I like to think it was my lucky day when I stumbled across a bra sewing pattern! Before I began sewing bras, I’d never owned a bra that was very comfortable or fit the way I wanted. I’d spent valuable time and money trying to find a comfortable, well-fitting bra and typically settled for one with a “good enough” fit. I have a small to medium size frame, large top-heavy breasts, and encounter the typical fit issues with RTW bras such as quad-boob and ill-fitting bands. I somehow came across bra sewing on Pinterest and before that moment, it had never occurred to me that I could sew my own bra. I figured that if I could sew clothes, I could probably sew a bra. Without hesitation I purchased the pattern, the Marlborough Bra from Orange Lingerie, and I was off!
Sewing my first bra took many hours of sewing, ripping, and re-sewing pieces together with tons of trial and error. The pattern directions were foreign to me as I had never sewn anything like this before. Sewing the bra took google searches, lots of cussing and head scratching, but once I was done, I was so proud! And holy shit, the bra kind of fit and it was kind of comfortable. It wasn’t pretty from all the seam ripping, repeated sewing, and crooked top stitching but I loved it. I ran to show my husband, wearing the wonky bra like I was wearing a prize bra made out of gold! This bra while not perfect, fit better than any RTW I had ever owned. I was hooked!
With my first bra under my belt, I felt like I could sew another one but wanted to focus on the fit. Fitting a bra is a whole other can of beans and has been the hardest aspect of bra sewing for me. A bra may fit well enough to stay on your body but it may not fit correctly, for example, it may be too loose in the upper cup or the band may dig in. My first bra was too small in the cups and I began altering pattern pieces just like I would with a clothing pattern. I would search online for tutorials and blogs on how to fit a bra from a pattern and would find many different ideologies as to what order to make pattern adjustments and how to go about making each adjustment. I would spend a lot of time making these alterations and my final outcome would be better, but was still not the fit I was going for.
When searching for bra pattern alterations, I came across a YouTube video on how to draft a custom bra. Thanks again, internet! Bra drafting is when you take your body measurements such as full bust, high bust and under bust and use them to create a bra pattern that is custom to your body. I was hoping that by starting with my own measurements I would have better luck at fitting a bra with less alterations. Bra drafting is similar to drafting a bodice sloper using lines and curves to create a close-fitting custom pattern.
I draft by hand with pencil, paper, rulers, a compass, and erasers, lots and lots of erasers. I use the Bare Essentials method from the book “Bare Essentials: Bras: Construction and Pattern Drafting for Lingerie Design” by Jennifer Lynne Matthews-Fairbanks (I also use the 2nd edition). The book also offers instruction for creating a bra sewing block from the initial sewing pattern which means there is no limit to the styles of bra I can create.
Drafting took a LOT of trial and error and I’m not embarrassed to say it took me at least 50 drafts to get anywhere near something that looked like a bra pattern. I was constantly scratching my head and asking myself, “what am I doing wrong?” I would re-read directions and even had my husband try to draft to see if he could figure out what I was doing wrong. I kept trying and failing, would take a break and then try again. I found a “Support for Bare Essentials” Facebook group where I could see other people trying to draft with similar drafting issues as well as tips and tricks. I eventually sewed a successful bra and with few alterations, I have a very well-fitting bra!
Bra sewing and drafting can be exciting, frustrating, confusing, addicting, and I personally find it a whole lot of fun. With each bra I’ve sewn and drafted, I’ve learned something new. I encourage anyone reading this who may be on the fence about sewing or drafting a bra to go for it, you won’t be alone!! There are so many bra making forums and communities with people who want to share their knowledge about bra sewing!
Hi my name is Emma, I’m a craft obsessed woman who also loves sewing bras. I live with my awesome hubby John and our 2 sweet boys, Luke and Wade.