The Difference Between an Underwire, Shelf Bra and Moulded Cups

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Ever wonder what the difference is between all the different bust support options available? We’re here to make it easy for you by explaining all the different options available. 

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. 

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. 

Plum Honey Comb Underwire Bikini Top and High Waisted Pant

Underwire Bra 

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. 

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. 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


Our Honey Comb collection is a classic range of supportive underwire tankini tops and one pieces available in DD/E and F/G fittings. 

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. 

Navy and White Dot Bandeau Bikini Top

Navy and White Dots Bandeau Bikini Top

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, offering a more natural look while still supporting the bust. 

Turquoise Honey Comb Underwire One Piece

Turquoise Honey Comb Underwire One Piece

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. 

Leopard 3 Tier Tankini Top and Black High Waisted Pant

Leopard 3 Tier Tankini Top and Black High Waisted Pant

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. 


Turquoise Snake Long Sleeve Zip Up One Piece

Turquoise Snake Long Sleeve Zip Up One Piece

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.

1 comment

  • Mary Pryce

    I have an old, favourite swimsuit which has a proper concealed underwire bra that does up at the back, but is covered by the swimsuit. It is the best and most supportive swimsuit I’ve had but is no longer available and I have not been able to track down anything similar i.e. It is like wearing a real bra!
    Can you please advise whether you could copy this swimsuit if I mailed it to you? Don’t care about the fabric/colour but I just want something that fits! Can email you photos if needed.
    Swimsuit is a 12E.
    Thanks in advance for your help/advice.
    Mary Pryce

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