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4 Things to look for in a First Bra or Sports Bra for Teens and Tweens

Updated: Sep 20, 2022

The 4-step guide to choosing the first bra for your daughter. Support her development with confidence and positive self-esteem.

Moms, is your little girl not so little anymore?

Between the age of 8-13 years, adolescence begins and her body starts to go through changes that mark the beginning of the long journey to become a woman. It’s time to engage with her to talk about all the changes to come, especially the physical changes she can expect.

Self-image and self-esteem are a reflection of how she sees herself. Guiding her to a healthy body image is a vital foundation that you can support. Promoting physical activities and letting her make decisions about her style are some of the ways you can put this guidance into action. This foundation can promote self-confidence and encourage resilience that will prepare her for puberty and the physical, social and emotional challenges that can come.

Among the milestones, helping her select her first bra, traditionally called a starter bra or a training bra, is one of the ways you can support her through this phase. It doesn’t have to be difficult or embarrassing. Quite the opposite, selecting a first bra can be something to look forward to and can be fun and rewarding.

There is no need to start too young, rather when your girl has a need and is ready. In some markets like the US, there is public criticism about products being marketed for girls as young as 6-8 years old. Clearly at that age, there is no physical or developmental need for a bra. Where attractive marketing seems to be a trend only, parents should think very seriously about age-appropriate choices and their impacts. Girls need support in their developmental stages but what they don’t need is to grow-up too fast. So at what age is there a need and for what product?

In many cases, and unless cultural dress norms cater otherwise, girls may need a first bra as young as 13-14 years old. This means a bra product that is designed as a trainer and can be properly fitted and adjusted. Alternatives include a bralette or activewear undergarment that provides coverage and comfort, where support is not yet the need. Except for rare cases of early puberty and accelerated physical development there is no training or starter need younger than this.

But what about the demands of a more active girl? In pre-teen and "tween" years from as young as 8-9 and up to 13-14, a performance undergarment can support girls who pursue sports and activities like dance or martial arts. In these case, comfort, especially in hot and humid climates, can enhances participation and enjoyment. This is particularly the case for girls participating in school teams, extra curricular activities (ECA) or clubs, where the demands of competing and quick uniform changes are the norm.

If your girl is a tween or young teen, and is ready, to try her first bra, there are 4 things that moms need to look for.

1) Purpose - Understand her activities, lifestyle and needs

The purpose may be to boost her confidence, to allow her to make decisions and express her style, or a functional need to provide her comfort, support and coverage to go with the clothes she wears. Understanding her lifestyles and activities is the first step to selecting the right type of training bra.

Essential occasions in her life to consider, both in terms of the clothes she wears and the needs she may have for comfort, support or flexibility, include:

  1. Going to school and attending classes in uniform

  2. After school activities, especially physical activities that may demand durability, flexibility and considerations like stay-dry

  3. Weekends activities when her casual clothes may vary in cut and style

  4. Being comfortable at home around family and friends

  5. Occasional events or social activities where she may have a chance to dress up but the other kids and parents are less familiar

Her preference for activities (outdoor, indoor, active, passive), her school uniform and rules dictate what types of starter bra will truly support her.

2) Bra type - Select the bra type to fit her changing body

There are many styles of training bras to choose from but there is no need to stress about choice. This is the fun part where you and your daughter can do some research together.

Camisole top - A starting point to get comfortable. For younger girls, the full length camisole top can provide coverage that is not noticeable underneath clothes.

Bralette - A good training bralette will provide coverage but not suffocate her body and is fit for everyday use and a wide range of activities. The fabric is key to choosing her first bralette. Stretchy cotton with thin straps can be a great choice to maximize comfort for everyday use, especially where thicker coverage or support are not yet needed.

Sports bra - If your girl loves sports, a a garment designed specifically for pre-teens or tweens can be a great choice. But why not simply shop the smaller sizes of adult sports bras? The answer is simple but important: Adult sports bras have cup sizes that are unlikely to fit developing bodies, nor give the specific support necessary for budding breasts. A poor fit means poor comfort and and issues with appearance. The designs of adult sports bras, with heavier compression fabrics and stitching, possible cup pads or moulding, lower necklines or mature strap designs, may also simply look wrong for a young girl. They are designed for the heavier demands of active women, including intense gym work-outs, for example. To support your daughter’s active lifestyle, a good sport bra designed specifically for young teens is the best option. Consider flexible fabric with stay-dry features, enough coverage and have some fun with the designs.

Padded bra - once her breasts start to develop further, padded bras provide more coverage so she can feel confident in all situations. Be aware, structured padding may feel too stifling. Choose a light padded bra with soft stitching as a starter. Double layer material with a thin foam layer through the whole front coverage, may be enough for many girls.

3) Size - Getting the right fit

Buying her a bra without proper fitting may be a big mistake, especially if she is developing quickly or has greater need for support. Why not go shopping together with your daughter to avoid the mistake - and enjoy the bonding (and shopping) time!

Consider where to go - somewhere that caters for developing pre-teens and teens with knowledgeable service staff that can also help with a fitting. Let her try on the different types and sizes including getting a feel for the fabric quality and stretch, the feel of straps and any adjustable features. Try a few movements to get the best fit. You can also look for size-guides to get the perfect fit training bras.

4) Style - Expressing her personality and making her choices

It is not only the outer wear she chooses that can express her personality, her creativity and her developing style. Like it or not, she is not a small kid anymore who doesn't think twice about wearing what she is given. Choosing, or participating in choosing a bra, is a personal choice she can make. Many bras on the market limit choice - plain white that camouflage under outfits. That serves a functional purpose and appeals to parent sensibilities - after all, parents are responsible. But it's unlikely you think of your daughter as plain and it is unlikely she doesn't care for choice. Why not explore together how to select a product that is age-appropriate but a personal choice nonetheless? You can have fun with patterns and styles knowing that the coverage and the cut are designed specifically for her age. Variations on “plain” that have some style but still work under school uniforms, are an easy step. More colorful or creative patterns that can compliment her weekend wardrobe - colors under colors, dark under dark, white under white, straps that hide or that add some style under tees or activewear tops, are choices you can explore.

Try them on with her favorite tops or sports outfits to see how her first bras fit as an outfit. You may be surprised with her thoughtful sense of style and the choices she makes. Or you may just provide some gentle style guidance - and isn't that what being a mother to your daughter is all about?

For ideas on this topic, visit SMAX Active store online at :

Or visit the SMAX Active outlet to try on girls sports bras and bralettes at : SMAX Active Co., Ltd.

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