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Second Life: What To Do With Lingerie That Just Isn't Right

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links.


Bras hanging in Sier Keiran St Ciaran's Bush Photo by Andreas F. Borchert, via Wikimedia Commons

Recycling is good, right? Yes and no. But I can share some tips on salvaging lingerie that just isn't right for you anymore. I'm trying to live a minimalist lifestyle and make as little junk as possible, so I've encountered a couple of things that can be done with outdated, ill-fitted or damaged lingerie. While I'm not saying you should try and save every little scrap of fabric, there are some things worth keeping.

Plus, why not surprise yourself or your sweetheart with something new and beautiful this Summer – but without the splurge (or just save some money for all the good stuff in June/July sales... wink!)

1.The Underwires.

An underwire coming out of my favorite bra is one of the moments I dread most. Since I tend to wear my most loved pieces to bits, I can still say I'm a proud owner of a 2009 bra. While I wouldn't do a photoshoot in it, I just can't bear to part with its absolutely amazing shape (yup, it is a Kiss Me Deadly bra). Below is an old Wonderbra ad around 1975 (according to Wikipedia), and it kind of illustrates how sad I am when I notice the underwire is about to leave one of my staple pieces.

An image of Wonderbra circa 1975, via Wikimedia Commons

An image of Wonderbra circa 1975, taken via Wikimedia Commons

There are two things you can do with such a bra; a) try to mend it, or b) remove the underwire. While I always try to stick to (a), sometimes it doesn't go as planned. If the underwire is sticking out, try to repair it. Pushing it back and sewing up the hole won't always do the trick, sadly. There is a possibility to repair it with moleskin or using plastic caps for the purpose, but it will never be the same again.

What you should always – and I seriously mean it – always avoid: putting a bra with the tiniest underwire damage in the washing machine, even if in a washing bag. I know we all should and try to do our delicate laundry with our dainty hands, but all of us slip now and then (um, hello Finals season?!). Putting such a bra in the machine will just cause the underwire to come out entirely, at best, and then it's impossible to stick back in. If the underwire is broken, I don't even want to think of the potential disaster it could do to a fine, lacy garment such as your favorite bra.

So what do you do?

  • you say your goodbyes. No need for a burial casket, just bite the bullet. If you really, really can't bear to part with it, ask someone to do that for you. If you trust that person to see you in that bra, I think it might be a valid reason to let them get rid of the bra, too.
  • you accept your fate and live without the underwire – this makes for a terrific sleep bra, or one that serves well for light physical activity, according to your size and preferences, of course. Being an approximate H cup (standards may vary, but Cora has covered why The Lingerie Addict isn't a bra fit blog here) I wouldn't expect such a bra to be extra supportive, but mine suit me well for sleeping, sunbathing or horse riding.
  • if you really, really love it, take it to a seamstress/tailor. Maybe he/she will be able to fix it or, if expert enough, create a replica of your beloved. That is actually possible, but is very dependent upon local availability. This will require some extensive research, but if you do really love the bra, it is really worth considering your options.

WikiHow has a community-made article on how to fix a broken underwire, complete with pictures and a video.

2. The Straps.

Straps, even though not the essential part of your bra, do give a little extra support and can serve as the dot on the i when it comes to design. This post by Estelle, owner of Esty lingerie, shows how to replace the straps on your bra. I think it's a great idea: why not try a double spaghetti instead of a plain elastic strap or something lacy, perhaps? When writing this post I was Googleing like insane, and one bra that caught my eye strap-wise is this Figleaves beauty. It's available in a range of cup sizes, and while the site states the name “Boudoir,” I can easily see this being a summer bra, or a winter bra, or just an all-round inspirational piece.

Figleaves Boudoir Carmen B-G Underwired Bra

Figleaves Boudoir Carmen 32-36 B-G Underwired Bra, £35,  at Figleaves UK

Anyway, I highly recommend you steer clear of the "invisible straps" that are basically a piece of plastic, or silicone at best, often embellished with various designs. These do really need to be high quality to not look "tacky" or just odd, knowing how the clear material reflects light. However, if you're particularly crafty, why not turn your old straps into a harness?

