AKA: demi-cup, shelf bra, half bra, balconette bra

How to say it: demi-brah

Traditional Features:


  • cup covers half to 3/4 of the breast
  • wide set straps
  • top seam sits 1 inch above the nipple
  • shorter underwire than full coverage bras
  • slight tilt to cups to push breasts together







Origins of the style: The actual history of the demi-bra is a little hard to pin down. Bras with lesser coverage in the cups were apparently worn by women around the world in the early 20th century; these bras had very cut-away cups that left part or all of the nipple exposed, thus providing support to under the bust but not much else. The revealing cup styles evolved to become more conservative and in 1938 the balconette bra was introduced in the United States, although it is unclear who is responsible for the design. This style is most likely the ancestor of the modern day demi-bra as it covered 3/4 of the bust and featured the wide-set straps that are indicative of the style today.

The demi/balconette style didn’t become popular until the 1950s when it was modeled by Marilyn Monroe, but since then it has remained a staple in womens wardrobe as it can be worn under lower cut necklines, can be made from a wide variety of materials and has a sexier look to it than fuller cup styles.

Some sources claim that the balconette and the demi-bra are the same thing, while others state that the demi covers more of the breast than the balconette and unfortunately there doesn’t seem to be a definitive answer as to which description is correct. Many 21st century lingerie manufacturers use the two terms interchangeably, and while some do make a differentiation between the two, there is no standardization of style categories which has lead to a blurring of the true features of a demi-bra and a lack of differentiation between it and other styles.

Despite this lack of differentiation, there is no denying the popularity of the demi-bra in the 21st century. It is a versatile and flattering style which will no doubt remain a firm favourite among modern women for many years to come.

Origins of the name: One theory is that the name demi-bra came from the fact that the cup shape resembled a dessert demitasse cup. Another theory is that it comes from the French demi meaning ‘half’, as the cup of the demi-bra was a half-cup.

Demi-bras in the modern marketplace

The demi-bra is a perfect shape for the ubiquitous t-shirt bra, but is also a great canvas for detailing and decoration, which means there is a huge variety of demi-bras on the modern marketplace. As with a lot of lingerie in the 21st century, the style is available in a huge range of colours, sizes and price points and can be bought with or without padding for extra cleavage.


I got my information from: The Bra Doctors Blog, Quora, Wikipedia, AdoreMe,  and the  Fairchild’s Dictionary of Fashion


Can’t find the term you are looking for? Let me know in the comments and I’ll add it to my list!

2 thoughts on “Demi-Bra

    1. Hi Bari,

      Thanks for the link! It is a great explanation of the different bra styles

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