Many women come to my shop in a bra that is so “dead” that I tell her: “You’re not leaving here in that dead bra. Throw it away right here and now and wear a new bra home!” To me, it’s obvious when a bra has expired. Many women, however, don’t have a clue! They’re walking around in bras that should have been replaced months or even years ago and don’t even know it. There’s no point in keeping a dead bra. Your bra has a job to do, and once it’s dead, it can’t do it.
Many women ask me “How long do bras really last?”. The answer: it depends. And it depends on quite a few factors. Just like “how often should I get refit“, I do not have a one part answer. And before you know how often you should replace your bras, it’s important to know for yourself what qualifies a bra as “dead”. So, here’s my very best advice on how long bras should last, how to help them last longer, and how to know when it’s time to say goodbye.
When to say goodbye: A bra is not a Mercedes. It won‘t last for years. Slightly worn bras that just don’t fit anymore can be donated, but dead bras should be thrown away. Here are some signs that your bra has to go:
- When you have to wear your bra on the tightest hook and it’s still roaming around or riding up your back
- When the elastic is so stretched out that it doesn’t bounce back anymore
- When it’s covered in stains or splotches
- When your band or cup has holes in it
- When your body has changed and you need a new size
- When molded cups have lost their shape
- When wires poke through the cup or break
- When the hooks are broken or ripped out
- When your bust is drooping and your bra no longer does its job
What factors affect a bra’s lifetime? My typical answer for a bra’s lifetime is 6-9 months. But wait a minute! There are a lot of factors that go into this. Some things help bras last longer, and some will kill them faster.
- Number of bras: I tell women to have at least 3-5 good basic bras to rotate. Think about it, if you wear just three bras everyday for a year, you’ll wear each bra an average of 121 times that year. Yikes! Add just two bras to your wardrobe and now you’ll only wear each bra about 73 times a year. That will really help cut down on wear and tear! The more bras you own, the less often you’ll have to wear them and the longer they’ll last.
- Cup size: Full busts are always welcome at Linda’s! I carry bras up to N cup. However, I have to tell them the truth when it comes to wear and tear. Their bras just won’t last as long. Think about it – an itty bitty A cup’s bra has an important job to do, but it just isn’t working as hard. A woman who wears an H cup, on the other hand, is really making her bra work! It’s only logical that the H cup’s bra will have to be replaced sooner than the A cup’s bra. A hard truth, but important to realize.
- Nursing: Nursing moms have a lot of new things to get used to. One is replacing bras more often. Your cup is going to be bigger than before, making your bra work harder. Additionally, breasts full of milk are much heavier than normal breast tissue. Add that to constantly pulling the cup up and down to feed and a fluctuating size and replacements may be due more often while nursing.
- Quality: Just like clothes, some bras are made better than others. We all love those super chic lacy styles with thin straps and sheer tulle, but those bras may not last as long. Also, some brands are just not made well. Even popular brands! A higher price doesn’t always mean better quality, but sometimes it does. I try my best to stock quality bras at a reasonable price point.
- Washing: Washing or drying your bras in the machine is the #1 way to kill them. Bra murder! Using harsh soap will also cause the elastic to become brittle which will stretch out the band even faster than usual.
- Doing the Flip: There is a wrong and right way to put on your bra. Women who do the “flip” will ruin their bras. This means that she puts the bra against her body, upside down and hooks the bra in front. Then she rotates the bra around so that the crushed cups are in the front and flips the bra up to meet her bust. This will cause the wire to poke out, dents the cups, and stretches out the band. Yikes.
- Basic versus Special Occasion: Let’s face it, that lace number that only comes out for your birthday and Valentine’s day is going to last a lot longer than that nude basic molded bra you wear to work almost everyday. Special occasion or specialty bras will always last longer than your “work horse” basics. Don’t expect your basic bra to live as long as that specialty bra if you wear it more often.
How to help bras last longer: All is not lost. You don’t have to think of bras as totally disposable! Want your bras to last more than 6-9 months? Here are a few ways to help them last longer.
- Have more to rotate: Especially your basic bras that you wear more often. I say 3-5, but that’s the minimum. Have a favorite bra? Buy two or more of that one so you’re not tempted to reach for the same one everyday. Also, if you have a full bust or are nursing, do your bras a favor and stock up on even more to rotate.
- Don’t wear the same bra two days in a row: Just like a hardworking woman, the elastic on your bra needs a break. It’s under a lot of stress while it’s stretching around your body and hugging you all day. Giving your bras a day of rest will help the elastic relax and last longer.
- Wash them properly: So important! Never use regular detergent, and I caution you not to use most “delicate washes” (don’t want to name names here, but there’s one that has a terrible reputation in the bra biz). I recommend LeBlanc, or other soaps made specifically for lace, lingerie, or hosiery. Avoid petroleum based washes. Hand wash, air dry – always. Women ask “well, can’t I just throw them in the washer?” I say “You sure can! But it’s your money. It’s up to you how long you want your bras to last”. Listen, I could sit here and tell you to wash them in the washer so your bras will wear out and you’ll have to buy more from me. Not my style. I want to make sure that you love your bras and that they last for you!
- Invest in quality bras: Again, I don’t want to name names, but there’s a very popular bra company out there that is just not made well. You know you have run into a dud when you wear and wash them just a few times and it’s already stretched out. A good bra, if taken care of properly, will take much longer to stretch out. Look for sturdy elastic, reliable stitching and trustworthy material.
- Put your bra on properly: The ideal way is to put your straps on first, then lean over and place your breast tissue inside the cups. Next, hook the back of the bra behind you (It’s doable -I promise). Then adjust the cups and your breast tissue slightly so that you’re all in place. If you have to turn the bra around to hook it, it’s ok. Just be sure to start with the cups “up” and not crushed against your body so you won’t have to flip. No flipping, no crushing, no extra stress on your bra.
Every few months, check on your bra inventory. If your favorite bras are worn out and you just need to replace them, call up my Bra Divas and they can help. Or, take the opportunity to try something new! Don’t suffer in an uncomfortable, dead bra. Take good care of your bras and replace them when they have expired. Having a drawer full of ready-to-wear bras will make getting dressed and looking your best so easy!