Byzantine Lingerie Set

That is no country for old men…

This set turned out much more engraved and ancient-looking than I anticipated. I was thinking it’d be just a step up from my first two bras, a lacey black number with a bit of nude accent. But these fabrics were much less shy in person than in their online pics. The lace has a strong horizontal medallion design with metallic threads, and the lycra leans in a more bronze-taupe than nude direction. It’s hard to convey metallics in photos but it’s pretty dramatic.

As I was cutting it out, I could see I’d have to play intentionally with the strong; otherwise it’d go in the direction of Atlantic City bling. Not that I have anything against that… ironically. I was telling Derek, “this thing is going to be, kinda, um… Byzantine! Yeah.” Historic bling! And of course we immediately started discussing Yeats and what that might have to do with bras. Put two former lit grads together and you get lots of obscure writer jokes. (“Prufrock’s, like, my mantra!“)

Aesthetically, I’m in love. And at the moment, I feel I have found one of my “callings” as a dressmaker. I feel pretty stress-free about making lingerie and even possibly wasting fabric on experiments. Okay, bras don’t consume much anyway, but I also love working small and up close. (My favorite photos are macros of things like insect legs and iris veins.)

I still have some things to sort out fit-wise. The bra pattern is Pin-up Girls Classic bra in a 32B. In my last make of this I’d worked out a vertical seamed cup and for this new bra, I’d intended to make the entire cup of lace. Unfortunately the design was too directional and the repeat pattern too large to cut mirroring pieces. So I went back to the original horizontal seam and used lycra for the bottom cup. I still had a bit of lace left to squeeze out for the front band and bridge.

I’m learning that every fabric and lace requires little construction decisions along the way. I kinda like the puzzle. For example, even just a couple of mm difference in elastics might mean trimming or lengthening parts of the pattern or working around it. I may have jumped in too fast with such different fabrics than my last two bras but I’ve learned a bit more about bra fabrics. I had to rip out every seam at least once. (Ripping out serged stitches is a dream compared to the 3-step zig zag.)

These fabric and notions were all from e-lingeria. They have the loveliest stretch laces so I ordered a few at once to make the shipping from Germany worthwhile. Their kits for bras and panties include what they call “lycra” for both cups and bands, and it feels kinda like the lycra fabric in bike shorts. It’s kinda thick compared to other bra fabrics I’ve browsed. I’m assuming it’s nylon and stretches like its got about 10% lycra. As a band fabric, it’s quite comfy and good enough for support in a smaller-cupped bra.

Because it was so stretchy I figured I’d need to stabilize it for the cup. Thankfully I’d ordered some extra meterage of sheer nylon tricot, which I used as a second layer and lining. I got the idea to enclose the seam in the lining from a tutorial at Summerset’s blog. My results look clean but made for a very bulky seam, and after topstitching the seam became wavy and rigid.

And in the end, the lining didn’t seem to prevent the cup from growing in size. I probably should’ve just interfaced them instead. Or perhaps next time will have to cut the pattern smaller to accommodate stretch.

The matching panties are from Merckwaerdigh Mix 30. I like the general shaping of these–they fit like lower-cut briefs, and would be easy to change around to other styles.

I guess my lesson learned is that stretchy cup fabric does not make a good beginning bra experience. Just be warned, if you ever go for one of the ready-packaged e-lingeria kits. Kits are a great way to start because you get all the elastics and hooks and things that match. I wasn’t too happy with the elastic quality of these kits, either. (The elastic in the panties lost all their stretch after one wearing.)

On the notion-y goodness front, Wonder Tape is my new sewing BFF. (That and bra pads, which will make this bra wearable!)

I kept seeing folks on sewing boards extolling its goodness but had no idea what it was, either. It’s a roll of double-sided sticky tape in a teensy 1/8″ width that later washes out. It’s a great thing to have around if you make alterations a lot, too–like hemming.

Phew. That was a lot. That’s what I get for not blogging for two weeks. And with that I’ll leave you with my favorite bra of the week:

This is a simple but lovely long-line bra by Fortnight Lingerie. They’re a cut-and-make boutique company out of Toronto, and used to have an Etsy shop until recently. (You can some of their pretty things at Lille.) A friend of mine asked me what these kind of vintage-style bras were called, having noticed them popping up more frequently in fashion. A long-line is basically like a regular bra, except the band that goes around the cups is wider. It’s definitely a comfortable, supportive option for bigger cups without needing underwires, and I’m glad they’re getting a revival and making their way out of a niche market. Plus they’re just so dang cool.


  1. Amy says:

    You are too cute. I just cut out my muslin pieces for my bombshell dress, and I imagine they cup pieces are about the same size there as here, so I know what you mean about not using much fabric. Maybe one day I’ll try making my own undies. Until then, it’s always fascinating learning from you. Thanks for the pointers.

    • Amy says:

      I’m so glad you’ve decided to carry on with the bombshell dress and can’t wait to watch it evolve. It’ll probably be easier than this stretchy stuff!

  2. Amy says:

    Aww shucks, thanks. I finally broke down and bought Midnight in Paris… flat-out my favorite movie of the year! And I’m totally thinking of how to knock off that bra.

  3. Sarah says:

    Beautiful work! I have a couple ’30s & ’40s lingerie patterns I need to work up the courage to try.. You make it sound not too bad.

    And good to know about the local longline bra company, must check them out!

    • Amy says:

      Thanks! I’ve seen some lovely vintage bra patterns. I was surprised, too, at how easy they are in the end. Just a lot of little seams.

  4. Katherine says:

    These are really gorgeous!

    I recently received my first order from elingeria. I was surprised when their lycras stretched in both directions, as other bra making lycras that I have used stretch only in one direction and are stable in the other. I figured that I would have to use the both-direction stretch lycra for padded bras only.

    That long line bra is also gorgeous…will add this to my inspirational file!

    • Amy says:

      I’m glad to know I wasn’t the only one perplexed by the stretchiness. It’s too bad because I like the colors. But I’ve definitely got padded bras on my horizon!

  5. Lizz says:

    These are stunning! I’ve been wanting to learn to make bras for a few months now and have looked at elingerie. It’s nice to hear a review of the product.

  6. Tanit-Isis says:

    Gorgeous! (I totally want Byzantine underwear now…)

    I am such a bra-stitching voyeur. I love reading the posts, and am totally chicken about doing anything about it. Some day…

  7. Alison says:

    Those are so gorgeous! For some reason it trips me out that you actually made those. I guess because I am so used to seeing that level of pretty strictly in boutiques. Well done lady!

  8. nadine says:

    Your lingerie is gorgeus !
    I sew my bras with Elingeria notions and use their powernet fabric to line the cup; great support.

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