Wearing a bra is over rated. Yes they have a function, but they’re tight, uncomfortable and itch. I’m referring to the itch before my allergy. Getting home at the end of a long day the first thing I do is take it off and let the girls breath. Since the diagnosis four months ago I’ve been going braless. In some ways it’s been freeing and in other ways I’d prefer they be harnessed. For one thing, without a bra I’m watching gravity take its toll even faster and in social settings I’m self conscious. Winter provided layers that made it easier. With spring and summer are right around the corner those layers will need to be shed. Thus, I attack the bra quest in earnest. One thing is clear, it is uncomfortable wearing it on the outside of my clothes.
Other than the previously mentioned gravity issue, should I even worry about wearing one? While researching elastic-free bras I came across a research article in the *Journal of Oncology Research and Treatment , Adv Oncol Res Treat 2016. 1:1, Vol 1(1), Published Date: May 02, 2016 entitled “Wearing a Tight Bra for Many Hours a Day is Associated with Increased Risk of Breast Cancer.” In their research their came to this conclusion, “this study demonstrated the existence of a relationship between the use of a tight bra when associated with an increased number of hours wearing it and the risk of breast cancer among pre- and post-menopausal women.” For those of you out there that like the exact data, “Women who had a high daily bra wearing hours x bra stretch percentage coefficient had a frequency of breast cancer that was 2.27-fold higher compared to those who had a low coefficient.”
I’d heard about this study and it makes me think twice about wearing a bra. In their research they talked about women who sleep in their bras at a higher risk because of the dramatically increases wear time. My reasoning goes this way, I don’t sleep in them, and generally take it off in the evening, and I don’t like them tight, therefore I should be fine. At least that is the justification I’m going with. The practicality of it all is that in this society it’s still not acceptable to go braless everywhere. Personally, I had it driven deep into my being that not wearing on in public is disgraceful. That is thanks to my old world grandmother that shamed me when I was young for such travesties as coming down stairs from my room in the morning without a bathrobe. I was wearing a long sleeve flannel pajama set at the time. It would probably give her a case of the vapors that I’m even talking about bras in a public forum.
I get annoyed researching something as simple as a natural fabric and elastic free bras. The web search engines point me to companies that don’t even offer a single cotton bra. To hopefully save you the frustration here is what I have learned in no particular order.
Cottonique offers hypoallergenic products. Most without elastic. According to them, “When it comes to rashes, itching, and other symptoms of skin allergies, it’s more a matter of material. Cottonique’s 100% cotton bras are exactly what the doctor ordered, especially if you’re among the many women who are allergic to various bras.” To date I have purchased two bras from them. My first recommendation when purchasing from Cottonique is have them help you with sizing. The first bra I ordered was too big even though I followed their directions for determining the size. The second fit better, but not great. I sense they would fit a younger woman much better. My issue with the design is that it doesn’t work when the gift of gravity has set in. When I put it on there was allot of fabric puffing out where my breast used to be. Even though they are beautiful in construction and lusciously soft I can’t use them as constructed.
The first Cottonique bra I got was the Women’s Draw String for $37. I made this one work, sort of, by sewing two darts in it and eliminated one of the draw strings. It doesn’t leave a line-free look with fitted clothing. It’s bunched and lumpy where it ties in the middle on the front. The second one I got, Women’s Side Tie bra for $37, I’m going to have to return because I can’t figure out how to make alterations. This one also takes some figuring out regarding how to put it on. With practice it gets easier. Next I’ll try the Women’s Bra Liner for $24. It is designed to go under your standard bra and includes a clasp on the shoulder straps to keep the two connected. Unfortunately I got rid of all of my old bras, so I’ll have to buy a new one to see how it goes.
UPDATE – August 2019 – I tried this bra liner and use it as a casual bra. I don’t always want all the support of a regular bra, but want a little support. This has proved to work well for me for this. To use it in this fashion I cut off the buttons that are on the top of the straps that are there to attach your regular bra too.
I contacted Cottonique and e-chatted with Sam in customer service. I wanted to find out if they had something in development for mature women and learned they don’t. I also asked about their return policy and asked why they don’t donate returned items. Here is his response, “once this gets returned to warehouse, any opened items are disposed. Unfortunately this cannot be donated to any shelter because if they get any allergic reaction, they would be blaming us for it. And we do not want this to happen.” I understand taking their commitment to hypoallergenic product seriously, but the waste created in just finding the right fit for me leaves me second guessing purchasing from them in the future.
UPDATE – September 2019 – I found two bras from Cottonique that I am happy with. First, the Front Closure Support Bra, which sells for $39.75. This has more structure to it. It is much more comfortable than the ones I had been trying. I feel supported and I can get things to line up as they should be. My only challenge with it is without the elastic in the straps they have a tendency to fall down.
Second, is the Racer Back Front Closure bra, which sells for $39.75. This is my favorite so far. Like the Front Closure support bra it is constructed well and offers more support. The thing I really like is that the straps do not fall down no matter what I am doing. It is comfortable.
The Racer Back Croptop Bra, which sells for $39.50 is one I have not tried yet, but I am giving it consideration. I am optimistic because of the racer back design.
