If you’ve been struggling to find an organic cotton bra, you’re not alone: They really are hard to come by. And, most of the time, all you can get is a very basic model that can be very far from what you had in mind.
However, I recently discovered an online marketplace that carries all sorts of options for those looking into organic cotton lingerie: Faerie’s Dance.
The Product: Alba Padded Underwire Bra ($42)
I have to confess I’ve been trying to find a good organic cotton bra for quite a while. Although there are many wonderful options out there that provide somewhat good support, I was specifically looking for an organic cotton bra with non-toxic padding. Yes, non-toxic padding. That is a thing. I recently received a sample for consideration of a nontoxic padded bra from Faerie’s Dance, one of the largest retailers of organic cotton apparel in the US, and I was so positively surprised that I wanted to share my experience with you.
The Alba Padded Underwire Bra is one of the most perfect creations of Love Nature. Conceived as the perfect T-shirt bra, it features organic cotton and a very special padding: It is made from a recyclable blend of cotton batting that is also certified organic by Oeko-Tex, the gold standard in the green industry. Also, this bra is completely chemical-free, latex-free, and polyurethane-free.
The +: This bra is extremely comfortable, and one of the best-fitting bras I’ve ever owned. It has a good enough support, and the molded cups give me that extra bit of privacy in the cold weather that I was looking for. It also has a pair of removable light push-up pads in case you want a little bit more oomph, or if your breasts are slightly different in size. Furthermore, and although the fabric has some thin stripes as you can see in the picture, they don’t show on whatever you’re wearing, so this really is the perfect T-shirt bra! Finally, the price ($42) is very reasonable for the quality of the bra. In Europe, we’re used to spending a little bit more in our underwear as we tend to privilege quality and fitting over quantity. This means I still prefer to own just a few bras, but with enough quality to last many years!
The -: The only downside to this bra is that it features a metallic underwire armature, which might not be the material of choice for everyone. If it’s your case and you feel you’re safer wearing bras with no metal on them, you can always buy a pair of plastic underwires to replace them. Also, as this brand is European, you’ll find that it runs a bit large in the cup and the band. For instance, I usually wear a 34C and was very happy when I saw that the 32C of Love Nature fitted me perfectly.
The Verdict: To be honest, I’m surprised to have found such a good organic
alternative to my traditional bras that checks all my boxes in terms of
shape, comfort, and support. I might order a second pair in a different color!
Faerie’s Dance is the exclusive retailer of Love Nature in the USA, and the Alba Padded Underwire Bra ($42) has historically been one of its bestsellers. I can’t say I’m surprised!
The Retailer: Faerie’s Dance
When I stumbled upon Faerie’s Dance I was very surprised to see how many different styles of organic lingerie they carried. Although it’s relatively easy to find a few organic bra options in Europe, in the USA it’s a bit of a struggle, so I decided to interview Adrienne Catone, the founder of the store, to learn more about her green vision. Faerie’s Dance opened in July 2005 after Adrienne was inspired by the lack of eco-fashion choices available, and she wanted to help people live more sustainably.
New York For Beginners: Why do you support organic lingerie? Do clothes leech chemicals on the skin?
Adrienne Catone: I support organic lingerie primarily because it’s so much better for the planet. However, there are also some serious issues with the chemical soup that are added to our clothing. While they are added in very small (non-toxic) amounts, there is some anecdotal evidence that there is a build-up issue over time. What I mean by that is that we have a large number of older customers who have in their later years suddenly become allergic to their clothing. It is scientifically proven that over-exposure to latex causes latex allergies, and our experience seems to indicate that this same principle may also be true for many of the chemicals and dyes in our clothing.
NYFB: Why is it so hard to find organic lingerie?
A.C.: We have a very large assortment of organic bras, panties and nightwear. It’s something we really focus on. Organic lingerie is hard to find in the USA, presumably because the demand for it isn’t as high as elsewhere. A large portion of what we carry comes from Europe, where organic lingerie is much more prevalent.
NYFB: How do you select which brands you’ll carry in your online store?
A.C.: The brands we carry must meet the following criteria: Use fabrics that are grown without pesticides; use low-impact dyes; NOT use any chemical finishing agents on the final garments, and have clear transparency in their factories that workers are being paid living wages and working under reasonable working conditions.
The easiest way to ensure all this is through third party certifiers. The Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) is the gold standard for international companies, and our own USDA recognizes GOTS as meeting all US Organic standards. Some fabrics, particularly items that are made from recycled materials or production waste, like soy bean casings, are more likely to carry the OEKO-TEX 100 confidence in textiles certifications.
