What Are Bra Inserts And Who Are They For?


Have you ever thrown a bikini top in the wash and then noticed a little cloth insert inside that got twisted around? If you take that insert out, it’s usually a piece of foam that is molded to the size and shape of a breast, providing coverage and support to the bust. This is the basic idea behind bra inserts –– these are helpful tools that can make any bra or top more comfortable and practical.

Bra inserts are worn by a variety of people for a variety of reasons. It can be for aesthetic purposes but also for reasons that are purely practical or comfort-based. From trans women to breast cancer survivors to those who want some added lift or evenness, bra inserts can really come in handy.

Still want more of an explanation? In that case, let’s get into it! 

Bra Inserts: What Are They?

Bra inserts are, simply put, just what they sound like. They are separate cups that can be placed inside a bra to add padding, shape, or lift. Bra inserts can be made of different materials and come in different shapes and colors.

Bra inserts can be made of different materials. However, those made of foam are common because they are easily washed, lightweight, and chlorine and sweat-resistant. While a lot of bra inserts are relatively thin and modest, meant more for coverage and shaping, others can feature extra cushioning for a push-up effect.

The History of Bras

If we look back at the history of brassieres, it’s an up and down roller coaster of supporting, augmenting, modifying, and embracing the natural curve of the bust. In the 1920s, flattening bandeau bras were all the rage.

It was around this time that the cup system was invented (though it’s debated by whom). The next decade saw the rise of padded cups, eventually leading to what we know today as the extremely shaped “bullet bra” style.

We’ve come a long way since then, particularly in terms of choice. Unlike in previous decades, there isn’t necessarily one style of bra that dominates the industry.

What is exciting about undergarments today is the freedom to change and adapt them to personal tastes, needs, and comfort. Bra inserts are a part of that evolution, providing shape and support that can be as easily added as taken away by the wearer.

The Who and Why: What Are Reasons Why Someone Might Wear Bra Inserts?

People Who Have Had Partial or Full Mastectomies

Bra inserts can be a great tool for those who have undergone a mastectomy –– surgery to remove one or both breasts. This is often a treatment for those diagnosed with breast cancer. There are different types of mastectomies that can all affect the breast tissue and surrounding area differently.

Some people may choose to have breast reconstruction surgery or not wear a bra, while others may use specialized bras or bra inserts to support one breast or give the appearance of a full bust. For those who have had only one breast removed, bra inserts are useful because you can fill out one side without adding to the other.

Many people who have undergone partial mastectomies wish to find a bra that supports only one side of their chest. One such undergarment that those who have had unilateral mastectomies can use is a Holdster Bra. This bra has been specifically designed to deliver unilateral support; it can be reversed to support whichever side the remaining breast is on.   

Gender Affirmation

Not all transfeminine people want to increase their bust size; however, for some, doing so can help feelings of gender dysphoria and help build their confidence. Because more invasive methods like breast implants can be costly and complicated, there are plenty of alternative ways to boost the look of the bust. This can include certain types of clothing, make-up, a change in posture, and certain undergarments.

That’s where padded bras or bras with inserts come in. The great thing about bra inserts is that they can be taken out or replaced whenever you feel like it, so you have a lot of control over your look on a daily basis.

Augmenting Breast Size

For many, the use of foam bra inserts can be as simple as giving the breasts a bit of a boost. Single bra inserts aren’t the same as a push-up bra; they won’t add a ton of volume or heavy lift to the breasts. However, they will add some modest shape and can help fill out a bra, bralette, or sports bra for whatever reason you like.

Fashion and Filling Out Form

Even those who do not necessarily wish to change the appearance of their bust may want to fill out their bra a bit now and then. A big reason for this? Making an outfit work!

Sometimes a top fits everywhere but the bust –– in these instances, bra inserts can help add just a touch of fullness to make a shirt fit or fall better. With a bit of boob tape and maneuvering, you can even add cup inserts to a sheer top for some helpful chest coverage without having to obscure the look with a bra.

Extra Shape and Coverage

Bra inserts are handy to have for those of us who don’t often wear bras with molded cups. Bralettes, bikini tops, and cropped tanks are all light and comfortable alternatives to bras for those who need minimal support. However, these often feature sheer or stretchy fabric that can leave you feeling a bit exposed.

We all love rocking a bralette, but some days, a bit of extra support can be a great asset. Adding bra inserts to a bralette maintains the relaxed style while allowing you to feel a bit more covered and secure. It can also help give a bit of extra shaping and lift without the restricting feel of a padded bra.

What Do You Wear Bra Inserts With?

You can wear bra inserts with a variety of different tops and undergarments. It all comes down to what you’re comfortable with –– and also how creative you can get. There are plenty of adaptable bras, bralettes, and sports bras that feature interior pockets for cup inserts.

Even if you have a bralette that doesn’t feature interior pockets, you can still pop bra inserts between your skin and the fabric of the bralette for a bit of extra coverage. If you’re crafty, you can always use sewing skills to secure bra inserts into any top you want. You can add some quick and easy security with “boob tape,” which you can often find online or in drugstores.


When it comes down to it, there isn’t exactly an answer to the question, “Who can wear bra inserts?” The answer is: anybody can wear them! Whether you are trying to support what you have or create a bit of extra shape where you want it, bra inserts are a tool that anybody can use in their day-to-day life.

Not only that, but they can also be worn with pretty much anything. With a few fine adjustments, any top or bralette can benefit from the practical simplicity of a cup insert. You can even add them to a bikini or swimsuit for some extra coverage –– the options are endless!


What is a Mastectomy? | American Cancer Society

7 Things to Know About Transitioning, Hormones, and Breast Growth | Healthline

Evolution of the Bra - Historical Pictures of the Brassiere | Good Housekeeping