How are Bras Made? The Ins and Outs of Organic Bra Manufacturing.

Why don’t USA manufacturers make organic cotton bras?  We get this question a lot.  There are actually a number of great companies, like Blue Canoe, that make soft bras, bralettes, and yoga bras in the USA.  However, you won’t find padded, molded cup or underwire bras made in the USA.  When we started making our own line of organic panties in Oregon, we thought we might try our hand at making some bras as well.  What we found is that bra making takes expensive specialty equipment.  Most sewing manufacturers can’t afford to buy this equipment unless they are using it regularly.  It’s certainly possible that somewhere in the USA there is a small manufacturing company that can make these types of “constructed” bras, but if there is, we weren’t able to find them.  So let’s break down types of bras and how they are sewn.

bamboo bra, removable bra cups, soft bra, organic bra
This pull-on style bra has removable padded cups.

“Soft Bras” or Bralettes

This is the category of bras made without molding, internal padding or underwire. The bralette is very popular these days, and it’s the easiest bra to sew.  There are bralettes that pull-on over the head, those that have the addition of a hook-and-eye back closure, and even a few that are sewn with internal pockets for use with removable padded cups.  The removable cups offer the option of a padded bralette such as the Adjustable Soft Bra, shown left, without the expensive equipment needed for internal padding.  The hook-and-eye back closure takes more sewing than a pull-on style and tends to make the bras a little more expensive, but they don’t require any specialty equipment.  The entire hook-and-eye piece is often manufactured separately and bra companies just need to buy the pieces and sew them in using a standard sewing machine.  The Avignon Triangle Bra shown below is an example of the hook-and-eye closure bralette.

Bralettes can be sewn in almost any sewing shop or factory and can even be made at home.  A standard sewing machine pulls most of the weight for these bras, though a cover-stitch machine can also be beneficial.

organic bra, bamboo bralette
This bralette has a hook-and-eye back closure.
molded cup bras, organic bras
This machine creates molded cup bras.

Molded Cup Bras

All of the bralettes described above will have some sort of seaming, pleating or ruching in the cups to provide shape.  Molded cup bras provide shaping without any seams.  Since this type of bra looks particularly good under t-shirts or tight knit tops, they are often referred to as t-shirt bras.  The molded cups require an intricate piece of equipment that stretches the fabric to the exact shape of the cup.  Since you need a separate “mold” for each cup size, the equipment cost can get expensive.  I had the opportunity to snap a few photos of a molding machine at Swegmark’s offices in Sweden along with the resulting molds.  As you can see in the image right, this machine creates only two sizes, so additional machines or larger machines are required based on how many bra sizes you want to create.  Swegmark has been making molded bras out of polyester fabric for years, but when I visited this summer they were working on their first fair trade, organic cotton molded bra.  We look forward to having those available for sale in early 2018.

how to make a bra
Bra cup molds created by the molding machine.

 

organic cotton bra, bralette, organic bra, molded cups
A bra with cups created by a molding machine.

A molding machine can also be used to create molded padding for bras that have internal padding rather than removable padded cups.

The Alba No Wire Bra (shown left) from Love Nature is an example of a no-wire bra with molded, seamless cups.  This one has molded cups without padding.  We had sent a number of request to Love Nature to add an a A-cup bra to their size range before they went out of business.  At the time they told us they didn’t have any molds for an A-cup and this is what they meant.  It wasn’t just re-working the sizing to fit an A-cup, they would have had to buy more physical equipment.  In their case, they didn’t think the sales would make up for the large upfront investment.

 

 

 

Underwire Bras

The addition of underwires to bras allows them to shape and support the breasts much better than a no wire bra.  Additionally, it is possible to use the wire to support cotton internal padding rather than the more common polyester/nylon padding. There were rumors stared by a book in the 90s that led some people to believe that underwire bras caused breast cancer.  However, that myth has been well debunked.  You can read about it here or here or here.

We still sell a lot of underwire bras, particularly padded, underwire bras and it turns out that adding in the wire requires yet another piece of expensive machinery. While I’ve never seen one in person, I have been able to find them online.  An underwire bra machine such as the one shown below runs about $8,000-$10,000.

This machine bends wires to the bra shape and cup size.

Conclusion

Finding the perfect bra for you always takes a little effort.  While we would ideally love to offer a wider variety of bras that are made in the USA, the downturn in American textile manufacturing has left us with few, if in fact any, companies that can make seamless cup or underwire bras. In fact, the equipment is so costly that many of the manufacturers we work with are actually bra designers and still outsource most of the construction and sewing to larger facilities that have all of the needed equipment.  Despite that, we are still thrilled with the variety and quality of organic and natural fabric bras that we are able offer, and hope you can appreciate all of the work that goes into making them.  For our little company, though, we will not likely get into bra manufacturing any time soon.

