Friday 1 June 2012

How Many Bras Do You Need To Own, Anyway?

From time to time, I come across blog posts that list the types of bras everyone needs to own. Of course, these posts are often put together by sites that actually sell bras. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but I’ve noticed that the lists usually focus on different bra shapes, suggesting that everyone own a balconette, a strapless bra, a moulded T-shirt bra, a convertible/halter bra, and a racerback bra.

I personally feel this is sort of excessive. In the G+ crowd (and even the D+ crowd), I doubt many people own a racerback bra or a halter bra, much less both. The fact is these bras don’t really exist for the high cup sizes and probably aren’t priorities for most of us.

I know lots of people own a strapless bra, but I’m sort of cynical about them. They never seem to be constructed well and usually don’t even go above G cups. The strapless bra I own is actually a sort of basque. It stays up, but it also makes my boobs about four sizes bigger because it is heavily padded and has a downward-pointing construction. So if I’m trying to wear it with a strapless dress, I usually can’t even zip the dress up once I have the strapless basque on. Plus, the really nice strapless dresses I’ve found all have boning and can be worn without a bra even with my H/HH/J cup boobs. So I’m going to go ahead and say that no one should feel that they ‘need’ to own a strapless bra unless they find one they actually like.

When I think about the right number of bras to own, I’ve always though in terms of color instead of shape. To start with, there are the basics: black, white, and nude everyday bras (padded, molded, or unpadded as per personal preference).

White bras certainly are not a ‘must’ for everyone because they usually show under white or sheer tops (hence the need for a nude bra) and therefore aren’t necessary unless you like them (I love them). Black bras are good to wear under black tops because lighter or nude bras can show in photos with flash, like this:

I like a little color in my life, so I’ve always liked to also own two colored everyday bras. The colors I’ve generally gravitated towards are light blue (or sometimes teal) and pink. This adds up to five bras, one for every weekday.

Recently, I’ve also come to feel that red is a great mental boost and a good basic, so I also consider red a bra color that I personally ‘need’ to own. 

In terms of practicality, it’s also useful to own a sports bra and a plunge bra. For some people, this category of practicality might also include a strapless and/or convertible bra.

Here we have 8 bras, which I would consider the basic amount of bras I need to structure my wardrobe around. But of course, it’s also nice to own a few “fun” bras—sexy bras, patterned bras, and other colors. And it’s very easy to suddenly find yourself with multiples of the basic colors if you take advantage of good deals when you find them. I definitely bought way too many bras when I was in the UK—I couldn’t resist all the cheap eBay deals, plus I wanted to stock up before my return to the US. And suddenly I find myself with this bra-splosion:

My collection at this point is massive and overwhelming. And actually, I find this kind of depressing. With so many options, most of my bras never even get worn, even if I like them. I always feel like I have no idea what to choose in the morning. And the bras pictured above are just the ones that I actually wear. I also have a sizeable stack of bras I no longer wear that don’t fit right or are getting too worn out:

Coming home to the US and seeing my old bras—the ones I owned when I first started my collection—makes me feel nostalgic. At that point, I really did own just one black, nude, white, pink, teal, and red bra. And those bras are well-worn but still in really good shape. I loved them and took care of them. In future, if my heap of floral and fashion bras ever thins out, I’m going to try to focus on just the basics when I replenish my collection. I don’t like to have a huge excess of clothing, and bras are no exception. If you’re just starting a bra collection, it’s worth taking some time to think about what you would consider a good ‘basic’ collection before you end up with a massive overflowing drawer, like me!

I also feel like it’s important to consider what matching undies you have. Some people buy the matching panties that go with the bra, but I personally prefer to buy cheaper cotton underwear (Victoria’s Secret Pink makes my favorite styles and they last a lot longer than all the other brands I've tried). Ideally, I would own five pairs of underwear to match each bra. But in real life, that’s not the case at all. I only have five pairs of red underwear to match my three red bras, only one pair of nude underwear to go with my nude bra, and many of the floral bras I have don’t match any of my underwear at all. This is another factor to consider as you build your collection.

How many bras do you own? What bras do you think are essential to form a basic collection?


  1. One thing I find necessary is one or two bras in a larger cup and/or band size to wear when you're bloated or if you temporarily put on some weight. One smaller bra to wear if you temporarily lose some weight can also be useful. For instance, I own the Harmony balconette in 3 different sizes, and the Alana in 2 sizes. In both cases, only one size in on regular rotation, but the others come handy from time to time.
    As a general rule, what type of bras you need depend on the clothes you wear, so I spent years without owning a plunge or a nude bra and never missed it. On the other hand, a single sports bra is really not enough for me.