From a human perspective, we look for Fair Trade and WRAP certifications on factories. We also favor companies that have close working relationships with their factories who have the ability to do their own monitoring to ensure labor standards are met.
NYFB: In one of your FAQs you mention that many brands that you work with tend to disappear in time. Do you have an explanation for this phenomenon?
A.C: Manufacturing is hard! Margins are not huge and when you have a “specialty” product such as organic lingerie, sometimes the sales just aren’t there. We’ve had our share of ups and downs, 2016 was our single worst year ever! We’ve stayed in business by keeping costs down and having a robust line of credit to draw from, but eco-fashion and organic lingerie are both still not considered mainstream. Organics are also expensive, so whenever there is economic uncertainty, people may forgo what they really want in favor of something cheaper.
NYFB: Organic lingerie is usually a bit pricier than regular lingerie. Can you explain why?
A.C.: Easily. First of all, we are paying the people who make our clothing and lingerie. […] Additionally, the certifications I mentioned above add cost, as does working with nature to make crops thrive rather than just pouring pesticides and herbicides on everything. Low impact dyes are more expensive than traditional dyes. Traditional dyes essentially use the cheapest chemicals to make color without a thought for the environmental and health issues associated with those chemicals. So really at every step, organics are more expensive. The question is, is the extra expense worth it? Of course, we believe that yes, hands down it is.
NYFB: Do you work with many brands made in the US?
A.C.: For clothing, yes. For lingerie, not that many. We work with Blue Canoe, who manufactures lingerie in the USA and we also have our own in-house brand, Green Tree Organics making organic cotton panties in the USA. But the majority of our lingerie brands are European.
NYFB: What types of seals should consumers look out for when purchasing organic underwear? Is there such a thing as organic underwear made in China with no seal that guarantees the process?
A.C.: The GOTS certification that I mentioned above is probably the single most comprehensive one. There are trustworthy organic underwear manufacturers in China, but I would still expect them to have GOTS at a minimum (which does have some requirements for working conditions) and Fair Trade preferably.
Also, while the world is looking at China, much of Asia and north Africa are manufacturing at much lower prices in much worse working conditions. While China still has a way to go, conditions and salaries have gotten a huge boost from international attention. Simultaneously, there is a “race to the bottom” mentality whereby big companies are leaving China for quieter, cheaper places where human rights abuses are worse and less noticed.
Organic Underwear and Endometriosis
As March is the Endometriosis Awareness Month, I wanted to start a series of articles about green lifestyle alternatives. Endometriosis is an auto-immune inflammatory disease that affects nearly 1 in 12 women worldwide, and little is known about it. I have written extensively about endometriosis for the past few months, and I was able to interview one of the leading specialists in the treatment of endometriosis: Dr. Iris Kerin Orbuch. In our conversation, she emphasized that it’s important for endometriosis patients to transition to an organic lifestyle and avoid chemicals that could potentially act as hormonal disruptors.
Building on this idea, and although organic food is the first step in the transition to a green lifestyle, there are many other ways in which our bodies can come in contact with chemicals. Cotton is one of the most polluted crops in the world, and the current legislation about dyes allows a lot of nasty stuff in our underwear, which is the clothing that comes in contact with the most intimate parts of the body. That is why switching to intimates made of organic cotton and GOTS-certified dyes might be a good idea for anybody who suffers an auto-inflammatory disease, be it endometriosis or eczema, and for those who are allergic to many of the substances that are infused into fabrics to make them stretchy (you’d be surprised at how many people get hives because their bra has elastane, lycra, or spandex.)
Although by no means I’m saying that switching to organic cotton underwear can treat or cure endometriosis or any other auto-immune or inflammatory disease, it is true that it has lesser chemicals on its fabric, thus reducing the person’s overall exposure to something that their body could react against. Just something to think about.
If you want to learn more about endometriosis, I suggest you watch the documentary Endo What? (available with subtitles in English, Spanish, and a few other languages.) It really explains what is endometriosis, one of the most debilitating diseases in the world, and yet largerly unknown and disregarded by the medical community. As it is an invisible illness, someone you love might be affected without realizing it. Killer period cramps aren’t normal.
And remember: If you suspect that you or anyone you know might have endometriosis, don’t hesitate to speak with a specialized physician (an OB-GYN specialized in endometriosis.)
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featured for editorial consideration. Receiving a sample didn’t
influence the decision to feature a brand nor the opinions expressed by
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