Marlborough Bra Review

I posted this pattern review on the Curvy Sewing Collective today. I’m reposting it here with a few additional thoughts at the end! 

Bra-making: It’s so rewarding when it works, and so frustrating when it doesn’t!

I started bra-making last summer by taking a weekend class with the Fairy Bra Mother, and since then I’ve made around 15+ bras… most of which have now been tossed in the trash for size, fit or comfort issues. So you can imagine that I was excited when Orange Lingerie announced her very popular Marlborough Bra was being released in larger sizes! Could this be my dream bra pattern? Norma kindly sent over a few copies to the Curvy Sewing Collective for review, so I jumped at the chance to sew it up.

Choosing a size is the hardest part of using any new pattern. This pattern suggests adding 4 or 5″ to your underbust, and choosing a cup based on the difference between your full and over bust. My measurements (35″ underbust, 42″ full bust, 40″ high bust) put me in a 40B, according to the size chart. Friends, I usually wear a 36F/G! No way was a 40″ band or  a B cup going to work. I emailed with Norma, and she suggested I start with my RTW size.

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On her blog, Norma suggests two ways to muslin a bra: a single cup with wire, and full test bra. I did both: first a mock up of one 36DDD cup in sturdy duoplex, which compared to my favourite bras showed that I needed to reduce the upper cup. I made some tweaks, and then I made my big mistake: I sewed up my full muslin in a stretchier fabric. (In my defense, I’ve used that fabric successfully for several bras, and I thought it was more comparable than it turned out to be!) That muslin fit beautifully! I bought more supplies, and merrily sewed up a “good” bra, which you see below…

PicMonkey Collage

… and it was disastrously too small. Not even close to wearable. $35 of materials down the drain, not to mention a whole day of sewing!

Now, I know this is my fault. I used the wrong fabric in my muslin, and I paid for it. But here is what confuses me – my initial test cup was in the same super-sturdy duoplex as this final version! I guess it’s proof of how much a tight band can affect the size of your boobs. Remember this, friends!

PicMonkey Collage2

Incidentally, I did mess with the pattern a bit by using a stable fabric for the upper cup instead of lace stabilised by sheer cup lining… again, I misinterpreted how stable duoplex is compared to sheer cup lining, which I think of as very stable but apparently allows more stretch than this! 

Time to cut the straps and hooks off, chuck the rest, and start again!

This time I went up a band size and a cup size – so, two cup sizes bigger, in effect. Now I was sewing a 38G – a far cry from the 40B the size chart suggested! I basted everything together so I wouldn’t waste more materials. And, happily, with just a few tweaks in the upper cup for my larger and smaller side, it fits!

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On me, it is still a shallow and minimizing shape. The cups fit my bust, but don’t offer much forward thrust. I wore it once or twice, but haven’t been reaching for it often. Based on my experience, I’d say this pattern fits best if you have balanced fullness in top and bottom, and somewhat wide-set boobs. If you are narrow and projected, you may have more fitting work to do. It’s worth noting that the drafting of this size range is differently shaped than the original size range, but I’m not exactly sure how!

Pattern name: Marlborough Bra by Orange Lingerie

Size range (with measurements): DDD to J cups, band size 30″ to 40″. The cup size range is good, but the band size range seems very limited to me, especially with the sizing suggesting that you sew a band 4-5″ larger than your actual measurements. I’m almost the largest band size, and that’s not going to cut it for larger women. On the other hand, you can use sister sizing and band adjustments to get some “hidden” sizes from the pattern – more info here!

What size did you make? 38G, which is one band size smaller and 4 cup sizes larger than the pattern recommended.

What are your measurements?  35″ underbust, 42″ full bust, 40″ high bust

What adjustments did you make and how long did they take? Let me see… I made a single-cup muslin, a full muslin, a bra that didn’t fit, and a bra that fits ok. Total time required was about 15 hours.

What was the construction process like? Did the instructions make sense to you? Good instructions that should be fairly clear for even a beginner.

How do you like the pattern’s fit? Do you think the design works well for your particular body shape? On me, it’s a flattening/minimizing shape, and that’s not what I look for in a bra. The only other person I know who has sewn it swears it’s not that way on her!

