Oh no! The underwire in my bra broke!

7 Feb 2020 7:59 AM
Annica Svensson

Sometimes the thing that shouldn’t happen does. Your underwire breaks. Here we’ll go through why it happens, what you can do about it and what we as manufacturers are doing to stop it from happening.

How can you tell a high quality underwire?

Cheap bra brands often use poor quality underwire. If you feel the underwire, it should be flat not round in shape and made of metal which is coated with a thin protective layer of plastic. To ensure that the garment is comfortable, the metal underwire shouldn’t be entirely rigid. It should have a slight flex that accommodates the movement and contours of the body.

The way the metal is processed during manufacturing also affects the quality of the underwire. However, this is very difficult to keep an eye on if you’re a customer. As a bra manufacturer, however, it’s our responsibility to use high quality underwire even if it costs us a little more. At Miss Mary, we only use flat, nickel-free and stainless metal underwires that are coated with plastic. They are very high quality and come from a German supplier that we have used for many years.

Miss Mary uses high quality metal underwires that are flat and plastic coated with rounded ends. The colour indicates the size of the curve and the side that should sit between the breasts.

The wrong bra size can break the underwire

Even a really good quality underwire can’t withstand anything that’s thrown at it. Wearing a bra with a cup size or circumference that is too small will stretch the band around the body too much, forcing the underwire to change shape. This stress can cause the underwire to deform or, in the worst case, break. Many women wear their bras for several years and don’t consider that the bra will wear out and stretch over a long period of use. If you have put on weight and are wearing a bra that has stretched, a lot of strain will be put on the garment. If you feel that the underwire is pressing against your ribcage under your breasts when you sit down it is a sign that your bra’s band size is too small.

What do you do if the underwire in your bra breaks?

If you’re away from home (and there’s not a bra shop close by) when your underwire breaks, you have three options in practice: make do with wearing a broken bra until you get home, go bra-free, or convert your bra to a non-wired bra by removing the underwire. None of these are optimal solutions.

Wearing a bra with a broken or deformed underwire can be painful and is not something we recommend. Removing the underwire to fix it with tape, glue or by welding it together is also not recommended. If you own an older but otherwise identical bra in the same size and make, you can try removing the underwire from the old one and putting it into the new one. Don’t try using the underwire from a different brand of bra even if they are both labelled with the same size. Underwires have different heights and shapes, and forcing an underwire with a different shape into another bra can damage the garment.

Be aware that if you remove the underwire your bra may no longer fit well or provide the same support. If your bra breaks at an inopportune moment, however, you sometimes just have to accept that there is no other choice, after all who goes around with a spare bra in their handbag?

Can you remove the underwire and still use the bra?

Even if the cut of an underwired bra looks the same as that of a non-wired one, you can’t just remove the underwire and continue using the bra as normal. Although they may look the same, they are constructed differently. If you remove the underwire from the bra it will no longer continue to provide the same support as before. The underwire distributes support across the different sections of the bra. It affects not only the cups themselves but also the front and wings (sides/back) of the bra. See the picture below.

The underwire is creeping out

The most common ‘underwire’ problem is not that the underwire breaks in half or becomes deformed but rather that it pushes its way through the end of the bra band and sticks up between the breasts. If the underwire starts to creep out you can fix it by stitching the channel closed either with a machine or by hand.

There are many reasons why an underwire can creep out. The most common is that the bra has been washed at too high a temperature or been put in the tumble dryer. It could also be because the cup and/or band size is too small causing friction and greater wear on the material when you move. Either that or the bra is simply too old, worn out and has reached the end of its life. If it’s newly purchased, it could be due to a poor quality underwire, e.g. the end is sharp. In some cases, it can be the result of a manufacturing fault such as the band having been stretched too tightly when it was stitched or the stitching not being properly attached and having come undone.

The underwires that we use at Miss Mary have a rounded end with plastic coating so that they don’t cut through the fabric. To prevent them from being threaded in the wrong direction, the underwires that we use are marked to show the seamstress which part should be between the breasts and which towards the armholes.

The picture above shows correctly and incorrectly inserted underwires respectively. The underwire to the left has been incorrectly inserted into the bra’s various layers and the underwire on the right has been inserted correctly.

The bra band is made of double-layered material to properly enclose the underwire. It’s important that the underwire is inserted between the correct layer during the stitching process. If it isn’t (as is the case with the blue bra band on the left of the picture above), there is a risk that the underwire comes out of the band making a hole in it. We therefore have controls during the production process in order to prevent this.

How do you ensure that the underwire doesn’t creep out?

Can you take steps to stop the underwire from breaking through the material? Absolutely. Every time you wash your bra, stretch and pull the underwire while it’s still wet. This way you prevent the band from shrinking or contracting. Don’t machine-wash your underwired bra in hot water, not even in a washbag. Always follow the instructions on the care label. Never tumble-dry it! Tumble-drying is the death of a bra because it ruins the elastic material. All bras contain elastic material in some parts. Even if the whole bra band is not elastic, the material that it is stitched together with often is. If it shrinks it also affects the bra band. Tumble-drying shortens the garment’s lifespan significantly.

Make sure your bra is the right size for you. Here’s how you can tell if you’re wearing the wrong size. If you’re wearing the right bra size and have washed your bra according to the instructions and your bra still breaks, contact our customer services and we will help you.

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