BRANWYN Essential Bralette Review
I’m about as picky as they come with what materials I allow close to my skin — especially when it comes to bras. I know I’m not the only woman who finds most sports bras overly constricting and generally unbreathable, leaving me feeling sweaty and gross even after a short workout. They’re definitely not comfortable enough to wear day-in and day-out on a thru-hike.
I’ve been on the lookout for a good enough bra to wear on my thru-hikes, ideally one made of merino wool that’s full-coverage enough to double as a swim top without being too hot or constricting. I’ve finally found my ideal thru-hiking bra with Branwyn’s Essential Bralette.
Branwyn founder Shawna was on a similar mission to find a pair of underwear from natural fibers that could be comfortably worn throughout the day, no matter what the activity. When she couldn’t find what she was looking for she decided to make it herself. She developed a simple line of underwear and bras that stretch to move with you, are breathable, and stay dry.
Branwyn Essential Bralette At-A-Glance
Available sizes: XS-XXL
Available colors: Black, Luna Gray, Light Nude, Warm Nude, and Dark Nude
Materials: 81% Merino wool, 12% nylon, and 7% spandex
Circumstances of Review
I received the Branwyn Essential Bralette in early November with no long-distance hiking plans on the horizon. To best test it out I wore it multiple days in a row, going to the gym a couple times a week, doing yoga, on some day hikes, and as my everyday bra.
My traditional bra size is 32C. I didn’t want to feel too constricted so decided to size up for the Essential Bralette and tested a size Medium.
Branwyn Essential Bralette is designed for light activities and everyday wear. It’s great to wear for hiking, yoga, and cycling. It offers gentle support and can feel like going braless.
Branwyn Essential Bralette Features
Ethically Sourced Merino Wool: Merino is moisture-wicking, stink-proof, and temperature regulating and it’s a 100 percent natural, renewable, and biodegradable fiber. Branwyn prioritizes sustainability and uses ZQ-certified merino wool that complies with OEKO-TEX 100 and the Responsible Wool Standard.
Seamless Design: The seamless knit design of the Essential Bralette means no hooks, snaps, underwear, boning, or thicker fabric to dig into the skin. The bralette will also be longer-lasting with no worry about seams weakening and pulling apart or hardware failing.
Wide Band: The Essential Bralette has a 2-inch-wide band designed to eliminate digging and rolling and keep breasts in place. The fabric is doubled at the band helping to wick away more underboob sweat.
Adjustable Straps: The straps are fully adjustable and can also be switched to cross straps for a more balanced support.
Branwyn Essential Bralette Pros
It’s pretty evident that comfort was a top priority when the Essential Bralette was being designed. The design features well-positioned and adjustable straps that stay firmly in place no matter how I’m moving around. The four-way stretch fabric hugs my curves without causing pinching or rolling. The fabric is a good density, not so thick that my skin can’t breathe, but not so thin that it’ll distort over time.
The wider band stays firmly in place below my breasts without constricting my breathing. I can move, twist, bend, jump, and more without this bra shifting or feeling uncomfortable. It’s also possibly the first bra that I actually forget I’m wearing.
Merino wool is the golden child of performance-wear fabric. It has so many incredible benefits that make it an ideal fabric choice for underwear and innerwear. Merino can absorb 25 percent more moisture than most other fabrics while also wicking that moisture away and helping you feel dry. The fibers fibers capture bacteria and prevent garments from getting stinky. Merino also helps to regulate body temperature so you don’t get too hot or too cold. This will also help reduce chafing when wearing the bra for long hours.
For the Essential Bralette, that means that my breasts never felt overly sweaty in the bra. I also noticed less underboob sweat overall. Plus with the antibacterial properties, I could wear my bra for days at a time before washing which can extend the lifetime of the fabric.
Function and fit are absolute priorities for a good hiking bra, but I appreciate the little touches to make the bra more stylish as well. The most obvious style choice is the subtle floral pattern in the fabric. I’ve never had a performance bra that looked pretty!
Branwyn Essential Bralette Cons
Not Quick Dry
A lot of merino wool products dry relatively quickly, usually because they’re of a thinner knit. The Essential Bralette is made using a really tight weave that ends up being a thicker fabric than my other merino base layers.
Because of this, the bralette doesn’t dry quite as quickly after being fully submerged and wetted out. Mine was still a touch damp in the morning after a night in a cold tent after I’d washed it, but the damp disappeared quickly once I was wearing it.
The Essential Bralette is purpose-designed for smaller chests. Branwyn recommends the bralette for breasts of cup size C or smaller. Even with the incredible stretch in the fabric, larger breasts may spill out.
However, Branwyn chose to design a separate bra to suit larger breasts. The Essential Busty Bra picks up where the Essential Bralette leaves off, offering more coverage and more support with a wider band and wider adjustable shoulder straps.
Branwyn is one of a very few companies that I’ve encountered that are successfully and transparently walking the talk of sustainability. I dove deep into their blog to learn more about their sustainability practices.
In terms of fabric, they have a goal to have a product line that is 100 percent compostable by the end of 2024 and are trying to source more sustainable versions of the nylon and elastane used in their garments. Plus they use a seamless knitting technology that creates significantly less waste than the more traditional cut & piece method.
Branwyn’s innerwear is made at a sustainability factory in Istanbul. They chose Türkiye because of its strict regulations on international sustainability standards. The dyes used are all-natural plant, vegetable, and mineral-based and applied using a near-waterless washing technology that cuts down up to 80 percent of the water used.
The final pillar of their sustainability practice is giving back. The core value of Branwyn is the knowledge that the planet is a better place when women are empowered. At Branwyn a minimum of 1 percent of all sales is donated to a variety of non-profits that support female empowerment, mental health, and climate change initiatives.
If you’re like me and prefer to wear natural fibers next to your skin, then the Branwyn Essential Bralette is for you. I strongly believe that the Branwyn Essential Bralette is one of the best merino bra products available on the market.
The bralette is stylish, comfortable, well-designed and well-made of quality and environmentally-friendly materials. It’s priced competitively to similar brands and styles yet offers the benefit of supporting a small business with high standards that supports incredible initiatives.
Patagonia Women’s Barely Everyday Bra
Icebreaker Women’s Merino Siren Bra
Material: 83% Merino Wool, 12% Nylon, 5% Elastane
Kari Traa Froya Sports Bra
Material: 89% polyester/11% elastane with 100% wool lining
The Branwyn Essential Bralette was donated for the purpose of review.
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