The Bra Washing Experiment: What Does Machine Washing & Tumble Drying Do to Lingerie?

Once upon a time, I machine-washed and tumble-dried all my lingerie. By the time things became unwearable, there were often underwires poking out, bones bent, diamante gems missing and patches of fabric worn so thin they were becoming holes.

Nowadays I hand-wash everything without exception and I’ve noticed that my lingerie stays in excellent condition for a long, long time. But it this just because I’m buying more luxurious, high-end garments that will last longer regardless? Do I really need to hand-wash everything, or is popping them in the machine okay so long as I avoid the tumble dryer? I decided to do a little experiment to find out.

I bought 3 identical bras, all brand new and in perfect condition, and washed them 10 times each. One was hand-washed, one was machine-washed and one was machine-washed and tumble-dried too. Specifics are below. I would have loved to have done all the many, many variants (tumble drying on a low vs. high heat, machine washing with/without a lingerie bag, using a delicates setting vs. a regular one etc.) but honestly I don’t have the patience and that would have required a hell of a lot of bras.

Here’s what’s happened…

 

How the bras were washed

Bra 1 – Hand-washed with Tesco’s Silk & Delicates Handwash Liquid and hung from the centre-gore to dry

Bra 2 – Machine-washed on regular (non-delicates) 30 and 40 degree washes, without a lingerie bag, and hung from the centre-gore to dry

Bra 3 – Machine-washed on regular (non-delicates) 30 and 40 degree washes, without a lingerie bag, and tumble-dried on a high heat until dry

 

After 1 wash

I know tumble-drying is bad for bras. The heat destroys elasticity, something that’s crucial to such a form-fitting garment. However I wasn’t really expecting one single spin in the dryer to make an obvious difference to the bra, but it did.

[Note: You can click on any of the images in this post to see them in super close-up detail]

Bra washing experiment
Note the ‘fluffiness’ of the centre gore on the two machine-washed bras.
Handwash vs machine wash lingerie
The inside of the centre gore, again to show how the machine-washed bras (particularly the one that was also tumble-dried) have gone a little bit fluffy here.
Handwashing bras vs machine washing
Machine-washing doesn’t appear to have affected the straps, but on the tumble-dried bra they’ve gone a bit squiggly!

After one single cycle in the washing machine and tumble dryer, Bra 3 is noticeably different to Bra 1 which was hand-washed and air-dried. Are these massive differences in condition? No. But if this is what just one wash does, what will 10 do?

 

After 10 washes

I don’t know about you but I like my bras to last quite a bit longer than 10 wears, yet the tumble-dried bra looks like it’s on its last legs at this point.

That ‘fluffiness’ at the centre gore? It’s gotten worse (much worse on the tumble-dried bra) and the bows on the two machine-washed bras are looking a bit droopy.
Bra washing experiment 10 2
And those wiggly straps on the tumble-dried bra? Much, much wigglier! The straps on the machine-washed only bra are also a little scrunched up, though nowhere near as much.
Bra washing experiment 10 3
Although the band on this bra never laid totally flat (it’s only a low-quality bra) at the front, on the tumble-dried bra it’s now totally turned over and worn through at one point.
Bra washing experiment 10 4
And finally, there’s just more general wear and tear on the machine-washed bras, and especially the tumble-dried one.

 

The verdict?

Hopefully these photos are enough to show you that tumble-drying is really, really bad for your bras! How about machine washing? There is a difference in the condition of Bras 1 and 2, but they both still look wearable to me.

This little experiment has reaffirmed to me that it’s definitely worth the time and effort to hand-wash all of my lingerie, but if you don’t have the time I guess machine-washing is okay. I would just recommend to use a lingerie wash bag (and if you can, a cold wash setting), and your bras should show even fewer signs of wear than pictured here.

 

How do you wash your bras and lingerie? Did you realise the damage that tumble drying does?

Estelle

How I Keep My Lingerie in Perfect Condition

I like to think I take pretty good care of my lingerie. I was shocked when I read this article (which is just one of many such examples) and saw an expert say a well cared-for bra should last just 8 months.

I like to buy decidedly delicate, lacy things, and lots of my lingerie wardrobe staples I’ve owned for years. Today I happen to be wearing the first lingerie set I ever reviewed on this blog, which is something that I wear regularly, and it still looks pristine. No threads unraveling, no Swarovski crystals missing, no pulls in the fabric and not a hint of twisting in the elastic straps.

So how do I do it? Today I’m sharing with you exactly how I care for my lingerie, so that you can hopefully pick up a tip or two to help your own lingerie purchases last longer and become better value for money…

Wearing

  • If my lingerie has Swarovski crystals or intricate beading, I’ll make sure I wear something loose-fitting over the top so that it doesn’t rub against them all day
  • I always wear deodorant – this is more for personal hygiene than anything else, but sweat stains on the sides of your bra is never a good look. Sweat can also be acidic which will break down the fibres of your lingerie over time
  • Speaking of which, I put deodorant on before lingerie and leave it a minute to dry, as deodorants can stain things too!
  • When putting on stockings or delicate tights, I’ll use hosiery gloves from Sock Shop to avoid snagging them on a ring or a broken nail
  • I’ll usually go for opaque stockings with boots rather than sheer ones because they don’t wear down so quickly where the boots rub the back of the leg
  • Where it won’t be visible (so, again, when I’m wearing boots) I’ll pop socks on top of stockings to minimise wear to the soles and heels

