The Fabric of Our Lives ~ Cotton Bras

By John Festa


So they tell us. Then why isn’t there more cotton in our underwear? Sure, there’s plenty of cotton panties, but what of bras? Is this only the domain of lady golfers and Mother Earth types? Perhaps there are compelling reasons why cotton is only a small percentage of the marketplace. I’ve checked in with some of my retailer customers on this topic. The marketplace always bears the truth — the cold, hard truth.

The lure of cotton is its natural fiber. There is a small but dedicated following for this. Most bras on the market today are of synthetic and technological fabrics. The majority of cotton bra seekers do so for this wholesome reason, compelled by philosophy, health reasons, allergies, among others motivations.

Other natural or semi-natural fiber options are mercerized cotton and modal. Mercerizing is a process invented 170 years ago by, amazingly enough, John Mercer. The cotton is treated with a chemical resulting in a swollen, stronger, easier-to-dye fiber. The process was improved upon in subsequent years by stretching the fabric during treatment and burning off stray fibers creating a silky hand and lustrous appearance. While mercerized cotton is beautiful, the chemical treatment may be counter to the natural philosophy of some cotton-wearers.


Modal is a type of rayon. It is a semi-natural fiber made of cellulose from (mostly) beech trees. Modal has an even silkier hand than mercerized cotton. Its advantages are a higher absorbency than cotton, colorfastness and resistant to shrinkage.

Important factors when considering a cotton bra:

  • It must have stretch, with a small percentage of elastic fabric, elastane (i.e. brand names of Lycra or Spandex), as all cotton used in bras is knit, not woven, thus can stretch and bag.
  • Cotton will wear out sooner because it is a natural fiber

There are some brands that specialize in cotton, like Hanro, Calida and Grenier, while many others dabble in it with an offering or two, like Curvy Couture. Natural fibers feel terrific on the body. And nothing is closer to you, more intimate, than your underwear. That’s why they’re called Intimates. And, perhaps, you may like this as the fabric of your inner life.


Calida Everyday Cotton Bralet and Hanro Cotton Sensation Bra

Grenier Extreme Cotton Soft Cup bra and Curvy Couture Cotton Underwire Bra

Discussion about this post

  1. John Festa says:

    It would be great if they could put a thin cotton lining in the cups of the bras made with synthetic material. I am one of those natural fiber people!

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