Bramaking: The Quest for Fit

I’ve got a few more bras under my belt now (above my belt?) and it’s been an interesting journey. On the one hand, the actual construction is easy enough and I can knock out a bra that 90% fits in 4 hours. On the other hand, improving that fit to 95%, let alone 100%, is HARD!

Here’s my progress so far:

white

Bra 1: Granny Chic, without the chic. This is the Pin Up Girls Classic that I sewed in class.

turquoise

Bra 2: Lowered the bridge and cups to a demi, tightened the band… still Granny-shaped, but at least it’s bright. Works best under racerback or high-necked tops.

pink classic

Bra 3: Altered the cups to have a power bar, moved the straps out, raised the underarm, rounded the cup slightly… somehow it still fits exactly the same as #1 and 2.

pink clone

Bra 4: Threw caution to the wind and cloned a RTW bra. Vertical-seamed lower cup, power bar, stretch lace on top. I tried underlining the lace with sheer lining, but it smooshed things so I cut it off. Fit is surprisingly like the RTW bra – which unfortunately means it has the same minor fit issues. Lower cup needs to come 1cm higher, and I’d like the overall shape to be a bit perkier. Band ended up too loose.

For contrast, here’s the Pin Up Girls Classic in white underneath my 4th bra, cloned from a Panache Jasmine balconette. They’ve got exactly the same size wires and are both quite full-coverage, but the PUG Classic cup comes up much higher and the straps are narrow-set which doesn’t work with most of my tops!
compare 14

The mystery in all of this is how to make tiny tweeks that actually make some difference. People write about how even 1/4″ can make such a difference with a bra, but man, I seem to be able to change more than that without seeing any effect. With each bra there are so many variables: What if I changed the direction of greatest stretch? What if I straightened this curve? What if I changed the shape of the bridge? The end result is that I hunch over the sewing machine making a bra for hours, try it on, feel excited for 5 seconds then sigh and go back to make pattern adjustments. It’s addictive and satisfying, but not exactly fun.

all four

There is plenty of bra sewing advice on the web, but usually for major problems and not for fine-tuning details. I’m hoping you can help me out with some fitting advice.

How would you solve the following?

  • more perky Is it the cut? fabric? foam? double-layered powerbar?
  • more underarm pulled into the cup How can I get the wire higher on the underarm without affecting the angle of the wire’s J curve?
  • more forward thrust instead of lateral splay Narrower bridge or cradle? power bar again? different seams?

I’d love to hear what cut, style, or alterations you’d recommend for any of the fit issues above! Whether you are a lingerie expert, a newbie bra sewist, or you wear RTW, chances are you’ve spent a lot of time staring at a bra and wondering what is right or wrong about it. And hey, if you are lost like me, thats ok too!

PS. I foresee more bramaking in my future, so I’m starting a page on the left-hand sidebar to gather all my posts! 


41 thoughts on “Bramaking: The Quest for Fit

  1. You know I think they all look good. I have no idea about what changes you should make (sorry) as I’m a small busted lady. Can you ask the Fairy Bramother again? Are these ones comfortable, at least?

    I love the new pink one with the pink floral lace on top – so pretty!

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    1. I’m starting to feel like the Fairy Bra mother has different fit goals/standards than I do! I think I need a more youthful/nitpicky fit guru… whomever that is !😉

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  2. This may sound like a really unusual suggestion, but I would encourage you to check out the forum A Bra That Fits on Reddit (www.reddit.com/r/abrathatfits). It’s not geared toward sewing, but they have a core group of exceptionally knowledgeable folks when it comes to all manner of fit conundrums, and the community as a whole is incredibly welcoming and helpful. If you describe the issues you have with the Panache Jasmine and how you’d like a bra to fit, I have no doubt they can point you to other RTW options and explain how each achieves its particular silhouette. And who knows, maybe there are even a few sewists there as well? Best of luck going forward, and I can’t wait to see what else you stitch up!

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    1. That’s a great suggestion! I’ve been prowling around online bra stores zooming in on construction details, but you are right, those reddit ladies are experts!

