Bra Tips: Fitting An Underwire

Finding Your Wire Size | Cloth Habit

It’s reader question day! Recently, a reader asked by email: How do you know what size to start with? The wires in my bras dig into the breast tissue under my arm and it’s so uncomfortable!

I can definitely relate to that! I’ve written about wires & fitting a few times, but today I’ll share a bit more for the first-time bra-makers or for those who’ve been having a hard time figuring out where to start!

When I bought my first bra-making kit, I was very confused about wire sizes. Weren’t they all the same? It wasn’t until I started pulling out wires from old bras and fitting others that I realized how different they can be. Wires come in many shapes, sizing gaps and strengths. For example, these are both full length wires for a 32F bra:

Finding Your Wire Size | Cloth Habit

I pulled the narrower one from a Panache bra, and the white one is from my collection. The reason I share this is so you can see that wire sizes aren’t a static thing. So the very best way to start is buying a few wires and trying them on–without worrying about what size you are. Try a set of wires in the size you think you are (or are currently wearing), and then a size up or down. Or if your wires typically feel tight, you could try the next two sizes up.

When trying on the wire, place it up against your breast root, the area where your breast tissue joins your chest wall. It should rest comfortably against the edges of your breast like it is sitting in a pocket. If you’re having trouble seeing your breast root, lift your breast tissue up higher or even raise your arms to see this line.

Finding Your Wire Size | Cloth Habit

Finding the root on the side of your breast can sometimes be a little harder. Some of us have breast tissue under the arms. And sometimes it is hard to see where extra fatty tissue from our arms or side is distinct from breast tissue. (There are a lot of opinions about whether or not underarm flesh is “migrated” breast tissue, but this is something I’d rather hear from my OBGYN. Please ask yours if you have questions about it.) In this case, try to find the wire that sits most comfortably against the side of your breast and doesn’t look like it is riding up onto your actual breast.

Hopefully this will give you a good place to start. Unless you have the special opportunity of taking a bra-fitting workshop in person, you will have to buy and try a few until you find one you like, which I believe is worth the small investment!

special cases

Sometimes there are special cases in wire fitting. Perhaps you have made a bra or two and still feel like something is wrong in your wire fit. So let’s discuss a few of those!

1. Pokey Wires

Perhaps the wire that seems to fit may seem a little too long or too pokey for your comfort. This might be the case if your breasts are higher up on your chest, closer to your underarms. Instead of trying to hunt down a shorter wire, consider buying some wire cutters! They’re an inexpensive investment and my bra-making friend–I wrote about cutting and tipping wires in this post.

2. Big Cup, Small Band

Traditionally, wire sizes increase by anywhere from 6 to 10mm in diameter per size. And as the sizes go up, these varying “grading” increases can add up to big differences for larger cups. If you have the cup volume of a 36D but have a small ribcage, the traditional wire for that size might have too wide of a diameter and could possibly wrap too far into your side.

In this case, you may want to look for a wire that is long enough to encase your breast but narrower in diameter. The Panache wire in my earlier photo is a narrower wire. Both Bra-makers Supply and Sewing Chest UK sell narrow but long wires.

3. Small Cup Needs

The opposite is true for some women who have small cups but an average band. You may have the breast volume of a 34A but need the wire with the width of a 34B. This is my personal issue. I wear a 30D bra with a wire one size larger–and cut the side length down so it doesn’t cut into my underarm.

(Please take note: I’m not an expert on special medical conditions. These are just the common issues that I have encountered.)

I hope this helps you in the search for wires! Just remember, how a wire fits and feels is a very personal thing. And even a small change in weight, post-breast feeding, etc., can change your wire size and comfort. Only you will really know how it feels, and whether you actually want to wear one! So don’t be afraid to experiment.

Bodysuits & Marilyn Moments

Nettie bodysuit | Cloth Habit

I’m really enjoying the start of summer, which normally brings on a small amount of worry. How will I make it through the furnace without losing my mind? Instead, I’m thinking about all the things I crave in summer that I don’t other times of the year. Like cucumber sandwiches. Smoothies. Inventive cocktails with big ice cubes. According to my crafty drink-making friends big square ice cubes are the rage right now. They take forever to melt and a pleasurable texture on a hot day.

Nettie bodysuit | Cloth Habit

So I have a confession to make–this is the second day in a row that I’ve worn this outfit. And it wouldn’t be the first time I’ve done something like this in hopes of getting a good blog picture. My blogging vanity has gotten the better of me! I’m not the best photoshoot planner in the world, and don’t often plan my posts ahead of time so if I miss an opportunity, I’ll wear it again, darnit! On the first day, by the time the sun started to go down I set everything up and my timer went missing. It’s too hard to take selfies without a timer.

On the second day, I had a friend to help but the wind was outrageous. This turned out to be rather fun because it makes the skirt a whole personality of its own. You may recognize this as the Megan Nielson Cascade skirt, which I made last summer and wish I had about 10 more because it’s just so light and easy. Second confession: I had more than one Marilyn Monroe moment while wearing this in the wind. Like, full on Marilyn with the skirt flipping up to my waist, one time in the grocery parking lot. Thank goodness there was a bodysuit underneath!

