A close girlfriend of mine sent out a group WhatsApp the other day asking "how many bras is too many?". She was having a clearout and said she had counted 30 and was shocked!
My immediate response is that I didn’t think you could have too many, as long as the ones you have actually fit. Although I would say that wouldn't I, being part of the industry but so many people hang onto clothing that really should have been disposed of or repurposed or recycled. It did get me thinking though, just how many bras does the average person have and what consists of the perfect bra capsule wardrobe.
HOW MANY BRAS DOES AN AVERAGE WOMAN OWN?
Well, according the wonders of Google and a Glamour magazine article from 2009, the average answer is 16. When the Daily Mail asked how many bras the average woman owned in 2016, the answer was 8 and that is in line with a report from the Queen’s own bra supplier, Rigby and Peller. MumsNet has suggested as little as 4, (5 if you include a sports bra) but whoah there tiger that’s properly minimalist!
So when I went through my drawers, checked under my bed, my “floordrobe” (who doesn’t have one of those honestly?) and in my laundry bag to find the total number was 29, I hadn’t really surprised myself that much.
Honestly I’m not really shocked by that number. I am however by no means a clothing minimalist. My husband despairs at my overstuffed wardrobe full of clothing. I’m well known for having the occasional clothing splurge and have always tended to invest in brands that last, so my wardrobe still has items that are well over a decade old and still in regular use. Oh and I’m notoriously bad at clearing out you'll be unsurprised to hear. So when I went through my drawers, checked under my bed, my “floordrobe” (who doesn’t have one of those honestly?) and in my laundry bag to find the total number was 29, I hadn’t really surprised myself that much and not so average! Eek!
The point here is that I definitely don’t wear all 29 on a regular basis. Of the 29, 3 are sports bras, of which I could say I only really use 2.The other 26 are a mix of t-shirt bras, plunge bras, full cup bras, cut-and-sew styles, padded bras, demi cups, lacey numbers and strapless bras in a range of colours. Of those, I probably wear 10-12 of them on a regular basis, making sure they're regularly laundered and looked after.
How Many Bras Should I Own?
Well, that all depends on how long you want your bras to last. If you wore one bra every day, and treated it with the utmost care by hand-washing it regularly, you could probably squeak by for about 4-6 months before the bra completely loses its elasticity and is essentially no longer functional or supporting you in the right way. The actual mileage you will get out of that particular bra also depends on how well the bra is constructed to begin with. Investing in your bras does pay off, as a £9 cheap bra from a supermarket is not going to have undergone the same rigorous stress testing as a £40+ bra from a specialised lingerie brand.
Anyway, taking that logic, we now have a formula we can work with, assuming that you wear each of these bras equally. For each new everyday bra you have in your rotation, you can add 6 months!
But bra maths is just not that easy. No one wears each bra they own for exactly equal amounts of time, and very few people do the right thing when a bra has passed its prime. Throw it out or recycle it where possible.
If you want to get the most out of your bras, you should have enough so that you can give each bra a couple day’s rest (and ideally a hand-washing) before wearing it again. This will allow the materials to ‘reset’ and prevent the bra from being overtaxed.
Obviously, you cannot wear the same bra for every occasion. As much as my sports bra gives me amazing support, I can’t wear that under everything I own. Each woman is going to have different needs depending on her lifestyle and the types of clothes she prefers to wear.
MY BRA CAPSULE WARDROBE
If I had to design my ideal capsule bra wardrobe in an effort to win Marie Kondo’s/Stacy Soloman-Swash’s approval, and keep things to an absolute, practical and joyful minimum, it would look a little something like this:
3x everyday bras – Your Black, White or Ivory and Nudes. What you define as an ‘everyday’ bra will depend on the shape of your breasts and what style you’re comfortable with. For me, my ideal everyday bras are either full-cup bras or plunge bras, as these styles tend to give me a level of support that I am comfortable with, suit my breast shape, and can be worn under most of my clothes. Many women would add a regular t-shirt bra to this list, for that coveted rounded smoothness. For me, because they are molded cup bras, I personally tend to avoid them, because as a bra retailer I know that these the notoriously difficult to get a great fit in because my boobs are not the same shape as those pesky cups. That’s just me though! My current go-to bras are the Chantelle Parisian Allure Plunge T-Shirt (which I currently have in several colours), the Gossard Glossies Lotus Lace bra (with fab Eco credentials) , the Femilet by Chantelle Norah moulded bra (supersoft to wear)
2x sports bras – I’m not a gym bunny but I do like walking and the occasional workout session. So my sports bra requirements are quite different due to the change of intensity. But if you are a gym and exercise addict you definitely need to wash your sports bra daily. 2 is pushing it, but it’s my absolute minimum. My Chantelle High Impact Sports bra and Pretty Polly Eco Active Wear Seamless Crop Top get me by in this area.
1x strapless bra – Everyone has a dress that you just cant wear straps with so the stapless is an essential. Bonus because these bras tend to be convertible, so you can attach straps when you need to wear it and need a tad more support. My go-to at the moment is the Chantelle Essentiall (soon to be added to the website!). I like it, because it’s really comfortable and super smooth.
2x fancy bras – Everyone should have at least 2 fancy/special bras. There is nothing like some sexy or special lingerie to give you a little confidence boost. In my case I have my Katherine Hamilton Abbie Eyelash bra for that. I find the forward projection really suits my breast shape. I am also a fan of the Aubade L’Amour Half Cup Bra
2 x lounging bras – I usually keep one or two bras for just wearing around the house for when I don’t want to be braless and I also want my boobs and back to just go Ahhh! . I know there’s tons of bras out there that you can buy that fit this description, but personally I just prefer the Chantelle SoftStretch Crop top or my Mey Poetry bralette.
To really maximize my options, I tried to make my bra choices cross-functional. Picking a sexy balconette means that I can wear it from day to night and dress it up and down. Making one or two of my everyday bras a skin tone bra will also increase the number of opportunities I’ll have to wear it. So a total bra count of 10.
This number of bras would have me washing my sports bras after each wear, and my regular bras about twice a week, which is manageable for me. Depending on how often you are able and willing to do your laundry, this number could go up and down.
Give it a try! How many bras do you own? How many do you actually wear? And how many do you think you could whittle it down to?