Fashion, Accessories, Beauty
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Best Budget Bras – Sports Bras and Sizes up to GG included

Let me start this post by saying, Womxn, we all deserve good f*cking bras. If you’re like me, your bra collection is probably falling apart with one or two trustworthy, fail-safe bras that you reach for again and again. I reviewed my collection and it went like this: missing underwire, missing underwire, missing underwire, too small, too scratchy, broken, broken, OK, comfortable enough, missing underwire, rusty. I also examined the damage – bruises from old wires and cuts from straps because they simply didn’t fit properly. Dressing up and feeling great starts with a decent bra – a dress you look gorgeous in is made all the better with a bra that makes you feel comfortable and more beautiful, without the dreaded side boob, quad boob, pinching underwires and escaping boobies. A good bra, a comfortable bra, a sexy bra is all part of self-care.

This blog post is based on my findings two years ago vs yesterday, and there were a few questions I asked myself. Do stores cater to every size?  Are the collections expensive? Are the ranges extensive and inclusive? Are you spoilt for choice in terms of pattern, colour and design or is it still beige city up in here. So the next few paragraphs are based on my recent experiences vs one two years ago.

My sister is a DD sometimes E cup and two years ago I offered to go bra shopping with her. What an awful experience that was ! I used to say to her, “You’re blessed with such beautiful boobs.” Blessed. LOL. Nothing about the shopping experience made me feel that she was ‘blessed’ at all.  Firstly, it’s not a 15-minute experience, you simply couldn’t go to your nearest retailer and just find your size. Displays and racks consisted of itsy bitsy, teeny weeny, lacy and racy, vibrant variants. Every fashionable colour you can think of. Every material. Every version of “lift” and support. Every brand. But where were the DDs and beyond? Shoved in a dark corner, on a plinth, 10 centimeters above the ground. Yes, I am not exaggerating, it was literallly on the ground for you to rummage through. Now disregarding the indignity of having to bend over and scavenge for bras, the average F cup pair of breasts weighs between 10 and 15 kilograms. Now imagine when you’re on your period with swollen, painful breasts having to do that. Imagine the toll it takes on your back. It’s practically inhumane. And then the colours! Beige. Light beige. And dark beige. Are curvy, beautiful womxn not allowed to look and feel sexy? Then the prices. Sizes D and up were about 20% more expensive! What is this tax womxn have to pay for having god-given bigger breasts? I had a chat with my sis and it seems that most suppliers have machinery set up to DD when it comes to underwire etc. Specialised bra stores in the industry have one, maybe two suppliers abroad that have a line that caters beyond DD. Fabrics, and designs to offer both comfort and proper support must also be taken into consideration, which is why you’ll fork out up to R1200 for a single bra! It’s simply unfair that women are having to pay this premium, especially when there is a demand for bigger sizes. It is exclusionary.

However, there is good news. When I went shopping this time around, I was both surprised and somewhat delighted that retailers have taken note of the call for bigger sizes in prettier patterns and fabrics and a number of stores offered sizes up to GG at a fraction of what you’d find at specialist stores.

So here are my findings per store.

ACKERMANS

Let’s start with the pros: A little shy of three years ago, Ackermans expanded their underwear range ‘Be Fabulous’ to include sizes up to GG. Yaaaaaay! Having a look at their collection, I’m happy to report that the colours also range from beautiful prints to navies, crimson reds, rose, rust, emeralds, coffees, black and teals. Most styles are really beautiful and the collection is super affordable featuring t-shirt and balconette bras –  starting from just R119.99 for a pack of two, and lingerie from R99.99! I bought their t-shirt bras and it’s adorned with lace at the bottom and as comfortable as a pack I paid about R240 for a few months ago. They’re also having a 3 for 2 sale on now. Though I’m not nursing at the moment, I also tried on some nursing bras and they were a lot more comfortable and easier to open than the styles I had when I was breastfeeding my kids. 