Will you make the pattern again? If so, what fit or design changes will you make? Honestly? No. I won’t make it again. I’ve already got my custom-drafted bra pattern (that I wrote about here in Lingerie Month) so I won’t keep working with this one. Norma was very helpful in emails and on social media, and I do appreciate that.

Do you have any advice on this pattern for other curvy sewers? Go into bra-making with a realistic mindset. It’s not fast, it’s often frustrating, you’ll waste expensive supplies, and every little change in fabric will totally throw off your fit. Be prepared for the long haul, and then you’ll hopefully end up with some great bras! Although I find sewing bras frustrating at times, I wouldn’t go back to buying RTW ones!

So, real talk: It’s a well-drafted pattern with good instructions. Perfect for learning to sew a bra. But the size chart seems unusable, and the additional size range still isn’t big. I’m glad to have tried the pattern out, because otherwise I’d always wonder about it… but I regret the time and materials! I did hope that the Orange Lingerie Boylston Bra (released now in larger sizes) would be a fun addition to my lingerie drawer, but now that I know Marlborough isn’t the shape for me, I’m going pass on Boylston as well. 


28 thoughts on “Marlborough Bra Review

    1. I feel like struggling with fit is always part of trying a new bra pattern… but I am quite disappointed in the limited size range. Understandable, I’m sure, from a drafting perspective, but when i’m at the upper end of the band size range, that’s just odd.

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  1. Love your posts Gillian🙂 I’m just listening to your podcast interview with the sewing mavens. Considering how expensive this learning has been for you (a woman who absolutely won’t pay more than $5/m. for fabric🙂 I’m so impressed with your statement that you will not go back to RTW bras. Your bra turned out so pretty – you must have just furious when it didn’t fit😦 The prospect of making a bra is WAY above my skill level I can’t imagine when I’ll ever get there!

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    1. If it helps to put it in perspective, the RTW bras I could buy are $80-130! So once I have a pattern that fits, $35 is affordable… but you are right, it’s pretty damn annoying to spend that time and $ and know the instant you put it on that it’s unwearable!

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      1. I can find 40G ready to wear bras for 35-50$ on Herroom.com – but I only buy in sale and from a few brands that I know well, for fit considerations. Might be worth checking out. There are certain items for me that will probably always be less hassle just to buy RTW. Maybe when my skill level goes up a lot I could attempt something like this.

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        1. That’s fantastic! I ran over and looked on HerRoom… seems like by time the prices are in Canadian, it’s still my normal price range. I could see that if the right bra is on sale though, it could be a bargain!

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  2. How frustrating! Bras are my nemesis as well–I want so badly to make them and have them work for me, but so far they’ve not quite been working like I’d hoped. Even when I’ve cloned a RTW one that I love. I had been looking at this pretty hard since she announced the new size range, but flattening and minimizing is the absolute LAST thing I want in a bra–I’d hop over to ye olde beige bra emporium if that’s what I wanted!

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    1. I haven’t had luck with cloning either! I think its so hard to exactly duplicate the fabrics and wires, so the fit will always be different. I will say, Jenny from Cashmerette was a fit model for this bra, and she swears it isn’t minimizing on her…

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  3. Yes, what everyone else has said Good grief…I would be crying to lose that much money and time. I am sorry for the bad experience that you have had. You have saved me from trying that pattern. I don’t want to be squashed and minimized either. I hope that the designers keep trying but I am taking apart my best fitting RTW. Thank you for being so honest with us.

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    1. I”m really hoping that more people review that pattern, because fit is so individual… Jenny from Cashmerette swears it isn’t minimizing on her. On me though, woah. I can’t quite figure out where I need more room (upper cup? Lower cup?) but it’s clearly not right.

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  4. Gillian, So sorry that this didn’t work out for you. There was recommendation on k-line’s blog – European Danglez bra pattern (I bought DB3) for bodies of narrow, projected breasts.

    I haven’t tried making it because as soon as i bought, I got pregnant and it’s been a change of sizes ever since.

    Kay

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    1. Thank goodness for K-Line! She actually took me bra shopping a few years back and got me into better fit. What’s funny is that compared to her, I’ve got wideset boobs and I’m not projected… so if this pattern is flattening on me, who is it meant for?

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  5. Aww Gillian… I love your reviews… waste of fabric but learning is never a waste, so each thing you learned with this pattern you can apply to future sewing.