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  3. I had problems like that last summer..tore my hair out. Then I tried the Marlborough pattern by Orange lingerie and didnt look back. I have wide root issues. I also bought the craftsy classes and made some small tweaks according to what i felt was slightly off fit. So i suggest trying a different pattern as the PUG “sloper” may not be what your body needs. Hang in there. You’re nearly home.

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    1. I’m glad to hear Marlborough works well for you! It’s on my list to try – but I figured maybe if I cloned a bra I wouldn’t have to fuss with what size to sew? In the fall Id like to try some cut and sew foam bras, so maybe I’ll try the Boylston then… So many options!
      Do you tweak your fit each time, or have you got it figured out?

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      1. Pretty much figured out…different materials sometimes need a retweak, for example, a less stretchy band fabric or a softer lace…nothing major. Beverly’s tweaking instructions in the craftsy course help. And sometimes good enough is better than rtw, hence good enough. The quest for “better” and enjoying “better” each time is way less stressful than requiring “perfect” from each project. Enjoy the journey.

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  4. Ah, the rabbit hole! I suggest that the best way to understand how to make your own bra that fits perfectly is to understand what you need in a RTW bra that fits perfectly. If you’ve only ever worn one pair of pants that fits (almost), how do you make a variety of styles that negotiate fit (except by luck)? And pants are EASY by comparison with bras. I’ve learned more about how to fit my own bras from making my perfect-fitting RTW bras than by any other method. Alas, as we know, my materials have not been up to needs. ABTF is a great forum, as Caitlyn suggests. I’m pretty active on that site re: my interests as a bra-wearer and fitter. It can be a bit pedantic, but if you want to understand what you need, read it often – and then buy bras and see what’s what. You can always return the ones you get for a good price online – if unworn – once you get a sense of what works and what doesn’t.

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    1. Ok, here’s the strange part though – it’s figuring out the technical how-to that interests me, not actually the fit of the bras I wear day to day! In my next version on the cloned bra, I want to experiment with a power bar lined with mesh (or maybe duoplex) so I can change how high the lace goes and how the strap is attached… I need to raise the lower cup 1cm so it hits at the apex, too… And then I’m dying to know what all of that plus a snugger band will do to the shape! What can I say – I guess I like doing this the hard way!😉 thanks for all your help though! I’ll send you pics again after a few more iterations!

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  5. Bra-making is still on my to-do list, but everything you write here sounds an awful lot like pants fitting. For most of us, it’s not terribly difficult to take a pant pattern with a decent crotch curve (e.g. Burda or StyleArc), grade between sizes and make length adjustments as needed, make a muslin or two, and get a pair of pants that fit us better than RTW. On the other hand, we will probably still have a few wrinkles or minor drag lines that bug the heck out of us that take numerous tweaks and a half-dozen iterations to get rid of.

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    1. Yes! It’s totally similar. And I still mess with my pants patterns even after 10 versions, so perhaps it’s no surprise I’m still tweaking bras after 4! I still wear all those pants even though they aren’t perfect, and I’ve been wearing all these bras too.

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  6. I’m sorry but you won’t get any good advice from me… BUT I will cheer you on from afar! Go Gillian!! Your bras are really pretty. Your perseverance is admirable as well!

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    1. Thanks Margo! I’m a little shocked at myself for being so into bramaking – I mean, it’s tot complete opposite of all the other sewing I do, which is a little sloppy and carefree! It seems so magical though to be able to make a bra – and I’m excited to be able to clear out my lingerie drawer of all the too-old-but-I-wear-them-anyway bras that don’t really fit!

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  7. I haven’t tackle bras yet, but I will sure come to that! I’ll probably start with the famous Cloth habit’s Watson because ot the sew-along. The longer version seems so comfortable. BTW, yours look so perfect!

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    1. Watson seems like such a good pattern, and I think it looks really nice on everyone! That would be a great place to start!

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    1. Thanks Lisa! I’m suddenly understanding all the people who are so particular about fitting, say, coats or jackets – It’s easy to fall into the rabbit hole of always wondering what would make things just a bit better! I’ve never felt that way with my normal sewing of knits!

