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Why do underwires never want to stay put?
March 31, 2008 9:05 PM   Subscribe

Brassiere filter: Is there some kind of trick for preventing underwire poke-through? Can the ruined bras be repaired (by someone with little to no sewing skills)?

It's always a bad day when a favorite bra becomes, literally, a pain in my side. It doesn't seem to matter if I'm wearing a cheap one or an expensive one (though, the latter hurts A LOT more), all of my bras seem to reach their demise in the same way. These aren't bras that have spent too much time in the washing machine, and they're never put in a dryer. Also, underwires are a necessity, so it'd be useless to suggest another style or a whole other sort of less supportive garment!

Is there any way to prevent underwire poke-through? If a bra seems to be succumbing to poke-through, is it possible to slow or stop its progress? Can a bra be successfully repaired and rehabilitated using little supplies and sewing skill (I have neither)? My mom, who actually has some sewing skill, used to attempt to repair them, but they would never be the same!

[I did see this post, but I don't have the skills necessary to follow the advice.]
posted by Mael Oui to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (23 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
 
Do you put them in the washing machine at all? I find hand-washing is the only way to prevent bras from breaking down in this (and other) ways. It is my firm belief that the washing machine will prematurely age a bra with underwire.

Once you get in the habit it's really not a big deal to handwash at all. Bras in my size (34/36 G) are usually about $100 so I like to protect my investment.
posted by loiseau at 9:08 PM on March 31, 2008 [1 favorite]


Oh, but incidentally before I started handwashing I did sew back lots of poking-out underwires. I just shoved it back in and sewed the little hole closed with a half-dozen stitches. It works but it's not like it'll ever feel like a brand-new bra or anything.
posted by loiseau at 9:09 PM on March 31, 2008


I bet you need a bigger cup size. Find your favorite bra, go to the store and try it on in one cup size bigger and one band size smaller than the one you've got now.

I used to have underwire poke through all the time, once in an expensive bra after only 3 months, but it hasn't happened since I've been properly fitted. (was wearing 36DD, am actually 32G). One time I took a bra to the place that hems my pants, and they sewed a flap of lycra over the poky spot, but I wasn't happy with it. It covered the wire, but it wasn't securely back in its place and therefore wasn't offering the same support.
posted by peep at 9:16 PM on March 31, 2008 [1 favorite]


I also never machine wash, ever.
posted by peep at 9:17 PM on March 31, 2008


I used to have underwire poke through all the time, once in an expensive bra after only 3 months, but it hasn't happened since I've been properly fitted. (was wearing 36DD, am actually 32G).
You know, I hadn't thought about it, but that's true for me, too. I used to have underwire pokage all the time, but I haven't since I went from wearing a 32DD to wearing a 28G.

I machine wash my bras in a mesh lingerie bag on gentle cycle, and then I hang them up to dry. But I did that when I wore the 32DDs, too, so that's probably not the difference.
posted by craichead at 9:34 PM on March 31, 2008


I find the sewing the hole shut doesn't help, the underwire just poked between the stitches. The only way I've been able to rehabilitate a bra once the wire comes through is by patching it. You need to completely cover the area, probably by wrapping the patch around to the other side of the material (otherwise the underwire just comes through the edge of the patch, and you need to use fairly dense material. I find off cuts from an old pair of flannelette pjs works as long as it's not too worn. All you need is a needle, some thread and some old material to sew over. No real skill involved, it doesn't matter if it's ugly. Just make sure you use soft material and don't generate any big lumps, otherwise they'll rub.

But I only get underwire poking through really old bras which should be thrown away because they're otherwise worn out. More than three years old with regular wear is about the ball park, and most of my bras don't hang around that long. I've only ever resorted to patching when I'm a student and can't afford new ones straight away (heh, like last month). My bras get washed in the machine with no extra care and go in the dryer occasionally too, so lasting three years is a pretty good run.