Nettie bodysuit | Cloth Habit

Nettie bodysuit | Cloth Habit

This is the fun Nettie bodysuit, a pattern by my gal Heather Lou of Closet Case Files. When she asked me to test the pattern I happily obliged even though I have mile long list of sewing-relating things going on lately! It’s my pleasure to support her patterns–and I don’t need much encouraging to when it comes to anything remotely lingerie-inspired. I’m totally sold on the merits of a bodysuit. I like sleek and all purpose basics that cross the lines of lingerie. I love them because they’re comfortable and easy and secretly letting me be a bit sloppy wtihout looking like it.

Heather was onto my game, and I love that she made options for super skin-showing deep backs. It has only been the last couple of years that I’ve started to wear more back-showing garments. I used to feel very nervy about revealing it due to scars and moles and whatnot but I’ve finally decided that I like the character. (I promise I did not photoshop my back–in good light you’d see it all.)

Nettie bodysuit | Cloth Habit

Anyhoos, there’s not much to tell in the way of details. This is a super easy project, an hour or so if you’re fast with the serger! I used a bamboo-cotton-spandex blend jersey that I’ve had in my stash for a few years. For some reason I bought 5 yards of the stuff but I’m glad I did because I’ve gotten good mileage out of it for several projects. It’s a bit weightier than your typical jersey so makes a great fabric that stretches well over the body without show through.

I substituted lingerie elastic as the leg finish, just because I have loads of this stuff. But next time I’m going to try the same banding finish that is used for the neckline. I have a swimsuit with this kind of banding at the legs (instead of encased rubber elastic) and it’s super comfortable.

Ok, one last outtake, just for fun. This is called my “Neiman Marcus model pose”. I have so much more fun when I’m not doing this by myself!

Nettie bodysuit | Cloth Habit
Have you tried the Nettie yet? I’m excited to make a couple more, maybe with shorter sleeves for the impending heat!

Details:
Bodysuit: Nettie by Closet Case Files (I made size 8)
Fabric: Bamboo/cotton/spandex jersey (I forgot the source!)
Elastic: Sew Sassy
Skirt: Cascade by Megan Nielson, blogged here

Photos: Stephanie Press

Bodysuits & Marilyn Moments

Nettie bodysuit | Cloth Habit

I’m really enjoying the start of summer, which normally brings on a small amount of worry. How will I make it through the furnace without losing my mind? Instead, I’m thinking about all the things I crave in summer that I don’t other times of the year. Like cucumber sandwiches. Smoothies. Inventive cocktails with big ice cubes. According to my crafty drink-making friends big square ice cubes are the rage right now. They take forever to melt and a pleasurable texture on a hot day.

Nettie bodysuit | Cloth Habit

So I have a confession to make–this is the second day in a row that I’ve worn this outfit. And it wouldn’t be the first time I’ve done something like this in hopes of getting a good blog picture. My blogging vanity has gotten the better of me! I’m not the best photoshoot planner in the world, and don’t often plan my posts ahead of time so if I miss an opportunity, I’ll wear it again, darnit! On the first day, by the time the sun started to go down I set everything up and my timer went missing. It’s too hard to take selfies without a timer.

On the second day, I had a friend to help but the wind was outrageous. This turned out to be rather fun because it makes the skirt a whole personality of its own. You may recognize this as the Megan Nielson Cascade skirt, which I made last summer and wish I had about 10 more because it’s just so light and easy. Second confession: I had more than one Marilyn Monroe moment while wearing this in the wind. Like, full on Marilyn with the skirt flipping up to my waist, one time in the grocery parking lot. Thank goodness there was a bodysuit underneath!

Nettie bodysuit | Cloth Habit

Nettie bodysuit | Cloth Habit

This is the fun Nettie bodysuit, a pattern by my gal Heather Lou of Closet Case Files. When she asked me to test the pattern I happily obliged even though I have mile long list of sewing-relating things going on lately! It’s my pleasure to support her patterns–and I don’t need much encouraging to when it comes to anything remotely lingerie-inspired. I’m totally sold on the merits of a bodysuit. I like sleek and all purpose basics that cross the lines of lingerie. I love them because they’re comfortable and easy and secretly letting me be a bit sloppy wtihout looking like it.

Heather was onto my game, and I love that she made options for super skin-showing deep backs. It has only been the last couple of years that I’ve started to wear more back-showing garments. I used to feel very nervy about revealing it due to scars and moles and whatnot but I’ve finally decided that I like the character. (I promise I did not photoshop my back–in good light you’d see it all.)

Nettie bodysuit | Cloth Habit

Anyhoos, there’s not much to tell in the way of details. This is a super easy project, an hour or so if you’re fast with the serger! I used a bamboo-cotton-spandex blend jersey that I’ve had in my stash for a few years. For some reason I bought 5 yards of the stuff but I’m glad I did because I’ve gotten good mileage out of it for several projects. It’s a bit weightier than your typical jersey so makes a great fabric that stretches well over the body without show through.