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  8. Perhaps a bit of vertical sew-through boning or even the plastic boning in a casing on the band just half an inch or so from from the underwire would help with the underarm issue. Think of a bra like a short corset and look at how corsets put boning around the bust. I’ve seen bras that have a little extra help beyond the underwire on the sides.

    Power bar and extra power mesh in the cups will help with some lift and support as well. You might just need a little tighter cup and you can underline with extra layers of power mesh under your outer fabric.

    Also, cut a football-shaped gusset out of foam and slip it in the 4th bra you made just above the underwire in the cup – see if that helps any. If it does, you can create a pocket in your next bra to insert the extra foam gusset. When I have to give small busted actresses cleavage, it’s always with a big insert right under the b00b but a small insert should give you a little extra lift without a huge pushup.

    One other thing I just thought of that might help – try adding a little extra diagonal strap to the fourth bra starting about an 1″-1.5″ up on the front strap and connecting to the cup about an inch in from where the ring is. This will create the strap placement of the white bra but without having the same issues of where the strap actually is on the white bra so it should be easier to wear with your clothes. (Hopefully, that makes sense!)

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    1. You’ve always got the best advice. Thanks Brooke!
      I’ve never heard of sew-through boning, but I assume it is what it sounds? (And it sounds awesome!) I”ll try a double layer in the power bar next, and snug up the lower cups a bit… and I’m hoping that when the lower cup comes right up to the bust point, that’ll help with the overall lift, too! (Right now the lower cup comes about 1cm down from the apex, just like it does on the RTW bra I copied – why didn’t I think to correct that when I copied the pattern?)
      Adjusting how the strap connects is a great idea too – I’ll play around with that!
      Thanks again!!

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  9. They’re all beautiful if that’s some consolation. I imagine that bras are not unlike pants. You know, you wear RTW pants and you KNOW for years that they’re saggy in the behind (my issue), but you just think pants are like that, but then you start to sew your own pants and you keep looking behind you to see just how much sag is there and sometimes you take out the sag so much that it feels like you’re suspended in a climbing harness. Fit is a smack in the head so often. I would guess that if you’re changing things without seeing progress that whatever you’re changing may not be your issue. I remember a pair of pants I tried to fit a few years ago where I and a friend spent an entire day tweaking and taking inches out here and inches out there. In the end, the resulting pants were just off, and I remember thinking–Burda fits me really well in general, there’s no way that this pattern is off this much. I wish I could be more helpful. I still enjoy watching your progress!

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    1. LOL – “suspended in a climbing harness”! What a GREAT description!
      I think you are totally right abut the parallel between pants and bras – it’s a good reminded to take things slowly and not go hog-wild. I actually gave up on having seperate pieces for right and left – as I made each adjustment twice, I could see them getting messed up, so the bigger one would suddenly be smaller in the wrong place, and as I traced and retraced it just got more distorted! I gave up and went with the same pattern for each side – I figure that once I get the other fitting issues out of the way, THEN I’ll go in and make the one side a bit larger!

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  10. Great job on the bras so far! I can total sympathize with you on constantly tweaking! I’m still changing my pattern ever-so-slightly all the time for every bra/bikini I make to get the exact right fit for that particular project! And as far as the slight tweaks- yes 1/4 can really make a difference for some people one some bras, but I find that this is very proportional to your cup size- 1/4 inch on me will make a decent difference, but on much larger sizes- you can stand slightly more significant alterations.

    To me it sounds like a lot of your fitting desires all come together towards needing more lift and projection. So here are my recommendations:

    I would universally recommend having a power bar in any bra style that you choose- they help with lift, and with pulling breast tissue out of the underarm. With the powerbar you want to make sure that it has no stretch – you can even try two layers of duoplex or a no-stretch knit.

