How to Shop and Care for Your Bras

You've been caring for you bras all wrong. Here's how to buy the right ones for you body—and make them last longer!

colorful bras on white background

Photo by Getty Images

Photo by Getty Images

You Are Caring for Your Bra All Wrong

Ah, bras. They’re one of the first things you fling off at night, and you’ll probably never long for them the way you do
yoga pants. Still, these four maintenance moves can make you comfier up top. 

Give your bras a break.
You finally found a bra that accentuates your curves and doesn’t ride up your chest. You want to wear it every day, right? Don’t. Donning the same bra repeatedly will quickly turn it into your stretchiest, least supportive undergarment. “Your bra needs a rest after two days of wear to allow the fabric and chest band to return to their original shape,” says Elisabeth Dale, author of The Breast Life Guide to The Bra Zone: How to Find Your Ideal Size, Style and Support

Hand-wash only, please.
The spin cycle is no friend to delicates. Thanks to no-rinse laundry products like Soak and Eucalan, hand-washing can be a no-brainer. Soak your bras in cool water and no-rinse soap for about 10 minutes, dab gently with a washcloth and then always (always!) air-dry. Dale typically wears a bra three to five times (less in the summer) before placing it in the laundry pile. 

Store with care.
Don’t throw bras into a drawer. Proper storage can prolong their lifespan. First, hook bras closed to keep them from snagging on other delicates. Fold lacy and soft-cup bras in half with the straps tucked inside. Stack molded and padded bras inside each other to prevent bending and denting the cups. You also can hang your bras individually on hangers.

Be a semi-frequent shopper.
There’s a reason bras don’t come with lifetime warranties: They aren’t made to last forever. Depending on the quality of the bra, how often you wear it, and how well you take care of it, you should replace a bra every six to 12 months. Dale recommends using a fabric pen to write the purchase date on the inside of the bra band, so you know when it’s time to go shopping.

Bra-Shopping Basics

women in bra

Illustration by Elly Maddock

Illustration by Elly Maddock

If you’re still wearing the same bra size you did in college, it’s time to meet with a trained bra fitter at a lingerie store. “Breasts change with age, pregnancies and hormones,” says Dale. Keep this advice in mind while looking for the right fit. 

If you go up a band size, you should go down a cup size (and vice versa).
“Cup letters indicate breast volume across a specific band size, or width,” says Dale. “So the volume of a B cup on a 38 band is identical to a 36C [less width, more volume] or a 40A [more width, less volume].”

Sizes vary by brands.
“Not all manufacturers have the same fit standards,” says Dale. Even bras made by the same company come in a wide assortment of fabric, cuts and styles, all of which affect comfort and fit. 

Pick the right bra for your wardrobe.
That bra might look fabulous in the changing room mirror, but how does it look under clothes? “You should always put on a top to make sure the bra gives a flattering silhouette underneath your clothes,” says Dale. “And match bras to your outfits.” For instance, pair T-shirt bras with cotton shirts and lacier numbers with sexier tops.

All of Your Bra Problems Solved

Plenty of support

“Petra” Padded Balconette Bra

Photo courtesy of herroom.com

Photo courtesy of herroom.com

Even a larger chest can sport a delicate-looking bra. Just look for an underwire bra with full-coverage cups, wide straps and back bands for added support. Available in sizes 28-38 D-H.

Panache, “Petra” Padded Balconette Bra
Buy:
 herroom.com, $70

Push-up

 24/7 Classic Contour Plunge Bra

Photo courtesy of thirdlove.com

Photo courtesy of thirdlove.com

When you want a boost, a demi cup with padding in the lower half creates instant cleavage. Bonus: All Thirdlove bras come in regular and ½ sizes.

24/7 Classic Contour Plunge Bra
Buy: thirdlove.com, $68

Hide back bulges

Vanishing Back Full Coverage Bra

Photo courtesy of soma.com

Photo courtesy of soma.com

Look for a bra with stitch-free edges for a seamless transition from bra to back. This version from Soma has targeted compression zones to keep your back and sides super smooth.

Vanishing Back Full Coverage Bra
Buy:
 soma.com, $56 

Bralette

 Emmie Wirefree T-back Cami Bra

Photo courtesy of yummie.com

Photo courtesy of yummie.com

Finally, a bralette meant for an actual grown-up. You want one that is double lined (hello, nipple coverage) with a wide band for support.

Emmie Wirefree T-back Cami Bra
Buy:
yummie.com, $34

T-shirt

GapBody Live-in Pretty Demi Bra

Photo courtesy of gap.com

Photo courtesy of gap.com

A T-shirt bra should have smooth cups that lie flush against your breasts, keeping it hidden under even the thinnest tee. Bonus: This bra has memory fit to prevent creasing.

GapBody Live-in Pretty Demi Bra
Buy:
gap.com, $44

Strapless

Up For Anything Strapless Bra

Photo courtesy of spanx.com

Photo courtesy of spanx.com

This bra really does live up to its name. It has a smooth grip around the body (not just the edges) that keeps it in place all day and all night long, no tugging needed.

Up For Anything Strapless Bra
Buy: spanx.com, $74 

Sports bras

During any workout, your breast tissue withstands a great deal of movement and impact. “The biggest negative side effect of not wearing the right amount of support is discomfort. Second is breakdown of breast tissue gradually over time,” says Julianne Ruckman, Brooks product line manager of bras and women’s apparel.

Low-impact sports bra

knix.com sports bra

Photo courtesy of knix.com

Photo courtesy of knix.com

Walking, yoga, strength training. When you find yourself heating up, moisture-wicking fabric helps absorb odor and sweat.

Buy: knix.com, $45

Medium-impact sports bra

craneandlion.com sports bra

Photo courtesy of craneandlion.com

Photo courtesy of craneandlion.com

Skiing, skating, tennis. Stay-put crisscross back straps and a wide band provide optimal support.

Buy: craneandlion.com, $65 

High-impact sports bra

champion.com sports bra

Photo courtesy of champion.com

Photo courtesy of champion.com

Aerobics, running, boxing. The back hook-and-eye closure allows for perfect fit and easy off after a sweaty workout. champion.com, $48