Now the cons: While all design went up to size 44, the “E to GG” cup collection seemed to come only in one style – though an array of hues. While there were some charming designs, the ones in store looked like variety your mom’s friend Denise would love. Online however, the styles are much cuter. I’m not too sure if womxn who have larger breasts are looking for padding but I only saw ‘soft’ options – without underwire or padding. Also, the 3 for 2 offer was only on particular styles that only went up to DD. Still, the fabrics were super soft and the side bands wider – there’s nothing I hate more than my bra folding at the sides and digging into my skin.

Shop their Be Fab collection here.
Shop their Seam-free collection here.

Pick n Pay Clothing

The pros: Their range is delightful – in cranberries, greys, white and black and they seem to have combined your everyday bras with a more sportier design – no seams – in a lighter-than-air fabric – meaning you can wear it when you’re working it or working out. I bought this rose style (at the back) and I have to say you can barely feel it on your skin. Under a dress, t-shirt or activewear, you won’t even know that it’s there. And pricing is also absolutely affordable – with styles from R169.99.

The cons: Their range is rather limited and only on one rack, and it doesn’t come in usual bra sizes such as 38DD but rather S, M, L and XL. I took a Large which would comfortably fit anyone who is a 36C to 38DD so I’m thinking XL only suits 40DD. It’s a real pity because in terms of comfort, their fabrics and constructions would be super comfortable!

They also don’t have an online shop but if you’re looking for bras to jog in, pop in in store.

Woolworths


The pros: 
Woolies is the only retailer, as far as I know, that offers bra fittings. Before I even picked up a bra, someone came over and asked whether they could take my measurements. It took about 20 seconds and I was told that I was a 38 D (far off from what I thought!). She then helped me pick a few bras that matched what I wanted in terms of lift, occasion, colour and fabric. In the fitting room I removed the barb wire wrapped in aluminium foil that I was wearing and tried their All Day Comfort Bra. Holy Comfort, Batman! It felt like two velvet covered angels were gently cradling my breasts. And this was only once it was on. While doing the ‘wrap and twist around my body’ I actually checked whether I had accidentally dropped the bra because it was so featherlight and cuddle-soft that I honestly couldn’t feel a thing against my skin!

They have a much bigger bra section than other stores expanding across about 5 walls – here you’ll find sports bras, t-shirt bras, balconettes, shapewear, underwire, push ups, multiways, seamless, you’re so spoilt for choice. Their collection starts from R180 and from what I saw, goes up to R399, with most bras in the R250 category. If you compare it with other ranges, it is about R100 pricier but still MUCH better than R1200 at specialised stores!

Their JT One range is currently on a “Buy two and save R50″ offer.

The cons: While the bra section was bigger than most apartments in Cape Town, I nearly missed the DD+ section because it was one tall shelf demarcated with a tiny DD+ sign. And all the styles were in the disappointing “cross your heart” design. But I think it might be this specific store I was in because I had a look online and their gorgeous Distraction lingerie range caters from A cup to GG! Here I saw really breathtaking designs.

Shop their bra collection here.
Shop for sports bras here. And here.

Mr Price 

The pros: Mr Price was the most affordable by far with bras starting from R79.99, two-packs from just R99.99 and three packs R179.99! Colour, pattern and prints were abundant – even trendier animal prints made an appearance. Their green jungle prints are also super adorable and funky and I loved that their everyday bras include lingerie details like straps and ribbons. They also have crop tops perfect for gymming starting at just R69.99! They currently have two styles on a ‘2 for R100’ special so shop here if you’re just looking to replenish a few seasonal styles!

The cons: While their range is the most affordable on the market, you do pay in terms of comfort – fabrics were nylons, acrylics and the lace felt a bit scratchy. The sizes also only went up to DD and I didn’t see any styles beyond that. If you are looking for comfort, especially if you’re going to the gym, I suggest their crop top sports bras. Cotton may not be the way to go if you’re trying the avoid the post-workout boob sweats so opt for materials like lycra designed to wick away sweat.

