4 April 2014

Lingerie: My First Bra

Earlier this week I posted about my adventures with making my own bra pattern from scratch. Here's my first effort at making a real wearable bra. The fabric that I used is a recent addition to my stash that I was gifted. I've gone with a polyester floral print, very lightweight and floaty.

After my little freak out over the ill fitting bra toile (let's just call it the ugliest toile in the world, shall we?), I did a little more research into using woven fabrics on bras, and came across this post from Madalynne which addresses just this issue.

This post advises that as a general rule of thumb, when making a bra band from a woven fabric, the band should be cut on the bias, (as should the lower part of the cups) to maximise the available stretch. Everything else in the bra should be cut with the grain for maximum stability.

I decided to make the first bra straight from the block, as I did with my toile, to test out what happens. This means a one piece bra cup, with three curved darts sewn into it. Of course this time the adjustments to fit have been made, and I added the seam allowances to the pattern before I cut it, to ensure accuracy. For the next one I'll be brave and start to play around with it. I'm thinking a three piece bra cup (princess seam along the bust point), then maybe a two piece cup pattern.

All my pieces cut out
First line of elastic stitching done.
I didn't use any kind of stabilisation across the top of the bra cup, in favour of just sewing two layers of fabric together. It seems to be holding it's shape quite well, although in future versions I'm thinking I might try that plastic elastic stuff. Has anyone tried using that in lingerie before? I'm wondering if it might cause irritation to such a sensitive area of skin.

Here you can see the inside, the cradle has three layers - the fashion fabric with interfacing fused to it, and a plain white satin for lining. If you look at this photo, you can see how the lining has puckered when I sewed the elastic to it. Next time I'll fuse all the layers together to avoid this happening.

Also on the inside - I didn't notice myself until I was taking it off the line after washing, but I stitched the upper line of elastic in the wrong way. So, instead of the nice furry side of the elastic being against my skin, it's hidden away inside the bra. Duh! At least that's a mistake I'm not likely to make twice.

Another point I need to address is the underwire casing. When I first put the underwire in, I found it difficult to get it far enough in to close off the end. After a lot of pushing and maneuvering, I got it in far enough to stitch closed, but only with a straight stitch. Next time, I think I'll just make the casing a little longer.

Just so I have a comparison to a RTW bra (and justification to the husband for next time I spend a few hundred dollars buying bits and pieces to make more bras), I've broken down every little cost of this bra. I even put a little spreadsheet together so I can work out costs for each bra as I go.


All fabrics - outside "fashion" fabric, inside lining fabric and interfacing are all stash that was given to me
$1.32    Underwires
$0.77    Underwire casing
$0.88    Elastic
$0.41    Strap elastic
$0.12    Rings
$0.14    Sliders
$1.54    Back hook closure
$0.54    Thread (really rough estimate on how much I used, and probably double the actual amount)

Grand Total  $5.73

You're probably all really wanting to know how the fit is. After I completed this, I wore it for the rest of the day to get a feel for the fit before I embark on alterations for the next one(s). I won't be able to wear this under a fitted T-Shirt, but overall, the bra is quite comfortable, and I'm not really missing having a foam bra cup. I do need to make some more alterations to the height of the bra band and front section, and placement of side seam. And I didn't get the strap placement where I wanted it to be, which was one of my original pet peeves!

The cups are sitting a bit funny, most likely due to the cup stretching where the fabric is on the bias. I will correct this in the next version with a three piece cup. This is causing the weight of the breast to sit further to the sides (TMI?) This most definitely is not a push up bra! I'm sure this could also be corrected by more stabilisation at the sides, or the addition of a sling (I read about that on Sewaholic in Caroline's second bra!) Of course some padding along the side would be a great solution too.

My biggest concern before I started this bra was the length of the back straps. I think I got the length about right for the fabric, but I might use a little less elastic across the back. I went with the rule of thumb (from Amy's Sewalong) that you cut the elastic at about 85% of the length of the band. I went with 85% of the pattern before I added a bit more to make up for using a woven fabric. When I compared it to some of my other bras, the band seemed kind of long though. Before I sewed the hooks on, I trimmed about 1cm from each end. It feels fine on, but I'm thinking that as the elastic wears out it might get too loose, so with the next one I'll use less elastic at the back.

I'm also re-thinking having the back band cut on the bias. This fabric actually has a lot of stretch on the bias! I didn't realise it until I went to sew the elastic onto the back band, and the fabric just kept stretching. Because of this stretch, the edge of the cradle at the side seam really distorts when the bra is on, so I'm doing two things to fix this - firstly, move the seam further towards the front, and secondly, ditching the bias cut back band. If a band is cut long enough, it doesn't need the extra stretch from being on the bias. Wow! A week ago I didn't feel that I knew enough about making bras to make a statement like that, but after making just one I feel so much more confident in what I'm doing!!!

Whew! If you made it to the bottom of this post without taking a break for a cup of tea you've done well. Who knew there was so much to say about one little undergarment?


  1. Well I did have a cup of tea, but that does not mean I wasn't very interested in this review. I have decided that 2014 is my year to make a bra so I'm trying to arm myself with info before I take the plunge (no pun intended)!

    1. Have you had a chance to read my previous post? I can't recommend Amy's bra making sewalong on Cloth Habit highly enough. I read through the whole thing a couple of times, and even though I'd never made a bra before I felt like I knew what I was doing before I started. If you use a commercial pattern (and let's face it, I think I'm in the minority trying to do it from scratch), then you won't have most of the issues that I'm facing with mine.

      Good luck for when you do have a go!

  2. Oh Andrea, this is so beautiful! I think you have done brilliantly, and thanks for such a detailed and thoughtful post.