Lingerie Friday: Art Deco Lingerie (and Foam!)

a lingerie set with seamless foam cups, inspired by geometric shapes and organic shapes of art deco!

Maybe it was all the Gatsby craze in the air. Or the Krypton set designs in Man of Steel. Blink and you’ll miss it, but I think there was an homage to the Spirit of Detroit statue–one of my favorite hometown attractions–in the “history of Krypton” scene. The rest of the movie bored me to pieces, but at least those set designs were cool. Neo-futuristic art deco. I can just hear the design team storyboarding: steel, industry, pittsburgh, steel, crumbling, detroit in the 20s…

Don’t you love how I manage to pitch Detroit hallmarks in some of my posts? It’s a part of my childhood.

Anyway, I love art deco and its mix of strong geometric symmetry with organic forms. Back in the spring, I scored some groovy rayon jersey with gold and black organic lines with no particular thought as to what it would be, but eventually it kept screaming art deco.

So I drew out an idea for a bra.

a lingerie set with seamless foam cups, inspired by geometric shapes and organic shapes of art deco!

It’s been a long time since I’ve drawn or sketched figures or fashion ideas, but there was a time I really enjoyed it. I took a few semesters of fashion illustration many years ago, but I’ve just never gotten that fast at it, and really get frustrated with colored pencils. If only I was better at watercolor…

Jersey doesn’t always work so well as an underwired cup fabric so I decided it was time to pull out foam cups. I’ve had these in my stash since I bought my very first bra-making kit.

a lingerie set with seamless foam cups, inspired by geometric shapes and organic shapes of art deco!

They are an unusual shape from what I’m accustomed to wearing, but I thought it was time I played around with them. For the cups, I wanted a two-piece cup cover with silk banding along the neckline. It is possible to drape a four-way stretch fabric completely over a cup without any darts or seams, but not only did I want to use two fabrics, both of them had limited two-way stretch. So I needed to make shaped cup pieces:

a lingerie set with seamless foam cups, inspired by geometric shapes and organic shapes of art deco!

To come with these pieces, I did a little draping experiment with some scraps of my fabric. Starting from the bottom of the cup, I pinned and smoothed the fabric, going upward until it wouldn’t lay flat anymore. Once pinned in place, I used a thin marker to draw around the cup edge and the line where the cup fabric stopped being smooth. This gave me the bottom piece. Then I did the same for the top piece, pinning from the neckline down. Once I had these two pieces, I traced the cut fabric shapes to paper and smoothed the lines out a bit till the seamlines matched. In words that probably sounds complicated but it really wasn’t! It’s just like draping, except on a really small and easy scale.

I started with my own frame and band and then figured out how to rotate the cups into the cradle. That part can be a bit of a puzzle at first. I pinned and repinned until I found the center bottom.

a lingerie set with seamless foam cups, inspired by geometric shapes and organic shapes of art deco!

I took lots of construction photos because I thought some would be curious about the process. But I think it’s a bit more fun to look at finished! I went for a little bit of bling in the form of gold hardware and silk accents…

a lingerie set with seamless foam cups, inspired by geometric shapes and organic shapes of art deco!

The bottoms are a simple high-waisted shorty that I’ve made a few times now, but for this one I’ve added a ruching detail with to the back. I think I was a bit conservative in the ruching–I might go for even more in the next pair.

a lingerie set with seamless foam cups, inspired by geometric shapes and organic shapes of art deco!

a lingerie set with seamless foam cups, inspired by geometric shapes and organic shapes of art deco!

Speaking of foam cup bras, many moons ago I promised a tutorial on how to use cut foam with a bra pattern. (And now it’s here!) And some of you have kindly written me and asked, whatever happened to that?. I promise, I haven’t forgotten! I learned so much from running the sew-along about what steps to cover, what I actually have time to do, what I still don’t know about bra-making (because there is always more to know!) and so on, that I had to scrap my original tutorial. And guess what? I’ve just finished writing up a new one with lots of photos of the process. This time I got a friend to help me photograph because it’s really hard to sew and stop and shoot, over and over, by myself. (I end up unpicking a lot of seams when I do.)