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Washing

  • I always, always, always hand-wash lingerie! It takes me no more than 20 minutes a week, and it’s inexpensive – although lots of lingerie-specific washes exist and I’d like to try some, for the past few years I’ve been using Tesco’s Silk and Delicates Handwash (750ml for £1.50) and it does the job perfectly well
  • I wash lingerie in cold water – or, in the dead of winter when I don’t fancy plunging my hands into an icy tub, luke-warm water – because excessive heat can damage the elastic fibres in bra straps or stretch fabric
  • Once everything has had a good soak, I squeeze, not wring, the water out which is gentler and doesn’t stretch fabrics or bend bra wires
  • After washing, I leave everything to hang dry on a clothes horse (not a heated towel rail – I learnt from experience that the heat can warp bra wires and damage elastic!)
  • I wash lingerie in colour groups, even though that means washing a few brightly coloured sets on their own, to avoid stains or whites gradually turning grey
  • I have a separate laundry bag just for lingerie, to avoid damage and so that my favourite bras don’t accidently go in the machine or dryer bundled up inside a dress
  • Before I put my lingerie in the laundry bag, I fasten any hooks to avoid them snagging on anything delicate

 

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Storing

  • I keep the boxes that lingerie arrives in if they’re quite sturdy ones
  • For most of my lingerie, I use clear plastic storage boxes lined with acid-free tissue paper which keeps everything nice and protected and lets me easily find what I’m looking for too
  • When space is an issue or for items like corsets that I don’t have boxes big enough for, I use fabric lingerie bags which prevent snagging but don’t take up any more drawer space than the lingerie would on its own
  • I don’t throw hosiery packaging out – not only does it prevent such delicate items getting damaged, it takes up almost no space and keeps designs easily identifiable so you don’t have to sort through 10 similar-looking black stockings in the morning to pick out a pair!

 

Sounds like a lot of rules huh? I think that a lot of this is just common sense, but if you only take away two bits of advice from this article let it be these: hang-dry lingerie at room temperature and use gloves if you wear sheer hosiery. In my experience at least, lingerie has no greater enemies than heat and broken nails!

 

How do you take care of your lingerie?

Estelle

Should Boutiques Charge for Bra Fittings?

Should customers pay for bra fittings? This is a debate that myself and some of my fellow lingerie boutique owners often have. To charge or not to charge? That is the question.

A lot of lingerie shops, whether they’re independent boutiques or department stores, offer free fittings. However, more are starting to charge for the service, a charge which is taken off of the bill with any items purchased.

But before I start with the pros and cons, let me clarify what I’m talking about when it comes to a fitting.

If you look online for a bra calculator or how to measure your bra size, you will get lots of different ways in which you can check it. Which is great to give you an indication of your size. And many places do use the conventional tape measure system in order to tell you which bra size to wear.

However these methods can’t measure volume, and can’t see what shape your breasts are. Consequently more shops, boutiques especially, are opting for a more holistic approach when it comes to the right bra for you. These fitters are trained. They understand human anatomy, how a bra should fit, where it should fit and how to find the most suitable bra for you. They work by eye, not by tape measure. They understand that not all breasts suit all bra styles, and will be able to advise the correct style for you.

 

lingerie-boutique-400x600

 

Fitters are trained in how a bra is constructed and will therefore understand the struggle that many find in getting that perfect fit. In order to get this level of knowledge fitters have often had to pay to attend a course (or the store has paid for one employee’s time spent training another), and they practice prior to seeing customers. They are qualified and will have the certification to prove it.

So, with that level of knowledge and qualifications, why shouldn’t a boutique charge you for a fitting? The boutique wouldn’t expect a business consultant to give them marketing ideas for free! As a customer you are asking a fitter to spend their time with you to provide you with advice, and yet there’s no guarantee of a purchase. To charge means that they are being paid for their time, even if you choose not to opt for any of the bras offered.

But likewise, the charge is usually refunded against any purchases so as a customer you still, in effect, receive a free fitting if you choose one of the gorgeous bras available. Plus, I believe I am right in saying that any boutique worth it’s weight would not charge customers for a fitting if they didn’t sell anything that fit that customer perfectly.

 

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If the argument for a fee is so reasonable, why do boutiques offer free fittings if there is a chance of customer having a proper fitting, then leaving, having spent nothing other than time?

Well, there’s hope. Hope that customers are going to love your bras so much that they will purchase. And hope that, even if they don’t buy that day, they will return – maybe with lots of friends whom they’ve told all about the wonderful service they received!

For me, I am not busy enough at the moment to have the possibility of turning a customer away, when all it is going to cost me is time. I have had a customer who complained that no bras fitted her, but all of mine did, and after trying on all the bras in the shop in her size she left without purchasing anything, but with a wish list as long as her arm. A couple of hours later she phoned and booked in for a private opening for her friends, and has since been back alone as well.

All of this I could have lost by telling her there was a charge in the first place! Maybe if I become run off of my feet I can think about charging customers, refundable against purchases, but in the meantime I’ll continue to hope.

 

As a customer, would you object to being charged for a fitting?

 

Kirsty, owner of Curvature Boutique.

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A Guide to Bra Styles, Seams and Shapes

How much uplift does a quarter cup bra really give you? What’s more supportive, a triangle-cupped bralet or a bandeau? And what difference do seams really make on a bra? Welcome to my bra style guide, which will hopefully answer all of these questions for you!

Before I start, I want to point out that this is not at all an exhaustive list of bra styles, and the ones I have covered are somewhat generalised – things like padded triangle bras exist for example, and different strap styles or band widths can all affect the support the bra gives.

