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The True Cost of Buying Cheap Lingerie

Few clothing or accessory purchases match the satisfaction of beautiful, high-quality lingerie. Unfortunately, bra shopping can be an exercise in frustration. From fit to aesthetics, there’s a lot to consider — and that’s before you get down to the question of cost.

Unhappy about seemingly steep price tags, many women wonder: why are bras so expensive? Turns out, a lot goes into constructing lingerie worthy of your wardrobe. Keep reading to learn more about the the downsides of cheap products — and why you should invest in quality lingerie.

How are Bras Made?

Before you can truly understand why cheap lingerie is a raw deal, you need to know what goes into bra production. The main aspects of producing a bra include design, manufacturing, and packaging. Each is complicated in its own way, but also crucial for achieving a desired end product:

A Lengthy Design Process

Long before any sizing considerations occur, designers must consider a bra’s structure and general appearance. In addition to making key decisions about an entire bra collection, designers determine special features and delve into issues with sizing and fit.

Once these considerations have been taken into account, they can proceed with the creation of a prototype prior to building the actual bra. The prototype is then tested to determine sizing accuracy and product quality.

Bra design is a lengthy endeavor; a notable National Geographic video (below) points to fifty people from seven departments at a top designer, who work for six months to perfect a single bra. Some companies take even longer. This extended timeline is only appropriate, given the complexities of bra construction.

Even the most basic bras feature at least 25 individual components, compared to just 15 for a pair of jeans. Many bras feature over 100 separate components.

Manufacturing the Bra

Manufacturing varies significantly from one company to the next, but most cut bra components based on specified patterns. High-end bras tend to be produced with high-grade industrial sewing machines, which ensure better bra construction. The process ends with stitching the label to the bra.


Careful packaging is just as important as design and manufacturing. Bras can sustain significant damage long before they’re worn, simply by being tossed haphazardly into plastic bags. High-quality bras boast equally high-quality packaging, followed by careful transport so as to preserve the shape of the product.

Ever wonder how foam bra cups are shaped? Here’s a short video showing how it’s done on a machine:

How Much Does it Cost to Make a Bra?

The cost of bra production can vary somewhat based on who designs the product, how long the design process takes, and whether the bra is mass-produced. Basic costs include:

  • Hourly rates for designers and manufacturers
  • Materials, including fabric, wire, and embellishments
  • Editorial costs (such as photography, model fee, studio rental)
  • Overhead for the facilities in which the bra is designed and manufactured
  • Shipping
  • Taxes

The costs highlighted above can be shockingly varied, based on current market conditions and several other factors. For example, while seemingly inexpensive, cotton can prove quite costly if droughts take over in top cotton producing states. Editorial necessities, facility rental, shipping, and taxes largely depend on location.

Due to this variability, there is no set price for bra production — but rest assured, boutique bra designers do not produce bras cheaply and keep the difference.

how much does it cost to make a bra

What Happens When You Buy a Cheap Bra?

In the long-term, cheap bras can actually prove far more expensive than seemingly pricey brands, simply because they warp or fall apart so quickly. Even if they stand the test of time, these bras rarely provide the fit or comfort of higher-quality lingerie.

Poor Fit

Cheap bras are mass-produced, and therefore less likely to accurately fit each and every consumer. Sizing may be limited; women with unusual sizes often find it impossible to finding correctly-fitting bras among discount merchandisers. Many ultimately settle for the discomfort of poorly-fitted bras.

Extra hooks, straps, and other accessories commonly included with more expensive bras rarely accompany cheaper models, so it can be challenging to adjust following fluctuations in weight and breast size.

Short Life Span

Cheap bras rarely stand the test of time. They stretch and warp easily; in the unlikely case that a cheap bra fits perfectly in the first place, it certainly won’t after a few months of use. The inexpensive materials used to create these bras degrades quickly, leaving the wearer looking and feeling less than her best.

A bra isn’t truly affordable if it must be replaced every few years; expensive bras may have a higher sticker price, but their longevity and status as investment piece could actually make them the more practical option in the long-term.

Broader Implications

Cheap bras look and feel worse, but you’re by no means the only person impacted by discount lingerie. Companies that produce discount bras tend to save on manufacturing by paying workers less. Many opt for labor from third-world countries, but pass only a small portion of the savings on to the customer.

Bras are nearly always more expensive when produced in developed nations, but buyers can take solace in knowing that the people who worked hard to create their lingerie were paid a fair wage.

what happens when you buy a cheap bra - The True Cost of Buying Cheap Lingerie

How Much Should I Spend on a Bra?

The more you budget for your bra, the better quality you can expect — but there is a point of diminishing returns. Bras priced under $30 are not likely to last, nor are they guaranteed to provide the proper fit and support needed to ensure full comfort. Those over $100 offer the ultimate in lingerie luxury, but at a price point unrealistic for the average woman.

The sweet spot lies somewhere in between; many women prefer bras between $40 and $70, as these offer a nice blend of luxury and practicality — while still remaining realistic from a budgetary standpoint.

how much should i spend on a bra

Seemingly pricey bras constitute a key investment in yourself. The next time you get sticker shock while lingerie shopping, think of the months, even years of hard work that went into each design. The moment you experience the security and luxury of a well made bra, you’ll realize that it’s worth every penny.

We Highly Recommend

Whether you’re shopping for new everyday bras or lingerie for a special occasion, it’s always a good idea to seek out a second opinion. We know how hard it is to find bras that fit well and feel good, especially when you’re doing it on your own. If you’ve ever felt unsure about your bra size or you just don’t know where to go to find good bras, it’s time to let a bra fitter help.

Many specialty lingerie boutiques offer bra fittings. Their expert bra fitters will take the pain and frustration out of bra shopping and do all the work for you. Even better, their product knowledge can save you time and money. Plus, they know where all of the best bras are hiding.

If you’ve struggled with finding bras in the right size, it’s time to make a change. Visit our specialty store locator to find a store near you and schedule an appointment.

Happy bra shopping!

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