Do I really need to use underwires? And can I just leave them out? Or: Can you help me find a pattern that doesn’t use underwires?
I get these questions quite a bit. Many women don’t want to wear underwires for health or other personal reasons, but so much bra advice and bra making tutorials online focus on underwired bras. I hear ya!
And here’s my short answer: many soft bras are designed exactly like an underwired bra, just without the wires. So yes, you can leave out the wires, and no, you don’t need a different pattern.
Include the Underwire Casing
When sewing a pattern that calls for underwires, you’ll want to sew everything as normal, and that includes adding the wire casing (also called channeling).
Underwire casing isn’t absolutely necessary but it does a couple of great things: It finishes and hides the seam that joins the cup to the frame of the bra. And more importantly, it stabilizes that seam, which helps to prevent your cup from wiggling around to places you don’t want it to go. Most underwire casing is soft against the skin but also very stable, far more stable than simple seam tape or a serged finish.
Wired vs. Wireless
I personally love wearing a mix of soft and wired bras. I designed the Watson exclusively as a easy going, wireless bra. It’s soft and stretchy with a very forgiving fit, but that also means it’s not going to do the same things as a very supportive wired bra.
There are advantages to wired bras, especially for fuller busts:
- Underwires help control the shape of the cups and how much they lift, simply because they are the strongest component in the entire bra.
- It’s hard to keep breasts fully in a cup without wires. (In other words, your breasts might slide down into the bra frame a bit.)
- Wires, along with a firm-fitted band, can help balance the weight of your breasts, which is particularly good if you experience shoulder pain.
If you find wires uncomfortable, it may just mean that you haven’t found a wire than actually works for your body! Thankfully, there are many different underwire styles and options available to home sewists, so if you haven’t given up on wires yet, I recommend trying different styles to find what works best with your body. (And you can also cut wires, in case the wire you are trying feels too long!)
Underwires are entirely a matter of your preference. Your bra is very close to your body so it is up to you whether you want to wear wires or not. (And yes, it’s up to you whether you want to wear a bra or not! I’m not a person of “musts”.)
Would you like more fitting tips? Every other week I tackle a bra fit question or alteration in my newsletter, The Lingerie Maker.
Amy, I’m so glad to see you posting blogs again. Welcome back!
Thanks Michelle! 🙂
Welcome back! I am looking forward to your fitting posts and tips. I am learning firsthand the challenges.
I’ve been scouring the whole of the internet for this exact information. Thank you so much – and now I feel so much more confident about the Harriet I’m working on!
Thank you for the information, it is very useful. I have not made yet my mind if I want wires or not. I have even a bra with one cup with wire and the other cup without wire. It is interesting to see that the main difference is the way the breast sits in the cup of the bra; the one with the bra keeps the shape, the other one tries to sprawl in its own shape.
It is very difficult for me to find a confortable bra, this is the reason why I am considering of sewing my bras and have arrived to your page (I am something like 100-105 B or C).
One technical question, that may be you can help me with: I am always (with or without wires) pulling my bras down because it is like they get stuck under my breasts. It gets unconfortable, and I don’t know what is the technical problem of my bras.
Thanks in advance!
Hi Bego, I hope I can convince you how fun it is to make your own bras! If I had to venture a guess, it is is likely that you are wearing a band that is too big and a cup that is too small. This is actually the most common fitting problem I see. If you lift your arms and your band moves with you, then it is too big. Your cups should full encase your breast tissue and lift them up off the band. When the cups are too small and the band too big, the breasts actually start to fill in part of the band (making it feel tighter than it is), or in your case try to slide underneath your breasts. You can definitely find a bra that fits or make one that fits, but you may need to try a new style or brand that offers smaller bands and larger cups.
Here is a great blog post from the UK bra brand Curvy Kate that I often recommend people watch. It can help you determine if your bra fits.
I would like to try one of your patterns out. Which one is suitable for using padding and is wireless?
Hi Emily, umm neither really. The Watson is wireless but is drafted for lightweight stretch fabrics in the cups and foam/padding is not one of those. The Harriet could be lined with foam but requires a couple of pattern alterations. However, it is not wireless. You could leave out wires as I have mentioned here in this post, but the cup is not as supportive and I personally find that it doesn’t have the greatest shape without wires.
I’m really not a fan of underwires, but because of my bra size it’s very difficult to find a bra without them. Sometimes I just want something pretty and lacy not necessarily supportive!
I’m currently making my first bra. During the nearly 50 years I’ve used bras I’ve never been able to find out with wires that feels “right”.
I can’t decide if I’m going to leave out the wires or not in this first attempt to sew my own bra. I need E-cups and quite a lot of support, and bras without the wires doesn’t really do anything for me. Or…to be correct…everything feels too loose.
But I will leave the wires behind to begin with and see if it works this time. If not, I can always add them later.
If I saved all the money I’ve spent on bras that didn’t fit me I could’ve had a breast reduction by now :p Hopefully it won’t come to that.
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