I substituted lingerie elastic as the leg finish, just because I have loads of this stuff. But next time I’m going to try the same banding finish that is used for the neckline. I have a swimsuit with this kind of banding at the legs (instead of encased rubber elastic) and it’s super comfortable.

Ok, one last outtake, just for fun. This is called my “Neiman Marcus model pose”. I have so much more fun when I’m not doing this by myself!

Nettie bodysuit | Cloth Habit
Have you tried the Nettie yet? I’m excited to make a couple more, maybe with shorter sleeves for the impending heat!

Details:
Bodysuit: Nettie by Closet Case Files (I made size 8)
Fabric: Bamboo/cotton/spandex jersey (I forgot the source!)
Elastic: Sew Sassy
Skirt: Cascade by Megan Nielson, blogged here

Photos: Stephanie Press

Wardrobe: Summer Colors

Summer Color Palette | Cloth Habit

Since my big wardrobe purge a couple weeks ago I’ve been slowly catching up with Colette’s Wardrobe Architect series. I’m actually trying to do most of the exercises, albeit in a backwards order. This planning stuff is fun! I’m getting kind of serious about not adding anything to my closet that I won’t wear.

Since I left my closet a bit empty, the first thing I did was buy a few quality basics in white and black. I’m always reaching for white or black camisoles, t-shirts or tanks. My goal is to have at least one fitted and one loose version of each.

Then I started drafting up a color palette and collecting some summer wardrobe inspirations on Pinterest.

Coming up with an inspirational color palette is one of my favorite seasonal activities, but this time I thought a little bit harder about what constitutes neutrals and statement colors, what colors I’ve been consistently drawn to no matter the season or year, and what’s been catching my fancy this year. Normally I just go with the latter but it never makes for an intentional wardrobe plan!

Here was my original color palette before it got whittled down.

Summer Color Palette | Cloth Habit

Looking at this now, I’m surprised I’m in such a colorful mood, and I never perceived myself as a pastels gal. You might guess from my Signature Style board that I’m normally drawn to eccentric, intellectual, moody and quite masculine style. I consistently come back to black and red and white. Red was actually one of my “neutrals”–I never think about it as a statement color. For some reason in my eyes it goes with everything!

But there is always the gardener and wildflower lover in me. I’m quite fond of blushy pinks and pale corals in particular. When picking out roses for my garden years ago, I got obsessed with what I call the prefect shell pink. It’s couldn’t be too peachy, or too pinky, but almost translucent. My favorite is Souvenir de La Malmaison–its blooms gradually disappear into a pale warm pink after a few days in the sun.

A little bit new to me are minty colors. Jade, celadon and those moodier mints keep attracting me. Or the color of an ice cube as it drops into a mint julep.

Anyhoos, you’ll get to see a lot of these colors in action by mid-summer. Over the last couple of months, I’ve been dyeing up a group of fabrics, mixing my own dye colors for a group of lingerie items. I’m down to the very last dye pot and just love having all these fabrics in my dream colors hanging around me!

Do you like coming up with seasonal palettes?

Photo credits (with licensed permission): Amir Jina, Jenny Downing, Rijks Museum

Making a Foam Cup Bra: Part 3

Today I’m going to finish my bra!

At this point I have two sets of cups–the foam cups and the outer coverings–and have also assembled my frame and band, including putting in the hem elastic. Most of the remaining steps are the same as your normal bra construction. If you need to fill in some gaps on constructing bras, check out the Bra-making Sew Along.

Covering the Cup

1. Before I start assembling the cups, I like to finish the neckline and underarm area of the foam cup with either narrow serging or a zig-zag. This helps to flatten the edge of the foam.

Cloth Habit | Making a Foam Cup Bra: Part 3

Some bra-makers like to zig-zag around the entire edge of the cup but I’ve never had trouble with these edges being too thick. Experiment to find what you like…

2. To join the fabric cup pieces, line up the necklines with the right side of the outer cup fabric against the inside of the foam. Stitch 1/8″ away from the edge. (The distance between the needle and the toe of my presser foot is 1/8″, which makes this easy.)

Cloth Habit | Making a Foam Cup Bra: Part 3

Turn out the outer cup piece to the front of the foam. It should look like this on the inside:

Cloth Habit | Making a Foam Cup Bra: Part 3

3. Now we’re going to baste the cup fabric to the foam so the cup can be treated as one piece. Arrange and smooth the cup fabric gently so it lines up well around the foam cup and pin close to the edges.

Cloth Habit | Making a Foam Cup Bra: Part 3

While you’re pinning, check the cup occasionally by rounding it over your your fist. This helps to make sure you haven’t pulled too hard on the outer fabric, and potentially flattened the cup. Depending on how stretchy your fabric is, it will sometimes go past the edge of the foam–that’s ok! You’ll trim this off later.

Once this is pinned and smoothed out, baste the fabric and foam together, keeping your stitching inside of 1/4″. (I stitched about 1/8″ away from the foam edge.) You are only going to baste the wire seam–the seam that goes into the cradle.

