Bramaking and Dreams of Stella…

Frankly, I could fill a whole drawer with Stella McCartney bras.

So pretty, girly, vintagey. Earlier this year I indulged a visit to Underwear, a local lingerie boutique and got to touch and try some of Stella’s bras in person. The laces and materials are as pretty and soft as pictures seem to show.

Although if I really had the dough, it might be a luscious set from Carine Gilson, a Belgian lingerie maker.

Lovely lovely lovely–silk appliqued lace!–and putting one out, oh, about $500 for a bra.

If there was one thing I’d love to sew for other women, it’d be bras. Body confidence is such an intimate and complex combination of things, but I’ve noticed when clothing fits and seems mysteriously made for someone’s exact body, it can really affect a sense of self. It’s amazing how beautiful, great-fitting undergarments can imbue confidence and celebration of one’s body.

I know y’all have those pilling three-year-old bras in your drawers. Most of the time I’d rather be buying shoes, and I get lazy and ignore the bra needs until the elastic is beyond dead, but when I finally replensish with just one or two sweet bras that fit, I feel like the rest of my clothes are fun all over again. Bonus.

I like pretty underthings but have never found a style that feels like the magical “it”. Fit and comfort gets sacrificed for style or vice versa. I’ve gotten spoiled by getting more fit-conscious as a sewer, I’m sure. Anyway, I fall in between sizes–either a 32B or 32C or 34A depending on the manufacturer–and almost always look for demi-cup styles. Soft-cup and bralette types are very comfortable and perfectly fine for me, but sometimes a smaller gal likes a shapely underwired bra.

Seeing the beautiful bras on Novita’s blog gave me motivation to pull out the bramaking kit I’d bought over a year ago from Bramakers Supply. The kit included all the notions and fabrics for one bra, along with their “Linda” bra pattern. The fabric for cups is Duoplex, a kind of shiny non-stretchy type of knit, and the band fabric is powernet. Not exactly my dream bra fabric but I really needed the hand-holding of a pre-assembled kit.

According to the pattern, I measured a 32B, but I decided to test out the underwires first. The wire for a 32C felt more comfortable and was closer in diameter width to my closest-fitting bra, a 32B. I decided to forge ahead and make the 32C pattern but with the depth of the B cup. I did this by splitting the B cup and spreading it out to the width of the C, making sure the underwire length was the same.

The construction itself is fairly easy–working with small pieces leaves so much less room for error. The seam allowances are small and exact. The instructions on this pattern are very clear and detailed. There were a couple of hiccups, though… One was getting the trim sewn on neatly where the bridge and underwires intersect. I fudged it enough to work…

blech…

The other had to do with what might be a pattern error along the center back.

The pattern calls for a 2-hook closure (and is what came with my kit), but the band seems accidentally drafted for 3 hooks. I fiddled with the elastic till it curved correctly into the hooks, but in the future, I probably won’t use 5/8″ elastic–seems unnecessary for a smaller bra.

The final bra feels pretty close and fits well enough to wear, although I think I’d like to test out the 32B pattern separately. There’s only so much one can tell from fitting the cups. I really had to complete the entire bra to get an idea of fit and once it was all together the bridge seemed a little narrow, the underwires too close together. (In bras, as cup sizes increase, the bridge gets narrower.)

The question becomes, what shape is supposed to be happening and how close of a “natural shape” do I want?

The full-coverage style of this pattern is pretty new to me. It might seem cute on the hanger but it’s a tad medical-looking on the body. I’d love to modify or try something closer to a demi bra or a contour t-shirt style, which could certainly change the fit. Most of my bras also have a vertical seam or dart (like the Stella and Carine Gilson bras above) rather than the horizontal seaming of the bra pattern. It seems a bit old school, but maybe that’s just an association I have. But I look forward to re-shaping and playing around the the design details in future bras.

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Comments

  1. Tanit-Isis November 16, 2011 at 8:41 pm #

    Oooh, nifty! Your changes sound like exactly what I would want to do—I always have issues with underwires being too narrow (or, if the underwire fits, the cup is huge). Bra sewing is one of those things that tickles my brain, but I haven’t had the guts (or motivation) to get moving on… hmm… I’ll be very interested to see where this takes you :)

    • Amy November 17, 2011 at 1:03 am #

      It might not have come across, but it was really fun making this! Save your old bra underwires in case you ever do make one. You can always fit the cup to the underwires you like best.

      • Amy November 19, 2011 at 8:16 pm #

        Oh, great thought. One of my cats eats bra straps. Before I got in the habit of always putting my bras away, I lost quite a few. It never occurred to me to save them for parts! (Though, at that time, I wasn’t sewing…) Could you also save the clasps in the back? Or, are those easy to come by?

  2. Amy November 19, 2011 at 9:59 pm #

    Haha, my cats eat all my hair bands (and dogs eat the socks). I just started saving the underwires but it looks to me like the clasps get kind of ratty. You can save the little hardware rings and slides that the straps thread into. I got my notions at Bramakers Supply. There’s also sewsassy.com and I think a few sellers on ebay.

  3. christy March 21, 2013 at 2:21 pm #

    Hi I dont know if I over looked it but would you share where you like to order your lace from online. The fabric stores in my area I’m in Virginia I’m finding they don’t carry the 4-6 inch stretch fabric.
    Thank You
    Christy

    • Amy March 22, 2013 at 11:28 pm #

      Hi Christy, I get my lace from many places, mostly online. If you’re looking to make bras, some of the bra kit sellers (like Merckwaerdigh and Elingeria) include them in their kits. Etsy also has a truckload of galloon lace sellers so you might want to poke around there. (I like Mary Not Martha – she has some pretty laces.)

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