Whether it’s your favorite lace plunge bra or a sexy semi-opaque demi, each bra comes with special meaning. You might have a lucky bra for date night or one you wear to feel extra fresh. Our bras become our darlings, but the sad truth is they won’t be with us forever.
So how long do bras last? Short and sweet is the name of the game. Your favorite bras will always leave you wanting more. According to experts, a good rule of thumb is to change those undergarments every six months if worn regularly, and definitely by the one-year mark.1
But there are a few things you can do to forestall the goodbye to your favorite bra. In this guide, we’ll dive into the factors affecting bra longevity, signs that it’s time for your bra to go, and ways to make it last longer.
Bra Longevity Basics
If you’re thinking that six months can pass in the blink of an eye—barely enough time to get acquainted with that flirty t-shirt bra!—you’ll be happy to hear that this recommended amount of time is merely a guideline, not a hard and fast rule.
Just like the people who wear them, bras are all built differently. This affects their durability. Let’s go through important factors affecting the longevity of our favorite undergarments.
Material and Quality
When it comes down to it, the stuff that goes into making a good bra matters. Even from the beginning, some undergarments are destined to last longer than others. Pay attention to the following factors when looking for the perfect bra:
The fabric – The material of your everyday bra is a very personal choice, ultimately depending on your style and the occasions you choose to wear your bra. That being said, hardier fabrics such as cotton will generally last longer than more delicate lace detailing, though this also depends on the construction of the lace itself.2
The stitching – This is where quality really makes a difference. A poorly made bra with loose stitching around the hooks and bra straps can easily come apart, even after a few wears. On the other hand, some bras feature reinforced seams on the side, which are thicker than the rest of the fabric and therefore add durability.2
The underwire – Typically speaking, a wired bra holds its shape better than its elastic strap counterpart due to the added strength of the material. So you might find yourself replacing those fun, flirty bralettes more frequently than your sexy triangle bra collection!
While it can be easy to get into the habit of wearing the same bra day in and day out, especially if you have a trusty go-to that looks good no matter the circumstances, rotating through your bra style and collection is the key to proper care. If you’re wondering, “how many bras should I own?”, we got you covered!
If you don’t give your bras room to breathe between wears, they’re more likely to lose their shape.3 Also, if you’re wondering “is it bad to sleep with a bra on”, or if you tend to wear bras to sleep already, it is important to note that this can affect the longevity of your bras due to potential stretching out of your favorite bra. By switching between a variety of bras, you can lessen the burden on each individual undergarment.
So how many bras should you have? Five or six pairs of a good quality bra is a great minimum, but the answer depends on you!2 Consider the following example to create your own customized bra rotation schedule:
- Three or four bras for everyday wear, such as a triangle bra, demi bra, or t-shirt bra, that provide strong support and comfort with the perfect cup size
- One skin-toned bra for your lighter-colored clothing (make it lacey to throw in some personality!)
- One of each specialty bra, including a plunge bra, strapless bra, or backless bra, based on the needs of your wardrobe
- A special, lux bra collection to treat yourself, including lace bras or lingerie, that you may pull out on fancier occasions
The Warning Signs
If you’ve lost track of time, and you’re not sure whether you got that simple, classic black triangle bra this year or the last, don’t despair. Just like in all flings, it can seem that you’ve had your bra for so long and yet not long at all.
The good news is that beyond the amount of time you’ve had your bra, there are other telltale signs it’s time to retire your beloved undergarment:
You may love your bras for their design and detailing, but they aren’t just for fun and style. They also serve a very important purpose, which is to provide support around the chest. If you notice that your bra has gotten significantly looser or stretchier over time, chances are it’s not able to do its job anymore. The following are signs it’s out with the old and in with the new:
Loose band – The bra band often shows the first signs of aging.4 If you find that over time, you’ve moved from the outermost to the innermost hook, you might be on the lookout for a new bra soon. However, changes in band size can also be due to daily weight fluctuations. Watch for a gradual process, which is a sign of stretching.
Hanging straps – Beyond just being a hassle, straps that won’t stay on your shoulders are also a sign that your bra is too loose. Bra straps play an important role in supporting the weight of your breasts.1 If they’re just hanging out, it’s time to say goodbye.