Cloth Habit | Making a Foam Cup Bra: Part 3

After basting, trim away the excess fabric that hangs over the foam. I do this by running a rotary cutter around the edge of the foam:

Cloth Habit | Making a Foam Cup Bra: Part 3

Man, that looks close to my finger…

Inserting the Cups & Channeling

1. Now it’s time to insert the cups into your cradle. There aren’t any special tricks here, but I wanted to show you what my hands are doing when stitch these in, because I don’t use pins when sewing in cups.

Cloth Habit | Making a Foam Cup Bra: Part 3

I hold the top layer (the cup) slightly above the bottom layer (the cradle) until just before the two layers go under the presser foot. If you have a few notches that match the cup to the cradle, it will help as you are sewing. Sewing convex to concave curves are so much easier without pins!

Cloth Habit | Making a Foam Cup Bra: Part 3

2. Once the cups are in, stitch in your channeling and topstitch as you normally do.

Cloth Habit | Making a Foam Cup Bra: Part 3

3. Close your channeling in front and insert your wires. You’re almost done! All that’s left is putting in the underarm elastic, straps and hooks.

Underarm Elastic

There are a couple of different trickeroos to underarm elastic and foam. First, you don’t want to fold the foam cup back on itself in the underarm area and create bulk. That’s why we cut off the underarm seam allowance from the foam. (Note that a foam bra don’t necessarily need elastic in the underarm area–some RTW foam cups don’t have it–but the order of sewing is a bit different than what I”m doing here.)

1. Begin sewing your underarm elastic as usual. When you get to the cup seam, stop and backtack a couple zig-zags.

Cloth Habit | Making a Foam Cup Bra: Part 3

Fold the excess cup fabric over the foam and pin it smoothly into place. Tip: Wonder Tape is genius for “basting” temporary little seams like this. For some reason I couldn’t get it to stick to the silk so I went with pins.

2. Now do your second pass of stitching. I do this from the right side so I can keep the cup fabric secured at the neckline.

Cloth Habit | Making a Foam Cup Bra: Part 3

When you get to the cup seam, keep the elastic lined up underneath. Continue to zig-zag the same distance from the edge till you get to the end, and backtack a couple of stitches to secure.

Cloth Habit | Making a Foam Cup Bra: Part 3

The finished arm elastic:

Cloth Habit | Making a Foam Cup Bra: Part 3

Finishing Up

Time to put in your straps and hooks! I’m assuming you have a favorite method of inserting your straps.

Normally, I like to put the adjusters in front and often use a technique I described in this post to stabilize the ring “loop”. However, I did a dumb-dumb and forgot to cut the arm elastic long enough for a loop! Ah well. I put my adjusters in back, and secured the edge of the strap on top of the strap elastic to hide it neatly away.

Cloth Habit | Making a Foam Cup Bra: Part 3

Stitch in your hooks and eyes, and you’re done! Annnd here is my finished bra:

Cloth Habit | Making a Foam Cup Bra: Part 3

In case you are wondering, silk makes a lovely bra material! For some eye candy and silk bra inspirations (many with foam cups), have a look at Stella McCartney, Fleur of England, or the Rolls Royce of silk bra design, Carine Gilson. I’ve been wanting to knock off one of her bras for years. Her designs got me wanting to make bras in the first place… I’ll just have to practice a bit of applique first!

Credits: All Photos by Stephanie Press

See more posts in the series Make a Foam Cup Bra.

Making a Foam Cup Bra: Part 2

Making a Foam Cup Bra: Pt 2 | Cloth Habit

Today I’ll be cutting out my pieces and get started sewing. First, let’s make some some changes to your cup pattern to work with foam.

As I mentioned yesterday, these techniques can be used with any bra cups. I’d recommend starting with a pattern that you are familiar with making. It can have any kind of seaming. If your favorite bra pattern is a frameless bra (Kwik Sew 3300 is one example of these), there are tricks to stitching in the channeling in such a way that doesn’t fold the foam back on itself. I couldn’t cover that here, but hopefully this tutorial will give you a good place to start!

Here’s the pattern I’ll be working with:

Making a Foam Cup Bra: Pt 2 | Cloth Habit

Sometimes I make these cups with a strap extension but for this tutorial I made a straight neckline to make things easier to follow.

[Edited to Add: The pattern I am using is not a commercial bra pattern for sale, but rather my own self-drafted pattern. If you are interested in turning a two-piece cup into a 3-piece cup, you might want to have a look at this tutorial.]

Pattern Alterations

1. Retrace your cup pieces so that you have two sets: one for the main cup fabric and one for the foam. It’s really a good idea to trace what will be your foam pieces onto some kind of heavier weight paper (card stock, watercolor paper, manila folder, anything that keeps its edge will do).

2. On the foam cup pieces, you’ll need mark in and remove all seam allowances along these three areas: the seams that go across the cup, the underarm, and the neckline. Don’t remove the seam allowances where the cup joins the cradle (the wire seam).

