Replacing your bra regularly is one way to avoid the dangers of an ill-fitting bra, which can include anything from headaches to back pain from poor posture. But according to a survey carried out by Harper Wilde, 70% of women said that their oldest bra is between 2-5 years old.
Why can’t you keep a bra forever?
Bras are made out of stretchy material, and in many ways, it’s this factor that is integral to the support they provide. A bra needs to be able to move and flex with the body, and – crucially - to cushion breasts rather than hold them in one position. Elastic allows this to happen, but it loses its shape with extended use and stops being effective. Over time, the energy applied to elastic (through wear and exposure to water and heat) causes each separate polymer chain in the fibre to break down. This means it will no longer go back to its starting point once it has been stretched.
How often should you replace your bra?
This is a simple question, but the answer can get pretty complicated – depending on how much you use and wash your bras, and how much your body shape fluctuates. Even with gentle usage and care, all bras will lose their shape over time as the elastic fibres in the band and straps begins to deteriorate. It’s generally recommended that a bra should last anywhere between 6-9 months, although we think that with good care your bras should last a lot longer. We encourage you to look after them as much as they look after you - extending the life of your clothes by even a small amount has a significant environmental benefit.The way you take care of your bra can have a massive impact on how long it lasts. There are some simple changes you can make that will have a big difference, such as;
Using a gentle soap
Reducing the frequency of washing (once every three wears is more than enough!)
Avoiding using a dryer – the heat will speed up the wear and tear process.
Changes to body – and breast – size can also affect how often we might need to replace our bras. Breasts naturally change shape over time due to general weight and hormonal fluctuations, so make sure you get fittings regularly!
How to tell when a bra is worn out
Other than its age, there are a few other things to look out for if you think your bra might have passed its use-by date:
The band will be stretched out. The band is responsible for around 90% of a bra’s support. If it’s stretched, it will ride up, causing straps to slip and fall, cups to fall forward, and underwires to dig.
You will have to pull the band beyond the hook closures for it to be tight.
The straps will be falling off your shoulders, even when tightened. Straps can be tightened all the way by pulling the buckles all the way down to the strap, but this isn’t the correct way of wearing a bra and it’s one sign that you might need a replacement!
You can see the outline of a bra cup through a tee-shirt. This is a sure sign that the bra is stretched or too big.
You can see permanent crinkles or creases in the padding.
What about bralettes?
Bralettes also contain elastic to help them give support, so the same applies here, even if they’re not padded and wired in the conventional way. Keep an eye on the fabric – it’s colour and feel will tell you a lot about how much life it has left in it, as will the tightness of the straps and band.
And don't forget to take good care of your bra(lette) to help take care of the planet too.