Kiss Me Deadly has done a great post showing what bralets, quarter cup bras and cupless bras look like on the same person, which I recommend you check out if you’re interested in those styles, but this guide is more about what shapes bras will give you under clothing.

 

Part-seamed bra

part-seamed-bra-style-600x416

Pictured bra: Dentelle Onyx, £45.99

When the seams only come part-way up the cup on a bra (typically one seam at the centre-bottom), they’re more for shaping than for any kind of support. The bra cup is made from a single piece of fabric and this seam allows the bottom of the cup to be deeper.

Depending on where exactly the seam ends, this style of bra can have quite a rounded shape or a more pointed one. It will provide lightweight support and lift, but nothing heavy-duty!

 

Bra with vertical seams

vertical-seamed-bra-style-600x416

Pictured bra: Freya Starlet, £35

Unlike part-seamed bras, on vertically-seamed ones the seams go all the way from the base to the top of the cup – there may be just one central seam or a few of them. The cups are made from 2 or more pieces of fabric which are folded or overlaid where they join at the seam, and this strip of thicker fabric is stronger than the single-layer fabric around it.

That makes vertically-seamed bras very supportive, particularly if they have multiple vertical seams. The straight up-and-down seams are also very uplifting as you can see if you compare this photo to the one above.

 

Three-part cup bra

three-part-cup-bra-style-600x416

Pictured bra: Miss Mandalay Mia, ~£12.40

As the name suggests, this cup style is made from 3 pieces of fabric – two at the bottom and one at the top. The bottom section has a vertical seam which provides support and uplift.

However, there is also a horizontal or diagonal seam that goes across the breast. The more horizontal that this seam is, the more rounded a shape the bra will have. A three-part cup offers a lot of support but slightly less uplift than a purely vertically-seamed one.

 

Moulded bra

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Pictured bra: Pour Moi Treasure, £26

A moulded-cup bra (or contour-cupped bra) has a layer of pre-shaped padding sandwiched between the front and back layers of the cup, usually some sort of foam. It’s a very structured bra, as you can see when it holds its rounded shape when not worn!

If you want a very smooth, rounded shape, moulded cup bras are the style for you! None of the other bras on this list give quite the same shape. However, because the cup is pre-shaped rather than moulding to your own breast shape, you are more likely to have fit issues than with many other bra styles.

 

Bullet bra

bullet-bra-style-600x416

Pictured bra: Stockings and Romance Marilyn, £34.96

A bullet bra usually has ‘whirlpool’ round seams that go all around the top and bottom of the breast and gradually get smaller, coming to a point. The bra may also have straight seams all around the cup that converge in the centre, adding to the pointy-ness. Because this pointed shape is so unlike a natural breast shape, it’s likely that you won’t fill it out completely in which case you can buy special bullet-bra pads to help the bra keep its shape.

You can also get bras that only have the straight seams, often with a horizontal seam, which have a rounder shape and slightly less exaggerated point. I believe these are called cone bras but don’t quote me on that! (Any vintage lingerie experts want to clarify?)

Although a bullet bra will always look pointed, it’s much less exaggerated if you’re wearing something looser than this stretch-jersey top.

 

Quarter-cupped bra

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Pictured bra: Lola Luna Gaia, £31.99

A 1/4 cup bra is exactly that – a bra with only about a quarter of the fabric of a full-coverage bra. The fabric stops below the nipple, and may or may not be moulded.

You might think that a bra like this couldn’t possibly be supportive, but as the picture above shows it actually gives more uplift than the triangle and bandeau styles below. In fact, this quarter-cupped bra gave a more projected shape than the part-seamed bra at the top of the list!

This is because the majority of the support in a brand comes from the band and the underwires. Adding a sling of fabric to that (rather than a cupless bra, which has no cup fabric whatsoever) means there’s something there to physically support the weight of your breasts and lift them up.

 

Triangle-cupped bralet

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Pictured bra: Miss Crofton Violet, £29.99

A triangle-shaped bralet has cups made from a single piece of fabric and doesn’t usually have any underwires. Typically, the cups will have a part-seam to allow for a more projected shape, though the bra in this example is seamless.

As I just mentioned, a lot of the support in a bra comes from the band, so look for a triangle-cupped bra that has a wide, firm band if you want more support.

This particular one has a very narrow band and is the closest thing I’ve found to a natural, bra-free shape.

 

Bandeau bra

bandeau-bra-style-600x416

Pictured bra: Bjorn Borg Love All Lace, £11

A bandeau is, essentially, a tube of fabric. It might have a fastening at the back or it may not. Many bandeaus are strapless. As with a triangle bra, you can find bandeau bras with a band of firmer material just under the bust which can help them to stay in place better. You can even find bandeau bra styles that have underwires, though the vast majority don’t.

Probably what most separates a bandeau from the other bra styles on this list is that it doesn’t have separate cups, so rather than supporting, lifting and shaping specific areas, it just provides all-over compression. For that reason, this bra style typically givess a flatter shape than anything else.

 

bra-style-comparison-600x536

If you’re interested in trying new bra styles, or are looking for one that will give you a particular shape and level of support, I hope you’ve found this comparison useful!

Are there any other bra styles you’d like to see compared? What style do you wear most often?

Estelle

How to Declutter Your Lingerie Drawer

Note: This post was updated on 4th January 2017.

