I need to undress a bit before I get to lingerie today. Help me unzip and stay a moment would you please? I promise to make you happy.
On an off ramp the other day, I idled at a red light for a moment on the way to something that felt super vital at the moment and which I cannot right now recall.
I saw her before the light held me up, with her forearm over her eyes against the afternoon sun, and a scrap of cardboard advertising her distressed status. She may be my age, and she could be 15 years younger, but it is hard to tell. I suspect that she has looked older than she is for some time now. Too much sun, and wind blown grit and worry will age you.
I grabbed change and a couple bills from my toll booth stash and slid down the window. She approached with a pronounced limp, smiled, held her hand out and thanked me. I handed her a cold bottled water I had taken a gulp or two from, apologized for the second hand stuff, and asked her to be sure to keep in the shade when she could.
The light greened, and away I went.
I have thought about her since, and other women I have seen in similar circumstances. I have thought a little too about how many women there are who are just a missed bus, two random pieces of bad luck, or 3 days of poor health away from the same horrifying place. I thought also of the countless women still with a good roof, regular income and loving families and neighbors who go without the easy pleasures of dressing that I enjoy.
Now, undressed, let me bring it back to lingerie.
I have more bras than I need. Many that do not get called into action. I took a little inventory this weekend. I found 5 bras that I have worn once. Admittedly, I have mad shopping impulses and an enviable supply of samples for review from super kind retailers and designers, but my drawers are likely not too much different from yours.
I looked at the pretty pile and remembered reading about The Bra Recyclers some time ago. I took the time to drop an email and received a nearly instant note back from Elaine Birks-Mitchell, one of the founders of this now 4 year old organization.
“…We would love it if you could get the word out to your readers about recycling bras. So many women do not know what to do with all of the bras they have sitting in their drawers. Those bras could definitely be put to good use with women and girls in transition …”
So today, we are putting the word out. The Bra Recyclers team support the services of more than 65 vital shelters and agencies coast to coast here in the US and Canada. Donated bras that will not meet an immediate domestic use are delivered to needy overseas communities. And bras at the end of their useful life as bras can find amazing new uses as recycled fibers in a remarkable array of industrial and consumer products. All good news for people and our shared planet.
Ally and I are genuine lingerie enthusiasts. We suspect that you are too. We hope that beneath the lace trim and pretty patterns kind hearts beat, and perhaps skip a beat when you think of people not so fortunate as yourselves.
If you feel wonderful clasping a beautifully made bra, and love all the warm swell of feeling inside and flesh outside that comes along with that luxury, imagine not feeling that way again. Ever.
If you have been flat broke and penny pinching, if you have ever held a bra together with a safety pin, if you have rinsed one at bedtime to dry overnight for another day of duty, imagine seeing no end to those days.
And if you are still reading with me, please take a moment to count your blessings. Then count your bras. Then please, do one of these things:
Read more about The Bra Recyclers here.
See if there is an affiliated drop off location near you here.
Fill out the Bra Recycling form and pop your most generous parcel in the post.
You may want as well to take a more local approach. If you Google up “women’s shelter” you will find a too long list of crisis and support centers, and at least one close to where you are. Every day, women, sometimes with children in tow turn to these shoestring places of last resort with only the clothes on their back. Your local shelter is chronically short of everything, bras included. Please ask them what the women that they serve and care for would value that you might be able to do happily without.