  2. What kind of strapless do you own?

  3. My current wardrobe involves one black plunge/t-shirt bra, two beige t-shirt bras, a black t-shirt bra, (the last three t-shirt bras are reaching the end of their lives) two sports bras, one non-molded red bra, and a pretty Masquerade one. That comes to eight, which seems fine to me.

    I'd say you want a few bras in nude and black to go under clothing, a sports bra or two, and a nice one or two that you find fun to wear. People change sizes so much that having a great deal of bras is hazardous to me- I won't fit them if I get to rotate them too much. As for strapless, one's mileage may vary. I have a Panache body, but it doesn't fit great and I've only needed to wear it once over the past several years.

  4. I'm definitely a sucker for colour and will always buy bras based on how much I like the look of them as opposed to what function they're for. It's not a good rule to live by as there are times I have the dreaded light coloured bra showing through dark tops in photos, like you showed there! I really dislike nude bras but know I should invest in some because there is always the need for me to wear one.

    I think these lists that you get where they say what bras you should own don't really have a clue, or are more fitting for those with smaller chests. I struggle with a lot of balconettes because of my bust shape and find in general plunge bras are most comfortable for me.

    Ebay is not good for a bra addiction, lol. *points at myself*
    Becky x

    1. Just wanted to say I really dislike beige bras too. And the word nude? Ha! My skin is much lighter than that color and they just look so blah on me. I'd never buy one. I'll stick with my blacks, whites and colors in the pink family.

  5. Wow, what a list! I've got 3 balconetts (black, silver and purple), one plunge EM and 2 nursing bras.
    Another 10 bras are waiting in the drawer, some of them I should sell and few will hopefully fit me after I wíll finish breastfeeding.
    My favourite style is balconette, I love lace and I don't own any white or nude bras.
    I've got a problem with Ebay too, but I really don't like to pay 80$ when I can 30$.

  6. Out of pure selfishness, I think you should have as many bras as you can possibly store. You write amazing reviews! I figure the more bras you try on and wear for extended periods, the more likely I'll get to read one of your hard-hitting reviews. So, thanks for having an overwhelming number of bras and reviewing them!

  7. I prefer to own one "everyday" bra for each day of the week so that I can have one "handwashing stuff" weekend day, and not have to think about whether I have a clean bra for the next day. Again, because of the hand washing, I like the number of sports bras to be equal to the number of times I go to the gym each week (in my case, 5).

    Next, I want at least two plunge bras: one nude, one black. My daily bras are full-cup, so I really need plunge bras if I want to wear certain cute tops. I would like to have two strapless bras in the basic colors as well. That's 16 bras, which sounds like an awful lot, but when you think of it by function it makes sense.

    But here's what I actually own: 6 everyday bras - unpadded, full-cup in black (1), nude (2), white (2), dark red (1); 4 sports bras; 1 badly-fitting plunge bra - Freya deco in pistachio; and half a bazillion bras that don't fit. (I say half a bazillion because I got rid of some cute rarely worn ones last year, but now I have to force myself to part with the rest.)

    I don't get matching panties because I find cotton so much more comfortable. It's not as if I have sexy bras anyway! Like you, I find VS underwear nice, but I only own black (tons) and nude (maybe 5) bikinis, plus one thong in each of those colors. About a 2:1 ratio of underwear to bras is quite sufficient for me - I'm not going to wear more than 3 pairs a day at most (that's one for the day, one for the gym, and a possible change if I'm going out).

  8. I'm pretty much obsessed with fit, & having achieved that, with comfort - which is proving much, much harder to find. My skin is sensitive enough to react with welts and rashes to rough seams (Elomi), high scrapy wires (Panache), stiff cutting straps (Curvy Kate), or thin elastic along the bottom band that cuts in (Freya). This has resulted in a collection much like yours. Currently, I'm a 36GG, but I keep several sizes too. At 20+ bras, I finally started storing them CD style - stacked on their sides, wires up: one bin for daily bras, & another for comfort bras (soft cup, sleep, looser bands, sports, & stretched out PMS faves).

    I still quote that 'beige is for those who hate joy'. After living in the UK for 3 years I bitterly resented the return to beige-only in DD+ here in the US. I've made up for it by refusing to buy anything without either color or embellishment. I did buy a white Princess, buT I wouldn't call it plain! I did make one beige exception, the Anita Rosa Faia: THE best band ever. Silky, stretchy -but very firm, totally smooth on skin, & holds its shape. But they stop at G.

