Challenge Series III: Bra

This one has been on my list for a while (have you seen the gorgeous ones on instagram?) but I was reluctant to drop $60 in supplies while I was changing sizes, and really I never spent that on RTW in the first place. But then I either had to avoid underwire bras or pick carefully and then hack the bridge (make wider) so is it any different than spending  $40 to make a pair of pants when the rest in your closet are from second hand shops and don’t fit half as well?

That doesn’t mean I didn’t try hard to cheap out while I was learning.

I started with the Maya bra, which is free and comes in many, many, many sizes. The first one I guessed was wrong, so that got derailed for a few weeks. Then by chance I tried typing it into my local academic library search, and “Patternmaking for the underwired bra: New directions” K. Shin, Journal of the Textile Institute Vol 98 No 4 2007 came up. It starts with tracing your underwire, then bases the rest of the draft off of body measurements. It was a pretty fast draft. There was one point I didn’t believe K. Shin, where she/he suggested a 60cm band for a 75cm ribcage. I thought 15cm (minus the clasp) was a bit much to expect the back wings to stretch, plus the extra needed for breathing room. I took out 10cm (including for the 4cm hook ensemble)… and it was too loose. Had to go back and take the extra out again, but at least that’s easier than making the mistake the other way around!

I used what feels like a nylon tricot for the muslin fabric (it takes a long time to dry though, so I’m thinking there’s some cotton in there too), interfaced all the front pieces to minimize stretch and doubled the wings to give them the strong but not excessive stretchiness of powermesh. I did splurge on actual strapping, band elastic, side elastic, and hooks from Bra Makers Supply.

diy bra

I didn’t bother with sliders as I never use them once they are set in RTW unless they slip. I also went with a “camisole” insertion of the straps in the back (vertical, catching on both top and bottom elastics) as I always have a problem with straps falling down and I figured the swoop into the hooks would exacerbate that. Plus the wings weren’t drafted for the swoop, they go straight from underarm to the top of the hooks. Turned out to be a good move though, the straps stay up!!

diy bra

(Bra “muslin” with no thought to pattern placement)

There are one or two minor quibbles (upper cup needs about 1/4″ taken out, slightly pointier than I’m used to, but by no means a bullet bra), but the instant I tried it on I was in love. It’s like nothing but more comfortable. Things were up where they should be, but there was no big sigh when it was taken off. I slept in it because I was tired with no repercussions. I’m sold on the splurge now!

The only disappointment was the pink strapping. It got wavy like it was overstretched the first day – and the straps were too long at the time. It hasn’t affected the function of the straps, but I bought miles of the stuff (ok, 3 more bras worth I think) at the same time, so I’m thinking this is going to happen a lot. Stretching a fresh piece didn’t cause it to ripple – maybe body heat caused the difference? Will have to see.


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