What is Wire Spring?

It has been a long 8 months since my last post. I can’t even begin to explain why I haven’t written more often, it has been a busy year. More on that on another day….

What is wire spring and why does the mention of it start a war between pattern makers, experts and sewers?

Wire spring refers to an underwire changing from its manufactured shape into an expanded, stretched shape. The natural wear of a bra springs a wire no matter how the bra was designed, this spring is caused by the pulling of the back band to make the bra fit snugly. The amount of pulling on the wire can vary vastly based on the bra itself.

Where opinions vary is whether wire spring should be built into bras or should bras be designed for the natural shape of the wire. To address both opinions, let’s start with wire spring being built into a bra pattern.

In ready to wear bras, spring is built in, but the entire band and frame are generally made in stretch fabrics. The stretch of the wire and the stretch of the band allow the cups to fit more people. (You may even find that the cups have stretch too, opening up the fitting to even more people.) Bra fitters are trained to fit you into a bra, not make a bra fit you.

Some pattern makers take this same philosophy in designing their own patterns. The more spring you have, the more likely you will be able to fit multiple people.

Now the case for no wire spring. If you are making a custom bra or having one made for you, the bra is being designed for you, not you and the next 20 people. Because you are having something custom, you can match the wire to the shape of your breast root, making for a perfect molded shape of your body.

The breast root is the mammary fold between breast tissue and the body. For some people this is more defined than others. Those people with younger, perkier breasts can find this definition fairly easily, but for those with more fleshy pancakes (like yours truly), it is a little harder.

For those of us who have very deflated breasts, whether its from breast feeding, age or weight, raising your arm will help you find a line for your wire on the side of your breast. The wire helps define the shape and places an edge to your breast.

The difference between underarm fat and breast tissue is not a lot different. Because of that, you will hear people argue that the fat under your arm and on your back is breast tissue. It is only tissue. The breast has a mammary gland with padding of tissue over it. Whether it all fits in the cup or into the band is really up to the end user’s definition of comfort and fit. If someone is insistant on training their back fat to fit in their bra cup, then the definition of where that wire sits will not be the same as someone who accepts that the fat should stay where it currently resides.

If someone wants to train their fat, let them, it doesn’t hurt you and the stupid arguments people have because of it is just unheathly to your own mental health. The idea of bra training is no different than waist training for a corset. They are forcing the skin, organs and fat to relocate to other desirable locations. For someone like myself, I accept where the fat lives, but I make a supportive bra band that holds it in place rather than pushing it out. Sometimes that means that the band needs to be taller and wider to achieve this.

Now back to the discussion of wire spring. There is a balancing act that happens in a bra, the breast fills the cup and where the wire sits is up to the bra, whether the placement is right next to the breast without spring, or sprung to fit on the side of the breast.

The arguments seem to touch on completely different subjects. One being custom fit and one being for the masses. There are different reasons to do different pattern drafting. An individual will determine their own comfort level in wearing bras. If wires slowly move down the body, it can poke and prod bones and nerves. This is the reason a lot of pattern makers will also include how to customize the pattern to fit the individual. This is where the concept of getting a wire to fit your root comes into play. That wire, as long as it fits your shape unsprung, is fine to use unsprung. But a wire that needs to spring to fit the root, will need that spring built into the pattern to teach the wire where to sit.

The most important thing with wire placement is that the wire does not sit on the mammary gland at all, no matter what, no exceptions! This can cause mastitis and can be very painful and dangerous expecially for pregnant women.

Ok, so you are now asking, do I add spring or not? The answer is to make a fitting band and make sure the wire is sitting where you want it to sit. Its too hard to determine that if you are also sewing the cups in on the first fitting. If the wire must spring open by a large amount, it can put strain on the wire causing the stress point to get annealed (soft) and eventually snap. If this is the case, try locating a different wire that has the end shape you need.

Here is a little tip as well, you can reshape a wire to a different shape about once in its lifetime. This means that you can make your wire wider permanently, as long as you do not spring that wire more than basic wear and tear of a bra. Changing the shape once isn’t enough to destroy the metal, but repeated stress on the wire will.

While I am covering all these controversial subjects, let’s touch on the argument that the wire is the cantilever of the bra. To be clear, the entire bra is a cantilever. The bra needs all parts to function equally to support the breast up in the air and balanced on the body. The cantilever is the full contraption. Just as a bridge can be a cantilever, it contains more than one metal post to hold it up, there are trusses and girters that all contribute to the function of a cantilever bridge.

The comparision of a well fitted bra versus a poorly fitting bra, is similar to a bridge that isn’t designed for its function. A rope bridge won’t hold a car and a giant steel struction is overkill for a footbridge. A bralette would not be considered a cantilever since the support of the bra is held between the band, cups and the straps. A well fitting bra acts as a cantilever, only needing the body to support it, meaning the straps are only there for a little reinforcement and do not function to hold the bra up.

A well built bra doesn’t even need a wire or could do without one. Just remember that underwires weren’t regularly used in daily wear bras until the 1960s and bras have been around since ancient Greek and Roman times. Mind you that bras back in ancient times were not supportive, but just because someone convinced the entire industry to use wires does not mean they are 100% necessary, nor is the concept of using sprung underwires for every occasion.