Lingerie Friday: Pattern Shapes, Cup Shapes

Does anyone else love origami? When I was in school, I’d never heard about about spatial-visual reasoning and only recently discovered that’s why I often spend more time thinking about a design rather than in the tactile experience of making it. Why I have often visualized chess moves, computer code, and even musical note relationships. And when it comes to making clothes, I’m constantly thinking about their pattern shapes. Some nights I fall asleep seeing convex and concave curves floating together in various formations.

So this week, in celebration of shapes, I wanted to share different styles of bust shaping in bras and along with my guess as to their piece shapes.

First up is an example from Raf Simons last show for Jil Sanders. This entire collection really took my breath away–so elegant in shape and color scheme. (It just confirms my soft spot for all those Antwerp designers.) A post at The Cutting Class has some wonderful examples from his collections of what can be done with bust shaping–darts, pleats, folds, tucks. One of my favorites is this bodice using a 3-piece cup with an unusual upper-cup piece.

I’m guessing there might an structural under-layer with boning or underwires. Possible pattern:

This beautiful bustier-style from Stella McCartney has a demi-cup shape with a longline band. The cup is shaped and pieced with a foam lining and covered with silk satin.

In this drawing I’ve thought about to draw on that top shape if you already have a two-piece lower cup. As an aside, a demi cup is usually 1 inch above the bust point, where a balconette is even lower. Apparently, the term “balconette” came from the notion that one could look down from a balcony and not see ladies’ undergarments. (Just cleavage!)

A few moons back, someone asked me why I preferred vertical seams in bras. I think I have been so used to vertically seamed bras or t-shirt bras with no seaming that the horizontal or diagonal seams looked out of date. A vertical seam or dart in the lower cup can really help refine the shape, make it a bit rounder (like the Stella bra), less like a pointy shelf. The “shelf” look becomes especially more noticeable once you add padding, as you can see when I tried to turn my Pin-up Girls pattern into a foam cup bra.

Then again, the more I look at it the more I think that it’s got a vintage flare. For a change of pace from the perfectly round shape vis a vis contour foam bras, I really like these beautiful handmade bras from Dottie’s Delights, which they describe as a “60s silhouette”.

My guess is that this “vintage” shape has a deeper curve along the cross-cup seams on both pieces. In my experience, the more you flatten that upper curve, the more you pull up the bust. You might also want to take a look at Maddie’s post which shows how she softened that point. As she writes, bras are very particular and so are their shapes and how they work for each woman. Just tiny adjustments in curves can really change how it all looks!


  1. Katherine says:

    Another gorgeous post! I have been drafting and sewing up bras lately…I made one with very similar cups to the Stella McCartney one you have shown…let me know if you want a copy of my file. I am just waiting on some wires to arrive so I can finish them off, before I post about them. There are a lot of swimsuits around at the moment in a similar style, so I am thinking about making a swimsuit like this also. I made up your Rosy Lady shorts as well…they turned out fab. Will post details soon!

  2. K-Line says:

    Bras with multiple vertical seams in the lower cup give the best uplift, IMO. And bras that attach the straps to the lower side cup. It distributes weight better. I tend to love a pointy look and the one bra I’ve found in my size that really gives that shape (the Doreen – an actual vintage style that’s still produced) does lift at the undercup while simultaneously pushing down at the upper cup. That (in addition to centre horizontal seaming) is what gives the point.

  3. maddie says:

    Thanks for the shout out lovely lady! I’m sorry that I’m just getting around to this (it’s Monday!). You are a great pattern maker – I often think of what the pattern shape will look like before I even begin to think about construction!

  4. Heather Lou says:

    THAT STELLA BRA….. My keyboard is covered in drool. THANKS AMY. Loving these Lingerie Friday posts – I really need to make a bra already. It’s getting ridiculous. And thanks for the Cutting Class headsup- hello new favourite blog!

  5. Stephanie says:

    I’m dying over the Stella bra too. It’s gorgeous.

    I mostly buy lightly lined, foam-cup bras, but I’m sure I could get a better fit if I made my own. In the meantime, thanks for the inspiration!

  6. Stephanie says:

    The Raf Simmon’s one is awesome. I’m a sucker for bustiers as layering pieces. Really interesting reading and making me think about how shape affects fit. Going to go stare at my bras now. 😉 Thanks, Amy!

  7. poppykettle says:

    I’m with Heather Lou – that Stella bra really is stellar!! Sorry… couldn’t help myself. But it’s exactly the kind of thing I’d really like to make. Bra flab – be GONE!!!
    The older I get, the more I realise how much better I can remember things with a visual. Spatial is everything. So thanks for sharing these images of the different bra cups – apart from being very interesting, I’m sure the knowledge, now safely tucked away in my memory, will definitely come in use one day!

    • Amy says:

      Yeah, I drool over Stella McCartney bras. I just made a knockoff pattern of that bra and been experimenting with longer lines for exactly those reasons–I like the smooth back.

  8. caitlin says:

    Raf Simons – what a genius! that shape is so modern and interesting, the colour is perfect and that little fold of fabric at the bottom of the bustier section…dreamy.
    Just started making bras and underwear this week and I’m poring over your blog. Thanks for sharing all your knowledge and beautiful work. ( I see this post is from years ago. Haven’t read the entire blog this far back…yet. 🙂 )

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