A guide to Cotton Bras


Cotton bras for seniors, Cotton Sports Bras, Pure Cotton Bras and Cotton Bras for sensitive skin.

By Pat Jameson, Bra Fitter

front closure cotton bras

With the rise of synthetic material production finding pure cotton bras, or any garments for that matter, can be a touch feat. In this article I am going to guide you through the pros and cons of cotton bras, common use cases for cotton bras, why it’s hard to find cotton bras in shops and I’ll point you to some of my most recommended cotton bras.

Cotton V Synthetic Bras

The big debate… which is better, cotton or synthetic bras?

My summary of thoughts are that unless you actually need a cotton bra due to skin sensitivity then synthetic bras are a better way for most women to go because they will be more durable as they are more resistant to stretch. Stretch resistance is important when it comes to a bra providing support – you can read more about that here.

The arguments for cotton bras being the best choice is that it’s nicer to have natural fibres against your body, it helps to wick moisture from the skin and that they create less irritation issues for those with sensitive skin. While I agree these are all fabulous advantages I think the benefit of strong support (from stronger stretch resistant fabrics) and a longer lifespan are more important to most women.

Benefits of Cotton Bras

  • Natural material
  • Cotton allows your skin to breathe
  • Cotton causes less irritation on sensitive skin
  • Ultra comfortable as the material stretched easily against the skin

Cotton Bras for sensitive skin

Hands down the most common need for cotton bras is centred around women who react to synthetic materials. I have heard the desperation in these poor women’s dialogue – a reason I was driven to write this blog. Could you honestly imagine wearing a garment that itched you and left welts on your skin?! Poor ladies.

Some women are prone to reacting to the general synthetic fibres in bras, the metals used in claps or lingerie detailing, latex sometimes use in bra production or even the chemicals used to treat or wash the fabric.

A cotton bra is a great solution for those suffering these unrelenting skin irritation issues.

Cotton Bras for seniors

Cotton bras for seniors are a popular choice. Due to the nature of our skin thinning as we age and becoming more delicate, it’s really common to hear of elderly women seeking out a high cotton content in their bras.

I see this as a good fit as cotton delivers a lot of the qualities our seniors ladies are looking for. That being, soft fabrics, low irritant materials, wire free (not always, but often) bras that stretch to our shape quickly. In short they are comfortable which is generally the main aim for bras for seniors.

With that super soft, super comfortable feel will often come a lower support solution. I don’t believe this to be a major issue for elderly women. Comfort is key for this demographic. So long as they find that their breasts being less supported is causing them other issues.

Why is it hard to find Cotton Support Bras in stores?

While I, the Bra Fitter, believes cotton bras are an important part of our stock room, I understand why most retailers choose not to stock a large variety of cotton bras. With the buyer demand for synthetic high support durable bra options there is simply less customers out there seeking a high percentage cotton bra. Given the nature of bras having so many sizes and colour variants required most retailers will put one of two token high cotton content styles and feel it irresponsible to put any more of their stock inventory dollars in to the category. It makes sense on paper (or a profit and loss statement), but it doesn’t help the women out there looking for this category.

This is why we see so many women choosing to shop online for cotton bras.

100% pure Cotton Bras – do they exist?

Its quite unlikely you’ll find a supportive 100% cotton bra. You may find a 100% cotton “crop” top, but its highly unlikely you’ll ever find a 100% pure cotton bra. This is because bras require elastic and metal elements in order to truly be considered a “bra”. A Bra should be designed in cup sizes eg 36D, not XS-XXXL sizing which doesn’t allow for our proportions.

The industry will label anything that they (the producer) deems to have a high cotton content as a “cotton bra”.

For the purpose of my recommendations I have considered anything with 80% or above cotton content to be a “cotton bra”. Most women who seek out a cotton bra don’t actually want a 100% cotton bras as they still want the elastic and metal elements in order to get a good fit and appropriate support.

