What is a Shelf Bra: All You Need to Know [2023]

One of the bra types over which there are many questions is the shelf bra. Many women have heard, but aren’t quite sure about it.

That’s why in this article we discuss what is a shelf bra, what’s its purpose, how to wear it, what is specifically a built-in shelf bra, as well as what are some good shelf bra options on the market.

Let’s dive in!

What is a Shelf Bra?

A shelf bra is a type of bra designed to support the lower parts of the breasts, lifting them up from the bottom. They’re only quarter cup, which makes them one of the bra types with the least coverage. In fact, shelf bras generally don’t (or barely) cover the nipples, as well as the upper part of the breasts.

This type of bra is usually regarded as visually attractive and fashionable. When it comes to functionality, they still provide both lift and support. Since they’re very revealing, they can be a good option with low-cut outfits. They can also be a great choice with tank tops, halter tops, and off-the-shoulder tops.

Shelf bras make the breasts appear fuller, thus enhancing their look. In addition, they’re also pretty comfortable. Shelf bras (sometimes also called open bras or cupless bras) can be a great choice mainly both for smaller and larger-chested women.

When we talk about shelf bras, it’s important to make a distinction between two different types. One is the standalone, platform shelf bra, as described here. The other is a built-in shelf bra, which we’ll talk about below.

What is a shelf bra
A shelf bra

Although many women love shelf bras, the reality is that they may not be for everyone. This is because the support that the shelf bra provides may not be enough for some. After all, this type of bra is essentially a thick elastic band that provides bottom support.

It’s perfect as lingerie, but if support is the crucial thing for you, you may look at other options. The closest thing to a shelf bra that provides more support is the demi bra, whose cups offer more coverage and support compared to the shelf bra.

What Are Shelf Bras Good For?

Shelf bras are great to avoid gaping up top. Usually, the first suggestion for women who experience gaping with some types of bras is to try a balconette or a demi bra. Due to their shorter cups, these two types are generally the first idea to avoid gaping.

However, if you’re experiencing gaping even with a balconette or a demi bra, a shelf bra is definitely something you can try. It will eliminate gaping issues, and will provide you with great bottom support.

When you’re going to wear shelf bras is completely up to you. Most women don’t wear the shelf bra as an everyday option, especially in the workplace. For them, a shelf bra is mostly ideal for more intimate encounters.

Some are too self-conscious to wear them, since they don’t cover the nipples.

However, many women like this type of bra even for everyday wear. This is especially true in hot climates, when a shelf bra is a great option. But even in normal weather, many people like the look that a shelf bra provides.

In a nutshell, you can wear a shelf bra:

  • Under everyday clothes – if you don’t mind that your nipples aren’t covered, this is a solid option
  • When you want to look your best – low-cut outfits, tank tops, halter tops, and so on
  • For intimate encounters – needless to talk about, shelf bras are among the sexiest types of bras.

What Is a Built in Shelf Bra?

Generally, when we discuss shelf bras in this article, we think of the standard, standalone shelf bra. But, there are certain clothing pieces that have a shelf bra built into them. That way, you don’t have to wear a regular bra underneath them.

Clothing articles that sometimes come with a built-in shelf bra are camisoles, tank tops, tankinis, and swimming suits. Tops with built-in shelf bras provide enough coverage, so you don’t have to wear a bra underneath them.

Built in bras are essentially an extra layer of fabric attached to a clothing garment. With camisoles and tank tops, the elastic band replaces the underwire usually found in underwire bras.

These types of bras are very convenient, since you don’t have to wear both a top and a bra. Instead, you get both into a single package.

Another advantage is that you don’t have to worry about bra straps being visible underneath your top, since the bra is built-in into the garment.

On the other hand, a disadvantage may be the lack of support. If you’re small-chested, than the support of a built-in bra should be enough. But, larger-chested women may need more support than the built-in bra can offer.

What Is a Shelf Bra in a Swimsuit?

A shelf bra can be found in swimsuits too. This feature can be extremely useful, especially for larger-chested women. The reason for this is that the shelf bra provides support to the breasts in the swimsuit, when otherwise they would be braless.

And if you don’t want people to see that you’re wearing a swimsuit with a built-in shelf bra, there’s nothing to worry about. The shelf bra in a swimsuit is generally invisible. It’s simply sewn into the inside of the swimsuit, without being visible on the outside.

How To Wear a Shelf Bra?

How to wear a shelf bra is a common question people have. The good news is that there’s really nothing complicated with shelf bras.

If you’re wearing a standalone shelf bra, you essentially put it on just like any other bra.

Wearing a built-in shelf bra is just as simple. Basically, you put on the camisole or tank top just like any other clothing piece. The only additional step is that you need to adjust the breasts to sit inside the built-in cups.


A mysterious and often misunderstood type of bra is the shelf bra. So, here we discussed what is a shelf bra, what it’s good for, and how to wear it.


What Is the Point of a Shelf Bra?

The point of a shelf bra is to lift your breasts from below and provide support to their lower parts. This type of bra is pretty revealing, making it ideal for when you want to look as sexy as possible.

What Is a Shelf Bra in a Camisole?

A shelf bra in a camisole is essentially a camisole that has an extra layer of fabric and an elastic band sewn in. This fabric acts as a shelf bra, providing you with support without wearing a regular bra underneath.

Why Would You Wear a Shelf Bra?

There are many reasons why you would wear a shelf bra, such as due to the fact that it’s one of the sexiest bra types, making it ideal for any intimate encounters. Shelf bras are also great with low cut outfits, since they’re pretty revealing. Another advantage is that with this bra you can avoid gaping up top.

What Is a Shelf Bra in a Tank Top?

A shelf bra in a tank top is essentially a tank top that has an extra layer of fabric and an elastic band sewn in. This fabric acts as a shelf bra, providing you with support without wearing a regular bra underneath. The built-in shelf bra is convenient and a great way to avoid your bra straps showing underneath your clothes.