Reinventing Ready To Wear {Ohhh Lulu Romy Bra}

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I do love me some creative strapping on bras and swimmers and have quite a few examples in my wardrobe. My most worn is probably this one piece by Disturbia. I lurrrrrve it. I’ve always been a bit hesitant to try and recreate it when sewing though because it all looks a bit complex and maths have never been my strong point.

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I have some unsuccessful RTW examples. You know the ones that you purchase online, hoping for the best but that just never work? This is one of those:

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I wanted to love it but the shape is all wrong for me. It holds absolutely nothing where it should, the front is too wide, the boning at the sides bends out and the bottom band (or lack of) is useless. It gapes at the back where that strapping sits. Ugh. Then earlier this week I stumbled across this Iron Fist Sports Bra and neeeeeeeded it. My inner nerd loves how the straps look like a spine and ribs. But of course, it’s out of stock. Which got me thinking, could I recreate it myself so I know that it works for me?

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Yeah, worth a try. I already have Ohhh Lulu’s Romy and know that it fits me because I’ve made a couple of versions (here and here). This sort of fancy back would also be ideal for the strappy back of the Sincerely Rylee dress that I made. A bra that’s less ‘ooops you can see my bra’ and more ‘OH YEAH THIS IS MY BRA AND IT’S FANCY AS HELL’.

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And look how pretty it is! The fabric is by Dear Stella. I’ve noticed lately that a lot of my favourite fabric companies (Cotton and Steel and Timeless Treasures also) are coming out with knits. It’s brilliant. I love the prints and the quality is very high too.

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The sparkly strapping is from Booby Traps. As a rule, you’re not really supposed to use strapping as the upper and lower bands on a bra because it’s generally pretty firm – but this strapping is pretty soft and stretchy (more like elastic). I’m thrilled with how it turned out.

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An inside out photo if you’re interested to see how it all fits together. I was a bit haphazard with the whole thing but it worked just fine. I decided to shorten the back band pattern piece where it starts to curve down and narrow for the strapping and back closure. So that whole part has been omitted and the straps start there. The inside isn’t as pretty as the outside but I can deal with that. I’ve lined the whole thing in power mesh for support, as I always do with wire free bras.

I figured out the length of the back straps using the very complex method of comparing it to one of my existing Romys.

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I wasn’t going to bother taking pics of me wearing it because I wanted to wear it right away, but I grabbed a couple when I first put it on this morning anyway. So I do apologise for them being a bit unplanned and rubbish. You can see that it still provides decent support and shaping. The power mesh lining and princess seams help that. I’ve used pale pink hardware cannibalised from an old bra and matching pink bows.

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Ooops – out of focus. Best of a bad bunch. It’s hard to take a pic of your own back. Haven’t even brushed my hair. Cool though, right? Nothing buckling (even though I’m mid adjustment, sorry).

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I’ve worn both the bra and knickers in public all day and am pleased to report that I was super comfortable and everything stayed in place. So that’s a win. I really want to try a swimmy version next, but the thought of having to make all the strapping is daunting!

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The Mysteries of Bra Sewing {Pin Up Girls Shelley}

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Have I told you before how much I love bra sewing? I do believe I have. And you might think I’m nuts, but it’s seriously some of the most rewarding sewing I’ve ever done. Plus it pays off. I haven’t bought a bra for at least a year and I very rarely wear my RTW anymore. In fact, most of them have been sacrificed for their wires and hardware. I wore a RTW bra earlier this week and it only last until lunch time before it was off and turfed into the corner. NO. They are so uncomfortable.

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Why are they uncomfortable? Quite simply, they don’t fit. I mean, I’ve been fitted and they probably fit as well as they can for RTW. But we are all unique snowflakes and our bodies have their own quirks which just can’t all magically fit into a mass produced item like a bra. And for the record, I used to think my bras fit – until I made my own.

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As I’ve also mentioned before, I had my first bra pattern (Pin Up Girls Classic) languishing in my sewing room for nearly twelve months before I plucked up the courage to sew it. It was the most intimidating thing I’d ever seen. So tiny, only a few pieces and yet scary as hell. It was Beverly Johnson’s Craftsy class that finally gave me the shove I needed to make my first bra. I do thoroughly recommend it if you need the encouragement. It’s amazingly helpful and seeing it all done step by step makes it seem just like any other sewing – put those pieces together in the right order and you’re golden. Of course with bra sewing you’ve got the complex fit challenges. That’s the hardest part – not the sewing at all. Something like a dress is much more forgiving fit-wise than a bra. But when you get it right, the light shines down and those angles start singing. I swear.

