Bras don't last forever as most women will tell you. However, plenty of women do hang on to their bras well past their expiration dates. Some women have a difficult time telling when their bra is no longer providing the support it once did; they may adjust straps or blame weight loss or weight gain for bra issues. Sometimes the bra is simply worn out, however, and should be discarded.
Signs of a Worn-Out Bra
A comfortable bra can also be a worn-out bra that isn't doing its job anymore of supporting the breasts. You can tell that a bra is wearing or worn out if you notice dimples in the cups or that the band is no longer fitting snuggly around your ribcage. It’s probably time to throw out your bra when you start seeing “boob flesh...spilling out over the top or from underneath, [and] the band is way too loose or rides up in back, underwires dig into flesh, and the center of the bra is pulling away instead of laying flat against the center of your chest” (1). In addition, If you notice that a bra is giving you pain in your back or, possibly, your shoulder blades, you should consider retiring it and shopping for a new model. Straps can also wear out necessitating the need for a new bra. If the wire is poking and fabric is fraying, it's probably time to go bra shopping.
How Long Do Bras Last?
It's difficult to say how long a bra lasts because there are many variables. How often do you wear the bra? Do you hand wash the bra or toss it in the washing machine? Has your weight fluctuated? Some women find that their bras no longer fit once they've gained or lost weight. Some experts suggest that a quality bra will last about nine months but “most bras are 100% elastic and our bodies are nearly 100 degrees, the bras can easily stretch out faster if you body runs on the hotter side (or live in a warmer climate)” (2). If you alternate bras often, your bras should last longer.
Does Style Matter?
Generally speaking, a bra can wear out no matter what its style. However, if you only where a certain type--a razorback bra for instance--on occasion, logic suggests that this bra will last longer than those you wear more regularly. Most women have various types of bras to accommodate their wardrobe needs. If, however, you prefer a certain style, it's a good idea to have several so that you don't wear your bras out quickly and can alternate between them.
Making Your Bras Last Longer
By caring for your bras you can extend their optimum use. Hand wash and reform bras instead of machine washing them. You should also change your bra daily. Wearing the same bra two days in a row doesn't allow the fabric the time it needs to breathe. Also, when working out, wear bras designed for that purpose. The sweat and heat of your body could actually cause your regular bras to wear out more quickly.
Inspecting Your Bras
The only way to really know if your bra has seen better days is to try it on and inspect it for yourself. If the band support is shot and the cups are wrinkled, it's safe to say that your bra is past its prime. Also, if your bra is no longer comfortable, you should certainly purchase others. Your bra should feel comfortable to wear as it provides the support you need.
1. "Five Signs It’s Time to Throw Away Old Bras", The Breast Life, http://www.thebreastlife.com/blog/time-to-throw-away-old-bras/
2. "When to Throw Out Your Bra", Lula Lu Blog, http://blog.lulalu.com/2013/05/19/when-to-throw-out-your-bra/