If you’re anything like me, then you too live in fear of the day, at some uncertain point in the future, when your favourite bra will die. One minute, it’s ol’ faithful, your best friend, supporting you through the toughest of times and bounciest of surfaces; the next minute, it’s a corpse bra, with a wire sticking out of its heart.
You cry, you wail, you shake a fist at the sky. First, you regret having worn it so often – what if you could have eked out a few more precious weeks, you greedy wench? – and then you regret not having worn it every single damn day while you still had the chance. You’ll never find another one like this. It was perfect – the dream piece of engineering. Beside it, all other bras look like two old tea bags tied together with string.
And you know what’s probably to blame for the heartache, of course. Washing. Washing your bra in the machine – or, worse, drying it in a hot tumble dryer, which shrinks the fabric and melts the plastic bobble on the end of the underwire, leaving it free to fight its way through the fabric and skewer you right in the lovely soft boob.
Maybe you’ll just get lucky, you think. Maybe you won’t be hacked or have a stroke or end up weeping over your only decent nude balcony bra while a taxi waits outside
Of course we all know that we shouldn’t just chuck our bras in the washing machine, just like we all know we shouldn’t eat too much salt or have the same password for all our internet logins. But the knowledge remains theoretical, because there are just too many other, more immediate things to worry about in life. Maybe you’ll just get lucky, you think. Maybe you won’t be hacked or have a stroke or end up weeping over your only decent nude balcony bra while a taxi waits outside.
What we should be doing is handwashing our bras, preferably in dew gathered under the light of a full moon while a harp plays softly in the background. If we can’t manage that, then we should at least be using the handwash setting on the machine, and stowing them carefully in a delicates bag like this one from John Lewis. We could probably at least manage the bag, let’s be honest.
But, while your rogue underwire might be down to bad washing, it could also be down to an ill-fitting bra. Too big on the back, and it’ll move around as you do, causing the wire to rub against the fabric and eventually wear right through – so if you’re looking for a reason to take yourself for a lingerie overhaul, let this be it. My new favourite discovery is Beija London, which designs three different versions of each range, X, Y and Z, for varying sizes of boob. I’ve been wearing the most supportive (but magically still chic) Retreat Z bra as often as decency will allow, and I’m determined to keep this one alive and kicking.
So, that’s prevention covered, but what’s the cure? You could sew up the hole, but even the neatest stitches can end up rubbing – plus holding the wire in place while you juggle a needle and thread is harder than it sounds and, in my experience, it always ends up bursting through again. There’s also the option of just taking out the underwire from both sides and wearing it as a bralette. You will know whether or not that’s a useful option for you by whether you did a snort-laugh in response to the word “bralette”.
A much better solution, though, is to cover over the hole with something durable that will hold the wire in place, thus saving the bra – or at least keeping it on life support indefinitely. And that solution doesn’t live in the haberdashery section – you’ll find it, oddly, at the chemist.
Sticky bandage tape will do the job in a pinch, but there’s something better – in America, it’s called “moleskin”, but over here it goes by the far catchier “slim comfort padding” or “self-adhesive chiropody felt”. You might have to spend a while scouring the Boots foot aisle before you locate it somewhere between the Scholl gel cushions and the corn slicers, but it will be worth the hunt, because this stuff really does the job.
Just push the underwire right back into the hole, as far as you can, and stick a patch of moleskin firmly over the opening. Crucially, the felty fabric feels soft against your skin, while heat from your body will warm up the adhesive as you wear the bra, bonding it more tightly to the fabric.
I’ve even seen some people claiming it can survive the wash, although I’m afraid it didn’t survive mine. But anyway, washing got us into this state in the first place – perhaps we need to take a tip out of Vivienne Westwood’s book and stay filthy. Cleanliness may be next to godliness, but the perfect-fitting bra exists on a higher celestial plane altogether.