As someone with a chest that is smaller than an AA cup, buying bras has always been a struggle.
Nearly everyone has experienced the frustration and discomfort of trying to find the perfect bra, often coerced into purchasing ill-fitting items by bossy Victoria’s Secret employees.
From loose Aerie push-up bras that cause huge gaps and other similar stores that consider my size an “online exclusive” only, I had almost given up on bras completely. In fact, I had gone bra-free up until this month, since it was always a waste of time and money trying to find the perfect bra.
It has always bothered me that bras are so expensive and yet seem to be so ill-tailored and fit almost no one correctly. In truth, many bras are still manufactured without the customer’s comfort and functional use in mind. Most bras continue to be designed in order to please a straight man’s gaze, leading consumers to feel that there’s something wrong with their chest rather than the bra itself.
Once when I was watching a YouTube video about sustainable clothing brands, the brand “Pepper” was mentioned. I had never heard of them before and decided to check out their website, mission, and apparel.
After placing and receiving my first order with Pepper (the first real bra I had ever purchased!) I couldn’t believe how much better it fit than any bra from a shopping mall. I compared the cup shape to that of an Aerie bra I was planning to return and was shocked at how different they were. While the cups of both bras were technically AA, the Aerie bra didn’t sit flat in the places it should and there were gaps between the cups and my skin. On the other hand, the Pepper bra had shallower, longer cups that fit my chest the way I had always imagined a bra should.
As I re-visited the website and checked out the “sustainability” and “about” tabs, I was immediately impressed by their transparency regarding factory conditions, fabrics used within their bras, and sustainability practices that they prioritize. Even though paying employees and garment workers should be the absolute bare minimum for any company, many don’t pay their factory employees a living wage or simply at all. Last year it had been disappointing (but not surprising) when Victoria’s Secret launched their “100% organic cotton” line, of which it was then discovered that children had picked this cotton and had been exploited. Green-washing at its finest.
Pepper manufactures their bras in Colombia and pays their garment employees above the Colombian minimum wage. 85% of these employees are women, with single mothers prioritized for open positions. In terms of quality, their bras are made entirely with non-toxic materials that are both environment and consumer friendly.
I take the use of toxic chemicals in clothing very seriously. The presence of PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances) in our daily lives, found in everything from pans to clothing, can have severe impacts on human health (many of which researchers are just now beginning to understand). PFAS are banned from consumer items in most countries other than the United States, where PFAS are becoming even more wide-spread. Researchers have recently discovered that clothing made of synthetic fibers, many of which contain PFAS, can lead to decreased fertility in both women and men. Additionally, it has been found that breast milk of many US women contain PFAS, which are deemed toxic to consume (primarily because they never break down naturally). Luckily, Pepper bras do not contain PFAS, or any other toxic chemicals and fabric.
In order to be as environmentally conscious as possible, Pepper sends customer orders in recyclable cardboard boxes (no plastic, no plastic-coating, no styrofoam or packing peanuts, etc) that are constructed with wood from Sustainable Forestry Industry (SFI) certified and managed forests that are carbon neutral: in other words, they plant more trees than they harvest.
To encourage consumers to give back as well, Pepper gives those who donate their old, gently used Pepper bras to Free the Girls a 10% discount. Free the Girls is a truly admirable organization that empowers girls and women rescued from sex trafficking.
In summary, Pepper designs the best-fitting bras for any women who wear an AA cup size to a B cup size and works to empower those of us who are longtime members of the itty bitty titty committee. Their bras fit better than those of any fast fashion company and are not made with synthetic, potentially harmful, materials. I enjoy supporting them for many reasons, but particularly because they are a women-owned small business who do right by their employees and the environment.