Support The Girls - Breasts, Bras and Bounce

Support The Girls - Breasts, Bras and Bounce

May 25th is the annual Pink Ribbon Breakfast Fundraiser for the Breast Cancer Foundation in New Zealand. At our ballet school we will be inviting dancers to wear PINK to class throughout the week and providing the opportunity to make a donation via our fundraising page. We started this last year and it was very successful.

Anyone can host a fundraiser – it doesn't have to be a breakfast! Hundreds of morning teas, lunches, evening events and much more happen around the country every year. While many people will be hosting on Pink Ribbon Breakfast Day, Thursday 25 May, events can take place any time in May. Here is the link to the website if you fancy hosting your own Pink Ribbon event

In honour of breasts and breast health, this blog is tackling the sometimes tricky subject of Ballet Bounce. For all those ladies with small well-behaved bosoms, no need to read any further! But for those of us with a bust, The Girls can cause a bit of angst in the studio! If you are a leotard wearer there’s the added issue of your bra almost certainly being visible, so your favourite old one (potentially greying) won’t really stand up to the scrutiny of the dancer behind you at the barre! Leotards tend to be designed for braless wear which isn’t generally a preferred option for many of us, and even when they claim to have built in shelf bras the support is probably not going to be adequate once the jumps begin.

Before we get into bras, there is a lot to say about breasts in general. Firstly, no two are the same! Every breast is individual and they come in all shapes and sizes, from pert little cones to luscious teardops, and needless to say they are all beautiful as well as being incredibly functional.

Not only are they all individual but they change over time. Breastfeeding, weight gain or loss, hormonal changes and aging all impact on shape and size so the breasts you have today won’t be the ones you have forever! Most of us will remember our first bra - possibly with joy or shame, depending on the circumstances. Big boobs at a young age inevitably draw attention and not in a good way. But flat chests can also be the source of teasing and self-consciousness. The attention given to breasts in our society is unbelievable. People, especially of the male variety, seem to find them eternally fascinating!

Considering that half the worlds population have them, and that many of the other half who don’t were likely raised suckling on them, breasts remain something of a taboo, even in this day and age. Even more shocking is the nipple. Padded bras and moulded cup bras are popular not just for support but to smooth out those provocative nipples.

Breasts and bras played a central role in the feminist movement. In the 1960’s bra-burning became an iconic symbol of the Civil Rights Movement, especially in America. Going braless was a message to men that women wanted to be able to make their own decisions, including, and maybe most importantly, about their bodies’, and be independent of a man’s authority. They wanted to better themselves and make meaningful contributions to not only their families, but to society as a whole. Staying home and raising the kids wasn’t enough, and freeing their breasts was a powerful symbol of personal freedom.

Nowadays it would be unusual in many countries for women to go to work sporting unfettered breasts and visible nipples. Bras hide and support breasts and they are big business. The variety of bras grows all the time and fashions change. In the 50’s and 60’s the Cross Your Heart style was popular, and remained firmly hidden beneath clothing.  Madonna brought the bra out from underwear to over wear and versions of that look are still around today. Some bras are made to be seen, others are designed to be invisible, these days anything and everything goes, with lingerie as outerwear one of the hottest spring runway trends in 2023.


So with all these bras in the world, what are our ballet choices?

First of all, do you even need one? And if you do, what sort of support do you need? Comfort and freedom to move are super important in a dance class. Investing in a couple of ballet bras will only add to the pleasure of going to class, feeling well supported and ready for action.

We have chosen 8 basic bra types to take a look at.

Leotard or top with a built in shelf bra

Leotards are by nature tight fitting, and they can be quite supportive enough on their own. Some have a built-in shelf bra which is really just an extra layer with an elastic band that goes under the breasts to add a bit more support. Camisole tops and other sports tops also come with built in shelf bras. If you can get away with just a leotard then the world is your oyster! You have a huge choice of styles which are designed to expose the beauty of a dancers back.


Classic Sports Bra

The obvious first choice for support is a classic sports bra. These come in various ‘strengths’ from yoga through to running -  horse riders can even buy special ‘No Bounce bras’. These bras have two typical styles, those with individual cups and others which are more of a ‘squash em flat’ approach which results in the ‘uniboob’ look. Sports bras are very effective and come in all sorts of fits – pull on, zip front, hooked back, racer back, thick straps etc. The only reason you might not want one for ballet could be that they are often quite ‘chunky’. Sports bras designed  for yoga are usually finer and often have attractive criss-cross backs which can look lovely under a leotard.  