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The lovely Georgina from Sew Squirrel drop me a message last week and asked if I’d like to try one of her new bra kits. Would I?! Don’t need to ask me twice. She mentioned that they were velvet and I pretty much purred. I already have a few velvet bras but will always make more. It’s a bit of a temperamental fabric to work with, but worth it. She gave me a choice of colours and I chose grey, which is pretty much my personal version of nude. I have a few grey bras now, which sounds so blah but I love it. She even sent me the wiiiiide strapping and hardware. I love my wide straps.

Kits are perfect if you’re just starting out in bras because you get the perfect amount of all the right pieces. This isn’t the kind of stuff you can buy at generic sewing shops. It’s pretty specialised. Knowing the difference between your picot and strapping can be really confusing when you’re new to bra sewing, so I’ve done some handy labeling for you.

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This is the Shelley bra pattern, which you can also purchase via Sew Squirrel with the bra kits. So handy. The kit didn’t have the lace, so that’s from my stash, but these images show what goes where. I used the neckline trim for the under arms because using lace meant I didn’t need it at the neckline (though the lace is stabilised with yet another type of elastic, sometimes it’s clear but in this kit it’s black, which is way nicer to work with). Then I had enough leftover fabric to make matching knickers! Hooray! I used the narrow picot from the kit for the leg elastic. The waistband elastic was from my stash.

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Here’s some tips I found really helpful when I started sewing bras:

  • Do I use stretch or non stretch fabric?

    Generally wired bras require non stretch and bralettes require stretch. Hence me lining this one – the velvet is stretch and without the lining, there would be very little support and everything would stretch out. Even if you don’t line the whole thing, you’ll generally need to line the bridge for extra strength. The band always needs stretch, but you can get varying types of power mesh, some firmer than others. I prefer the firm, but I like my bras to feel like they’re giving me a hug. When I sew bralettes I usually line with power net, for that extra support. I need it. You might not. But do follow the stretch/non stretch requirements of your bra pattern. It’s really important.

  • How do I know my size?

    Much like any sewing pattern, your size won’t correspond to your RTW size. AT ALL. You have to let go of all that and roll with it. Promise. Each bra company has a different method of measuring – follow it. For example, I’m somewhere between a 14DD or 16D in RTW (they are sister sizes). The Shelley above is a 38C (my size has changed lately). In Ohhh Lulu I’m more like a 36D, in my favourite Kwik Sew bra pattern I’m a 38C and in Orange Lingerie’s Marlborough I’m a 40DD.

  • So I just take my measurements, sew up my size and I’ll be golden?

    Maybe, but probably not. I don’t think there are many lucky women that get their bras to fit straight off the pattern. Sorry. It’s more likely you’ll sew at least two or three before you find your groove. And there are probably standard adjustments that you’ll make to most patterns – I can’t deal with a partial band so always have full bands. I often have to move straps because they sit too far to the outside of my body and I usually have to raise it under my arm (which I totally forgot to do with this one and it shows).

  • Ok fine, what can I use for a toile so I don’t cut into my fancy stuff and waste it?

    This one divides bra sewists. Some will sew their practice runs in a cheapy fabric to test the fit, but you really need to find something very close to your good fabric to have that work successfully. Fabrics will behave differently and stretch and warp and curve all in different ways. I personally use the good stuff as bra sewing doesn’t take a lot of fabric anyway. Yeah it sucks getting to the end and not having a wearable bra, but you will learn heaps in the process. And yeah, you just read right, you have to make THE WHOLE THING – elastics, closures and all. You can’t really test the fit until it’s complete. It just makes victory all the more sweet. You’re allowed to cry and swear though, I certainly have. Lucky my dog is deaf and the kids are at school.

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Yeah she’s not perfect, but she goes alright. The bra too. HA. I hope that was somewhat helpful and not too blabbery. I do like my bra talk. Let me know if you’re going to try some bra sewing or if you already have.

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