Bras keep many of us sane, and if you’re a daily bra wearer, then you know how important this vital undergarment is. All women with breasts are not wearing bras of course, nor do we need to. But for a lot of us, they help provide a comfort that being bra-less doesn’t allow. And as much as bra lovers love this undergarment, unfortunately, they don't last us forever.
The life of a bra is about a year. If you’re taking the best of care of your bras, it could give you two years, but many undergarment experts recommend getting a new bra every year. Below are some tips to help you know when it’s time to get a new bra.
Bra Wire Peek-a-Boo
The under-wire helps form and create the shape of the bra, which holds everything in place. If you’ve ever worn an under-wire bra, then you know that after a while, the wire might fight its way through the fabric one day and poke your boob (ouch). Under-wire attacks were one of the reasons I avoided wearing under-wire bras for much of my pre-teen years and opted for sports bras instead. But even sports bras have their cons (keep reading).
This is the number one reason to ditch a bra because the wire can no longer stay in place. Once the wire pokes through the fabric, the bra is not going to function the way it should. Now that the wire has given up, the entire bra is not far behind. It also means that you have probably had this bra for a while, and it’s time for it to go.
Wear and Tear
Your bra is made of fabric. No fabric—cotton, polyester, or spandex—can withstand multiple washes, wearing, movement, and stretching. And this is no fault of yours—a bra has to be washed and worn. But once a bra shows pilling (little cotton balls), and the padding starts shifting, the bra is getting worn out. Which also means it's time to invest in a new bra.
Loss of Elasticity, Loose Straps = New bra
When your bra feels stretched out and not as fit as used to be, sack it! Once the band and straps start to loosen, or the back strap rides up, it means the elastic within your bra is losing its function. This varies with what type of bra it is as well. Sports bras lose their elasticity faster because you are more active in them. And when the straps no longer stay on your shoulders, it means you won’t have the full support a bra should provide. Your bra should not have a loose strap and a loose fit. And of course, make sure you don't tighten them so much that they make lines on your skin.
Weight gain or loss
Aside from usage, you might have to get a new bra if you lose or gain a significant amount of weight. You’ll know this depending on the band and cup size. If you see a decrease or increase in your weight, you will need to get a new bra to accommodate your body changing. And to be clear, sometimes you might need just to get a bra with a new cup size up or band size—or both.
For example, if you are a 36DD and your breasts got bigger, but your band size is still the same at 36, you only need to go up a cup size to 36DDD. Similarly, if you lost weight and your cup size stayed the same, but your band size changed, you would go down a size to 34DD. As your weight changes, so should your bra.
Many women joke that taking their bra off at the end of a long day feels like taking the weight of the world off their shoulders. While that’s funny, if you can’t wait to get home to take your bra off then perhaps it’s not comfortable. Your bra should not be so tight (or too loose) that you can’t wait to take it off. An estimated 80% of women are wearing the wrong bra size, and that speaks to what we’re still getting wrong about the popular undergarment. Your bra should not be uncomfortable.
Your best solution to this is to get fitted for bras at a lingerie or department store. A bra-fitting specialist there will match you with the best-fitting bra. Or you can measure yourself at home. Self-measuring just requires you to measure around the fullest part of your chest and measuring your bust (under your breast). Using a measuring tape, measure your band size by placing the tape under your breast (over your rib cage), keeping it snug but not tight. Then add 4” to your measurement if it's an even number, or 5” if it's odd. For cup size, measure around the fullest part of your chest, keeping the tape straight across your back.
The cup size number minus the number you got for your band size determines the letter. If the difference was 1,” your cup is A, and if it's 2,” it's B and so on. For example, if you measure a 33” band, add 5” and you get 38 — this is your bra number. And if your bust number is 41, subtract, and it's 3-inch difference. The size is 38C.
Remember that correct size doesn’t mean comfortable—style plays a huge role. If sports bras are more comfortable for you than underwire, you should wear them instead.
If a stain appears and causes the color of your bra to permanently change, it’s a sign that you had the bra for some time now. Or it could also mean that the delicate washing recommended for it just isn’t getting those tough stains. This is typically visible on white, or other light-colored bras, and sometimes the fabric doesn't allow the use of cleaning detergents that could get it out. But honestly a white bra that can longer look “white,” is a bra past its expiration. You never know where you'll be, either in a locker room or an intimate night, and you don't want to deal with the embarrassment of donning a stained bra.
Getting a new bra all depends on how often you wear it, how often you wash it, and what you’re washing it with. All will determine its longevity. So preserve the life of your bra by hand washing in mild soap, wearing other bras in-between, and air drying.
Take good care of all your undergarments, and keep note of these tips when you think you might need a new bra.