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Bra Wars: Protruding, Clothes-Damaging Underwires

By Amalah

Dear Amalah,
I have a bit of a fashion problem… and who better to ask than you! You are magical! Yes! I scanned through the archives, but I can’t seem to find anyone with this particular issue. Honestly, I’ve never met another human being with the same problem. Here’s the thing.
My bras are destroying my clothes.
I do wear a rather hefty size – 38DDDD, usually, depending on the brand. Admittedly, I have gained a bit of weight over the last couple of years, and the problem was somewhat more limited when the bras were a bit smaller (slightly. When I say “smaller”, I’m still talking 36DDD here.) Basically, there are few to no non-underwire options available in the size I require. There is also **very** little, uhh, space in between Boob A and Boob B. Consequently, the wires tend to protrude in the center. Knit tops and sweaters tend to yank against them. In the car, my seatbelt chafes against the wire and makes a mark on whatever I happen to be wearing. Last but not least, the wires, they poke rather uncomfortably into my boyfriend’s chest. There are now little ugly worn-out spots right in the middle of several shirts where the ends of the wires have been scraping.
Now, before you say “go get a fitting!” let me say – more than one fitting-lady at more than one Nordstrom has told me that this may be an unsolvable problem, but I find that hard to believe. Obviously it’s less of an issue with lower-profile bra styles, but a true triangle-cup or demi-cut is not usually available in the size I need. And I’m becoming slightly obsessed with it… I’ve tried everything in my power to defeat the abrasion from the seatbelt, but nothing seems to work, and I’m tired of ignoring the fact that YES YOU CAN SEE MY BRA WIRES POKING RATHER INDISCREETLY OUT OF THE MIDDLE OF MY CHEST AT ALL TIMES OMG. I tend to fixate on it, examine the center of my shirt in every possible light & mirror I encounter, etc. I think WAYYYYY too much about the best combinations of shirts & bras I have available to minimize the sticky-outy-ness (which rarely succeeds.) It’s difficult to camouflage, as you can imagine.
Any ideas?
Thanks. You’re the best.

Well, THIS one sure did send on a wild Google goose chase and then to a long silent session contemplating the physics of my own underwire bras, trying to envision your problem and possible solutions for it. My personal issue with underwires is their tendency to poke and wear through through the fabric (towards my skin, usually) after awhile, and while Google was able to provide me some ideas for solving this annoyance (sew on a layer of soft fleece fabric over the ends of the underwire), I couldn’t really find anything about underwire bras protruding in the OTHER direction and damaging clothes.
Obviously, this is a fit problem — you are a shape and size that the bra manufacturers just don’t create patterns for. It sounds to me like the underwires are…too long? Or the cup size is too small, so there isn’t enough fabric for the underwires to fully rest under the boob? Your band size is wrong and not keeping the wire in the proper position? I know you’ve had multiple fittings, but…ack! Something is off here.
Have you ever been told by a Nordstrom Lady that one of your measurements needed to be rounded up? (Since bras come in even sizes, odd-numbered measurements tend to get rounded up.) Maybe they rounded up when down would have been better, or they rounded ALL your measurements up and the result is just all wrong. I don’t know. I R FRUSTRATED. (I imagine you are too, probably especially so reading this paragraph, since you explicitly asked that I NOT cop out and tell you to go get a fitting.)
A bra that uses a single, continuous wire across the front may be an improvement, if you can find that, as would buying a near-lifetime supply of any non-underwire bra you manage to come across in your size.
Barring the perfect discovery of the perfect, non-pokey bra, let’s put on our MacGuyver caps for a bit here and think.
For delicate knit tops, could you layer a lycra cami or sports bra underneath (i.e. something that you wouldn’t care about if the wires damaged)? Hopefully the wires aren’t so pointy and sharp that they’d wear through TWO layers of fabric. You could probably just wear any type of lingerie camisole or tank underneath and cut down on the actual damage to your clothes, but something tight and sort-of binding might also help with the visible-wire problem. Sewing a patch of the aforementioned fleece on the front of your bras could prevent further rubbing and wear-and-tear too. And what about something like this for your seat belt?
Another option would be to actually get in there and modify your bras somehow. Remove the underwire completely, figure out how to cut the pokey ends (I’m sure someone at Home Depot would LOVE to help out with this one — you’d need wire cutters, a metal file and then some kind of super-hard enamel or plastic-y paint for the ends), or replace it with a better length/shape of wire or wire alternative (corset boning, maybe? I’m a non-sewer, but perhaps a trip to a sewing store or even the hardware store might spark some inspiration for you).
This site has all kinds of information about sewing your own bras and where you can get all the essential supplies — including replacement underwires. The less-rigidly shaped “demi underwires” might be better suited for you and your…uh…lack of space between the girls. Measure yourself with a bra on and guesstimate on where you’d ideally like the underwire to end and then order that length. Swap out the existing wire and then very thoroughly sew up the empty portion of the underwire channel so the shorter wire stays put.
Thoroughly custom-sewn bras ARE an option, though they certainly wouldn’t be cheap. Check your local phone book or do some local-type Googling to see if you can find an old-school seamstress who makes custom lingerie pieces.

Published July 10, 2008. Last updated July 10, 2008.
About the Author

Amy Corbett Storch


Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Ama...

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it’s pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to [email protected].

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.

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