How much lingerie do you have? And how much do you actually wear? It’s fine to have some things you save for special occasions – that happens with shoes and clothing and jewellery too – but if those two numbers are wildly different, perhaps it’s time to have a thorough lingerie drawer cleanse.

After all, what use is a pretty bra to you if it just lurks at the back of your wardrobe, unseen, unloved and unworn? Wouldn’t you rather have the wardrobe space to give to, or the money to reinvest in, something else you’ll get more use from?

After recently clearing out my own lingerie collection, here’s my step-by-step guide to whittling yours down to just the pieces that really deserve to be in it…

 

lots-of-bras-600x400

 

1. Gather everything together

I think if you’re planning to do a big cleanse / spring clean / whatever you want to call it, you should go all out and do it properly. Decluttering all in one big go means you won’t start and then just forget about it – once all your underthings have been pulled from their boxes and piled onto the bed, it’s a bit late to change your mind! Plus it forces you to dig everything out, so that you don’t forget about things that maybe aren’t stored where your everyday lingerie is.

Tip: I did my lingerie washing on a Saturday and my clear-out on the Sunday so that there weren’t sets lurking in my laundry bag, out of sight and out of mind.

 

2. Pick out the sentimental pieces

Decluttering experts may disagree with me, but I don’t think there’s anything wrong with having a handful of pieces you keep purely for sentimental reasons. Note the key word there is ‘handful’ so pull out only those items that really do mean something special to you – just rather liking a bra is not enough!

For me these pieces were things like a babydoll of my own design from my first ever collection – unworn to this day, but a memento of how Esty Lingerie got started – and a basque that is no longer comfortable enough to wear but which was both an expensive gift from my now-fiancé and my first ever piece of truly-luxurious lingerie. In the past I’ve gotten rid of things like this that no longer got worn, and I’ve regretted it.

 

lingerie-drawer-edited-600x400

 

3. Check for things damaged beyond repair

Hopefully this won’t apply to very much of your lingerie, but if something’s absolutely falling apart – if it has holes for example – then it’s time to wave goodbye to it. Even if (especially if) it’s something you wear regularly; there comes a time when the best-loved things need replacing.

Note that if you’re willing to invest a little time, minor damage can often be fixed. Here’s a post I wrote for The Lingerie Addict on how to dye lingerie, a good way to cover up small stains, here’s another one I wrote there on how to replace worn-out bra straps, and here is someone else’s no-sew guide to repairing an underwire that’s poking out. Just be sure you’re actually going to do it, and not just leave that damaged piece of underwear untouched until next year’s clear-out!

 

4. Sift out what hasn’t been worn for ages (or ever)

This was the hardest step for me! I kept finding myself torn between thinking “I haven’t worn this in eons” and “but it’s just so pretty. You really need to ruthless here – if you haven’t worn it in a year, you’re not going to wear it. Maybe it doesn’t fit, maybe it’s uncomfortable, maybe it was an impulse purchase that you just don’t like… whatever the reason, I assure you you won’t miss it.

I say a year because I’m including things like thick hosiery and winter robes or nightwear in this, which it’s normal to not wear for 3 seasons of the year. But if you haven’t worn a particular bra or babydoll for 6 months, do think hard about whether that’s going to change.

 

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5. Try the rest on

Okay, we’re down to the last hurdle! Your pile of lingerie should be looking considerably smaller by now – but before you put it away, it’s time for a major trying-on session so make sure you have a large mirror nearby to help you check the fit.

Lingerie can stop fitting you for all sorts of reasons, including both changes in your lingerie – bra bands and waistband elastic can stretch out over time, for example – and changes in your body such as weight loss or weight gain. You can also change shape without changing size (post-pregnancy, or by changing your exercise routine for example) and that might affect how different pieces of lingerie fit.

Take the time to try everything on and be sure it does still fit you. Everyone has their own level of ‘acceptable poor fit’ – if the cups gape a little but you’re cool with that and it won’t stop you wearing the bra, by all means keep it.

If the fit is wildly off however, or poor fit makes it uncomfortable, in the adiós pile it goes. I don’t recommend keeping lingerie that you’re hoping you’ll fit into one day – wouldn’t you rather change it for lingerie you’ll wear and love right now?

 

What to do with all the discarded lingerie?

Congratulations, your lingerie drawer has now been ‘cleansed’ and you can put your newly-streamlined collection away! Now is a great time to review how you’re storing your lingerie and re-evaluate which pieces should go at the top/front for easy daily access.

Now, what to do with the rest?

  • Bin – there’s not a whole lot you can do with badly-damaged pieces or used knickers, aside from throw them away. However for the craftily-inclined, I find it useful to salvage things like wires and strap sliders, as well as decorations such as bows which can be reused for anything from a cushion to a birthday card!
  • Gift – if you know someone who’s a similar size, why not pass a few things on? If not, check out Random Acts of Bras where you can rehome bras and have your shipping costs covered by the giftee.
  • Charity – of course, a third way to gift is to a charity! Knickers that don’t have tags on aren’t going to be accepted for hygiene reasons, but you can certainly donate lightly-worn bras, slips and the like.
  • Sell – sometimes, you want to get your money back on a piece, or at least some of it. eBay is a great place to sell lingerie by well-known brands. Most indie brands however aren’t being searched for, so you may struggle more to get any interest for these – you can also try Bra Swap and Bratabase where people re-sell their bras to a lingerie-passionate audience that’s more likely to have heard of niche brands!