    Another thing you can try is reducing the curve on your powerbar at your wireline – instead of having it bulge out in a round shape- straighten it off (so that there is no room for tissue to go laterally). I’m actually thinking of getting some wires for my shop (in the near-ish future) that have less of a curve on the outer round of the bowl- and have a little more push up/push forward effect.🙂

    You can also have your power bar come a little further towards the centre front of your cup and wrap under the breast more (maybe have the end point of your power bar go past your apex line- so it acts like more of a sling) This will force the breast tissue more upwards.

    Along with this idea- for your RTW clone with the split lower cup- you will want to reduce the amount of curve of those pieces- bringing them closer to a single piece lower cup- the more volume that you put in your lower cup piece- the more volume of breast tissue will sit lower.

    As for your straps- I am also a fan of bringing the straps a bit wider- it helps to reduce the look of under-arm bulging and to make sure all the tissue is pulled into cup. As for rotating wires to come higher under the arm and affecting the angle on the wire- sometimes it doesn’t have a bad effect- I would try the wire a bit rotated and unless it gives a strange shape or is poking you then I wouldn’t worry about it being rotated. I’ve rotated short wires to the position of long wires for some smaller chested ladies- whatever works!

    In your RTW bra it also sounds like you will want to raise your cross-cup seam so it hits your apex- generally a shorter upper cup will show more lift in a cup- so another thing to try is taking a horizontal pinch out of your upper cup, you can see if that give you some lift.

    Also if you want a more cleavage look- you can definitely narrow the bridge- I did this on my ivory and lace bra from Week 7 of my challenge- it was also a low-front bra, and it definitely pulled the girls in! I’m not 100% sure how this works with a higher cut bra- I think it will have a good effect- but you have to make sure it’s comfortable too- sometime bridge alterations can make things uncomfortable if it’s too far off of your natural shape.

    Well- I don’t think I forgot anything- I’ll keep thinking! It would be lovely for you to come by my shop when it opens and we can do more brainstorming🙂🙂

    Hope this helped!

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    1. Thank you so much!!!! Lots to think about and experiment with, and it all makes good sense! I’ll be coming back to re-read your suggestions, I’m sure. For starters, I think I’ll raise the lower cup to the apex and take some height out of the upper cup to compensate, try a double-layer power bar, and keep shaving away at the curve of the cups.
      When is your store likely to open? I’d love to come up, and maybe bring some TO bloggers with me?!

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    2. Thanks. Lots of info here. Early on I found that RTW bras needed a pinch taken our on the upper cup to keep from splaying and straps from falling off my shoulders. I’d take the pinch about midway from the apex to the bridge on the upper cup edge. The dart would only be about 1 inch long and take about an inch on the upper cup. This drew my apex more to the front. I was wondering/thinking whether taking that dart and rotating it to the front edge of the upper cup would do the same thing?

      Thanks for any reply. I was thinking this might help Gillian in her quest also.

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      1. Hi Susan, I’m having a bit of a hard time visualizing what you mean by rotating the dart to the front edge of the upper cup. do you mean taking it out of the cup along the wire line at the CF by the bridge? That could work as well, but you have to be careful that you don’t loose the length of your wireline at that point- it can sometimes be easier to just take the dart out instead and redraw your neckline that to mess with your wireline🙂 Let me know if that made sense or if I didn’t get the question right!

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        1. You would take the dart take up out of the top line of the bra cup by the bridge. The cup by the bridge is cut off in the vertical direction the amount of the dart take up. One will need to walk the pattern (or measure the seam lines) to ensure it is trued afterwards.

          It is the same concept of rotating a dart on a blouse/top to the side seam to get rid of excess fabric without making the dart. It is done often in T-Shirts.

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  11. I just started making bars and am on my 4th that does not fit as I have a tiny cup size but need a big band. I live in the Philippines where getting materials can be a huge challenge too – I am now resorting to buying cheap $1 bras and ripping out the underwires! The only tip I would have is to concentrate on one variable at a time: for instance use exactly the same fabric for all your bras until you get the fit perfect, then start experimenting with other fabrics etc. Then at least you know if and how your changes are working.