    So I have a whole wardrobe of Freya Pollyannas & Antoinette's, they're most versatile for me. Plus a Fantasie T bra for sheer blouses, an Elomi Hermione spacer for thin T's...& a huge number of bras I've worn just once or twice. I keep meaning to put them on eBay. I bet no one else ever plans to do that...then doesn't, right?

    Btw, I just heard of a non-profit called Free The Girls that accepts bra donations. They help victims of sex-trafficking support themselves while they reintegrate. Have you heard of them?

  9. I was inspired to clean through my closets and boxes today, and I found 10 bras which will never fit me again (most of them worn 1 month or less). I've just finished labeling them. I think I'm going to send them to Support 1000 (which I read about on Hourglassy), but first I'll look around to see if I can find a slightly more local charity, as I'm not keen to pay international shipping.

    I have no idea why I didn't get rid of these ones earlier, because most of them won't be missed. Only the Prima Donna Ginza (for the pattern) and Freya retro plunge (for the look) will be missed at all.

  10. I would like to have:
    1 plunge
    1 strapless
    1 multiway
    1 nude balconette
    1 black balconette
    1 slightly bigger bra (when bloated)
    1 sports bra

    However, I currently own 1 bra that almost fits, and 1 bra I can use on laundry day. Hmm...

  11. I am working on building up my new 'bra wardrobe' and, after thinking about things for a little bit, I realized I would like to end up with something like 13-15 bras. This number would include two 'real' sports bras and at least one molded bra in addition to the many unpadded balconettes I would like to add to the six I presently own. At this point, I have one nude bra (Panache Tango II) and all of the others are colors/designs that caught my eye for one reason or another. Like my new Cleo Lucy in yellow, which actually just came today in the mail (I can thank your review here, BrasIHate, for helping me decide I DESPERATELY needed to have one from that line--or at least try one on for size!). Anyway, perhaps I'll add a plunge bra to the mix down the road, along with the aforementioned sports bras. The other bras that would make up that ~15 are just lovely, lacey things that have been wooing me from various websites. Completely nonessential. ;)

  12. I like to change bras each day because if I wear a bra two days together the band and wires really rub, so I go for a few slightly diferent designs but no plunges - because I have never found a good one,, no sports bras - I do pilates and walk but don't jog/run and no full cups - they make me look too big. So all balconettes - Cleo in black, white and pink, Panache Sienna in, Curvy Kate Emily in Flame, Panache Harmony balconette in be/ge and black, Pour Moi St Tropez( says it is a full cup but it isn't and gives a great shape) in black(3) and white- 10 to take me through the weeek plus...knickers are usually Marks & Spencer cotton midi in black or white unless the bras are coloured when I buy the sets. Thinking about this has really brought home the wide range of sizes I wear, though, from 30GG to 30 J! But I live in Britian and can afford to have this choice.

  13. while i am smaller busted and larger around... i found this post extremely helpful. i am a 32c (which fits me rather tightly in the bad as i am a bit manish in build) and i combined this with Herrooms list of essential bra styles to find out what suits my wardrobe! i discovered i need

    -1 nude strapless
    -2 nude push up
    -2 black push up
    -1 pink push up
    -1 nude racerback push up

    all my bras are push ups because i am rather small chested. thanks a bunch!

  14. Please please please do a strapless review and try some fantasie bras! Im ordering overseas and so far your reviews have been a help, inspiration and a moneysaver for me!

  15. Wow - great article, and I am in envy of your collection.

    Couple of questions: which bra is that poka-dot plunge bra (first appears in photo 5), and the black bra down the bottom left in photo 6?

    They are CUTE!

  16. 32H here :) My basics comprise of Freya's Deco in black and Cleo's Juna in nude as my everyday bras. I then have my Panache sports bra in black that's also worn everyday, and then Freya's Deco strapless in nude for those dresses that require one. So that's a balconette, strapless bra, a moulded T-shirt bra (that plunges!), a and a racerback bra (in my sports bra!). If I need a racerback for an everyday top, I just add a bra buddy. For pretty bras, I have two of Curvy Kate's Tease Me (green and almond; both far too small for wearing out, but gives a good look all the same!) and Freya's longline bra Edina. Years ago I had Panache's Zara in nude that I could wear as a halterneck...I wonder if it still fits lol! Excellent blog by the way, excellent product knowledge :)

  17. Thank you for your great post! This collection's Cheap Bras information has gotten heavy use to me!!

  18. I LOVE THIS! I'm a 32F and my basics are also Freya's nude and black Moulded Plunge. But I have a LOT from Victora's Secret only because I wasn't wearing the right size. :( But they are BEAUTIFUL! Lacey, two toned, jeweled, you name it and my friends all act like I'm abnormal. But after reading your post - I've found FRIENDS!

