Is the world of bra sewing confusing and daunting? Yes. Does it require a bit of engineering, guesswork and prayer? Yes. Is it worth doing anyway? Hell yes.
I’ve been sewing bras for a couple of years now and I’m at the point where there are no longer any store bought bras in my drawer and there hasn’t been for a while. Why sew bras? Well, considering you can grab one at Kmart for the princely sum of $10, it’s not cost. Why then? Fit, baby. And if you can get store bought bras to fit you like a glove, then you’re probably scoffing at me right now. That’s ok, I can take it. I didn’t really realise how badly my bras were fitting until I starting making my own and actually researching what a well fitting bra looks like. I no longer want to burn them by the end of the day. Plus they can be sewn in a rainbow of colours and prints.
Wanna know? Here’s some general fit guidelines (for wired bras):
– The bridge (that bit in the middle) should sit flush against your chest
– The straps shouldn’t dig in or slide off your shoulders
– The back band should sit parallel to the floor and not ride up
– The wire should encase all of the breast tissue, not cut through it or dig under your arms
Now, we are all different and unique individuals with different and unique boobs. Different shapes require different bra designs, who knew?! Here are my quirks:
– Close set
– Side boob that wants to head, well, sideways
– Underarm flab
– Broad back
– Very little upper cup fullness
Being close set means I need a narrow bridge, my wires need to kiss in the centre to fit flat to my chest. The broad back and underarm flab means that I have a preference for nice wide bands, at least 3 hooks in the back but 4 is better. My lack of upper cup fullness (this could be pregnancy/breastfeeding, age or even genetics-related) means I gravitate towards full cups – I basically ‘fall out’ of demi cups. A power bar is ideal to direct that side boob back to front and centre. Isn’t it funny that it’s taken me about a year to realise all this stuff?
Let’s talk wire because omg, that confused the hell out of me for a long time. When I first started sewing bras I would just shove any old wires (from old rtw bras) that would fit into my new bras. Wires that probably never fit me in the first place. When I decided to refine my fit a bit more, I did a lot of reading and found out you can find out your wire size first and then basically reverse engineer a bra to fit. Order a few different wire sizes, stand topless in front of a mirror and measure those babies against your breast root to find the Cinderella wire. Turns out mine is a 44, which corresponded with the bra sizes I was already making, but good to know, right? Here’s a helpful post about wires.
Of course, within those wire sizes are variations on length and style. But cross that bridge when you come to it.
The two bras I make the most are the Pin Up Girls Classic (shown above in the gold lace and leopard satin) and Orange Lingerie’s Marlborough Bra (the blue lace). The Classic has a full band and full two piece cup, while the Marlborough has a full band and 3 piece cup (with a power bar). Here’s how they fit:
The Marlborough is my favourite, but only by a tiny bit. The combination of slight plunge in the front with the power bar pushing everything front and centre makes it a winner. I still get a good amount of lift from the Classic too.
There’s another Pin Up Girls pattern which I’ve only ever made once, the Shelley bra. It’s similar to the Marlborough in that it has a power bar and a full band, but has four pieces in the cup. The one I made was a bit small in the cup (going by the designers directions for measuring, bras always end up too small in the cup for me). So I decided today was the day for a bit of a scientific comparison, because I am nerdy like that. I traced off my new upsized Shelley and sewed it up to see if I liked it as much as the Marlborough, after all – how different could they be?
That’s the Shelley in the red satin and lace on top and the Marlborough on the bottom in the red and black. I did raise the underarm on the power bar and band of the Marlborough so the wire sizes could be exactly the same in both. I mean, for proper science they would both have to be created from the same fabric, but I was hoping to get two wearable bras out of this and who wants two exactly the same? Variety for me, please.
As you can see, they ended up quite different! While the Shelley feels supportive, it gives me no where near the same amount of lift (look at that bottom cup in the side on view) and it feels like it actually flattens out my upper bust. Plus there is a heap of breast tissue bulging out at the sides, which has all been pushed forward in the Marlborough.
I’ll just keep sewing all the Marlboroughs then, ok? Ok.