Shoes and bras are two of my guilty pleasures because both make me feel confident, sexy, and pulled-together, but whenever I acquire a new gem for my collection, there is a day that I look to with a mix of anticipation and dread: The Break-In day. No matter how comfortable the new bra or shoes feel when I try them on, I know the first day (or three) of wear will be less than ideal. As a result, I want to focus today on the break-in period for bras and discuss why it occurs and what you can do to alleviate the discomfort.
Let’s start with a basic question: What exactly is “The Break-in Day?” Essentially, it is the first day you wear the bra during which the elastic stretches to fit your body and the fabric softens from friction against the skin. Your body also learns where the bra will apply pressure and gradually becomes accustomed to the shape of the bra. How the bra feels on break-in day is usually the worst it will ever feel.
But, shouldn’t bras feel perfect the first time you wear them with no pinching, chaffing, or tightness? Not necessarily. When a bra is shipped from the manufacturer to the retailer, the new fabric is starched, sometimes heavily, so that the bra maintains its shape and hanger appeal after compression in the shipping container. Most of us are guilty of judging clothing by how it appears hanging on the rack too, and the process of starching the bras helps preserve their shape in the retailer’s store even if they have been tried on by multiple people.
Furthermore, the fabric itself is brand new which means it has not been thoroughly washed and worn to soften its texture. The elastic—a chief component in the band and wings of the bra—has yet to be pulled and stretched to contour to your unique shape which makes it feel tighter and firmer. Couple the newness with the above discussion of starch, and you not only have a bra which feels stiff and possibly scratchy but also cannot stretch and shape as much due to the chemicals.
To illustrate these concepts, I want to share with you two very different experiences I had with breaking in a new bra and how this impacted the lifespan of the bra over time. Frequent readers know I rave about the Panache Jasmine because it quickly usurped my former favorites to reign supreme over the lingerie closet. However, the first day I wore the Jasmine was pure agony.
The morning started out perfect as I hooked the Jasmine on the first set of hooks and marveled at the lift, shaping, and forward projection the design offered. The band felt firm and anchored to the body, and for the first two hours, I was comfortable. Then, the heavily starched fabric (Panache is one of the worst offenders for over-starching) scratched and rubbed my skin, especially around the band where it was compressing the skin. After lunch, the firm band seemed to tighten around my ribcage, compressing my torso with a vice-like power. The clock slowly counted down the hours of the day, and when I only had an hour of work left, my brother called. He needed a ride home which tacked on another 1.5 hours of wear to the 8.5 hours I had already been wearing it. As I sat in the parking lot waiting for him, the scratchiness and the tightness were too much, and I unsnapped the hook-and-eye closures through my shirt. The next day I wore the much looser Freya Ellie.
After reading my experience, the word “masochist” comes to mind since my so-called “favorite bra” tortured me the first day I wore it. In fact, I contemplated never wearing it again, but I realized that I had yet to wash the bra or thoroughly stretch the elastic. Once I was home from picking up my brother, I soaked the Jasmine in room-temperature soapy water for thirty minutes before rinsing the fabric thoroughly. The next time I wore the bra, I felt a marked improvement even toward the end of the day. Another washing and another day of wear yielded an even more comfortable fit, and I fell in lingerie love with the Jasmine and have ardently supported the style since then. When I wear the bra now (and I do at least three times a week), I receive the lift, shaping, and support I need without the scratchy fabric or too firm band.
The other experience I want to share is the first day I wore the Freya Faye in Beige. It was perfect. I felt like I had the bra for months, and I wore it all day without a problem. A few weeks later, however, the bra was already on the middle hooks, and a few months after that, I had dropped down to the tightest. Finally, in less than 5 months, the bra was in my “wear at home pile,” and I only wore it once or twice a week at most. Meanwhile, in the four months I have been wearing the Jasmine, I am still on the loosest set of hooks. The band of the Faye wasn’t the only component to wear out quickly either. The shape of the cups stretched, and the pliable underwire was bent backwards by how quickly I was wearing the bra on the tightest setting. When I purchased the Faye, the band did not feel as firm as the Jasmine which contributed to how quickly I wore out the band, however I won’t defend the stiffness of Panache’s fabric. In general, I’ve found Freya does not use the same heavy-handed application of starch as Panache, and the break-in day is much easier if the band feels firm but the fabric feels soft.
Since the first day of wear can usually impact how you feel about the bra, I have some tips below for ensuring your break-in period is as easy and painless as possible:
- Wash your bras before you wear them, especially if the fabric feels stiff. With the starch removed, the band can stretch to fit your body, the cups can contour to your breasts, and the bra will feel better overall. However, once you wash a bra, you usually cannot return it, so test the bra thoroughly before washing.
- Wear the bra for a few hours the first time. Instead of grabbing your new bra for an 18-hour day at the office, try wearing it for 4-6 hours to help the elastic stretch without feeling too tight as your body swells throughout the day.
- Use an extender. If you are like me and prefer a snug band, then the break-in period of a bra is usually worse than for someone who prefers a looser band. In these cases, it can be helpful to purchase a bra extender to wear for the first week until the elastic has fully stretched to accommodate your curves.
- Evaluate the materials. Certain companies will use soft materials from the outset and do not rely on chemicals or starch which translates to a more comfortable break-in day. The fabric on the cups and wings of the Jasmine felt stiff from all of the starch whereas my Freya bras tend to feel a little more comfortable. Nevertheless, washing the Jasmine transformed it into a completely different bra, so if you’re deciding whether to wear-then-wash or wash-then-wear, examining the materials is the safest bet.
Your turn: Were there any bras that you thought you weren’t going to like based off the first time you wore it that later became your favorites? Do you have any other tips for helping ease the break-in period?