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17th May 2024

‘A well-fitting bra is essential to avoid neck pain, premature sagging and more’

Sophie Collins


Wearing the wrong bra size can lead to a myriad of discomforts, from breast and back pain to skin abrasions and even bad posture.

While the importance of finding the right sized bra is well-understood, many women put it on the back burner to avoid the expense.

The debate over the taxation of bras, known as the “bra tax,” has been the topic of conversation this week in the UK as doctors call for an end to it.

Citing the fact that bras are essential for female health but often come with a hefty price tag.

In Ireland bras are subject to the same tax as many other consumer products, however, the conversation is kicking off on the back of UK efforts to rid the tax.

So what is the impact of an ill-fitting bra?

Breast pain is often one of the first signs of wearing the wrong bra size, according to Dr James Namnoum. For those with larger cup sizes or specific body types, the repercussions can be more pronounced. 

The discomfort may stem from bras that are either too small, causing digging and compression, or too large, leading to bouncing and lack of support.

Back pain, another common complaint, is closely linked to inadequate breast support. 

While research on the direct correlation remains inconclusive, there is consensus that larger breasts can exacerbate existing back issues. 

Shoulder and neck pain are additional burdens, often caused by the strain of poorly fitted bras, especially for women with larger breasts.

Skin abrasions, chafing, and discomfort on the rib cage further underscore the importance of finding the right bra size. 

Improperly fitted bras not only cause physical discomfort but may also contribute to premature sagging and bad posture, creating a cycle of discomfort and potential health risks.

The debate over the Bra Tax

In Ireland, the taxation of bras has sparked debate, raising questions about its necessity and fairness. 

The “bra tax” refers to the Value Added Tax (VAT) imposed on bras, categorising them as non-essential items. 

Critics are now arguing that this classification overlooks the essential role bras play in women’s health and well-being.

Advocates in the UK for eliminating the bra tax have highlighted the disproportionate burden it places on women, particularly those with limited financial resources. 

Access to properly fitted bras should not be hindered by economic constraints, they argue, especially considering the potential health consequences of wearing ill-fitting bras.

Proponents of the bra tax, however, contend that it is a matter of taxation policy rather than gender discrimination. 

They argue that VAT applies to a wide range of products and services and serves as a source of government revenue. 

Removing the tax on bras could lead to calls for exemptions on other items, potentially undermining the broader tax system.

The path forward

As the debate unfolds, there is widespread agreement on the importance of education and accessibility regarding bra fitting. 

Empowering people, regardless of gender, with the knowledge to identify and obtain properly fitted bras is crucial for their health and well-being.

Professional bra fitting services, educational campaigns, and initiatives to increase access to affordable, quality bras are steps in the right direction.