There’s nothing more supportive than the feeling of a brand new bra. But as you wear your padded bra, the padding will gradually lose its bounce. Consider these factors when determining whether your bra needs replacing:
The padding has creases that won’t come out, which means that the foam has become compressed over time.2
- The padding refuses to sit flat, which can lead to discomfort and even create an awkward shape.
- The padding is not distributed evenly anymore, featuring lumpy surfaces or thicker amounts of foam near the bottom.
You’ve Moved On
Your sexy chartreuse lace bra may have been the center of your world at one point, but over time, something just wasn’t right anymore. Sometimes, it’s not the bra—it’s you who’s changed. Think about the following possibilities:
Your physique – Bodies change over time. Hormonal differences, aging, and environmental factors can all affect the shape and size of your breasts.5 Additionally, different life events such as pregnancy or a new routine can result in weight shifts. You might find yourself replacing your bra more frequently in periods of transition.
Your style – Maybe that luscious, rich red hue you used to love is now, well, too red. Maybe you’ve turned more toward classic staples or neutral colors. At the end of the day, your bra is a form of personal, artistic expression, so wear the undergarments that match you best. As your tastes shift, your bra collection should change as well.
Making Your Bras Last
If you want to hold onto those precious undergarments for longer, you’re in luck. Caring for your bras properly means that you won’t have to part from your favorites while still in the honeymoon phase.
But how do you treat those darling bras right? We’ll cover some important steps you can take to protect your bras from unnecessary wear and tear.
It’s All in the Wash
Be gentle with your bras. That includes the cleaning process. Put as little stress on your bras as possible by taking into account these tips and tricks:
Try hand washing – It might be tempting to throw your bras in the washing machine, especially after a long day, but hand-washing is much gentler.6 By controlling the amount of force used, you can avoid ripped hooks, fraying seams, and faded fabrics.
Wash with delicates – If you must machine wash your bras, find ways to protect them from other articles of clothing. Keep your delicate bras away from heavier objects such as denim jackets with thick metal buttons or winter coats with large zippers. Put your bra in a lingerie bag or pillowcase before throwing it in the mix and use the gentle cycle or delicate cycle with gentle detergent.
Store with Care
Caring for your bras doesn’t end when the wash finishes. Having a proper storage plan means your bras won’t end up stashed in the back of the closet, crumpled on the couch, or thrown carelessly on the floor. Follow these tried and true methods to keep your bras crisp:
At home – When you have plenty of space, make sure to find a designated drawer so that you can lay them flat. Not only will this help your bras keep their shape, but there’s also less of a chance your bras will get tangled together or caught on other garments.7
While traveling – When you’re on the road, your options are more limited. Still, you can protect your bras by arranging your suitcase carefully. Always put your bras at the top where they won’t be weighed down by other items.8 This will prevent distortions to your bra’s intended shape.
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Real Simple. 9 Signs It's Time to Replace Your Bra ASAP. https://www.realsimple.com/beauty-fashion/shoes-accessories/lingerie-hosiery/when-to-buy-new-bra
Huff Post. When You Should Replace Your Bras, According To Lingerie Experts. https://www.huffpost.com/entry/when-you-should-replace-bras_n_5aff26bae4b0a046186b7364
Cleveland Clinic. How Often Do You Really Need to Wash Your Bras? https://health.clevelandclinic.org/how-often-do-you-really-need-to-wash-your-bras/#:~:text=%E2%80%9CYou%20can%20wear%20the%20same,lose%20its%20shape%20more%20quickly.%E2%80%9D
CNA Lifestyle. Ladies, here are 6 tell-tale signs it’s time to replace your worn out bras. https://cnalifestyle.channelnewsasia.com/style/when-you-should-replace-your-bras-6-tell-tale-signs-252896
Healthline. What Are the Most Common Breast Shapes? https://www.healthline.com/health/breast-shapes
Fashionista. How to Wash Your Bras Without Destroying Them. https://fashionista.com/2017/06/how-to-hand-wash-bras-in-machine#:~:text=Hand%2DWashing,you%20have%20margin%20for%2
- Brydie. How to Store Your Bras Without Ruining Them, According to a Fit Expert. https://www.byrdie.com/how-to-store-bras-4164508
Real Simple. This Is the Right Way to Pack Your Bras. https://www.realsimple.com/beauty-fashion/shoes-accessories/lingerie-hosiery/how-to-pack-bras