For me, I’m doing a combination of the above – plus running a blog sale. Check it out here if you haven’t already. Oh, and I have plans to turn some poorly-fitting-but-incredibly-beautiful pieces into artwork later this year…

If you have any other lingerie drawer decluttering tips you’ve found helpful, please do share them in the comments below.

Estelle

Online Bra Size Calculators: The Good, The Bad and The Hilarious – Part 2

Find part 1 here for calculators by Calculators.net, Linda’s Online, Bust’DD, Butterfly Collection, A Sophisticated Pair, Ewa Michalak, Gossard, Ann Summers, La Senza, 85b.org, Babycenter, Figleaves, John Lewis and Debenhams.

A year ago I tried out a big bunch of online bra size calculators and sizing charts to see how accurate they were. I was told I was everything from a 32A to a 24FF which just goes to show how wildly inconsistent bra sizing methods are amongst brands and retailers – it’s no wonder really that a lot of women are unwittingly wearing the wrong size or are unsure about what size they should be in!

Well, that article has since gone on to be our most popular blog post of all time, and since I only dipped my toe in the sea of online bra size calculators I thought I’d bring you a part 2.

Before I get into this I just want to reiterate a point I made in part 1: just because one of these calculators gives me a size I don’t wear, that doesn’t mean it’s wrong (or that I’m in the wrong bra size). Sizing varies from brand to brand and two women with the exact same measurements can wear different sizes due to body type or just fit preference, as I explained here.

 

Bra Sizes That Actually Fit Me: 30F and 32E (I’m definitely more comfortable and supported in a 30F, but own enough acceptably-well fitting 32Es from brands that start at a 32-band that I’m counting this as one of my correct sizes).

 

The Good – Right, or Almost So

Marks and Spencer – 28F

On a recent trip to the Marks and Spencer’s lingerie department I saw signs advertising expert bra fittings, and this is a place that sells more bras to British women than any other brand. So I had high expectations from their recently-launched online fitting tool, and I’m glad to say that this was my closest match. The tool asks you to wear your best-fitting bra and then takes you through a series of questions about its style and how it fits, plus asks for your underbust measurement (it never asks for your overbust one) and a handful of other things such as whether you have narrow, medium or broad shoulders. The only thing that surprised me was that it gave me a 28 band size despite me inputting that my best-fitting bra is a 30 band that lies straight and doesn’t dig in.

Linda The Bra Lady – 28DD or 28E

Kudos to this calculator for giving two sizes (that aren’t sister sizes) and explaining that my size will vary between brands and styles. It’s still a band and cup size too small, but it’s pretty close and a good starting point to try bras on if I had no clue as to my size.

A Bra That Fits – 26F/FF (with a note a 28E/F may fit better)

This calculator, unlike any other, takes into account how much ‘squish’ you have around your ribs by asking for your ‘snug’ and your ‘tight-as-you-can-make-it’ underbust measurements and using the difference between them to calculate how tight or loose a band you’ll need. Because the difference between those two measurements for me was less than an inch it said I may feel more comfortable sister sizing up to a 28E/F, which was helpful. Like the calculator above, it also gave me two possible cup sizes to try since sizing varies between brands.

 

The Bad – Well, the ‘Less Good’ (These Calculators May Work for Many Women)

Britney Spears Intimates – 28D

Being a European rather than UK-specific site, this actually gave me my ‘European’ size (60D) which I converted using their handy size conversion chart. It’s refreshing to see them tell me I should be wearing a 60-band despite this being a size this brand doesn’t sell, rather than giving me the nearest size they do sell or just telling me my size doesn’t exist / is out of range for their calculator. This isn’t as bad as some of the calculators below but it’s still not close to a size that would fit me. If I sister size up to a 30-band, it’d put me at a 30C which is definitely too small.

 

The Hilarious – Really, Really Not My Size

Victoria’s Secret – 30B

Um, no. The wording on this calculator really confused me: “Wrap a soft measuring tape around your back at band level, under each arm and around the front. Measure just above your bust, right about where the straps meet the top of the cup“. I wrapped the tape measure diagonally from band level at the back to above the bust at the front, but I’m not sure if that’s what I was supposed to do. I’m also not sure why Victoria’s Secret is asking you to measure above your bust to find your band measurement, which sits below the bust. Depending on your body shape, these could be very different measurements.

HerRoom – 30B

When I entered “the smallest measurement possible” as asked for the underbust, I was told my band size was below 30 and out of range for this calculator. However I do like my bands a tad looser than most so I plugged in an inch bigger for my underbust and got this result which is totally off.

Breast Talk – 30B

This calculator breaks if you use a fraction so I rounded my 26.5″ underbust down to 26″, but unfortunately it still didn’t give me a correct size. If I round up to 27″ underbust instead it tells me I’m a 32AA which is equally far off what fits me!

 

The thing that surprised me most was not how off some of these calculators were, but the fact that not one of them was spot on. Why? Because a huge amount of bra-fitting advice is dedicated to telling women that the ‘plus four’ bra sizing method is outdated or not right for everyone, and yet not one of these calculators is actually using that method (since it’s what I find works for me). Popular bra sizing methods may not be as outdated as we think.

This list isn’t meant to name and shame the bad bra fit calculators out there so much as it is meant to prove that you can’t rely on bra fit calculators alone – and especially not just one calculator – to find your size.

If you’re buying from a new brand and aren’t sure what size to go for, by all means use their calculator for guidance but take the results with a pinch of salt and remember that you’ll only really know if a bra fits you when you try it on (my ‘does my bra fit?‘ guide can help you decide!).