Cotton Front Closure Bras I recommend

The merging of Cotton Bras and Front Closure Bras is a bit of a tricky one. As cotton bras are rare in their own right, and then the same with front closure bras being an anomoly, we don’t see many bras producing cotton front closure bras. But I do have some favourites listed below for you to look at. The Royce Comfi Cotton Front Closure Bra is a personal favourite and most importantly is available in a decent range of actual bra sizes.

front closure cotton bra
98% cotton front closure bra

Royce Comfi Bra
cotton front closure bra
95% cotton front closure bra

Fruit of the Loom Cotton Bra

Cotton Sports Bras I recommend

So I have to be honest and say ordinarily cotton and sports bras aren’t a common mix. This is because the synthetic materials are what provide the strong stretch resistant fabrics that a sports bra really needs. Royce has done a really great job with the Impact Free Cotton Sports Bra that has 81% cotton content and is a super supportive sports bra available in a great range of sizes. I am sorry I don’t have more to recommend – I can’t bring myself to suggest a product I don’t believe in just for the sake of it.

cotton sports bra
81% cotton High Impact Sports Bra

Royce Impact Free Cotton Sports Bra

Cotton Support Bras I recommend

While we talk about the cotton fabric being less structured and more stretchy than synthetic materials, it is also important to note that you can actually find cotton support bras in a great range of sizes. The Anita Jana Cotton Wire Less Bra and the Royce Grace Wire-Free Cotton Comfort Bras are both a testament to this. Noting again that these styles are 80% and 84% cotton. Of course the brands have ensured the cotton is placed on the internal cups of the bra in order to ensure

cotton support bras
80% cotton support bra for B – H cup

Anita Jana Cotton Wire Less Bra 5427

cotton-support-bra plus size
84% cotton support bra for D-FF cup

Royce Grace Wire-Free Cotton Comfort Bra

My final words on Cotton Bras

As mentioned through out this article I do believe that cotton bras are only *truly* a benefits to those who really need to stay away from synthetic fabrics. While there are some lovely benefits of cotton, if you are a hard to find size or have particular needs then you’ll probably find it easiest to stick to mainstream bras that use a higher percentage of synthetic materials that aid support and lifespan.

Got a question? Feel free to get in touch 🙂

Pat x

How do Front Closure Bras work?

how do front closure bras work
how do front closure bras work

Front closure bras are popular due to their ease of use.

But it’s not just their unique fastening system that makes them beneficial.

So, how do front closure bras work?

  • Front closure bras generally completely remove the hook and eye fastening from the back of the bra and put it at the front of the bra
  • Bras that open at the front will generally use a number of hook and eye clasps, velcro, magnets, a large single hook or a zip to close the bra
  • Front opening bras allow people with a poor range of motion to easily put on a bra
  • Front closure bras are known for their great postural support as the back of the bra is built stronger without the need for hook and eye clasps on the back

What fastening system is best?

This will depend a bit on who is wearing the bra and what the bra is being used for.

People with poor eye sight or athritis will benefit from a large single hook as it’s not too hard to co-ordinate.

Women seeking a high impact Sports Bra will be best with either a long row of hooks or a long zip to ensure a firm compressive hold.

Ladies seeking an alternative to everyday support could be best in a short run of hook and eye clasps.

Women with a disability may be best in velcro as it is easiest and requires less precision.

How do front closure bras offer support?

Front snap bras (as many people call them) will often be built with broad full back designs and wide straps. These design features can be used more readily in front closing bras as they don’t have to worry about incorporating a tradition bra hook and eye clasp in to the design.

The full back design really works to move the weight of the bust from the front to the back, which is generally a stronger group of muscles and bears the load easily.

We also often see broad straps in front opening bra designs. This also helps to distribute any pressure that does remain on the shoulder more broadly and reduced general shoulder discomfort or shoulder grooves.

How do front closure bras adjust?

Front closure bras generally do not have as many adjustment points as a traditional bra.

But, that being said, for this reason they are generally built with stronger rigid fabrics that don’t stretch quickly.

Adjustability is a great way to ensure lifespan of the bra is optimized because as it stretches you can then tighten the bra to firm up the fit.

There are some front closure bras that do have adjustment in the strap length or around the ribcage, but these can be harder to find.

As mentioned, because the overall fabrics are firmer you don’t have to worry about the bras stretching out as quickly. These firmer materials are the best asset we can have in a bra for lifespan.

At the end of the day, front closure bras work to make life easier being easier to get on and off. With the added benefit that the bras are generally designed to be nice and supportive bras which also works to add value to the wearer. It’s a win, win!

How to measure your bra size

How to measure your bra size front fastening bra

Firstly, let’s just discuss the most common mistake women make with their bra fit. That being, they wear the band that runs along the rib cage way too loose.

