You all know I mean the first bra that I’ve sewn, don’t ya? Of course you do – this is a sewing blog after all!*
I can’t believe I haven’t delved in to bra making earlier. A long time ago I attempted a self-drafted bra, but soon gave up with the large list of items to source – in the industry these items are sold in bulk, and are only cost efficient if you are producing in bulk as well! These days small quantities of bra making materials are easy to source online, making that first plunge a bit easier. And of course I have my Elna working again so I can zig-zag – kind of essential for bra making!
*I do remember my first real bra though – 10A, dusky pink with lace trim, a Bendon one from H&J’s in Invercargill – felt so grown up!
I already owned some bra underwires, hooks and eye backs, rings and sliders, but needed to purchase the correct elastics and channelling, as well as some power net/tulle for the back band.
The materials that I didn’t already have on hand were sourced locally from Elle Joan’s Lingerie Findings. Lynda has everything you need to make a bra (and she sells some gorgeous kits too) and she was very helpful in assisting me to order the right stuff. Because I was ordering so many bits and pieces, she labelled them all so I knew which was which – very much appreciated!
This particular lace (actually an embroidered net) might seem familiar to those of you who have made my Ruby Slip pattern, it is the same as the lace on the red and black versions – I’m still trying to use it up!
I chose the Boylston Bra from Orange Lingerie for my first pattern. I think it is a nice design, I particularly like the shaping around the front strap. The instructions were very clear – as a newbie bra instruction follower I had no problems.
I did do a couple of things differently because of the lace edge around the upper cup and strap. I don’t really recommend it this way – although I love the design lines of this pattern, they aren’t the most ideal for a sheer upper cup. That didn’t stop me though!
Because the upper cup on my version is unlined, I had to attach the strap directly to the lace, which I did like so:
In the centre picture you can just see how I bagged out the lower cup with the lining, enclosing the horizontal seam in the process.
The instructions clearly explain how to measure yourself and calculate your correct size. I have to admit I really don’t understand bra sizing methods – this measure yourself thing but add a random 4-5 inches mystifies me. I followed the instructions and arrived at a size 34B. This was reassuring as it is also my ready to wear bra size, and I generally fit ready to wear quite well. It turned out this bra was way too small and I could not even do it up! I removed the hooks and shoved in some elastic so I could actually get it on and figure out what went wrong:
My assessment was that the cups and frame were alright, but the band was where the problem lay. I rechecked my measurements – with an underbust of 30 1/2″, I rounded down to 30″ and added 4″ to reach a size 34 band. But if my underbust was a fraction bigger my size would jump up to a size 36 band. That extra two inches sounded very comfortable!
Also my finished band seemed to stretch very little compared to my ready to wear bras – maybe the power net that I used was too firm? Another factor could have been that I lined the side frame for consistency in the opacity – the instructions did not specify to do this and doing so may have reduced some stretch.
Time to try version two. I increased the band size to 36″, and cut the band from a double layer of stretch mesh, as I noticed this is what a lot of my purchased bras use. It is softer and stretchier too.
Although I stayed with the B cup, I did make some changes to the cup shaping on my second attempt. On me this bra had a very ‘natural’ fit, surrounding the breast but not providing any uplift or shaping – and overall it made me look a little bit flat chested. I took in the seam on the lower cup, eliminating the curve to make it almost straight. I also took some off the side seam cup to give more lateral support and move the breast inwards slightly. These alterations worked a treat and I will do the same on future versions.
As I sewed the final hook and eye tape on, I came to the highly intelligent miraculous conclusion that there were only 2 columns of eyes on my bra back instead of the required three, which effectively makes the band one inch too short:
As I always wear my bras on the last hook, I really need that third row! (Which is probably a clue that I should cut a longer band than average. I remember once at a bra fitting the fitter commented that I was a Loose Bra Wearer! Food for thought…)
So – the end result is a bit tight, therefore it is a bit uncomfortable to wear, so in all honesty I probably never will…..I’m sure we all have some of those bras in the back of our lingerie drawer – just not quite right – and they get passed over every morning for the comfortable ones!
I’m almost there – watch out for attempt number three! Have you ever made a bra before? If so, did you get the size right first time?