I got a brilliant question that I wanted to take the time to answer in detail because “OMG yes!” The question was: how many bras is reasonable? How many bras should I own?
The exact text was actually “…just heroically ordered 4 bras because I am so tired of hand washing the ONE bra I have that fits me. Which is falling apart and also sheds. … Need someone to tell me what a reasonable number of bras is (obviously more than one????)”
Well, that’s why I’m here.
“How many bras should I own” is a great question. Buying bras and lingerie can feel like a gamble. They can cost a fortune and still uncomfortable and unsupportive.
According to this post from Brava Lingerie (an Australian lingerie shop specializing in bras for D-K cups) “…a survey done by Rigby & Peller, the average wom[a]n owns (drum-roll, please)… eight bras. But we think those survey participants may have hidden a few; our guess would be closer to 20 bras (Note: I just counted… and yep, I own 18 bras. And that was after clearing out my lingerie drawer a few months back!).”
I tried to track down that Rigby & Peller survey and didn’t find the original, but did find this press release statement which includes “Almost 70% of US respondents admitted to regularly wearing the same bra every day.”
So if people who responded to this survey own an average of eight bras (and maybe more based on Brava Lingerie’s post) but 70% of those same people return to their favorite bra day in and day out, what’s the actual answer?
“How many bras should I own?” Let’s break down the question
The answer is nuanced and the exact number of bras you should own is unique to you, your personal style, and your lifestyle. So let’s break it down.
Spoiler: You should own zero ill-fitting bras.
Disclaimers first. From here on I am assuming that your bras fit you well, increase your confidence and look good. All your bras should make you feel good and look good.
Because the number of ill-fitting bras you should own is zero. Plain and simple.
But I know you already knew that. So let’s dive into the actual question.
The shortest answer to “how many (well fitting) bras should I own”
You need AT LEAST two day-to-day bras.
Plus (IF you workout regularly) AT LEAST two workout bras.
Plus (IF you fancy-pants dress up regularly) AT LEAST two fancy-pants bras.
If you don’t workout and don’t dress up, you need at least 2 day-to-day bras (that feel good and look good).
If you workout but don’t dress up, you need at least 2 day-to-day + 2 sports bras, so 4 total (that feel good and look good).
If you dress up but don’t workout, you need at least 2 day-to-day + 2 fancy-pants bras, so 4 total (that feel good and look good).
If you workout and also dress up regularly, you need at least 2 day-to-day + 2 sports + 2 fancy-pants bras, so 6 total (that feel good and look good).
That is bare minimum. (Pun not intended, but appreciated). Choose whatever styles and colors you feel best in / wear often / love the most.
Between 2 and 6 bras (at least) is the shortest answer.
A couple tips for getting the most out of your bras
If you’re keeping the number of bras you own low, here are a couple tips:
Pro tip #1: The most versatile color undergarment is one that matches your skin tone. In a similar problem to finding foundation and concealer that matches your skin, finding undergarments to match will be more difficult if the industry isn’t catering to you. (This is true for skin tone and also size. Who the lingerie industry caters to is a different rant for a different day.)
Pro tip #2: For fancy-pants bras, a convertible or strapless bra with a lower cut or plunge neckline, will give you the most options when it comes to what styles of shirts and dresses you can wear without revealing your bra straps or cups. However! Take your personal style preferences into consideration. If you never wear low cut necklines, you don’t have to buy one “just in case.”
Which brings us to…
Pro tip #3: Keep your lifestyle and personal preferences in mind when bra shopping. If your day-to-day preference is to go braless, having one on hand for when you want it is plenty. If you don’t regularly workout, having one supportive sports bra on hand is plenty. And if you don’t regularly dress up enough for a fancy-pants bra, having one convertible bra on hand is plenty, OR just plan to purchase a bra when you do have a bra-worthy event on your calendar.
Other things to take into account
Remember you should own at least 2 to 6 bras that you look and feel amazing in.
There are other factors that increase the number of bras you should own. Other questions to ask yourself when you’re customizing this answer to you are:
Does your weight fluctuate?
Either throughout the year depending on your activity level. Or throughout the month based on your fluid retention. Or for other reasons.
If so, you may want to have different sizes on hand so you can always wear a bra you feel good in.
What style of bra do you prefer?
Even if your weight doesn’t fluctuate, you still may have subtle body changes day to day.
If you prefer more structured bras and molded cups, you may notice that some days style A fits perfectly, and some days it does not. So consider keeping a couple styles on hand.
If you prefer less structured bras or bralettes, you’ll probably be comfortable in the same bra even with subtle body changes.
Usually, the less structure a bra has, the more it can accommodate changes your body goes through.
How frequently do you wash your bras?
If you wash your bras more frequently, you can own fewer because you’ll cycle through them more regularly.
If you prefer as few laundry days as possible, owning more bras will let you delay laundry day a little longer.
Quick aside: to help your bras last as long as possible, first hand wash them (delicate cycle if you must machine wash them) and lay them flat to dry.
(If you have more questions about taking care of your undergarments so they last as long as possible, let me know right here, and I can answer them in a future installment of your questions answered. I also have a whole section on washing your clothes to take care of them in Personal Style Fundamentals, you can sign up for your free copy here.)
What style(s) of tops / blouses / dresses / etc do you wear?
We’ll break this question into 3 sub-parts.
First, what style of necklines do you wear? Do you wear very low necklines and very high necklines and everything in between? Or do prefer your tops to all hit around the same neckline spot?
Neither is wrong. This is just something to think about when you’re deciding how many bras you want to have.
If you always wear V necks, then you probably don’t need bras with a higher cut. If you always wear t-shirts, then you probably don’t need a plunging neckline.
If you prefer to mix it up every day, you’ll probably want more options on hand.
Second, what styles of sleeves do you wear?
Similar to the neckline question, if you never wear sleeveless or strapless tops, you probably don’t need a strapless bra.
If you mix it up, you’ll probably want more options on hand. Or may even choose to own primarily convertible or strapless bras – so you have more options per bra you own.
Third, what colors do you wear?
If you only ever wear white button up shirts, you don’t need to own a black bra. But, if the reverse is true, and you never wear light colored tops, you probably don’t need to own light colored bras.
And if you wear a variety of color tops, you may want a rainbow of colors.
And finally (at least for now), what do you like wearing?
If you like wearing the same style of bra day after day, stick with that style.
If you like a lot of variety, get a ton of variety.
In conclusion: the number of bras you should own is up to you. But if you want a number, start here:
Most of the time, I see people owning too few bras that they look and feel amazing in.
So aim for at least 2 to 6 bras that you feel like a superstar in. After that there are no hard and fast numbers – expand your bra collection based on your body, your preferences and your lifestyle.
And one last note about access, availability, and cost
Bras can be expensive. Not every style comes in every size and color. The larger your chest the fewer options you have in stores. And you can’t buy off the rack something that isn’t on the rack in the first place.
If you’re larger, or someone else the industry doesn’t cater to, you already know this. But please also remember that this is a problem with the industry – this is not a problem with you.
And while this is not a problem with you, it does leave you in a predicament. So start with two bras that you feel like a superstar in. And build from there.
One Final Pro Tip: building your bra and undergarment collection up over time is a good idea for a number of reasons. 1) it spreads the cost over time which makes it friendlier on your clothing budget, 2) it prevents all your undergarments from dying at the same time, and 3) if your body does fluctuate throughout the month, you’re purchasing undergarments that fit and feel good a different points in your body’s cycle.
I hope this helped clarify the question “how many bras I should own?” And don’t forget, send in your own personal style questions (bra related or not) right here.