If yours are poking out always in the same place, wearing there before anywhere else and doing this when they're still relatively new (like less than a year old say) then I agree that you're probably wearing the wrong size. They really shouldn't be wearing out that fast and the wear should be all over rather than somewhere specific. The bigger cup/smaller band is apparently really common although recently I changed to a larger band/smaller cup and am finding my underwire sitting much better and just poking less in general. So keep this in mind if your problem fits this profile.
posted by shelleycat at 9:36 PM on March 31, 2008


Nthing the no maching washing. However, if you must, get yourself a lingerie bag.
posted by notjustfoxybrown at 9:44 PM on March 31, 2008


i'd like to echo the bra size thing! i had never made the connection either, but i used to get all kinds of pokage before i got properly fitted. now my bras wear out evenly and usually just get narsty before the underwire pokes out.
posted by kelseyq at 10:42 PM on March 31, 2008


This website's explanation of how to fit a bra will help you figure out what size you actually need if the problem is that your bra is too small. The "Fit Check" tips are particularly helpful:

Fit Check List:
posted by ocherdraco at 3:28 AM on April 1, 2008 [2 favorites]


I agree that you're probably wearing the wrong bra size, and as peep advised, try going up a cup size and down a band size to see if that helps. Since i started wearing the right bra size about 3 years ago, i've never had an underwire poking through. I've also written a do-it-yourself bra fitting guide along the same lines as the biggerbras one linked above - the distinction is between bra fitting, not bra sizing - there are tons of measurement-based calculators out there, but they're rubbish for actually finding out if a bra will fit you well. Thanks to the huge variety of brands and sizes, it's honestly just trial and error, and learning what brands and styles work best for you. The pay off is great, though - a well-fitting bra is worth its weight in gold!
posted by ukdanae at 3:48 AM on April 1, 2008 [3 favorites]


I'm thinking it's a size problem as well. I keep my bras for years and never have this problem. (They all come from Victoria's Secret, FWIW.)
posted by iguanapolitico at 6:13 AM on April 1, 2008


I machine wash on gentle with the lingerie bag, hang dry, and have never had a wire poke through. Getting fitted properly certainly couldn't hurt though.
posted by Koko at 7:24 AM on April 1, 2008


This used to happen to me all the time. I had one bra with wire poke-through where I just yanked the wire out and kept on wearing the bra. It was structured enough to work without wires.

I switched to handwashing and choosing bras for function rather than cuteness (VS's Body by Victoria line has done me well for about four years now) and haven't suffered the pokes since.

People always recommend going to Nordstrom for bra advice. I've never been there myself, but if the Nordstrom bra ladies are so knowledgeable about fitting, they'd probably know how to prevent wire poking too.
posted by Metroid Baby at 9:57 AM on April 1, 2008


I used to get poke-through all the time. I now machine-wash them in a small laundry mesh bag, and so far so good. It's been four years since my last poke-through. Yes, I know I sound like a bad infomercial for mesh bags.
posted by Xere at 11:12 AM on April 1, 2008


Nthing the bra fitting properly, as I'm another who used to have this problem frequently but haven't in years. You might try going to an upscale bra boutique to get fitted by a pro, which does not obligate you to purchase anything they carry. In the meantime, you might be able to extend their lifespan with a little judicious prophylactic application of Stitch Witchery at the outside end of the wire, inside the bra.
posted by notashroom at 12:33 PM on April 1, 2008 [1 favorite]


Thank you everyone for your excellent responses. I never ever considered that the sizing could impact the condition of my bras!

As far as washing, sometimes I put some of them in the washing machine, but not every single bra.. and I don't use a washing machine every single time. The latest ruined bra (that inspired my question) was only ever washed in a washing machine once!

'Once you get in the habit it's really not a big deal to handwash at all.'
That's encouraging! Handwashing is a pain now, but I think I'm going to have to switch to 100% handwashing from now on. Hmm, although I think I'll get one of these mesh bags, as well!

Also, peep (and everyone else), I think you're really on to something! I've been putting off getting the professional fitting for years (last fitting was when I got my first one!), but I'm pretty sure that the size I'm wearing is a little off.. so, this is as good an excuse as any! '

If yours are poking out always in the same place, wearing there before anywhere else and doing this when they're still relatively new (like less than a year old say) then I agree that you're probably wearing the wrong size.'
This is only the second time I'm wearing this expensive bra (MUCH less than a year!), and they have absolutely poked out the same way every single time.. It even pokes me in the exact same place! ukdanae, your bra fitting guide looks excellent! Thank you for linking it!

