwire support with removable breast pads.

Shelf Bra 

A shelf bra is a type of bra that supports the lower part of the breasts, equipped with an elastic band at the base to lift breasts up. Shelf bras are also known as ‘built-in bras’ and can be commonly found in camisoles, tank tops, and swimwear of course. We feature this support style in many of our swimsuits including our best selling 3 tier ruffle tankini and one piece swimsuits. 

Coral Bloom Shelf Bra


While this style is perfect for smaller busts, it is also great for larger cup sizes. Because the fit is not restricted to a specific cup size with an underwire, the swimsuits are able to accommodate a fuller bust with comfort and support. The inclusion of adjustable straps helps to increase your desired support and lift. 

Woman with short brown hair wears Bora Bora White floral 3 tier tankini top. Woman with slicked back short brown hair wears Calypso blue V neck one piece swimsuit

Shelf Bras offer a multifit option for comfort and support.

Moulded Cup 

We include moulded cups in many of our swimsuits to create a natural, rounded shape with a smooth, seamless finish. The lightly padded cups also provide coverage for the nipples. Moulded cup bras are commonly found in sport bra styles, nursing bras and t-shirt bras where push up and substantial padding aren't required. 

Moulded cups can either be removable or sewn in depending on the style. Our 3 tier, zip up and bandeau styles all feature sewn in moulded cups to give shape to these unique styles. Styles that include removable cups are appropriate for post mastectomy women who can insert their own prosthetics and padding. Many of our underwire styles include this design feature. 


3 women wear different styles of swimsuits with moulded cups.

Moulded cups in a swimsuit offer shape and coverage for the bust. 

Please read through our website product descriptions to find out more details as to what is the best choice for you. Each of our swimsuits offer a lengthy description to assist you in making a good choice.

For more advice on swimwear for curves, read our blog on plus size separates

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