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  12. I’m prefacing this comment by saying that I have no answers for you Gillian! I have the Craftsy course sitting in my account ready for viewing and execution, but haven’t started the course or ordered my kit. This post is like you noodled into my head….how to achieve the ultimate fit??? Right now, none of my bras are a great fit and I’m actually wondering if I should get a professional bra fitting and buy a RTW bra before tackling making my first bra?!

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  13. I haven’t sewn my own bra, so I can’t give any advice from that perspective, but I have a fantastic bra shop called Petticoat Fair just down the street. I’ve learned that I get a lot of lift from a tighter band, so you might want to start there. For pulling more of the underarm tissue into the cup, this could just be how you’re putting your bra on. PF taught me that once you get your bra on, you should bend forward at the waist, do a little shimmy to pull the breast tissue forward, and then grab the wire under the underarms and pull it back slightly (encasing more of the underarm tissue).

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  14. Hi Gillian, Erin gave you such great advice! You’re so fortunate to live close enough to visit her shop when it opens. I’m ecstatic for Erin that she is opening her shop, as she is so talented and full of such positive energy. She will be able to guide you! I am taking note of her advice on changes to the power bar and will try them myself.

    I just want to add a couple of things from my own bramaking experiences, since lift and projection are my goals as well. Wearing a larger cup size, with a narrower back, I found what works best for me is extra long wires or long wires. The regular wires were just not right.

    I am working on making pattern changes to the PUG Shelley bra, which is similar to the design of your RTW bra. I read in Beverly’s book that straightening the cross cup seam creates more lift, so I plan on giving that a try.

    I purchased and read both of Beverly’s Bramaking Manuals. They are chock full of information, including how to draft a bra, which I may do at some point. The manuals are costly, but are worth the cost, IMO. I’ve learned so much by reading them and from taking both of her classes on Craftsy.

    I have yet to achieve that ‘perfect’ bra, but I am so close, and it looks like you are really close too. Good luck to you on your bra journey!

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  15. Hi Gillian, I have never sewn a bra so can’t really comment on their construction but there is a website called “Foundations Revealed” that has a long-running series on bra-making (it is a corsetry site too that’s how I know it). They are a subscription site but do have some free articles. From the comments the bra-making series seems to be very good.
    I am still in complete awe at your beautiful bra-making skills. Getting one that fits for me is a nightmare. Xx

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  16. I so could have written this post! Welcome to the wonderful and slightly frustrating world of bra-making! I read a lot of people get the initial rush of making their first few bras, and then never hear about it again, I’m guessing most people fall off about where you are. I’m reading the comments with interest and can’t wait to see how you get to that 97.5% great fit!

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  17. Thanks so much for your post, love to see women sharing the bra-sewing bug!
    My thoughts/comments/suggestions:
    More perky?:
    Fabric-
    *use firm with little stretch, I don’t personally rely on foam for support
    *use two layers with lining layer DOGS place horizontally, outer layer opposite DOGS (except upper cup)

    Seams- many vertical seams in lower cup push breasts up and out and increases support – see bravo2 pattern at bravobellabras.com

    Power bar-perhaps lining will help, I like sheer rigid nylon cup lining

    More underarm pulled into the cup?:
    *can be an issue of inadequate cup volume or shape
    *can be inadequate band support… I like my frame (up to side seams) of non-stretchy fabric (vertical DOGS) and sometimes line with sheer stabilizer to increase stability.
    *I always stabilize side seam with thick plushy underwire casing. If additional stability needed, I insert a plastic wire tie, cut to rest inside elastic edges.
    *I use heavy duty powernet for band and sometimes double layers. Surgical powernet is also good for this purpose – found at fabricdepotco.com, may need to lengthen band as it’s less stretchy.

    More forward thrust instead of lateral splay?:
    Narrower bridge or cradle?
    * Fit cradle/frame first – smaller cradle may help if it doesn’t fit into wire line. Try cutting tagboard template minus SAs to see if the cradle really fits your crease/wireline correctly.

    Power bar? and Different seams?
    * add vertical seams/yes on power bar
    * consider moving bust point closer to CF
    *see “More perky” response

    Happy Bra Sewing to All!

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