Making a Foam Cup Bra: Pt 2 | Cloth Habit

Most bra patterns have 1/4″ (6 mm) seam allowances around all these edges, or don’t have seam allowances so you have to add them. I find it a good practice to keep seam lines marked in all my bra patterns so I can made accurate adjustments.

3. Next I consider how I want to finish my neckline. For this tutorial, I’m making a clean finish neckline, in which the cup fabric will roll neatly over the top of the cup.

On the fabric cup pattern, add a 3/8″ allowance to the underarm seam and the neckline. Half of this is seam allowance and the other half is cloth allowance for folding over the thickness of the foam.

Making a Foam Cup Bra: Pt 2 | Cloth Habit

There are other ways to finish the neckline. If you want to bind the entire neckline with something like foldover elastic, you would cut off the neckline seam allowances from both the foam and main cup pieces.

If you want scalloped lace along the edges, you’d also cut off the neckline SAs from both foam and main cup pieces. I also shave a little bit more off the foam neckline on top of that–about 1/8″–so that it doesn’t peek out above the scallops.

Cutting

Now that all the pieces are ready, let’s get everything cut. When cutting from the foam, I gently hold down the pieces and trace around them with a ball point pen. (Sharpies and markers will bleed and make indefinite lines. Chalk and wax pencils don’t show up.)

Making a Foam Cup Bra: Pt 2 | Cloth Habit

Cut away the lines…

Making a Foam Cup Bra: Pt 2 | Cloth Habit

I also make tiny dots near the edge to mark the notch points (no snipping).

Making a Foam Cup Bra: Pt 2 | Cloth Habit

Foam Cup Assembly

1. To assemble the foam cups, butt the pieces together so that the foam lies edge to edge and is centered right under your presser foot. You’re going to zig-zag them together. You can use either a triple zig-zag or regular zig-zag. Whatever width you use, make sure it is wide enough to catch both sides of the butted seam.

Making a Foam Cup Bra: Pt 2 | Cloth Habit

As I am sewing, I am trying to gently butt the edges against each other without leaving a gap, or without forcing or squishing the edges together.

Making a Foam Cup Bra: Pt 2 | Cloth Habit

And here’s what it looks like stitched up:

Making a Foam Cup Bra: Pt 2 | Cloth Habit

2. Totally optional: At this point I can consider the foam cups finished, but sometimes I like to cover the inside seams. Covering the seams can add a bit of support to the cup and make it prettier. But don’t feel like this is necessary–there’s nothing wrong with leaving them uncovered.

I’ve tried a few different seam coverings. Narrow cotton twill tape makes a neat, trim covering but it has no give. I also tried a single layer of tricot seam tape but this was far too flimsy. My favorite is a wide bias seam tape that has been folded into thirds.

First I cut 3/4″ strips of tricot along the bias. Then I pressed each side under by a little less than 1/4″ so that the resulting width of the folded tape was just a smidge over 1/4″ (6mm). I centered this folded tape over my foam seams and stitched down each side of the tape.

Making a Foam Cup Bra: Pt 2 | Cloth Habit

You can also zig-zag down the tape (see the very top photo of this post). Sometimes stitching down either side can be tricky when you are first getting used to working with tricot. This stuff can be slithery and chiffon-like but it makes such a soft and delicate lining. I even use it as seam tape to cover delicate seams in silk dresses because it practically disappears and never ravels.

3. Now go ahead and assemble your main fabric cups.

Making a Foam Cup Bra: Pt 2 | Cloth Habit

At this point you should have two sets of cups, one from foam and one from your outer fabric. On Monday I’ll finish off by showing how I cover the cups and stitch them into the cradle. In the meantime, you can go ahead and assemble your band the way you normally do and add your hem elastic.

Happy weekend!

See more posts in the series Make a Foam Cup Bra.

Making a Foam Cup Bra: Part 1

This summer I have planned a few foam-lined bras for my wardrobe. One of these is going to be strapless style I can wear comfortably underneath my low-backed tops and dresses. Comfort being a key word, because I have never found a strapless that doesn’t make me squeam.

I like using foam linings when I want a supporting bra but also want to use an outside cup fabric that’s really light or stretchy. For example, I made these bras from rayon jersey scraps because I loved the print, and the foam gives them shape and support.

Making a Foam Cup Bra | Cloth Habit

I’ve been promising a tutorial on these forever, so here we go! Over the next three posts, I’ll be sharing how I adapted a bra pattern for a foam lining, along with a few construction tips. Some of these techniques can also be used for making foam cups to insert into a swimsuit or bodysuit, too!

Today I’m going to cover materials…

Materials You Need

  • bra pattern
  • sheet foam, approximately 1/8 yard
  • materials and notions for making one bra
  • sheer or light tricot lining (optional, for making seam tape)
  • manila folder, cardstock, or sturdy paper on which to re-trace some of your pattern pieces (avoid tissue–it is impossible on foam!)

Patterns: To follow along with these tutorials, you can use any underwired bra pattern that fits, provided the cups fit in non-stretch fabric and the bra is a full frame (aka full band) style. Frameless bras require slightly different pattern adaptations.