Crop Top Bra

A relation of the Sports bra, crop tops have become a very popular bra alternative. They’re stretchy, comfortable and keep things in place. They’re often worn on their own for yoga and in the gym but for dancers they are also a good alternative underneath a top since the bare midriff has yet to become a ballet studio craze (unless you’re a pro dancer!). Some have racer back styles which keep straps from slipping and allow shoulders to move freely.


Bralettes were originally marketed at tweens and teens as a first bra but have since blossomed into a popular style for everyone. Sizes are generally of the S, M, L variety as their stretch and lack of structured cups means they can fit more body shapes. They give light support, have very few seams, no back fastening and often have removeable padded cups. Like crop tops, they often have a racer back. Bralettes are fun and easy to wear for those who only need light support.

Dancers Bra

These are skin tone, soft, light bras which usually have transparent or skin tone shoulder and back straps. They offer more support than a leotard alone and are designed for dance. The straps can’t really be seen to create a no-bra look under low backed leotards. They are made by dancewear manufacturers so the sizing is on the small side and probably only comfortable for smaller framed/boobed dancers.

Soft Cup ‘Everyday’ Bra

These are often marketed as Wire Free or T-Shirt bras and are designed to provide a smooth, seamfree outline under clothes. Some may have a ‘cross-your-heart’ style which Playtex used to claim ‘lifts and separates’ back in the day. Others have soft stretch cups which are thick enough to create a smooth nipple-free zone. These bras are usually of a more generous cut around the side which reduces side and back bulges. They are comfortable and easy to care for and can come in all sorts of sizes and colours to fit most. 

Underwired ‘Everyday’ Bra



Underwires provide more support for The Girls and we probably all have a few in our undies drawer. Everyday underwired bras come in simple styles as well as fancy, lacey numbers. Many of the everyday ones are very light and have stretch cups, with or without padding. If you haven’t bought a new bra for a while, some of the underwired ones really are super comfortable, with technical fabrics to breathe and stretch and are very suitable for adult ballet.

If straps have a tendency to slip down, a simple clip can be purchased from any lingerie store to hold them together at the back. 

Strapless Bra

Usually thought of as being something you might wear with an evening dress, strapless bras can be an option for ballet. Some are little more than just a stretchy boob tube and could be worn under a leotard to just give that bit of extra support. Strapless bras also come with moulded cups usually with a variety of straps which can be used as a cross back, halter neck etc. If you’re not jumping around too much, strapless bras can be a good choice as they allow nice feeling of freedom for the arms.


Whichever bra you choose, its important that you have an up-to-date measurement of your Girls. If you haven’t been measured recently, its easy to do at home.

Even better is to go to a specialist bra shop or store where you can get a professional fitting and try on lots of different styles. If you want to wear it under your leotard, take your leotard with you. Bra fitting specialist have seen it all, so there’s no need to be shy! You may find a whole new style you hadn’t thought of before.

Whilst buying new bras you may also have a clean up of older ones which no longer fit or flatter. Instead of sending them to the landfill, there is the excellent Project Uplift which creates an easy pathway to recycle bras to our Pacific sisters in need. 

"In the Solomon Islands it is quite difficult to access a comfortable bra. Some of the second hand shops sell bras but mostly women have to buy their bras from the Chinese Trade Stores. These bras have some problems; they come in smaller sizes, are made of nylon and perish quickly in tropical conditions. You cannot buy maternity bras or mastectomy bras in country. For the women to be given free bras is an unbelievable experience for all of them. Women feel a tremendous obligation to meet the needs of their families, and so for any woman in the village to spend money buying a bra for herself can almost be seen as an unforgivable sin. The priority for women's spending is food and education needs of children."
— Rose Wale, 2012, Report of Bra Distribution, Solomon Islands.

There are loads of drop of / collection points and no bra is unwanted - even if they are well worn or scruffy the hook and eyes can be used to make bra extenders.

 Click on image to go to Project Uplift 

Finally, we can’t finish without a word about breast health. And this isn’t just for the ladies. Around 25 men are diagnosed with breast cancer each year, so make sure that the men in your life know all about it

For ladies, the best way to breast health are regular self checks and for over 45’s regular mammograms. In New Zealand you can have a free mammogram every two years if you’re an eligible woman aged 45 to 69 years, although the Government has announced they intend to progressively increase the age for free breast screening to 74. (The Government has committed to "progressively increasing" the upper limit to 74 and you can enrol when this age extension comes into effect.) Breast cancer is most treatable when it’s found early, so make sure you look after your Girls.

Thank you for reading our blog, we hope you and your Girls find something interesting and useful.

Happy bounce-free dancing







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