I was in the mall with my mom for a little holiday shopping when we ventured into an unnamed clothing store that also has a pretty robust offering of lingerie. Some of them were pretty cute, but then I saw the price tag and had to run for the hills. I mean, honestly, why are bras SO expensive?
Writing for a hemp underwear brand that prides itself on transparency and accessibility, I just don’t understand how expensive some bras are, it’s crazy! I needed answers, so I began to research, “why is lingerie so expensive?” I came up with a few different reasons, which I’m going to explain below for you.
Before we find out why bras are so expensive, I want to give you two recommendations for wallet-friendly, high-quality bras: the racerback bralette, perfect for yoga class and lounging, and the triangle bralette, ideal for date night and errands!
HOW MUCH DO BRA COST TO MAKE?
Like any business, lingerie brands sell their product for a higher price than what it takes to make them. But some brands take that a little too far and charge way more than what they cost to make. So let’s start with a breakdown of what goes into making a bra and how expensive are bras to make.
Bras have to be made with high-quality, durable, and soft materials because of their job. After all, how many bras do you wear until they’re basically held together by sheer will? Plus, because they rub up against some of our most sensitive skin, it’s important that they’re not abrasive or have toxic chemicals on them.
The only problem? Good quality materials, especially ones that look nice, are expensive! The brands that use this type of material do need to set a higher price, but there are also brands that use cheap materials and still upcharge a lot.
So what materials should you look for in a bra if it’s worth its price? Natural, sustainable fabrics like hemp, organic cotton, and responsibly sourced silk are all great options. Plus, materials like hemp are breathable, antibacterial, and super flexible! On the other hand, those plasticky materials like polyester or spandex just aren’t worth the price tag. They might be cheaper, but they’re not as durable and bad for the planet.
FAIR LABOR PRACTICES
Real human beings with lives, families, and goals make our clothes, so it’s important that clothing brands are paying fair wages and providing safe workplaces. Most bras are handmade, which takes skill, time, and a lot of attention. This can cost extra, but it is ALWAYS worth it. If you’re shopping at an ethical lingerie store, you might notice a higher price tag to cover that labor.
In my humble opinion, I would gladly pay a few extra bucks, so people can live full, happy, and healthy lives. Of course, I do have the privilege of being able to make that decision, so it's a complicated issue. If you can afford to spend more to support brands that treat their workers fairly, that’s fantastic!
Fast fashion and other unethical lingerie brands don’t use fair labor practices, which means their workers aren’t being paid living wages and have to work in unsafe conditions. And what’s especially tricky is that these brands don’t exactly advertise their horrible labor practices. If you can’t easily find transparent information about their supply chain, that’s a pretty good hint that it’s not good.
P.S. read about our supply chain here!
SMALL BATCH PRODUCTION
Many smaller, sustainable lingerie brands make their pieces in small batches. It lowers risk, gives brands more control over their stock, and reduces potential waste. But it can also mean that things cost a bit more because the brand cannot purchase materials and other production essentials in bulk.
This is especially true for size inclusive brands that design bras for sizes not typically catered to by lingerie brands. For example, it’s hard to find bras with a large band and small cups because brands assume that all plus-size bra wearers have large boobs. But some plus-size babes are proud members of the itty bitty titty comittee! Brands that recognize this make bras in small batches to avoid potential waste because it isn’t as common.
WHY ARE BRAS SO EXPENSIVE? OTHER REASONS
Beyond just how much do bras cost to make, there are other answers to, “why are bras so expensive?” And unfortunately, most of them don’t make me feel better about how expensive are bras. Without further ado, let’s get into it!
Because we live in a capitalist economy, even our choice in bras involves corporate greed. Companies will charge hundreds of dollars for a cheap bra because they want to stuff their pockets. Note, these are also usually the companies using unsafe factory labor, and the cheapest materials they can source, without thinking about the impact these decisions are having on the planet and its people.
So what are we supposed to do as consumers to avoid lining the pockets of millionaires with mark-up money? Shop as ethically and sustainably as we can. Support small, local businesses that support their community and environment. It may seem difficult, but there are plenty of affordable ethical clothing and lingerie brands! Transparency is a good hint that the company is on the up-and-up with their finances, labor practices, and sustainability!
We all know big, popular lingerie brands that make crappy bras, only worn by middle schoolers that don’t know any better yet. When you buy one of their bras, you’re paying for that cute little tag and ostentatious shopping bag to tote around the mall with. And for some people, that’s what they want, which is totally cool!
If you’re like me, however, you want a bra that is comfortable, affordable, and sustainable. And unfortunately, many big brands don’t prioritize those values. So if you’ve only shopped at big brands and have been disappointed, try a smaller brand without huge annual fashion shows!
WHY ARE BRAS SO EXPENSIVE? THEY DON'T HAVE TO BE!
We know that most bras are crazy expensive, but there are some pretty amazing bras you can find that you don’t have to take out a second mortgage for! How do you find them? Look for brands that are:
- Transparent: Are they honest about what their factories look like? Where do they source their materials from? How do they make their bras? If so, you can feel better that their bras are worth the price tag.
- Sustainable: I know it’s sooo tempting to grab those $5 bralettes from fast fashion companies, but you’ll get what you pay for: cheap bras that last one day and spend about a million years in your closest landfill. Instead, sustainable underwear brands make durable clothing from eco-friendly materials! And they aren’t necessarily more expensive. In fact, many sustainable brands are working to make ethical clothing more accessible!
- Small business: That way you aren’t paying for major marketing campaigns, C-suite bonuses, or Manhattan offices!
If you’re still not sure where to start, head over to our collection of ethical and affordable hemp bras!
CONCLUSION: WHY ARE BRAS SO EXPENSIVE?
So why is lingerie so expensive? Well, there are some good reasons like high-quality materials, the cost of labor, and inclusive small batch sizing. However, corporate greed and brand names can jack up the price, too.
Some bras are worth every penny if they make you feel good and aren’t bad for the planet or people. Although it can be difficult to know when a bra is priced correctly, transparency is key. If a company is open about their materials and labor, then the bras are probably priced correctly.
What do you think? Should bras be so expensive? Why or why not? Let me know in the comments below!