Sadly in the US we find many inexperienced Bra Fitters (and bra fitting blogs!) adding unnecessary inches around the ribcage which lands the unfortunate customer (or blog reader) with a poorly fitted bra that has no chance of offering them support.

Bra measuring guide front opening bra

Before we go through how to measure your bra size, you absolutely need to understand that the band that runs around the ribcage is responsible for offering most of the support in the bra and as such this needs to be firm so that it can act as anchor for the front, the bust. You can read more about how a bra should and why here.

Ok, so let’s get started, let’s measure your bra size in these steps together!

Before you get started

  • Make sure you are wearing your “best fitted” bra
  • This bra should ideally be underwire and have minimal padding in it. Do not wear a push up style bra to take these measurements.
  • When measuring, stand in front of a mirror or have someone on hand to help so you can ensure your measuring tape is sitting evenly around your body.
  • Do not pull too tightly on the tape. The tape needs to be pulled firm enough to just stay in place without dropping.

Step 1: Take your ‘band size’ measurement

This is the measurement that leads us to the number component of the bra size eg the 34, 42 etc.

  1. Take a measurement, in inches, around the ribcage at the base of your bra.
  2. The tape should run evenly around your body, not dropping at the back.
  3. Record this measurement in inches.

For our example, let’s use the measurement 39.5″.

This 39.5″ means that the band size is a 40. You just need to round up to the nearest whole even number.

Here is a list of other measurements:

27 -28″ = 28 (a size 6 in some countries)

29 – 30″ = 30 (a size 8 in some countries)

31 – 32″ = 32 (a size 10 in some countries)

33 – 34″ = 34 (a size 12 in some countries)

35 – 36″ = 36 (a size 14 in some countries)

37 – 38″ = 38 (a size 16 in some countries)

39 – 40″ = 40 (a size 18 in some countries)

41- 42″ = 42 (a size 20 in some countries)

43 – 44″ = 44 (a size 22 in some countries)

45 – 46″ = 46 (a size 24 in some countries)

47 – 48″ = 48 (a size 26 in some countries)

49 – 50″ = 50 (a size 28 in some countries)

51 – 52″ = 52 (a size 30 in some countries)

53 – 54″ = 54 (a size 32 in some countries)

55 – 56″ = 56 (a size 34 in some countries)

57 – 58″ = 58 (a size 36 in some countries)

59 – 60″ = 60 (a size 38 in some countries)

Please do not add 4 inches to the measurement you get. This will have you purchasing a bra that is too loose to offer you support. Read O Magazine’s great articles on this.

In saying that, if you are between two size eg you measure 34.5″ it probably is safest to round up to the size 36 unless you like your bras very snug around your ribcage.

Step 2: Take your bust measurement

This is the measurement that we’ll use in the next step to determine the cup size.

  1. Take a measurement, in inches, around the broadest part of your bust. You may need to reposition your breast so that it is sitting well in the cup before taking this measurement.
  2. The measuring tape should sit firmly against your bust, but not too tight that is flattens your breast tissue.
  3. Record this measurement in inches.

For our example, lets use the measurement of 45″.

If you measure between inches eg 44.5″ then round up to the next whole eg 45″.

How to measure your bra size front fastening bra
A great example of how to take the bust measurement.

Step 3: Use these two measurements to determine your cup size

This step allows us to figure out the actual cup size, eg the A, DDD or G.

Calculate…. The Bust size measurement (step 2 measurement) MINUS the Band size determined.

In our example this is 45″ – 40 = 5.
Note that we are not minusing the two measurements, but rather the step 2 measurement from the step 1 determined band size.

We then use this number ‘5’ (in this case) to determine the cup size.

1 = A cup (less than 1 = AA)

2 = B cup

3 = C cup

4 = D cup

5 = DD cup

6 = DDD cup (or E cup in some countries)

Above 6 and it can get tricky, mainly because different countries have different cup size systems for beyond an American DD. So the following results are really a guide.

7 = EE/F cup

8 = F/FF

9 = FF/G

10 = G/GG/H

So… for the example we used (measuring 39.5″ and 45″) the bra size is a 18DD.

Important things to know

I never recommend making a big change to your bra size without the guidance of a bra fitter. So if you usually wear a size 24C and an online measuring guide is telling you that you are a 18E then exercise with caution. In this instance I would probably recommend making a small step in the right direction and to choose a size 22D or 20DD. This would mean you are working towards a firmer fitting band without making a huge jump that will more than likely end up in a disappointment.