Shop their bra collection here.

Cotton On and H&M

I’ve grouped these two together since their underwear sections were almost as big as their clothing departments. The designs are funky – featuring on-trend animals prints in every shade of the rainbow and zesty fruit patterns and neon hues. Cotton On bras, including sports bras and crop tops, start from R179, some even marked down to R100 (like the grey and coral striped one above)! They also offer a maternity range that’s cute, even sexy – perfect for a time when you’re not feeling your most sensual. Again, all sizes only went up to DD and many of the bras are called bralettes which is telling – especially since DDs were sold out. Their Ultimate Comfort Bras are similar to Woolies’ and goes up to XL – again all XL was sold out so I’m hoping they will expand their range soon.

Shop their bra collection here.
Shop their sports bras here.

H&M styles ranged from push up to sports bras, strapless and underwire – in every shade you can find on the Pantone colour chart but sizes were also limited to DD, which is such a pity since both Cotton On and H&M probably had the prettiest designs I’ve seen. 

Donna Claire

The pros: Donna Claire is known for their plus size fashion so it comes as no surprise that their bra range goes up to 48E. I was however surprised that it didn’t go up to GG . Their designs are playful – with blossom motifs and charming mesh in plums, navies, slate and cranberries and the shopping experience was really pleasant – with a lovely floor assistant who knew her bizniz.

The cons: Their range is rather expensive with styles going up to R480! But the helpful employee pointed in the direction of the sales rack with styles marked down to R199 – the gorgeous sage balconette bra above is one of the R199 styles! And these weren’t the fugly styles but legit. Lace insets. Balconettes with Chantilly lace trims in jade, black and reds. There was one crop top for work outs for R259 and you can shop it here.

Shop their bra collection here.

Overall, it was a fun and exciting shopping experience but mostly eye-opening. Bra collections – in terms of styles, occasion, sizes and colours have come a LONG way over the past few years but I think retailers can do even more to make ranges more inclusive. That said, there are affordable styles out there so I hope you found a few favourites that you’re crushing on and that you’ll rush out to buy today. You deserve a good bra that doesn’t cost the earth.

4 Comments

  1. Thanks for a brilliantly researched post! I myself wear a larger bra-size – 42E – and find it virtually impossible to find attractive, affordable bra’s that I would actually want to buy. Every time I go and shop for bra’s it makes me so angry that I threaten to come home and write a very scathing blog post naming and shaming each and every store that I’ve attempted to shop in.
    In fact, after reading your blog, I followed the link to the Woolworths online store and there were exactly 2 bra’s that were available in my size – neither of which I’d buy – completely boring and plain!! I also agreed with your comment about the larger sizes being buried down at the bottom rails!! What on earth is up with that!! It’s like the stores don’t want other customers to see us shopping for our sizes there!! They’re either way down there at the bottom, or we have to reach over and try to search waaaay, waaay at the back of everything else!! Ridiculous!!! And completely inconsiderate. Merchandising departments in SA need to catch a huge wake-up when it comes to this. It’s like they take no notice whatsoever of global trends. We’re truly stuck in the dark ages.

  2. Thank you so much for this article. As a so-called + size (I’ve been in denial about my bra size for a while- mostly because of not being able to find that beautiful number in my back and cup size and refusing to be put in the wide strapped, cross your heart, medieval chest cage jobbies that’s available to us more voluptuous ladies). I have indeed found some beautiful gems at Ackerman’s. I’m so due for a good bra shopping day 🌸. Now I know exactly where to go. And loved the way you broke down the pros and cons to all 👍🏽 Thanks ladies 😘

  3. This has been so helpful. As soon as I have a gap in my budget I will take another read through this post, and go shopping! Xx

  4. Kim says

    Thanks for saving me some time and effort of attempting to find my size. This might be a 30min exercise instead of 2 hours trying to find a beautiful bra which fits. I too would love the experience of ‘velvet covered angels’ holding the fort everyday. Xx love this posts.

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