3. The Hooks.

Hooks are the part of your bra that get a lot of stress. While I've been wearing bras for more than 10 years now, I still have trouble hooking/unhooking them sometimes. This can result in damage, such as bending, or sometimes the hook comes out entirely. What you can do is: either try to fix it with some round-nosed pliers, or replace the hook part itself, in one piece. It won't be easy to do if it's a specific combination like a rare shade of pink, or a row of four, like the hooks on this Curvy Kate Carmen bra pictured below, but it can be done.

Curvy Kate Carmen Rose Mix Padded Balconette bra, available at Figleaves

Curvy Kate Carmen Rose Mix Padded Balconette bra, sizes 28-38 D-H, £35, available at Figleaves

4. The Band.

Okay, I know it may not healthy, but I do tend to change in weight significantly. Subsequently, not all of my bra bands fit me at a particular point in my life. Luckily, I've found a way around. If the band is too large, take it in! Just fold the excess and stitch it back in, doubling a couple of times. I did this to my favorite bras I had in a 38 band (I'm a 32-34 now) a couple of years ago, and they still hold. I'm not too skilled in sewing, so yes, it indeed is doable.

If the band is too small, buy a set of band extenders – they simply hook up to the existing setup and extend the band for one size. Best part is: you can always ditch the extender should you go back to the old size. Here's a tutorial on Bras I Hate & Love, with pictures.

Speaking of extenders, the one pictured below is from Marks&Spencer but they're available in virtually any place that sells bras, such as Amazon or Walmart. Just Google “bra extender” and see which option suits you best locally. Some brands like Maidenform make their own, so, if you have a beloved bra and you know the brand, go on exploring! They really might have the perfect solution for your particular bra.

A 3-pack set of Bra extenders from Marks & Spencer

A 3-pack set of Bra band extenders from Marks & Spencer, £5

5. The Cups.

Cups no longer fit? No problem. If the shape allows for it and you don't want the bra as is, take your manicure scissors and cut the cups out, and have a pretty, cupless boudoir piece. I did this to an old ASOS bra that was essentially a caged underwire with a bandeau around – and it's just pretty irresistible. Yup and yup again.

ASOS Boudoir Lace Bandeau bra in Cream

ASOS Boudoir Lace Bandeau bra in Cream, the same bra in Black can be found here.

6. The Tights.

Tights are notorious for not lasting as long as you'd expect. If something has happened with the panty part of the tights, just cut them off as close to the crotch as possible and use them as stockings! If you're going for a neater appearance, roll the hem a little and stitch it up, but I generally omit this step. In most cases, I really don't have time for extra neatness, especially in chilly weather :)

Should they be ripped beyond recognition, tights or the lace tops of stockings can be used as really useful hair bands for when you apply your facial mask or the like. Or, just cut the leg part in three or four long strips, braid those, secure the ends, and you'll have a beautiful hair band. That allows to do the awesome “roll and tuck under” hair curling technique, but you'll really have to ask Google for this. I'm happy I can do that on my hair, but I seriously can't explain how.

7. The Rest.

You can always use your old lingerie for inspiration to do something new. Right now I'm thinking about making a chemise (I don't really like those... but this one is silvery!) into a bralette and something else. I recently turned a pair of silvery tights that just weren't my size into a pretty braided hairband. And I'm also thinking of making out a pretty harness from the belts I've never ever worn once. Plus, I think I could make a lovely cotton panty from a bright yellow top I never got to wear. If you, like me, could also use a guide, Estelle of Esty lingerie has written a very lovely beginner's guide here. Or, if you just fancy a new colour – Estelle has it covered here on TLA yet again!

And, if and when you do get rid of a bra you no longer like, save the little padding cutlets – they may come in handy when you lose your current ones, provided they are of similar shape. Of course, they can be whichever shape, as long as you feel comfortable with how the bra itself feels. As I wrote before in this article, The Lingerie Addict is not a bra fit blog , so while the TLA team is always happy to help with some questions fit-wise, there are plenty of other blogs doing so out there.

All in all, remember this: your lingerie is yours. You are yours. Your choices are yours.

Cora Harrington

Founder and Editor in Chief of The Lingerie Addict. Author of In Intimate Detail: How to Choose, Wear, and Love Lingerie. I believe lingerie is fashion too, and that everyone who wants it deserves gorgeous lingerie.