There was a time when repairing one's undergarments was a task simply assumed would be done many times in the life of that garment. We've become such a throw-away society, that when something such as the wire in a bra breaks, it is now assumed the entire garment is ready for the garbage. Often times, there is much life left in that bra.
It may sound simpler to just go out and buy a new one. But replacing a broken bra wire takes about 15 minutes, minimal sewing skills and will save you money -- that's money that you don't have to earn! Compare this to actually shopping for a new bra, which could take an hour or longer, be exasperating (trying on bras doesn't provide the same excitement factor of, say, trying on shoes) and cost $15, $20, $30 or more. Not to mention, the waste from a repair is minimized. One tiny sliver of wire sent to the landfill, instead of the entire bra.
When something breaks on one of my bras, if it's not something easily repaired right then, I just tuck that bra in the back of the drawer. The usual problem is a broken underwire. I hang on to the entire bra, for the day will come, when another bra's wire will break.
And then, I have two bras with broken wires. Just what I need. I can now scavenge a good wire from one of the bras, to replace a broken wire in the other.
Here are two such "broken" bras. The wire broke on one of them about a year ago. I hung on to it. And lo and behold, the wire broke in another bra, just a couple of weeks ago (I only have three, so I was now down to 1 good bra).
You know how it is with a broken underwire? You look lop-sided in t-shirts and other garments of somewhat clingy fabric. So, time to get to work and make 1 good bra from these 2 broken ones.
First, I choose which bra will be the sacrificial undergarment. I cut a small slit in the casing, on the inside of the bra, which holds the wire in place, about 1/4-inch from the end stitching. The wire is fairly easy to pull out.
Next, on the bra to be repaired, I cut a tiny slit in the casing of the broken wire, on the inside of the bra, nearest the armhole, about 1/4 inch from the end stitching. I remove both broken pieces. The first piece comes out easily, but the second one sometimes has to be worked out (due to the raw end on the leading edge of this broken piece).
After removing the broken wire, I slide the good wire into the casing, through the tiny slit that I made, nearest the armhole. (edited to add: The wire is not perfectly u-shaped. To determine which direction to insert the wire, I line it up with the other cup, then flip over for mirror image placement.)
I find it best to cut the slit about 1/4-inch from the stitched-end. It's close enough to the end, to make inserting the new wire a fairly easy task. But not right at the end, preventing the new wire from constantly trying to poke through new stitching. And I cut this slit on the armhole end of the casing, and not the center end. If the wire begins to poke out, after some time, it's much less uncomfortable nearest the armhole.
Once the wire is mostly within the casing, I tug at the fabric casing, and slip the wire end into the remaining part of the casing.
If the good wire is even a tiny bit longer than the wire being replaced, this can require some real tugging of fabric, or pushing on the wire end, to get the casing to slip over that last bit. For this bra, I needed to firmly push the wire end down, and into the casing, against a hard surface. (I just used the metal blade of my scissors, a concrete floor would work, as would a flat, metal, straight-edge ruler.) With just a bit of force, this was enough to stretch the fabric up and over the wire end.
Once the wire is in place, I hand-stitch the slit closed. And that's it -- one good bra from two broken ones.
The old bra (the one from which I scavenged the good wire) is still useful. I removed the broken wire, and now it can be worn around the house. When I find that I no longer need it at all, I will scavenge additional parts, such as hooks and eyes. The eyes can be added to a stretched-out bra band, on the closure, to "shorten" a too-long band. And both hooks and eyes are great to add to my sewing notions, for use as closures on clothing (above the zipper on a skirt, for example). The padding in the cups can be used for craft projects (such as padding under appliques).
15 minutes of my time, and I have a functional bra again.