The Mariner’s Suit

I’m such a copycat.

Grease was my first big person’s movie (not, you know, Tubby the Tuba). So of course I really wanted an Olivia bodysuit, just like Christine’s. Then I wanted a nautical chevron-y one, just like hers, to go with my new red shorts. I have an insane amount of blue and white striped modal jersey that was perfect for this (when you see good stripes, you gotta go for them, right?). And of course I wanted to try out sewing in bra cups, just like she did.

So you saw the bodysuit in action yesterday, and here’s the scoop. It’s super easy and fun to draft your own, thanks to her awesome tutorial. All you need is your favorite pair of undies, a ruler and some paper.

She also has a good tip on how to cut matching chevron stripes. Y’all have probably learned this the hard way, but sometimes a serger wants to push the top layer when you first start a seam, and that causes all sorts of mismatchiness even after super-careful cutting. So sometimes, if I’m really feeling perfectionist, I’ll baste the seam first with the sewing machine, than serge. That’s what I did for the center front. Other times, I will pin about an inch down from the beginning of the seam and then push the top layer upwards a bit so that by the time it goes past the knife, the two layers are even. This takes a bit of experimenting to get right but I’ve got the hang of it on my machine.

On the geeky pattern side of things, I’ve been meaning to draft my own bathing suit for awhile, and perhaps use it for other tight-fitting knit tops. Occasionally, I stalk the Pattern School website, which has all kinds of stretch patterns one can draft, including a basic one-piece block. I spent an hour or so drafting this from my measurements, and two bodysuits are pretty darn close, except for the neckline.

For the sewn-in bra, I made a lining from the same fabric and stitched in foam cups just like the tutorial.

It might have worked better if I stitched the cups to the inside rather than the outside (in the wrong light, they definitely show through!). And next time I will probably cut the lining from a beefier knit, perhaps a cotton/lycra, or some kind of supportive stretch mesh…. experiment, experiment, experiment! My jersey is very light and flimsy and definitely not support material, but at least it’s holding the cups in the generally correct location! I’ll be experimenting a bit more with making these, but it was fun to just jump in with what I’ve got laying around.

I messed around with the bottom shape a bit and I made a separate gusset. A gusset can either be its own piece that is sewn in to both front and back, or it can be part of the front or back pieces. You can also use the gusset piece to cut out a lining (a light cotton knit is the best for this, but I just go with whatever jersey I have on hand).

The only thing missing from mine is some elastic for the leg openings. I really like plush-backed elastic. (And it’d also feel nicer than the waistband elastic that I used on the bra lining.) Some folks like fold-over elastic. I should probably stash some basic colors for my lingerie adventures!

Has anyone else made self-supporting tanks or t-shirts? I’d love to hear your tips! (Steph published a great tutorial for sewing in a bra for a woven pattern. I’ve been meaning to try that one, too.)


  1. Sallie says:

    Wow! Thanks for all the good shop talk (hehe!) I hadn’t seen those bodysuits by Daughter Fish before – or her awesome tutorial. I would definitely use those to experiment with a bathing suit (I’m in terrible need of a new bathing suit!!) Keep us updated if you do any more experimenting with the lining / bra cups!

  2. Heather Lou says:

    Great minds, etc. I was totally gonna knock off Christitne’s steez too Amy. I love all her bodysuiting. This looks like it’s gonna be mega cute on. My only concern with bodysuits is the 4 asses the bottom half generally gives me. I think the only way this would work for my body is if I did a more 70’s straight across cut at the bottom of the bum. I’m planning some epic self drafted bathing suit magic so this would be a good place to start….

    • Amy says:

      I can’t wait to see your bathing suit! I loved all your awesome inspirational suits. This would definitely a good place to start. (BurdaStyle might have a bathing suit, too?) If you draft from this, you’ll probably have to take out some length because both of the bodysuits I drafted were long and with a super-stretchy swimsuit fabric might need to stretch more vertically. I so get what you mean by the double cheeks! I think I’m going to change the shape of mine to get more boy-shorty.

  3. Tanit-Isis says:

    So cool! I love these, I make leotards for the kid, why haven’t I made one for myself? Hmm. Probably the lack of awesome striped jersey in my stash. /sigh.

    • Amy says:

      I know! I just read your pink bodysuit post and felt a little bit like a kid for making one… in a good way ;). I hope you find some great stripes on one of your treasure hunts! This stuff sort of wants to pill a little… good cotton stripey knit seems a lot harder to find.

  4. Maddie says:

    To be honest, I’ve never worn a body suit and I’m kind of hesitant to. Are they comfortable? They just seem like something my mom used to wear and isn’t worn anymore, like panty hose. I’d love to hear your opinion.

    • Amy says:

      Heya Maddie, so true. I really wanted to try it, because I haven’t owned one since I was a kid! It is comfortable, but you know, sort of awkward if you need to get in and out. I like Christine’s idea of using them for fuller skirts, and I think the point is really to get something that is smooth all the way, if that’s a look you want, rather than t-shirt bunching. But most of us are used to the bunching, or prefer it.

      You are so right about the pantyhose–I have a hard time imagining wearing them because I was there! When even as teenagers we wore them with everything–with trousers, with socks! I guess it was our way of trying to be grown up in the late 80s. But then recently, I’ve been noticing a trend toward them again, sorta Kate Middleton-style, but I think more pleasantly called “nude-colored tights”?

  5. I love the addition of the gusset! It makes the bottom look much more refined/finished. I’ve also had a couple issues with the cups showing through in the wrong light, as well as troubles with using the same jersey fabric for the shirt and bra (in terms of being supportive enough). I guess I should have mentioned that! As you say, it really depends on the fabric you’re using. The upshot of super stretchy jersey, is that it’s usually really comfortable as a shirt or unitard, but it won’t be that great as the fabric to use as a built in bra. If you find a great mesh fabric for the bra, I’d love to hear about it. I was just experimenting with a polyester swimsuit lining and it SUCKED. Although, I have done this before with a higher quality swimsuit lining and it worked really well.

  6. StephC says:

    Very cool! I’m really, really digging chevroned stripes in knit right now… I think it’s really slimming, too… 🙂 I do love to build a bra into dresses, especially for summer.. Thanks for the link!

Leave a Reply

You have to agree to the comment policy.