The Purpose of a Training Bra

Tween girls looking through gift bags

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A training bra is a bra intended for girls who are just beginning to experience breast development. Training bras became popular during the 1950s; before that time, girls simply wore undershirts until they developed breasts.

A training bra does not train the breasts. Rather, it provides a bit of camouflage, protection, and support for tender breast buds and nipples. It may also help girls adjust to wearing a bra. Training bras are also, for some girls, a rite of passage. By wearing a bra, a girl is essentially telling herself (and anyone who notices her undergarments) that she is on her way to becoming a woman.

A training bra is only appropriate for girls who have just begun to develop, or have very small breasts. Girls whose breasts have developed beyond the training bra stage should consider other types of bras, such as soft cup bras or underwire bras.

Are Training Bras Really Necessary?

Back in the 1950s, training bras were touted by doctors as being a way to prevent stretching and sagging of breast tissue. In fact, however, girls with just-developing breasts have so little breast tissue that support is unnecessary. On the other hand, training bras may be a psychological necessity or have some benefits in protecting sensitive budding breasts.

Some girls:

  • May develop breasts later than their peers and may want a training bra in order to provide the illusion of larger breasts (or simply to fit in).
  • Have unusually sensitive breast buds and may want a training bra to provide protection.
  • Have prominent nipples and may want a training bra to create a barrier between breast and shirt.
  • Wear clothing or take part in activities (such as dance, for example) that make a bra desirable.

Types of Training Bras

There is a wide range of training bras on the market, running the gamut from the frilly to the athletic. Training bras may be plain or printed with designs. Some are lacy and "girly," while others sport fun sayings or the names of favorite sports.

Training bras with padding add to a more mature look. Some girls (and parents) feel that padding is appropriate, while others may feel it is premature. Some training bra options include:

  • Racerback sports bras: Those intended for tweens are flat and unpadded and are generally pulled on over the head.
  • Bralettes: ​Small bras which are often feminine and lacy in style. They may be halter-style or have narrow straps. Most are pulled on rather than fastened.
  • Lined bras: A step between flat bras and padded bras. They may look more like a traditional bra but have very little support.
  • Clasp-back (or front) bras: Designed like a traditional bra with a clasp in back or front. They may be lined or unlined, padded or unpadded.

It's usually a good idea to try on bras in person until you find the perfect style, brand, and size. Bra sizes vary by manufacturer.

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3 Sources
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. The Met Museum. Brassiere ca. 1917.

  2. KidsHealth from Nemours. Breasts and bras.

  3. Brumberg JJ. The Body Project: An Intimate History of American Girls. Vintage Books; 1998.