How many of these bra size calculators work for you? Know of any other good/bad ones I should add to my list?

estelle

Soak Vs. Eucalan Lingerie Wash – Which is Best?

Disclosure: I bought both of these lingerie washes myself.

My first lingerie treat-to-self of 2016 was something a bit different – lingerie wash! Previously, I’d been using Tesco’s Silk and Delicates Handwash for a good few years and had no problem with it. It was dirt cheap (£1.50 for a 750ml bottle, or 6p per wash) and it got the job done.

However I’d started to find that my hands were itching right after I did my lingerie laundry – maybe I developed a new allergy, or maybe they updated the formula. Either way, it was time for a change.

If you start Googling, you’ll find there are lots of lingerie/delicates washes out there, however the two that I see recommended the most often and sold by the most lingerie boutiques are Soak and Eucalan, both Canadian brands. They each have a number of stockists worldwide though and I was able to buy the two in the UK; a bottle of the Fig scented Soak through Deramores for £14.99, and a bottle of Grapefruit scented Eucalan through Woolstack for £11.50.

 

Soak-vs-Eucalan-lingerie-washes-450x600

 

A key similarity between these two washes is that they don’t require rinsing – you just add them to water, pop your smalls in to soak for a bit, squeeze the water out and leave to dry. This isn’t the case for all lingerie washes (my old Tesco one required rinsing), and it definitely saves you time. Neither of these are miracle-workers though, you’ll still need to rub any particularly soiled areas to loosen the dirt.

So first up in differences, the price. Those aren’t too different, however the cheaper Eucalan is also a larger bottle. It’s fairest to compare them on price per use, since you’ll need to buy replacements for the smaller bottle more regularly – the ‘serving size’ for each is one teaspoon (5ml), so Eucalan’s lingerie wash works out at 11.5p per wash and Soak’s at 20p per use*.

Quick break from the comparison for a moment: I don’t find either of these prices at all expensive for taking care of your lingerie. I hand wash not only my lingerie but all of my delicate clothing (which is at least half my wardrobe) and 5 months after purchasing these lingerie washes, I’ve still got 2/3rds of the each bottle left! So for a grand total of £26.49 I’ve been able to take proper care of my delicates for what will probably amount to over a year.

 

Soak-vs-Eucalan-review-600x450

 

Now, back to the point of this post. So what else is different between Soak and Eucalan? Both washes are biodegradable, however only Soak’s bottle is biodegradable too. Eucalan’s is still “easy to recycle” though.

Eucalan is scented with essential oils whilst Soak doesn’t disclose what it uses for scent (so it may be natural, it may not be). There’s a scentless version of each for those whose skin is sensitive to this sort of thing, or just don’t want their lingerie to be fragranced.

However I have to say, the grapefruit Eucalan may as well have been scent-free! The fig Soak wash left my laundry lightly fragranced – it’s a subtle scent, but it’s definitely there, unlike the Eucalan which loses its scent the second it hits the water. It’s not a deal-breaker for me, but I do prefer the Soak in this respect.

 

Soak-and-Eucalan-comparison-for-washing-lingerie-600x450

 

What of the other ingredients? Mostly, both brands use gentle ingredients that won’t irritate sensitive skin (Soak even claims it can be used as a pet shampoo!) though the Soak ingredients list does include benzophenone-4 which can be irritating, and tetrasodium EDTA which has a very minor health risk. Eucalan’s ingredients list seems ‘cleaner’, though there is still ammonium lauryl sulphate in there which can irritate sensitive skin. A report however did determine this ingredient to be “safe in formulations designed for discontinuous, brief use followed by thorough rinsing from the surface of the skin“. I have mildly sensitive skin and I’m happy to say that neither of these had any adverse effect on me!

So to conclude, which one would I recommend? I’d hoped I might have a clear favourite but liked both products, they are very similar lingerie washes all things considered – so sorry for the anticlimatic ending! I know the one I personally will be buying again is Eucalan, because it’s cheaper and the ingredients seem a little more natural. If you’re set on a wash that leaves your lingerie drawer smelling beautiful though, it’s got to be Soak.

 

*Cost based on what I paid, which were the lowest prices I could find at the time of purchase. Based on the current lowest prices from UK online stockists (excluding sale/offer prices, and third party retail sites such as eBay) that I can find Soak Fig works out at 12.7p per use (£9.50 for 375ml here) and Eucalan Grapefruit at 10.9p per use (£10.94 for 500ml here). Most Soak stockists charge between £12 and £15 however, it is generally the more expensive product per 100ml.

 

Have you used Soak and/or Eucalan, or perhaps a different brands? What are your experiences with lingerie washes and which is your favourite?

Estelle

How to Shorten a Bra Band

Do you struggle to find bra bands small enough to fit you well? Or have you ever snagged a sale or eBay bargain in almost-but-not-quite-your-size and wished the band were a bit tighter? Today’s post is for you!

There are a few ways to shorten a bra band, from folding the fabric to the no-sew Rixie Clip. However many of these methods will make your bra look different or add bulk to the band. The tutorial below is designed to shorten the band without changing the appearance of your bra in any noticeable way. All you need is thread, a pair of fine-pointed embroidery scissors (or a stitch-unpicker), and your choice of a sewing needle or sewing machine.

Note: the eagle-eyed amongst you may already have noticed the item in the photos isn’t a bra. It’s a suspender belt which is all I had that needed shortening right now, but the process is the same regardless.

