Why are bras so expensive? Manufacturing bras costs…

what are bras so expensive

Wondering “why are bras so expensive”? You’ve landed on the right page.

This guide will talk you through why bras are pricey and the reasons you should be ok with that. 

Strap yourselves in ladies, because this article may really blow your mind. Or at the very least get you thinking about the true cost of manufacturing bras – and why you need to be ok with paying good money for a quality product. 

I get why it is very easy to get frustrated at the seemingly high price of a necessary garment that we don’t even (really) get to show off.  While lots of women are happy investing in seasonal or “one time wear” outfits there is clear resentment from many to invest in bras that will improve their comfort, support and confidence. 

I hope this article answers all your questions about the bra manufacturing costs and why bras are “so” expensive…. 

Bra manufacturing costs...

It doesn’t take a genuis to figure out that bras are a pretty complex garment. From sizing, design and the intricate detail required. But here is a list of all the costs in-cured for producing a bra…

bra manufacturing cost
With so many individual elements, the cost of bra production is very high.

Cost of producing a bra... in more detail

The design process of bra manufacturing

This is hard to quantify as the price will vary depending on whether the design team is “in house” or hired as contractors. But you can expect the design process for a well made supportive bra available in an extensive range of sizes to cost between $10,000 – $30,000 USD per bra. 

Designing a bra is complicated. While formulas can be followed there are many round of sample production and assessment on fit models to go through until the design is typically finalised.

Raw Materials costs of bras

A Bra will typically be made up of 30 – 40 individual pieces that are generally comprised of 10 – 15 different materials.  These materials include underwire, encasing for underwire, elastic straps, the band that runs around the ribcage, hook and eye closure, hook and eye fabric underlay, cups which are generally made up of multiple different densities of materials and of course any further design embellishments like lace or ribbon. 

Without even considering the use of fancy fabrics that cost money to licence. Or pretty lace that is expensive to produce, you can see how the costs of materials in quite different to say that of a t-shirt. 

Although the pieces are small, you can expect the raw material cost of a bra to be a $3 – $10 dollars.

Labor Costs with bra manufacturing

This is where things really start to add up. The labor cost involved in hand sewing 40 different elements together to form one sellable unit is sky high. Bras cannot be produced by machines due to the intricacy involved. 

There are so many extensive production steps involved. Again, especially when compared to the production of a T-shirt. 

In a quality factory that treats it’s workers fairly you can expect the cost of manufacturing a bra be between $3 – $10 dollars.

Quality Control

Because of the requirement for humans to do most of the labor involved in manufacturing bras the issue with quality control will always stand. This is particularly important with bras because every millimeter matters.  As accuracy is paramount brands have to pay a higher cost of quality control to have each product checked for size and finishes. Typically garment producers will check 20% of garments in the QC phase. But will bras it will be more like 60-80% depending on the brand. 

You can expect the quality control process to cost between 50c and $1 per garment.

Shipping and landed costs of lingerie manufacturing

The cost of freight in to the US has recently sky rocketed thanks to Covid. With many brands being forced to pay excessive air freight costs just to get product here in the time it used to take sea freight. 

The cost of shipping, import taxes and further handling costs make up a significant portion of the overall cost of manufacturing a bra. 

You can expect this to cost between $2 – $5 per bra. 

Warehousing + distributing stock costs

Having the expense of running a warehouse adds up.  Bras are known as being one of the most difficult products to warehouse because of the huge range of size and colour variants. 

A bra warehouse can’t simply hold 100 units in 10 sizes to equal to 1000 total units that will make for 4 weeks sales in that particular product. 

A bra warehouse has to hold 60 units in 30 sizes to equal 1800 total units. Times that by 3 colour variants, and you need to manage 5400 units for 2 months sales before certain sizes are sold out. The whole process is just a lot more complicated. 

For this reason it’s an expensive process to start and run a warehouse of bras. 

The cost of warehousing a bra will cost between $3 – $5 per bra.

The cost of retailing bras

Similarly to the process above the cost of running a stockroom in a retail store is extreme when it comes to bras.  I often describe it that in order to fit you with 1 bra, we need to have 1500 bras in stock to choose from. Which also means that to sell you that one $50 bra, a retail store has to have $37,500 worth of bras in their stock room. 

The cost of setting up a stock room, managing the stock coming in and out and physically running a retail store is where things start to get very expensive. You can expect this to to cost between $5 – $20 per bra. 

The price of having your bra fitted

So by now I am sure you are wondering how bra brands actually make money, and how do retailers have money to spend on staff to fit said bras 🤯  This is costly stuff ladies. 

The cost of having a trained fairly paid employee fit you bra will be between $8 -$20 per fitting session. So this cost can obviously then be divided by the number of bras you buy in a bra fitting. 

supportive bra tips
→ READ: My favourite Glamorise Support Bras

The total cost of a manufacturing a quality bra

Adding up the above the cost of manufacturing and retailing a bra will be at minimum $25 and at most $71. 

This number doesn’t leave any profit on the table for the retailer selling the product. So you should expect the cost to escalate to allow for some profit margin of course. If there was no profit for the retailer there would quickly (and rightly so) be no retailers putting there hand up to take on the risks of owning a business.  A complicated business at that.

Why there is a big difference between a crop top and a bra

In this article I have talked about bras. Not crops or pattern cut simple “bra like” garments.

Pattern cut crop tops are very different to bras. The don’t have the design costs, raw material costs, labor or excessive warehousing costs. 

Because they are not produced in a range of cup and band sizes and due to their simple design for most people they are not considered a good support system. As bra fitters, we do not consider these to be bras.  They are cheap because they are cheap to produce. The are cheap to produce because they lack specificity and detail.

By Bra Fitter, Pat Jameson

Some of my favourite Supportive Bras


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