UPDATE: Check out the tutorial series How to Make a Foam Cup Bra.

Details:
Patterns: self-drafted
Main fabrics: Rayon jersey (Stitched Austin), stretch silk charmeuse (Dharma Trading)
Powermesh: local Joann’s
Foam cups: Bra-makers Supply
Dye for silk ribbon and charmeuse: Jacquard Acid Dye, Jet Black
Trims, tricot lining and other notions: mostly Fabric Depot Co.

40 comments

  1. K-Line says:

    A: Your work is SO beautiful. I love this (and I don’t even like firm cup bras). The pattern matching and colour scheme is fantastic.

  2. Naomi says:

    Simply beautiful! Thanks for sharing all the great information & inspiration you have to offer. Enjoy!

  3. Denise says:

    You are some seamstress! Congratulations! I love every single of your posts, it really inspires me…keep it up!

  4. Katherine says:

    So groovy! I love your choice of hardware. I wish I could draw out my ideas like that, but my drawing ability is about the same level as a 4 year old. The ruching at the back of the shorty is really cute. Opening your underwear drawer each day must be a lovely experience, with all those matching sets to choose from!

    • Amy says:

      Ha, my ability was really funny before I took life drawing. My grandmother was an avid sketcher and she always said to me, you have to practice! Just not enough hours in the day….

    • Amy says:

      Hey Sallie, I forgot to include that part! The post was getting so long…

      To be honest, I wouldn’t use them again. These particular cups are a little higher than I’m used to, and have a very steep curviness in the middle, causing them to “stand away”. How else to put that? Ha! It’s not too bad under certain clothes. If I use solid foam again, I’d definitely shop till I found more flexible foam or something with a different shape. But I’m mostly sticking with non-foam bras now!

      • Amy,

        You have a great talent. I love that you share it completely. I have a solution to your foam bra cup problem. Make your own from the foam available. I have made several bras using my own foam cups. Take the foam pad and cut it to your desired shape, and open it up flat and then make a pattern from it for your foam fabric. You already use the established places that sell the stuff.

        I love what you did with these fabrics and how you used in the panties as well. Are they comfortable and wearable? That is the true test of a good design from drafting to sewing a product. Thanks so much for sharing. Jnetti.

      • Amy says:

        Hi Jeanette, thanks so much for your comment and suggestions. I have made several foam bras, a few that I cut from my own patterns. (Here is an example: Polka Dot Bra.) This particular bra was an experiment. I really wanted to use a molded cup that I bought a few years ago. The panties are super wearable and comfortable! But I confess that I wear many things just because… they make me feel a bit fun & glamourous or have a design edge, and that is as important to me as comfort.

        p.s. I see that you also teach–I’ve been working on classroom ideas as I would really love to teach others bra-making, too!

  5. raquel from J.C. says:

    Ohhhh! So beautiful! You got my attention from the sketch ( wonderful drawing, if I were wacoal or soma or one of the great bra industries I would hire you ipso facto !). Congratulations!

  6. Ros says:

    Oh my Amy! This is a STUNNING set! I love the extra details, like the centre of the bra!
    I remain deeply in awe – not only did you conquer the foam cups beautifully, but you managed to tame the lycra! I have been emailing you re. my horrible foam attempts ….if the duck billed shape weren’t enough, I’ve now sewn, removed, resewn the bills….errrr….cups onto a power net backed lycra band. Either I’ve pulled the band oddly, or cut it oddly, but the cups do not line up at all – about 2 inches left of band on one side, under the arm pit hahaha!
    I look forward to reading more – you’ve inspired me to take my disaster bra out of the trash and try again 🙂

    • Amy says:

      Hi Ros, I got back to you about the duckbill ;). Very odd indeed! Sorry to hear about your band mishaps. These things happen and you’re like, what did I just do?! Are you stabilizing the area around the cradle? That helps the lycra from stretching out. It’s tempting, when sewing in cups to a cradle, to pull too hard and stretch out the cradle seam, which then travels up the armpit. I sew the cups in without pins and really let the fabrics guide themselves, lifting the foot every so often as I go so that the curves can re-arrange. If you need some tips on that, let me know!