Blue Canoe states they have several options, but I found spandex in most of them. In an email response requesting elastic free bras I was offered these two options. sent them an email February 16 and am awaiting a response.
Cotton Adjustable Bra Item R122 – $60.00 This one has possibilities for me.
Cotton Bra Item R126 – $49.00 This one is very basic and they refer to is as a “starter bra” so I am pretty sure that rules me out as I am far from a starter. I looked up their return policy and found a much friendlier set up. “Order confidently from us, knowing you may return any products within 30 days of receipt for a refund as long as those products are unwashed, unworn (except for the purposes of trying on), have original tags attached and are not one of the exceptions below.” I don’t know however what they do with returns, but because the tags still need to be on them I am assuming they resell them.
Bare Necessities touts themselves as having cotton options. Looking at their site I discovered spandex in each one. I went on their chat option to talk with a customer service person who told me, “I’m not sure we have any that don’t have some kind of elastic in it.” After some research she came back with only one option, a bralette that’s 100% cotton for $56. It looked too thin for my needs.
Vermont Country Store is another name that came up for cotton bras. I found only one, the Women’s Latex-Free Cotton Bra. I took one look at the photo of the bra and it told me two things. It looks constructed very well and it won’t fit this mature woman. That seam across the middle is about two inches too high. The thing we have to remember about cotton bras without elastic in them is that they are not as supportive, so the bras has to be designed closer to what the actual shape of the breast. In my younger years the girls would have fit it great, but not now.
Her Room site turned out to be a clearing house. Just by looking at them I could tell most of the bras had spandex or elastic. This is a clearing house which would require a lot of research to sort out options.
Leading Lady offers a nice bra, but again looking at the location of the seam across the front I know it won’t work for my girls. Further inspection fabric I find “Brushed polyester/spandex band doesn’t contain latex.” This bra is good for women who need latex free, but there is that spandex again which most likely contains thiuram mix.
Third Love was a particularly frustrating site because there is no option to search the site for cotton-only bras, even though they come up on the list as having them. They post “Our bras are made from high quality nylon/spandex fabrics sourced from the US, Europe and Asia…Our products do not contain latex…” Latex is not my issue so that doesn’t help me.
Then I discovered Labyrinth Press had an article, Bras for Chemically Sensitive People,
26 July, 2015. By Michellina van Loder. That author states, “I’ve yet to find an organic bra that I’m comfortable wearing everyday…As soon as I find a bra that fits this criteria I always buy a few.” I agree, as soon as I find one I will buy a few. The following is a brief synopsis of what Michellina had to say. I listed only those that fit the Thiuram mix/elastic and Polyester free criteria that are not already listed above. Please go to the article for more details, particularly if your issues are with fragrances. Michellina van Loder offered this list:
Barely There have a cotton underwire bra, however, I’m pretty sure the cups are layered with polyurethane foam. They may outgass after a while… (Not good for thiuram mix/elastic allergy)
Boody have an organic bamboo bra… (These are either 17-20% spandex – not good for thiuram mix/elastic allergy)
Blessed Earth sell an organic cotton sports bra with straps; it’s in a racerback style for added support. This bra could be suitable as a sports bra or for doing yoga in.
Another article in Labyrinth Press, titled Organic Bras, 28 July, 2012 also by Michellina van Loder states “… An organic bra is a great choice for someone sensitive to chemicals…it’s also an excellent ethical and environmental choice too!” She goes on to list these additional resources.
Graceful Sports Bra: 92% organic cotton, 8% lycra (elastic and latex free).
Gaiam: traditional Yoga style bra Australia, ships internationally.
I end this post with Rawganique and their Angeline Elastic-free Organic Linen Bra $94. “Our organic hemp bespoke bras are custom-made for you all-natural flax linen This organic bra, in contrast, is made like bras were made hundreds of years ago, before chemicals and elastic.” This one looks promising for me, but I am leery of their no return, no refund policy.
Rawganique makes organic cotton wireless bras that are dioxin-free, formaldehyde free, wire-free, chemical-free, sweat-shop free. These bras are suitable for people with elastic allergy, lycra allergy or latex allergy.”
Rawganique: The Organic Pima Cotton Lady Lace Bra is designed with a lace insert for those desiring a more feminine style. 100% cotton fabric and it has adjustable straps and band and is machine washable.
I ordered the Rawganique Angeline bra and await its arrival.
UPDATE – November 2019
I had high hopes for the Rawganique bra and ordered one. I took it out of the package and immediately noticed it is constructed very well and got excited. My excitement was crushed when I put it on. It fit okay, but there is no support under the arm. In essence my breasts did not stay in the cup as planned, even though I had been told my them that you have to lift the breast into it. It poured around some under my arm and, well, lets just say the look was not appealing. I have it in my sewing basket for a day when I feel motivated to reconstruct it. Because of the amount of money I spent on it I can’t give up on it yet.
* Wearing a Tight Bra for Many Hours a Day is Associated with Increased Risk of Breast Cancer authors, Salete Da Silva Rios, Ana Carolina Rios Chen, Juliana Rios Chen, Carlos Marino Calvano Filho, Natacha Thalita Santos Amorim, Chen Wen Lin and Maria De Fátima Brito Vogt. Corresponding Author: Salete Da Silva Rios