I wonder.. for the people who never have had a wire poke through, are you.. uh, I can't think of a polite way to word this! I'm a bit on the bustier side, and I wonder if busty women are more likely to have the poke-through?
posted by Mael Oui at 10:43 PM on April 1, 2008


Poking through on the second wearing means you're definitely wearing the wrong size. Even a really crappy bra will give at the elastic before the wire comes through normally, so you're obviously stressing it in a way it wasn't expecting. I have had a bra poke through a new bra back when I was only a 12B (34B). It was a badly shaped bra for me and didn't really fit so I think the poking issue is more about bad sizing than being overly busty.

FWIW I found after changing sizes recently that the whole thing was so much more comfortable, and I didn't actually realise it was uncomfortable before. You can get used to a lot. Also I only changed size with two out of three bras that I bought, the third one was perfect in the old size. This goes to show how much difference there is between brands and styles. Understanding how a bra should fit correctly is more important that being hung up on numbers and letters in the long run, and both ocherdraco and ukdanae have given good advice on that front.
posted by shelleycat at 1:19 AM on April 2, 2008


Mael Oui, I'm on the low side of average.
posted by iguanapolitico at 6:58 AM on April 2, 2008


I have never, never had a wire poke through and I machine-wash all my bras - I don't even bother with the mesh bag most of the time. I'm a 30GG (which, to take all things into consideration, does mean that the only bras in my size are generally expensive and decent quality).

For years I have listened with amazement to women complaining that bras are uncomfortable or dig in somewhere, because it's never been my experience. I'm now coming to the conclusion that it's definitely to do with having always worn the correct size - bless my mum for taking me to a professional fitting when I was a teenager!
posted by bent back tulips at 7:48 AM on April 2, 2008


Conversations about bras really shouldn't make one so happy, but I am THRILLED that I asked this question! This whole sizing issue is like a lightbulb switching on over my head. I never would have considered that it could make such a difference! In fact, I'm thinking that, even though I was once measured (about 17 years ago), I realize that probably wasn't done correctly! And I've been overly set on a 'this is my size and that's that' mentality that I just never thought around. I'm really excited about discovering some new comfortable and long lasting bras!
posted by Mael Oui at 1:18 AM on April 3, 2008


Delighted that you liked the bra-sizing guide Mael, feel free to MeMail me if you want any other help. If you're on the curvier side and in the states, i'd recommend checking out Le Mystere, Fantasie and Freya bras -- they'll average around $60-$100 but there's usually sales that you can grab (Freya is made by the same company as Fantasie, and is their cheaper-and-younger range). Fantasie can be a bit hit-and-miss with their seamed bras, but i find their seamfree basic range an excellent fit, so it might be a good place to start.

I wonder.. for the people who never have had a wire poke through, are you.. uh, I can't think of a polite way to word this! I'm a bit on the bustier side, and I wonder if busty women are more likely to have the poke-through?

Before i got sized properly i was wearing a 38D, and yeah, the underwires poked through. When i switched to 36G, i've never had the problem again. I definitely think the underwire problem can be exacerbated if you're a larger cup size with the wrong bra - you're straining the bra in all the wrong places.
posted by ukdanae at 1:48 AM on April 3, 2008


Thank you, thank you, thank you for your help and the bra recommendations, ukdanae! I am indeed on the curvier side and in the states, and, well, at one time I would have said that I have a hard time finding good quality garments, but, of course, what with the sizing being off all these years... Between this information and the bra-sizing guide, you've been an invaluable help! I can't thank you enough!

'I definitely think the underwire problem can be exacerbated if you're a larger cup size with the wrong bra - you're straining the bra in all the wrong places.'
The sad thing is, that probably should have been a logical conclusion, but I wouldn't have put it together!
posted by Mael Oui at 2:34 AM on April 4, 2008


I wonder.. for the people who never have had a wire poke through, are you.. uh, I can't think of a polite way to word this! I'm a bit on the bustier side, and I wonder if busty women are more likely to have the poke-through?

I'm definitely on the busty side and this used to happen to me with every single bra I bought, and has not happened once since getting properly fitted. Seconding ukdanae's brand recommendations. Get your fitting done somewhere that carries sizes above a D. They can be ridiculously expensive in North America ($100+ for my first Freya in Canada), but you can bring it down to $60 if you order online afterwards.
posted by waterlily at 6:30 AM on April 4, 2008


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