Saturday, May 28, 2016

Why My Bras Last a Really Long Time

I'm always faintly surprised at the rule of thumb holding that a bra should last around 6-12 months. Mine last a good 3 - 4 years. At least. The spendy & the cheap brands alike. Almost without exception. In fact, the only one I can think of that died in 6 months was an ill-fitting (but incredibly comfortable) Soma I wore 8 years ago, which was clearly a quality issue.

Otherwise, my bras last a really long time. By that, I mean that after 3 years they are still supportive, with no fraying or stretched-out fabric. And I have very rarely progressed beyond the middle hooks by that time. 

Why is this? Four reasons. Fairly equal in importance:  
  • How often I wash them:  After every wear

I'm in the minority here, but I very rarely wear a bra more than once before washing it. Why? Because pretty much any amount of sweat is going to start degrading delicate and elasticated fabrics. And if you also use body moisturizer cream, deodorant, and/or bath oil, that's going to really amplify the effects. 
  • How I wash them: In a machine  

I'm firmly a fan of machine washing my bras, and I get excellent results. I use the Delicate, double-rinse cycle in a front-load washer, and a tiny amount of HE detergent (for front-loaders; it's inherently low suds). Most importantly, I use mesh bra cages, like so:

There is an arched plastic half-hoop across this top. This is pretty much an underwire for your bras to wear - which I find amusing & fitting.

There is a full circular hoop around the bottom. So the bras' cup shape will not be distorted.

I can fit 2 seamed bras, or 1 foam bra, in each bag. I wash 4 or 5 bags at a time.

Then, I dry on a rack in winter, or, on our very occasional sunny days, outdoors on the line.

Which is today! 62F & sunny. It's so perfect out here.

       Though, like myself, Reilly the Sheltie prefers shade to the direct sun.

This gives me better results than hand-washing for a couple of reasons: I avoid the twisting and wringing that occurs even when using the 'roll up in a towel & blot' method - which, coincidentally, also manhandles the lace fabric with toweling fabric. And, I avoid the 2 days it would take a bra to dry, and possibly mildew, in my cool rainforest climate.

  • I don't wear too-tight bands

This is a biggie. Wearing ultra-tight (the exact measurement of your body, or even tighter) is going to result in your bands wearing out much faster. You're causing the band to stretch to maximum tension, while holding significant weight. And if your band is tight enough to spring the wires (bend them into a wider shape) then you're adding distortion to the wires and fabric, on top of stretching the band past the moderate stretch and recovery process it's designed for. 

If you enjoy ultra-tight bands, fair enough, it's a preference, but one trade-off is bras that wear out years before they otherwise would. But that may be a valid trade-off for tight band lovers in the same way that compromising on other fit elements, to achieve greater comfort, is worth the trade-off to me.

  • Rotation:  Not wearing a bra more than twice in one week   

I never wear the same bra more than once a week, and I never wear the same style two days in a row. That is more about my sensitive skin. I have learned that continually rotating wire shapes/heights, strap placement, band styles, and fabrics is key to preventing irritation, eczema and abrasions.

A bonus effect is that it contributes to the long life of my bras. You don't need a huge bra-drobe to do this, either. I have a consistent core of around 8 wired bras and 3 bralettes that I wear & wash week after week. The oldest bra is 4 years old; the newest, 2 months. (It's hard to tell the difference between the two visually, except the older bra is softer.) You could certainly do this with 1/2 that number of bras, if you don't mind doing laundry twice a week.

So that's my bra care system. It's low maintenance & practical, keeps my sensitive skin happy, fits my laid back lifestyle - and it works. 

Now, as soon as I pour a mimosa, I'm going back to watching my bras drying on the line in this rare sunshine. 

The mimosa-sipping secret garden location where I obsess on bra issues:



  1. What a gorgeous day you're having! Wonderful! And it's so interesting how you manage your bras for long wear. I didn't know about that bra cage - got to get one! And I do things quite differently than you in some instances, but I get good wear out of my bras too. I'm always amazed by how some people wear out a bra in 6 months. I've been known to wear one bra (Freya Phoebe) for 15 years now and I'll go through months of wearing it multiple times a week. It still fits well. I mean, it's starting to show its age a bit now. But I've worn it 1000 times, I'm sure.

    1. The good weather is so rare lately that the whole island practically lives outdoors on a sunny day. I hate to go inside, & I don't even care overly much for the sun! My big rhodies are barely beginning to bloom. I'm impressed that the same bra has fit for 15 years! I fluctuate in size too much to even approach your record, I'm afraid. But glad to hear I'm not alone in my bras' longevity. I think in the end I'm going to throw my Freya Jolies out, because they're not going to wear out. I'm still on the loosest hooks years later. And the Empreintes may well outlive me.

  2. The thing is - that bra is crazy magical. My size has changed 2 back sizes and 2 cup sizes since I've owned it. And yet it fits just as well in every size change?! It's like no other Freya they ever made. It's totally open on the top but it's got a lot of lower cup projection.

    1. I'm sad to have missed the Phoebe! I gave up on Freya once I went from a G to a GG and was upleasantly surprised by the total change in constuction that occurs in Freya GG+ and the really poor shape that results. In the very few rounded shapes they have in that size range, i.e., Marvel are so wide & shallow they are just not workable for me. But when I was a 36G, Freya was my go-to.