    Where do I sign up? :)

  19. LOVE this post! I just got Freya's Molded Plunge in black and nude (32F) after realizing I was wearing the wrong size. This does leave me with a rather large selection of Victoria's Secret underpinnings, however, that cover almost everything! I have colors, prints, lace, two-toned, jeweled, you name it. The thing is - my friends have lead me to believe that I'm somewhat OCD in that NONE of them have this many - but then I found all of YOU! Thank you for letting me realize that much like my shoe, purse and jewelry collection - I just needed to find the "CLUB"! :)

  20. I Just counted up that I have 16 bras that I own and that fit me, and I frantically googled to find out if this is excessive. :p My collections includes

    1 nude unmolded balconette
    1 nude T-shirt bra
    1 grey T-shirt bra
    2 sports bras
    11 sexy/cute/awesomely patterned bras, mostly Freya plunges

    ...Oops! I just can't say no.

  21. In terms of underwear, buy H&M's black cotton hipsters. They're cheap, cute, and comfy. I've always been a fan of the mismatched, yet matching look when it comes to lingerie. And black goes with everything right?

  22. All I can say is that I am a pushover for a pretty bra. I have about 12 and seem to keep buying them if I like the color and style.

  23. In highschool even DD had to be special ordered and 4" added was norm. I made do by driving 3hrs to buy bali bras in 36DD. Later i downsized to 34DD but i was master or swoop, scoop, then cram back in. By the time my kids came along i was well aware of proper fitting and positive i wore wrong size and bigger sizes were available but cost was a problem. I gave up and have been wearing same 34DD balis for last decade. I finally went to nordstroms to confirm my guess of a 32G and found atleast with a fantasie i liked i needed a 32H. I have placed an order for 6 bravissimo in 32H as a starting point and went home from nords with a pink cleo in 34G. Partly because 32G was too small but band felt crazy tight. Im wearing 34 on tightest hooks after a few wears however!
    I took old balis and cut out the underwires (they were super stretched out anyway, but i wore them on tightest hooks on day one) to wear to sleep in and so far its quite doable. I expect when i find fitting bras i will do the same when they are worn out :)
    That being said ive been wearing a bra for 24yrs and never once had one that fit properly, and they were all horrid granny bras in white/nude/black. I dont think anyone can explain what it feels like to wear a bra that both fits and is pretty to boot. My stepsister is 12 days younger and even now after 3 kids is probably a 26A. My younger sis wears totally wrong size but is probably a 30dd or slightly bigger but buys 36bs or similar at VS. I always was envious they could have cute colored bras and i got moms hand me downs at 11 and my GRANDMAs 36DD wacol at 14. Sad :(
    I rather want to show everyone my bra now!

  24. I love this post!!! I'm a size 14b. I have 3 bras at the moment. A very basic nude t- shirt bra, a Berlei - so smooth t-shirt bra in gold - which I highly recommend and a Bridgette ivory bra from Honey Birdette which can also be made a strapless.

  25. I would not be depressed to have nice bras and a few backups for when the others are "worn out". The elasticity and support wear out at 8 months - 1 year. Myself, guilty of holding on to worn out bras and bras that either do not fit because of weight loss or weight gain. So each year at least, just like a check up, we need to get re-fitted for bras to make sure we're getting the proper support.

  26. I definitely think I own too many bras. Even when I had a clear out recently I still had over 20. I buy a lot based on colour and will always buy matching knickers if there available. Also once I like a bra I have the tendency to buy all the colours in the range, except nude, I hate that colour. In addition I'll buy a spare one, just in case that particular design is no longer available when it comes to replacing the bra. My favourite brand is Ultimo and most of the bras are from them. I'm in the UK so the price doesn't seem as bad as in the US.

  27. I recently threw out the first bra I bought after getting sized when I was 17 in a size 30F (3 and a half years ago!!!) after having worn by mum's old bras which were in the D/DD region. It was a Debenhams one and along with it I'd bought the only other bras they had in 30F which were heavily padded and moulded. I pretty much exclusively worn this first bra however which was slightly padded but not moulded and although it was an unflattering cream colour with polka dots which showed through my clothes, it worked. I've finally now bought a Panache non wired sports bra (still in 30F which feels right to me), a Jasmine, Loretta plunge (caramel so too dark to be nude but close enough/should have been bought a cup size smaller but whatever) an Angie (useful for my bigger boobed days since its a tad too loose in cup but so so pretty) and an Andorra in an FF that works because of the stretch lace. Debating buying another Jasmine however as its my all time favourite for shape/everyday. :D