For cup fabrics, the world is your oyster. You can try a lycra/spandex type fabric, lace, any knit, or even something like a satin woven! For this tutorial I chose a blush stretch silk charmeuse, scraps of which were in my stash.

Making a Foam Cup Bra | Cloth Habit

Where to Buy Foam

Sheet foam suitable for bra-making goes by a few different terms. These foams can have either a brushed or satin tricot finish on the outside. Sometimes they have some spandex/lycra content for a little bit of “give”. They can be anywhere from 2-5mm thick (usually around 1/8″), and some are spongier than others. I’ve sampled foams from four different retailers, and in my experience most of these them adapt to the body and eventually flatten a bit with wear.

Here’s where you can find them (links go to the page with sheet foam products):

  • Bra-makers Supply (“laminate foam” and “stretch spacer foam”)
  • Make Bra
  • Fabric Depot Co. (“tricot-bonded poly filler”)
  • Sewing Chest
  • Spandex House (spacer foam–I recommend asking specifically for a foam for bra-making, as they carry various types)
  • Sew Sassy (“polylaminate foam”)
  • Sewy (“spacer foam”)
  • Spandex World sells spacer foam but I’m not sure if it is suitable for bras. (I’m guessing they are more appropriate for surfwear and running pants.) You may want to ask for samples.

Sew Sassy and Fabric Depot also sell a poly fiberfill fabric. These are a wadding bonded to a satin-y tricot, and offer many of the same benefits as sheet foam.

*Interesting factoid: Spacer foam is a distinct type of foam that looks and behaves a lot like laminate foam, but the foam is not heat laminated to tricot. The foam core and outer layer are knitted together on the same tricot machine, which allows for a more “breathable” foam. Some lingerie brands even market this technology in their bras.

Consider the Silhouette

If you have a bit of extra foam to play with, might want to sew up a trial cup in foam to see what shape it takes. I find this kind of fun, actually. The pattern may have a good fit and shape in softer fabrics but in foam the shape will be slightly different. Sometimes I even tape together a printer paper version of my cups to get a rough idea of the silhouette:

Making a Foam Cup Bra | Cloth Habit

I added a second seam to the bottom piece of a two-piece cup for a rounder cup. Adding this seam is actually very easy!

Of course paper isn’t going to tell you everything but it’s still a good way to visualize in 3D. I also tape up a paper cup and hold it up to myself so I can see if my strap attachment point is located in a comfy place.

Tomorrow I’ll share my pattern adaptations and get started on the sewing!

p.s. Just in case anyone asks–this tutorial is not for a seamless bra or a push-up bra. There are many styles and techniques to foam bras so hopefully this tutorial will give you ideas you can experiment with!

See more posts in the series Make a Foam Cup Bra.

Spring Cleaning

Last week I started to catch up on my blog reading and was completely sidetracked by the wonderful Wardrobe Architect series on the Coletterie blog. I’ve been reading others’ experiences in following along and I just knew I’d get sucked into it! Since January, Sarai has been writing on a number of topics on personal style and wardrobe curating.

Over Christmas, I was already thinking it was time to do major wardrobe (and fabric stash) overhaul, so this series couldn’t have come at a better time. At first I wanted to overhaul my closet just to conserve space, but then it became an itch to gesso the entire canvas. I had a free Saturday last weekend, so I went into Spring Cleaning Overdrive and spent a good six hours taking apart my closets from top to bottom.* I even went after my makeup, accessories, and lingerie.

Spring Cleaning | Cloth Habit

Before: It’s not that messy, but I really can’t find my scarves in there…. it’s all a jumble.

I purged my closets one other time in my life, before I was married and right before I moved to Europe in my early 30s, but there was no rhyme or reason to it other than that I needed to fit all my belongings into two suitcases. I lost some treasures in the process like my favorite 70s rust color suede jacket with the huge pointy collar and brass snaps.

Spring Cleaning | Cloth Habit

AFTER (left): I can see!

I like how Sarai began the series with some very thoughtful and introspective exercises before moving into more practical ones. I’ve always been a big believer that style is a very personal thing, and expresses so much in self image, lifestyle, social dress codes, and cultural and spiritual values, whether intentionally or not. Or it reacts to those things. Digging a little deeper into the “why of you” is such a great place to start.

I’m sort of a 10,000 leagues-under-the-sea personality so I’ve always loved exploring the deeper matters of what fashion expresses. Over 10 years ago I kept a journal about clothing and its meanings, and loved writing into my own style personality, invariably quoting social theorists, Yeats or the Bible as I went along. I wrote about why I was drawn to certain colors and fragrances and what they meant to me philosophically, or how certain landscapes, my religious upbringing, or interest in Celtic history were naturally expressed in my clothes.

Spring Cleaning | Cloth Habit

Celtic knotwork from my old journal. It’s as addictive as Tetris.