Remember, that most women wear their band way too loose. The chances are, you may just do the same. Be honest with yourself about how your bra is fitting. If you are measuring smaller for your band size than what you are wearing ask yourself… Is this bra too loose? Or, would I feel better or worse with a firmer band? There is no point moving to a firmer (smaller) band if you feel like your existing bra is too firm.

As most women wear the wrong size bra it can be a challenge to move towards a better fitting bra, as it will feel very different! This is why we generally advise to take “baby steps” and work towards a better fit if the size you have been wearing is seriously wrong.

How a bra should fit

how a bra should fit front closure bra

how a bra should fit front closure bra

Are you like most women who still believe the support in a bra comes from the shoulder straps and the underwire?

There’s good reason women are attached to these beliefs. Firstly, this sort of information is still offered in department store change rooms and secondly the brands will also use persuasive language on swing tags advertising these as support solutions.

Understanding where the support comes from in a bra will help explain how a bra should fit…

In actual fact, the bra offers most of its support from the band that runs around our ribcage. This is used as a stabiliser of breast tissue. Just like the waist band on a hiking backpack is responsible for taking most of the load of the backpack, the band that runs around our ribcage is also responsible for taking the weight of the bust.

The underwire is there to offer shape, not support. Yes – you heard that right. The role of underwire is to round and separate the breast. It is not there to lift the breast nor stop the breast from bouncing while being active.

The straps that sit on the shoulders are also not in fact there for support, bur rather stability. Yes, we’ll feel less secure without them, but no they are not there to take the weight of the breasts. These straps are generally elastic which would be a tremendous design flaw should they be intended to support our heavy bust.

How should the underwire fit in a bra?

The underwire should not actually ever really touch breast tissue. It should run the whole way around the breast tissue and essentially sit against sternum, ribs and layers of subcutaneous fat.

Sometimes it’s not just the size that can cause an underwire to fit imperfectly in a bra, but also that the shape of the underwire is not right for the persons individual size attributes.

Some women will always struggle with having the underwire sit flush against the sternum (the bone between the two breasts) due to having their breast’s “close set” or just in general having a lot of breast tissue for their frame size. Of course, we want to get as close to perfect as possible, but it’s important not to get too hung up on this if you otherwise feel great in the bra.

How should the straps fit in a bra?

The bras shoulder straps are really there as a secondary layer of support, or as I generally say “stability. I once saw a study that suggested they do about 8% of the work. They shoulder straps should be firm enough to sit in place but not too tight to cause any discomfort across the shoulders.

Wide shoulder straps are always best as these will distribute any pressure more broadly across the shoulders. Shoulder straps that also have a significant amount of inelastic material work to offer more stability and result in a better overall lifespan.

How should the band that runs around the ribcage fit in a bra?

Now this is where the magic happens! This band needs to be firm enough to stay in place, and in line with the bust.

If this band is too loose it will simply find a broader part of the back to lodge in to, which is generally higher on our back. This then causes the sea-saw effect and has the bust sitting low and unsupported. This is simple physics, as the band rides up the back, the front will lower.

You want this band to be as firm as you can comfortably tolerate when the bra is new. Keeping in mind that with washing and wear the bra will stretch. It stretches mostly around this ribcage band which is why you should choose as firm a bra as you feel good in, so that when it does start stretching you don’t feel like it’s too loose to function.

When you first buy a bra the hook and eye clasps should be on the loosest setting. This will allow you to firm up the bra as this part stretches. This is actually why bras have three (or more!) settings – bra manufacturers know how important the ribcage band is.

Bra Fitting mistakes

The most common mistake we see women make with their bra fit is to have the ribcage band too loose, causing the bust to droop then resulting in them resorting to tighten the shoulder straps. This is a vicious cycle as this will only cause the back to ride up higher – after all, the bra band at the back is a whole lot lighter than the bust at the front.

The second most common mistake we see is that women choose a cup size too small. This will result in the underwire sitting against breast tissue, which is very uncomfortable, and also the breast tissue spilling out of the top of the cups.

Another mistake women often make is to buy a bra that feels comfortable on the tightest hook and eye setting. As mentioned above, this will then leave no room to tighten this very important part of the bra as it stretches yielding a un-functional product, quickly. So unless you are planning on gaining weight (pregnancy, teenagers or going in for surgery) you should never buy a bra that is set to the tightest or even the middle hook setting.