By Tony Angelino
Do you know where your intimate apparel came from? Do you know how your bras were made and by whom? Do you know whether your shapewear was sewn or spun in a nice, neat, clean environment? Do you know how your panties were transported to the marketplace? Have you wondered in what type of shipping containers your intimates traveled, first to your country and then to your store? Have you ever thought about how many individuals handled your lingerie before you tried it on? Sure, you’ve probably glanced at labels and noticed the countries your garments were made in, but you’ve probably never thought about these other questions.
I’ve worked in the intimate apparel industry for more than thirty-five years and have toured, and worked in, many clothing factories over that time. Some of the working conditions I’ve seen have been deplorable; others have been excellent. Naturally, most have been somewhere in between.
If you could talk to the makers of your undies, there are some questions you’d want to ask.
For example, do their factories have air conditioning, or are their windows and doors left open throughout the day, allowing all sorts of insects into the buildings? Do any bugs land on the garments that are sent to the stores? Remember, insects can carry germs. Are the roads leading to those factories paved? Many factories are located in rural, less-developed areas of the world. Are farm animals allowed to roam freely around the factory grounds? Do employees walk across those grounds, and step in who-knows-what, before entering the factory to make your intimate apparel? If you’re not worried about this because you think that such contamination would be confined to shoes and floors, and wouldn’t migrate to hands, ask yourself whether any fabrics or garments could accidentally drop onto the floor in the course of production. Is fresh, running water available so that employees can always wash their hands? Even if it is, are rules in place requiring employees to wash their hands when appropriate? Which chemicals are used to dye, process, and clean your shapewear? You might you be allergic to some of them. Is the factory’s air filled with dirt, dust, or pollen that can fall onto the bras and panties that you may end up purchasing? The questions and possible concerns can go on and on. So what’s a concerned lingerie consumer to do?
First, check with the maker of your intimates to see whether it adheres to the factory standards and labor practices of WRAP. If it does, you can at least be confident that a defined set of responsible, manufacturing conventions are being followed.
Second, for your own protection, the best piece of advice I can give you is to always wash your bras, panties, and shapewear before you wear them for the first time. Sure it’s unlikely that you’ll experience any problems if you don’t, but why take the chance? Through my own, informal surveys over the length of my career, I’ve found that the majority of consumers don’t wash their intimate apparel before wearing it for the first time. Most consumers simply don’t think about the issues I talked about above. Prior to seeing firsthand the conditions under which apparel is often made, I was in that same camp. Now, I wash all the men’s underwear I buy before I wear it because even the finest brands and manufacturers experience some of these quality-control challenges.
Before washing and drying your undies, please remember to read your garments’ care labels for instructions on how to do so properly so that they’ll retain their form and function, and last as long as possible. All garments have labels that display the materials out of which they’re made and instructions about how they should best be cleaned, dried, and ironed.
Be safe, not sorry. As soon as you’re sure you’re keeping them, wash your intimates before wearing them for the first time.