Some of you may find a bra or brief that you simply must have, and have a little freak out when you see the price. You might be wondering, how can something so small have THAT price tag? We will be discussing the reasons lingerie can have a higher end and even luxury price tag.
A Little Perspective
There are many factors that contribute to the high price of lingerie. If you take a step back and consider a bra, compared to something like a t-shirt. You have to appreciate how technical a bra is. It has a function of holding you in place and supporting your girls, in addition to needing to look good. Fascinatingly, there is a demand for luxury and cool t-shirts that come with high price tags where a t-shirt is a simple pattern, and that can easily be graded from an XS to S to M and so on.
So on one end of the spectrum, there is a recent trend of consumer willing to pay high prices for a t-shirt from a designer brand, yet at the same time, there has been a trend in consumers demanding lower prices for a very technical garment such as an underwire bra.
Smaller or Independent Designers
The cost to manufacture is the greatest for independent designers that don’t manufacture in large quantities, and this takes away the leverage they have with factories to reduce production costs. Some bras are made over a range of differing back and cup sizes, this adds additional time and cost in developing new styles - creating samples, fittings, so many gradings. It’s not an easy task to design a bra style that will fit a size 30B and also fit a 36D.
Then to manufacture such a broad range of sizes as an independent designer is a high risk. There is increased demand for designers and retailers to offer sizes to fit a range of sizes and getting these quantities right is tough. The designer is required to pay the factory up front and may struggle to sell certain sizes in a reasonable amount of time to cover costs.
The places that manufacture bras are few in the world, with some western countries not even in the business of manufacturing underwire bras anymore. In Australia, you’d be hard-pressed to find any factory that can do underwire bra inserts.
Anatomy of a Bra
Let’s look at the anatomy of a bra’s structural components:
You have to appreciate that there are a lot of elements that make up a bra! A designer is required to order each of these individual pieces, check for quality, and the cost to have them shipped. This means, there are different materials for each, and with each bra size (and there are SO MANY SIZES) there needs to be a pattern graded to that size. All of these elements have individual costs, and they are labour intensive to combine.
When constructing a bra, designer and luxury lingerie brands use high-quality fabrics. An example is Loveday London, who use soft Italian leather and bespoke corded lace. These materials alone come with a high price tag. The margin of error decreases, can you imagine when during the cutting process some of this luxurious fabric needs to be discarded after mistakes, heartbreaking!
Lingerie often features silk, an incredibly delicate and expensive fabric that is often required to be dyed to achieve a certain color. Silk is beautiful when it is cut in a specific direction, and this can lead to less bra and brief pieces cut from a meter of the fabric than other less expensive fabrics.
Even a little triangle bra or bralette can come with a high price tag; a luxe bralette can feature intricate and incredibly delicate custom lace, delicately stitched sheer tulle, a silk underband, ribbons, and delicate closures.
Pictured: Juliet set by Loveday London. Featuring bespoke metallic lace and soft lambskin Italian leather. Fully customizable straps for a custom fit, underwire and soft ruffles across the bra cups.
Each of these elements requires a different piece or pieces of fabric, often the fabric is delicate lace or stretch fabrics which are harder to cut, and with such small pieces, the traditional cut houses require a greater amount of time to cut each piece with accuracy.
Smaller indie brands that produce in smaller quantities or with fabric that requires greater care will be cut by hand.
Larger and traditional cut houses often prefer to work with more natural fabrics and larger cuts. A delicate piece of lace that needs to be cut into smaller bralette triangles can be fiddly and this fabric can’t be marked the same as a reel of denim.
In addition to fine fabrics, various components, designer, and luxury lingerie are made with quality in mind. When you discover quality lingerie, that you treat with care, it outlasts your budget-friendly items by years making it a smarter investment.
For various sizes, a bra is responsible for doing some heavy lifting during the day, even for smaller cups push up and supportive designs are preferred. To achieve these styles quality pieces are preferred to high-end or luxury designers.
Sewing and Construction
To correctly put boning a longline bra, underwire in a bra that sits correctly against the body, a molded cup in a leather bra, attach adjustable straps with hardware, hook-and-eye closure in the back, ruffles under the band, ruffles on the straps, gathered tulle and so on. Highly talented and skilled individuals are required to complete all of these elements. I remember in high school sewing pillowcases and pencil cases in my textiles class. The skills and experience required for bra construction are advanced.
There are also an increasing number of handmade lingerie designers emerging which includes made to order styles. If a designer is sewing a made to order style, their time is directly attributed to the construction. You are paying for their livelihood and should expect to pay a higher price than the mass-produced fast fashion brands.
Next time you see a t-shirt selling for $45+ that is what should make you freak out. Remember, a t-shirt is two pieces of fabric, sewn together and can be sized up or down easily - you can go from M to L quite easily by adding increasing measurements. There is more complexity to go from a 32B to 34B in an underwire bra.
If you see a bra for $90 have a good look at it, appreciate the delicate cuts of fabric, the straps, the underband or underwire and appreciate the materials used and the construction of the design. Appreciate the story of a designer or small team working at a brand which brings a dream to life and knows that you are supporting that. Then understand the number of sizes an underwire bra has to come in, I know it can be frustrating when a style isn’t carried in your size, but wow there are so many, and for smaller brands or retailers, they often can’t afford to carry them all!
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