So I love to experiment with fashion but I don’t always know what I’m doing. When I first started this blog, I had just read through some personal style books in an attempt to get better at making conscious wardrobe choices. I think it was all connected to turning 40. What I really wished for was a French godmother to teach me all those French dressing tricks–or as I would put it, the non-tricks–to being a woman of a certain age. I pretty much have the non-tricks down with my hair–I don’t fuss with it–but would love to have more of that knowing with my clothes. One of my favorite books was Nina Garcia’s The One Hundred, which inspired me to start the blog with a goal of sewing ten classic pieces.** I ended up making six of them but it also got me thinking–just because I’m turning 40, do I need to start thinking classic? I tried ballet flats and just don’t like them. Am I getting old with the Chucks high tops? (My favorites now are Supergas.)

And then there was climate confusion. My first full summer in Austin was quite a shock. I didn’t know how to dress or groom in this climate, at all. I missed sweaters, coats, layering–and drapey layering is one thing that has always been a part of my personal style. I couldn’t quite bring myself to wear flip flops. It took a lot of confidence and practice to adjust to bearing skin all the time, wearing strappy shoulder dresses, shorts and sandals eight months of the year–and feeling good in those things.

Although my wardrobe has fleshed out with more summer clothes and in the process I’ve discovered my love of billowy, drapey silk blouses and tanks, it’s still top-heavy with the impractical–too nightlife for my lifestyle, too hot for summer, or just plain ill-fitting.

I look forward to re-thinking some of this with my newly blank canvas. Well, it’s not entirely blank. But I managed to whittle down the party dresses to three. And I left myself with no white tee-shirts or tanks. There is a time a t-shirt must come to an end and transform into one of my husband’s motorcycle rags. I’m excited to plan out a thoughtful wardrobe that starts with a few needed basics and then builds into a little capsule collection for summer.

Have you ever done a major wardrobe purge?

*I used this Wardrobe Detox advice as I was picking through everything. Good stuff!

**Wait, I just realized I passed my three-year blogiversary! I’d totally forgotten about my first post.

Lingerie Friday: The Foam Cup

For most of my early adult life, my knowledge of bra styles began and ended with seamless t-shirt bras. Truth be told, I didn’t like spending money on bras but living in Europe had an effect on my tastes. Now and then I’d get sucked into a candy-colored lingerie boutique or an old-world department store like KaDeWe in Berlin and splurge on something I thought was a bit more exotic. A pretty French lace bra. Back then, even Nordstroms in the U.S. was mostly a sea of seamless bras, except for the occasional lace number by Elle Macpherson–one of the lingerie brands that I think changed the game of somewhat affordable, la-la lingerie.

One thing I learned in my lingerie explorations that “foam bra” didn’t necessarily equal push-up or seamless bra.

Molded Foam Bras

There are bras in which foam is simply a support or modesty lining, and then there are those which use foam as a shaper or extra padding. You are probably familiar with the Wonderbra-style pushup bras, which are a molded foam-cup bra in which the foam has more thickness in the bottom. I call that a “plumper bump” (totally non-technical name I just made up!) The bump is there to push the breast volume upward, and it can sometimes be quite extreme. I recently saw a Wonderbra that had what I swear was a 1″ thick plumper bump in the bottom of the foam cup, and this was a 36G.

This is one of my bras, a Calvin Klein push-up with a plumper bump.

Lingerie Friday: The Foam Cup | Cloth Habit

Hopefully you can see the plumping part by its shadow.

A bra can also add push-up effects with a floating foam cookie. These bras usually have a sheer lining pocket into which you can insert the cookie if you want to add volume to the cup or take it out if you don’t.

This is an example of a Cosabella seamless foam bra with a removable foam cookie.

Lingerie Friday: The Foam Cup | Cloth Habit

I should mention that without the cookie, this particular bra doesn’t really add much “size” or volume. The molded cup is fairly thin.

Cut and Sewn Foam

The previous two examples are bras made with a molded foam cup, but there is yet another type of foam bra. In the bra industry, any kind of bra with a seamed cup is normally called “cut-and-sew” style, and that also includes designs which have a seamed foam lining. Seamed foam bras were popular before the Wonderbra trend of the 90s made molded bras ubiquitous, but they are still quite common especially among mid-range and luxury brands. Are they more expensive to produce than molded bras? I don’t know.

An example of an Elle Macpherson strapless bra with cut-and-sew foam:

Lingerie Friday: The Foam Cup | Cloth Habit

The outside of a Stella McCartney bra with cut foam.

Lingerie Friday: The Foam Cup | Cloth Habit

You can’t even see the foam on the inside, which is completely lined with silk charmeuse. So luxurious!

Lingerie Friday: The Foam Cup | Cloth Habit

If you were take apart any of the above bras, you’d find that the foam thickness and flexibility really vary. My personal favorite seamless t-shirt bra is made from what Chantelle markets as “memory foam” (which I think is probably a lightweight spacer foam with a bit of spandex). I like it because it does feel light and invisible under t-shirts (that and it really fits me well).

One of the common misconceptions about “foam bras” is that they are all push-up or volume-adding bras. Most of the time, foam is really just an extra layer of support, or the entire layer of support. A true push-up bra has a lot of little tricks in it, not just in the thickness of the foam–wire shape, bridge and the mold over which the cup is formed all play a part in pushing your volume around. Bra-makers have been trying to patent these ideas since bras were bras!

