Down to my last bra…

I know in The Rules, that I said we could buy underwear, and I kept meaning to have a trip to good old old M&S to stock up on new pants and bras, but I have somehow never got round to it (the thought of dragging two small bored boys into Bath may have had something to do with this…) and then a couple of months ago I reached the point where I thought I may as well wait now, and get some new bits in September. Which is kind of not the point, but then again, it kind of is.
I have proved to myself, that although my pants and vest tops with the holes in, may not look the most desirable, they do still function, and that it is surprisingly easy to cope with just one bra…
And if we all stretched out the interval in between replacing things, even just by a month, over a lifetime, this adds up to Less Stuff. Which is a Good Thing.

But now September is approaching at speed, and the point where I can legitimately allow myself some new ‘extravagances’, and I have been thinking.
Surely, all the points that apply to new clothes-the intensive nature of cotton farming, the synthetic nature and oil etc involved in cotton alternatives, the sweat shop labour etc etc, still apply to underwear and bras.

I blogged ages ago about this dilemma when BigSmall needed new pants,  and I thought I would buy some ethical ones. They were £19 for 3 pairs…
I was saved from this particular dilemma by my mum arriving one day armed with a packet of new pants for BigSmall from the supermarket. Not ideal, and kind of side-stepping the point, but I felt rude saying No, so I took them.

Anyway, ethical pants for grown-ups seem pretty easy to come by. Here are a couple I have found:

Who Made Your Pants

I have been following Becky on Twitter for ages now, and was fortunate enough to meet her when we both spoke at TEDxBedford. (You can see Becky’s great talk here)
Who Made Your Pants use end of line material from the big lingerie chains, and then train up local disadvantaged women to make the pants, in their factory in Southampton.
If you follow them on Twitter (@whomadeyour) they regularly have special offers on too.

Pants to Poverty

Use organic, sustainable cotton to make their pants, the factory that makes them is carbon neutral, and pays the workers a “real living wage”. They are also introducing new dyeing methods that reduce the amount of water needed from 100 litres per Kg of fabric, to half a pint-great stuff 🙂

Bras have been somewhat trickier. I posted on Twitter and got some great pointers from @StyleEyes (Ethical Fashion Blog UK) and also on The Good Wardrobe forum (whole blog post to come on the wonderfulness that is The Good Wardrobe) and got a couple of suggestions:

LuvaHuva-uses ethical and sustainable fabrics and all products are handmade in the UK

Peau-ethique– a French company who make their own range of Fairtrade and sustainable lingerie

In Bloom London-I tried to look at their site but the website must be down-will keep checking back

Then I googled Fairtrade underwear, and got:

Greenfibres and By Nature
Both of which are kind of online ethical superstores for not only lingerie, but also cleaning products and clothes and homewares. As far as I can tell, they do not make their own ranges, but try to ensure that the products they source are made using organic and sustainable resources and the people involved in the production, are all paid a genuine living wage.

So, it  turns out, I can quite easily get “sustainable” underwear.
Like all things, they come at a price, but I think, given what I have learned about the fashion industry in the course of this year, it is a price I am prepared to pay.
I have coped with only one bra for the best part of a year, and I really feel I should put my money where my mouth is.
So instead of buying 3 or 4 ‘normal’ bras, I will probably only buy 2 more expensive, sustainable bras, and have spent the same amount of money but have a clearer conscience.

BUT the big problem with bras is that until you try them on, you never really know if they are going to fit properly.
What do I do? Order several different sizes and resign myself to having to send some back, along with the associated costs?
Keep scouring the charity shops for suitable ones? (although I am not sure I have fully reconciled myself to secondhand bras), but this is itself is hard work with small people in tow.
Persevere with my one lonely bra until it expires?
Come over all Geramine Greer, and burn my (one remaining) bra and go bra-free (I don’t want to go down this route really)

I have until September to mull this over, but if anyone has any ingenious suggestions, or owns a travelling ethical lingerie company and want to come out and visit me with a suitable selection, that would be fabulous 🙂

19 thoughts on “Down to my last bra…

  1. My suggestion? Look on those websites and find a bra you like. Take note of the shape – plunge, balcony, tshirt etc. Then go to m&s and get measured (debenhams are also good). Once you have your size, try on a bra in the same shape as the one you liked in your correct size and take note of the fit. If it fits well and gives good support then you can order it from the ethical company and it should be fine. It’s a bit of a faff but it’ll be worth it in the end.

  2. I hate bras – they are just so uncomfortable, I go without them whenever I can, despite being quite top heavy. I just have the feeling that they were designed by a man who didn’t quite understand the mechanics.

    • I don’t mind them. I am really not very top heavy at all, so probably get away with the comfort issue as I only ever really wear t-shirt type non underwired ones.

  3. I am also down to 1 bra, but for a different reason, I have lost 3 stone and am having a nightmare time finding a bra that actually fits. Please, please, please don’t ‘go and be measured’, they measure you according to what sizes they stock. There are some great bra measuring tutorials online and I am sure that any ethical company worth it’s salt will give you an honest appraisal of their sizing. They should also accept returns should that be necessary. I certainly wouldn’t like to go bra shopping with 2 children in tow!

    • I hadn’t realised that about bra measuring. I am going to measure myself at home, and then see if they have actual measurements to go by.
      Good luck finding bras too!

  4. Thanks for this. I hadn’t come across Luva Huva and have now ordered a bra from them. I usually wear sports type ones but thought this worth a try – at least it was in the sale. Will let you know how it is!
    I only now buy organic cotton pants but including the old “ordinary” ones have enough to last a good few years as most of the time am willing to really wear them out – you are so right that stretching the time between purchases will add up to a lot of saving.

    • That’s great news! I should ask for commission 😉
      If we cold all make everything last a couple of months more, it really would add up.

      • Sad to say bra not a success. But most impressed by LuvaHuva’s speedy refund. Am a few pounds down on postage each way but it was worth a try. Hopefully someone will start doing “ordinary” bras in organic, etc material soon.

      • Oh no, that’s a shame. I think I am with you here. I just want functional bras. I don’t really go for all the lace and things. If M&S did organic Fairtrade cotton pants and bras, they would clean up!

  5. I have been wearing my bras for ages now and they are now discoloured, ripped and some of the catches are all bent out of shape… Can’t bring myself to go and spend a fortune on new ones though. I have also got a bag of different sized bras from before and after kids, so I’m hoping I will fit in some of the less worn ones soon… I have to say I have never noticed any bras in charity shops, but I don’t think I would have a problem with buying a second hand one…I do like your list of ethical suppliers of bras and pants though – will be taking a look!

    • Thanks so much Zoe. Once you start to notice the bras in the charity shops, you keep seeing them! I always feels slightly stance rifling through them to see if there is anything in my size-they tend to be large and lacy if my experience is anything to go by-not really what I am looking for..!

  6. I haven’t bought a single bra in ages. Being small breasted, it’s easy for me not to wear a bra (unless modesty demands it, which really isn’t all that often) and to be honest, wearing a bra annoys me. I always get itchy underneath those horrid things.
    However, if going bra-less isn’t for you (for whichever reason) you might want to check out the history of bras and see of one of the precursors of the modern bra would fulfill your needs.

  7. Thanks for the thoughts here, but I’m definitely on the larger cup size and I’ve had a quick look at these websites and they don’t seem to cater for us. Does anyone out there know if it’s possible to get ethical bras in sizes E-H?

    • Oh crikey-just when I thought the problem was solved!
      Anyone got any ideas?
      Will do some more research Rachel and let you know if I come up with anything.

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