 

Step 1 – Decide how much you’re going to shorten by

It’s up to you how you want to do this, but obviously you need a clear idea of how much you’ll be shortening the bra band by before you start. This method involves scissors so there’s no going back! I simply pop the bra on backwards, pinch the band until it’s comfortably tight, and use a tape measure to see exactly how much excess band length I’ve gathered up.

 

Step 2 – Unpick the stitching on the hooks and eyes

The reason you want to unpick the stitching rather than just chop them off is that you’ll need to reattach them – the hook-and-eye components have two layers with the bra band sandwiched between, so you’ll need to remove whatever bit of band is in there and open them back up.

Using a stitch unpicker or very fine scissors, slot them between the hook or eye component and the band, and cut/rip those stitches. Be careful not to damage the hook/eye part, but don’t worry if you damage the band fabric as you’ll be chopping the end off anyway.

The hook/eye part will be sewn on with a [ shaped row of stitches. I start with the long row of stitches because that may be all you need to undo to ease the band out, but depending on how it’s been sewn in you might need to undo the stitching around the corners too.

 

 

Step 3 – Cut the band down to size

Now comes the scary part – it’s scissor time! Chop away the band you don’t need, ensuring you cut the same off of both sides – you’ll end up with a wonky, off-centre fastening otherwise.

If you’re lucky, your bra will have a very straight-across, rectangular band and you can skip ahead to step 5. More likely though, your bra band will curve and get wider as it wraps around the body, and the new end will be too tall to fit into the hook/eye without a little adjustment. If you sew it back in without fixing that first, it will wrinkle and look less neat so move on to step 4.

 

 

Step 4 – Make the band end narrower

Unpick the stitching securing the elastic to the curved, top side of the band back to where the strap attaches. Without cutting the elastic, trim the fabric down until it is the right width for the hook/eye component.

Eventually ,you want the band just a tad narrower than the hook/eye part so that it fits inside, but don’t forget that you’ll need to fold the edge of the fabric over to sew the elastic back on which will make it even narrower. So I generally just cut it to the exact same width as the hook/eye part and then fold the edge.

Pin the folded edge back onto the elastic and secure it in place with a zig-zag stitch.

 

 

Step 5 – Sew the hook and eye pieces back on

The final step is to simply slot the new band ends back into the hook and eye pieces (make sure they’re the correct way up – hooks face up and eyes face down when you’re looking at the outside of the bra) and sew securely in place. Remember to also slot the label back in if you removed that earlier and still want it.

Ta-da, your bra band (or in my case suspender belt) has now been shortened!

 

 

I hope you’ve found this post useful! I ran a poll at the end of 2016 asking what kind of content you want more of and sewing guides was the clear winner, so I’m planning to do more customisation guides like this as well as new tutorials on sewing different lingerie items from scratch.

Is there anything you’d like to learn how to adjust or sew in particular?

Estelle

6 Reasons Your Bras Can Get Stained or Discoloured

I’ve written before about the importance of avoiding the tumble-dryer, and shared some tips on how I keep my own lingerie in great condition, so today I wanted to focus on one specific aspect of bra care – avoiding stains and discolouration.

Have you ever bought a white bra only for it to take on a grey-ish tinge within a few months, or do your shiny new bras quickly develop dirty marks that have them looking old before their time? Bras do have a finite lifespan – they won’t last as long as, say, a quality leather jacket – but with the right care even an everyday favourite can last a year or maybe two before it really starts to deteriorate.

Whether replacing your bras regularly isn’t an option financially, or you simply want to keep your underthings looking as nice as possible for as long as possible (who doesn’t?), here are six factors to avoid to prolong the lifespan of your bras…

Sweat

We’ve all heard of sweat stains on shirts, but did you know that it can happen to your bra too? Common areas for sweat stains to appear are at the sides where the band wraps around below the armpit, and along the underwire which sits in the crease between your breast and your torso.

Sweat itself is colourless, but when it mixes with aluminium from antiperspirants or with naturally-occurring bacteria on your skin’s surface, it can turn yellow. If you’re noticing yellowish marks on your bras, you could try switching to an aluminium-free antiperspirant. If you know your bra has sweat on it – if it’s a sports one, or it’s just a particularly hot day – soak it in cold water as soon as possible after taking it off. Hot water will ‘set’ sweat stains and make them permanent.

Deodorant & Antiperspirant

Besides the chemical reaction of antiperspirant and sweat that I’ve mentioned above, antiperspirant or deodorant alone can stain a bra.

If you’re noticing white, chalky-looking stains, try switching to a clear liquid antiperspirant or deodorant. Whatever you use, always let it dry completely before you put your bra on. When washing your bras, take a little detergent and gently rub it into the inner underarm area to help dissolve and dislodge any residue build-up.

Washing With Other Colours

The waste water from your washing machine is called greywater for a reason! You’ll see this for yourself if you hand-wash your lingerie – by the time your smalls are done soaking, the water’s no longer crystal clear. Some of that is the dirt you’ve just washed out, but a lot of it is leaked dye from the fabric.

This is by far the biggest reason that bright whites tend to turn grey, and leaving a light-coloured bra to soak bundled up with a dark-coloured one can lead to spot marks where dye leaks from one to the other in the places they’re touching. Trust me, these types of stains are very tough to get out!

The best thing to do it to avoid them entirely by washing your bras by colour group – white ones only with other whites, dark blues and blacks together, and so on. Red dye is one of the worst for leaking out in the wash, so definitely do a separate wash just for your red delicates.

