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Cheap Bras Buying Guide

No single bra type fits all women and all occasions -- Redbook magazine reports that women own an average of nine bras -- so we researched many different types of cheap bras to come up with our recommendations. These included standard or everyday bras, push-up bras, strapless bras, and sports bras.

Within these four main bra types, there are demi bras that cover the lower half of the breast, full coverage bras that contain the entire breast, minimizer bras that reduce the bust line to create a slimming look, plunge bras for wearing underneath low-cut shirts, padded bras that add a little extra to your natural bust, seamless bras for a smooth look underneath clothes, underwire bras for added support, wireless bras for added comfort, and countless combinations of the above.

Our top everyday bra is the Barely There Invisible Look Underwire (starting at $18). This standard bra offers full coverage; seamless, lightly padded cups; and a plunge neckline that dips low in the middle. The best cheap push-up bra we found, the Maidenform The Dream Bra Push-Up Bra (starting at $24), uses graduated padding to create more cleavage. In the strapless category, our top choice is the Lilyette Tailored Strapless Minimizer Bra (starting at $17). It's convertible, so you can wear it with straps or without, and it helps give full-figured women a smaller silhouette. Our favorite sports bra, the Moving Comfort Fiona (starting at $24), features molded, seamless cups; wide, adjustable straps; and a thick band secured with three hook closures.

The Playtex 18-Hour Original Comfort Strap (starting at $17) is a good cheap comfort bra, offering wireless support, a higher neckline, and supportive cups with no padding. One cheap bra that didn't make our cut is the Elita Les Essentiels Crossover Cami (starting at $16). There's no way to adjust either the straps or the back band, and numerous women complain about the overall fit. Consumers also aren't impressed with the fit of the Carnival Seamless Push-Up Bra (starting at $17), and several say the underwire pops out the side.

Various experts estimate that anywhere from 70 percent to 85 percent of women wear the wrong size bra, which undoubtedly accounts for some of the complaints about fit. When you try on a cheap bra, make sure the band lies flat and doesn't ride up in the back, the cups contain your breasts, and any underwire doesn't dig in. Likewise, the straps shouldn't cut into your shoulders. If they do, you're probably relying on them too much to provide support; that's supposed to be the role of the band. The fabric on the best cheap bras is typically a combination of stretchy spandex or Lycra and soft yet supportive polyester or nylon.

In a field of dozens of lingerie manufacturers, the top bra brands include Bali, Playtex, Maidenform, Olga, Lilyette, and Jockey, a few of which appear on our list. Victoria's Secret owns more than a third of the intimate apparel market, according to one analyst, but almost all its bras start at $30 or more.

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