Where to Find It

On the bottom of my Bra-making Supplies page, I included a list of stores that offer sheet foam for bras. My favorite comes from Sew Sassy–it’s light, flexible and very soft. Many bra-making suppliers also sell molded cups.

Aside from my one experiment with a molded cup bra, I much prefer making seamed bras. In my experience they have more potential for a totally custom fit. But as you can see from my (worn) examples, there is a place and reason for all sorts of bras in my lingerie drawers.

Next week I’m (finally!) going to share a seamed foam cup tutorial. I think I’ll be breaking this down into three posts, as I wanted to include as many photos as possible. See you then!

♥Amy

Lingerie Friday: Where Do You Find Your Fabrics?

Over the last year I’ve gotten many great emails with all sorts of questions about bra and lingerie making. Some readers have asked about techniques, and others about patterns and fitting. I love getting these kinds of emails and if I don’t know the answer, I hunt for it. So I thought it was about time I started to dedicate some regular posts to your questions.

Your #1 question, by leaps and bounds: Where do you find your bra and lingerie fabrics? To which I often reply, all over the place! There are some tips in this post of the Bra-making Sew Along, and I often include my sources at the bottom of my sewing projects, but I have never centralized it all in one place. So today I published a new page on my site to make your research a bit easier.

Lingerie Friday: Where to Find Bra Supplies | Cloth Habit

Click above to visit the new page! For the rest of today’s post I’ll share a few shopping tips along with some of my personal favorites.

Where Do I Start?

If you are brand new to bra-making, I highly recommend starting out with a bra-making kit. You may not like the colors or the fabrics in a particular kit, but it’s a very good way to get used to all the little tidbits you need, especially while you experiment with construction and fitting. After a bra or two you will get a feel for the fabrics and notions you prefer and need. On the supplies page, I noted all the stores which sell bra-making kits. Some of these kits are specifically designed for making a company’s particular patterns. I’m able to use most of a kit in my own self-drafted bras and what I don’t like I stash away for “bra muslins”.

Annnd, because I’m a rather small size, I’m often able to get two or even three bras out of one kit.

My Personal Favorites For Basics

I buy most of my basic bra supplies from Fabric Depot Co. in Texas and Merckwaerdigh in Netherlands. I stash several basics in white and dye them. This practice works for me because I love to dye and I’m a bit of a perfectionist with color!

From Fabric Depot Co.: strap elastic, plush band elastic, tricot linings, medium weight powernet for firmer bands. All of these things are top quality but in limited colors. Most of her elastics are nylon-based and not polyester so I am able to dye them. For strong, supportive bra cups, I buy the “opaque stabilized tricot”. This is very much like the Duoplex that Bra-makers Supply uses in their kits, and it takes nylon dye beautifully!

From Merckwaerdigh: hook & eyes, neckline elastic (for the stabilizing the top of a lace cup), underwire channeling. I love her channeling. She sells a ton of colors of these products but I usually buy white!

Underwires: I buy my personal bra wires from Sew Sassy, as I like their wider shape. For larger cup bras, my favorites come from Sewing Chest UK. Most of their wires are very firm gauge steel, which means they hold their shape well, and come in a great range of shapes and lengths.

Laces: I’ve turned into a bonafide lace huntress. These days I trawl Etsy and Ebay for both stretch laces and non-stretch “tulle” laces for for more supportive cups. On my resources page I mentioned some of my favorite shops and some search tips.

Gold and silver hardware: Sewing Chest UK and Bra-makers Supply. As some of you have discovered, dyeing the nylon-coated rings and sliders isn’t the easiest thing in the world–some dye colors take to them better than others. While you can find pre-colored nylon rings, I just pass in favor of silver and gold. They are a bit more expensive but such a lovely extra touch on a bra. Clear plastic is always a neutral option but I just don’t like plastic. I also rescue the hardware from old bras.

Lingerie Friday: Where to Find Bra Supplies | Cloth Habit

It never hurts to ask: Many of the shops that specialize in bra, lingerie or corsetmaking are one-woman run businesses. And they often have product in their inventory that they don’t list online or in their catalogs. If you are having trouble finding something close to your favorite underwire, or want a different color of something, or more or less of a certain fabric, call or email them. I have found some great products this way, and all of the women behind these shops are super friendly.

Swatches are My Best Friends

When I was first learning about bra fabrics, I collected swatches. This was a great way to get a feel for a fabric before committing to yardage. I recommend swatches before purchasing just about any type of tricot or powernet/stretch mesh. The quality, weight, stretch and drape of these fabrics vary wildly, and oh, how I wish sellers would include gram or ounce weights in their descriptions. (Hint, hint–I know you’re reading!)

But I’d love to help you navigate. I look forward to doing just that in an upcoming series of posts that will help demystify lingerie fabrics. Next week, I’m going to talk foam, foam, foam.

Is there a fabric or notion you have had trouble finding? Or is there a fabric in one of your favorite store bras you wish you could find?

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