Bra-making Sew Along: Hack Your Bra #1

I have to admit that this part of the sew-along is the part I was most excited about! I love the process of thinking about shapes, of sitting down with paper and rulers (or lately, Illustrator) and drawing new design ideas. I know pattern-making can seem intimidating but bras are such a great way to jump in and exercise your secret hacker. It all involves so little paper and fabric!

So in the spirit of my Lingerie Fridays, I want to share some of my favorite bras with you along with some ideas on how to generate them from your base pattern.

band style

How about a longline? (Cool examples: Freya, Fortnight…) I love these for style but they’ve got a function, too. The wider the band, the more supportive it is. And I think they look pretty sweet underneath thinner tops. I’ve made this alteration to a few of my bras:

How to make simple style alterations to a bra pattern, from the Bra-making Sew Along | Cloth Habit

You can lengthen the band straight from center front, side seam and back, as the lines in red demonstrate. The longer these lines get, the narrower the band will at the bottom so if you need more width you might have to try lengthening at a different angle (lines in blue).

How to make simple style alterations to a bra pattern, from the Bra-making Sew Along | Cloth Habit

strap style

How about fabric or lace straps?

How to make simple style alterations to a bra pattern, from the Bra-making Sew Along | Cloth Habit

Again, style and function–the less elastic the strap, the longer it lasts. This beautiful Stella bra uses a scalloped lace and a silk satin strap in the front.

The back design is really up to you. I love having options in back strap designs. It’s easy to change your pattern back and forth from a u-back to a camisole back.

How to make simple style alterations to a bra pattern, from the Bra-making Sew Along | Cloth Habit

In a camisole style, the elastic works best if it is tacked down to both the top and bottom of the band.

bridge style

You can do a lot of funky things with the bridge, too. If you are using longer underwires but want create a little plunge effect, you can try using separator wires, as in this lovely Huit bra.

How to make simple style alterations to a bra pattern, from the Bra-making Sew Along | Cloth Habit

These wires come in all sorts of shapes. The construction would be a fun puzzle, as you either need channeling or a tunnel to insert the wire. I may try this on my next bra and I’ll let ya know how it turns out!

demi cups

If a demi style appeals to you, you can always take some of the height out of your cup and bridge. This is an Elle Macpherson demi bra with similar seams as some of our patterns. To do this you’ll need shorter or plunge wires, or clip your own.

How to make simple style alterations to a bra pattern, from the Bra-making Sew Along | Cloth Habit

How to make simple style alterations to a bra pattern, from the Bra-making Sew Along | Cloth Habit

I love playing the game of “How Did They Do That?” and often do a little investigation in the stores (it must look funny, as I look inside the seams–the things you do when you sew!). So I hope this gives you some fun ideas as you continue your bra-making adventure.

Tomorrow I’ll be taking the pattern-hacking a bit further with a tutorial on adding vertical seams to your cups. After bit of a breather over the weekend, on Monday we can finally get down to the business of sewing our bras. Woo!


  1. MadeByMeg says:

    Oh I love the shape of the cups in the first pictures (with just one vertical seam). Is that from a specific pattern or is that a ‘hack’ too? I’d love a pattern with cups like that!

    • Amy says:

      Hi Meg, yes it is a very big hack–multiple hacks actually! The cups themselves were almost an entirely new cup that I drafted because I wanted more of a camisole bra without underwires. If you are interested in vertical seaming, I’m going to share a tutorial tomorrow!

  2. Naomi says:

    What fun! I’ve always been curious about the separator wires. I too LOVE the purple long line. Hope you share how to alter for the demi bra. My girls adore this style. So pretty!

  3. Sharon says:

    This is getting so addictive, I’m getting a bit worried as I will have nothing to wear over the bra! Thank you very much for these details, I can see a few styles to be copied, but first to get the base correct.

  4. Kemish says:

    I love the demi bra illustration. This is what I would like to try with my basic bra pattern and the lengthen bra band style, too. Thanks for showing us how this is in the flat pattern.

    • Amy says:

      Hi Amber, good question! There aren’t any rules to this. It’s really personal preference, and it also depends on cup size. You could try by taking out little amounts till you find the height you like… Demi bras come in a lot of different heights. When you are wearing a bra, notice how high the wires come up in front. A balconette style often has a bridge that is only as high as the apex of the breast. So if you imagine a straight horizontal line from your nipple in a supportive bra, to the CF–that is the apex/bust height. You can make it lower than that, and this is when it starts getting into plunge styles. Too low, and a bra stops being supportive for some cup sizes.

  5. Roxann says:

    Hey love your page!!! Found it by accident but the information is soooo good! Question tho, Where do you get you patterns for the demi bras?

    • Amy says:

      Hi Roxann, I don’t know of any specific patterns… what makes a cup a demi is wide open to interpretation! On this page I’m describing how to alter an existing pattern that fits to a demi style, which is really easy to do and what I did for my own bra. You may want to take a look at the other posts in the bra-making sew along series to get an idea of the patterns we used.

  6. Sophie-Lee says:

    Part of the reason I want to make my own bras (other than only owning a collection of ill-fitting bras, and aiming not to purchase any RTW) is so I can make some long-line bras which don’t seem to be availble here. I’m so glad that patterns are so easy to alter to become long-line!

  7. christina says:

    So… I am an intermediate sewer with a pile of bras with straps stretched, wires poking out , and broken clasps. I have never sewn lingerie before but am intrigued by the idea and wondered if you think I could practise construction on these poor tired pieces? Replace straps, resew band etc? until I find the gumption to make one from scratch for my poor 36ddd girls? If I could learn to make a bra I would save myself gazillions of dollars………( and they would be just the way I want them)

  8. Kehra says:

    Inspired by the demi cups example!

    Though instead, this looks like the beginnings of a great method for decreasing the height of bridge/gore to suit me. I don’t have space in-between, just a vertical crease lying along the fascia/bone. So I all need for gore is a short little equilateral triangle, and above that some tabs for seam allowance. So it appears that this alteration would be half the marching orders for that battle. I’m going to try it out.

    Love your blog, thanks for sharing all this great information!

    • Amy says:

      Hi Kehra,

      Glad I gave you some good ideas! I always customize this area on bras, by cutting the wires or shaping the bridge a bit differently till it feels just right. It’s not uncommon to have a really tiny space between the breasts in many women. A shorter bridge can feel more comfortable for sure (especially if you often have tight fascia – I’m all too familiar with that!).

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