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cost of making a bra

It goes a little something like this. You spot a stunning bra — one that looks expertly constructed, with eye-catching detail and a flattering fit, and you’re determined to add it to your collection… until you take a peek at the price tag. How, you wonder, could such a small garment cost so much? And is it worth it?

One thing’s for sure: lingerie is a realm of the fashion industry that requires highly specialized expertise — there are specific four-year degrees and extensive programs in lingerie design and production important for honing those skills. It makes sense, too, given that a bra lies directly against the body (and the skin), so it must fit flawlessly, while also supporting, shaping and securing your breasts in place for an entire day or night. And that’s only taking the function of a bra into account! Beyond the practicality aspects, an ideal bra will also be pretty to look at, so there are aesthetic demands as well.

There are obviously many factors that come into play regarding the price of your unmentionables — including the length of the design process, whether it’s mass-produced or not, what materials are used, manufacturing overhead, taxes, and shipping and editorial costs. These costs are in addition to many others that you might not even consider. For example, the retail price is typically calculated so the store selling the product can make a profit to pay for the purchase of the item and their time, overhead, and expertise.

Still wondering why bras are often more expensive than other lingerie items? Read on for the full low-down — you’re bound to feel a little better about your investments.

lingerie design

Bringing a bra to life

The labor involved in devising, testing and actually producing a new bra design is the primary factor involved in the cost. Did you know that all lingerie is technically handmade? That’s right — there’s no factory machine churning out mass quantities of bras.

Bras are typically sewn piece-by-piece by specialists who are trained on specific machines. In fact, it’s not uncommon for a specialist to only be responsible for certain tasks, such as sewing straps or inserting underwire into bras.

Unlike a blouse or a skirt, constructing a bra requires more than simply sewing a couple pieces of fabric together. Even if the stitching is off by a marginal amount, it can mean the difference between a well-fitting bra and one that’s entirely uncomfortable and unsupportive.

lingerie sketches

The reality is, bra design is no simple process. As a result, designers spend a lot of time considering a bra’s structure before making any final decisions on its cut and features, and must first build a prototype before actually constructing it. This prototype is used to assess the quality of the product, but also to ensure that the sizing is accurate and consistent.

It takes months and months to get a single bra just right, and that time is well worth it when you take into account all the components of a bra (between 25 to 100+!) and the complexities of what it is required to do. Molded bras contain cups that are specially designed for advanced contouring and shaping purposes — and their cups must be heated over a mold to get their unique shape, making for an especially intricate process.

Designers also have to consider the demands for different bust sizes. The weight and shape of larger breasts, for example, might require a different kind of underwire, padding or stitching, or simply more seams or material on a full cup bra.

By the way — quality bras are produced using high-grade industrial sewing machines, which cost more but also ensure that they are better constructed.

Material matters

High-quality material looks better, feels better, and holds up longer. And naturally, these fabrics cost more per yard, especially when it comes to luxe lace, satin, etc. Additionally, high-tech fabrics, which are seeing higher and higher demand for their antibacterial, shaping and moisture-wicking capabilities, require a lot of research and testing, which drives up their price. That’s why sports bras, even those without underwire, can get pricey.

Cheap bras are usually made with inexpensive materials — and those don’t tend to last. They may warp, stretch, snag, fade or otherwise break down more quickly, which means you have to replace your bras more quickly. As a result, you could ultimately end up spending even more money than you would have to invest in quality bras in the first place.

bra design

It’s all in the details

Hooks, underwire, elastic, bows, multi-part cups, adjustable straps — every little detail make a massive difference in the fit, feel and look of your bra, but also in the price of it as well. Irregular stitching, plastic adjusters or clips (in place of metal) loose or overly stretchy elastic and ultra-stiff fabric are all signs of a bra with low-quality details.

Speaking of details, packaging may seem insignificant, but it’s not just for show — in fact, it plays a key role in the longevity of a bra. Careful packaging (and transportation) ensures that bras aren’t exposed to any potential damage that compromises their shape and condition before you even purchase them.

 bra construction parts

Recap

Bras are expensive because they call for a host of complex considerations — all of which are key in ensuring they meet your needs, and look good doing it. By investing in high-quality lingerie to begin with (and, of course, properly caring for those pieces), you can avoid having to replace them more often, saving you money in the long run.

 bra design image

Parfait Lucie Unlined Wire Bra P5202 in Mood Indigo

Related: The True Cost Of Buying Cheap Lingerie


We Highly Recommend

Whether you’re shopping for new everyday bras or lingerie for a special occasion, it’s always a good idea to seek out a second opinion. We know how hard it is to find bras that fit, especially when you’re doing it on your own. If you’ve ever felt unsure about your bra size or you just don’t know where to go to find good bras, it’s time to let a bra fitter help.

Many specialty lingerie boutiques offer bra fittings. Their expert bra fitters will take the pain and frustration out of bra shopping and do all the work for you. Even better, their product knowledge can save you time and money. Plus, they know where all of the best bras are hiding.

If you’ve struggled with finding bras in the right size, it’s time to make a change. Visit our specialty store locator to find a store near you and schedule an appointment.

Happy bra shopping!


Featured image lingerie:
Parfait Sandrine Plunge Longline Bra P5351 in Cameo Rose | Parfait Matilda Contour Plunge Padded Bra P5311 in Bisque | Parfait Lucie Unlined Wire Bra P5202 in Barely Pink | Parfait Carole Unlined Wire Bra 3202 in Desert Flower

Published by

Rebecca Strong

Rebecca is a Boston-based freelance writer who focuses on style, fitness, food, and travel. She has contributed to such publications as HuffPost, Elite Daily and U.S. News & World Report. When she's not writing, she can be found at home or in the studio working on the songs for her upcoming album. Her favorite bra is a black demi-cup style with all-over-lace — timeless and feminine.

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