      • Ros says:

        Thank you again Amy! You’ve been wonderfullyhelpful! I’m going to apply your suggestions that you sent me re. the duck billing (and twin needle emphasizing the issues).
        I had backed the band with power net, am not sure how it ended up so odd? And now I’ve put a hole in the material, trying to stitch rip….perhaps I will use a solid colored duoplex for the band?
        Many thanks again – loving your posts, projects, help, inspiration 🙂

  7. Rebecca Howard says:

    Love this set. I am still going strong with my bra making since your sew along. I also recommend it to lots of other people! I am thinking about upping the stakes and converting my pattern to a partial band. But maybe i should try some thin foam pads? Have you seen the book ‘Bare Essentials – Bras’? It’s by Jennifer Lynne and available as a download. I have it on my ipad. I have found it fantastic as an extra reference. There is also one on underwear and I use the underpants pattern from that one. Best undies ever. Oh, oops I haven’t tried your boyshorts pattern yet. Must do this 🙂

    • Amy says:

      Yay! So glad you’re still going at it! It’s not too difficult to convert to a partial band. I love mine! I have that book on my ipad, too, and I agree, it is very user-friendly.

  8. Vicki says:

    Wow, these are just gorgeous. I thought they were RTW inspiration but I should have known you would make something even better than RTW!!

  9. Ahh! The set is incredibly gorgeous, the art deco vibe really comes across well.

    So nice to know that they stock powermesh at Joann, I would have never thought to look there. I usually just run in and out as quickly as possible, but just might make the time to browse a bit next time! I think it’s high time to start experimenting with bra making, as the only brand I wear every day runs $70-$90… 🙁 Yuck.

    • Amy says:

      Hi Emily–thanks! I know, I was surprised to find the powermesh there, too! It was with the tiny section of dance/spandex/swim fabrics. That’s about all they have for bra-making, ha. It was a nice silky type, light but not too stretchy–just right for my comfort, really. They only had black and white, but I’ve successfully dyed the white before.

  10. Amy says:

    STUNNING! I love this so much! Seeing your illustration and then seeing the finished pieces is really awesome. I hope you’ll continue to share your artwork with us. Your bra sets just keep getting prettier and prettier!

  11. Gorgeous! Most all of the bras I see made in the sewing blogosphere are soft cup bras. So many are worth oggling, but I mostly wear foam cup bras so they haven’t inspired me to try my own. This gorgeous set, my dear, is an inspiration!

  12. Maddie says:

    You know, I was never into Art Deco but I’m rethinking that notion. I like your bra! I haven’t made the plunge (ha! Couldn’t help my laugh at the pun) mostly because I don’t like to wear them. Even though I could t probably use the support, I hate the way it feels.

    • Amy says:

      Maddie, I’m so with you. I really prefer light seamed bras and for the most part without foam–it’s just too much fabric. But these foam cups were the cost of all the other materials put together, so I had to make use of them at some point! Ha.

  13. Kazz says:

    Absolutely gorgeous. Stunning finish, I’m such a fan of your sewing skills and reading that it’s self drafted blows my mind. It looks like you have plenty of fabric there for a soft cup bra if the foam turns out to not be your thing. Fab job Amy.

  14. Stephanie says:

    I am so obsessed with your lingerie sets. This one is gorgeous and I love the story behind it. Thanks for the tutorial as well.

    I’m now going to peruse your archives to figure out how to adjust bust cups for my first set!

  15. dixie says:

    this is beautiful. i’ve always wondered how to incorporate a foam cup into a band designed for a pieced cup, especially because the foam ones are already formed in a very specific way. i guess you just have to play around with it and adjust the band if needed. and the fabric is gorgeous! must go see if the store still has any…

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