Wearing With Other Colours

It’s not just when your bras are in the wash that you need to be careful about the fabrics they touch – dye can rub off of your clothing onto the bra below too! Granted, this rarely happens, but the times you need to be the most careful are when you’re wearing something new on top of your bra. Clothing fresh from the store tends to have excess dye left in the fabric that will mostly come out with the first few times it’s washed. If you’re wearing a brand new navy dress over a cream bra, there’s a chance the colour could transfer.

To avoid this happening, wash new clothes before you wear them to remove excess dye and other chemicals, and avoid wearing a light bra under dark clothing that’s brand new. Or pop a camisole in between to form a protective layer.

Sunlight

Bras should be laid flat or hung from the centre-gore to dry (ignore the picture above – the limitations of stock imagery!). If you’re drying yours outside on a washing line or rotary airer, be sure to avoid direct sunlight. Hanging your bras in the shade (or indoors) is better, because UV light will ‘bleach’ clothes over time, breaking down chemical bonds in the dye until the colours appear more faded.

On the other hand, direct sunlight may help to restore white bras closer to their original brightness, but do avoid leaving your bras out in the sun when it’s excessively hot – the heat can warp wires and make elastic lose its stretch.

Not Washing Bras Regularly Enough

However you choose to wash and dry your bras, be sure that you do it often to get body oils and general dirt out before it has a chance to build up. As I mentioned further up, bras with sweat on them should be washed as soon as possible after being worn – ideally the same day. However for other bras, wearing them twice or maybe even three times is okay before you pop them in the wash.

I hope you’ve found this post useful! Would you like to read a follow-up on how to get stains out that are already there? Is there anything else about lingerie care that you’d like to know?

How to Make a Stick-On Bra Last Longer

Disclosure: This blog post is sponsored by KISSBOBO.

Last month I introduced KISSBOBO on the blog and spoke about when you might want to wear an adhesive bra, such as with backless outfits that call for a clever lingerie solution when you want to wear a bra but keep it hidden.

I also ran a giveaway and there’s another chance to get your hands on a free KISSBOBO bra at the end of this post, but first, let’s go over some care instructions. As anyone who’s ever owned a pair of hold-ups will be able to attest to, silicone doesn’t last forever. Improper wear, washing or storage can lead to a silicone bra falling off mid-wear (awkward!) or even being ruined permanently.

 

KISSBOBO silicone stick on bra

KISSBOBO LALABRA in all-silicone, in B or C cup

 

How to wear an adhesive bra

Make sure your skin is completely clean and dry before putting an adhesive bra on. Moisturiser, perfume and talcum powder all reduce the adhesive effect by bonding to the silicone.

Once you’ve put the bra on, smooth out each cup with your hand to make sure there aren’t hidden air pockets and it’s securely stuck down. KISSBOBO provides instructions on how to put an adhesive bra on at minute 1:30 in this YouTube video (note: may be NSFW) – the English translation’s not great but it should be clear enough!

Too many attempts to reattach the cups so that the position is just right can reduce the adhesiveness, meaning you’ll need to wash the bra before you can try again. So if you’re buying a stick-on bra for the first time for a particular occasion, it’s a good idea to practise putting it on a day or two beforehand.

Sweat will also affect the adhesion. Obviously, this isn’t a bra to do sport in, but it’s something to bear in mind if, for example, you’re hoping to wear one with a backless wedding gown and are getting married on a hot, tropical beach somewhere.

 

KISSBOBO black stick on drawstring silicone bra

KISSBOBO LALABRA with fabric outer, in B or C cup

KISSBOBO beige adhesive backless bra

KISSBOBO LALABRA with fabric outer, in B or C cup

 

How to wash an adhesive bra

It’s imperative that you wash an adhesive bra after every wear. Oils from your body will reduce its stickiness so to remove them, gently rub a mild soap (alcohol-free, and ideally fragrance-free) onto the adhesive side and rinse under warm, running water. Hot water can damage the silicone, as can any kind of heat so no popping this in a tumble dryer or using a hair-dryer!

Instead, to dry your bra hang it away from direct sunlight and radiators. Don’t try to dry it with a towel as you’ll just get little bits of towel fluff stuck all over it and need to wash it again. If anything does get stuck to it, try not to scratch it off with a fingernail as you may damage the silicone.

Also note that you can’t dry-clean a silicone bra.

 

KISSBOBO adhesive stick on silicone bra

KISSBOBO Invisible bra, in A-DD cup

 

How to store an adhesive bra

Be sure to keep the adhesive side of the cups covered when your bra isn’t being worn, so they don’t gather dust. KISSBOBO provides a sheet to do this, or you can use cling-film.

Again, heat can degrade the silicone so don’t store your stick-on bra in a drawer by a radiator, or where it’s going to get a lot of sunlight.

An adhesive bra will eventually lose its stickiness and need replacing, but care for it well and you could feasibly wear it dozens of times before that happens! Fancy trying one? KISSBOBO have 20 bras to hand out to my readers, in exchange for leaving your thoughts in a review on their Facebook page. Update 07/04/17: there are now no more free bras available. 

If you’d be happy to do that, simply drop me an email at [email protected] with your name, address and choice of bra of those featured in this post, including required size. Please note the bras are only available in the US, UK, France, Germany, Italy and Spain, and they’ll go on a first-come, first-served basis to the first 20 people to email me with full and valid details.

Have you ever worn a stick-on bra? If you own one, how do you care for yours?

Estelle