 

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Giveaway: Win a Fingerless Glove and Scarf Set – ENDED

We recently held an event at our warehouse for local folks who wanted to come in to try on organic bras and eco-fashions in person.  Everyone who came walked away some freebies!  From goodie bags to raffle prizes to gifts with purchase, no one left empty handed.  We hope it was a great experience for our Oregon and Washington friends, but sadly, the rest of our fabulous customers live too far from our warehouse to participate.  So we’re launching a few blog giveaways to let everyone in on the fun.

We gave away 3 sets of these adorable matching fingerless glove and scarf sets from Earth Creations at the show, and now is your chance to win a set.  (Note: the coloring in the pictures looks slightly different, but it is actually a matching set.)  The Infinite Scarf is 100% Organic Cotton Jersey and the Fingerless Gloves are a Bamboo/Organic Cotton blend in French Terry.  Both pieces are low-impact dyed in an autumn-inspired pumpkin color and made in the USA.  With the autumn equinox on the horizon, they’re the perfect fall accessory.  We have one set to give away and the combined retail value is $45.

Leave your information and a comment on this blog post below to get your first entry.  There are options for additional entries by liking / visiting / interacting with our social media pages.  Contest ends September 17, 2017.

 

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Eco-Fashion Warehouse Sale & Sustainable Living Showcase

Have you been wanting to try on one (or a whole bunch) of our products in person?  Your opportunity is here!

The event will run from 11am – 5pm on Saturday, August 26, 2017.  We’ll be doing raffle prize drawings every 30 minutes starting at 11:30am.  You must be present to win a prize, so be sure to leave some time for your visit with us.  You could easily get into 2 or 3 drawings while you try on clothes and meet with these other wonderful Portland-area women business owners.

Dr. Kayla Luhrs will be there to help you develop a wellness plan for conscious living.  

Amanda Bishop will show you how to make your own cleaning products using common household items and essential oils. 

Angela Stevens will chat with you about buying and selling real estate, or how to green the home you currently own.

 

Our warehouse is located minutes from this years Street of Dreams site.  We’ll be raffling off tickets to Street of Dreams at noon, so be sure to come early and check it out.

We’re also giving away 25 “Goodie Bags” to the first 25 people who RSVP either on our Facebook Event Page or by calling us at (971) 255-0752.

 

Here is a (partial) list of the prizes on offer for our raffle:

  1. 2 individual tickets to Street of Dreams
  2. PrAna Bag
  3. PrAna Eco Yoga Matt
  4. Maggie’s Bee Socks
  5. Maggie’s Scarf
  6. Swegmark bra of your choice
  7. Blue Canoe logo tee
  8. From War to Peace Make Art Not War Necklace
  9. Earth Creations Fingerless Gloves (multiple colors)
  10. Earth Creations Infinite Scarf (multiple colors)
  11. Spun Bamboo men’s Boxer Briefs
  12. dōTERRA Essential Oil Starter Kit
  13. Cottonique hair accessories.  (Also in Goodie Bags!)
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Berlin Ethical Fashion Show, Green Showroom and Swegmark Organic Bras

Funkhaus Berlin Interior

New York, London, Milan, and Paris have the largest Fashion Weeks around the world, but a number of other cities are touting more sustainable fashion weeks.  Green Fashion Week is a non-profit, traveling, sustainable trade show that has already made stops in Los Angeles, Milan and Abu Dhabi with its next showing in Rome and Naples in November.  And Ethical Fashion Show Berlin has become a sustainable Fashion Week staple.  It runs concurrent to the Berlin Fashion Week with a clear focus on sustainability, and partners with Green Showroom, an eco-fashion resource for retailers.  This summer Ethical Fashion Show Berlin has made a permanent move to a larger venue… and Faerie’s Dance will be there to check it out!

Ethical Fashion Show
Funkhaus Berlin on the banks of the Spree River is the new home of Ethical Fashion Show

A confession… after 12 years working in the fashion industry, I’ve personally never been to a professional fashion show.  In truth, I still get more excited by spreadsheets and graphs than runways and high heels.  YES, I love what I do for the positive impact it has on the world.  (In case you weren’t aware, EcoWatch claims Fast Fashion is the second most polluting industry in the world, second only to oil.)  But rekindling passion for your work is never a bad thing, and one of the things I’m very passionate about is travel.

Naturalmente by Schweikardt Moden will showcase at Ethical Fashion Show Berlin

So this year I’m going to do a little work-related traveling.  Faerie’s Dance will be attending the Ethical Fashion Show Berlin, checking out new lines at the Green Showroom, meeting up with Occidente at Panorama Berlin and finally flying to Sweden to discuss organic cotton bra designs with Swegmark.  Of course, since I’ll already be in Sweden… My partner and I will be taking a much needed vacation together as well, spending a week on a cruise through the Baltics.

We are training assistants to “watch the store,” and will be shipping orders and processing returns and exchanges during the entire trip, from July 1 – 20th.  However, customer service will be limited to e-mail only, with no phone service at all during that period, and we will not be able to offer expedited shipping for those 3 weeks.

Be sure to follow us on Facebook to get updates from the show.  I look forward to celebrating our 12 year business anniversary on July 22, 2107, upon my return.

 

 

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