Bra Making: Designing a Strapless Bra

Hello all! So I have been a little quiet here on the blog and elsewhere online, but I’m working on some really fun projects, which include lingerie patterns and even a mini collection of handmade pieces. I have a hard time stopping mid-process to write about it, but promise I’ll give a sneak peak soon. First let’s dive into my obsession du jour:

planning a design for a strapless bra | Cloth Habit

As you have probably picked up from my previous hints and attempts at a bustier, I’ve been working my way towards fitting a strapless bra this summer. I needed one like yesterday! They aren’t just for formal occasions but super functional in my climate–under summer tops with narrow straps or bare shoulders, which I’m wearing almost daily now. I’ve never found one that fits me properly, but in all fairness they harder to fit. I knew this would be a fun project to engineer. I’m not going to write any tutorials for this but thought y’all might like to follow along as I design one for myself!

First I made a list of what I don’t like about the ones I’ve owned:

  • The wires often poke too much under my arms. (RTW strapless wires are usually higher and often stronger than regular wires, and don’t splay as much.)
  • If the cup fits, the wires are often too narrow, resulting in more poking.
  • The bottom of the cup often collapses because the band won’t stay up where it needs to be. I looked inside every one of my strapless bras and they all had this little flat folded spot in the foam at the bottom of the cup. This could be the result of the wires being too narrow for me, but the most likely culprit is the band not holding the bra up enough.

To get some strapless ideas, I had a look through some of my favorite online shops. And I’d basically boil them all down to two types: the no-holds-barred structured torsolette with boning, corset-type seams, and firm powernet fabrics (examples: one, two, three). Or 2. The seamless “everyday” kind with molded cups and one piece of fabric that covers the entire outside of the bra for a smooth look (examples: the popular Fantasie Smoothing bra). There is a rare breed in between, with cut-and-sew cups and retro-inspired design. These tend to be my favorites! I’ve pinned a few of these to my Lingerie Design board if you want some ideas.

Next I drew out some ideas on my handy-dandy bra template. I drew this up so I could think quickly through bra designs and future patterns.

Planning design for a strapless bra | Cloth Habit

Kitty bomb!

I think I am going to go with a 3-piece cup. A two-piece vertically-seamed cup could work but it is harder to fit in a taller cup with more coverage. The taller the cup the more contouring it needs along the neckline, especially if it is strapless. Perhaps in a future post I’ll explain how that works!

Planning design for a Strapless Bra | Cloth Habit

Then I need to figure out the band. This is really the crucial part. A lot of strapless bras have such narrow bands of lightweight fabric, and rely too much on gripper elastic to hold it in place, like the bra in the above photo. (My current and very ill-fitting strapless.)

Finally, I need to do some overall re-fitting due to size changes, and try different wire lengths. Normally I cut my wires down to something much shorter than a full cup wire. I like them short in front and at the sides, but I’m not sure my usual short cups will work so well in a strapless. I’ll get to work on the fitting this weekend and report back on what I came up with. Stay tuned!

16 comments

  1. Kimberly says:

    Can’t wait to see your strapless! I follow your blog and get a great number of ideas and helpful hints. Not sure if it will help you in your strapless design; I (as a 30d) have found that side boning, a little wider strap, and a little more fabric under the cups (can’t think if the proper term here….) really help in keeping everything, well, up. Please keep posting!

  2. robin says:

    I’ll be following your progress as I am interested in this also. You seem to be off to a good start.

  3. Michelle says:

    Amy, all I can think is you are so brave!
    I’m sure it will be lovely – just like all your other creations. I’m looking forward to seeing it when you’re done. I agree, strapless are harder to fit.

  4. YAY! SO excited to hear you’re still working on the patterns. I’M DYING FOR THEM! Please do a strapless bra one. They are IMPOSSIBLE to buy for this rack in retail. Good luck and let me know if you need anything! xoxoxo

  5. Amy says:

    OMG!! I am so excited that you are doing this! It is something I was interested in trying when my bra making skills got a bit better. I have this one that used to be part of this chiffon fluffy thing but I cut it out- it has 3/4-1″ elastic going around the band at the top and bottom and it always felt more secure. It was an idea I thought might be really helpful. I’m not there yet so thought I’d share. Food for thought. Otherwise that one is a basic everyday molded cup style. And I hate the folded bits in the cups!! Can’t wait to see how this goes. Bonne Chance!

  6. CGCouture says:

    I don’t know if this will help, but I had a VS strapless that aside from being 3 band sizes too big and several cup sizes too small was pretty awesome. The band had a wide (3″ maybe) elastic on the inside that was tighter than the outside band, so that the band is rippled when it’s not on the body. It still had gripper stuff, but it didn’t seem like it pinched as much, so I’m assuming that it wasn’t working nearly as hard. Maybe you can crack the code of how much smaller the elastic needs to be, because after that, I would think the rest would be fairly straightforward. Plus if you can figure out some sort of ratio, we could then apply it to our own makes. 🙂

    • Amy says:

      I like the idea of a 3rd line of elastic inside. A few years ago I bought a longline bra with something like this–a line of wide elastic right under the cups in addition to the elastic that runs at the bottom of the band. It’s probably the firmest band I’ve worn without being uncomfortable.

  7. Grace says:

    This is so awesome. I feel like I’ve been searching for a long line bran and a bustier forever. It’s definitely one of those styles that makes me want to finally make my own bras. Thank you for sharing!

  8. Rosanna Privitera says:

    I have been on a quest to find a strapless comfort strapless bra, not for parties but every day . I have large girls and my shoulders have indentations and neck spasms. The Chiropracter told me it would be something she would endorse because so many women need relief!!

      • Amy says:

        I’m sure it can be done! Front closures do sacrifice some aspects of fit in that they add quite a bit of width between the cups, which isn’t always a good thing for larger breasts. In reply to your previous comment, I totally understand your dilemma. Your straps shouldn’t be bearing the weight of support so you may want to search for a bra with a better/firmer fitting band. It really does help. Of course a strapless bra will alleviate all of that but the band has to be even firmer and often longer to keep the cups in position.

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