BRAS. We buy them, wear them, love them, sometimes hate them, and tend to keep them in a drawer for long after we no longer use them.
Well, instead of burning them, dumping or hoarding all those unwanted or unworn bras — why not put them to good use?
In other words, offering less fortunate women a chance to make use of them?
“When my friend, Ciara O’Hanlon, from Tyrone, put a post on her Facebook page saying, ‘I want your bras!’, appealing for bras and new panties for impoverished women in Africa; I thought, what a wonderful idea,” says Clonakilty woman, Anne-Marie Kingston, who is a professional de-clutterer.
“Ciara was heading to South Africa as a volunteer with the Niall Mellon Trust, renowned for providing better standards of education for children and building housing projects in townships in poor African communities. She put out the appeal for bras for the African women at the last minute before she travelled to Africa with the volunteers,” says Anne-Marie.
“I shared her Facebook post. Being linked to my business, it was like a good omen.”
The response was phenomenal.
“It went national,” says Anne-Marie. “It went nuts! Women from the four corners of Ireland responded to Ciara’s appeal for their unwanted bras.
“So many women don’t know what to do with their old bras. They usually end up on landfill,” says Anne-Marie. “It is just fantastic; women around the world supporting each other.”
Now the ladies who have a bra for each outfit or occasion — with many getting condemned to life in the bottom drawer after one or two weeks, others never seeing the light of day — can instead off-load their smalls to women in another continent who will welcome the kind gesture with delight and gratitude.
“To begin with, apart from my house, there was one drop-off point for unwanted bras in Clonakilty, Hot Knickers Lingerie,” says Anne- Marie, who was amazed at the immediate response from women all over the country donating their unwanted or redundant bras.
A good name supporting a good cause?
“Yes,” says Anne-Marie, laughing.
“Ali of Hot Knickers is a friend of mine. Then Clonakilty Community Hospital got involved and Violette’s Boutique in Skibbereen too. The bras and underwear mounted up literally over-night.
“I have a shed full of bras in my house to be shipped to Africa for the appeal. It is wonderful for the women in Africa, who don’t traditionally wear bras, to now get the chance.
“In the more remote or poorer parts of Africa, women don’t have luxury items like bras, items that we in the western world take for granted,” says Anne-Marie.
“Underwear is a luxury that many people there just cannot afford or it isn’t easily available to them.
“The women in poor parts of Africa have very little money and many of them often have had bad life experiences.”
So this consignment will give them a well-deserved boost?
“Absolutely!” says Anne-Marie, who prides herself on giving back to the community, helping busy mums all over Cork county who are struggling emotionally, physically, or mentally with clutter in all areas of their home.
“I like to think I guide, support and motivate each of my beautiful clients with a non-judgemental and soft approach to let go of clutter,” says Anne-Marie.
“Often, I have a car brim-full of goods from people who are de-cluttering that Clonakilty Lodge Resident’s Asylum, or the local branch of St Vincent de Paul will welcome and will make good use of. People don’t realise that one man’s rubbish is another man’s treasure,” says Anne-Marie.
“Other items, for instance, electrical items, can be recycled, utilising the material and metal to create further employment. It is a win-win situation.”
Now the mother of two is encouraging the women of Cork and beyond to reach out to other women thousands of miles away, donating used, unwanted bras, these parcels of treasure, to help those living in orphanages, remote villages, slums or camps.
“It is a brilliant project,” says Anne-Marie, who knows the feminine psyche persuades us to store and hoard our smalls, which are easy to leave in a drawer because they take up little space.
She agrees bra hoarding relates to the very practical nature of the fairer sex, and there aren’t many of us who aren’t guilty of hoarding old bras.
“People might be reluctant or embarrassed to bring their unwanted bras or underwear to charity shops for hygiene or other reasons,” says Anne-Marie.
“The bra appeal is the perfect opportunity to off-load our intimate inner wear to the women in Africa, who will appreciate the garments that often they don’t get to wear.
“The African appeal for bras and other items of underwear is a great idea, helping those less fortunate than us. And it helps us de-clutter our crammed underwear drawers into the bargain!”
Unlike our shoe size, our bra size changes for various reasons, doesn’t it?
“Definitely!” says Anne-Marie. “Our boobs change all the time, even as we get older. Weight fluctuation, breast cancer treatment, post breast surgery, pregnancy, breast feeding; all these things change the shape and size of women’s breasts.
“When I was pregnant, I ballooned. I breas-t fed each of my children for three months and my boobs went down to nothing. They came back slowly but surely! And so did my confidence.”
Anne-Marie believes less is more.
“I own four bras,” she says. “The very minimum. I just don’t see the point of having a drawer-full of bras.”
But she does see the point in not throwing our unwanted or unused underwear items in the bin, but instead making somebody’s day, who will receive a surprise parcel, showing that women support each other no matter where they live.
“Giving your unwanted bras away to women who don’t have any will give the bras a new lease of life. And the feelgood factor will give those African women a new lease of life too.”
Charity doesn’t always have to begin at home.
“It doesn’t,” says Anne-Marie, who believes in spreading things around and spreading the love.
“Charity is universal.”