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  6. So sorry for your frustration because your sewing time is limited and it’s nice when everything just falls into place. On a completely different note, Megan Nielsen sent an email asking her blog readers to help her find a curvy size fit model in Perth. She wants to expand her size line. So, when it’s all complete, maybe you can join me in sewing and hacking the briar tee. 🙂

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    1. I”m going to be SO INTERESTED when she has a bigger size range! I’ve been ignoring her patterns because I’m just outside the size range – sure, I could grade up, but why should I have to? Hope she finds a good fit model soon!

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  7. So grateful for an honest review of this one. I’ve been looking into this pattern but now I think I won’t bother as I’m just the shape you advise it’s not designed for! I’m still playing with fit too, frustrating sometimes, fun other times. It’s just gotten harder for me to get supplies here as my local shop isn’t stocking them right now 😬 I’ve put aside bras for another time when I can source the fixings. Thanks again!

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    1. Do you still wear your me-made bras, or have they been retired? (I feel like most of my me-mades have been tossed out or harvested for findings, with only my custom pattern ones still going day to day!) SOrry to hear you can’t get supplies locally anymore!

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      1. I don’t reach for them very often and suspect most will be harvested. I have a good convertible strap one I’m happy with but I have now learned I prefer a Gothic arch for comfort. Will need to try making this

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  8. Aww you make bras too. I’ve also started on my own bra-making journey although I still have a long way to go. I draft my own patterns which make it doubly difficult but it’s nice to see another bra maker.

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  9. Great review Gillian! I have a few Marlborough bras now, and while I like them, they aren’t my favourite. They start out fairly comfortable in the morning, but after wearing them for a couple of hours they feel too tight around my ribs. I also found that the pattern fits really small, and I ended up choosing a size much closer to my RTW size, rather than the size the pattern recommended. I made a 38DD in the Orange patterns, and in PUG patterns I’m a 34E with 3/8″ added to the back band piece. (Just in case you want all that info. Ha!)

    I would really encourage you to try the PUG Shelly, if you haven’t already. I love the fit of it, and it is by far the most comfortable bra I’ve made so far (I’ve made the Orange Boylston & Marlborough, AFI Maya, and the PUG Classic and Shelley). Plus I find it gives me a nice shape.

    I hope you find a pattern (and size) that works for you!

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    1. Thats good to know! I HATED the fit/shaping of the Classic, so I haven’t really looked at other PUG patterns… maybe I will some day!🙂 I agree, the Marlborough is super snug in the band – Heather from Closet Case Files mentioned today that hers is too tight, too. I mean, i like a snug band, but there’s a limit!

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      1. Yes I read that too. I’m so glad it’s not just me. Finding or sewing the perfect fitting bra is like the search for the holy grail isn’t it?

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    2. I’ve only made the PUG Shelley bra…and I just haven’t got it 100% right yet. I do have some wearable ones, but I’m tempted to try another brand. Between your review Gillian, and your paragraph about the ones you’ve tried Heather….I’m thinking it’s best to just stick with the same pattern and try and get it right!!! Thanks you two!!!!

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  10. Thanks for the review Gillian- it’s too bad that it didn’t work- but you can definitely work the custom pattern into a style like this if you want🙂 Also- I completely feel you about the sizing- I feel like bra sizing is a total mess. For smaller sizes there is this standard of adding inches to the band, and then finding your cup size, then for larger sizes you don’t add anything for the band, sometimes you can take away band numbers. I’ve started to do some research on it and with my own size I’ve come up with everything from a 34D to a 28G – it’s all too confusing!

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    1. Bra sizing is totally crazy! I think it’s a case of “Ignorance is bliss”, and the more you know, the more unhappy you are with most bras and patterns! Which does remind me, i’ve been meaning to email you…

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  11. I think that’s so interesting it was a minimizing bra on you! I took a workshop with Norma this past month and we made this bra and I was shocked how un-minimizing it was on me! As someone who always wears a minimizing bra, I was totally out of my element when I put this one. Thanks for putting together your review – I think it’s a good reminder to me that just because this bra wasn’t for me there might be other ones out there!

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    1. Oh that is SUPER fascinating! Boobs always keep us guessing, right? I actually put mine on today (I’ve only worn is 2 or 3 times) and ugh, still not good. I hope you are happier with your end result?

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